Sometimes you have to laugh at the way the soccer gods align the stars for Arsenal. Nearly one year to the day after an embarrassing exit in the round of 32 to Greek side Olympiakos, Arsenal scored a late winner to dispatch a scrappy Benfica side yesterday, narrowly avoiding another unceremoniously early exit and the unbelievable amounts of banter they would have undoubtedly (and deservedly) endured.
This morning, the soccer gods continued their mischievous ways, as Arsenal learned their Europa league round of 16 fate, drawing last season’s round of 32 opponent Olympiakos.
In the grand scheme, this is not a bad draw. Arsenal avoided the likes of AC Milan, Ajax, and Villareal. While Olympiakos aren’t exactly push-overs (see: last season), this is a prime opportunity for Mikel Arteta to show that he has learned from last season’s Europa League failure. On paper, Arsenal (once again) should have no reason to lose this tie. The performances of the defense and the midfield have been promising, but it will be up to the up-and-down attack to find their clinical ability early and often.
The difference between last season and this season have been distinct - in some ways good, in other ways bad. The season in general has been anything but predictable, but the only way for Arsenal and Arteta to show that they are headed in the right direction is to make amends for last year’s poor outing with a solid and convincing round of 16 performance. The nail-biting ending to the round of 32 was too close for comfort and a reminder that Arsenal still have a tremendous amount of work to do.
Other draws of note:
Manchester United vs AC Milan
Tottenham Hotspur vs Dinamo Zagreb