Tough one really, I mean. It’s easy to be despondent. We just failed in the last 16 of the Champions League again. We lost to Barca, again. But there are some positives to take.
I’m not going to dissect the game, because I don’t have time, but I’ll give some topline thoughts.
I thought we ran a tight shop for most of the game. I think the game plan was right, the personnel was not. Wenger was let down by mistakes, but ultimately, mistakes from players he’s put far too much trust in. Barca didn’t dominate us like they could have, but it did feel like they always had an extra gear that we lacked.
I had Juve / Bayern on the other screen. They went two down and pulled it back. Why can’t Arsenal do that? If we went down to Bayern, you’d have the same feeling. If we went 2 down to Juve, again, you’d give us no hope. Why is that?
We created some great chances last night. If Chamberlain shoots either side of the keeper from 8 yards, that changes the game. If Giroud can put that header in or get into the right positions, we’re changing the game. We had great chances, but we’re not clinical in front of goal. Arsene Wenger can’t complain. He’s had 3 years to address these issues and he hasn’t.
‘But who was there to buy?’
Higuain, breaking records in Serie A. Suarez, who if we’d pushed our bid to £50m, we’d have landed. Pierre-Erick, who we’d have if our scouting network was a bit sharper. Lukaku if we were sharper in the market and wanted to develop someone. Dybala scored last night for Juve (13 goals and 8 assists this year). Teams are scoring goals, teams are finding gems, so you can’t excuse a team with more money than sense missing out on everyone.
Doing nothing and talking about bread in supermarkets isn’t acceptable.
It wasn’t a great night in the office from Coquelin. He’s a very good player, exposed at the highest level. But here’s the thing, that guy is an accident in our team, Wenger never recognised the need for someone like him in the side. Worse still, Wenger brings on Flamini who gives away a penalty almost instantly. Flamini tries his hardest, but he’s been a problem for 3 seasons now. You build a squad in the knowledge you’ll have to play these people. Why Arteta and Flamini are anywhere near it is beyond me. But you pay the price in the end. Last night, our hopes in that game were killed by a lack of ruthlessness that’s pervaded the last 10 years of Wenger’s career.
But Barca are good:
This argument always crops up and it’s an understandable one. Barcelona are one of the greatest sides of all time. They have been for years. You either accept that as a challenge and you work to be better, or you use it as an excuse. I’d rather we tried to take them on. We have massive funds that we’re not using to make our squad as good as theirs. Why is that? How can you accept being second best if you didn’t at least try to make things better?
Did the manager think our squad was as good as their one in the summer? If he didn’t, why did he only add one player. The one player Barcelona would take from us.
Also worth remembering that Atletico Madrid, a team of lower financial power than us, successfully wrestled the league from Barca and Madrid. That wasn’t a fluke, it was just bloody mindedness and smarts
We’ve had 5 years of good times financially. We’re still no closer to cracking Europe. It’s crazy.
Also, let’s not cite City as an example of spunking money with nothing to show in Europe. They’ve won the league title. Chelsea have won the Champions League. United have. LIVERPOOL HAVE. All in recent times. Why haven’t we?
One man, consistent in all of this…
Going out of the competition, which is pretty likely is great for our title chances, but it’s another black mark next to the name of a manager obsessed with a competition he can’t win.
Too many focus on the opposition as the reason we lost, rather than the reason the opposition is still so much better than us. We need to address why we’ve never cracked the Champions League and we need to sharpen up. It’s becoming very embarrassing. We’re not even the bridesmaid, we’re the +1 on an evening invite.