A nice place to visit but...
When Arsene Wenger decided the time was right to part company with captain Patrick Vieira last summer, he could hardly have realised that he was plunging his club into crisis.
Wenger's committed belief that the young players he had at Arsenal could fill the considerable boots of Vieira has proved to be flawed, and while his record of never failing to finish in the top two of the Premiership is an extraordinary one, it would take something akin to a miracle for him to repeat that effort this time around. It means his only salvation can come in the Champions League; so how unfortunate that a revived Real Madrid stand in his way of a place in the quarter-finals.
It's not often that the straight talking Arsenal boss waxes lyrical about an opponent on the eve of a major showdown, yet as he builds towards his date with destiny at the Santiago Bernabeu, the Frenchman has revealed his admiration for Real Madrid dates back to his childhood.
When he talks about watching the Madrid giants lifting the European Cup five times in succession, a bolt of excitement runs through his voice which suggests he is more than a little captivated by the world's biggest club, but Arsenal fans need not fear their most successful manager ever is posting a job application with the Spanish giants.
In fact, as Wenger prepares to take his shell-shocked and depleted Arsenal to Madrid on Tuesday night, his insistence that he would never consider taking the job of coach at the Bernabeu rings loud and clear.
'Real Madrid were the team I used to look at when I was a young boy and watching them win the European Cup time and time again was incredible,' he begins. 'They have a history and tradition no other club in the game can match and you can only be impressed by their stature.
'Despite that, I would not consider moving there to become their manager. The job wouldn't appeal to me. I do not want to sound disrespectful, but I'm very happy at Arsenal and the control I have here is something I would never have at somewhere like Real Madrid.
'It's very nice for their President to say he would like me to come to Madrid, but my seat has had glue on it here for some time to come. The project I am working on at Arsenal is very challenging and I will not walk away from it yet, whatever offers come in.
'It's very hard for me to imagine being anywhere other than Arsenal. I love this club and that will never change, but I honestly don't know how much longer I will go on in management. I said a manager has a shelf life of 20 years and I have been in this job for longer than that now, so maybe I'm past it already!'
Wenger suggests the coaching merry-go-round at Real Madrid is the primary reason behind their failings of late. Convinced that longevity in a job is the key for any manager, the Frenchman suggests the constant changes at the Bernabeu have had a detrimental effect on their ambitions.
'Real Madrid have spent a lot of money in recent years, but the success has not been there,' he continues. 'It leads you to believe that something must be wrong. Maybe the coaches are not the problem and it is somewhere higher you need to look at.
'They have some of the best players in the world and the challenge of managing them would be fantastic for any coach, but you have to look at the whole picture and, overall, I don't think it is a job I would enjoy.
'Any coach needs time to put his personality and his beliefs in place. If you feel you are one or two games from the sack every week, it leaves you in a difficult position. The decisions you make would be affected by the pressure you are under and I could not work like that.'
As if squaring up to Zidane, Beckham, Robinho and Ronaldo wasn't bad enough, the fact that the first leg of this fascinating clash between the former kings of Spain and England will take place in Madrid is another blow to Wenger. After all, Arsenal's biggest failing this season has come away from their soon to be defunct Highbury home and their respected coach accepts their performances on the road have left more than a little to be desired.
'It has become a psychological thing now,' he accepts. 'At home, you can see the players expressing themselves and feeling confident in their abilities. Then in away games, the belief is not there, but I'm sure it can come back. One result can make the difference and maybe that will come in Madrid.
'They have great players and everywhere you look on the field is a guy who can do some damage. Still, I believe in the spirit and commitment of my players and if they do their best, we can win this tie. Not many people will expect us to come through, but I expect us to do it.
'Maybe this could be the season for us in the Champions League. Liverpool pulled off a big surprise by winning this competition when no one expected it last season and it is very much a cup competition at this stage, which suits us. Our record in the domestic cup games is excellent, so maybe we can be the surprise team this season.
'Everything has turned around from my time at Monaco. Back then, they said I was the guy who could bring success in Europe but not the French league and now in England, it is the other way. I cannot explain why we have not achieved as much as we would like in this competition over the years, but look at our UEFA ranking and it tells you that we have not done too bad. We are one of the top seeds and we have to try and retain that position.'
A lengthy Champions League run may just convince Thierry Henry to commit his future to Arsenal, yet the word on the football grapevine suggests the talismanic Highbury skipper is Barcelona-bound next season. Ever the diplomat, Wenger insists the fact that his star turn hasn't put pen to paper on a new contract yet is not a major worry.
'I don't know whether Champions League success is required to convince Thierry to stay,' he adds. 'All I know is he loves this club and everything is set up for him here. For Thierry to win this competition with Arsenal would mean more to him than to do it with another club, that's for sure. I'm convinced he will still be here next season.'
A resounding Real Madrid win on Tuesday night may have the bizarre knock-on effect of pushing Thierry Henry a giant step closer to joining their fierce rivals at Barcelona. For that reason, this has become one of the most significant games of Arsene Wenger's decade in charge at Arsenal.