Life does like to hand out lessons when you get too full of yourselves. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer found out the hard way that brash claims about being good enough to win the Champions League lead to a fall. And United fell to earth in an Arsenal-style defeat to PSG.
A reminder of the heady days of facing Bayern Munich and feeling hope slowly seep out of you as the game unfolded. I talk of the 3 – 1 defeat, everything after that was just par for the course; expectations were low thereafter.
It wasn’t quite as funny as Chelsea falling flat on their faces at the weekend but to see their previously indefatigable self-belief punctured was delicious. Yes, I’m aware of the dangers of gloating at another club’s misfortunes. Even the most unsuperstitious of people understand where I’m coming from there.
And no, I don’t miss the Champions League. I am aware we need the money but that’s a separate issue. I dislike European club formats these days and made no secret of that when we were in the Champions League every season. A knockout tournament with no seeds – a pure knockout cup – is and always has the ideal but that ship sailed a long time ago.
The Europa League is, of course, no better. The UEFA Cup was killed by the Champions League expansion and the weakness of the Cup Winners Cup. Given that three competitions was previously unsustainable, quite, it’s not clear where UEFA thinks the appetite for a third competition emerged from.
The cash rewards for the new Europa League II is unlikely to make it a financial success. There is a financial gulf between the two current competitions. If the Europa League isn’t in the same neighbourhood as the Champions League, ELII isn’t in the same universe.
Our immediate future is the Europa League. The FA Cup defeat to United gives us a weekend off which will factor into Unai Emery’s thinking. BATE Borisov away and home are our next two games which changes the line-up for Thursday I should imagine. There is no ‘gain’ from playing the second string this week. Run up a big enough win and certainly think about a different XI for the home leg.
It’s a difficult decision. Unless he plays the first XI for both legs, there is a 10 to 14-day gap between games for players. We see how hard they find it to play well after international breaks; will this be any different? Yes, they will be training together but is that enough?
The medical update has just been issued by the club. Sokratis is back (woo-hoo, no more Mustafi), Xhaka’s back, Aubameyang and Ozil too. But Aaron’s not. Aaron’s got a bad knee and can’t play. Next, it will be a hamstring injury and then ankle. Possibly back as well, given Mesut used that for an undefined absence. And then before you know it, he’s never seen in an Arsenal shirt again…
And loosely on the subject of the Arsenal shirt, there are pictures circulating which purport to be of next season’s away kit.
If true, Adidas are certainly looking to curry favour with fans by revisiting the 1980s with the tonal yellow stipes and blue sleeves. Of course, this could just turn out to be a sweatshop knock-off which will do the rounds at Benidorm market but it’s a helluva lot better than anything Puma managed in their disastrous tenure as
First world problems, eh?