As the dust settles on what was truly unexpected news last week, we are now faced with the prospect of a semi-final game which holds much bigger importance than just a European title.
With the news that Arsene is leaving the search for a new manager is well and truly underway. In the same way, we hear players say they would only move to a team playing champions league football the same has to be said for managers. Now whilst the Premier League is a huge pull for any manager, the pull without the promise of Champions League football isn’t as great.
Therefore, the game against Atletico truly could define the future of Arsenal Football Club. By winning the Europa League and securing Champions League football next season, our ability to secure a top-class manager improves immeasurably. Lose to Atletico and the prospect of appointing one of the worlds best goes with it. We won’t be talking about Massimo Allegri or Diego Simeone but more likely Brendan Rodgers and Luis Enrique. The impact that would have on the club going forward scares me. We really do need someone of the highest calibre in charge and taking us forward, a manager below that level in my eyes just moves us further away from where we need to be.
It looks like a few players will return for the game following their absence against West Ham. Jack Wilshere has reportedly taken part in full training and should be in contention to play. Mesut Ozil who missed the game with flu is also likely to be back with the squad. Sadly, Wenger confirmed our fears that Henrikh Mkhitaryan will not be available for selection.
One thing is for sure, come Thursday we need to find a way of keeping a clean sheet. The thought of Antoine Griezmann running at Mustafi sends shivers down my spine. Clean sheet or not, we have to win and realistically win well. Atletico have always been a force at home and add to that the atmosphere Arsenal will be greeted with at the Estadio Metropolitano, the importance of a big home win is clear to see.
I would of much preferred to play Atletico in the final as I think over one game we can beat anyone on our day. Over two legs it will be a huge ask and the players are going to have to show a real winning mentality to see it over the line.
The rewards are huge, a place in the Europa League final and the chance to give Wenger a truly special send-off.
A very visible issue Arsenal have had recently is the attendance of games and the effect that has had on atmospheres. Don’t get me wrong the atmosphere is very rarely fever pitch at the Emirates but that won’t be the case come Thursday. Arsenal fans know how big this is, I expect the stadium will be full and more importantly full of fans there to support the team. For too long we have had fans turning up with a mindset of anger and frustration. That should have passed now, we know Wenger is leaving, the need for protesting and airing frustrations has passed. The time has come for Arsenal fans to turn up, get behind the team and play an important part in what could turn out to be our biggest game in two decades.
By Jay Ryan – follow Jay on twitter @Jay_ryan8