I find it very difficult to watch the Champions League these days. The frustrations of seeing other teams progress when we haven’t had a stab at it in so long is annoying and the fact that over the last 10 days or so we have – what feels to me like – probably lost our chance of getting it, only makes watching that competition more frustrating.
But last night I was on the training home, I’d just finished one of the TV series episodes I had saved on my phone as I was coming back from work drinks on the Tube, with about 25 minutes left that coincided with the last throngs of the game between Real Madrid and Chelski at the Bernabeu. It was fun to see Chelski go out and their players be sad, but at the same time it had me pining for that competition and acknowledging in my mind that I never really appreciated the constant entry in to it for so many years.
I guess it’s why I’m still quite down because it feels like we had it in our grasp and now it is slipping away, all the while whilst other teams edge towards it and, last night in the other leg, Unai Emery’s Villareal hit the semi final with a 1-1 draw away at Bayern to reach the last four. Honestly, that man has the Midas touch when it comes to European football and last night just felt like it proved it, because Villareal got through having had about four shots over two legs I believe. Mental.
Bringing it back to The Arsenal though, how cursed does it make us as Arsenal fans feel, right now? I mean that man wins European ties, it is what he does, yet our history is full of ‘nearly’ in Europe and even Emery couldn’t win us a European trophy when he was in charge. The league form was dreadful and the football was worse in his final season in charge, but somehow despite this happening to him in a lot of leagues he’s in (Villareal are currently seventh in La Liga), he seems to do the business in Europe. Fair play to him. It never worked out for us with him, we needed to give him the elbow, his language was a bit of a barrier for us, he was slap bang in the middle of a terrible regime with Raul and Ivan, but he’s doing good work in Villareal and making their fans happy. So fair play to him.
What would make us Arsenal fans happy is victories, nothing else, which has to start at the weekend against Southampton because anything else will almost guarantee that we don’t catch the Scum. I already think it is too late given their form and I already think that given our confidence is on the floor and we are littered with injuries to key players, it’s going to be a seeming insurmountable obstacle in terms of this season and I can’t really see with some of the out of form players we have how we’re going to do it. But that’s not the mindset Arteta and his team have to have. They have to try to stay focus and aligned and hopefully Arteta also ditches some of his favouritism that has crept in from his approach at times last season. Bin off Lacazette and heck, give Eddie a go if he wants to play Martinelli out side (yep, it’s that bad that I’m advocating Nketiah from the start), get Xhaka in the middle of the team and give Tavares something to cling on to in terms of the hope that his Arsenal career isn’t being completely torched.
On that for a second – is anyone else a little bit worried that Arteta torches players a little too quickly? There doesn’t seem to be compromise and whilst in some respects that is admirable, when you’re in a situation that we are in with the squad as paper thin as it is, surely you can’t afford to torch players’ careers? I’ve thought this for a while now and I’m not just talking about Tavares. Torreira was on the scrapheap a little too soon for me. Guendouzi was an irritating pr*ck and probably was right to be canned, but we’ve had so many other examples, like Auba, like Torreira, like Tavares, in which it feels like Arteta has just made his mind up and before you know it another player is toast. I get it; at City Pep can do that because he has an unlimited amount of cash to get new plyers in, but at Arsenal that opportunity just isn’t there. We aren’t bankrolled by an oil-rich nation state and surely there has to be some element of compromise that exists. Rather than just burn Pepe and Tavares until they simply don’t have any confidence that they have a career at the club, surely playing some kind of man management approach and getting an arm around the shoulder is better than Arteta’s binary “you are on the buss or you are off it. That’s it” way of dealing with things?
I dunno, I’m only seeing this from the outside and so don’t know what’s going on, but the whole Tavares situation just has me questioning a few things about Arteta, coupled with the poor performances and some of his decision making which we all thought had gone away after he learned his lessons from last season. He’s under some pressure now with injuries and I hope he doesn’t wilt under it. We’ve started to see signs of that from him and has team in the last two games and my worry is that this isn’t just a two game blip like the end of last year. I hope I’m wrong, I hope we get back on track on Saturday afternoon, but I have a nagging feeling about this one that doesn’t seem to be going away.
Catch you guys tomorrow. With it being Good Friday this Friday and Arsenal playing away, I suspect tomorrow will be press conference day, so let’s see what Arteta has to say. There’s been a fair bit of radio silence from the club website so far this week and that’s the right thing to do. All of the talking has to be on the pitch.