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…
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 Â£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….