Arsenal starts their Champions League campaign tomorrow against the competition’s new boys, Sporting Braga. In the whole of Arsene Wenger’s reign at Arsenal, the Carling Cup and Champions League remains the only 2 trophies which he has never lifted. Looking through the line-ups which he has put out over the years, we knows that the latter competition is the one he truly wants to complete his collection.
Since Wenger took over as manager, we’ve competed in every edition of the Champions League and that is no mean feat. Apart from us, that is only something one other English club have achieved, Manchester United. Yet, we paled in comparison with that club in terms of actually winning the competition. That, we have not been able to achieve thus far. The closest Arsenal ever got to lifting the “Big Ears” was in 2006 when we went all the way to the final only to lose Jens Lehman after 15 minutes of game time and subsequently the match in the last 10 minutes of the game.
As it has been for the last couple of seasons, Arsenal go into this season’s edition as one of the favourites to become champions. Something which the manager does not try to deny. According to him, we are one of 10 clubs with the capacity to win the competition. The usual suspects are there, like Manchester United, Chelsea, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich as well as title-holders, Inter Milan.
I’m not trying to downplay any team as we’ve seen over the years, the best squad does not necessarily equals to a winning side. Wenger added that any team that wants to win the Champions League will need an element of luck to get it. Luck in terms of players availability and refereeing decisions. A wrong offside call either way could easily see a club crash out of the competition. Or in our case, a wrong penalty decision did us in.
One player who will certainly get some game time is Marouane Chamakh. In truth, the Moroccan has taken to the English game and particularly, Arsenal’s game like a water to duck. In the 4 matches that Arsenal have played thus far, Chamakh has started 3 of those. Although that maybe is down more to players availability rather than tactical selection. He did not take long to open his accounts and has already scored twice. He is not just a tall player which is good in the air but he gives so much more with his movement on the pitch. Not to forget is his exceptional workrate, he has contributed his fair share of blocks, tackles and interceptions in all the games which he has featured. Let’s hope that this stats does not drop in the course of the season.
Match preview tomorrow and here’s to Mikael Silvestre getting a victory over William Gallas.