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Home at last?

Keep that wax in your ears, boys…

Home, what is it that drives us home? What drives us on at home? And when home is away from home, how can we cope? Putatively “at home” for Thursday evening’s tussle with a gritty S.L. Benfica side, we must make our Homerian trek across the sea to Athens’ Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis. Now, if we have to be away (but at home), it seems to be fitting it happens in this time of Covid. Isn’t that how we’re all vacationing right now, in any case? But will we find our hosts evincing xenia, fulfilling their moral obligation by supporting an Arsenal victory? If so, we therefore must fulfill our obligation, and play football with a depth of beauty unseen in Athens since Griechenland FC plied their trade.

We sail on this odyssey along the winds of a slim away-goals advantage, having ridden the tide of our young hero Saka’s second half equalizer. It’s a narrow gap we hope to thread, between the Charybdian whirlpool of Benfica’s defense and the Scyllian monster of our own folly. As a team again we must find our inner Odysseus, and remain tied to the mast to resist that Sirenian temptation to give up a goal; and yet we must retain enough strength to string our bow and score…for the prize is another step forward on our remaining path into Europe next season (which is greater than any other prize for our club, with apologies to Penelope).

Benfica come to “the home of Arsenal” with a full squad, carrying no injuries or suspensions they didn’t bring with them to their home away from home in Rome. BT8’s excellent preview of the game last week is available for who they have and who play where. As we saw in Rome they are a relatively strong defensive side, capable of playing us offside or clearing our forays over the top. However, their lack of offensive production was highlighted by the penalty they scored against us. If we can avoid such errors our defense should be enough to keep them from the Thrinacia of our goal.

With Capitola Rob missing the game due to “the concussion Jon Moss didn’t see”, our options in central defense are less replete; our midfield options might be augmented by the return to the Partey of Thomas, but it would take Tiresias himself to say if the Partey will start before the lineups are announced. Given the rest of our squad is running a bit ragged, or on the ragged edge, I expect our helmsman to crew his galley as follows:


Bellerin — Luiz — Gabriel — Cedric

Xhaka — Ceballos

Saka — Ødegaard — Pépé


Lacazette is due to start, and after Auba’s tired-looking game against the $heiks this past Monday I think he should watch from the bench as his friend leads the line. ESR is due for a rest, and given the intensity Ødegaard is used to (NOT that presented by the selfsame $heiks) this seems to be a game tailor-made for him to fill the central creative role. I could see Martinelli on the left rather than Pépé; the latter’s nondescript game against the Oilers might force the former to be on the pitch.

The Holics Pound

As we’re doing a “purdie” shuffle off to Athens, and the travel comes on the heels of a game every three or so days in the last couple weeks, I hesitate to think that Phaeacian riches will be our reward, regardless of the scoreline. An old-fashioned 1-0 to the Arsenal will be just fine, and that can be found for 7s; a 3-0 win is on for 14/1, but the good money again might be at 4-0, which would double that return. Put a fiver on the latter and you can buy many a bottle of smooth retsina…

110 Drinks to “Home at last?”

  1. 1
    Potsticker says:

    Thanks for the epic preview, scruz!

  2. 2
    bt8 says:

    Cheers, scruz. I’ll read and comment later but just missed posting this in the previous drinks so will try again here.

    Bath, I enjoyed yours at 55. I looked up the distance between Clarksdale, Mississippi (the location of the crossroads Clapton is singing about in this Robert Johnson original tune) and Rosedale, Mississippi the destination where the hitchhiker wants to go, and for what it’s worth here is what I found out:

    43 min (38.8 mi)
    via US-278 W/US-61 S and MS-1 S

  3. 3
    bt8 says:

    Epic’s the word. A nonstop flight to Athens could make our journey a bit smoother than Homer’s one would think, but it’s what we do once we get there that will count.

  4. 4
    North Bank Ned says:

    A classic, Scruz.

  5. 5
    Osakamatt says:

    An olympic gold medal for you scruz for a fine preview.
    Storming start, 3-0 up after 20 minutes and then
    cruise home to a 5-1 win.

  6. 6
    ClockEndRider says:

    Maintaining the classical metaphor, after last weeks performance I’m in need of a Pythian prophesy on the outcome of tonight. Hopefully the wooden walls of our defence don’t succumb to the vagaries of poor penalty decisions, and our attack doesn’t founder on the Clashing Rocks of their offside trap. Know Thyself , Gunners, and we shall be rewarded with the Golden Apple of a two leg trip to other exotic lands.
    Enough already. COYG.

  7. 7
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Fantastic stuff Scruz!

    I’m a sucker for classical allusions. It is my Achilles heel.

  8. 8
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Scruz. I am wondering if you missed a trick not mentioning our right back? A bloke called Hector in our side seems tailor made for this piece!

  9. 9
    Uplympian says:

    An epic preview Scruz.
    Whoever plays up front they need their shooting boots on as our Phoenician has been sorely lacking of late! A close fought 1-0 will be enough – COYR.

  10. 10
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Unbelievably, England are on the charge in the cricket!

  11. 11
    bathgooner says:

    Masterful, scruz. Simply masterful. Respect. Dave is up there chuckling.

    Θα πρέπει να έχετε μια καταιγίδα κυτοκινών κάθε φορά που γράφετε!

  12. 12
    Noosa Gooner says:

    The Dan and retsina together in one post gets my vote. Top stuff.

  13. 13
    bathgooner says:

    As to the starting eleven for this must win match, the back four and holding midfield is pretty intuitive but I would definitely choose ESR over Ødegaard and probably start Aubameyang over Pépé though that is a fine call given the relative poverty of the contribution of each on their last outing. I’d also have a low threshold for giving Saka a break if at all possible early in the second half.

  14. 14
    TTG says:

    Literally a classic preview Scruz which rapidly advanced past my limited mythological recollection . It’s a weird competition when the Scum can play at home but their opposition have to move from Austria to Budapest . It makes it a lottery.
    Football is full of irony and Arsenal is full of hypocritical fans who slaughtered Auba last week. According to them he is a busted flush. I think he will come good tonight. We have to do a lot wrong to lose to a limited team but we must play much quicker to defeat the offside trap. I’d use ESR because of his movement but whoever we pick we have to be good enough to beat this lot

  15. 15
    North Bank Ned says:

    I just hope we don’t come Acropolis in Athens tonight.

    I’ll get my cloak…

  16. 16
    North Bank Ned says:

    If you want to feel a bit more commoditised, this article explains how AC Milan is turning itself into a media business. A lot of it will seem familiar.

    ‘We need to see ourselves as a media business’: AC Milan’s endgame for content

  17. 17
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Excellent preview Scruz!

    “Well the danger on the rocks is surely past/Still I remain tied to the mast” — That’s what Odysseus must have told Telemachus in their reunion following Athena’s urging. And I guess something along the lines of what Arsène says to Mikel in their phone calls…

    I think ESR probably will start this match. Ødegaard may get a break as he started the last three…Saka is so important and in such good form he won’t be rested for this but I hope he is not pushed beyond what is reasonable for a 19 year old. We have been down that road before…Partey I think has also traveled.

    A high-flying start and an early Arsenal goal will be best as then we can simply keep possession while maintaining a secure shape and rely on counter-attacks.

    Come on Arsenal!

  18. 18
    Esso says:

    Leno, Bellerin, Luiz, Gabriel, Tierney, Ceballos, Xhaka, Odegaard, Smith Rowe, Saka, Aubameyang

    Subs: Ryan, Hein, Cedric, Chambers, Mari, Elneny, Partey, Pepe, Willian, Nketiah, Lacazette, Martinelli

    Message #match-chat

  19. 19
    Esso says:

    and Cheers Scruz!

  20. 20
    Esso says:

    @GSD 10

    Yes it was unbelievable was it not?

  21. 21
    Countryman100 says:

    That was an outstanding preview Scruz, congratulations.

    So he’s really gone for it, with the only caution being Partey. Bring it on!

  22. 22
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Esso. It didn’t last though mate! 😬

  23. 23
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    As long as they don’t look as leggy as they did against City we will be fine. We are a better outfit than Benfica. We just have to do things we have not always done well in recent years… play our game, take our chances and handle the occasion.

    Us to win by two.


  24. 24
    Osakamatt says:

    Gone for it with the team selection
    and that XI should be too good for
    Benfica – COYGS!!

  25. 25
    North Bank Ned says:

    Team selection is a statement of intent by Arteta. Hopefully, we will be out of sight in time to rest some legs in the second half.

  26. 26
    bt8 says:

    uefa.com’s Benfica reporter sez “Benfica go with three central defenders as part of a 3-5-2 system tonight. Wing backs Grimaldo and Diogo Gonçalves were both on duty in last week’s first leg, and I expect them to attack more than they did in Rome, when it was more of a 5-3-2 set-up from Benfica.“

  27. 27
    North Bank Ned says:

    I am not sure I like these two-day Test matches.

  28. 28
    North Bank Ned says:

    bt8@26: I think Benfica started the first leg with a 3-5-2 set up. The wing-backs drop back to create a 5-3-2 when the team is out of possession, which was 60% of the Rome game. It will be important for Bellerin and Tierney to keep Grimaldo and Gonclaves pinned back to blunt their attacking threat.

  29. 29
    ksn says:

    Another fine preview, Scruzgooner. Two changes from your team, Pepe and Cedric missing out and ESR and KT taking their place. We have a really attacking side and I hope they take their chances. COYG.

  30. 30
    ksn says:


  31. 31
    bathgooner says:


  32. 32
    Osakamatt says:

    Great weight on the pass from
    Saka, timing and finish perfect
    from Auba 🥳

  33. 33
    Osakamatt says:

    I was just thinking we’d started
    too slowly and we scored

  34. 34
    bt8 says:

    So far so good. Stay switched on Arsenal

  35. 35
    Osakamatt says:

    yeah, I’d love to nick another
    before half time

  36. 36
    ksn says:

    Benefica equalise with a great free kick. 1-1.

  37. 37
    Osakamatt says:

    instead they get one just before
    half time, bugger

  38. 38
    ksn says:

    The goal is a tonic for Benefica who are attacking more now. We need a goal but Benefica have the advantage of an away goal.

  39. 39
    Osakamatt says:

    their goal is going to make it a
    tricky 2nd half now. I hope we
    can come out strongly start of
    the 2nd half

  40. 40
    Steve T says:

    Frustrating half. We have dominated the game but only mustered 2 shots on target. Benfica have not had a look in. Then we give away a silly free kick and all of a sudden we are level.

    Benfica are not a great side. Two silly errors of judgment over a game and a half of football and we are down to the final 45 minutes of a game where it’s now imperative that we don’t concede again.

    Time to dominate and be far more clinical. Time to manage the game.

  41. 41
    bt8 says:

    Great free kick but a bad place on the pitch to give one away. Tactics and commitment spot on though. More of the same and we should win it but we need to come out strong in the second half.

  42. 42
  43. 43
    ksn says:

    Great goal by Auba ruled out for offside. Excellent pass by Odegaard.

  44. 44
    ksn says:

    Terrible match for Ceballos whose dreadful back header was poached by the Benefica forward who scored. We are not street smart.
    Who comes on but Willian for ESR and Partey on for Ceballos.

  45. 45
    Steve T says:

    We’ve just re-written the definition of the word shambles

  46. 46
    Osakamatt says:

    two to get, 25 minutes to do it
    certainly doable COYGS!

  47. 47
    ksn says:


  48. 48
    ksn says:

    We need another.

  49. 49
    Osakamatt says:

    there’s one!
    get in KT, good from Willian

  50. 50
    Steve T says:

    A Willian assist? Our name is on the trophy. Clearly.

  51. 51
    Osakamatt says:

    living dangerously with careless
    defending by both CBs

  52. 52
    Steve T says:

    Last 10 my nurse and still only had 4 shots on target.

  53. 53
    ksn says:

    We can’t get the ball off them.

  54. 54
    Steve T says:

    We desperately need someone with some composure.

  55. 55
    ksn says:

    Was Auba offside? VAR gives it!!!!! 3-2.

  56. 56
    bt8 says:

    You mean they aren’t going to take that away?🥸

  57. 57
    ksn says:

    Another great assist by Saka.
    Chambers and Elneny coming on for Saka and Odegaard.

  58. 58
    Steve T says:


    We never make it easy for ourselves.

  59. 59
    ksn says:

    They hit the post off an offside position.
    We have done it. Yeah.

  60. 60
    Esso says:

    Thank fuck for that.

  61. 61
    ksn says:

    We showed character and kept fighting. Except Ceballos everyone had a decent outing but Saka, Auba, Odegaard, KT and Luiz played really well. Partey made a difference when he came on.

  62. 62
    Osakamatt says:

    heart still pumping? yes
    possible ulcer? yes
    through? yes 👏👏👏

  63. 63
    Steve T says:

    Yet again, one of the youngest players on the pitch shows the most skill and most composure.

    Great result although we can’t make it that tough every week. We need to enjoy the win, but also use this as a big learning curve.

    Onwards and upwards

  64. 64
    ksn says:

    Bt8, aren’t you watching?

  65. 65
    BtM says:

    Good win. Spirited display. Much to like there. Partey’s arrival made a difference.

  66. 66
    bt8 says:

    KT. 💐💐💐
    Saka. 💐💐💐💐

  67. 67
    bt8 says:

    Can’t quite believe it, KSB. Cheers!

  68. 68
    bt8 says:

    KSB = ksn

    Why do we make it so hard on ourselves?

    In any case I think Elneny may have moved up one spot in the pecking order.

  69. 69
    bt8 says:

    The next round draw is tomorrow. Theoretically, based on what I see here, we could face Sp@@s or 14 other clubs.


  70. 70
    North Bank Ned says:

    Auba, and maybe VAR, to the rescue. We looked knackered in the final 15 minutes, though. Benfica were tactically smart, and we were running scared of their off-side trap all game — or rather, not running, just scared. Benfica are a decent side and made the most of the two chances we gave them, but no more than that. Plenty of better teams left in the competition. We are going to have to up our game if we are to win it.

  71. 71
    scruzgooner says:

    well, the danger on the rocks is surely there.

    god, what a game. the perils of odysseus indeed.

    thanks all for the compliments. it was fun to write. ksn@29, well nailed.

    we need these ugly wins as much as we have to suffer those pretty losses. i’ll take the former every time. though hopefully we’ve emptied our gift bag…

  72. 72
    scruzgooner says:

    gsd@8, i was trying to focus on homer’s later tales. 🙂

  73. 73
    Esso says:

    Cheers again Scruz! Great preview – great result!

  74. 74
    scruzgooner says:

    baff@11, Οι κυτοκίνες είναι μια μεθυστική παρασκευή, δεν είναι σίγουρη αν είναι νέκταρ των θεών …

  75. 75
    scruzgooner says:

    thanks, esso! glad to see you out and about 🙂

  76. 76
    North Bank Ned says:

    At this point, the bookies have Man U (10/3) and Spurs (9/2) at ridiculously short odds to win the EL. We are third joint favourites with Ajax at 10/1, followed by AC Milan at 12/1 and Leicester and Vlllareal at 14/1. All better sides than Benfica by a long chalk.

  77. 77
    Esso says:

    Got a bit tense but enjoyed it mate!

  78. 78
    scruzgooner says:

    noosa@12 thanks, it’s my favorite dan song, and with us going “home” to greece i couldn’t help but get creative. 🙂 there’s a rather big easter egg in the final paragraph, too…

  79. 79
    scruzgooner says:

    esso, i look on the even brighter side. i found 43¢ and a book i’d lost while behind the couch…

  80. 80
    North Bank Ned says:

    What other football blog is so erudite that you need both a Greek dictionary and a copy of William Smith’s Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology to get through it? This is truly an educational establishment. Every time, you come here, you say, that’ll teach me!

  81. 81
    North Bank Ned says:

    Scruz@68: Is this the Easter Egg?

  82. 82
    scruzgooner says:

    ned@81, indeed. or at least, it contains the same “egg” as it were.

  83. 83
    North Bank Ned says:

    So not this sort of shuffling, scruz:

  84. 84
    bathgooner says:

    scruz @74, Χε!

  85. 85
    scruzgooner says:

    ned@83, indeed not…lol

  86. 86
    bathgooner says:

    That game encapsulates the concept of the ‘get out of jail card’. I think it has shortened my life. I need to lie down now.

  87. 87
    scruzgooner says:

    baff@84, ευχαριστώ θεό για τη μηχανική μετάφραση …

  88. 88
    bathgooner says:

    Αληθώς 😎

  89. 89
    bt8 says:

    If we hadn’t gifted them three goals in the tie it stands to reason we might have won more easily. Then there’s our disallowed goal.

  90. 90
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    bt8 @89.

    Now that would have been no fun at all 😋

  91. 91
    bathgooner says:

  92. 92
    scruzgooner says:

    great song, baff@91, but no easter egg…

  93. 93
    bathgooner says:

    I wsn’t aiming for the easter egg, I was referring to our team tonight.

    But, if I must:

  94. 94
    bathgooner says:

    And just to re-inforce the message, this cool piece of drumming:

  95. 95
    scruzgooner says:

    yes. but still no one has commented on the griechland fc team that played so beautifully…

  96. 96
    Osakamatt says:

    wondered what greichenland fc was
    about but no idea about Steely Dan
    so not likely to be any the wiser unless
    you tell me scruz 😉
    they have some connection to Germany?

  97. 97
    North Bank Ned says:

    The German for Greece is Griechenland. And Greece won the Euros in Portugal beating Portugal in the Final in Lisbon, which is where Benefica come from

    These drinks are turning into a cross between a language lesson and Round Britain Quiz…

  98. 98
    North Bank Ned says:

    But we must be on for a ton.

    Gabrielesque thump over the top to…

  99. 99
    Osakamatt says:

    Now that I’ve had a few hours kip
    to settle the nerves I can say that
    was a good one to win. We owed
    Benfica a sip from the bitter jug.
    Pleased for the team who showed
    some guts and for Mikel who got it
    right and even for Willian who also
    got something right. I expect the
    knives would’ve been out if we’d lost
    that one so I’m pleased for me too
    as I won’t have to read a load of old
    bollocks 😉

  100. 100
    Osakamatt says:

    Oh, an inadvertent assist for….

  101. 101
    Osakamatt says:

    Me!!! To take the plaudits😄

  102. 102
    scruzgooner says:

    look at th video linked at griechenland in the first paragraph…circles back to the post…

  103. 103
    scruzgooner says:

    and “home at last” is steely dan’s homage to the odyssean journey.

  104. 104
    bt8 says:

    Well in O’Saka. That game deserves an extra slice of sushi.

  105. 105
    North Bank Ned says:

    Philosophers football! Another classic. Socrates’s header for the winner very similar to Auba’s winner today.

  106. 106
    North Bank Ned says:

    Well worked ton, OM. As tricky as anything TTG could have pulled off.

  107. 107
    Osakamatt says:

    Thanks Ned.
    As a reward I want a team that
    we can actually play at home in
    the next round.
    Still, at least we’re coming home
    with a morale booster of a win
    and Leicester will be on a downer
    of a home defeat

  108. 108
    Uplympian says:

    Morning everyone – is it safe to come out from behind the sofa now 😉
    Despite our best efforts to contrive to lose, we overcame adiversity and snatched a victory from the jaws of defeat ( for a change ). Full credit to the team to not drop their heads and keep going right to the end.
    There will be some interesting draws coming out of the hat later today in Nyon, let’s hope we avoid the neighbours and other British teams.
    Well in for the ton OM though it appears self assists are becoming the norm of late – standards are dropping everywhere nowadays 🙂

  109. 109
    bathgooner says:

    Ah, but scruz @102, whereof the easter egg?

  110. 110
    Bathgooner says: