Arsenal 2-3 Olympiacos
I know itâ€™s the most spoilt thing to say, given how other teams look on at our repeated qualification with envy, but Iâ€™ve felt fairly ambivalent about the Champions League for a while now.
Part of it is the familiarity of some of our opponents – Olympiacos being a prime example. Part of it is the seeding (now changed – to our detriment, in all likelihood), which for ages made our group stages a little pedestrian. And thereâ€™s an element of knowing the eventual outcome too: one of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich has been in the final every year since 2009.
But mostly, itâ€™s Arsenalâ€™s, and Arseneâ€™s, complete inability to master the nuances of European football that has long ago worn thin. I wrote this tweet after the Zagreb game, but with a few exceptions and a few tweaks, it could have been used many times over the last decade and a half.
18 years and we still have no idea. Amazing.
— East Lower (@eastlower) September 16, 2015
I canâ€™t pretend to speak for the majority and wouldnâ€™t even dream of trying, but if the people I sit with week in, week out, and some of the people I converse with over the electronic airwaves are any guide, the apathy about the competition is all too evident.
We lose in Europe, we shrug our shoulders. I was sitting in a different seat last night, but people werenâ€™t tearing their hair out and they werenâ€™t wailing or gnashing their teeth. Weâ€™ve seen it all before. We know we canâ€™t win the competition: we arenâ€™t canny enough, we donâ€™t adapt and itâ€™s beyond predictable watching us huff and puff – or simply amble – through it.
Iâ€™d love to have a crack at it, a proper go. With the right approach, tactics and a large amount of luck (always needed), thereâ€™s no reason why we shouldnâ€™t be competing better than we are and going toe-to-toe with the best in the knockouts. But weâ€™ve stopped doing that, and everyone seems to have got used to it.
Wengerâ€™s defiance is fair enough: we can still make it through. But weâ€™re going to need to change and change fast if thatâ€™s going to happen. Based on recent experience, I wonâ€™t hold my breath.