Tension

In the 2006 Champions League Final run, we defeated illustrious teams on our way.

A declining Real Madrid were defeated by a lone Thierry Henry strike, an individual goal worth it’s weight in gold. Next up was Juventus, a team not in decline, but easily mugged by our boys at Highbury. Robert Pires actually making a tackle against Patrick Vieira that led to a goal was the highlight in this tie.

Next was a fixture that everybody assumed would be a cakewalk, a Villarreal team led by Juan Roman Riquelme.

The first tie was a feisty affair, decided in our favor to a lone Kolo Toure strike. Going into the second leg, Wenger said all the right things. He stated that we weren’t going over there to defend, and that a right balance of attack needed to be found.

The truth was that we were bombarded by a Villarreal team that on the balance of play just about deserved a draw. A Clichy that was coming back from a long injury recover looked terribly out of form and conceded an incredibly soft penalty to Villarreal at the very end.

I remember watching the penalty kick sequence. The tension was unbelievable. But deep inside, I knew that Jens would save the penalty kick. For me, it was in the way the sequence was edited. It felt like a film, and I knew this film would have a happy ending. Later on, Wenger would say, “I knew that if Jens could save it, we would be in the final.”

When Jens did save it, I leapt for joy. A friend of mine grabbed me by both of my arms and began to jump up and down. I had heavy bruises from this the day after. He said, “the ref did everything to screw us.” Right, he was.

Tomorrow, we go to Roma in a similar situation. The mark of a young team is one that cannot defend a lead in crucial situations. You require maturity and experience to get through something of the sort.

People say this team is young, and that it is, but we do have the experience to get through. Wenger knows exactly how difficult a situation it is, but perhaps a slender lead will give us more focus. Surely, if we get through this leg, we have a decent shot at winning the Champions League with our key players all returning quite soon.

It will be rough, but tomorrow, a balance must be struck, between experience and youth, attack and defense, flair and composition, glory and a simple result.

It is, as Wenger calls it, “our defining moment.” I cannot wait for what this team will show us in the future, but bear in mind that the future had already started as soon as Wenger stepped into the marble halls at Highbury.

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