Champions League and an Arsenal assessment!

The Champions league draw was perfect for the media. Jose Mourinho returns to England where hopefully he will go back to Italy victorious! Claudio Ranieri also returns with Juventus to face his former club and Rafa faces his club, his home town club and the club he has been continually linked with since… oh banks were lending money (how’s it going Mr Hicks and Gillett?)

So Real Madrid eh? A tasty tie and time for ITV and Sky to dig out the Paris final videos? However, there is little point in looking at this as it takes place in two months time. A lot can happen so let’s just say that the draw could have better but then again, it could have been a lot worse? I guess we have an advantage in the sense that if anyone knows anything about Real Madrid, then surely it must be Rafa?

Rafa probably, because of today’s game, was the subject of an article by The Guardian yesterday. I’ve been bought up on The Guardian but this was a simplistic, lob sided piece which would be more at home in a paper of a smaller size!

It suggested Rafa has no judgement (poor signings and man management), no patience (shunting players out), no game plan (hot and cold and no consistency) and no tact (suggesting that Valencia only won the league because their rivals are playing rubbish). It even mentioned his beard! Zzzzzzzzzzzz, name me a manager who hasn’t exhibited all or some of these traits at one stage or another?

Perhaps Rafa would get a better press had he agreed sign up, with other well known folk, and design the silly Christmas wrapping paper the Guardian has been giving away recently? Surely the most feckless, useless and pretentious “give away” of all time? Though at least the wrapping paper would have a more hygienic use this Christmas rather the pages upon the article was printed!

So to today’s game and I guess it should be nice to be just thinking about getting three points to stay top rather than just noodling on about making gains on those above us? However old habits die hard!

Despite their mixed start this season Arsenal have risen to the occasion against the so called big four clubs with victories over Chelsea and The Mancs and the fact that we are playing them today brings into the focus recent missed opportunities. Had we picked up wins against Hull, West Ham and Fulham instead of draws a defeat today, away to a side many would normally predict us to lose to would, because of our “lead”, not have been a disaster?

Nonetheless we are where we are and we should be positive and say that perhaps there is more hope than we’d normally expect from a visit to North London? Arsenal’s inconsistency and fragile defence must give us an opportunity? The Emirates, which until the start of this season was a “fortress”, has been anything but that recently and Wenger’s principled philosophy about playing decent football (some would say an overly evangelical, idealistic, “holier than thou”, philosophy) has not, compared to this stage last season, been backed up by results or the attitude of their players (Gallas) or patience of some of their fans (the booing of Eboue). So…. it’ll be a tonking for us then and if it were, given the recent “schizophrenia” of both sides, would it be a surprise?

Prediction? I’m not going to say anything different to the Q&A I gave to A Cultured Left Foot – see previous blog. Both sides are going through inconsistent phases and as suggested before, I guess it will probably depend on which version of Arsenal or Liverpool turns up on the day? Many, who preposterously try to attach significance to every set of games in Premiership, see this is Arsenal’s last chance to keep in the title race. This is nonsense but a win, for either side, is vital as it would set them up nicely for the Christmas campaign. However, with Chelsea facing a potentially difficult tie at Goodison Park on Monday, for us a draw would not be disaster? 1-1.

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