Today we have a guest post by Double Canister.
Never won the European Cup, Right? Well, until 1992 teams had to win the league to enter it.
My hypothesis here is to argue that apart from the bleedin’ obvious fact that yes we have not won it (and thank you koppites, for reminding us of the fact every 5 minutes) Arsenal have not been too shabby in this Competition. In fact I will argue that Arsenal have very often run into the eventual winners of the competition, and given them a bloody nose in the process to think about.
England is an insular place; however since the European Cup was founded in 1955 English teams have entered, albeit half-heartedly in the early years. The FA cup was seen as far more glorious than some Johnny Foreigner concoction.
Chelsea won the league in ’55 and believe it or not but the FA asked them not to play the European Cup.
Manu and the tinies reached semi-finals in the early years of the tournament, but did not appear to be that happy about it, United’s tragic air crash in Munich seemed to put off the appetite for the competition in Britain for a while.
Unfortunately Arsenal’s chances of entering were severely limited because of a domestic downturn in our footballing fortunes compared to the great years of the 30’s. Adolf and Benito had also decided to change the football landscape of Europe in the late 30’s and 40’s so I’ll skip that bit. United and even bloody Wolves (!) entered a few times each in the 50’s but didn’t have much luck, to say the least in United’s tragic case.
The 60’s Arsenal side were nowhere near European football. Arsenal’s big chance with the double twinning team in ’71-’72 was no disgrace. They reached the QF and got beaten by Ajax 2-1(a) and 0-1(h) but it was Ajax’s greatest ever team that beat us. No surprises Ajax went on to win the old big ears against an also superb Benfica.
Then we enter the weird era as I call it, this is when for some very strange reasons English teams were regular winners of this completion whilst being utterly pants as a national team. When the Cup seemed to be used as a prop to hold up the charity shield by English clubs in the late 70’s to 80’s again Arsenal’s domestic form was wanting and we couldn’t get in on the party. Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest are the only English side I consider really worthy of holding the European Cup with dignity during this time.
In ‘89 we were not allowed in. The bastards from Merseyside got everyone banned from European competitions so we will never know how good GG’s side could really have been. The behavior of some gooners in Copenhagen was less than gentlemanly too.
In ‘91 – ’92 it was UEFA’s new exploratory group stage format but we got knocked out by Sven-Goran Eriksson’s Benfica in extra time, despite Colin Pates scoring (?, no, me neither). Benfica had Rui Costa and a certain Stefan Schwartz who looked good at the time. Fergie pretty much owned the early years of the PL before the Champions League format was created but despite this Arsenal have managed to enter the completion 16 times, and even with winning 3 domestic titles under Wenger.
Now let’s look at the details of Wenger’s CL efforts.
The first 3 years when we played group stages in Wembley I will discount – this was a revenue generator to fund the new stadium and a tester to see if there really was demand for 60,000 plus capacity for more Arsenal supporters. In reality, Arsenal were very unfamiliar with the idea of group stage European football and it showed. Being homesick for the cup night atmosphere normally created at Highbury didn’t help either.
People look back now at the perceived weakness of the teams that Arsenal played in those groups and could think we should have rolled them over, but Hunter13 is right – Wenger has raised the bar of expectations at this club so far by now it is hard to look back and see how weak some of the players he inherited were (and I admit, some of the ones he initially bought).
From ’85 to ’04 no English teams were good enough to reach a final, with the singular pox-bottling exception of Sir* Bacon Face’s shower of nasties in ’99 who mugged-off Bayern. Following this era, when teams fitness levels, running pace and passing speeds hugely increased, (guessing a lot of drugs , anyone?) the CL basically turned into a round robin of English teams reaching the final plus the odd Barca, Milan, Madrid effort to win it and where it was perceived that throwing several hundred million euro at the club squad budget was the only way to win it, or in the English teams cases having a Foreign manager and needing to have the key, nay THE ESSENTIAL match wining players in the team being from continent Europe.
Many Gooners moan that Arsenal have had year after year of unlucky draws in this completion after the group stages. I am one of them. We have often come up against some of the the strongest teams in the completion at early stages and been knocked out by the eventual winner or runner up, even after Arsenal giving them a game far better than the team they meet in the final.
In the Early Wenger Era this is what transpired:
’99 & ’00 were learning experiences in the group stages and we ended up on a long detour into the UEFA Cup.
’01, we got beaten only on the away goals rule, in the QF by Rafa’s quality Valencia side who went on to the final and lost to Munich on penalties.
’02 Real Madrid beat Leverkusen and in ’03 Milan beat Juve
’02 & ’03 was the crazy second group stage idea, results against Deportivo done us on ’02 and then Valencia did the damage in ’03. (Thanks again Rafa). The decisive games leading up to the final that year were strongly dominated by the big Italian teams.
In the Pre-Paris era we saw a build-up of European momentum in the club:
’04 Porto beat Monaco. Maureen is let loose on the world.
’05 Liverpool beat Milan. The 3rd biggest fluke of all time. (See Manure vs. Munich ’99 for the 2nd).
The run in the Champions league from ‘03-‘04 to Paris in ’05-‘06 showed that Wenger was building from strength to strength in the competition.
Thanks to Wayne Bridge (seriously WTF?) we got knocked out at the QF in ’04 by the blues. The Chavs were done by Monaco and then Moe felt he was very special when Porto won the bloody thing, and not in a beautiful way. The Squid, our former useless CB was in this final on the loosing side.
’05 was Munich beating us in the first leg at their home which did the damage. However – if we got another goal in the last 24 minutes the Bavarians would have been out on the away goal rule. Chelsea beat them in 2 ridiculous games, and then Liverpool fluked their way to Istanbul.
I don’t need to tell anyone here how we got to Paris.
Since our last (yes, and so far only) CL final this results have happened:
Milan ’07 beat Liverpool. Arsenal lost against PSV in R16 because of a late winner. Liverpool Beat PSV. Everybody blames Denilson, but not Fabrigas. The Arsenal team were a shadow of the team from the Finals of the year before, serious rebuilding was afoot which was coming along very nicely until in February 2008 when Eduardo was murdered. Only slightly exaggerating there. Arsenal fucked-up but it was a season of such high hopes that fell apart for us. Mainly due to evil bastards.
United ’08 beat Chelski on their home turf. I am still bitter about the scally shoplifters mugging us in QF. Arsenal were done by Refs in both games with the shoplifters. Liverpool were found out later to be shite. The only pleasure in the final was seeing John Terry loose when he could have won, even if it meant watching Sir Bacon Face smug winning grin.
Barca ’09 beat Manu. Adebayor not picking up John O’Shea for a corner, then Ronaldo running the show in the second leg of the Semi Final. Arsenal had to rebuild yet another team.
Inter ’10 beat Bayern where they parked the bus in a truly horrendous display of negativity by Moe. Messi was unstoppable in the QF against us in Barcelona.
Barca ’11 beat United yet gain, Cesc and JvC did a lot to help Barca on their way but we had the beating of them and don’t let anyone tell you we didn’t. United were brushed aside quite easily in the final.
The 2012 final did not happen. Flukes like this can very occasional happen in a quantum random universe, but so can a unicorn come out of John Terry’s backside; Sideways. Wearing shin-pads. Arsenal had suffered some poor reffing in the San Siro. in R16. Milan were found out to be a weak team later on.
Bayern Munich ’13 beat Dortmund. I will argue that despite 15 minutes of poor concentration, at home in the first leg of R16, Arsenal had the measure of BM in Munich and Theo was clearly onside and going 1 to 1 with the their goalie when the offside flag was wrongly raised. (Arsenal have a tragic litany of wrong offside calls done against us over the years, mainly because we rely so much on quick counterattacks against high line defenses.) BvB shouldn’t have even been at the final at all but only for some horrendous officiating that sent Malaga home in the QF.
Now there are new, richer kids on the block, with owners who are desperate to glam-up their own despicable images with a bit of magic stardust from the top table of Europe’s most popular sporting contest, especially in an area of the mass media market with the thickest, most sycophantic and laziest journalism going.
Human right abusers, slave labour runners, national fraudsters, criminal pasts? – no problem if you buy a couple of super stars and a run down club with a big marketing potential.
*Yes, they actually gave him a knighthood for this statistical improbability of a result.