A month ago, I wrote a post titled Happy Days (https://ateameffort.wordpress.com/2015/01/28/happy-days/) where I concluded that life was ‘looking rosy for Arsenal supporters’. Just over a week later, a narrow defeat to Tottenham Hotspur signalled the end of any lingering title hopes that I might have had. However, the team responded well and went on to secure two hard-fought victories in the league. In between the Leicester and Crystal Palace wins, we also overcame the potential banana skin of Middlesbrough and booked our place in the Quarter Final of the FA Cup. Once again, there was much to be optimistic about. 3rd in the League, still fighting to defend our cup and a very winnable Champions League Round of 16 tie on the horizon.
If only I knew what would happen on Wednesday 25th February 2015, perhaps I would have been less excited a few weeks ago (plus I could’ve gone to see Stewart Lee at my local theatre). Losing 3-1 at home is never acceptable but it was made even worse by the fact we were playing AS Monaco Don’t get me wrong, a team who wins their group and only concedes once in six games is anything but poor. However, they were much more preferable to being paired with the European heavyweights such as Real Madrid or Bayern Munich. We had a really good chance of progressing past the first knockout round but unfortunately, we blew it with a horrendous display.
There is basically no chance of progression because the away goals rule means Arsenal have to score three without reply in the South of France to go through, which seems highly unlikely as we didn’t score until the 90th minute and didn’t look dangerous prior to that. Yes, Olivier Giroud didn’t have his shooting boots on but we never truly threatened if I’m being honest. When we finally did score with a lovely goal from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, we should’ve shut up shop and took the 2-1 defeat. Instead, just like in 2013 against Bayern Munich, we naively tried to get an equalizer, got caught on the break and made the job in the return leg nigh on impossible.
The performance on Wednesday night was so limp and uninspiring that I’m now incredibly nervous about our trip to Old Trafford next week and think the FA Cup will slip out of our grasps, for this year anyway. I’m also worried about our upcoming league matches against Everton and QPR. We cannot afford to let teams such as Tottenham and Liverpool back in the race for the Top 4.
By Glen Shorey