On Wednesday Arsenal face Bayern Munich for the second time this season and for once, I’m not really bothered by the outcome.
Don’t get me wrong: I love the Champions League. The theme tune still gives me goosebumps and I always feel so proud watching our boys line up against Europe’s best but I’m just not all that anxious about our upcoming clash against the German champions. I just don’t really care if we win or not.
This isn’t anything to do with me being disillusioned with my team. If anything, I’m the most excited I have been watching Arsenal in years. We’re in a good place, playing pretty football but gelling well – all things we’ve wanted for a long time.
With us doing so well in the Premier League and sitting level with Man City on 25 points, I kind of – Denis forgive me for what I’m about to say – don’t want to progress…
I don’t mean to be a Debbie Downer here, but we’re not winning the Champions League this season. That’s not me being a pessimist, that’s me being a realist. We’re not. We’re good but not that good. It’s one thing beating teams like Bayern in the group stages when they’re already leading on points with more matches to play. It’s another beating a team of that quality when they simply have to win.
We’ve come close before, but not close enough.
In fact, it’s becoming a running joke that we’ll lose heavily in the first leg of the knock-out rounds and then come back to win the next game but fall short on goal difference.
All I currently see Champions League matches as is a chance for us to get tired; for our players to have their dreams dashed and confidence knocked if we don’t do well; and another opportunity for injuries.
Ultimately, I see the Champions League as an obstacle in the way of us winning the Premier League for the first time since the Invincibles.
I can totally understand why people would disagree. It could, in theory, boost our confidence if we did well. It could show the rest of Europe that we’re a force to be reckoned with and we do have an outside chance of winning Wenger’s first European trophy. However, is that small chance really worth the risk?
Of course I’m not suggesting we deliberately fluff our chances of progressing to the knock-out stages. Winning is still winning, no matter what way you look at it. I’m merely saying that if we don’t do well, I’m not going to be as devastated as I usually am.
Arsenal are known for our second half of the season slump and this is usually due to fixture congestion, particularly around Christmas time. This tends to be when our players enter the ‘red zone’, as Wenger puts it, and we start dropping like flies, losing matches and generally looking a bit leggy. Although our squad is bigger now and could, in theory, handle a few injuries, it wouldn’t be ideal. Especially if more key players got injured.
With the FA Cup starting in January, we’ll have yet another tournament to compete in and we have a far better chance of winning this one for the third year in a row than the Champions League. Even without the Capital One Cup, there will be a lot on our plate and as it is I just see the European Cup as a hindrance.
Saying this, when it comes to Wednesday, of course I’ll be cheering us on 100%. I’m highly suspicious of anyone who would actively want us to lose such a huge match, which could be massive for our players’ confidence. And if we win, I’ll be buzzing with the rest of you.
However, if we do lose and end up not progressing, I’m not going to throw my toys out the pram.