23 February 2023

Man U do Arsenal a massive Europa League favour!

Okay, so "massive" oversells it ever so slightly. A truly massive favour would have been to let the match go to extra time while also seeing at least one of Casemiro, de Gea or Fernandes getting a straight red and three-match ban for violent conduct (how Fernandes escaped a red card for blasting the ball straight in de Jong's gut as he went to ground is beyond me. Oh, right. Old Trafford. It's de Jong who escaped seeing red for rudely blocking the blast). At any rate, by knocking out Man U, those lucky devils eased our path into the quarterfinals ever so slightly. We can't draw Man U in the round of 16, of course, but there are still some tricksy ties on the offing.

Barca, despite being in the worst shape it's been in in recent memory, still hold a psychological hold over large swathes of our fandom and perhaps over some in our squad as well. They're still Barca despite the fact that their current manifestation are only a pale shadow of themselves. There's no Messi or Neymar or Suarez, and although the mystique and swagger still linger, much like the smell of a sweaty sock one finds in the back of the closet, that odour can still overpower. Well, I should have written "could have overpowered" because they've been bounced out. 

The fact that the second- and third-favored sides are now out of the way can only be a good thing for us. The only downside to today’s result is that the insufferable Antony scored the winner, meaning we’ll be subjected to days of “he’s better than Saka” claims. 

Scanning that list of potential opponents has to boost confidence in our ability to advance to the quarterfinals. I invite you to try out the quantum mechanics required to figure out who's the tougher opponent based on their place in their respective league. Are Sporting Lisbon, fourth in the Portuguese league, tougher than Juventus, seventh in Serie A? Have at it. I'm not a numbers guy. I'm barely a words-talking guy.

At some point, whomever we and Man U draw, there's slight, barely worth mentioning chance that UEFA might enjoy seeing a Man U-Arsenal final. Others, who peddle in baseless conspiracies and indulge bizarre notions, might even go so far as to suggest that UEFA might even engineer such a final to the best of their ability, using such underhanded tactics as rigging draws and encouraging referees to, um, give us and them certain "advantages" along the way. That's what I'm suggesting. I'm the "others" I just mentioned. I'm not saying they'll do it. I'm not saying that meeting Man U in the final would prove that they did it. I'm just insinuating that UEFA has a less-than-stellar reputation.

If we both draw minnows, we can enjoy the idea that the fix might just be in. All we'd have to do is make sure we go out and win against whoever it is we draw. At a risk of sounding overconfident, I like our chances. 

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