By Myles Palmer
The T-men worry me because Vieira and Grimandi are missing.
If there was ever a night when Arsenal needed strong-tackling midfielders it is this one.
I’m worried that the runs of Titov and Tikhonov are too deadly to be effectively tracked by Parlour and Ljungberg.
Yegor Titov is Spartak’s captain (No.9) and best player. A tall,lean playmaker-goalscorer.
There’s nobody like him in England, so I’ve been wondering for a week how to describe his style.
Maybe he’s a little bit like Platini, but bigger. A big strong boy, as big as Bergkamp, but of the cutest attacking midfielders.
Starts deep, makes irrepressible runs into the box at crucial moments,finishes with laser accuracy.
Andrei Tikhonov (11) is another goalscorer who had a great season in 1999, then a bad season in 2000. He was top scorer with 19 goals, but was dropped by Russia in August because he had only scored one goal in the first 24 games of the season just finished.
Spartak are the Man Utd of the Russian League.They have just won their eighth league title in the last nine years.
Their PWDLFA record was 30-23-6-1-69-30
Spartak have three good strikers. Shirko(20) and two black Brazilians Marcao (16) and Robson (24), who can score with flicks, headers and overhead kicks.The Brazilians are brave. They get into the six yard box.
With Vieira playing I thought Arsenal might draw. It was odd, last week,to find myself writing a piece about him for the December Champions League Magazine on the very day that he was injured in Turkey.
I saw that game on Eurosport.France were superbly authoritative, an awesome club side in national shirts. The only team of the last decade that could have gone to Istabul and won 4-0.
Vieira twisted his ankle in the first minute and went off in the 30th minute, replaced by Makelele of Real Madrid. I was sure he would be fit for Moscow a week later. But he isn’t. Can Wiltord and Henry play without him?
The Standard’s Steve Stammers reckons the midfield will be Kanu-Parlour-Ljungberg-Pires.
So the passers are in the wide positions and the runner-tacklers are in the middle. I suppose it has to be that way. But will Kanu and Pires will get much of the ball?
I’m not normally worried about Arsenal’s away games in Europe. I thought they would win in Florence but Kanu missed a penalty and they drew 0-0 with Fiorentina.
I even thought they might win in the Nou Camp but it was Barcelona 1 Arsenal 1. I fancied them strongly to beat Barcelona at Wembley, but they lost 4-2.
So for three years I’ve been a Champions League optimist. But I don’t have a good very feeling about this one, folks.
It may be a match of two shaky goalkeepers, Filimonov and Manninger.
Filimonov, like Ukraine’s Shovkovsky, has had some bad moments in very big games.
Spartak use the whole length of the pitch and are masters of the fast clinical counter-attack.So Manninger may have to be quick off his line to make saves at Russian feet, or get close enough to put them off. He was good at that two years ago.
If Manninger makes saves in Moscow, Arsenal have a chance. If he doesn’t then Mr Wenger will wish he had signed Dudek from Feyonoord for £6 million.
Arsenal need a draw but if they play for a draw they will lose.
So it’s a very, very dodgy first game in Phase Two, especially without Vieira, their best player. If they lose they will be putting themselves under pressure to beat Bayern Munich in two weeks time.
I just hope they don’t end of shooting from silly angles, and shooting from 30 yards.
Still, no team is unbeatable and I doubt if the Russians are as tough mentally as Bayern Munich.
But,on a cold night, backed by an 80,000 sell-out crowd, Spartak will expect to win.
Unless Mr Wenger pulls a team selection stunt and surprises Oleg Romantsev, a very good coach who will have done his homework.
I remember when Anelka got a fabulous one-one-one goal for France against Russia in Moscow in October 98, lifting it left footed over the keeper’s body (not Filimonov).It was a European qualifier and France won 3-2. Pires scored in that game.
Russian coach Anatoliy Byshovets lost six in a row and was sacked.Romantsev took over and turned it round. Russia then went to Paris and beat France 3-2!
It’s down to Thierry to do what Anelka did. He can outsprint anybody and score against anybody and he can also score when he is playing badly. He has been playing badly. And there is a fitness doubt about him.But where there’s Henry, there’s hope.
Arsenal have had different heroes in the Champions League games so far: Silvinho in Prague, Ljungberg with two goals against Lazio, Keown with two against Donetsk, Pires in Rome.
Players have risen to the occasion. I hope that continues.
Clearly, they will need a bit of luck. They were outfought by Everton,who deserved the break they got on that 70-yard punt down the middle.
Kevin Campbell jumped, Luzhny jumped, the ball went over both of their heads, Cadamarteri got it and scored.
But the close-up replay showed the ball hit Luzhny on the shoulder. That deflection wrong-footed Ashley Cole, who was in position to deal with the long ball.
But that’s football. Those things can work for you. And they can work against you.
21st November 2000.