A 2-0 defeat to Barcelona at the Emirates last month left Arsenal teetering on the edge of elimination from the Champions League at the round of 16 yet again.
Arsenal started the game well, but were unable to turn good play into goals and Barcelona began to pick away at their hosts before a brilliant counter saw Messi open the scoring. The hapless Matthieu Flamini brought down the Argentine maestro minutes after coming on and he got up to make it 2-0.
Barca are regarded as the best team in the world so it seems improbable that Wenger’s side will reverse a 2-0 deficit, but whilst improbable it isn’t impossible and Football Fanzone’s Jason Cundy thinks that if they can get the first goal, it spices up what will already be an entertaining tie.
Just as interesting is Cundy’s take on the potential implications of defeat, will an exit from the competition open the way to departures for the club’s superstars? Out of the FA Cup and lagging behind in the league, it appears that Wenger’s side will end the season without silverware.
So could that prompt the likes of Ozil and Sanchez to reconsider their places at the club?
Let’s be 100% clear here – Arsenal’s task is ridiculously hard, they are essentially trying to climb a mountain in flip flops. It’s possible but improbable and they will need to score the first goal if they are to have any chance but that’s where the problem is, they will have to attack thus leaving themselves vulnerable.
Like I said there is hope, people thought Chelsea were dead and buried, 2-0 down with 10 men in the Nou Camp but they were able to score 2, Fernando Torres drawing Chelsea level in injury time, and thus navigate a path into the final.
Arsenal will need their finest performance under Wenger ever, assured in attack and tight at the back but can you see it happening? If they go for it they may get a goal, but it will certainly be playing into Barca’s hands.
Furthermore the injuries they have make it even more unlikely, the job would be hard enough with a full team but with Cech and the rest of the players they have missing, it makes it infinitely more difficult.
Arsenal will have to hold onto the hope that it can be done, if they go there with no belief it will be over as a contest before it starts. A refereeing decision can change a game, we’ve seen it before with red cards and penalties so who knows?
Just as interesting as the final result is what it may mean for Arsenal if they go out.
Players like Mesut Ozil were brought to Arsenal for these types of games; he’s been at the highest stage before having played in a World Cup Final. He is capable of putting in performances that can change ties like this, but we don’t see it enough. He has had a better season than what he’s shown at Arsenal before, but I am still somewhat overwhelmed.
And then it begs the question – if tonight doesn’t go Arsenal’s way can they hold on to him? Yes he has won FA Cups with Arsenal, but is that enough? I’m pretty sure the likes of Ozil and Sanchez didn’t come to England to win FA Cups, they likely had their eyes on the league and European honours but both have eluded them so far, and will likely again this season.
Look at it like this, with all the talk about Hazard leaving Chelsea, if they look at Sanchez would they turn his head? He would have more chance of winning a league title with Chelsea, even in their current state, than at Arsenal.
It’s clear that their failures will result in them struggling to keep hold of their players, that’s just how it goes. Look at United with De Gea, if Real Madrid come knocking again this summer why wouldn’t he leave?
Arsenal have struggled to keep hold of their stars before, but more recently have managed to keep the squad together, and even more so built on it with adding star quality yet are no closer to where they want to be so something has to give.
The importance of this game is massive, especially as top 4 isn’t guaranteed yet.