Can Arsenal Challenge for the Champions League trophy?
Here I am, back in Wellington hotel after my deliberations with the DPR personnel here in Warri. So happy that’s out of the way so I can concentrate enjoying the rest of the day before I fly back to Lagos tomorrow.
In the absence of any real Arsenal news following the hugely disappointing defeat to Swansea, I felt it would be nice writing about the much-anticipated second leg of the Bayern vs. Barcelona game, two teams that have dealt with Arsenal in recent times. The record books say that Arsenal hasn’t gone beyond the Round of 16 for five consecutive seasons following the defeat to Monaco. Bayern and Barcelona are teams that have contributed to the Gunners having such a unpleasant record so watching them pulverize each other as a neutral wasn’t half bad.
With Guardiola’s side losing horribly in the first leg, it was always going to be an uphill task turning that around but this was the same Bayern side that overturned a deficit at FC Porto with such aplomb but it was worth noting that Yacine Brahimi is no Neymar, Ricardo Quaresma is certainly not in the same level with Luis Suarez and it would be a football crime even attempting to compare Jackson Martinez to the demi-god *coughs* Lionel Messi.
I was certain of one thing – the entertainment levels that game was certainly going to bring for neutrals like me and the Allianz Arena went into fever pitch when Mehdi Benatia headed in a corner early on and many thought an unlikely comeback was on the cards. Those false hopes of the Bayern faithful (such as Sami Kuffour) that the game would end 3-0 in regulation time were sent to rubble when Messi fed Suarez, who in turn teed up Neymar for an easy tap in. The three forwards repeated the same Messi-Suarez-Neymar-goal sequence shortly afterwards to put the tie beyond doubt for Bayern. That also meant that the MSN combo had notched up 114 goals and 53 assists this season. If that isn’t awesome, then I don’t know what the word is.
I don’t know what Guardiola told his lads at half time but they came out with fire in their bellies and responded with brilliant goals from Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller. Lewandowski’s goal in particular was top-notch with the way he perplexed Javier Mascherano before curling a shot that Marc-Andre ter Stegen couldn’t even respond to. The German goalie had a great game by his high standards, making high-profile saves that kept the scoreline respectable.
At the end, it was a victory for Bayern but Barcelona had done enough in the course of both legs to ensure qualification to the finals in Berlin.
What does such a performance from Barcelona mean for a team like Arsenal. I like to be very realistic when I can and it’s quite evident that Arsenal isn’t capable of winning the Champions League with the current crop at our disposal. Arsene Wenger has done extremely well to assemble such a talented squad but there are some loopholes per se, that need to be filled if the Gunners are to challenge for Europe in the near future.
The Invincibles are heralded as the best squad Arsene Wenger has ever assembled but their Champions League aspirations were halted by a familiar foe, Chelsea. The Blues beat the Gunners in the quarterfinals but lost to Monaco in the semis. Would Arsenal have beaten a Monaco side that had the likes of Jerome Rothen, Ludovic Giuly, Patrice Evra, Maicon, Dado Prso and Fernando Morientes? I think so.
Arsenal’s closest run to the Champions League trophy was in the 2005/06 season where they eased past FC Thun, Ajax and Sparta Prague in the group stages before beating Real Madrid, Juventus and Villarreal in the run to the final. The Gunners faced a Barcelona team that had the World Footballer of the Year, Ronaldinho, as well as one of the most feared strikers in world football, Samuel Eto’o.
However, that was an Arsenal team that had the right balance in defense as well as a potent striker in Thierry Henry. If my memory serves me right, Jens Lehmann kept 10 consecutive clean sheets before receiving his marching orders in the final. That record hasn’t been broken till date.
The Gunners currently have great individuals like Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez but Arsene Wenger has to add a couple of more world-class talent before this squad would be capable of winning the Champions League.
Till then, I will continue to support this team with my all, because my love for the Gunners knows no bounds.