Following Arsenal’s exit from the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday to Monaco on away goals, after the sides were level at 3-3 on aggregate, guess what?
Gunners boss Arsene Wenger is sick and tired of the rule and wants it to change.
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In two of the last three seasons Arsenal have been knocked out of the UCL at the last 16 stage on away goals, as valiant second leg displays has seen the Premier League outfit come up just short following abysmal first leg displays.
Wenger wants the rule eradicated.
“Two English teams have gone out on away goals. That I think should be questioned because it is a rule that is outdated now,” Wenger said. “That has to be changed and I fight for that for a long time. Look it should count maybe after extra-time because this rule has been created in the 60’s to favour teams who attack away from home. But since then football has changed and with this rule the weight of the away goal is too big today.”
Has he got a point? Or is this a predictable complaint from a manager who saw his side one goal away from reaching the UCL quarterfinals?
A bit of both is probably the right answer.
The away goals rule is something which keeps games tense and exciting, plus if you are playing away in the first leg you can focus on getting one goal and then shutting up shop. Hence why the higher seeds in the UCL knockout stages always play away from home first as it is seen as an advantage and Wenger is right, it is a huge advantage.
For a minute, let’s liken the UCL knockout stages to the NHL playoffs… Stay with me. What if the Pittsburgh Penguins win 4-3 away at the New York Rangers and lost 3-2 at home with the teams level on aggregate but the Penguins getting the edge on away goals? I know the NHL works differently with playoff series’ being best out of seven, but let’s consider if fans of hockey or other American sports, or any other sport in the world, would be okay with a ridiculous weight being put on away goals or points scored. I don’t think many would be in favor of that.
It is true, however, that the away goals rule works both ways. Would Wenger be complaining about it if Arsenal had lost 2-0 at home but won 3-1 away in Monaco and went through on the away goals rule? Probably not.
That said, perhaps the away goals rule could be shifted into only counting after extra time, which Wenger suggested, as we have seen that work in the League Cup in England. Just a thought.