Last night’s gallant effort by the Gunners could well serve to be the perfect result for Arsene Wenger.
Only two weeks ago there was huge pressure on him after successive away defeats to AC and Sunderland effectively ended any chances of winning a trophy for another year. It wasn’t just the results but the feeble displays that led to widespread derision from fans and the media.
In contrast, Arsenal are now a team in vibrant form and have a belief about themselves once more.
So why was last night’s defeat good for Arsene?
The fact is Arsenal were never going to win the Champion’s League this season. Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich would all sweep them aside. It’s a trophy they do not have enough quality to compete for at the moment. So what’s the point in progressing another round and risking injuries to key players, only to then be eliminated by a better team?
Had they achieved the impossible and managed to get through against Milan, then the euphoria at the club would have been immense. It may have carried them to victories for the next few weeks in the Premier League.
But it would have ended with a crushing blow somewhere down the line. If they had gone on to draw any of the big guns of Europe then they would have been outclassed and demoralised. The fragile nature of the Arsenal dressing room would mean their spirit would once more be destroyed.
Better to go out now on a good result than in a month on a bad one.
Fans and media back onside
They have now been knocked out after an impressive display and great effort to overturn the 4-0 defeat in Milan. They can take confidence from their 3-0 victory and the blow of being eliminated is minimal, as it was already a formality. It’s one of the rare occasions where defeat is applauded. The Brits do love a plucky loser.
Arsenal’s players have already had the reality of elimination sink in after Milan so will leave the tournament on a high note. A rare thing for any club to do.
The press and fans are back on Arsenal’s side and the team is confident after three victories in a row against top teams in Tottenham, Liverpool and AC, last night. No one is now talking about how poor Arsenal were a few weeks ago and how they ended up 4-0 down in two legged tie.
Clear path for Arsenal
No more trophies to win but a confident team 3 points or more ahead of their rivals in the race for fourth. Their rivals all still have commitments to cup competitions in the final stretch of the season.
Arsenal, however, have a clear path with fewer games left to play. They can keep their star players fresher and nurse them back from injury with less pressure on upcoming matches as they no longer have to play two games every week.
Most importantly they have managed to keep the feel good factor at the club.
Wenger won’t admit it, but a heroic loser story last night is the perfect preparation for the season finale.