By Myles Palmer
THIS IS a very stressful week for Arsene : PSV away and Liverpool away.
His original game-plan was : Play Dennis for 90 against West Brom, use Reyes in Eindhoven, bring Dennis back for Anfield.
He found himself having to play his strongest team at home to relegation candidates,
SITUATION : Without Edu and Gilberto, with Thierry at 70%, with a run of drawn games, with a win at Spurs where they conceded 4 goals, and without Sol, who is expected to be on the bench on Wednesday, Arsenal are in a very sticky spell which is testing the faith of the fans.
Arsene needed an experienced No.2 centreback, who could take control when Sol was out.
Toure is a young man and raw at this level, Cygan is also new to this level, so if Sol isn’t playing, Cygan and Toure are shaky.
And they get exposed, again and again, by full backs who go AWOL.
Opponents have sussed that out and look for the diagonal ball behind Cole, as Palace did.
Arsenal play quick and narrow, often leaving space on the flanks, and Cole and Lauren go too early, catapult forward, leave huge gaps, which is fine as long as you don’t lose the ball.
Against West Brom, Arsenal had far too many players not doing it.
The goal they scored was thrown in by keeper Hoult, who dived too soon and fumbled that curling shot by Pires.
HOW GOOD ARE PSV ?
Well, Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink is injured.
Two weeks ago, watching this big, skilful striker, I thought : JVH will score against Arsenal.
But he has dislocated his shoulder.
Since PSV have not conceded a goal in 10 league games, and since Arsenal are draw specialists who can go through after a draw and a win in the next game at home to Rosenborg, it will be a nervy night.
Cocu, the diver of Wembley, is slagging Arsenal off, saying they are in crisis.
Mark Van Bommel has agreed to join Real Madrid in the summer.
Madrid need MVB now. They needed him two years ago. But that’s President Perez for you.
Am I looking forward to Eindhoven v Arsenal?
SHOCKED that Chelsea let a 2-0 lead slip against Bolton.
Arsenal let slip a 1-0 lead, we are accustomed to that by now.
Chelsea, that’s different. We know they can defend a lead and we expect them to defend a lead.
But these things happen.
When Everton were good in 1986, I saw them at West Ham one night. It may have been an afternoon game, but I remember it as a night game
“If Everton score first, it’s over,” I said.
Trevor Steven scored after 60 minutes, I thought, “That’s it.”
But Frank McAvennie slammed in a fantastic goal.
Then Frank blew the roof off with another electric goal, slaloming round the keeper.
Manager John Lyall told us he preferred the second goal because, “Neville Southall, one-on-one, is a very good goalkeeper.”
Chelsea v Bolton, same thing.
A team with a great defence suddenly concedes two goals.
You think it’s over, but it’s not.
Football is unpredictable because footballers make it unpredictable.
BARCELONA beating Real Madrid 3-0 was predictable.
Eto’o nutmegged Walter Samuel in the box in the first minute
After five minutes, when I saw that Ronaldo was not running after Puyol, I knew Real Madrid had no chance.
Seen live in 86 countries, Ronaldinho showed he is creative, generous, funny, a volcanic life-force, a gladiator who took on hard man Salgado time after time.
The gap-toothed geezer is a geyser, a hot spring who bubbles all day and all night.
The Barca performance had everything a coach looks for : huge desire,an animal appetite for the game, bright movement, an inspiring captain in Puyol, driving attack-leaders in Eto’o and Ronaldinho, gutsy fighters in Deco and Xavi.
They had everything.
And Gio scored the second goal.
At 2-0, Ronaldo showed his fury with the clumsiest foul I’ve ever seen him perpetrate.
He got a yellow.
At 2-0, sub Owen missed a header from 4 yards.
At 3-0, Zidane was taken off.
Barca have won their first four CL games, but I expect them to pulverise Celtic, if they are trying.
MATCHDAY 5 can be perverse because some teams are already through, play weakened sides, and odd scores happen.
ZLATAN will want to play for Juventus against Ajax, his old club.
Koeman might even give a run to the new kid on the block, Babel, a 17-year old who scored with a 25-yard thunderbolt on Saturday.
LYON are a good side who deserve to be top of Group D.
Can they upset Sir Alex at Old Trafford in his 1000th game as manager of Man United?
November 23 2004.