When it comes to the Champions League, it seems Arsenal are destined to be damned if they do, and damned if they don’t.
Optimism was understandably high after the near-miraculous events of matchday six, which saw Ludogorets snatch an improbable draw at Paris Saint-Germain, paving the way for Arsenal to steal top spot in the group.
It was our chance to earn a slightly more favourable draw in the last 16 of the competition, giving us a real chance of making some serious progress for the first time in years.
Alas, it wasn’t to be, as fate conspired to pit us against German giants Bayern Munich, a team we have run into four times in the past five seasons. It has yet to end particularly well.
Even when we win the group, it seems we seldom have things easy. In fact, they could scarcely have been much more difficult. A tie against Real Madrid was the only draw that would arguably have been worse.
Group runners up, PSG fared little better than we did, finding themselves pitted against Barcelona. There was a sort of grim satisfaction about that, a crumb of comfort in a pretty underwhelming draw.
To add expletive-ridden insult to injury, Manchester City and Leicester will face off against Monaco and Sevilla respectively. Neither fixture is a cake walk, but both are a darn sight easier than ours.
There will doubtless now follow a period of wound-licking self pity, from fans and club officials alike. Publically they won’t admit it, but I suspect the Arsenal coaching team – including Arsene Wenger – were hoping for a little more luck this time around.
Eventually, the collective angst will turn to optimism again but, for now, you can only groan as you reflect on this draw. Curse UEFA and it’s heated balls.
Anything else going on?
Elsewhere preparations continue apace for Tuesday night’s testing trip to Everton, a fixture that always proves to be a difficult one for Arsenal.
While the Toffees are not in the greatest form themselves, they remain a well-organised, defensively astute side under Ronald Koeman and will likely find an extra gear for our visit.
I heard it said after the weekend’s win over Stoke that the key to stopping Everton was to stop Romelu Lukaku, and I find it difficult to disagree.
The man has a Didier Drogba-like ability to score goals against Arsenal so managing his threat, in the way we managed Diego Costa earlier in the season, will be paramount.
That task will be all the harder given the three-week absence of Shkodran Mustafi, who damaged his hamstring on Saturday, so the onus will be on Laurent Koscielny to do as he does best, while marshalling Gabriel as well.
If we can keep the Belgian at bay, we should have enough going forward to cause problems for our hosts, particularly as we are in such excellent scoring form.
With Manchester City to come at the weekend, though, I do wonder whether Arsene will try a little rotation in the squad. Perhaps he will prefer Olivier Giroud in attack, giving give Alexis Sanchez a breather ahead of a busy festive period.
We may also see the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Mohamed Elneny, Lucas Perez, Alex Iwobi and Kieran Gibbs given a little more playing time in the month ahead. I hope so, as keeping competition for places high keeps the level of performance pushing on.
A win on Tuesday night would be huge boost to our Premier League tilt and, despite the opposition, I think we are well placed to get a result. If we can maintain the tempo we showed against Stoke, there’s no reason why this can’t be the start of a very merry Christmas.