Last year, Arsenal were yet again (been the story of our club for years) fighting for a Top 4 finish with our nearest and dearest rivals Tottenham Hotspur. We were knocked out of both domestic cups earlier in the season, almost certainly out of the Champion’s League after a humiliating 3-1 defeat at home to Bayern Munich and had absolutely no chance of winning the title. We entered March with our season in free-fall and knew that securing CL football next term was the only prize left. However, even that looked to be slipping away as a 2-1 defeat at Spurs left us 7 points behind.
A lot can change in football though as Arsenal soon found out. Our next match was out in Germany 10 days later for the second leg of our Champion’s League tie with FC Bayern München. We fought valiantly and won 2-0 but was knocked out because of the away goal rule. So close yet so far. Although it is always disappointing to exit Europe, the team took a lot of heart from their gutsy performance in the Allianz Arena and used it as inspiration. They went on an unbeaten run (winning 8 and drawing 2) on the way to snatching fourth place off the neighbours.
This season is very different in that we are on our way to Wembley for an FA Cup semi final and after the weekend’s results, are back in the title race. A glaring similarity was our Champion’s League situation. We again were drawn against the Bavarian giants and just like last year, improved dramatically for the second leg but it was too little, too late. We battled hard for a deserved 1-1 draw this time. I just hope that the team repeat the determination in the run in this time around. Wenger’s men certainly dug in deep on Sunday for a close 1-0 victory at White Hart Lane.
One massive game down, 9 to go (plus 2 in the cup). Remain unbeaten for them all and the double is on. You never know.
By Glen Shorey