What an incredible match, what an incredible night. Glorious, heroic failure is such a clichéd notion, but sometimes there are few other ways to describe what is going on in front of your eyes.
We wanted fight, we wanted pride, we wanted to at least give Milan a scare. I suspect even those suggesting a remarkable comeback had parts of their tongue in their cheek. But what seemed a dead rubber ended up being a spectacle that reunited players with disillusioned fans, and despite not being enough to progress to the quarter finals demonstrated many of the qualities so valued (and missed) in recent years. Speed, precision, bravery and a refusal to give up were all in evidence, and as the players battled, the crowd roared their approval. For ninety minutes, there was no criticism, no exasperated sighs, just sheer unadulterated support for a set of footballers willing to leave every ounce they had on the lush green grass of the Grove.
Ultimately, it wasn’t enough to overturn the horrors of the first leg, but it may yet prove a pivotal night in the careers of many – players and manager alike. Maybe it will turn into another false dawn, or maybe it could be the night when everyone got back on the same page, put aside their differences and grievances and noted that we are us, they are them, and they will forever be the enemy.
The last ten days have been remarkable. Two goals down to Spurs and a mutiny was on the cards, yet three enormously impressive wins (all for different reasons) have given us all the momentum. We are the ones raising our game as the others slip under pressure. There have been some miraculous individual performances, some from unexpected sources – Rosicky proved last night that his superb display against Spurs was not a one-off, while young Oxlade-Chamberlain is proving too good to ease into the team at the rate Wenger would have undoubtedly wished. As for the main man up front? Four more goals in those three victories, it is also his captaincy that is impressing – under his leadership the team seems more united that any we’ve seen since the middle of last decade. Long may it continue.
What made the victories so impressive is that in each of our last three games, I feel we’ve had comfortably the worst of the officiating. But on all three occasions, we have triumphed, and for those who say that last night was not a success, I would strongly disagree. We just beat the current Serie A leaders and in-form team, and we beat them well.
I’m not going to go into a detailed match report – you all watched it after all. Suffice to say that the very fact we had our hopes raised so high by half time was evidence enough that this Arsenal team is capable of really pushing on. And push on we must – a run of performances like that and third is ours for the taking. With it comes the guarantee of Champions League football without a pesky qualifier in August, and means we can plan for the season ahead knowing exactly where we stand. And of course, it enables us to celebrate the annual St. Totteringham’s Day gigglethon.
Last night made many proud. It made me proud. I envy those that were there, but also tip my hat to everyone who went along and sung at the top of their lungs, helping the players nearly achieve the seemingly impossible. You were awesome.
We’ll be back. In the meantime, Spurs, we’re coming to get you.