I totally agree with Mesut Ozil’s assessment that Arsenal can reach the Champions League final even after making a meal of overcoming an organized Besiktas side. Ozil’s reason comes from his comparison to Atletico Madrid. He said they surprised everyone by reaching the final but is that really true? They, after all, won the La Liga defeating both Real Madrid and Barcelona in the process and have continued to impress this season.
In order to understand my reason for why Arsenal CAN reach the final, I have to give a short story. In 2003/04 during the Invincibles season, Arsenal were blowing teams away and had reached the quarter finals where they met Chelsea with the tinkerman, Claudio Ranieri, at the helm. They had already won all their games against Chelsea and this was meant to be a walkover. Anyway to cut a long story short, they were knocked out and two lesser known teams Monaco and Porto met in the final.
Two years on and Arsenal looked very weak decimated by injuries to key players even using Freddie Ljungberg as a striker and a bunch of players at left back. The result was players came together and fought as a unit keeping it tight at the back and sneaking goals at the other end (Doesn’t sound like Arsenal does it?).
By the time a well-rested Thierry Henry came back in the knock out stages, Arsenal were already playing as a well drilled unit. The difference was now our attack looked sharper with a striker who could conjure up something out of nothing. I have always believed if Wenger had played the same back four that had done so well, Arsenal would have won the 2005/06 Champions League final. As it was, Ashley Cole returning from a long spell through injury tired easily and Barcelona’s winner came from his side. Still, it is worth noting the defence performed admirably on the day.
There are a lot of similarities between the 05-06 team and this current one. Arsenal is struggling with injuries early in the season missing out on the likes of Theo Walcott and Giroud. Their attack looks disjointed as the midfielders try to gel but their resilience is strong as shown when they recovered from two goals down against Everton. If they can get their attack going while keeping it tight at the back, they will be unstoppable by the time Giroud comes back from injury.