Well we now know what we have to overcome in the semi final of the Europa League if we want to win it and be playing Champions League football next season.
I’m not going to lie to you and tell you I’m happy about the draw. Since the 4-1 win against CSKA I’ve been speaking with various Gooner mates and whilst it’s been split between it being better to play them in the final or over two legs, I fall on the side of the fence where I’d have rather have played them in the final, because I think that would have given us a better chance.
The thing is, when you look at two legged ties, rarely does the poorer team over two legs get knocked out. That old saying about cream rising to the top etc, etc, is true in cup competitions when you have to play over 180 minutes.
And sadly I think Atletico are a better team than us. This season they’ve been better in their own domestic league offensively than us and have some pretty decent firepower up top in Griezmann, Costa and Gameiro, whilst defensively the certainly have more than the shambles we have at the back. They’ve conceded just 15 goals in La Liga all season and currently sit second.
So for me this represents a much harder obstacle than playing them in a one-off cup final in which, let’s face it, this season aside we seem to have got the hang of with three FA Cups in four years. The players seem to be able to get themselves up for cup competitions and conversely Atletico Madrid have lost a few so my thinking was I’d rather have had a go in Lyon.
But it isn’t the case and now we’ll have to do what is probably improbable and beat them. And we’ll most likely have to do it by scoring three goals minimum over the two legs because let’s all be honest and face the music here: we ain’t keeping a clean sheet home or away. When I start to think about the two legs like that and the fact we have to score that many goals against a pretty mean defence I realise the size of the task facing those Arsenal players.
One positive you can draw from the tie however, is that it will finally feel like a big European tie, almost like it is a Champions League match up and I think the Emirates will be rocking I have to say. We’ll have a full capacity and I can see the fans being properly up for this one. Let’s just hope the players follow suit.
Whoever wins the tie over two legs will be massive favourites though. I just hope we do what we’ve done all season – two Manchester clubs aside – and continue our pretty impressive home form showing. Me maybe be tripe away from home but at home this season we’ve largely done the business.
What it means for tomorrow’s game in the North East I suspect is that we’ll see some heavy rotation. I have no problem with that. We’re not going anywhere domestically and if we win one away and our two home games we’ll finish sixth, but that’s hardly a big enough carrot to risk the likes of Koscielny, Monreal, Ramsey, Özil, etc. So I suspect it’ll be all change tomorrow lunchtime. More on that tomorrow though.
Before I go, I thought I’d point you in the direction of the Gooner Ramble podcast, which I was on yesterday and we talked CSKA, Atletico and the upcoming league games. Have a listen, subscribe, etc, etc, if you feel so inclined.
Catch you all on the other side of Saturday.