It’s not often such an abject train-wreck of a performance can still manage to bring such joy, but for those still claiming they have little emotional attachment to the Europa League, we can all be pretty sure that’s absolute garbage.
After going on a remarkable, record 12 game unbeaten run in the league, it felt almost as if this team had forgotten how to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, but last night suggested that the ability still resides within the beast somewhere.
When all is said and done, ultimately it is us who will face FC Basel in the next round and not Inter Milan and perhaps that’s all that matters. But despite the fact we’re still on to achieve our goals both domestically and within Europe, the last two games should act as a real wake up call.
We’ve not achieved anything yet. And as last night proved especially, we’ve not shed the habitual ability to monumentally self-destruct just yet.
In terms of the game itself, for as much of a mare that near on the entire starting XI endured last night, it was Andre Villas-Boas who had as much blood on his hands as any last night.
It was refreshing to see supporters happy to hand out some level headed criticism without the incessant need to try and get someone sacked or sold, but those who were lambasting the Portuguese’s selection were absolutely dead on. Last night’s decision to start with two up front had nothing to do with his age or inexperience – he’s won the competition before for Christ’s sake.
But while it would be a little too harsh to deem it a lack of respect to our Italian opposition, in trying to seal a fourth goal that we didn’t really need – away from home, it’s worth noting – we were sitting ducks and slowly but surely, Andrea Stramccioni’s side rightly punished us.
Yet for as much as AVB’s tactics set-up us up for a roasting last night, it was the players that were taught a brutal lesson in the art of concentration for the second time in the space of one week.
Because where as we finished the 3-0 win at home to Inter, seven points ahead of Arse, nailed on to finish kings of London and with our name on the Europa League trophy (according to some), we came perilously close to being dumped out of the competition all together last night.
And regardless of the prospect of a cup exit last night, we still head into the weekend’s Premier League programme with both Wenger’s men and the Chelski boasting a game in hand with the ability to make the league look a hell of a lot tighter than what it felt like after that wonderful North London derby.
Against both Liverpool and Inter, there was a feeling amongst some – and who knows, maybe some of the players too – that we could afford ourselves a little breathing space. Against the Scousers, we knew that a loss would still have us sitting comfortably above the Arse and we headed into last night’s game seemingly happy to spunk a couple of goals, such was the feeling of impending progress.
Lesson learned? There is no room for breathing space at any time in this campaign; not now and not ever. But especially not when you’re aiming for the a dual crack at Champions League qualification and Europa League glory.
We’re lucky enough to still be in a great position after two big hiccups in a row. But in terms of silly mistakes and a lack of concentration, that’s it, there can be no more. It’s time to put the foot on the gas and pick the pace up. After defeats against Liverpool and Inter, hopefully we’ve been given the kick up the arse we need to now push on and get the job done.