Arsenal could find themselves in the Champions League next season and Mikel Arteta will be thankful for UEFA’s rule change.
There are many aspects of being an Arsenal fan that frustrate, irritate and annoy us. Despite the obvious moments of elation and joy we have experienced as supporters, there are many elements of supporting this club that have brought pain.
The club’s relationship with the Champions League is one such historic frustration. From Chelsea and Wayne Bridge somehow knocking out Arsenal during their invincible season before watching Jose Mourinho’s Porto go on to lift the trophy, to the painful 2006 Paris final defeat to Barcelona.
Yet, across both the Champions League and Europa League, one aspect of the competitions has continued to reappear to jab the supporters and send them to bed seething. The away goal rule.
Arsenal have been knocked out on numerous occasions to the frustrating regulation of the competition. In 2001, Valencia’s 1-0 home win cancelled out the 2-1 turnaround of the first leg. Goals from Thierry Henry and Ray Parlour were enough to give the Gunners a strong base to travel to Spain. Yet John Carew’s 76th-minute winner knocked them out.
An embarrassing 3-1 home defeat to Bayern Munich in the 2012/13 season looked to have given Arsenal no hope of progressing at the Allianz Arena. However, An early Olivier Giroud goal provided hope and then an 85th minute Laurent Koscielny goal put the German side on tenterhooks, but it was not enough and away goals sent the Gunners home again.
The same scoreline would haunt Arsenal against the infamous Monaco team of 2014/15. A shock 3-1 home loss gave Arsenal all the work to do on the south coast, but despite goals from Giroud and Aaron Ramsey, Monaco progressed.
Lastly, even Mikel Arteta has experienced the pain of the away goal rule as a manager already. Olympiacos took Arsenal to extra time after a 1-0 scoreline at the Emirates cancelled out the Gunners’ 1-0 win in Greece. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang looked to have won it, but Youssef El-Arabi scored in the 119th minute to snatch it. Aubameyang even had the chance to win it with a massive chance with the final kick but put his shot wide.
Arteta will be happy to know now though that this horrific nostalgia trip will be no more. The away goal was scrapped at the start of this season and as a result, the Champions League has witnessed some of the best games of football seen in the competition.
Arsenal are in pole position to qualify for the tournament this season and should they win their next 3 games, and Spurs drop points to either Leicester City or Liverpool, they will have achieved it. Should they manage to win the race, next year will be a first.
Whilst the likes of City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Man United have experienced the new rule, Arsenal, having been outside of Europe this season, haven’t. Arsenal certainly fair better against sides who do not sit back and absorb pressure.
With the format encouraging sides to be more attacking, it could be a recipe for the Gunners to play to their strengths. Many have debated whether the Gunners are ready for the UCL but ultimately you have to be in it to win it.
RB Leipzig, Monaco, Villarreal, Ajax and even Tottenham Hotspur have made it to the semi-finals in recent years, who is to say Arsenal couldn’t? Certainly not me.