Wish I was here
There will be sore Gooner heads this morning from Marseilles to Monte Carlo. All along that stunning French coast there are Arsenal fans who have made the trip more in hope than expectation. I would love to have been with them. In a stadium that holds less than 20,000 I fully expect the Arsenal crowd to dominate the atmosphere - many Gooners have tickets in the home sections of the ground. Of course the team needs to produce something special to get us through.
The game itself provides a headline writers dream, while the need for Arsenal to gamble at the home of the most famous casino in the World means the clichés are lining up to be used by the lazy tabloid journalists. It is so annoying that we are going in to this game with one hand already tied behind our backs, purely through our own inadequate display in the first leg.
If there is a positive then it has to be that Arsenal go in with nothing to lose. Much like the AC Milan tie of a few years ago we are out barring a miracle. That being the case we are under no pressure. Score an early(ish) goal and the Monaco players will definitely be feeling the weight on their shoulders. There is no doubt that this Arsenal side has the attacking quality to create the necessary chances to score the goals we need. Whether or not we are capable of doing that without conceding is a moot point. If I'm looking for a positive I would hope that Monaco can't play that well again going forward, and we won't play that badly at the back. It's the hope that kills you, of course.
The third goal that Monaco scored at our place looks and feels like it will be the goal that makes the difference in the final analysis. It was criminal to give that one away having got a goal back and given ourselves an outside chance for the second leg. At 1-2 behind I would be confident of us, at the very least, reversing that result. Now we have to score at least three times to have any chance of even getting to extra-time. If I was offered it now I'd bite your arm off for a 3-1 scoreline at 90 minutes this evening. That being the case there must be no panic, or heads dropping, if Monaco score first tonight - Arsenal's task would still be to score three goals.
Having qualified for the FA Cup semi-final, and got close to Manchester City in the Premier League, this game does not represent the death throes of our season. That is a good thing. But just imagine the confidence the players might gain should they be able to come back from the dead this evening. Who knows what it might set them up to achieve? Certainly the Manager has made all the right noises in the build up to this one, and it's now up to the players to put right what they did wrong a few weeks ago. Unfortunately I see the sort of heroic defeat that has become a feature of our Champions League campaigns in recent years, with a 2-1 or 2-0 win leaving us just short of what we need to go through. But we are still alive, and we do have a chance, even if it's just a long-odds outside bet (cliché alert).
As it's St Patrick's Day I thought I'd leave you with best wishes to any Irish readers (that doesn't include those of you who simply pretend to have some Irish heritage to justify drinking Guinness on March 17th every year) and this link to Arsenal's own homage to the Irish Armada that dominated the team in the late 1970's. Let's hope those travelling Gooners are celebrating like the Irish after the game tonight.