Just as it seemed like Arsenal had fumbled away a gilt-edged chance at winning the Prem courtesy of, well, fumbling away a two-goal lead at Anfield at the weekend, Man City responded by defeating Bayern Munich decisively if not definitively in the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal clash. What’s the connection? Well, simply put, the further Man City progress in the Champions League, the more likely they are to drop points in the Prem, both by desire and by necessity.
Pep has long obsessed over Champions League glory; after all, he hasn’t drunk from that chalice since 2011, a shocking record considering the wealth at his disposal, literally and figuratively. The closest he’s ever come in this decade-long drought was a runners-up finish in 2021, and it would be hard to overstate just how much winning would mean to the man who’s overseen some of the most-expensive squads ever assembled. All that’s missing from his resume—aside from having managed PSG—is winning a second Champions League title.
Man City’s 3-0 demolition of Bayern Munich eases the path to the semifinal a great deal, but there is after all that second leg left to play at Allianz Arena. Bayern have some work to do but are fully capable of doing that work. At our end, we have to hope for ze Germans to make Man City work for it, getting two early goals to make the Citizens toil and sweat and fret on their way to the semifinal and beyond.
As for us, it would be wonderful to simply see us sashay and swashbuckle our way to the title, swatting away all who dared to stand before us, but the cold, hard reality is that we are going to have to fight and claw and scratch and scrabble our way to the top. Hell, we’re on a pace to finish on 93 points, give or take. If that isn’t swashbuckling, I’d like to see what is. Man City are a relentless, remorseless eating machine. Argh.
Even before the setback at Anfield, we probably needed Man City to drop points. If nothing else, we have to go into St. James’s Park against a Newcastle side that have figured out how to score goals almost as well as they refuse to concede them. I”m not here to say that we should want Man City to win the Champions League or even the FA Cup. I’m only saying that the further they progress in each of those competitions, the more likely they are to drop points in the Prem.
Hell, they do have to host us just four days after hosting Sheffield United in the FA Cup and four days before going to Fulham. It’s quite possible that Arteta’s had us playing possum against Pep in our two previous clashes, lulling him into a false sense of security before unleashing some heretofore unimagined surprise in this penultimate clash. Wouldn’t that be something to see us stumble late on only to seize the title with a smash-and-grab at the Etihad?
Let’s hope that our rivals for the Prem title (when’s the last time we could legitimately label anyone thusly?) progress deep into Champions League play, making it all the way to the final before succumbing to whoever it is they meet there. I don’t want them to suffer, necessarily. When it comes to Man CIty, I’m a well wisher, in that I don’t wish them any specific harm.
We’re poised on the brink of congratulating ourselves on a season that falls short of winning the Prem but that still far-exceeds anyone’s rational expectations. Twixt the two, we have to admit that the process is enticing and tantalizing even if it doesn’t quite consummate. Whatever the future holds, let’s not let the dashing of heightened expectations sour us. It’s been a magnificent ride.
We’ll have to wait and see. While we do that, allow me to repeat an invitation: you can enter a raffle for a £25 Arsenal Direct gift card by commenting on this and other posts in April. Yes, it’s a direct attempt at bribing you to join the conversation. The more often you comment, the better your chances at winning. Have at it!