By Myles Palmer
Ray Parlour sets Arsenal’s tempo and Gaizka Mendieta does the same for Valencia.
Both players are one-paced.
Mendieta is a craftsman who speeds a game up with his passes, while Parlour is powerhouse who speeds it up with his running.
Parlour is fast, a former Essex schoolboy sprint champion, but he gets little credit for his pace because he never stops running fast, so you get used to it. He is indefatigably fast.
For years Wenger has said : the more Parlour plays, the better he is.And for almost five years Wenger has picked him for just about every match he has been fit for.
It’s a measure of how important Wenger thinks Parlour is to this game that he rested him against Middlesbrough. He only came on for ten minutes when the game was over and Arsenal were 3-0 down.
So let’s get this straight : Wenger did not rest Ray Parlour on Saturday because he needed a rest.
He rested him because he was scared he might be injured and the reason he was scared was that Parlour always plays flat out, always gives everything. He is one of the most honest, hard-working players in football.
If you play like he does you take a lot of knocks, and Ray has taken quite a few knocks in the last two years. He is very durable, but he is only flesh and blood, and, since he is now 27, he might not recover from minor injuries quite as quickly as he once did.
Parlour is famous in Essex and famous in Bremen, where he scored a hat-trick in a 4-2 victory and he is now famous in Valencia, since his thunderbolt winner in the first game.
The fact that Wenger rested Parlour tells us a quite a lot. It tells us that the manager sees him as a key man on Tuesday night, a possible matchwinner again.
As Ive said in a previous piece, I think Mendieta is a solid technician, quite creative, with a very good shot, but not especially the kind of player Arsenal should fear.
Aimar, ditto. Too young.
It’s going to be a very, very interesting second leg because the psychology of the knockout stages is totally different to the psychology of the mini-league stages.
This is all-or-nothing football and players like Parlour, Dixon and Adams are good at that.So is Vieira !
Wenger asked his men to attack wholeheartedly in the first half of the first game.He said : Get midfield players into the box.
Arsenal did not do that and they went a goal down, so they had to really have a go in the second half, which they did. And they won.
They have slowly learned, I think, how to play pressure football while keeping it pretty tight at the back, and that is what they must do.
An early goal would be nice, but a later goal might be even better.
16th April 2001.