Arsenal put up a heroic performance against Olympiacos to complete their escape, that ended them up with having potential opponents as Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Wolfsburg and Zenit. The draw was made, and it was learnt that Arsenal will be facing Barcelona. Arguably, the best team in the world right now.
Many might be thinking if all of it was worth it. Many might feel that getting demoted to Europa League would have been the better option for it is easier to win than the CL. But football is not all about winning trophies. Arsenal had their proud record of qualifying for knockouts for 15 consecutive seasons at stake, but they made no mistake in making it 16.
Not only that, once the Europa League draw was made, United’s opponents came out to be FC Midtylland. That should tell the entire story of what it means to stay in the Champions League. Arsenal will be facing Barcelona, Chelsea will be facing Paris Saint-Germain whereas United will be facing the Danish minnows. So, the heroic night at Greece was indeed worth it.
Coming to the tie against Barcelona. There are two ways of looking at it. One, Arsenal could have got Wolfsburg or Zenit, but ultimately were drawn with Barcelona. Two, Barca could have got Dynamo Kyiv or Gent, but were drawn with Arsenal. As much as the Gunners did not want to get Barca, Barca did not want to get Arsenal.
It is a blow for both for being drawn with each other, just that the intensity of the blow for one of the two is higher. But that is just on paper. Yes, facing Barcelona will be a very tough task, but for a team as good as Arsenal it is very much feasible. If things go as planned, everyone in the squad should be back apart from Santi Cazorla. Arsenal have been doing well away to big teams (barring the Bayern one, that was a disaster) of late.
In each of the last 3 seasons, their home performance put them down. And like those 3 seasons, even, this time, the home match comes first. 5 years ago, Arsenal did exactly what they are looking to do this time out. With a much better squad, this time, there is no reason as to why they can’t do it.
Luck cannot be blamed because luck favoured the Gunners when they drew Monaco last year, but still they faltered. Facing Barcelona is a blessing in disguise because there won’t be any complacency or over-confidence, and every player will be looking to be at his best because he knows that there is no margin for error and some fear it will be if Arsenal manages to pull it off.
The two fixtures come amidst a tough run of fixtures for Arsenal, so they know this tie will be important to the PL challenge. A win will be an amazing lift. A loss, if disastrous, will affect the PL campaign badly too. Nevertheless, Arsenal vs Barcelona will be a treat to watch.
Can Arsenal finally get one past their nemesis?