Last night Arsenal were defeated by Napoli in what was perhaps their worst performance of the season so far. It was an unfortunate position for Arsene Wenger to be put in. Going into the final game of the competition on 12 points should have been enough to be assured of qualification and in many cases top spot.
But thanks to the ineptitude of Marseille the ‘Group of Death’ was still wide open going into last night’s fixtures and Arsenal found themselves on the cusp of elimination - with Napoli one goal away from performing the feat.
But despite what the players themselves thought was a difficult defeat they are through to the knockout stage once again, but they do so as runners-up - despite what was a very impressive qualifying campaign.
Many say it doesn’t matter because you have to beat the best eventually anyway - to that I disagree.
PSG, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich and Barcelona or Schalke, Zenit St Petersburg, AC Milan, Bayer Leverkusen, Olympiakos and Galatasaray - it is a no brainer.
But as Arsene Wenger said after the game - it could have been worse. For those Arsenal fans brave enough to go through their haunted memory banks, cast your mind back 12 months to the day yesterday.
That’s right, Arsenal were sent crashing out of the Capital One Cup by Bradford City.
This was not your Arsene Wenger playing a load of kids type elimination either. The likes of Aaron Ramsey, Lukas Podolski and Per Mertesacker all played - as did Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs and Bacary Sagna. This was a team Arsenal would have fielded in the Premier League.
Yet a goal from Garry Thompson gave The Bantams the lead, and despite Thomas Vermaelen equalising in normal time, it was his penalty miss that sent Valley Parade into rapture.
A defeat to Napoli and a defeat to Bradford are barely comparable - but there is no doubt that the 11th December has not been great day for Arsenal over the past two years.
Next year that date is a Thursday night - so hopefully they will have a night off, or the curse may continue.
image: © wonker