By Myles Palmer
ONE of my closest Gooner associates is worried that tonight will bring “a nervy draw.”
Arsenal have not played well in their three Champions League game so far, so I was apprehensive two games ago, when I reckoned they would beat Man United and Southampton
Way back then, before the 2-0 defeat and the 2-2 draw, I had doubts about a tough Greek team with a hot-shot Argentinian goalscorer.
Panathinaikos fell out with their Israeli coach earlier this season and now have a Czech.
Gonzalez is a sparky player, one of the bright new faces in the Champions League, good enough to play in Italy or Spain.
Basinas is a solid soldier, a bit like Baraja at Valencia.
Olisadebe was a hero last season, but has struggled with a knee injury and also has back and ankle problems. And local fans and media press for the inclusion of Greek and Cypriot boys ahead of the Nigerian Pole.
Doctors with the Polish national team wondered in the spring whether Olisadebe would play again, so serious was his knee injury.
However, Panathinaikos have never won in seven trips to England and they will not win tonight because Arsenal will attack at high speed, score first and overwhelm them.
Tonight, attack is the best means of defence.
Arsenal can’t play cagey football in these circumstances. Power football is what they do best.
Tonight they will miss the aerial strength of Gilberto and Sol.
Gilberto wins a lot of first headers, cuts off angles, blocks passing options.
Arsenal must produce an all-or-nothing team effort that removes doubts about their qualification from this group.
It’s a vital, vital, vital game.
Arsenal’s season could hinge on it.
And if Thierry is bottling it I would take him off at half-time and put Van Persie or Reyes on.
Pires is expected to start.
ON SATURDAY, Southampton came for a draw and Arsenal didn’t pass the ball quickly enough.
Henry was three inches away from a perfect penalty but hit the post. And Ljungberg could easily have scored from Henry’s pass.
Instead, two headers by Rory Delap gave Arsenal a shock before Robin van Persie was able to score his first Premiership goal and save a point.
It’s a bigger wobble than I expected.
Although they had six days to recover from a stormy game at Old Trafford, Arsenal showed that they had not recovered.
That disappointed me .
Then you lose a game?
Get over it !
DON’T TAKE A MONTH TO GET OVER IT !
And give credit to Southampton, who played well and scored two good goals.
Panathinaikos are a physical side, but Arsenal can open them up with high-tempo pass-and-move.
SIR ALEX FERGUSON has accused Henry, the biggest pussycat in the Premiership, of “thuggery”.
ANR can reveal that Fergie’s dossier also accuses Alex James of wearing baggy shorts.
Furthermore, he accuses Steve Bould and Paul Merson of drinking beer in 1987.
And the angry Scot has told the FA that Kevin Campbell, while he was at Arsenal, had “an insanely huge” collection of albums and CDs.
A BIG WEEK in the Champions League, with Zlatan in top form for Juventus.
The big man heads the ball, holds it up, lays it off, does everything a No.9 should do.
Juventus will outplay Bayern in Munich on Wednesday, Barcelona might beat AC Milan, and Bush will definitely beat Kerry.
Juve have match winners in Zlatan & Nedved.
Barca have Ronaldinho & Deco to feed Giuli, Eto’o and Larsson.
Every Diebold electronic voting machine contains a hidden modem, which can be accessed by cell phone.
But I’m not American. It’s none of my business, so I don’t worry about it.
I prefer the Champions League.
November 2nd 2004.