Every morning I wake up I see my Champions league poster on the wall and I keep on asking myself the same question. Pose the same question point-blank to Fabregas, how do you think he will respond?
The common responses will be: yes, no or maybe. Frankly speaking I don’t know. Pose the same question to football fans but change Arsenal with Barcelona, Chelsea or Madrid; most respondents will give you a definite yes without even blinking an eye. Why is this not the case with us? Some will say we lack quality in players such as Denilson, Song, Diaby, and Fabianski. Some will say that AW has lost the plot. Others will say we lack experience while others will say our management only cares about the balance sheet. All this responses have one common denominator: No.
We are praised by neutrals, coaches and even some pundits for playing eye candy stuff but is this really enough? We may brag about being in the CL for 14 years on the trot but what do we have to show for it?… Absolutely nothing. We had our best and worst night in Paris which as we all know ended up in heartbreak. Are we in danger of being the Cheryl Tweedy of the European big boys? Truth be told to become part of the elite you have to win the big eared trophy.
Why is it then that we aren’t considered as favorites? To play our brand of football you must have quality players on your payrolls so to me the problem has never been about quality. Our biggest problem is concentration.
Last season we lost heavily at the Camp nou. We took the lead through Nicklas B but we immediately switched off culminating in Silvestre playing a one-two with Messi and the rest is history. In 08-09 we began the match like possessed men knowing a win would send us to the final. We were all over them but our back line switched off resulting in two quick fire goals that left millions of goners shell-shocked. In 07-08 we looked like the best team in Europe till that fateful night at Anfield. After Diaby had given us the lead Senderos lost his man when pool had a corner kick which gave them a lifeline despite them chasing shadows being cast by the Anfield flood lights all night. Walcott turned the game on its head with a slalom run that had footy fans everywhere gasping in amazement. I celebrated in my living room like a mad man but as soon as the game restarted we switched off again! Gerrard stepped up and we were out despite playing some memorable stuff that night. Ade even managed to miss a gilt-edged chance after being set up by Hleb; he took his eye off the ball at the vital moment.
Are we likely to see these lapses in concentration when Barca, Chavs or Madrid plays…No. That’s how fine the margin is between winning it and losing it. Teams like Porto, Dortmund and Pool have won it with less known players but they had 100% concentration when it mattered most. Last season we were beating AZ Alkamar 4 nil but right in the end they pulled one back. Vermaelen was incensed but the rest of our players didn’t look concerned at all. We need more of that Vermy mentality whereby a last-ditch tackle is as important as a goal itself. As it is said goals may win games but defenses win titles.
Partizan Belgrade has a very hostile environment at home. After scraping through to the group stage on penalties against Anderlecht, the Serbians are very much reliant on the goal scoring exploits of Brazilian attacker Cleo and will have a rough ride in the group unless the forward is at his very best. They are a very well-drilled squad who play a 4-4-1-1 format. They have had a decent start to the season. Complacency shouldn’t be allowed since their home crowd won’t make it easy for us. We have a much better team but as we have witnessed over the last couple of years is that you will never know which team will show up. Will it be the one that faced Braga or the one that faced WBA?
We need to score early to silence their home fans. To do this we’ll need a leader in the absence of Fabregas, Vermaelen, Van Persie and Almunia. Squillaci will have to take that mantle and command the back line as we all know how fragile Fabianski is right now. In midfield Rosicky should take charge to help the likes of Nasri and Wilshere blossom. The reason I am including jack is because with him in there our midfield is more direct and fluid which in turn makes our attacks incisive. AA should continue his good form in Europe so far. He should take more responsibility especially in the absence of Cesc. All in all we want our team to go out there and play the way we know they can. Our away fans should cheer the team all the way because despite the disappointments and heart breaks we will always support them.
Partizan probable 11: Starting XI (4-4-1-1): Ilic; Stevanovic, Jovanovic, Krstajic, Lazevski; Tomic, Petrovic, Smiljanic, Ilic; Iliev; Cleo.
C’MON YOU REDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Written by KTR7