Sitting in the pub with Gooner friends, getting texts from others throughout the game, I couldn’t help but wonder if I was watching a different game to everyone else last night.
Reading one or two of the other sites early this morning, I really have to scratch my head and wonder whether my sight is failing me.
Yes, after a bright start, we got lost for much of the first half and clumsy defending left us a goal down at exactly the time when it was important not to concede.
Yes, Gael Clichy had a terrible first half and we were lucky his collision in the box with a Roma forward didn’t result in a potentially fatal penalty (which looked a dead cert on first viewing but less so on replays).
Yes, we hardly created a meaningful chance during the game, with Manu Eboue wasting a chance to pass to Nic Bendtner on a rare breakaway, Kolo Toure heading over late on and Eduardo failing to make any discernible impact.
Yes, if Julio Baptista was any sort of footballer, he would have sent us out with that gilt-edged chance after Francesco Totti’s flick .
Yes, we knocked out one of the weakest teams left in the Champions League and similar offensive performances over 90 minutes will not get us much further.
I’d like to think, though, that I’m not a myopic Gooner. I see the good and the bad even if I tend to veer towards giving us debateable decisions as all passionate fans tend to do.
But the criticism I heard from Gooners about us being shambolic, unimaginative or listless seems way off the mark.
The game I saw won’t be remembered for anything I’ve written above, in my mind.
The game I saw, after that tricky first half, was one where some of Arsène Wenger’s prodigies started to deliver, the game where his Gauls vanquished the Romans in their own ampitheatre.
It says much about Clichy that, right until the last five minutes of extra time, he continued to bomb forward and create all manner of problems for the Roma defence.
Abou Diaby gave the performance of his life, holding onto the ball, skipping past challenge after challenge and showing the endurance and energy which he has lacked so often during his injury-plagued Arsenal career.
Denilson seemed to do a passable impression of Gilberto Silva at his best, and I’m really beginning to think that, six months into from his first full season in the side, he is starting to become a real player for us. Just as long as he’s not partnered with Alex Song.
Even Bendtner, for all his mistakes, provided problems for Roma, with runs and movement that pulled the hosts’ shape apart.
And a special word for Samir Nasri, who was, quite frankly, immense. A few more performances like that and he is going to get a reputation as one hell of a great player
All that was missing was some end product.
I thought Wenger’s substitutions were perfect. Theo provided some legs late on when Roma tired and Eduardo’s arrival was at just the right time too, given the prospect of extra time.
Neither of them did a huge amount of damage to Roma, it’s true, but this is still very early days for them both.
By the time the second leg of the quarter-final comes around in a month, Cesc Fabregas should be back in action, and if fit, will act as the conductor we know he can be. Hey,we may even see Tomas Rosicky!
The players don’t have a lot of time to recover before Blackburn on Saturday and we need to build on the great momentum we’re now building.
As every Arsenal player stepped up to take his penalty kick last night, I wondered if they would rise to the challenge or crumble under the intensity of what was at stake.
That we are all smiling this morning proves to me that maybe, just maybe, things are starting to come together for Arsenal at just the right time.