14 Years Ago Today: Arsenal 2, Juventus 0

As the world around us is falling apart, I thought I would try and take our minds off it all for a moment and relive some of the great Arsenal games of the past.

14 years ago today, on March 29th 2006, Arsenal hosted a Juventus side including none other that our illustrious former captain, Patrick Vieira. Vieira had left the previous summer, after clinching a dramatic FA Cup win over arch rivals Manchester United with the crucial penalty that won us the trophy. 10 months later he was back at Highbury, but this time facing his old Arsenal teammates.

In midfield was a young man by the name of Cesc Fabregas.

The young Spaniard had been thrust into the first team following the departure of our captain, and the signs were there this boy was the real deal. We still had attacking forces such as Thierry Henry, Robert Pires, Freddie Ljungberg and the late Jose Antonio Reyes banging in the goals, and Campbell and Toure marshalling the defence.

But this game would also be remembered for the heroic performances of Emmanuel Eboue, Philippe Senderos and Mathieu Flamini who were inexperienced and still very young players.

Below is the original match report and player ratings of that historic evening:

By The Time People Take Us Seriously It Will Be Far Too Late…

Times Change Patrick…

Arsenal in Europe have been simply immaculate. Partly this is because no-one gives us a chance, and then when we get a fanastic result we don’t get the credit we deserve. It might be annoying now but it can actually work in our favour…

Before the huge matches against Real Madrid, we were favourites to go out. Real were on an awesome run in the league and were scoring for fun. Robinho, Beckham, Zidane, Guti et al were all in great form and they were pitched against a side that couldn’t win back-to-back league fixtures against midtable opposition, couldn’t win or score away and had major injury problems.

So how were Arsenal going to fare in the Bernabeu, the place no English side has ever won before?

We pulled off a great team performance and left with a 1-0 win – and we should have had more. Even in the 2nd leg against Real Reyes was guilt of missing several guilt-edged chances and we had the clearer opportunities. Still, we progressed after defeating one of Europe’s superpowers.

Then to the tie against Juventus.

As you will have heard from almost everywhere, they are 8 points clear in Serie A with 7 games remaining, and cruising a league which includes a great team like AC Milan.

And Arsenal are 6th in the Premiership.

But Arsenal dominated the entire game against the old lady, who supposedly had our best player of recent times – Patrick Vieira – at their disposal.

But football is a team game – and as we have shown against Real we play together to devastating effect.

Across Europe, teams think that we are just a one man team with Henry. They don’t realise how efficient and effective the rest of the team are. Players like Hleb, Reyes, Fabregas and Pires will make those runs that create holes in any defense.

Juventus were surprised at Arsenal’s approach, and from the first minute could not cope with the pace of the game. Arsenal have a team full of young, hungry, determined and energetic players. While the Juventus team are full of experienced players who have won the World Cup, European Championships and countless domestic titles.

That is the difference.

Arsenal wanted it more last night, and you can talk about the absence of Pavel Nedved and Del Piero, but they wouldn’t had made a difference. Anyway, we had Ashley Cole, Sol Campbell, Lauren, Ljungberg and loads of others out.

We had Flamini our 8th left-back this season in the 1st eleven! But to be fair, the young Frenchman has been brilliant every game he has played, and as stupid as this sounds I wouldn’t be bothered if Wenger got £15 million for Cashley and kept Flamini at left-back!

He has hunger, pace, determination and has proven himself in the Premiership, as well as against Real Madrid and Juventus.

He’s been a fantastic player for us.

Anyway, here’s my player ratings for the match last night…

Jens Lehmann: 7/10
Nothing to do except intercept a couple of crosses midway through the second half. But did well when called upon, which was hardly ever because of the solid defensive unit.

Emmanuel Eboue: 7/10
Did well again, and it’s hard to believe the kid only made his Premiership debut 6 weeks ago! I think Lauren is a really good player but I can’t see him getting back into the side the way the young Ivory Coast international is playing. As usual, made great forward runs and had Mutu in his back pocket.

Kolo Toure: 9/10
Exceptional. The tricky Ibrahimovic managed to get the ball on several occasions but Toure made some awesome tackles. A real captain’s performance.

Philippe Senderos: 8/10
His partnership with Toure just keeps getting better and better and so much so that I’m not bothered if Sol Campbell ever returns. So hungry against last night and he even chased a few lost balls all the way to Buffon in the first half. Threw himself at everything and made Trezeguet look like pedestrian.

Mathieu Flamini: 8/10
Is this guy a left-back? So assured again you don’t want this guy to be on the bench when Cole returns. Made those attacking runs to support Reyes and they work well together on the left. Camoranesi look frustrated all game which ended in a cynical red card.

Alexander Hleb: 7/10
Struggled against Zambrotta in the first half but picked up his game into the second. Never really captured his form against Real or Charlton but played some nice passes, including the beautifully weighted ball for Fabregas to assist Henry’s goal.

Gilberto Silva: 8/10
Covered well to give Fabregas and Pires attacking freedom, and helped out the back four superbly. A couple of mislayed passes now and then but he’s there to keep Juventus quiet, and Vieira and Emerson didn’t get a sniff.

Francesc Fabregas: 9/10
Made Vieira look small. The pre-match hype was all about Vieira and he told everyone that time moves on at there is no time for regrets. How right our old captain was. Times change Patrick, and unfortunately you’re not part of it anymore. Great assist for Henry’s goal. Cesc was absolutely Fabregas!

Jose Antonio Reyes: 8/10
I loved his dedication last night. Whatever you say about Jose, he will run until his legs fall off and will always give 110%. Made Camoranesi look foolish at times and was never afraid to take on players.

Robert Pires: 9/10
Won’t get all the headlines but played out of his skin. Marked Vieira well and I was shocked as anyone when he won a header in our own area after about 20 minutes. I was even more shocked when he made THAT tackle on Vieira that started the move for Cesc’s goal. Good movement, good passing and great support play. Excellent performance.

Thierry Henry: 9/10
Really loves it when Arsenal are against it. Might not celebrate all his goals with pure rage anymore but after he scored Arsenal’s second he went ballistic! Took the goal every well on the turn and really came to life in the second half. Frustrated Juventus as the game wore on and with a few minutes to go Zebina just had enough of him and got sent off.

Vieira to Pires, Pires to Henry, Henry to Fabregas – GOAL!

Ah, just like the good old days….

 

Arsenal collapse once again in Unai Emery’s last game as Arsenal manager

Yeah, I’m confused as well…

An entertaining game, ruined by Emeryball.

Arsenal went a goal down after Mustafi’s own goal, and to be fair to him it was unfortunate. The ball was fizzed in and there’s not much he could of done with it, well if it was anyone other than Mustafi.

Then Arsenal responded, and how. We equalised through Torreira and then Martinelli scored his usual brace to put us 3-1 up.

But the problem with 3-1 is that it means we have a 2 goal lead. And Emery’s speciality is giving away 2 goal leads.

Watford, Crystal Palace… and then Liverpool.

We went 4-2 up and then predictably, the score went to 4-4. And then we managed to go ahead with a Joe Willock stunner.

So in the 94th minute we were going into the quarter finals. But you know what’s next? This is Emeryball!

So obviously we concede right?

And then Liverpool scored all 5 penalties to win the shoot out 5-4, with Ceballos taking a truly awful penalty. And I mean awful.

So what do we take away from this?

Well first of all we took the lead at 3-1, 4-2 and 5-4 and couldn’t keep those leads.

And second of all… actually, I don’t care any more.

Unai Emery is ruining football for me. Tonight was the first time I enjoyed watching an Arsenal game in a long time but even then, having taken the lead 3 times we couldn’t hold on.

This is just becoming a joke, a nightmare which never ends. It’s like Unai Emery is trying to get sacked. It’s like he’s intentionally making the wrong decisions in every aspect of managing Arsenal for a laugh.

The worst thing about tonight for me was when he took off Mesut Özil after 60 minutes.

Are you kidding me!!?

He was by far our best player, our creative hub and made us tick.

Yet he’s taken off.

I am lost for words now and I’m praying that come the morning, common sense has prevailed and Unai Emery is no longer at our football club.

 

Enough is enough!! It’s time for Unai Emery to leave Arsenal!

It’s time to part ways, Unai…

Arsenal once again put in a gutless performance against a mid table team.

Enough is enough!

Under Arsene Wenger, we had defensive problems, but at least we had some sort of coherent attacking plan.

Under Unai Emery, we have defensive problems, but don’t have any kind of game plan in terms of attacking or creating chances.

It is now time to admit that Ivan Gazidis’s choice as Arsenal manager has failed, and time to move on.

There are a plethora of good managers available. Jose Mourinho, Massimilano Allegri, Laurent Blanc, Luciano Spalletti… the list goes on.

We have no game plan, no identity, no idea on the pitch…. this is just ridiculous now.

We’ve spent big money on bringing players in, and it’s the same old story. Actually, it’s not the same old story – this is actually worse.

Unai Emery is literally making things up as he goes along. He persists in Granit Xhaka, which will end up being his downfall, he has failed to address our defensive issues (and although our defence has always been suspect, it’s actually got worse) and I’m sure he has his own ideas but whatever they are, they are clearly not getting through to the players.

I don’t know what else to say… I’m so angry, frustrated and quick frankly, pissed off.

It will be a miracle if Arsenal finish in the Top 4 this season, and the Arsenal hierarchy need to have a real, hard think about the future because if they continue with Emery as Arsenal manager, then we will fail to get Champions League football next season, and risk losing our best players in the summer.

 

Awful Arsenal bottle it at Old Trafford! Plus player ratings…

Not sure what to make of that one.

Tonight saw two big teams who are in transition and struggling for form, and nether side were prepared to take the initiative to try and win the game.

One of the few positives was that Guendouzi and Saka, two of the youngest players in the team, put in really excellent performances. And Joe Willock again, when he came on, was fantastic.

Calum Chambers did well considering he was out of position, and Kolasinac did well on the other side. Luiz and Sokratis were okay, not brilliant but okay. At least neither made any stupid mistakes tonight.

Apart from that, we were uninspiring, timid and lacked any invention. And worst of all, the quality in the final third was horrendous. If we even showed even a slight bit of quality, we would have won that game.

Pepe was dreadful, overhitting crosses, misplacing passes and worst of all, giving the ball away cheaply, and not even attempting to track back! Aubameyang had no service all night, except for a brilliant pass from Saka, so struggled, and Torriera looked lost.

All night we couldn’t make the final pass or show that bit of quality – Reiss Nelson scuffed a great chance towards the end, Ceballos wasted a great chance to cross from a free kick right at the end, Pepe’s corners were terrible… it was extremely frustrating watching Arsenal tonight. Simply put, Arsenal were scared tonight.

Yet another chance to get 3 points at Old Trafford wasted.

Player Ratings

Bernd Leno: 8/10

Solid and made some good saves, especially towards the end from a Marcus Rashford free kick. Had no chance whatsoever with the goal we conceded.

Calum Chambers: 7/10

Did well tonight considering he was exposed for most of the night by Pepe who didn’t track back. Got forward when he could and tried to make things happen. Another solid performance after a good week in the Arsenal first team and he has stepped up and shown that he can be counted on which is great.

Sokratis Papastathopoulos: 6/10

Didn’t make any stupid mistakes so that’s good right? Overall did okay and did well against Rashford.

David Luiz: 6/10

Didn’t make any stupid mistakes so that’s good right? Linked up well with Sokratis on the whole, but did give away a needless free kick right on the edge of the box right at the end of the game which could have cost us dear. Did make some good and important interceptions.

Sead Kolašinac: 7/10

Did well and was solid all night. Looked comfortable defending and tracking back, and pushed forward well, and gave Aubameyang a great pass which the forward failed to read.

Lucas Torreira: 5/10

Gave everything as usual but struggled to impose himself against Manchester United’s midfield.

Granit Xhaka: 6/10

Didn’t make any stupid mistakes so that’s good right? Did okay, but still not sure what he brings to the team as Guendouzi and Torreria did all the running.

Matteo Guendouzi: 9/10

Excellent performance from Matteo get again. Full of running, full of purpose and tried to drag the team forward. Made some really important tackles and interceptions, and didn’t get involved in any of the silly games that he’s sometimes prone to – a real mature and measured performance, and deserves all the plaudits.

Nicolas Pépé: 3/10

Dreadful. We all know it takes time to get used to the Premier League but it doesn’t mean he should smash the ball into the stands every time. Showing a real lack of quality on the ball which is worrying. Of course he can’t help the price tag but you would think £72 million would get you someone who can kick a ball properly.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang: 7/10

Couldn’t impose himself on the game because of the lack of service from the Arsenal midfield and the poor Nicolas Pépé. Ran for the cause, leading from the front and tried his best. Took his goal with absolute class, something badly missing from the rest of the team tonight.

Bukayo Saka: 8/10

Brilliant performance, one of the best in an Arsenal shirt tonight. Never shied away from a challenge, always willing to receive the ball and take on Manchester United – a really mature and impressive performance from a fantastic prospect. Deserves to feature in more games this season and gives Arsenal something else from an attacking perspective. Gave Ashley Young problems all night.

Dani Ceballos: 4/10

Failed to impose himself on the game, and gave the ball away too many times. Had a great opportunity to deliver a good cross at the end of the game but only managed to hit the first Manchester United player.

Reiss Nelson: 5/10

Tried and had some decent runs forward but again, showed a lack of quality at important times. Scuffed a chance from 12 yards out and should have done much better.

Joe Willock: 7/10

Was only on for 10 minutes but was bright, calm and composed on the ball. Had some good runs forward and always found a pass. Certainly deserves more playing time in the Arsenal first team because he’s currently one of the most talented players in the squad.

 

5 Important Talking Points From The Europa League Final

I can’t describe how I’m feeling today. I feel like complete sh*t, I’m depressed, I’m gutted – I’m just down and out. 

The problem was last night was huge for Arsenal, and the future of the club. Obviously we are in a rebuilding process but last nights defeat has set us back 5/6 years. A win would have allowed us to play in the Champions League, win a major European trophy and give us the opportunity to build on some success – attracting players and giving us more money to spend in the transfer market.

As it stands, next season we’ll be playing in a competition nobody wants to be in – we have to contend with travel to some really obscure places in “Europe” (I’m sure half of these locations are more like Asia) and the Thursday / Sunday fixture list is a massive disadvantage to us in regards to Premier League form. It’s just horrendous.

You might be thinking I’m making out that the future is really bleak but the reality is that it is. Last night was a huge setback and could have more negative repercussions than the Champions League exit in 2004 and the Champions League final defeat in 2006.

There are 5 major talking points from last night (and this season) and they are highlighted below: 

The Penalty Decision

Even after taking off my Arsenal tinted glasses – that was a penalty. There was contact and Lacazette had every right to go down. That decision would have changed the game and being 1-0 up would have been massive for us, especially when we dominated the first half an hour and needed something to show for it.

And did they actually use VAR?! I’ve seen a few Champions League games and they have the VAR logo on the screen, then the referee goes over and takes 12 years to check a slow motion replay 2134 times, then they finally come to a decision. Last night, it was almost swept aside and you wonder if it was actually used?

The Formation & Tactics

As soon as I saw the line-up, I was worried.

Our success against Chelsea this season (which was well reported) was when Aaron Ramsey sat on Jorginho and stifled his influence. With Ramsey injured, it was important to replace him with someone who could do a similar job, and the right person was not Mesut Özil.

Alex Iwobi should have (and deserved to) start the final in my opinion, and he would have done a much better job of linking the midfield and attack (which was non-existent with Özil on the pitch). And when he came on, he changed the game – not as much as we would have wanted – but there’s only so much one man can do in half an hour, and without conceding penalty who knows.

But the fact was the change was too little too late. You only get one chance at a final and we don’t have a second leg to salvage things, so why Mesut Özil started his baffling to me. Iwobi has more endeavour, energy, pace and desire so him starting was a no brainer – especially when you’re starting both Lacazette and Aubameyang and need an attacking midfielder who actually tracks back??

Mesut Özil

He needs to leave. Now.

Özil’s time at Arsenal was coming to an end already based his non-performances this season which quite frankly have been scandalous. He’s the second highest paid player in the Premier League and doesn’t care. He couldn’t influence the game yesterday, like most games this season, and when he was taken off he left the pitch like a petulant school kid.

He gets paid too much, doesn’t perform unless we’re playing at the Emirates – it’s time to part ways.

Unai Emery 

For me, Emery needs time and I think he will get it. But while I’ve always said be patient and give him time to implement his methods, certain questions need to be asked.

Tragically, the way the Europa League final panned out mirrored how our season ended. We started the campaign strong, played some good football, but ultimately collapsed at the last.

Up until half time last night our Europa League campaign was pretty much flawless. Then at the last (the second half) we just crumbled. Just like our Premier League form, until the last 5/6 games we did really well, putting ourselves in a very good position. But then we again crumbled, losing to Crystal Palace and failing to beat Brighton at home, which in the end proved fatal. 

Did our team get worked too hard throughout the course of the season? Did Emery fail to prepare the team for the crunch games? Are we mentally weak? Can the squad just not cope when the season reaches an important time?

For what it’s worth, I think Emery has made improvements this season, and don’t forget he’s inherited a lot of rot from the Wenger era – but that being said there have been some worrying aspects to his reign so far which are less than encouraging (Premier League collapse and Europa League final second half).

Petr Cech

There was a lot of debate on whether Petr Cech should have started the game, considering he was offered a position at Chelsea and the fact that Leno is the better goalkeeper. 

For me, the offer of the Chelsea job summed up that club. Perfect timing of the “announcement” was enough to shed doubt on Arsenal’s preparations and cause a bit of sh*t, while their style of play was a lot to be desired (kicking our players, the highlight of which was someone stamping on Lacazette’s Achilles).

Personally, I thought Leno should have started. I completely understand that not starting Cech might have disrupted the dressing room and affected morale, and I understand that there might have been an agreement earlier in the season about certain goalkeepers playing in certain competitions. That said, Leno played the first few games in the Europa League remember so I don’t think it would have been that much of a shock. Added to the fact that Leno allows us to play from the back which is an important part of our game, whereas Cech only knows how to kick it long which would only work (ironically) if we had a player like Olivier Giroud.