How Far Can Arsenal Go in the 2014/15 Champions League?
Arsene Wenger has made certain principles that have been praised by some and criticized by others but he’s a manager that is highly respected by the Arsenal Board, Arsenal and football fans, his own players as well as other players and of course, his fellow football managers.
When he took over at the helm of affairs of AS Monaco in the 1987/88 campaign, Wenger guided the club from the Principality to a Ligue 1 crown and he achieved this feat while having a talented squad that had the likes of Youri Djourkaeff, Jurgen Klinsmann, Glenn Hoodle and the 1995 FIFA Golden Ball winner, George Opong Weah. Wenger also guided AS Monaco to the French Cup trophy in 1991.
In his 18-month stint with the Japanese outfit, Nagoya Grampus, he won the Emperor’s Cup and was honor with the J-League Manager of the Year award for 1995 making him the first ever foreigner to receive such an accolade. In his 18 years at Arsenal, Arsene Wenger has won three Premier Leagues, five FA Cups and four Community Shields and he has been unlucky in the Premier League on five occasions, as well as one FA Cup final loss, two League Cup final losses, two Community Shield losses, one Europa League loss and of course, the 2006 UEFA Champions League final loss to Barcelona.
Since getting really close to the ‘big ear’ trophy in the 2005/06 season, Arsenal has had a lot of hot and cold moments in the competition but they haven’t come close to matching the Class of 06′. In the club’s first season at the Emirates (2006/07), the Gunners European dreams were shattered by Alex when the Brazilian defender scored an own goal and scored in the Gunners’ net as well. In the 2007/08 season, Arsenal earned plaudits for defeating the defending Champions, AC Milan, but they crashed out in the quarterfinals to familiar foes, Liverpool.
Arsenal’s run in the 2008/09 season was very encouraging as they survived a penalty scare against AS Roma in the Round of 16 before easing past Villarreal in the quarterfinals. However, the Gunners fared woefully against Manchester United in one of the most painful home matches I’ve ever witnessed as a fan. Seeing Kieran Gibbs slip for Park Ji-Sung’s goal was disheartening, Cristiano Ronaldo’s 40-yard free kick still gives me nightmares and that counter attack that sealed the Gunners fate was painful to watch. One of the highlights of the 2009/10 campaign was watching Nicklas Bendtner score a hattrick against FC Porto but Lionel Messi put up a virtuoso performance in the quarterfinals.
The FC Barcelona torment continued in the 2010/11 season and this was followed by a disappointing exit in the hands of AC Milan because despite a spirited second leg performance, the damage done in the first leg was too much to repair. In the past two seasons, Arsenal has crashed out to Bayern Munich and this also indicates that the Gunners haven’t been able to go beyond the Round of 16 in the past four seasons.
This season, the Gunners began their Champions League campaign at the Signal Iduna Park and they were run ragged by a rampant Borussia Dortmund. The 2-0 scoreline was rather flattering for the Gunners because their hosts were very profligate on the night. Henrikh Mkhitaryan in particular, squandered a host of chances that would have put the game beyond doubt. With double legged affairs against Turkish giants, Galatasaray, and Belgian hot shots, Anderlecht, coming up, as well as hosting Dortmund at the Emirates, the Gunners would have to ensure that they do everything possible to top their group.
Teams that finish in second place always get paired with a very strong teams (that topped their respective group) and in most cases, they always come out second best. Last season, all the teams that topped their group qualified to the quarterfinals at the expense of the sides that finished as group runners-up. ALL eight teams.
It would be nice seeing the Gunners go all the way in the competition but realistically, Arsenal is not “well-equipped” to win the competition. The squad is still lacking in some certain positions and there’s also the issue of the injuries that has become more puzzling than some of the decisions Michel Platini makes. The players of the players in ‘big games’ have become questionable and one wonders what the Gunners need to do to excel in such encounters.
So in your honest opinion, how far can the Gunners go in the 2014/15 Champions League?
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