Saturday 28 November 2015

Arsenal's UEFA Champions League Campaign 2015

I have not added the 2016 to the title of this blog as Arsenal's progress to the Round of 16 looks to be somewhat in peril. Tons of articles have been written about Arsenal's Champions league campaign this term. Many of them deriding Arsene Wenger. Unfortunately  I have something of a contrary view. Now, why is that not a surprise :)

No doubt for many Arsenal fans, the Champions League campaign this season has been very frustrating especially as we have lost 2 very winnable games to Zagreb away and Olympiakos at home.

Some pundits have ascribed the losses to Arsene's decision to rest Petr Cech in those matches. I couldn't disagree more. As for the Arsenal fans who align with the Pundit's opinion on these matter I have no words.    "To talk is not hard".

That David Ospina is a First Class Goal keeper is not in question and should really be up for debate. He makes mistakes. Yeah. So does Manuel effing Neuer. MK Dons (yes MK Dons) put 4 past David De Gea. FOUR GOALS. Back to Ospina, while I now believe Petr Cech is better than him, David had more than enough quality to man the posts for Arsenal against Zagreb & Olympiakos. Yes the results were bad on the night but that is the nature of the beast that is football. The best 11 players on the night will not always win a game of football.

I believe the blame for the losses can be ascribed elsewhere.

  • I think we sometimes go into a match with overconfidence bordering on arrogance. It costs us against Monaco last term and I think it did with these 2 matches. 

  • I believe the selection of outfield players for the Zagreb match was wrong. We should have played our strongest side, hopefully win the game and then focus on the next match. Anything can and does happen between matches to render your permutations & calculations unworkable. At the end of the day, we lost the match we rested players for. To be fair to Arsene and the team, I expect any Arsenal 11 to beat Dynamo Zagreb 9 times out of 10. Maybe this match was that 1 out of 10.
  • Our defensive frailties are unbelievably annoying. We concede what I choose to call naive goals / nothing goals. We conceded two Oxlade - Chamberlain own goals against both Zagreb & Olympiakos. I still believe the Ospina howler was not a goal. We conceded 3 goals from set pieces in both matches with Kieran Gibbs inexplicably ducking a header to defend one of the goals. Yes we played with 10 men against Zagreb with a silly petulant & unnecessary 1st booking by Giroud but we had no reason to lose to Zagreb. It rankled then still rankles till now.

For me, our Champions League campaign this season is not the car crash that many have attempted to portray it as. When the draws were made, I make bold to say nobody expected Arsenal to beat Bayern Munich in any of the head to head matches. Our qualification hopes were always hinged on the results against the other 2. So to then beat Bayern in my opinion atones for the losses against Zagreb. Why? 

Going by the current table in Group F, Arsenal beaten Dynamo away would have been meaningless as things stand. We will have the same number of points as Olympiakos and we would need to go to Greece needing a win to progress. If we had beaten Olympiakos at the Emirates without the Bayern home win,  we would have 9 points, Olympiakos will have 6 and we would still need a result in Greece.  So nothing has changed. We are still going to Greece and we still need a result.

Yes I get the frustration. A team like Arsenal who are capable of doing great things are often so lifeless and lacking in sparkle and will a bit too often for the quality they posses deliver unbelievably negative results that leads to head scratching.

I however think we Arsenal fans need to calm down as we appear to buy into the naysayers narrative too often. Many are happy to rely on the words of people with an axe  to grind or an agenda like Gary Neville & Piers Morgan to beat up Arsene & the Team.

Will we go through. I hope so. We are capable of a lot more than beating Olympiakos by 2 clear goals.

Will we though? That's a question for the gods.

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