Real Madrid challenge is the psychological boost that Arsenal needed
In Highbury's final season the likes of Zidane, Ronaldo, Raul (injury permitting) and Carlos will finally pay a visit. It's a fitting farewell for the great stadium.
I have been waiting for this draw for the past seven years or so. For me, they are THE name in European football and I've always wanted to see Wenger test his superlative attacking team against the self-proclaimed Galacticos.
Vieira left a season to soon because he would love to be Captain of an Arsenal team going to the Bernabeu. And although it would be better to have him with us next February, we can still go there with confidence.
Ashley Cole should - hopefully!- have recovered from his foot injury and therefore Arsenal can finally field their most experienced defence of Lauren/Toure/Campbell/Cole. A strong, weak-link-free defence is something that Arsenal have badly missed so far this season.
The Henry/RVP partnership- injury permitting- would have had further match development. Henry has lacked a partner away on Europe for the past few seasons and this has been a key factor in allowing teams to pressure and dominate us; as we have been unable to construct consistent viable attacks that is the hall-mark of our game. RVP's presence should significantly aid Henry and the midfield possession game, with benefits for the whole team.
Hleb would also have had more match development and he can be our wild card. The Estadio Santiago Bernabeu (what a name!) has a big pitch, and I fancy it will suit the expansive, roving style of our Belarussian magician.
The team desperately needed something positive to focus on after a rocky start to this season, and it has been provided by yesterday's Champions League second round draw. I expect to see the mental edge in the team's performance rise in the next couple of months as the players prepare for the Madrid test- and therefore also see a return of the true Arsenal that everyone has been accustomed too in the past few years.
The excellent Wenger also deserves the privilege of taking his team to the great Bernabeu, and I'm sure he'll meticulously use the next two months to ensure Arsenal are at their best when it comes to big match-time.
Wenger will relish the prospect of the Real Madrid test. Defeating the NINE TIME winners of the European Cup/Champs League is the type of challenge that Wenger is in the game for. Moreover, it is much more do-able a test than visiting ultra-icy Munich in mid-February and taking on a feisty and well-rested Bayern team (expect them to roll-over the unfortunate Milan).
Crucially, the team will need to have increased their collective confidence before playing Madrid. So between now and then it would be great to have had a good run of wins and performances, the significant return of Cole to the defence (I wish he was available tomorrow!), and maybe a nice signing or two. These factors will create the maximum positive conditions for the 'A' game Arsenal to be on show at the Bernabeu come Tueday 21 February 2006, and then at Highbury on Wednesday 8 March 2006.
Defeating the Galacticos will be history-making for AFC… its an awesome prospect!