The Thing That We Dreaded Comes To Pass

By Peter Le Beau

Online Ed: Europa League doesn't seem so exciting now as Arsenal second stringers disappoint in Cologne

Ed’s note – I am currently abroad (ironically in Germany) on a training course. I managed to catch the second half of last night’s game in a bar, however, regular Gooner contributor Peter Le Beau was good enough to step in for me and cover the piece on the match. My thanks to him for the piece that follows…

Over the last few years when the possibility of not qualifying for the Champions League reared its head I had a nightmare vision of watching utterly irrelevant and very poor non- event games against second- raters while our rivals gorged on a sumptuous banquet on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. I never took Champions League group games for granted or underestimated the achievements of getting into the knock- out stages year after year. It was never our divine right but it signified our status as at least a major second-tier player in the hierarchy of European Football. We were mixing it with the big boys and while we did that there was always hope that we could break through the glass ceiling of true Champions League success. It made signing the world stars we craved a credible dream, and without those stars League success would always elude us.

My views may be controversial but five games in that nightmare has become reality. Although we qualified very comfortably as top team in our (unbelievably weak) Europa League group, the experience has become increasingly unpleasant. Yes we forged two wins away with a skeleton team and yes we beat Cologne in a game that ended seemingly around midnight when the group began, in an atmosphere that resembled something like a proper match. But the last two games against Crzena Zvevda and Cologne have been European football at its least compelling.

Playing these sort of games absolutely underlines the also-ran status that the Europa League confers. While a capacity home crowd hollered and whooped their boys home my mind went back forty six years to the last time we played competitively in Cologne. Then a controversial penalty decision had prised the Fairs Cup (which we held) away from our grasp. We had the glittering reward of a league and cup double to console us. What will this defeat portend this season?

Last night, the softest of soft penalties - Richarlison revisited - saw Cologne score in the only way they could ever hope to. It was a night when we were frustrating in the extreme. In the first half Danny Welbeck returned encouragingly to provide mobility that threatened goals, but Giroud was at his most immobile and unable to run beyond defenders. Wilshere was badly out of touch and our best moments came when Iwobi, a half- time replacement for Welbeck, Ashley Maitland-Niles, a talent playing out of position and Reiss Nelson who joined the game in place of Chambers with around a quarter of an hour to go tried to spark us into life.

Wilshere had two left foot drives well-saved by Horn but Elneny and Coquelin toiled unconvincingly in midfield as we tried to thread intricate passes through a congested central defence when it seemed far more promising to use the width and quality we had on both sides to whip crosses in to Giroud and Nketiah, who joined the fray far too late in the circumstances.

Cologne fans partied and frolicked but it all exuded a faintly pathetic air when you compared the fare on offer here with some of the performances in this year’s Champions League - and indeed some of the performances we have given in Europe in the past. It was a metaphor for what many of us believe a Kroenke- driven future offers.

If our qualification leads on to glory in the spring when we lift the Europa League, or playing in this environment accelerates the development of Nelson or Maitland-Niles some good will have come from nights like these. But games like this underline just how second-rate the Europa League is and how second rate one or two of our shadow squad are. Can we really ever believe that Ospina, Elneny and Coquelin will emerge as genuine contenders for our first team? Has the tedium of games like these doused the flame that promised to burn brightly around the rehabilitated Jack Wilshere and in the spring do we want to prejudice our chances of a top four finish that looked so credible last Saturday by stretching our first-team squad to play against the likes of Atletico Madrid, AC Milan and Napoli? Is that the best hope of Champions League football for us next year? Do we trust the judgment of a manager whose decision-making is now so erratic to make that decision in a clear-headed and pragmatic way?

Last night was ultra-depressing because it was second-rate and we still have another second-rate game to come against BATE Borisov. Perhaps it may be a night that an exciting generation of young lions come of age and restore the sort of optimism that flickered around the Grove on Saturday afternoon.

One of the worst things in life is to imagine depressing scenarios only to find that the reality of what you have contemplated is exactly what you expected. That is the Europa League for me in its pre-Christmas format. Let us hope when the real stuff starts it can be another glorious chapter for the club. But sadly that’s something I’m finding it difficult to imagine.

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24th November 2017 07:27:33


Comments and Reaction

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Deighty  8:40am 24th Nov 2017

With the current regime this will more likely drag us down to this level permanently rather than kick on. - Post No. 110857

Yes its Ron  10:23am 24th Nov 2017

i saw about 20 mins of it in 4, 5 minute spells of watching that dirge. It was enough to make us lose the will to live wasn't it! In fairness, the players were maybe justified in coasting that match last night. The group was done. As you say, give the kids a run next match, 11 of them. I think the Europa Lge can be pretty good after Xmas. I hope the club gives it a go,but who knows with Wenger. Its a tournament that befits the Clubs level right now and needs to be taken seriously. We re not a CL Club by any stretch of the imagination but Wenger will still dream. I personally dont think Arsenal will be visiting the CL now for a few years, even if a vibrant new Coach takes over. The rebuild of Arsenal is more than just signing new players, its the recreation of a whole new club culture thats needed and it wont be done in 5 mins. Add to that, that we may need to try more than one new Coach to get us on the right lines again and the time frame can be imagined. The Arsenal job is a big job and may yet prove to be a bit of a poisoned chalice. - Post No. 110858

TonyEvans  11:10am 24th Nov 2017

Indeed it has, Peter. Mind you the group stage of the CL was more often than not just as tedious, and at least (though I am sure Wenger will contrive to mess up as usual) we may have a chance of actually winning the Europa, rather than facing the annual last 16 stuffing we normally had to look forward to after Christmas. It's been said before but the European competitions have been ruined by the pursuit of extra match day revenue with these awful group stage matches replacing the genuinely exciting knockout format from the word go. The CL should also be just that, for the Champions only and I would love to see the UEFA Cup and CWC brought back to life - both had the kudos that the Europa will never have. As for last night's game - just not interested. - Post No. 110859

Cyril  12:31pm 24th Nov 2017

Overkill of football is the problem. I suppose it’s a nice problem however. Passionate days long gone for me sadly. On a funny note of which my mate will be fine about- he, being a spurs fan was trying all week to get 2 tckts for the game and paid 600 in the end, collected a Nigerian businessman form the airport and took him straight to the game. However, this bloke would not let go of his briefcase for love nor money. Anyway, they wouldn’t let them in as he was not prepared to open it. They were having a standup on the concourse. Nigerian and cockney accents turning the air blue. They ended up in the Baird in Finsbury Park losing 2 nil, 650 quid down after all the beers. Finally, he teased it out of him what was inside- expecting tales of diamonds and rubies. “My porn my friend, I carry it everywhere!” - Post No. 110860

Gaz  12:43pm 24th Nov 2017

I reckon you paint far too rosy a picture of our Champions league participation which in the main has been pretty darn depressing over the past 8/9 years. Boring group games and defeats to the first decent side we face certainly never rocked my boat. Then there's the defeats to the likes of PSV and Monaco and the loss of a three goal lead at home to mighty Anderlecht! As for the Europa league I cant even be bothered to watch any of it and even if we won it I would never class it as any sort of glorious chapter for the Club! Frustratingly if Wenger had left last summer like he should of I'd have been right up for the Europa league but under Wenger its just a boring tedious exercise in futility and Wenger should never have been given the chance to manage us in it. - Post No. 110861

peter wain  12:51pm 24th Nov 2017

difficult to see at creativity in our midfield. We scarcely created any chances despite having the ball for a lot of time. Why Coquelin and Elney are in the team is beyond me. They are bang average on a good day and why play maitland Niles as a left back when he is a centre midfield player - Post No. 110862

Yes its Ron  13:16pm 24th Nov 2017

bang on correct Tony. Agree every word. I do honestly think football will eat itself in the end. Sooner it occurs the better. - Post No. 110863

Redshirtwhitesleeves  13:23pm 24th Nov 2017

I've been reading a book about Clough and Forests European adventures in the late 70's. Absolutely compelling even for a non Forest fan and it shows European football at its best and how it always should have been kept. You got into Europe as a reward for actually achieving something. These days it's virtually impossible for a 'big' club not to qualify, and what you are left with is a bloated, over hyped 'champions' league and this god awful bore fest of third and fourth raters that we find ourselves in now. They have managed to make European football almost as boring as international football and that takes some doing. Another example of football eating itself. Didn't bother watching our game last night but watched highlights of some of Forests glory nights on YouTube and didn't regret it one bit - Post No. 110864

GoonerRon  13:39pm 24th Nov 2017

Another snooze fest for the most part. I guess job done in terms of qualifying first and some minutes in the legs but disappointed that not enough fringe players have staked a claim for more first team involvement. 3 CB’s plus Coquelin and Elneny = not enough creativity in the side. - Post No. 110865

Gunner Rob  13:39pm 24th Nov 2017

football overkill is certainly a huge problem. remember when all 3 european competitions were played only on Tuesday and Wednesday nights? it created a much greater buzz than the diluted format we have these days.that would be a start, but of course it will never happen. Funnily enough though the more the broadcasters try and spread the matches out the least interested that I become. I also believe that the young are not so engaged as they were even a few short years ago. Why would they be when they see PL stadiums are over priced, soul less affairs attended by mainly middle aged people - Post No. 110866

Yes its Ron  13:52pm 24th Nov 2017

redshirts - its sad to see Forest how they are isnt it. Succession of crap owners and not had a good coach since Billy Davies. Used to live nr Loughborough for quite some yrs and know many Forest And Leics supporters. They sure know how to create a fairy tale in the East Midlands. Cloughie was the best post war coach in my book. Great tactically. Players sweat blood for him. I went to Anfield to see them in the old european cup back in 78 i think it was. Liverpool just couldnt break their defence and their iron will to succeed. Kenny Burns awesome! 3 or 4 top players surrounded by workaholic grafters and journeymen organised properly.Forest saw them off a treat! - Post No. 110867

Redshirtwhitesleeves  15:13pm 24th Nov 2017

Hi Ron yes it's sad to see what has happened to Forest over the last 10-20 years. As a young kid I remember what a great side they had under Cloughie, as you say made up largely of grafters and journeyman, all welded together by Old Big 'Ed himself! Used to love it when they beat that cheating, horrible Liverpool side of Souness, McDermott etc (though what a side they were too!). And as Tony Evans said wasn't European football far better when it was the European cup, UEFA cup and CWC, not this turgid snooze fest of champions league/Europe league - Post No. 110869

Yes its Ron  16:07pm 24th Nov 2017

Agree with all that i do redshirts. Yes, that Liv side was a good side and knew all the tricks. We ended their dominance in my view, not manure despite what Ferguson likes to think. 89 and 91 saw them off. PS Taylor was a good bloke too for Cloughie, both at Derby and Forest. I think had Taylor have gone to Leeds with him and took on that clique of bas----s i reckon together they would have made Leeds great too . Cloughie never had a chance taking that vile Revie mob on on his own did he. - Post No. 110870

mbg  17:06pm 24th Nov 2017

And that possibility reared it's head a hell of a lot too,(not just now and again as you make it sound) until wenger managed to scrape through by the skin of his teeth, with the help of others usually imploding like ourselves, but his luck finally ran out. So your nightmare vision has come through now and there's plenty more of them to come, because of wenger and those who supported and support him that's what we are now also ran's. wenger out. - Post No. 110871

mbg  17:37pm 24th Nov 2017

Boring, Tedious, are just two of many words to describe not only the ropey, but where we are at the moment too, and that's where we'll be remaining until the boring, tedious, arrogant wenger goes, jesus h did you hear him, we dominated, we showed great speereett, boring tedious or what ? Go now you boring twat. - Post No. 110872

Roy  17:47pm 24th Nov 2017

Fair play Peter, and now our nightmare has come to pass. Didn't bother with the game last night, and quite frankly all those who didn't see this scenario as a very distinct possibility when AW stayed on in 2014 ( which is when he should have gone ), are either blind or stupid. - Post No. 110873

Paulward  21:03pm 24th Nov 2017

We won’t be winning the Europa league with the Xl that started last night , that much is certain, not when teams like Napoli and Atlético are likely to be involved. Didn’t get starting Coq and Neny together( two plodders or what), whilst Debuchy and Chambers looked woeful. Maitland-Niles looks a decent player and Nelson deserved to start. May get through another round or two before Wenger will have to call on the bigger guns. Whether he does that will probably depend on our league position. - Post No. 110874

mbg  0:26am 25th Nov 2017

The nice boys stunk the place out, wrong Cologne, sorry couldn't resist. wenger out. - Post No. 110875

markymark  9:00am 25th Nov 2017

Just seen that City are signing on with Puma for 50m per year. This for a club with still limited world wide appeal. The Arsenal really did get a mediocre deal didn’t they , but hey mediocre manager, Board it all sort of fits. - Post No. 110876

markymark  13:43pm 25th Nov 2017

Toady - still waiting to hear why you think Wengo has moved Arsenal massively forward in the last 12 years compared to George Graham. Perhaps your sidekick Badarse might attempt a reply but somehow I doubt it. - Post No. 110877

mbg  15:57pm 26th Nov 2017

markymark, you'll not hear from him until the next match, depending what the result is of course, (they're like Man yoo fans you see or hear from them when they win) and then it'll be only to say what a great manager his messiah is, they have no words or ways to defend him anymore, they ran out a long time ago. wenger out. - Post No. 110878

Alsace  16:33pm 26th Nov 2017

The truth is that European Football is essentially dreary. We have little or no idea who the teams are that we are playing much less have any feelings about them good or bad. The games are defensive and dull, or a chess match or a slaughter if Bayern or Barca are involved. Less fun than Premier League and that's saying something. Interesting though that all the English teams have sailed through their groups, whereas ours was always a clusterfcuk. We also have the spectacle of playing in hideous black or baby blue away from home. The second thing I would do if I owned the club would be to find the people who design for the shirt manufacturers and arrange six month stay in Guantanamo Bay for them, pour encourager les autres - Post No. 110879

mbg  19:03pm 26th Nov 2017

He manages to do it again him and his nice boys get out of the shyte in the 92 minute, after stinking the place out again, second rate mediocrity at it's best, I bet the refs in the good books tonight at die hard AKB central command. wenger out tonight. - Post No. 110880

TOOAW  20:21pm 26th Nov 2017

I kind of feel that the Irish one needs to change his name to MSG!?!?!?!?!!?? A fantastic away win at a club who are flying high early in the season and the likes of Paul Ward want their manager as our next manager to push us forward. His words and not mine. Keown stated it's easy to beat the Mighty Spurs but we need to follow up with a win at Burnley which we did. Going to be interesting to read the O.G. Monday write up from Kevin's crew will be 'Arsenal up for it at Burnley' yawn..... and a few posts to point out that it was a lucky, boring 3 points....... sounds like the George Graham era.. Mark of nark may also make an appearance. - Post No. 110881

Alsace  21:17pm 26th Nov 2017

You are trying to make a point that we are doing ok. There are points in any of the last 21 seasons where we were doing ok. Those seasons where we had the fundamentals in place, a decent defence and a midfield destroyer we even had a chance of winning the league. What you will not understand is that unless the fundamentals are addressed we are going nowhere. He will not address the fundamentals ergo we go nowhere. Season after season. It would be very easy to get annoyed with you and call you names. If you can't see that what I am saying is true, and has now been proved over and over again then that is just unfortunate. Wenger is boring us all, with the possible exception of yourself - to death. - Post No. 110882

mbg  23:17pm 26th Nov 2017

Refer to my post 110878, although it was predictable, I rest my case. wenger out tonight. - Post No. 110883

markymark  7:49am 27th Nov 2017

Toady - you’ve still not answered my question - Post No. 110884

Issue #269 - Out Now!

Gooner Editorial

15th January 2018

Being muscled off the ball by Bournemouth is like being mugged by your grandma

Online Ed: Another poor Arsenal display on the road just another signpost as we near the end of the Wenger era