Lee Dixon: Fabregas return is good, but Song is the one Arsenal will really miss

As if the task of taking on Barcelona in the Nou Camp were not hard enough, Arsenal have to do it with injury ruling out key players. It's a job and a half with a full squad, but with the injuries Arsenal have got it is going to be a lot more difficult.

Losing Alex Song is a bigger blow to Arsenal than losing Cesc Fabregas. Song's strength in the holding position in the midfield would have been a key factor in Arsenal's plan, and now his place will be taken by someone not as capable. If there was one player I would want at the Nou Camp, above all others, it would be Song. Not Fabregas.

When you play at the Nou Camp you have to accept that Barcelona will have the ball for a large percentage of the game. So how you play when you don't have the ball is even more important than usual. That's why it is such a huge blow to lose Song. In the likes of Fabregas, Jack Wilshere and Samir Nasri, Arsenal have the players who are capable of causing damage when they have the ball. They are comfortable on the ball and have the talent to create something in the final third of the pitch, which might potentially result in an away goal. There is no doubt Arsenal have the attacking talent to do that.

But it is the defensive point of view that concerns me. Song is someone who performs the holding role in midfield without thinking about it and his absence leaves a huge hole.

Abou Diaby and Denilson both played against Sunderland but neither is as good as Song. Denilson would get my nod over Diaby, who looked laboured on Saturday. Denilson has improved since he first arrived at Arsenal, but because he has not developed as fast as some of the other players around him, it might look like he has stood still. One area he has improved has been knowing what's behind him, because that stood out as a weakness when he first came into the team.

He will certainly need to know what is going on at the Nou Camp tonight because Barcelona will be looking to capitalise on any confusion in the Arsenal defence. They like to play the ball in front of the defence, suck players into making a tackle and then hit you with the ball behind you. They did that for almost half an hour in the first half at the Emirates – and that was with Song.

In the first leg, Laurent Koscielny did well in the second half, when he followed Lionel Messi as the Argentine dropped deeper, but he will have to make the right calls tonight on when to go and when to leave him. If he is not careful players will run off him and get in behind.

All over the pitch it will be like individual games of chess. Players need to work out when to put their foot in and when to drop off. And if they do make mistakes, there is every chance they will be punished. It is unlikely that Arsenal will keep Barcelona out for the full 90 minutes, so I think they will have to score to go through.

I would pick Marouane Chamakh up front – he looked lively when he came on against Sunderland. I would also go for Andrei Arshavin on the left, and Nasri on the right.

Arsène Wenger trusts his players to do their job and they have every chance. But it will be very difficult. When you play at the Nou Camp it feels like the biggest pitch in the world. The fans are very noisy, but also are reasonably patient because they know Barcelona usually win in the end.

My XI: Szczesny; Sagna, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy; Denilson, Fabregas, Wilshere; Nasri, Chamakh, Arshavin.



Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own