Scarcely a day to go before we lock horns with Barcelona – arguably the best side in world football – under the glare of the Nou Camp lights and with the collective eyeballs of millions of people around the world watching.
It’s the Champions League, it’s Messi, Suarez, and Neymar, and it’s a chance for a shot at immortality. And yet there is something missing. A gaping chasm where excitement and nervous anticipation should be.
Instead, there is only dread. Just a fear of getting turned over in the worst way imaginable. And it’s hard not to feel that way at the moment, because things have just gone very Arsenal.
I’m not looking forward to this match, I’m not brimming with childish hope, and I’m definitely dreaming of a glorious upset. I just want to get out of there with no more injuries and pride in tact.
If nothing else, at least Laurent Koscielny is restored to health and I hope he will add some much-needed organisation to an under-fire back line. For one thing, he won’t be rolled quite so easily as Gabriel was last Saturday.
So what does the boss say?
At his presser today, Arsene told Arsenal.com: “We know that we need to attack and take the game to them. I felt that our approach [in the first leg] was not so bad. We lost our balance a bit just after half-time.
“We got caught on the counter-attack at a moment where we looked to be on top of the game, so we are in a position where I don’t think we have to think too much.”
It’s hard to argue with the guy, we did play well for the majority of the first leg but paid dearly, as we always seems to do, for not taking the chances presented to us. It was always going to be a tall order to prevent Barca scoring, and that is why scoring first was so very important.
In his heart, I think Arsene knows this race is run. It would take something I think is beyond this team to turn it around from here. But he remains defiant. He has to, doesn’t he?
He added: “We have gone through a disappointing spell and it is important to remain calm and strong. We have won everywhere in Europe, but not here yet. The players are united to give a strong performance.”
Realistically, what can we expect?
I think the Barca back line can be got at, bullied even. When I look at Pique and Mascherano, I don’t see a stone wall of the Adams/Bould ilk. I see an opportunity to get some balls in the box and really test all 5ft 6″ of their mettle. That said, do I really believe that when the chances come, someone will be on hand to make sure they count? Probably not.
For what it’s worth, I would put Danny Welbeck up top on his own, with the sole remit to harry, hassle, and bully the Barca back line. Chase down lost causes, work the channels, get up their noses a bit. Giroud could do a similar job but just lacks the sort of energy that Danny brings.
At best, I think we would do well to come away with a draw, goalless or otherwise. In reality, it really is going to take a Herculean effort and a fair wind to prevent the Spanish outfit from scoring. If you’re into bothering God, now’s the time to get those prayers in!
See you on the otter slide,