Has an Arsenal game ever become this big? Of course, a match in Paris was once huge. Winning the Champions League would have been no more than Arsene Wenger deserved but the odd thing about that final is that Arsenal reached it after the Invincible squad had began to breakup. To this day I’ll never understand why Arsenal, under the Frenchman, didn’t reach more finals in Europe during his early years.
As a club, we’ve enormously declined since that 2006 final. Whereas once Champions League football was almost a foregone conclusion, we’re now struggling to secure a place in the Europa League for next season. How/why we are where we are now is a subject which has been discussed on here ever since the HH began and I suppose it’ll carry on until we’re back in the top four and goodness knows when that will be.
But, as it’s been for the last couple of years, another route to Champions League is there for us. Previously we’ve failed though and in terms of the final against Chelsea, yes, it was a failure. The performance from Arsenal that day was simply dreadful against what was then, a pretty average Chelsea team. The previous season, was equally as poor when during the home tie against Atletico Madrid, the visitors were down to ten men inside ten minutes. That was our chance but we blew it as Arsene Wenger’s team could only manage a 1-1, the Atletico away goal proving to be a disaster as we lost 1-0 in Spain.
Conceding an away goal undid us again last season and at this stage of the competition. Having won the away tie 1-0, Arsenal were in a great position to go through. All we needed at The Emirates was to not concede more than one goal against Olympiakos. An attacking unit of Aubameyang, Lacazette, Mesut Ozil and Nicolas Pepe – £220m odd of talent, winning that game should have been a certainty. However, we lost 2-1 and went out on away goals. According to the stats, Arsenal had 19 shots with just 4 on target. Aubameyang missed a sitter which would have taken us through to the next round. Oh the irony.
Decisions didn’t necessarily go Arsenal’s way that night as the yellow card shown to Ba for a foul on the edge of the area could have been red, and there was more than a hint of offside in the build up for Olympiakos’ second goal. But sometimes stats don’t lie, Arsenal simply weren’t ruthless or decisive enough up front.
Here we are, twelve months later and were saying the same things. Arsenal simply aren’t clinical or decisive enough in the final third. The build up play is too slow and goal scoring opportunities are being spurned. Our tie tomorrow night hangs in the balance because when the chances came in the ‘away’ leg, we didn’t take them. Had Aubameyang scored his early and easy chance, things might have turned out so very different. As it is, it’s 1-1 but at least we have that all important away goal thanks to Saka.
A year ago, Arsenal came away from the Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis with a 1-0 victory. Achieve the same result tomorrow evening and it’ll be enough to go through.
See you in the comments.