Pires key man, but Lauren should start

By Myles Palmer

I’m not going to Cardiff and I’m quite glad I’m not going because it is a traffic jam and a one-goal game.

Went to Cup Final open day at the Shenley Training ground on Tuesday and heard Vieira, Rice,Seaman and Wenger.

Nothing new was said.

What was interesting was the training session.They had an open training session! Incredible!

Arsenal let us watch them train. I had never watched Arsenal train before. So I will do a piece on that later today or tomorrow.

It is blindingly obvious that the key man in this FA Cup Final is Robert Pires. That is because Patrick Vieira, giant that he is, cannot beat Liverpool on his own.

Pires gives Arsenal a variety that they lacked against Galatasaray a year ago. He works both flanks. He makes shorter passes and longer passes.He holds the ball while people run into position. He pops up in odd places, as he did against Valencia, when he backheeled that loose ball to Henry for the goal.

Those Pires variations will be vital against a rough, tough defensive unit of big men with steel elbows.

Houllier will play the same as ever :to grind out a 1-0 win.Sit back like Bayern Munich, soak it up, hit 40 and 60 yard balls down the channels for Owen and Heskey, look to nick a goal from a free-kick. Then shut up shop.

So it won’t be a spectacle and it won’t be a game where both sides score.I hope I’m wrong about that, but I feel it in my bones.

Nicky Barmby is a cute mover who can win the game, from the start or from the bench, so he worries me – a lot.

Arsenal’s free-kicks have been dire and embarrassing for five years, so that worries me – a lot.

Since I believe the first goal will win it I hope Wenger starts Lauren rather than Grimandi in central midfield.

If Gary McAllister is central with Hamann, and Gerrard wide, I really don’t think Arsenal need Grimandi.

I’m pretty sure Wenger will start Grimandi, but I believe Lauren is a superior technician and I love his simple, early, forward first-time passes. Those sharp, fast,early forward passes are what will win this game for Arsenal. Sideways passes won’t. Crosses and headers won’t.

I can see Michael Owen kicking Seaman as he goes for 50-50s in the box. I’m pretty sure that will happen once in 90 minutes.

At the moment Owen is a lot more aggressive than Lennox Lewis. Do I like Owen as a footballer? No. As a bloke? No.He played badly against Roma in Rome and scored two goals. He is very, very concentrated and very focused and hyper-motivated – and Heskey helps him a lot.

However much Thierry Henry wants it,Michael Owen wants it twice as much.

Will try to do another couple of preview pieces before kick-off. Watch this space.

22 May 2001