Arsenal Set To Shock The World
Rock bottom. Arsenal fans the world-over are feeling angry, disheartened, confused, and in pain after Sunday's uninspired performance at the Emirates. Arsenal have only won 6 games out of the 16 on offer across all competitions in 2016. Winning 37.5% of your games isn't a statistic of champions. It tells a story of inconsistent mediocrity, and Arsenal's overall team efficiency in front of goal is largely to blame.
The so-called supporters of Arsenal, the bloggers, pundits, and even former Arsenal greats, are beating the drum. Hauntingly, eerily, they play, loudly thumping a steady rhythm of Wenger out. The tribe is ready for a revolution. Years of frugality and a lack of silverware during the past decade has emboldened the criticism and reproach of the manager. A naive approach to defending and game management has enraged the tacticians. Recent comments by the majority shareholder, Stan Kroenke, about his interest in ownership have stoked the fires and boiled the blood. Arsenal are at a crossroads as a Football Club.
It is the perfect time to upset Barcelona in their own stadium. Being picked as favorites has been a burden for Arsenal this year. The weight of expectation has weighed heavy on a group of players that are unfamiliar with high expectations. Aaron Ramsey, Laurent Koscielny, Olivier Giroud, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Kieran Gibbs, Jack Wilshere, none of these players have championship experience in England. Consecutive FA Cup triumphs are a significant achievement, but the core of Arsenal, the players that have been with the Professor for the better part of ten years, haven't been able to overcome their oil-rich adversaries. Classified as title favorites by many of the talking heads prior to the start of the season, Arsenal lumbered out of the gate with a thud. Losing at home to West Ham United on opening day, scraping out a result against Crystal Palace, drawing with Liverpool, and barely sliding by Newcastle 1-0..the first four games of the season detail just how nervous the team was. Losing to Olympiakos at home in the Champions League only compounded the misery. Just when the fans wanted to mount Wenger's head on a pike outside the Emirates, the team turned out their best performance of the season, thrashing Manchester United 3-0 at home with scintillating brilliance.
Now is the time for similar performance against Barcelona that will rock the footballing world.
Alexis Sanchez has been derided for not looking himself, not playing to his ability, and failing to score goals since he's return from injury. Expect him to return to the Camp Nou and remind all of Catalonia why the Blaugrana bought him in the first place. Expect Hector Bellerin to put on a show in his home town, placing Neymar squarely in his pocket, and getting forward as only the Flash can, to wreak havoc with his pace and get Jordi Alba sent off. Expect Mesut Ozil to further the rumors linking him with his former rival by putting in a world-class performance, and crafting two assists to mark his return to Spain. Expect Mohamed Elneny to cement himself as a player for the future with his mobility, clean touch, and movement. Giroud will find his boom, and Laurent Koscielny will confirm that he is one of the premier center-backs in all off football.
When the entire world hates on the Gunners, they tend to produce some of their best performances.
This is a byproduct of having a manager that believes in his players. The Arsenal players respect and adore Arsene Wenger because he trusts in their abilities and overall potential for the long-term, even when they fail to show up in the short-term. Wenger hates to lose. He hates to see the Club he built damaged and ridiculed. He has devoted his life to making Arsenal a bigger and better Club. The players know this and want to justify his faith in their qualities. Expect Arsenal to spring a surprise on Wednesday.
The lack of pressure, and most importantly no Gerard Pique, is the perfect recipe for an inconsistent Arsenal to shock the world.