Atletico Madrid Preview: Is Losing Our Apocalypse Now?

And then there were 4,893…

Lucien Favre is to become the next Dortmund boss so he will forever be known in media terms as ‘former Arsenal target Lucien Favre’ or, as I like to think of it, ‘was never Arsenal target, you just made that up, Lucien Favre’.

It’s always tricky to know how to begin a preview of a match like this. It’s essentially ‘sh*t or bust’ and for every one of you nodding your head, there are five thinking, “don’t jinx it, don’t jinx it”. Well, sorry, I probably will.

There’s no other way to think of it than as us being massive underdogs thanks to Barry Chuckle kicking the ball into his face. Arsène said yesterday “You can always discover new things in football” and he wasn’t kidding; no-one expected Koscielny to cock it up in that manner. It was a new low, even by our standards.

The sobriquet ‘Chuckle Brothers’ is offending some and having seen the defending in the Champions League semi-finals, might be deemed harsh. It staggers me that no coaches these days are able to set their side up for a good, old-fashioned goalless draw, beyond Simeone, of course.

And that’s the problem we face tonight. 1 – 0 meant Atletico needed two goals and to shut us out; we might have managed a goal to make their job even harder. Will Simeone’s absence from the touchline make a blind bit of difference? He won’t be there to whip the crowd up but then it would be no surprise to see him in the front row with a megaphone whipping the Atletico faithful into a frenzy.

We don’t need the frenzy; we need to be calm, methodical and above all, concentrating. None of the harum-scarum defending we’ve come to know; just simple, unfussy defending which is proving an alien concept this season.

Yes Sir. Insane Sir. Obviously Insane.

Simeone welcomes back Diego Costa, this generation’s Simeone as a player. Not positionally or technically but in the willingness to provoke, incite and every other aspect of the dark arts. A player we know well. Arsène was asked how we plan to counter his threat. Easy; don’t play Per and Gabriel was sold last summer.

Tonight is, apparently, Arsène’s 250th match. It’s a career which still awaits his first European trophy. While we talk of the players, Wenger has a point to prove as well. He wants a club career beyond Arsenal, judging by his comments and not at an Everton or Brentford but an elite club. He needs to prove himself at this level after a succession of embarrassments and failures in the Champions League.

A victory tonight is a signal there’s still a tiger in the tank; that he has the nous to outwit one of Europe’s shining stars in coaching. The gnawing self-doubt in his mind is a huge obstacle to overcome; like the players, he is in the shop window and he needs a win in a big game to answer some of the questions which linger about these occasions.

Can we do it? Talk of invoking the spirit of 2006 is good spiel but we don’t have a Henry to run at the defence or hoover up chances in the six-yard box on demand. We have Özil to prod and create but he needs a ‘big game’. Grabbing the 90 minutes by the throat isn’t his style but we need his version of that. The one who shone at Wembley in last year’s FA Cup rather than the one who wanders out to the right touchline and watches all the attacks on the left. That’s the responsibility a £300k per week contract brings.

Everyone Gets Everything He Wants

Most of all, I want us to be proud of their efforts. If we’re going to fail, let’s have no regrets about tonight’s game. We’ve got enough from the first leg, don’t compound them. Do I think we can do it? Monaco, Bayern; those ‘glorious’ failures after disasters at the Emirates show we’re capable of it.

Naturally, you’ll look at our away form in England and raise an eyebrow at the prospect of emulating those wins. Forget them; this is the Europa League and normal rules don’t apply. Milan showed we can drag the performance from the pits of our footballing souls. Moscow showed we can get a result when the performance is missing.

Using one of those ways, we’ve got a job to do and I know which is easiest. But this Arsenal likes to do things the hard way.

The XI Arsène will choose to do that is likely to be:

Ospina; Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Ramsey, Xhaka; Mkhitaryan, Özil, Welbeck; Lacazette

How will this fairy tale end? In my dreams, Simeone charging from the crowd onto the pitch and Koscielny kicking the ball into his face. In slow motion, the ball flies into the net before the referee can blow his whistle. I can dream, can’t I? The question is, can Arsenal make dreams come true?

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.

117 thoughts on “Atletico Madrid Preview: Is Losing Our Apocalypse Now?

  1. I will sleep well tonight, I will wake up happy tomorrow, it will be a sunny happy day.. I did my grieving once I knew Costa was dropped into the el. How fukin predictable.

  2. Kinda of game where an in form Theo might have scored instead of Welbeck. So, Arsene the mismanager has shown his pedigree.

  3. The real shame is that because of absolute shocking defending at the end of the last match this was a mountain that was always going to be much tougher to climb.

  4. Well, the dream is over. No, not the dream of winning the Europa League, or Arsène wining his first European trophy and leaving on a high, or Arsenal getting back into the Champions League. It was the dream that maybe, just maybe, my Arsenal supporting eldest would get to see Arsenal win a European trophy for the first time in his life on his 21st birthday. That would have been some birthday party.

    Not surprised, but still gutted.

  5. It would not have made a difference if we had Mkhitaryan or PEA on the pitch. We were not going to score in their house if the game had been 200 minutes. They have kept clean sheets against much better teams then we are. I don’t know the numbers but their squad cost less then ours to build and their wage bill is significantly less then 1/2 of ours. Last time I checked Ozil’s wages alone would be close to 20% of their entire wage bill. I know it won’t happen but these 2 games demonstrate why I think Diego Simeone would be the perfect manager to follow the Wenger era.

  6. Our $350K/week worlds best #10 has not even had to sit on the bench in league game for the last 3 weeks so he could be rested for these 2 games but in 190 minutes of football he did nothing of note.

  7. I haven’t had the privilege to watch the likes of Tony Adams and Martin Keown in their prime, but looking at the Atleti defense over these two legs I understood (or felt) what must have opposition fans felt during the “One nil to the Arsenal” era. Really frustrating. And there was one time near the end before Kosta’s substitution, where he and Griezmann attacking our defense together and our players, I think four of them against those two, I felt a menace I was panicking. After that episode I thought there is no single player in our current setup to raise a panic in opponent and confidence in teammate every time he gets closer to the goal with a ball in his possession.

  8. We have 3 more games this season including 2 away games and unless we sort out our away form we are at risk for dropping into 7th place. The thing that might save us is our home game is against Burnley who are 4 points behind and if we win at home against them 6th place is safe. Once 6th place is safe our big players can go one holiday so they will be rested for the World Cup. The squad players could finish the last 2 games.

  9. I can’t really say I was expecting a different result, I haven’t even seen the game due to work and I don’t think I will.

    What and an abysmal end to Arsene Wenger’s career with Arsenal, but it’s mostly his own doing. Never addressed glaring Midfield and Defensive problems for years which had a great effect on the long term confidence and culture of the team. We treated losing by 6 or 8 goals like it’s no big deal. We said Fourth is a trophy, we handled a lot of things wrong, and it was about time the wheels finally came off.

    I can’t blame the players because he picked those players over the years and kept believing in them, so he is ultimately responsible for the end result.

    Too bad he didn’t left with FA cup glory.

    Looking forward to life after Wenger whatever that may be.


  10. I await the unpredictability of a new manager. Yes with our board expect a rough turbulent ride…but at least now we live in hope that we have some chance of beating good teams when they turn up. It’s all we ask.

  11. At least the Almighty Wenger nightmare is coming to an end. He was so imbued in himself and insulated in utter mediocrity of senality to think there could have been a better alternative to the situation.
    Now that this clown is on the way out I hope we get a real practical coach with a sense of humour for the fans. I shall test the new coach’s ability if the back 5 are all sold. We need a goal keeper,proven defensive midfielder, 2 wing backs and 2 central defender’s.
    It’s even better we are eliminated from Europa at the earliest so that we focus on getting back in Champions League proper.

  12. Delano,

    We all look forward to a fresh start and I did not agree with much on tactics or personnel for both legs.

    But calling AW a clown is just plain disrespectful. Are you trolling? Or only just started ‘supporting’?

    Oh bollocks to it. I despair sometimes

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