Sizzling qualifier – makes a change

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Arsenal v Celtic is a sizzling draw for almost everyone – if not, it seems, the clubs themselves.

How can you not look forward to it? The atmosphere will be febrile – it’s exactly the kind of game you hope for as a fan. It might not end up being a spectacle of technical excellence, but compared to some of the drab matches you get each season in the Champions League, it will be an absolute belter.

It’s a tough one though, for Arsenal. It’s easy to point to the fact that, until last week, Celtic had not won away in the competition in over 30 attempts, but at the same time they have only lost 3 of 14 matches against English opposition. The fact it is a British tie, with the general similarities in footballing styles and the usual historical baggage, makes it a derby game. And derby games are never that predictable.

Yes, there’s a gulf in income between the two clubs, but Arsenal are hardly the last of the big spenders, are they?

Not getting through doesn’t bear thinking about for either side – being knocked out before the group stage for the first time in over a decade would inevitably be a PR coup for the Wenger naysayers and boardroom battlers, and sniping is the last thing we’d need ahead of a crucial season. Lord knows, Wenger gets enough of that already.

So what else, other than news that the ex-malarial, ex-Arsenal Toure found life at Arsenal “boring” and that he was “tired of being with the same people every day”. I suppose being an Arsenal footballer is a job no different to any other job, but it does sound a bit crap, doesn’t it? Anyway, he’s gone off to be bored elsewhere so good luck to him. Frankly, I got bored of watching him every week too, so let’s leave it at that.

Tranfer-wise, like the European Cup we’re still all ears. We’re told in various roundabout ways that one or two are coming, but no more than that. It seems futile to think any more about it, to be honest. It certainly seems futile to work oneself up into a lather. When it does happen, we can all hang out the bunting.

Tonight, pre-season comes to a head with a trip to the Mestalla to play Valencia. I don’t usually travel away to see Arsenal, but the Mestalla is one ground I have been to – a 2-1 defeat some years ago – and apart from needing crampons to climb the steps to the away end, it’s a great ground for football. Great city too, though you probably won’t get much of a feel for that on the live feed.

Anyway, I think I must be rambling.


Arsenal since about 1979. Thick, thin and all that.