It’s finally been confirmed by Arsene Wenger himself that our captain, Cesc Fabregas will not be risked in the Porto game tomorrow. Whether that means the Spaniard will not start the game or will totally be rested for the game, remains to be seen. It looks like the same hamstring injury that has been dogging him previously have come back for a rerun. I would not bet against Wenger keeping Fabregas on the bench just in case we might need him.
Does that also means that Wenger is taking Premier League priority over the Champions League. We all know that the ultimate prize in European club football is his final frontier and that he would love more than anything to put his hands on the “Big Ears“. For me, I do not think that is the case. Yes, Porto are no easy opponent. Especially not when we still need to chase the game and recover the one goal deficit. However, Porto, since the departure of Mourinho are generally not good travellers. A club as big as Arsenal, can not be that reliant on a single player. No doubt, that there is no one within the current squad that carries the team quite like Fabregas, however I’m still confident that there are others who can take over that responsibilities, at least for one night.
Judging from the Burnley game, that person would be Samir Nasri. Now, we’ve not seen a lot of the young French playmaker. Bought last season, Nasri showed in patches what he is capable of doing and when he is at the top of his game, is at least on par with Fabregas. That broken leg at the start of the season caused him to miss a good part of the season.
He has not shone that much since his return either. There is less noise surrounding his lack of contribution, probably due to the position and performance of Arsenal on a whole. However, when needed just like on Saturday, Nasri is capable of producing sumptuous moments. Opponents never seemed to be able to win the ball of him. His low sense of gravity also allows him to turn quickly away from his markers.
Diaby and Song should provide the protection that the midfield needs to give to the defence. Song’s ban not in effect in European ties, the Cameroon player is much needed to be the shield against the expected Porto counter attacks. The Portuguese side do have some speedy players in their ranks and we need to be wary of the type of goals that we conceded against United and Chelsea lately.
While we can look to Nasri to provide the decisive pass through the eye of a needle, the alternative in Diaby is also not half bad. The latter’s surging runs through midfield can be deadly, especially if the Porto defenders affords him the space. It is not easy for defenders to pick up players coming through from midfield, as that would mean that they have to discard the strikers that they are marking. Although, truth be told, I still expect the Porto coach to instruct his players to stick close to Arsenal players and be a bit rough on the challenges, just like in the first leg.
So, while Arsenal do not have a like for like replacement for Fabregas in the team. There is a combination of two players that can help to carry that weight. Those thinking that the Spaniard’s absence could be fatal, could be pleasantly proved otherwise. I’m hopeful, are you?