Morning folks. How is it Wednesday already? It’s like life is flashing before our very eyes, eh?
I guess the upside is that we’re getting closer to being able to go back to normality from a global pandemic situation. Plus from an Arsenal side we also step closer towards the end of this wretched season, although I acknowledge that if the best possible ending to the season does surprisingly happen and we somehow win the Europa League, this season will go down as a mightily successful one.
For those of us long in the tooth enough to remember, our record in European competition for a club with the trophies and history that we have, is pretty darn poor. We won the Cup Winners Cup in 94 with an Alan Smith beauty, but since then we’ve had only but a few finals in Europe and none ended that well for us. The following year we lost to Zaragoza and I remember vividly the pain of that as a child. Being only 12 when Nayim scored his goal I knew little of Spainish football back then and only thought Zaragoza must be as good as Barcelona or Real Madrid to be in the final of a European competition, but now I look back on it and realise how wrong that was and really, we should have won that with relative ease given the team we had. It was to be just one disappointment in a few that we’ve had, but the next one didn’t come until 2000 and Galatasaray beating us on penalties. If I was naive at 12 with the Cup Winners Cup, at 17 I had a little more knowledge of the footballing world. I don’t want to start sounding like an old man here but back then there wasn’t anywhere near the level of exposure you could get to all kinds of football, nor social media to get instant access, information and intel on your opponents. But an Arsene Wenger side who had won the Premier League two years earlier and included Petit, Vieira, Overmars, Henry and Bergkamp should have swept aside the Turks. Instead we lost it after extra time.
Then we had to wait six years’s before our next European final and wedged in between that was defeat to a Chelski side who were clearly inferior to us at the time but who got the drop on us despite us beating them in the first leg at their ground. The final in 2006 we were extreme outsiders but we still had Henry, Sol, Jens, Pires, Freddie, Kolo, so we should have given Barcelona a bit more of a fight than we did, but the sending off of Jens handed them the opportunity and let’s not forget if a referee has the chance to hand Barcelona or Real Madrid an advantage in Europe then he will damn sure take it. Despite that though Henry still missed a sitter and we still had the odd chance. But the opportunity was once again blown.
Then we have to fast forward to 2019 before our next European cup final and that was the bitter taste of defeat to Chelski two year’s ago. That one hit me hard. We had Emery – the Europa League mastermind – we were playing a team we knew well in Chelski – who had already qualified for the Champions League via the league, but who also had Sarri who had a pretty poor record in cup finals I believe. I went in to that game convinced this was going to be our first European trophy glory since that night I was 11 and watching Alan Smith fire one past the Parma ‘keeper in Denmark. Because of the ridiculous location in Azerbaijan none of my usual match day going mates could make it so we all went to the Rocket and when Chelski’s third goal went in I just stood up and walked out. It was crushing. A punch to the gut in which it took me a long, long, time to recover. I was so convinced. I had got myself into a frenzy of positivity. The Power of Positive Thinking, right?
Wrong. Very wrong for me. So wrong that I even took a bit of time away from watching Arsenal live. I just couldn’t deal with that level of disappointment and the result was for me to try to shut myself away from it. So that’s what I did. I stopped going to games for a while, I rented my season ticket out, I watched from afar. Then COVID hit and we spent over a year without The Arsenal. For those of us that go to the games that is hard. It’s hard because the games are the football of course, but it’s the social element too. That was whipped away from us because of this microscopic little bastard who kills people.
Now we have the possibility of football on the horizon, albeit too late for this season, and talk remains of the Europa League and the chances of us winning it. I am still burned from that 2019 cup final though. That’s why I get so pessimistic before some of these games, especially if we do get to the Europa League Cup Final in Gdansk. To me I don’t think I can open myself up to so much hope, because the fall from that high will be another big blow. So I shall remain pessimistic, grounded, maybe even sounding a little too negative in my outlook when it comes to that competition. But that’s just my self defence mechanism.
I don’t want to be burned in a European cup final by Arsenal again.
Catch you all tomorrow