There are many aspects of being an Arsenal fan that frustrates, irritates and annoys us. Despite the obvious moments of elation and joy that we have experienced as supporters, many elements of support for this club have caused suffering.
The club’s relationship with the Champions League is one such historic frustration. From Chelsea and Wayne Bridge somehow knocking out Arsenal in their invincible season before seeing Jose Mourinho’s Porto lift the trophy, to Paris’ painful 2006 final loss to Barcelona.
Yet, in both the Champions League and the Europa League, one aspect of the competitions has continued to reappear to sting fans and send them seething to bed. The away goals rule.
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Arsenal have been knocked out numerous times by the competition’s frustrating regulations. In 2001, Valencia’s 1-0 win at home nullified the 2-1 first-leg upset. Goals from Thierry Henry and Ray Parlor were enough to give the Gunners a solid base to travel to Spain. Still, John Carew’s 76th-minute winner knocked them out.
An embarrassing 3-1 home defeat to Bayern Munich in the 2012/13 season seemed to have given Arsenal no hope of progress at the Allianz Arena. However, an early goal from Olivier Giroud gave hope, then an 85and minute Laurent Koscielny’s goal put the Germans on edge, but it wasn’t enough and away goals sent the Gunners home.
The same scoreline would haunt Arsenal against the infamous Monaco side of 2014/15. A shock 3-1 home defeat gave Arsenal all the work to do on the south coast, but despite goals from Giroud and Aaron Ramsey, Monaco progressed.
Finally, even Mikel Arteta has already felt the pain of the away goals rule as a manager. Olympiacos pushed Arsenal into extra time after a 1-0 draw at the Emirates canceled out the Gunners’ 1-0 win in Greece. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang seemed to have won it, but Youssef El-Arabi scored in the 119and minute to pull it off. Aubameyang even had a chance to win it with a huge chance with the finishing kick but put his shot wide.
Arteta will be happy to know now that this horrible nostalgia trip will be over. The away goal was scrapped at the start of this season and as a result the Champions League has witnessed some of the best football in the competition.
Arsenal are in pole position to qualify for the tournament this season and if they win their next 3 games and Spurs drop points to Leicester City or Liverpool they will have achieved it. If they manage to win the race, next year will be a first.
While City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Man United experienced the new rule, Arsenal, having been out of Europe this season, did not. Arsenal are certainly better placed against teams that don’t rest and absorb pressure.
With the format encouraging teams to be more attacking, this could be a recipe for the Gunners to play to their strengths. Many have wondered if the Gunners are ready for the UCL, but at the end of the day, you have to be there to win it.
RB Leipzig, Monaco, Villarreal, Ajax and even Tottenham Hotspur have reached the semi-finals in recent years, who’s to say Arsenal couldn’t? Certainly not me.