When I usually write my pre match thoughts in the morning ahead of a game, I usually try to find some kind of hope in what lies ahead, regardless of the opposition. Or at least I think I do. I try to analyse how we are going to beat our opponent and what needs to be done to ensure that Arsenal either manage safe passage to the next round, or pick up three points, sometimes going in to more detail as to how I think tactically both teams will set up. There are others that articulate it better than me, but I still give it a go.
Today I have nothing. Nothing to offer. Zip. Zero. Nada.
Why? Because I don’t believe a miracle can happen tonight. I truly believe that the impossible isn’t possible. And I say that with a very heavy heart.
Barcelona are on a 37-game unbeaten streak. Arsenal have won one game in seven.
Barcelona are top of the league and looking like they will win the title. Arsenal are third and look like they’ve thrown the title away.
Barcelona’s strikers are breaking records on what feels like a weekly basis. Arsenal’s strikers aren’t even hitting the net enough to beat mediocre teams.
I’m really sorry for all of the negativity, but quite simply, I am out of enthusiasm. I’m hoping that by the time the match comes around I’ll be more excited and nervous, but quite frankly, I doubt it. Under normal circumstances I’d say that this game is simply a ‘bonus’, that we never thought we’d get to this stage anyway, so let’s just enjoy the spectacle. But given we play Everton on Saturday lunchtime, this isn’t even a bonus any more, it’s a hindrance. Our last few dregs of hope need to be placed in a miracle in the Premier League, not in trying to overcome a 2-0 home defeat against the best team in the world right now.
Yet what will Arsène do tonight? He’ll opt for a full-strength, gung-ho, ‘balls out’ Arsenal side who will either spend the entire evening chasing maroon and blue shadows, or will get absolutely battered. Either way, by the time the final whistle blows and the team trudge back to their plane, they’ll be knackered and so might our chances of getting anything from the Everton game.
What I’ll take from tonight will be the pride of hearing a few thousand Arsenal fans making their presence known up there in the gods miles away from the pitch. They’ll show the team that despite all adversity, they are there over land and sea, trying their best to raise the fragile confidence of the players.
Do you really want me to go throw the game? I mean, really? I suppose I should.
Barcelona will line up pretty much with the same side that faced us at the Emirates, minus the suspended Pique for Mathieu, but I don’t expect that to have to much consequence. We will be penned back in our own half because of their propensity to win the ball back and retain possession for most of the game and, with Arsenal having played almost a full strength side in the defeat to Watford whilst Barcelona rested players for their 6-0 win over Getafe, they will not only be confident but also fresher than us.
Arsène has said he’ll play a full strength team, so that means a return for the full backs, but I do wonder if he’ll also opt for the channel running of Danny Welbeck. Personally I wouldn’t, because I don’t know if Welbeck is ready physically to play two games in four days, so I will pray with all my might that he’s a starter for Saturday and not today. But I think he will play. I can’t see any reason why Arsène wouldn’t have started Giroud on Sunday other than the fact that Welbeck has overtaken him as a first choice and the manager was saving him for tonight’s game.
It’s bizarre. Arsène’s thought process is probably that some kind of battling draw which knackers the team is some kind of mini-victory. It’s not. Arsène always talks about the next game being most important, but we all know he’s prioritised before, so why not tonight? Why not just play some rotated players and then go for it on Saturday?
Who knows, maybe he’ll surprise me, doubt it though.
What I’d like to see from tonight, what would make me happy, is the players all avoiding injury and perhaps a goal for Alexis. If we lose 3-1 and that happens, I’ll see that as a positive ahead of the weekend. After a better performance in the Nort London Derby for the Chilean, he reverted to his usual 2016 form and was poor against Watford, so I’d love to see a 201/15 vintage of Alexis for tonight’s game. It would give me some hope that he can still have an impact as the season peters out to the inevitable fight for fourth place.
Again, I reiterate, I apologise for my negativity. But I have unfortunately lost a lot of faith in the ability of the team and particularly the manager to deliver us something special this year. I would love to be proved wrong. In some kind of self-preserving, masochistic way, it helps to expect the worst and not be disappointed. Even though I know I probably will be.
I hope you can take some pleasure of some kind from tonight’s game. Wherever you are.