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Frustrated? No. Disappointed? Yes. Post Champion’s League Thoughts.
In 2007-2008 Gooners I was delighted to see Arsenal take jump at the season and pretty much contro things heading into February. I was dismayed tha after the horrendus events of that match-day in Birmingham, Arsenal’s season, one of so much promise faded quicker than it had started.
Last season, Arsenal completely frustrated me as we never got out of the chute and were out of it before we were even in it. The only saving grace were semi-final appearances in the FA Cup and the Champion’s League – if you call those saving graces.
This season, I did not know what to expect. Would it be the ugly beast of the previous season? Or would a more matured brand of football rear its head. There wasn’t much movement in terms of transfers. Optimism rode high from the offices of the Emirates. Not so much through the homes of the Gunner’s faithful.
But the optimism seemed well founded. Even after losing to City and United the Gunners were still at threat and taking care of the opposition they faced. The season though has gone horribly wrong. Not because we are still fighting for a league title but because the team is ending its season on 1 good leg – if that.
Last night I watched the complete dismantling of a good Arsenal side by a great Barcelona team. The movement off the ball, the attack to get the ball back when it was lost and the skillful elegance of the best player in the world – some guy named Messi, you may have heard of him was astounding.
I’m not sure we ever had a chance. Sure we scored first and sure thing if Diaby hits Walcott on the right intead of passing to Bendtner on the left, and had Theo scored – it could’ve been a different game. But it wasn’t. Arsenal got played off the field. I don’t think there are any teams that can handle this Barca side so overall I say no shame in going out to a team like that.
The game was lost in my opinion before we took the field and word was that Alex Song was not playing. Song did an outstanding job last week handcuffing Messi. While Song is improved and improving he showed why he was Arsenal’s most improved player this season by limiting the path the little man had. Without him the squad, Arsenal could not contain Messi and he had his way with a make shift defence.
Barca also adjusted very well to this Arsenal squads potential threats. Maxwell didn’t start and the defenders played deeper off of Walcott negating his speed effect. The size of Bendtner and Diaby was negated by no less than 3 players crowding them out as they had the ball. They weren’t losing the ball so much as they were having it taken away from them when pressured. They also did a good job of pressing Nasri out of the midfield.
Throw all of that in with a clinic on how an attacking squad should hold the ball up from their opposition and the night was over after the first Messi goal. Sure they started better and the chances that Barca did have weren’t nearly as good as they had last week. Frankly, I am of the mind I would’ve preferred a frentic start to get Almunia engaged early and at his intinctive best.
Overall though I think what I really want to say, is I am not frustrated we did not win and this another trophy we won’t have. It doesn’t come from some kool-aid drinking notion of the love for Arsenal. It’s from a realistic view that Arsenal have delivered more this year than they should have or were expected to.
The litany of injuries of first team stars and key players is well known. If any other team had as much talent out on the bench would they
be doing so well? Everton which have a very talented squad have gotten better because they have healed. Their early season woes were directly because of their own early injury problems. Still with all the injuries Arsenal are competing day in and day out. Yes, there are off games, but they are still gaining results. Who cares when they come, they come and it keeps them going as the little engine that could.
I am disappointed more for the fact that a squad that has worked so hard, a manager that has worked so hard to keep it together, and a fan base that deserves a Champion may not get one this year. And its not because of wrong policies or not spending money, or the age of the squad or paying off debt. It is because the size of the injuries deprived this team of much of its talent for a good portion of the season. this is not an excuse – it is a fact. United cannot overcome the loss of Rooney as they’ve shown. If Drogba were out for an extended period of time Chelsea likely wouldn’t handle it (the ACoN doesn’t count – because most of the matches he was out were cancelled because of snow). It happens and teams have to overcome – in my mind we have. It is why we are still fighting for a league title.
I am disappointed because I loved the atmosphere and pride that being in that match meant to the fans. Whether it was the rabid Gooner nation on Twitter or the fans at Nevada Smith’s yesterday. It was a great thing to see and experience.
The phrase wait till next season is to early to use right now and frankly I hate it because I always get so caught up in this season. But I am looking forward to next season, when there are new signings (Chamakh and Jerome Boateng anyone?) and bodies are healed. There are never any guarantees but I would suspect that a healthier Arsenal squad will do much better than one that is held together by band-aids and tape.
We got beat by a better team and I bow down to the football man that is Lionel Messi. What a stunning performance. Did anyone else on that team even have a shot on goal? So I am going to turn my attention to the remaining league games., think about the arrival of St. Totteringham’s day and let this go back and wistfully think about what could’ve been this season.