Anyone else thought in the aftermath of the Barcelona game that Arsene Wenger purposely set his side out to defend with the knowledge that his side will get knock out so that Arsenal can concentrate on the league? No? Neither did I. But the way things stand, it’s exactly what we have to do. Concentrate on getting our hands on the Premier League trophy.
A win over Barcelona would have definitely raised our profile from being a budding team on the verge of greatness. Upgrading us from also-rans to trophy contenders. Yet, by losing we’ve gone some way to achieving that as well. The gap was closer compared to last year’s defeat. Both in terms of the result and also the quality of play.
From having the opportunity to become a quadruple winner to just a double that is within our grasp. All that happen in the space of just 10 days. You can argue that those defeats, the cup final and the European exit could knock our confidence going into the final stretch of the season. On the other hand, it could just as well increased our resoluteness in wanting to win a trophy.
Without the distraction of Europe and especially Barcelona, we can now actually get on with the real aim of the season. To win the league title. Hearing Wenger speak about it, he hardly try to mask the fact that the league title is his number one preference. It is a challenge to be consistent over 38 games over a course of full months. This is an endurance race which he loves to win. If you ask me, I would have taken the League over the Champions League any day of the year.
With Manchester United, Chelsea and also Spuds still being involve in the Champions League; I’m more than hopeful that the fixture congestion will help us. One example is that between the 2nd leg of the quarter finals and the 1st leg of the semifinal is the match between us and Spuds at White Hart Lane. If they get to that stage and Barcelona lay in wait for them in the semifinal, you can be sure where they have their eye on.
We are now facing a problem with our goalkeeping department. If as expected Wojciech Szczesny misses the rest of the season with a broken finger, it means we have to rely on Manuel Almunia. It is a roller-coaster season for him. From being first choice at the start of the season to being third choice. Injuries to his peers sees him back as first choice. If he can play consistently like he did at Nou Camp, we shouldn’t have any fears about him.
No matter who it is, we still need a back-up keeper to sit on the bench. James Shea and Vito Mannone are options but both are now on the mend after their recent injuries with their respective loan stints. Beyond that it would have to be relying on the untested Damian Martinez or request the Premier League to give us special dispensation to sign a another keeper on emergency loan. Whatever that result, I only hope Almunia does not get sent off or pick up any injury until the end of this season.
More tomorrow. Have a pleasant day.