Europa League Draw: Nights to Remember?

So, Atletico Madrid it is. Howls of anguish, groans of despair; personally, I fancy our chances more in a two-legged semi-final than in a one-off final. Remember Chelsea? They were 2nd and 3rd in the Premier League when we played them in Carabao Cup. That ended well, didn’t it?

It doesn’t mean that beating Atletico is a certainty, but not impossible. Villarreal, Espanyol, Sevilla, Chelsea; better than us? Barcelona are better than us, no question of that but those other four? That’s our peer group.

So, we have a chance of winning and two stabs at getting to the final. We might need them. As capable as we are producing a Milanese performance, we can as easily pitch in with a Moscow. No rhyme, no reason; just that we are the Arsenal.

And let’s not forget that like every other football side, Atletico have their weaknesses. So do we, we’re just less reticent about showing them.

The prospect of a European final is not to be sniffed at. There are but two per season now and we didn’t do a particularly good job of reaching them when there were three. 1969, 1980, 1994, 1995; then UEFA’s pearl of wisdom ditched one leaving us with just 2000 and 2006 since. There are a lot of defeats in there. And not many semi-final appearances beyond them, either.

Now we have the opportunity of reaching another final, it should be a reason for good cheer. And in isolation, it is. This is our level and we’ve found we’re quite good at it. Now we must up our game once again.

It’s no good lamenting that we’re not in the Champions League. Pragmatism tells us that we’re, at best, in the top sixteen in Europe, but not in the top four in England. Does the former stack up any longer?

Just get Stoned to the Bejeezus-belt on this Stuff

Then there’s the elephant in the room, or the elephant in the post if you like. I mentioned earlier about taking the Europa League in isolation, which of course, we cannot do.

Arsène’s future is inextricably woven into everything about the club. Junior was appointed vice-chairman of KSE and KSE UK recently; is that the prelude to more of an involvement on Arsenal’s board? Are the chips about to fall the wrong way for Chips?

That would weaken Arsène’s position if the tea leaves readings of the past are correct. Junior thinks less of Wenger than Enos.

We travel to Newcastle tomorrow, a happy hunting ground in the past. If we play like the opening 70 minutes in Moscow, we’ll be buried before we respond. If we play like the last 20, we’ll land our first Premier League away win since Palace.

Maybe we need more tactical genius from the manager. It must be a tough call to hook a player who looks out of sorts – suffering burn out? – and was kicked from pillar to post, as well as being flattened by his own team-mate. Replacing Jack Wilshere wasn’t genius.

Moving to the back three wasn’t that either. Elneny slotting into the sweeper role left us weakened in midfield; moving to the back three and bringing on Chambers for Wilshere at the same time was the move to make, instead of having the Egyptian flitting between defensive and midfield duties.

It’s little wonder we didn’t adapt well to the system. Wenger disparages it at every turn so how does he sell that at half-time to players who know he doesn’t rate it? Does it come across as desperation? It was fairly obvious after twenty minutes that we weren’t playing well with a flat-back four. A change was needed before half-time.

You’re not, uh… You’re not… You’re not good. You stink.

At the end of it though, we achieved the result we needed to progress. Football is a results-based business and aesthetics is to a certain extent, the least of a manager’s worries. It’s only when the empty seats continue to show up that he has real problems.

Ultimately, that is what did for George Graham, with the club already looking to replace him. He just gave them a reason to do it sooner than anticipated.

The question Arsene alluded to a couple of weeks ago was is sixth and a European trophy progress? It’s a false benchmark. Cup finals are good; nice to win, horrible to lose. But the bread-and-butter of European club football is the league and it always has been. Progress is judged by those performances, week in, week out.

Where we finish is one of the benchmarks but more a signal about where the club is comes from title challenges. 2015-16 aside, we haven’t been at the races for almost a decade. Sometimes we managed to get to March before falling away but now, it’s pre-Christmas. Is that progress?

There’s no doubt ‘Wengerball’ is a fading dream. We’re dull to watch for the most part; laborious with the ball. We have our moments – the first half against CSKA at the Emirates – but we’re not consistently finding that level. We’re listless in coaching, not adapting.

We can’t play like Manchester City but we can be more purposeful. We’ve assembled a bits-and-pieces XI. Bits of it are good, the rest in shattered in pieces. The new recruitment team can deal with that but do we have the money to back them?

We shall see.

’til Tomorrow.

24 thoughts on “Europa League Draw: Nights to Remember?

  1. Personally I would have thought we had more chance at a neutral venue in a one-off, but it is what it is.

    Hopefully we can do the business.

    IMO the squad is good enough, the manager isn’t, but there have been times when he’s been more irrelevant than normal and the players have ignored him, so some hope to be had.

  2. Completely agree, I fancy us over two legs against Athletico and if any of you just happen to have a couple moments, go watch the highlights of Athletico’s two legs with Sporting and you will see that they were lucky to get through. The other thing is that Costa is for sure out the first leg and Athletico really fear that he is out for the 2nd and that would be a massive blow to them.

    Newcastle, well lets get the job done amd no messing about.

  3. Yogi

    Great post. You hit the nail on the head with the comments about looking at the bigger picture when we make long term decisions rather then getting caught up in the excitement of a couple good games. We have had a false dawn every season of the entire Emirates era and Arsene should be judged on his whole body of work. That body of work is by far the most accurate gauge of how good we really are. A little more then a month ago we lost a 2 legged series against Man City 1-6 which matches our form for the whole season and in reality that’s a much better example of where we really are as a team. When we look at this whole season and what has happened in this whole decade there is no doubt that we need to josh to make the room right decision and move on and start the post Wenger era next season.

    The same thing is true of players. We got excited after jack W had a few good games but the way he is playing now is much closer to what he did last year when he played regularly for Bournemouth. Add that to injury history and the fact that we have Ozil Mkhitaryan and Ramsey and its a pretty easy decision that letting him move on is the best thing for both Jack and the club. In reality we should have sold him several years ago when he was still worth big money. We probably should have signed him to another contract and tried to sell him last summer. Mo Elneny was every bit as underwhelming for 70 minutes on Thursday as the rest of the team and then he makes 2 nice passes in the last 20 minutes and suddenly he morphs into a combination of Busquets, Kante, Makelele Iniesta and Xabi Alonso and our DM of the future. I am certain that there are fans who will ignore a decade of history and think Danny Welbeck has finally arrived. Last season Lukas Perez had a couple good games and somehow everyone chose to ignore what he has done for his entire career. This season has proved the sort of player he really is. When making long term decisions the objective should be to get the right answer even if it’s not always the one we want to hear.

  4. Bill,

    Elneny was played in a deepish role for the first half, and part of the 2nd half and was as bad as the rest of the team — then Chambers was brought on as a sub and that allowed Mo to get forward, and it changed his role and the game.

    He is not as dynamic playing as a DM as he is playing as an attacking midfielder, and his two weighted passes were every bit as good as anyone else in the EPL, in addition to his all action game.

    Unfortunately I think Jack’s injuries are now chronic, and I doubt that he will ever be the player he was with his persistent ankle, and knee problems. Anyway, he wants to go elsewhere this summer.

  5. Bill,

    Nobody is comparing him to those players but the thing that makes Kante so special is his tireless engine and ability to intercept, pressure, nick the ball and play keep it simple and get it to Hazard, Cesc and their attacking players aa quickly as possible and thats what Elneny is capable of. Why does he have to be dynamic if he is playing as a DM, he doesn’t, actually thats not even a quality you look for in a DM. Look at Madrid, Athletico, and quite a few other clubs, they have DM’s who recover and recycle over and over again consistently and effectively. Have you even heard of Casimero, Gabi, Koke, how about Weigel, Illarramendi, Jorginho, Ruben Neves, Fabinho….you probably haven’t but those are some of the top DM’s and they are brilliant at doing the simple things over and over again.

  6. HenryB,

    Pretty good, how about yourself?

    Isn’t it funny that Bill said Elneny was shit yet he won the Europa Player of the Week which means he was thought of as the best of the lot by everybody except Bill.

  7. I guess it was because the team were pretty poor (again) C, and separating the wheat from the chaff is more difficult if you have fixed views, like Bill, maybe.

    However, no one, and that includes Bill, can deny that he was a game changer on Thursday, when he was played in his preferred position. He has for whatever reason not got as many minutes on the pitch as he should have, and he has probably got splinters from sitting on the sub’s bench this season, but when he has got in the team he has not let anyone down.

    This season has been a write off for some time — except for the EL — so if Mo plays there fore the next two (maybe 3 games) against AM then maybe there is still hope for us.

    The (maybe 3 games) is because if he helps get us into the final there is no guarantee he won’t be back on the sub’s bench. Anyway, fingers crossed.

    [I’m fine, C, been back home for a while sorting some things out]

  8. My mate just said he wishes we still had Giroud, I told him you have your Giroud and Ill take Aubameyang…

  9. HenryB,

    Yup, exactly. At the DM he keeps it simple and things moving and keeps himself available so people think he offers nothing which is strange because he does exactly what people want from a DM and then gets criticized for it which is really strange to me.

    Given the ability to push forward he has shown he can play those quick 1-2’s in tight areasa that you need in midfield and as he showed several times in the EL he can drive the team forward to get it to our more attacking players. The one thing that he does offer is consistency and isn’t that what we all bang om abouy wanting? I’m not saying nor is anybody else that he is one of the best in Europe but he is better than he gets credit for and does the job.

    Put it like this, I would rather his consistency at either pivot position than the ups and downs of say Jack currently.

  10. “The new recruitment team can deal with that but do we have the money to back them?”

    Can’t see why you assemble some of the best at what they do– and stifle them. The r-team didn’t sign on to tread water. Making an impact (January) long before anyone anticipated. Spending/salary for Auba, Mkhi, Laca, says the money will be there.

    jw1

  11. We will see the very best of Auba next season, C — but Giro? No, he is yesterday’s man, altho I liked his attitude, he was not the quality forward that Arsenal should be aspiring to.

    My biggest disappointment has been LaCaz. I do not think he has been given the time and attention or the backing he needs from AW, and so far his performances have been spasmodic as a result.
    I doubt he will stay with us — so someone else will probably benefit from his goal scoring in a different team?

    Fingers crossed that the new guy Mislintet (oops) will identify and recommend a top quality replacement for LaCaz if he goes, a midfielder (I’m sure Jack will go and maybe Rambo) and a CH, as poor old Kozzer is starting to feel the years.

    Incidentally, I thought Govelin (oops again) 🙂 was terrific against us for CSKA and I would not mind him joining us.

  12. jw1,

    There is money available, in my opinion, if the owner/management are prepared to authorise it, and you are correct, there are definite signs that a different attitude to buying better players, even at the latest ridiculous valuations, is beginning to emerge.
    New sponsorship money from Nike and the TV deals should help there.

    Perhaps we disagree on the quality of the current team — I think Mhki, Auba and LaCaz, if he stays, are fine, as are some of the others, as well as two or three of the kids pushing for consideration, but there are improvements that can be made as a result of likely departures mentioned above, and the inevitable ageing of some key players (not only the BFG).

  13. At least we have the europa league semi finals to look forward to. That beats the boredom of league right now

  14. HenryB,

    True HB. Those improvements you mention ought move some current starters into squad roles providing quality depth. Mix in youth on the verge (Nelson, Nketiah, AMN), and the outlook improves. By the end of the WC– in the 8 months since January? This team could well be remade.

    jw1

  15. Evening,

    I’m really looking forward to the Atletico games. It’s somethin new. We’re in a semifinal in an European cup. Not a common thing for us and not something to sniffle at (is that how you say it).

    We probably gonna make an arse of it. But still, maybe they can rise to the occasion. We are a cup team and now it’s 3 finals.

  16. Thanks. The negativity of some of the post is boring. We lose, hell! We win, not good enough. What do you want then. An Armageddon?
    Its the end of the season. Most players are fatigued already. The rule? Just win.The summer can’t come sooner. In the last few weeks, many posts here have questioned why we are not giving a better contract to Wilshere. Good now that we are realizing why we should not. Guess some of us are behaving like a man who wants to dump his wife. No matter the shift madam put to make the man happy. It never add up. She has to go. Arsene?

  17. Steve
    2 things….Firstly a contract would enable us to get a few quid come summer, and secondly why come here if its boring you.

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