Cups (and only one of them is golden!)

It's been a week or so since my last post, and there's quite bit to cover. Most of it is good, with one gigantic exception; that of the embarrassing Europa League exit at the hands of Olympiacos. I'll cover that first.


Having nicked a 1-0 win in Greece, Arsenal very much had the advantage going into the home leg last Thursday. But despite the selection of an experienced side, the performance and ultimately the result were very disappointing.

I remarked to my mates sitting alongside me during the game that the performance was something of a flashback to the Emery days; loads of sideways passing against a side sitting deep, little movement up front to help those looking for the killer pass, and almost no chances created. The Greeks sneaked an early lead (the third successive goal conceded by Arsenal directly from a dead-ball situation) and then sat back, containing the little that was thrown at them with ease and content to try to hit Arsenal on the break.

When Aubameyang scored with that magnificent overhead kick, I was of course delighted, but a little voice in my head was saying 'Too early...' to me - and there were of course only six minutes to go, so that's mad... surely Arsenal could hang on for six minutes? But no; a needless corner conceded, and a serious of further individual errors leading to Arsenal falling behind once more.

At which point I left the ground with my son, hoping to avoid the crowds. And it was only the next morning when I saw Aubameyang's horror miss with the last meaningful kick of the game. However, I'm not going to hold that against him too much. He has bailed Arsenal out of trouble on too many occasions to make a meal out of one (albeit critical) missed chance.

However, this is a new stark reality for Arsenal, as illustrated by the latest set of financial results issued by the club the very day after the Europa League exit. Champions League football is vital to Arsenal and a third year without it will be disastrous, leading to the sort of downward spiral that I have mentioned before in this blog; a downward spiral that only the level of injection of cash into the club that we know the owner will not be prepared to make can reverse.

Which leads one to question Mr Kroenke's sanity, frankly. Why would he wish to preside over such a downward spiral? How can he expect his investment to appreciate if he neglects it in the way he has? Hopefully his son will convince him to take the necessary action.

Not that, despite the closure of the Europa League door, Champions League football is completely out of the question. Despite Arsenal languishing in tenth place in the table, there are few points separating tenth and fourth (or fifth; whither Manchester City's CAS Appeal?) and a decent string of results will catapult them right back into the frame. The next four matches - West Ham, Manchester City, Brighton and Norwich - are 'must-wins'.

And now to the weekend. With Arsenal having a free weekend due to the Carabao Cup final ( as if away to Manchester City is likely to yield points...), every other side in the top four/five scrap, bar Wolves (who I excuse fully as they beat Tottenham) and Sheffield United (who also had a free weekend), dropped points. So that's all good news.

But the best news of all was of course Liverpool's defeat at Watford. They cannot now go unbeaten this season, and Arsenal remain THE Invincibles. This has been covered thoroughly elsewhere, but I do feel that Theirry Henry's dubbing of the unbeaten season as 'the invisible trophy' sums it up. OK, it's not silverware, but it's just as big. In fact, it's Golden. And it's such a relief to see that opportunity gone for Liverpool now.

Many will argue that Arsenal's 12 draws cloud the unbeaten season, but it's the zero in the L column that really mattered at the end of the day. Liverpool don't have that now, for all that they have in the W column.

And so to  a frenzied Fratton Park on a windy Monday night. Arteta chose no less than five starters aged 20 or under, and gave a debut to Pablo Mari. I'll pick the following out of the game:

1. The BT Sport commentary was biased (with Jermaine Jenas on the team, what could one expect?). They had a clear agenda and pained a different picture to the one I was looking at.

2. While Arsenal looked disjointed early on, I felt that they were in little or no danger of defeat, and once they got to grips with their own unfamiliarity playing with each other and took the lead I thought that it was game over. And so it proved

3. Not sure how David Luiz got the ,an-of-the-match award. Okay, he did a solid job, but for me Reiss Nelson's two assists made him my candidate for that award. He and Martinelli will now be knocking at the door of the Premier League starting line-up once again, and Arsenal have a big batch oif exciting youngsters for the years ahead.

4. A solid start at the back for Pablo Mari. Sterner tests will follow.

Okay, that's me done. I'll be back reporting - I sincerely hope - on a comfortable home win over West Ham on Saturday. Toodeloo.

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