Arsenal go to Rome with a priceless lead and with injuries to the Italian club the Gunners must pick off where they left off by pressuring high to kill the game off quickly.
Legend has it Rome was founded by the twins Romulus and Remus, who were once nursed by a wolf, as depicted on AS Roma’s badge. Romulus slew Remus over a dispute about which one of the two brothers had the right to rule the new city and give it his name. Tonight the Gunners play a wounded Roma who are seemingly on their last legs with a number of key personnel rated as doubtful.
The Italian club talk of calm and confidence but underneath are more than wary of Arsenal putting the nail in the coffin with their speed. “Not one in particular, but the entire midfield,” replied Pizzaro when asked if he feared one of Arsenal’s players. “They are quick and turn the ball over very well. This is also our way of playing football, so we’ll see who does it best.”
“I think it’s important that we don’t try to force the issue at the Stadio Olimpico because that would leave us open to the counter-attack,” said defender Mexes who is not in the greatest of condition following a bout of flu.
Arsenal should have scored more in the first leg and the key tonight will be to put pressure on Roma as high up the pitch as possible as they did at the Emirates. Roma like to play the ball out of defence and the Arsenal front four can deny the Italians the chance to settle by closing down early. Winning the ball back will give Arsenal the greatest opportunity to attack at speed and exploit gaps and indecision. The youthful defensive shield of Denilson and Diaby have the greatest responsibility in having to break down play and providing the platform for the forward quartet to attack with much potency. Nasri may play behind the lone forward of Van Persie and by roaming around can cause unpredictability in the Roman defence and double up in crucial areas.
“I will try to convince the players we want a positive attitude and not just sit back,” he Wenger. “As a team we are strong going forward. If we only defend we put ourselves in trouble. We are quite solid defensively, but I believe in this game it’s down to achieving a good balance between attack and defence. We always have an offensive attitude and sometimes that’s the best way so you don’t come under pressure defensively.”
The Stadio Olimpico is a big pitch; can Roma compete with the fitness and endurance of the Arsenal side especially as shown by Liverpool against Real Madrid who could not answer to the relentless pressure and quick thinking of the Reds. “I have a plan in my head, but there is also a Plan B that can be adopted during the game,” Spaletti explained. “The main thing is that to beat Arsenal we need to be careful of them pushing on the wing.” This means it is likely Roma will ditch their diamond formation that had served them well before the last leg and revert back to their 4-2-3-1 formation. Nevertheless Roma play in a similar way to the diamond and can se them easily revert either way, playing a passing game and breaking in numbers but this time will have cover out wide.
Roma (4-2-3-1): Doni, Motta, Juan, Mexes, Riise, Pizarro, Brighi, Baptista, Taddei, Menez, Vucinic.
Subs: Julio Sergio, Artur, Filipe, Loria, Tonetto, Diamoutene, Aquilani, Bortolacci; Montella,
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Almunia, Sagna, Toure, Gallas, Clichy, Denilson, Diaby, Eboue, Nasri, Bendtner, Van Persie
Subs: Fabianski, Djourou, Gibbs, Song, Ramsey, Walcott, Eduardo, Vela