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Wednesday 16 December 2015

We'll Meet Again...and again....and again!

I must admit that having never been there before, I quite fancied an outing to St. Petersburg but along with every other Gooner, I let out an exasperated groan when, almost inevitably, we were paired with Barca in Monday's Champions League draw. After having written this week's diary missive ("We'll Meet Again, Don't Know Where, Don't Know When....") prior to the draw, it felt remiss of me not to at least add a few of my own reflections.

Call me a masochistic sucker for punishment, but our trip to Barcelona in March is already booked and confirmed. Although I was a bit reluctant to commit at first, on the basis that I've already endured my fair share of disappointing evenings in the oxygen-starved altitude of the upper reaches of the Nou Camp, I figured that I dare not go to the game, as after suffering the taste of defeat against the Catalan giants, it would be absolutely devastating not to be present on the one occasion that we finally endure.

Obviously, Barca are bound to be massive favourites and should the result go according to the form book, this might well prove to be our Champions League swansong for another year and I will have already missed out on the highlight of this season's European campaign, by failing to travel to Athens last week for our marvelous victory over Olympiakos. 

However, as evidenced by our previous defeats both against Olympiakos and Dynamo Zagreb, it's not just in the Premiership where this season is proving particularly unpredictable and should we be in a position to be able to field our strongest XI come 23rd Feb and 16th March, I am certain that the Spanish champs won't be relishing the prospect of encountering the Gunners and will definitely not expect it to be a walkover!

Sure we could've landed an easier looking encounter against the likes of Zenit, Atletico and Wolfsburg, but in trying to view the draw from a "glass half full" perspective, I feel there are at least a couple of positives. Firstly, as they say, if one is ever going to win the Champs League you've got to be able to overcome the big boys at some point. 

I've been trying to console myself with this thought almost every bloomin' season, when we perennially fail to top the group and find ourselves facing a similarly daunting task, but I think it's no less salient that the most experienced European campaigners are accustomed to peaking at the business end of the season. I therefore firmly believe that our prospects of beating the likes of Barca are much improved by facing them, before they reach the quarters, semis or the final and before their star performers get a proper scent of silverware in their nostrils.

Moreover, we've suffered more than our share of misfortune, when it comes to hugely significant decisions going against us in such encounters in the past (mind you, naturally the incidents were we've been seriously hard done by tend to stick in the mind and I've completely erased any moments when we've benefitted from bad officiating) and if only according to the law of averages, we should, for once,  be long overdue the rub of the green?

The fact of the matter is that for us to beat Barca, we need our best XI players to perform at their highest level on the day (and obviously it would help for the likes of Messi, Neymar and Suarez to have an off day at the office!). But this is certainly not beyond the realms of credibility. If we can continue to build on the first buds of momentum that appear to have sprouted over the course of the past week, to the point where we can acquire that absolutely essential sort of swagger and belief that will enable the Gunners to face Barca in the tunnel at our place, come the end of Feb, full of genuine conviction in their ability to triumph over the Catalan side, there really is no knowing what might happen.

What we really can't afford is to be beaten before a ball has been kicked, where psychologically we've grown so accustomed to playing second fiddle to the likes of Barca that we end up affording them far too much respect and in so doing, play to their strengths in the same manner as the vast majority of sides who inevitably end up vanquished as a result.

From my point of view, so long as we go out and do ourselves proper justice, by giving it a real go against them, I will be satisfied. I will only be seriously disappointed if we meekly roll over and accept defeat, merely because that's what everyone else on the planet is expecting.

Besides which, as we all know, we've rarely had and will probably never have a better opportunity to challenge for the Premiership title. Despite doing our best to blow it, by dropping points against the likes of Spurs, WBA and Norwich, it looks as if we'll be going into the New Year. still firmly in the frame for a title challenge (stamping our authority with all three points against City on Monday will certainly assist in reaffirming these credentials!).

A little premature perhaps, but with the likes of Man U and Chelsea in such miserable form, I think we've all sensed a certain "now or never" aura to the title race right now? My feeling is that if we're going to exit the Champs League against one of the favourites for the trophy, it will be far better for this to happen sooner, rather than later. 

I'm actually looking forward to the occasion, to see the mighty Gunners pit themselves against the best in Europe. If we can conquer Barca this time around, it will be absolutely brilliant and if not, so long as we don't embarrass ourselves and our confidence doesn't take a battering, we will at the very least, be saved from further distraction as we reach the climax of the Premiership campaign, in order to focus solely on securing our first domestic title for far too long!

And if the bookies should get it wrong and we go on to send Barca packing, then surely there will be every possibility of us going all the way to the San Siro for the final, for Arsène to finally get his hands on that elusive big-eared prize and securing the much yearned for cherry on top of his illustrious career?


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Unknown said...

in case you don't follow spanish football, arsenal can't beat atletico madrid.

Bern said...

I didn't realise Atletico are flying in La Liga and I'd definitely fancy them to beat a fairly mediocre PSV. But IF we should beat Barca, I'm sure that along with the majority of Gooners, I'd be delighted to encounter Atletico in QFs because psychologically we would fancy our chances of beating them, due to the fact that as a "selling club" they simply don't carry the same fearful threat as those clubs with bigger reputations to match their limitless funds

Bern said...

Not to mention, as we've all witnessed Fernando Torres couldn't score in a brothel 😄