As I woke at 6AM to the familiar sound of my alarm Thursday morning, a beaming smile appeared on my face and it was not solely because of the superb victory that sent us through to the Champions League knock out stages the evening before, nor had I rolled over to discover that Nicole Scherzinger had crept into bed alongside me as I slept, it was because after spending a large part of November criticising Arsene Wenger, he was finally worthy of praise.
It could of course be said that gaining victory by selecting and motivating a team containing players of a higher calibre than those possessed by the opposition, even with several key players absent through injury, should be a formality for a side with our quality, managed by a man of Arsene’s experience, although past experiences have taught us that this is not always the case, so securing a three goal victory at a notoriously difficult venue, one where we had lost on our three previous visits, is an impressive feat that matched the result achieved by group winners Bayern Munich.
Taking into consideration our embarrassing position after two defeats in our opening two group fixtures, a position we shouldn’t have been in considering the standard of the opposition we had faced up to that point, the manner of victory that secured our eventual qualification was impressive and seeing Wenger make an in game change by switching Joel Campbell and Theo Walcott to the opposite flanks was a simple but effective instruction and exactly the type of manoeuvre that we rarely witness from the manager, making it all the more pleasing.
However, despite Arsene getting things right in midweek, I don’t consider the boss to have delivered the tactical master class being lauded by some supporters as it’s my belief that the tactical side to football is often given far more significance than it deserves with many of the so called tactical master plans being nothing more than basic logic being used by those who have a good understanding of a relatively simple game, even if the media would have you believe that certain managers had cracked the Da Vinci code with the way they applaud their teams victories.
What has surprised me in the aftermath of our victory over Olympiakos, is the number of Arsenal supporters stating that they hope we draw Barcelona in the next round and whilst there is truth in the saying that if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best, it is also true that a certain element of luck often contributes to any teams successes and my preference would be for us to somehow avoid meeting the Spanish champions.
It is not unusual for some members of the clubs fan base to get carried away after an impressive victory and it would appear that those supporters have chosen to forget how susceptible we looked defensively before Olivier Giroud’s opener shattered the Greeks confidence and had we been facing a forward line containing Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar, it’s a strong possibility that we’d have been trailing by one or two goals after the first twenty fives minutes as it wasn’t quite the perfect performance that some would have you believe.
On our day it is possible for us to beat anyone, as the victory over Bayern Munich at the Emirates showed, but to my mind we don’t consistently have enough days to give me the confidence of despatching the Catalonians over a two legged tie, although it’s certainly not an impossibly and were they to be our next challenge, I’d love to be proved wrong.
The contribution of Joel Campbell is worthy of a special mention too as I have questioned his quality numerous times in the past and I would love this to be the start of him working towards making me eating a large slice of humble pie, although for the time being I’ll reserve my judgement.
On a final note, I have seen some supporters bizarrely suggest that those of us who have criticised Wenger in the past, hate to see the team doing well, which is quite frankly laughable and insulting because wanting us to do well, is exactly the reason why we criticise the manager in the first place.
If we find the consistency the criticisms will slowly disappear and with Aston Villa up next, the time has come…..