It is perhaps telling that Arsene Wenger went as far back as 2006 in his Arsenal career to recall one of the best European nights of his long reign as manager of the Gunners. We certainly have not had too many glorynights in recent years, especially in the knockout stages of the Champions League which have become extremely short and painful times for us Gooners over the last few years.
The Guardian reports Wenger saying, “We come to a place with a good history for us,” the Frenchman added. “We came here with a very young team and beat Real Madrid, who had fantastic names. I will try to repeat that.”
He also said, “There is uncertainly [about the result] and that creates a tension. You can always discover new things in football. Every game is a new adventure. That’s why the excitement is the same.
“We know exactly what we need to do and that is an advantage. We need to score and to have a clear approach in our heads. The only thing we don’t know is will Atlético do the same or have a more cautious approach and try to catch us on the break? Atlético’s history [of clean sheets at home] has to stop somewhere. We created chances in the first leg and we have to recreate those situations.”
This current Arsenal team can put all that right tonight, but as Wenger suggested it will need the sort of performance the Frenchman referred back to in Madrid of 2006 if we are to reach the Europa League final. Back then it was a Real Madrid full of star players like Ronaldo and Zidane that Arsenal needed to get a result against and thanks to the only goal of the game from Thierry Henry we came away from Spain a happy bunch.
A score draw in the Spanish capital tonight would be enough, with a 1-1 finish taking the tie into extra time, but not many people think it will go that way and nobody thinks it will be an easy night for the Arsenal players facing Atletico Madrid. I personally have serious doubts bout the ability of the current crop to produce the kind of performance needed to get the job done.
Will our soft centre, on open display in the first leg despite all the dominance, be exposed once again tonight? I hope not, of course, but who really believes that the class of 2018 has anything like the class of ’06?