Is there such a thing as a non-game?

Have Arsenal ever gone into a second leg of any tie trailing by such a big margine? As far as I can remember tonight feels as about as pointless an event I can remember. It almost feels like both sides might as well not bother turning up.
But as we all know, the game still has to be played, and as long as that is the case football will continue to be the wonderfully unpredictable game that sets it apart from all other sports.
Importantly as well, Wenger has given the indication that his strongest team will play tonight, so it’s a proper game in that sense – not a run-out for some reserves.
I don’t wish to raise anyone’s hopes, and my feet are staying firmly on the ground I assure you – but how will the feeling that the game is basically a non-event affect both sides tonight? Psychology will play a big factor, perhaps more than usual; with everyone thinking the game is over, that feeling must creep into the minds of the Milan players. Of course they are a very good team and the players are professionals, but we’ve seen a better Milan side fall victim to one of the great Champions League fightbacks.
In 2004, Carlo Ancelotti’s holders beat Deportivo 4-1 at the San Siro but lost the second leg 4-0 and were knocked out. Obviously in the Champions League a 4-1 defeat away from home is very different from a 4-0 defeat that we experienced because of the way goals rule, but the situation is still similar; if Milan go into the game thinking they’re through, and we play with freedom because we think we’re out, and we get a couple of early goals, how easy would it be for the visitors to switch back on again? How easy would it be to avoid panic?
We have nothing to lose tonight, so we can play our natural attacking game. If we get a couple of goals, Milan will feel they need to start attacking to get an away goal to kill the tie, which would mean we can get them on the break, where we are arguably at our most dangerous.
This is obviously all a best-case scenario and it’s unlikely that, even if we do score, we will do so without reply. Milan will still have Ibrahimovic, Robinho and Boateng attacking our unreliable defence, and it would be foolish to write off that kind of talent even if their minds aren’t quite right.
Ultimately all we want tonight is a response from the team. If we make up for the pitiful performance in the first leg and really do our best to make it nervy for Milan, the fans will forgive the team. It’s a shame that a 3-0 win, however impressive, wouldn’t take us through, but that’s the price you pay for only showing up for one half of a two-legged tie.
Tonight will be interesting, that’s for sure. Let’s hope there’s also some pride left intact at the final whistle.

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