Should Arsenal sacrifice the Champions League? It’s an interesting question, isn’t it?
For me, the answer is a slightly complicated one.
As things stand, Arsenal are facing up to the prospect of elimination from the Champions League by the time matchday four is completed. That is assuming that Bayern Munich do as everybody expects them to and annihilate our north London heroes in the upcoming double header.
Where things are complicated is that this Arsenal team have actually shown that they can take on anyone and give them a game. We all remember the way we started our home match against Bayern two seasons back. We also remember the fact that we have a very creditable record in Munich, winning one and drawing the second of our two recent(ish) matches there.
Even allowing for the fact that Bayern may not have been at their usual intensity in those second leg knock out matches, I think it takes much more cynicism than even I have in me to totally dismiss those results. This is a long way round of me saying that I think we still have a chance to qualify. Not a great chance, but a chance nonetheless.
Of course, that chance will surely disappear should we lose tonight, but we haven’t yet arrived at that bridge, never mind crossed it.
I suppose it is worth pointing out, perhaps, that even if we lost tonight, we would still have a chance to qualify as long as we won our last three games. However, at that point it’s so out of our hands that I’m not sure it’s worth worrying about.
I also remain deeply cynical about our chances in Europe. Our recent record has been so poor that even when spared the mountainous challenges presented by Barca and Bayern, we’ve tripped ourselves up against Monaco. I don’t honestly believe that this Arsenal side can win the Champions League, so really, what’s the point of us being in it?
However, to think like that is to have given up before a ball has been kicked in anger, or despair. Imagine George Graham’s Arsenal doing so on that famous night at Anfield in 1989, or Arsène’s boys when reduced to ten at the same venue twelve years later. I don’t think it’s in Arsenal’s DNA to just give up on a competition and where there’s a chance, we have to go for it.
To that extent, it’s heartening to hear Arsène turn away from weekend suggestions that Özil and Alexis would be rested for Tuesday night’s match. As it is to hear that the Colombian jockey, David Ospina is injured.
With a clean bill of health, at least in terms of players who played at the weekend, there really is no need to rest anyone. Particularly when we won’t play again until Saturday evening. As my mate, Darren Berry, observed earlier we are a team for whom momentum is so important (thanks for changing my mind, by the way Darren). We’re in great form now and a win tonight would only augment whatever confidence the players are feeling now.
The Premier League may be the focus at the minute and rightly so. However, until the coffin lid has been nailed shut on our European campaign, the manager and the players owe it to themselves to give Tuesday night a right good go. We have been here before, of course.
In 2003/04, with 90 minutes played of matchday four, we were dead and buried. One late, late goal changed everything for us and we ended up.. well, let’s not talk about where we ended up in the Champions League that season.
We did win the Premier League though. Unbeaten.
The point is that we still have a chance to recover, we have to try and take it. Sacrifice the Champions League?