A reunion is on the cards in the New Year for our manager, as he finally, for the first time in his career, re-visits Monaco (in a proper competition) to square off against his old club. Yep, yesterday we got all the luck of the Irish as we were drawn against the easiest possible opponents that we were going to get in the next round, although as with everything in life we know that it won’t be easy when the matches eventually come around.
Just look at what happened to us when we played PSV all those years ago. we were probably the better team in both legs, yet our own profligacy cost us our space in the next round. So as much as we can view this tie as the best possible chance of progression we could have hoped for, the job still needs to be done both in London and the French principality.
Monaco got through their group having scored four goals. That’s pretty impressive in its poorness if we’re all honest. They have been forced to sell their star striker to some team based in the North of this country, and I believe I’m right in saying that they look a little like a spent force in the French league as well. We are hardly ripping up trees, but based on the respective quality of the English and French leagues, you’d expect us to be able to handle what they can throw at us.
There also seems to be some sort of cruel irony that Dortmund, who topped our group, have got one of the hardest group winner ties, as they go to Turin to square off against the current Italian Champions. Juventus won’t be an easy tie for them, but we needn’t concern ourselves with either side at this stage.
What we need to concern ourselves with it the run of games that takes place over the next couple of weeks that I think could define our season. Certainly if we want to be in Europe’s elite competition next year. With so many matches coming thick and fast, stringing together a series of wins can propel you from stuttering giants to steamrolling juggernauts, providing you have the right level of application. Oh, and it helps if you have any players fit to play as well, I suppose. This season we’ve certainly not been able to field our best eleven more often than not, but the Christmas period offers a slither of hope that we will not be the only ones. Think about it this way: our team are used to picking up injuries and we’ve learned that we have to muddle through somehow, unsuccessfully at times, I know. But it will come as no surprise to our players to be playing two games in a week and so one would hope that we’d better equipped to play three games in a week in comparison to those other teams at the top that haven’t had the same level of intensity so quickly. I am, of course, talking about the West Ham’s, Swansea’s and Southampton’s of this season. All have had good runs in the league up until this point, but with points coming so quickly and with inevitable injuries creeping up, the name of the Christmas game is rotation and it will be interesting to see how easily those teams can pick up wins with the level of squad rotation all teams probably need when you play three games in a week.
Perhaps I am clutching at straws a little bit, but I suspect we’ll start to see some teams falling away. That is not to suggest that we won’t drop points by the way; we’ve seen how easy we seem to have done so this season, but I just think that now is the time for us to assert our dominance on the rest of the division. We must start picking up wins and ideally, we need to do it next weekend against Liverpool. I was chatting to a Liverpool fan yesterday who was convinced we would smash them at Anfield, but I found myself needing to remind him that we are The Arsenal, that we give hope to those that have none at times. I hope I am proved wrong next weekend and we do smash them, because it will set us up for a massive Christmas. Think about it, a win away to Anfield, followed up by a win at home to QPR, would then put us in a fantastic frame of mind to take on a high confidence West Ham side that will fancy their chances at home. We need to be ending their hopes of Champions League football, then following that up by doing the same to Southampton. Maximum points over Christmas is probably more than we could realistically expect to get, but there’s no harm in dreaming at this stage of the season, is there?
As for the rest of the Arsenal related news, it’s lots of interviews with players talking about emphatic responses for the Newcastle game, etc, etc. I understand that players with microphones thrust in front of them at the heat of the moment will be naturally buoyant after such a great performance, but I feel a little immune to their comments these days. We’ve heard it all before so many times, that all that really matters is what they say with their feet. And credit to them, you’re only as good as your last game and in the last game they were excellent. They just need to replicate that high intensity against the scousers next weekend.
I think I’ll call it a\ day for now. more tomorrow as we approach a crucial game/time in our season.