02 April 2014

Chelsea and Man U go off the UCL reservation...

We're watching the Champions League quarterfinals from the sidelines, of course, but this shouldn't stop us from taking an interest in our fellow Prem sides' progress—not out of any high-minded love for dear old Blighty, though; just of out pure self-interest. To wit, we have to root for Chelsea to go just a little farther, perhaps beating P$G to advance to the  and for Man U to get it over with and just let Bayern advance. In the first case, Chelsea's progress in the UCL could be just the ticket necessary to distract them from the Prem; in the second, however, we can ill-afford a repeat of 2012. I just hope we can trust Chelsea and Man U to do the right thing going forward. For Arsenal, that is.

First, Chelsea. They blew it at the Parc des Princes, losing 1-3 thanks in part to a Luiz own-goal and a stoppage-time third goal that makes the second leg at Stamford Bridge crucial to Chelsea's chances. I for one and hoping they do advance, all the better to distract them and sap their energies for their remaining Prem fixtures. If we can hold up our end of the bargain and win our remaining fixtures, we'd need Chelsea to drop five of their own, and we can then claim third to ourselves. Of course, if we draw with or lose to Everton, that third-place spot quite simply stays with Chelsea. With these factors in mind, I really was hoping for Chelsea to do better in the first leg on Wednesday in order to make their second leg all the more vital. With Mourinho having conceded the Prem to Liverpool or Man City (a concession we'll take with a grain of salt), the Champions League is his only other chance at silverware this season. I do hope he goes all in for it, even at the risk of slumping in the Prem. Should Chelsea make it to the final, win, and hold on to third, well, that would be a kick in the knickers. Alternately, should their progress see their Prem form falter, so much the better. I could care less how they do in the Champions League itself, frankly, as long as it coincides with dropping those five points in the Prem. Even if they fall to fourth and win the Champions League, we're right back to where we were, having qualified for the Champions League qualifying round next year. I'm willing to hold my nose and wish Chelsea all the best just a little more European success then. Then again, if they do crash out to P$G, we can sit back and enjoy the ironic karma, maybe even the hypocrisy, as Mourinho and other chavskis bemoan being outspent.

Next, Man U. Apparently, they haven't read the script. They were supposed to lose horribly to Bayern, but they escaped the first leg at Old Trafford with a 1-1 draw, enough to keep their dignity if not their hopes alive. It's the first time Bayern haven't won the first leg since, erm, 2007 (not that Arsenal would have any interest in that sort of statistic. Nope. Not us). Here's where things get tricky. Let's say that we hold onto fourth place, that we can't overtake Chelsea for third. If Man U pull off the unthinkable and sneak past Bayern, who's to say they can't win the Champions League? There's still a tough slate of potential opponents between them and such a preposterous outcome—Barca, PSG, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Atletico, and Dortmund—but the last thing we need is a desperate and/or revitalized Man U winning the Champions League from 6th or 7th place in the Prem. When Chelsea pulled this off in 2012, they became the fourth Prem side to qualify for the Champions League the following year, knocking Tottenham back into the Europa League despite having finished fourth themselves. Long story short, if we finish fourth and have to watch Man U win the Champions League, we will despite our own toil get knocked into playing Spursday night football. The only consolation there would come through knowing that Tottenham would then get nudged into the Europa League qualifying round. We can't have that, even if it does offer us a chance to knock them out of their trophy-competition next year.

Ugh. Best-case scenario? Man U gets it over with and loses to Bayern. Chelsea advances just far enough in the Champions League to distract them from the Prem battle, with players getting tired, jaded, or injured, and we overtake them to take third. We won't entertain any worst-case scenarios. Not yet.