Arsenal are so close to breaking through to that elite of elite tier that it hurts. Two weeks ago, a famous 2-1 victory over Barcalona in the Champions League Round of 16 first leg at the Emirates had the club and its worldwide fan base in a frenzy. But back down to earth we crashed back down after an away draw in the FA Cup against lower league side Leyton Orient, after a late, soft goal was conceded by Manuel Almunia, and then when an opportunity to grab the clubs first trophy in some five seasons came around, a defensive blunder between first year gunner Laurent Koscielny and 19 year old keeper Wojciech Szczesny allowed Birmingham City to grab a late winner in the Carling Cup Final.
As it would turn out, the fact that Leyton Orient forced a replay at the Emirates may have in fact aided in the recovery. A 5-0 trouncing at the Emirates seemingly helped steady the ship and took a bit of the sting out of the Carling Cup final loss.
Three days later, following Chelsea's defeat of league leaders Manchester United gave the Gunners a chance to close within 1 point of the Red Devils. A home match against Sunderland seemed a perfect opportunity to put real pressure on United. But a 0-0 draw meant that the Gunners would only close within 3 points.
Fast forward to today.
Tomorrow, Arsenal will take on Barcelona at the Camp Nou in the Champions League Round of 16 second leg. A win or draw will see Arsenal through to the quarterfinals and cement them as odds on favorites to make the finals. Should Arsenal manage a result vs Barcelona, the highs of that competition will have to be held in check, as four days after Barca match, Arsenal go to Old Trafford for a FA Cup quarterfinal match-up against Manchester United.
Talk about a statement week, potentially beating arguably the best team in the world in Barcelona, and then potentially beating EPL league leaders Manchester United, both away from the relative safety of the Emirates.
A riding high Gunner squad then faces a trap game in the Premiership, as seven days after that FA Cup match at Man U, Arsenal face a West Bromwich Albion squad which has already beaten the Gunners in a 3-2 travesty at home. With a game now in hand on Manchester United, following United's 3-1 loss against a resurgent Liverpool squad yesterday, the Gunners, within the next eight days can: toss Barca out of the Champions League and march into the quarterfinals, oust Manchester United from the FA Cup and move on to the semi-finals, and defeat WBA to draw even with Manchester United in the EPL.
Eight days will make or break Arsenal, how Arsene Wenger's squad responds to the pressure will likely mean the difference between another trophy-less season and a season of potential glory.