By Myles Palmer
ARSENAL go for 50 at Old Trafford on Sunday.
50 Premiership games unbeaten?
Can they win?
Will they draw?
I THINK ARSENAL WILL WIN.
Ref Mike Riley won’t stand for any psychotic kicks by Van Nastelrooy.
If he elbows Lauren, he will be sent off.
If he elbows Pires, he will be sent off.
If he elbows Toure, he will be sent off.
We know that Rude Van Nastelrooy loves to provoke, loves to wind you up.
He is hyper-aggressive, but cute with it – or thinks he is.
Last couple of years, as Arsenal have become superior to United, Fergie’s boys have been glad to draw and they will be happy to draw this game too, although they all say they need to win it.
It will be a game of football and Arsenal are more creative, more fluent, and far better at scoring goals than United.
Cole can handle Ronaldo, who has improved.
Even Rooney has gone off the boil.
Fergie admits he has been holding an audition rather than picking a settled team.
Man Utd need Scott Parker to replace Nicky Butt.
My only reservation is the Tony Adams question : is it wise to play Pires and Ljungberg away from home? Does that expose your back four too much?
IT’S BEEN a strange week because the Champions League usually overshadows domestic games.
But Man United have been pre-occupied with Arsenal, as we saw from their 0-0 with Sparta Prague .
In Athens, Arsenal drew 2-2 after leading twice against Panathinaikos.
Both Arsenal goals were fantastic but the goals conceded were mistakes by Lehmann.
Reyes beat his man and slipped a left footed Bergkamp pass through for Freddie to knock in the first.
Reyes has Arsenal’s best left foot since Liam Brady.
A pure jack-in-the-box Freddie goal, popping up behind the centrebacks and touching the ball past the keeper.
Freddie turns quicker than the coin they toss.
That is what Freddie Ljungberg does best.
Not dribbling, not crossing, not passing .
What he does best is scoring jack-in-the-box goals like that. Ask Juventus, Lazio, Man United.
The Cole-Reyes- Pires-Cole move for the 2-1 goal was fabulous, giving Henry a chance to stab home from eight yards.
A truly sublime assist, better than Ashley’s assist for Owen last week.
It made up for the bad square pass Cole played when Arsenal lost the ball and Pana scored.
One striker ran into the box after that ball against a keeper and four defenders. And it was a goal!
Why? Because Lehmann rushed outside his box when he should have stayed back and let Sol head the ball to him.
Lehmann headed the ball towards the touchline and it bounced perfectly towards Gonzalez at exactly the right height for a half-volley, which he executed perfectly, his shot droppng just inside the post on the line.
Great skill ! Not a fluke.
Nayim from the halfway line, Gonzalez from the touchline.
At 2-1, Arsenal allowed Olisadebe a free header from a left wing corner, with Lehman in no mans land.
He came, he stopped, he conceded.
So the story of the game was : 1-0 up after 18 minutes and 1-1 after 65 and 2-1 after 74 and 2-2 after 82.
So it was 1-0 to Arsenal for 47 minutes.
I’ve been saying that Arsenal are not very good at playing 1-0 football.
In those 47 minutes, Arsenal should have scored again.
But Fabregas looked tired, Dennis and Pat were missed, and Thierry was invisible.
Verdict on Panathinaikos?
(1) Arsenal missed Vieira and Bergkamp.
Two big footballers, two spinal players who have played together for eight years. If you take those two out of a football team, it won’t be as good.
Over the last eight years, Arsenal have paid a huge price for Bergkamp’s refusal to fly.
They bought Kanu to cover that, bought Reyes in January, a great footballer, but a totally different player to Bergkamp.
(2) You can’t win the Champions League with Lehman and Henry playing like that.
(3) Teams that get to the semi-finals of the Champions League are teams that can keep clean sheets.
Milan, Liverpool, Forest – teams like those kept clean sheets.
Chelsea keep clean sheets, so did Porto.
Defence is what wins big games.
If you can’t defend, forget it.
Chelea were outplayed by CSKA Moscow in the first half, but scored two goals with three headers from two set pieces.
Gudjohnsen header to Terry for 1-0, Gudjohnsen heads in a Duff free-kick for 2-0.
(4) Sol should have been captain, not Henry.
Panathinaikos were tactically smart, very tough in the tackle, broke neatly, showed some good touches in the last third, took their chances well.
Panathinakos were better than I expected.
But Arsenal will beat them at Highbury.
SOMETHING STRANGE HAPPENED on our AGM report.
It’s taken a week to figure it out. What happened was this: a friend went to the AGM and promised to send a short report.
He was busy, but said he would send ASAP.
I was expecting his report the following day, or the day after that.
When I got an email called AGM report, I posted it on ANR.
I thought the email was from my man.
But it wasn’t. It was from somebody else.
The AGM email had been sent to me by another friend, who had copied it from Arseblog.
I don’t know which friend and I can’t check my Inbox because my Inbox only goes back as far as 16/10/2004, when this computer went online.
I’ve changed over from my old computer to this new one, which has a clean hard drive.
My files have not been copied over yet because Myles is useless with computers.
My email addresses have not been copied over yet.
My Inbox and Sent Items have not been copied over yet.
Anyway, it was my mistake, not the first I have made here.
I don’t plagiarise other websites.
I don’t copy anybody. Never have, never would, never need to.
I have plenty of ideas, so I do not need to copy anyone.
You should know by now that Myles Palmer is an original, not a plagiarist.
I get my kicks by writing things that nobody else writes. The stuff I write here is intended to be an alternative to mainstream football coverage, which has to follow a format.
As you know, my ANR stuff varies a lot, depending on what else I’m doing, what time of day I’m writing, what mood I’m in.
I FELT THAT Thursday was Friday because I was writing a piece for The Observer on Thursday.
Amy Lawrence kindly suggested to sports editor Brian Oliver that I could preview Manchester United v Arsenal from an Arsenal point of view.
Thanks, Amy !
When I’m writing for a Sunday paper, it always feels like Friday.
But TODAY is Friday, so I’ve had two Fridays this week.
October 22nd 2004.