Champions League: This Could Have Been Us, and Yes, it Still Hurts
When supporting a football club, you have to brace yourself for the good times, bad times and ugly times. Arsenal, like any football club out there, is no different. In all my years as an Arsenal supporter, I’ve seen a lot but I remain hopeful for better things to come in the foreseeable future. Going all those years without a trophy made me endure endless taunts from those trolls out there, and winning the FA Cup last season was in my honest opinion, a platform to build on.
The Gunners began the season very poorly in the League and despite the fact that Arsene Wenger’s men are in the form of their lives, the best they can muster would be a second placed finish provided Chelsea do what’s expected of them. The Champions League is a competition that Arsene Wenger hasn’t won yet, with his best chance coming in 2006 but down the years Arsenal fans have become accustomed to facing disappointment and despair in this competition.
This season’s European campaign began with a two-legged draw against Besiktas but the Gunners lost their first match of the group to Dortmund and followed it up with a Danny Welbeck-inspired victory over Galatasaray. After the narrow win against Anderlecht in Belgium, the Gunners were culpable for throwing away a shocking three goal lead against the same opposition at the Emirates, and this was the point where Dortmund seized the initiative and gained a stronghold of the group. Subsequent wins over Dortmund and Galatasaray wasn’t enough to top the group, so Arsene Wenger’s men had to make do with a second placed finish yet again, which ultimately meant that they were gonna be paired with one of them European juggernauts.
Heaven knows that I was anxious during the Round of 16 draws. The Gunners had lost to Barcelona and Bayern Munich twice in the past four seasons, so which team was going to play against them. When Barcelona was paired with Manchester City and Bayern got Shakhtar Donetsk, I thought about the prospect of playing the World Footballer of the Year, Cristiano Ronaldo, but they got Schalke 04. After a frantic wait, Arsenal got paired with AS Monaco. Hallelujah. The fans celebrated, and I’m sure the players already dreamed about the last eight.
Arsenal began 2015 with a loss to Southampton after followed it up with wins over Hull (FA Cup), Stoke, Manchester City, Brighton and Aston Villa before suffering a blip against Tottenham. They picked up where they left off with wins against Leicester and Crystal Palace.
Then Monaco came to town.
The players seemed confident and passed the ball around well but some profligate finishing from Olivier Giroud was already going to prove costly and our fears were realized when Geoffrey Kondogbia made a rare foray forward and fired a shot that was deflected off Per Mertesacker. Arsenal continued to attack and they hit the lads on the break and Dimitar Berbatov of all people, made it two. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain came off the bench to score a peach of a goal to make it 2-1. Not bad right? All we have to do is score two goals in Stade Louis and we are home and dry. Sadly more defensive naivety cost the team dearly and Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco scored the goal that put the contest beyond the Gunners. As expected, a 2-0 win in France wasn’t enough.
So we moved on and focused on what was left of the season. The FA Cup and the remaining Premier League games. Everton, QPR, Manchester United (FA Cup), West Ham, Newcastle, Liverpool and last weekend, Burnley. All these teams have incurred the wrath of an Arsenal side in the form of their lives. With this kind of form, playing in the Champions League against Juventus would have been a spectacle. The last time both sides met at that stage was in Arsenal’s road to the final in 06′. However, it was Monaco that lined up against the Italian giants, not Arsenal.
This could have been us, and yes, it still hurts.
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