By Tony Attwood
I never really expected to have much in common with Santi Cazorla. He’s one of the very few players around who is actually shorter than me by an inch or two, and he can play football rather well, which I can’t.
But it turns out that Santi has just toddled off to Spain with his Achilles problem, and this coming weekend I shall follow him, complete with a similar problem.
However there the similarity ends since Santi is going there to try and make his Achilles better, while I am going to make my Achilles worse, by taking part in three days of jiving and similar fun.
I mention this connection, not because we will be on the same flight (mine appears to involve me getting up at 4am to catch the flight the dance club has hired while I suspect Santi has the club’s executive jet – or if not, then at least first class travel on the regular flight. No, I mention it because I do know just how difficult Achilles injuries are to put right. I’ve put the gel on the offending areas, done the exercises, had acupuncture, and even laid off the dancing for a while, but it still comes back. It is all rather annoying.
All this means that S.C. will miss PSG and AFC Bournemouth, not to mention quite a few other games I suspect, and although I am sure the media will soon be doing their usual stories about Arsenal incompetence over injuries, there really does seem to be no way of treating injuries of this type. Sometimes they go, sometimes they stay. Me and Santi, we have the staying variety. I know how he feels – and I have to cope with it all without the megabucks salary.
So we approach PSG on Wednesday without Santi, and indeed without knowing whether we should be aiming for first or second spot in the Champions League.
As things stand Barcelona look like winning their group stage but Bayern Munich are second in their group three points behind Atletico Madrid. Real Mad are second in their group two points behind Borussia Dortmund. Thus this season coming second could be a benefit, or a disadvantage.
The list of the teams we most likely could play is:
Napoli, Benfica, Barcelona, Aletico Madrid, Bayern Munich, Monaco, Bayer Leverkusen, Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid, FC Porto, Juventus, Sevilla.
Some would not cause us too much concern, some would bring out the “not them again” groans. So it goes.
At the time of the first CL game in Paris, PSG were struggling in the League somewhat. Since then they have recovered having lost once to Toulouse and drawn at home to Marseille while winning the rest.
Here’s the league table…
And although Angel Di Maria opened the scoring in the PSG game against Nantes he was then substituted on 36 minutes. The PSG manager said that this was a precaution, which of course may be right, but coming off on just over half an hour seems a bit odd for a precaution. Maybe the coming days will make things clearer.
In the broad perspective we can say that we have never lost to PSG, drawing with them in the Cup Winners Cup in 1994, 1-1, before winning the return leg 1-0 at Highbury. Other than that all we have had is the 1-1 draw in Paris in September.
So, finally, how do we feel about all this? Deflated because it wasn’t much of a game against Man U? Or elated because we have a super sub who can come on and turn the game around (and who is clearly available if we want to give Alexis a rest)?
Deflated because Tottenham are getting closer, and could easily have gone down 1-2 at home, or amused because the most successful ground change in the history of ripping the tax payer off has resulted in the east enders sitting just on the very edge of relegation? Or deflated because if they do go down their monthly payments for renting the stadium will go down even further?
Or maybe just amused that Manchester United, having spent rather a lot of money are still lingering outside of the European places?
Probably bits of all of that. But that’s how it goes.
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