Okay, there’s been a hell of a lot of personnel change since last season, but to get the players pumped for Wednesday night I’d show them the 3-0 win over AC Milan from last season.
3-0 against AC Milan is a pretty impressive scoreline; sadly, on this occasion you could argue it was ultimately meaningless as it didn’t see us through to the next round – as much as that game was good, the first leg was terrible and we’d been thrashed 4-0 in the San Siro.
Still, what hope did anyone give us going into that game that night? The feeling before the game was certainly that we were as good as out and may as well not have shown up. That was no longer the case when we were 3 up at the break and all over them; at that point we may well have been favourites to go through, as the visitors really hadn’t shown up, perhaps themselves believing the pre-match sentiment a little too much.
To pander to a stereotype, that lack of professionalism is perhaps more what you’d associate with an Italian side than a German one, and it’s very hard to imagine Bayern Munich going into tomorrow’s game thinking they only have to show up. That’s not really the point though. Even though they probably will go through, Arsenal can make their fans feel a little better about life if they give a performance of pride like they did in that second leg against Milan last season. Yes, the 4-0 defeat was a very poor performance and hard to take, but it takes guts to then show up in front of your fans a couple of weeks earlier and play like you believe you can overturn an impossible scoreline. At half time that night we did believe, and although we didn’t quite manage it, that’s enough; that’s apology accepted. We ask for nothing more than that the players give it their best shot.
Let’s not forget as well, an early goal could unsettle them. They are under a lot of pressure, after losing last season’s final at home, to make ammends. Another winnable game squandered is not an option; another shock is not an option. Their midfield maestro Javi Martinez spoke earlier this week about the nerves of his team-mates to make up for last season. If we start like we did against Milan, they’ll be shaken, make no mistake about that. They’re a very good side, but we’re capable of playing better than we did in the first leg. One marker of our season is that we’ve been better in second halves, well this could apply to second legs as well. We might play better now that it feels like there’s nothing to lose.
Anyway, as disappointing as things have been recently, I’m determined to enjoy our last Champions League game of the season. Sadly there’s a serious risk it might even be our last for a while, with a top four spot far from guaranteed right now. Let’s show, for the first time in a while, that we are deserving of being on this stage we’re so proud of reaching every season. Let’s get the addrenalin going and give ourselves a reminder of why we love playing in the Champions League. Maybe it can give the players an extra motivation to get there again for next season.
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