It has been quite amazing watching and reading the reaction to our Champions League draw. Everyone expected the worst, I mean everybody including yours truly. I wonder if all football fans in the CL think the same way or are we just extremely paranoid?
Needless to say, I was delighted to see Monaco become our opponents for the last 16, this stuff simply doesn't happen to us. That being the case I wonder if Tottenham fans with nothing better to do watched the draw unfold and murmur to themselves 'lucky Arsenal always get good fortune' because bless them, they don't know any better.
Anyway, while we are all virtually high fiving ourselves, it is worth noting that the CL does not kick off until after the new year so plenty can happen from now until then. I mean if you could have traveled back in time to the home match against Anderlecht you could have been standing in the North Bank, fully fitted up in Arsenal gear jumping up and down cheering the late equaliser. You would have probably had to take a few harsh words along with a couple of jabs to the head for the cause, but you would have known that the path forward was not quite what everybody else expected.
I know very little about Monaco apart the obvious. They were an expensive play thing and the big kid owner got quite bored of quite quickly and dashed it out the window moving onto something else. Ok so that is twisting the truth slightly but it's something like that. They are no CL favourites that's for sure. I wonder who are the favs. probably Real Madrid I'd imagine. In fact a quick look at the odds over at Betvictor (you can catch a full review of them here) shows they are the joint favourites with Bayern at 11/4.
Monaco have had to strip themselves of stars on big money and recoup some cash back. The ambitious project was short lived and now they are an ordinary club. A little like Superman after giving away his powers. The one where he gets beaten up by that guy at the bar? That's the 80s version for all you youngsters out there.
It would also be tempting to judge them on our pre season meeting against them, when they were the better team on the day, especially in midfield but as you know, we were far from purring early in the season. In fact we've only just a few weeks ago stopped spluttering along. So I suspect it will be an altogether different game today. Not to mention the goalscorer on that day is an out of shape bloke on the Manchester United bench today.
But like I say February is just too far away, I mean I don't know which players are going to be available after the Liverpool game this weekend let alone that far away.
Having said all the above, it is difficult not to look at this as a great opportunity to progress into the quarter finals, something we haven't done for a few years now because well.. we are not facing the best team in the world every year (apart from Milan *Grrr*)
At the quarter final stage, even little clubs from West London can defend their way to the trophy (another *Grrr*) so who knows.
Before that though we have some very important fixtures that we have to negotiate our way past. We have some very important players close to coming back. Mikel Arteta, Mesut Özil and Theo Walcott all back in training again, the latter likely to be on the bench at Anfield on the weekend. As great as all that is, you can end up going around in circles if a new batch of players are crocked.
Imagine we get Özil, Walcott, Arteta and Koscielny all back fresh for the season half of the season only to lose Mertesacker, Alexis, Welbeck, Cazorla and Gibbs for a good few months.That wouldn't be a good look.
But I'd do a deal with the devil (Mourinho's good friend I hear) for us to keep having players in and players out all season if it meant having the next season with average injuries. You know, like a normal bloody team. Or better still have nobody injured ever like Chelsea (final *Grrr* of the article, I promise)
Personally I believe that if you are to compete for the title and you are not funded by oil money then you need to have good luck with injuries. A little like Atlético Madrid last season in La Liga. The oil rich clubs have been able to pay world class players to sit on the bench and shut up, ask our old friend Sagna about that. But hey, I guess his new team mates are involved in a title race, he'll enjoy watching that for sure.
It's actually quite funny (or not) but until just mentioning his name, I had almost forgotten about Bacary Sagna. Weird really, because as soon as they leave Arsenal they go off my radar almost completely. Which is why I find it rather difficult to join in the Cesc Fabregas love in even though the bloke plays for what is arguably the most despicable club out there today. Not for me thanks.
Loved both of them for the time they spent here, great memories the pair of them but couldn't care less what they do now. I did find it tough watching Robin van Persie scoring goals for Manchester United a few years ago at the start but that's as far as it goes and it didn't last long.
This brings me very nicely onto one Thierry Henry. As he announced recently he is retiring from football but the news came out today that he will be joining the Sky Sports team. After swooping in for the services of Gary Neville they are looking to reinforce with additional quality.
You know, employing people who understand the game and can express themselves rather than the oh so tiring cliche ridden b*llocks that we have become accustomed to.
I will be more impressed if they ditch the deadwood such as Jamie Redknapp and co. I'll have a lot more respect for them if they do that.
I enjoyed listening to Henry at the last world cup and clearly he got a taste for doing it. I'd have much rather he joined our coaching team, giving advice and training to our current strikers but at least we can listen to his wisdom on a weekly basis. That's some consolation I suppose.
And! and! and won't it be nice to have an Arsenal fan in front of a camera who won't be looking to stick the boot in at every bloody opportunity? While the broken cannon makes for juicy headlines it would be nice for someone to actually point out what is good about Arsenal. You don't hear it nearly enough and there is plenty good if you look from a neutral view point. Henry may just affect the narrative a little in a good way.
I hope he is able and decides to put a few people in their place as he used to do on the pitch. Or even journalists off the pitch when they wrote something about him that they did not agree on. He seems a man of principle so I don't expect him to start trying to be overly controversial to grab headlines. At least not at the expense of Arsenal FC.
You get loads of ex Liverpool and Manchester United voices who back their clubs so I'm all for an Arsenal man joining the lonely voices of Bob Wilson. Anybody else? Keown perhaps. Dixon says it as it is as does Winterburn but that is just about it. Not that any of it truly matters in the bigger scheme of things but maybe I'm just a tad old fashioned and I just like Arsenal backing Arsenal you know. Crazy I know.
Ok before I just wanted to tell those who don't know that we now have a podcast after every game. Something a little different from the usual. It's on iTunes and also you can download the podcast directly on the My Vision section. I will get around to doing a dedicated Podcast page but a) I don't have time and b) I don't know how to do it. So stick with me and I'll get that sorted.
If you want to relive the Newcastle fun then check out the latest Podcast
'till the next time.