“We have been well served in the recent years” a mere statement of history.
“Maybe I will go to Church over the weekend” a desperate wish for a new intern to re-script the menu book.
Whether he eventually spent the Sunday morning in some sports studio somewhere analyzing the possibility of both United and Liverpool earning defeats from their game is open to Secret Service investigation, but what is sure is that once he had breathed out after Cazorla’s audacious panenka, there was only one focus on Wenger’s mind.
One would wonder what permutations will be working through his minds on the possibilities for the draw for us, and those few hours between rising from sleep and watching the seeds unveiled will seem like the countdown to another 9 year wait for a trophy. Monday, December 15, is that day Wenger gets to find out if he could finally get a lucky escape in the Champions League round of 16. It won’t strike him as the 182nd anniversary of the birth of Gustave Eiffel, after whom the great French monument in Paris was named.
In all honesty, Wenger’s team has been has been anything but Eiffel, with games against Anderlecht, the second leg especially, much closer to awful in fact. Despite clinching qualification with a game to spare, it was already certain we were headed for another tough draw, a win of 6-goal margin not imagined as feasible, even after being 3 up at half time in Istanbul.
We couldn’t hit six on the day, so it comes down to six possibilities: Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, FC Porto, Monaco and those lucky, plucky Germans, Bayern Munich.
Juventus’ goalkeeper must have been kidding when he said they were not afraid of drawing the big teams at this stage as we’d still have to play them ahead. City’s David Silva spoke our minds; we want an easy draw, plain and simple. But which draw will exactly appear easy for Arsenal, considering form, ability and potential?
For the sake of variety, UEFA might as well find a way not to let this show up again. A third consecutive pairing of Arsenal and Munich could quite frankly reduce the values of the tickets for both games as the stats are weightily in one team’s favour. While rivals Dortmund are stuck in a mid-life crisis in the relegation dugout, Bayern look like they’ve wrapped the League up already. But it’s not a given they will come up tops again if they were to be our guys for the last 16, as their complacent defeat to City should give us hope. That said, we’d rather meet them in March or April, when they would have slipped to sleep mode after they must have clinched a third successive domestic crown. Madrid took advantage last season.
And speaking of Madrid, no one seems to be able to stop them this season. 20 wins on the bounce, including a clean out of Liverpool in their group and Barcelona earlier in the El Clasico. A Thierry Henry goal eight years ago means we currently have the last laugh but it may not be funny if we have to face Ronaldo and co with flickering make-shift defences. Having got Bayern and Barcelona over the past few years, there is the dubious expectation that it is finally time to go to Madrid. Wenger could hope otherwise.
Fact is Barcelona have been ordinary since Pep Guardiola went on sabbatical, and they are not on the books of many to make the last 8. That doesn’t mean we should be glad about the possibility of a Messi-Monreal match up. Koscielny’s recurring injuries leaves us unsure of the security of his pocket to accommodate Suarez, but it could be a moment to prove a point for one man, Alexis Sanchez, and going by how he’s gone about adapting to the Premier League, you won’t put it past him leaving a mark on both ties. Perhaps the lighter of the three giants now analyzed.
So we can trash the remaining three eh? Not a chance, if Atletico Madrid also finished first. And after coming within seconds of winning a sensational League and Cup double, Atletico have shown that last season was not a one-off. Finishing top in a group that had Juventus and Olympiacos, Diego Simeone and his men are in for the long haul, and it will take some silver bullet to gun them off track. Not that Mandzukic has totally replaced Diego Costa but if we were really interested in signing him last summer, it must have been proof of his top quality. But then, we wanted to sign Higuain last year, and ended up eliminating him and Napoli. It could still happen with this sturdy, machismic, lot.
We’ve not had much trouble about strikers but Jackson Martinez has shown plenty over the World Cup and the first months of this season to justify all the links to the Emirates that have been rumoured. We probably wish Mangala was still there; at least it would be one weakness to exploit. They still have Quaresma but he can’t pull repeat those stunts of 2006/2007. They have good goal scorers, Porto, and are good enough to shock a few this season. Potential Banana peel? Best avoided, perhaps.
Yes, they actually qualified top of their group despite only scoring one goal more, in their 6 six group games, than we did against Galatsaray on Matchday six. There will be boos when Berbatov touches the ball, and Kondogbia would be under scrutiny for a possible transfer next summer window. But surely, they should not have enough in other areas to kick us out.
It would be vile to hear they knocked us out in their first campaign in nearly a decade. It’ll be Wenger’s home-going, and it could be the fixture he was hoping for while at Church.
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