It's been yet another tough week for Arsenal as they relinquished their hold on the FA Cup with a home defeat to Watford on Sunday. They still have the slightest chance of winning the league, but they would probably have to win all nine of their remaining games if that were to happen. That just leaves the Champions League and they go to Barcelona tomorrow night in an almost impossible position.
Barcelona haven't lost in almost 40 games in all competitions and they are the current holders of the Champions League as well as being the best club side in the world. They came to Arsenal a few weeks ago and left with a 2-0 win after two lapses in defence gave them the opportunities they wanted. Arsenal will have to go to Barcelona and match or better that result to progress and even the most optimistic of Arsenal fans surely cannot imagine that scenario.
For Arsenal to have any hope of doing that they will have to be at their very best and that's something we haven't seen in a long time. As the pressure has mounted over the last couple of months the players have struggled more and more with each game. Surely the pressure can't be on them in this game as there are no expectations and just maybe that will help them to play just a little bit better.
Barca are a fantastic team, but they are vulnerable on the break and from set pieces too. If Arsenal are to come out of this game with anything other than a bad memory they need to maximise their chances of taking advantage of Barca's weaknesses. For me that means playing attacking players with genuine pace who can take advantage of any break that might come our way.
The argument for Olivier Giroud says he is the player to hold the ball up and bring others into play, but I don't think that's what we need in this game. To be honest he's playing so badly at the moment that Arsene Wenger can't consider picking him. He might be the most likely man to get his head on the end of Mesut Ozil's set pieces, but Danny Welbeck has shown he can do that against United and Spurs.
If Giroud shouldn't play them Theo Walcott shouldn't either, but he does possess the pace to which Barca are vulnerable. I think Joel Campbell will get the nod on the right as he can put in the work needed and he's playing better than either Giroud or Walcott at the moment.
I suppose you could say Alexis Sanchez should sit this one out too if current form is anything to go by, but I can't see that happening. He does possess the genuine class that others don't but he has struggled awfully since his return from injury. The difference between the Alexis of this season and last season is immense and his form mirrors the struggles of the team.
As far as the rest of the team goes I think we have to set up as defensively as we can and I think Nacho Monreal and Hector Bellerin will come back in to the full back roles. We can only hope Laurent Koscielny is fit to return because the Per Mertesacker and Gabriel Paulista partnership certainly isn't working. Maybe it's time to give Calum Chambers a run in the centre of defence as he surely can't do much worse than Gabriel at the moment.
The chances of winning the league are almost gone and the final nail will be put in the coffin if Arsenal lose away to Everton on Saturday. The boss has to be aware of the amount of work the players will put in against Barca and the lack of rest time available to them before Saturday. There is no effort from the Premier League and the TV companies to be of any aid to English teams playing in the Champions League unlike just about every country in the competition.
I'm almost always optimistic when Arsenal play, but it's very hard to be optimistic at the moment. I know how much ability there is in the team and what these players can be capable of at their best, but I've rarely seen them further from their best. Things have to change at some time though and just maybe the right performance in this game will be the trigger to do just that.
See you tomorrow.