Wednesday, April 7, 2004
ESPNsoccernet: April 8, 11:01 AM UK
Your verdict: Euro exits
The midweek UEFA Champions League action saw three of the favourites to win the competition dumped out of Europe.
AS Monaco overturned a 4-2 first-leg deficit to knock out Real Madrid's galacticos with a 3-1 win at the Stade Louis II. A goal in each tie from striker Fernando Morientes, on-loan from Real, helped the French club to an away goals victory.
In England, Claudio Ranieri's Chelsea ended a 17-match hoodoo to beat Arsenal 2-1 at Highbury and dump them out of the competition. Five days ago the Gunners were on for the treble and now have only the Premiership title to fight for.
Holders Milan were on the end of the biggest upset. The Rossoneri took a 4-1 lead to the Riazor Stadium in Spain but unfancied Deportivo La Coruna beat the Italians 4-0 to go through to the semi-finals.
Well I'm sorry for Arsenal because there is no one left to blame but themselves. There is a difference between good teams and great teams and Arsenal certainly don't make the latter. Henry is no champion; he fails to cut the mustard in big games, when it counts.
Arsenal can't defend a lead under pressure; teams have exploited this time and time again. Silly little mistakes creep in, they loose confidence and then they give up. Even the manager is guilty of giving up; this was one of his remarks after the game: 'The cruel thing was that we couldn't make it to extra-time, when sometimes the game can change around. When they scored, the game was over'.
How many times has Man Utd found a couple of late goals when they needed it? Arsenal just gave up. Liverpool and Newcastle, who are both hungry for points, will be tough games for Arsenal this weekend, they could loose six points this weekend and if so you fear that Arsenal, like last year, will choke.
I hope Blatter retracts his statement about Arsenal being the best team in the World. Arsenal will be £280-300 million in debit by the time they finish their new stadium. They will soon have to offload players and I can't see the fans staying faithful if they go trophyless this season.
Daniel Smith, Australia
Doesn't Chelsea's win at Highbury just go to show us all that it's not always the best teams that win, but the freshest. It was obvious to a neutral observer like me that Chelsea could've played with Abramovich, Kenyon and Raineri across the middle of the park and they'd still have beaten Arsenal.
Sure it makes for exciting watching but it's a shame (even to a Leeds supporter) that a team of Arsenal's quality, who play the most attractive and exciting football probably in Europe, should finally be defeated not necessarily by the class of their opponents, but by concrete football boots, better known as far too many games.
Common sense needs to prevail. Hard luck the Gunners - the best team in Europe by a mile.
Well, I suppose Arsenal will say Chelsea kicked them off the field tonight also. Where is this so called "best team in the world" now?
Unfortunately it looks like Arsenal believed too much of their own press for another season. Time for a large dose of humble pie for Wenger and a big slap on the back for Claudio.
Also, it looks like Fergie won the mind battles yet again. Sad, sad Arsenal, you're going to win naff all. So much for all the bad injuries inflicted by Man Utd, Scholes has been vilified all week about the terrible tackle on Reyes - who played last night?
Anyway this is Chelsea's moment, enjoy it boys from a Northern Red Devil.
Looking at the Premiership from a distance allows you a chance to see the good and the bad the season has to offer. What has happened within the last fortnight to Arsenal is a prime example of the problems modern football has brought upon them. Too many fixtures driven by the opportunity to make money. But the same question rings more true now than ever, at what cost?
The players have too many league, cup, international, and friendlies on the calendar bunched together with no chance for full rest and recovery between matches. A prime example is what Arsenal is mired in currently. 10 days ago a treble seemed within grasp, now they appear to be lucky to escape this season with only one of three, the Premiership title.
The next week will show that either they can overcome a disastrous four days span, or will repeat their collapse of last year, this time to a different opponent. Either way, it never should have come down to this number of games within such a short span of time.
You very rarely have the opportunity to see a team achieve a historic climax to a season, and now we will never know if the fixtures had been a little more spread out, what they could have accomplished. The league and football in general, suffer for it.
Dean P. Balent, USA
I'm an Englishman living In Sydney, Australia and one of the things that hurts the most is not watching Chelsea live at the Bridge every week, like I used to.
I set the alarm for 4:45am this morning and leaped out of bed when it went off, leaving murmurs of disbelief from my girlfriend behind me saying "how can you get up so early to watch a football game"...she clearly didn't understand, she had absolutely no idea!
I sat in darkness as Chelsea battled away and it was truly an emotional roller coaster. History wasn't on our side, but as any Chelsea fans know, we can beat anyone on our day. When Eider missed a clear goal scoring opportunity and Cole cleared his shot off the line near the end, I thought to myself "not again, why can't we just bury this lot"
Moments later, Bridge broke free, shot at goal and scored. I then woke up the entire apartment block with screams of delirium. What a match, history has been made and now all I have to do is save up for a flight back to Europe, if we can just get passed Monaco...fingers crossed.
Wenger's first mistake was to permit Henry to play for France last week - he is a man, not a machine. And then he kept him on the bench against Man United until it was too late for him to get the feel of the game.
To add insult to injury - tonight he left his partner, Dennis Bergkamp on the bench, and brought him on nine minutes before the end of the game (plus1 minute injury time). And expected what? To score a goal? Wenger lost the match for Arsenal and let his own great team down badly.
But well done Chelsea - they never lost heart.
Having watched Arsenal comprehensively beaten by Chelsea in the Champions league, I think it's fair to say, that the 1999 treble won by Man Utd should now be seen as an incredible achievement by an English club side.
Arsenal have never reached the semi-final of this competition, never mind the fact that they have never won the old or new European Cup. In light of this fact and many others, it would be unwise to compare Arsenal to Man Utd, the trophy count doesn't lie.
Sorry to say it, Arsenal are just a Premiership club trying to emulate the biggest club in Britain. Man Utd have a larger ground, a bigger pitch, a global following and have won a treble and two domestic doubles, need I say more?
Lets put the record straight! No one at Arsenal has ever claimed them to be "the best team in the world" or that they will do "the treble" in fact the opposite is true, they have down played it, saying the old cliché, one game at a time etc.
These claims have come predominantly from the press, and other managers and players. So, lets not beat them up with quotes like, "getting what they deserve" and irony for their arrogance. Instead, applaud them for their achievements with limited resources, and a small squad! They just ran out of steam, that's all. Good luck to Chelsea.
What a night of irony for poor Arsenal and especially Mr Arsene Wenger! In trying to wage psychological warfare with Chelsea, and at the same time showing poor sportsmanship, Mr Wenger overstated the extent of Jose Reyes' injury in saying he would be out for 3 weeks. What a genius he must have thought he had been when Reyes gave his side the half time lead!
Alas, it only served to inspire a Chelsea side, captained by the magnificent John Terry, to come out firing on all cylinders in the second half. A magnificent show indeed! All hats off to Mr Ranieri for introducing Jesper Gronkjaer who changed the tide of the game.
And as I type this, I wonder what excuses Mr Wenger and his gang of whiners (notably Thierry Henry) are going to come up with this time. The referee perhaps? Lady luck? Or maybe, Mr Wenger, if I may suggest, that you put it down to fate. After all, the one person who shot you to your downfall, Wayne Bridge, was wearing the jersey number 18 and scored the winning goal that beat your side on the 18th try.
Now I can just foresee Arsenal dropping points in their next two fixtures against Liverpool and Newcastle. Perhaps what was billed as Arsenal's treble winning season would still end up as a treble season; a treble of
Wenger is still the greatest manager in Europe, give or take losses to Chelsea and Man Utd. I mean, I wonder what would happen if Arsenal had a squad larger than 21 players. We would avoid the exhaustion and keep going in all cups that fall in our way.
With a squad that big, a quadruple would be a reality, Carling? F.A ?. League ?. Champion's League. The boys are tired and need some buffalo muscles to run wild this Friday against Liverpool.
All these whining Arsenal fans make me laugh. When the treble was still on Arsenal, and their fans, were the epitome of arrogance, lauding all the plaudits that came their way and revelling in the ridiculous 'best team in the world' comments that poured in their direction.
Now the cracks are beginning to show, after high profile defeats to Chelsea and Manchester United, we are starting to hear all these excuses about fixture congestion and tired legs. If you are successful you have to play more fixtures while the season remains the same length. These two factors never change and any team that has done the double/treble before the Gunners had exactly the same situation - if not playing more matches.
If you take the plaudits and proclaim to be the best then you should pay due respect when bested. I think this is the fundamental reason why so many people have a strange dislike of Arsenal and it is not due to some conspiracy as their fans would have you believe.
As an Arsenal fan I can say that the only thing that could compensate in any way for the loss on Tuesday is the pure emotion on Ranieri's face when the full-time whistle blew. He has behaved impeccably throughout a difficult time and under enormous pressure.
Now that we are out of the CL I will be cheering Chelsea all the way - bring the ultimate football prize back to Britain!
All that hype about winning the Treble and how this Arsenal team is the greatest team ever and Champions League favourites! Gosh! How often have they made it past the group stages? Sparingly! How many European triumphs have they? None! No UEFA Cup, No Cup Winners Cup...nothing!
Wenger has only two Premierships and two FA Cups to show...decent but hardly in the "Greatest" or "Favourites" bracket! Just winning the Champions cup alone is a tall order for a club like Arsenal, how ridiculous to make them favourites and how biased to even suggest the treble!
Prepare yourself for more excuses and whining from the Gooners, starting with Wenger himself! Oh wait...I see the vultures gathering.....bring on Newcastle and Liverpool.
I find it very interesting that everyone wants to cut down Arsenal's accomplishments after they lost two games in a row. They have gone 30 games unbeaten in the league, yet as soon as they lose to two magnificent
sides like Man U and Chelsea, suddenly they have choked and everyone jumps all over them.
All of the Manchester fans laugh and talk about how Arsenal will never be as good as Manchester. Well Arsenal will win the league title this season, and they progressed farther than United in the Champion's League, but Manchester can still hold onto the FA Cup...but I must go back to last year when Arsenal won the FA Cup and it was seen as a "consolation prize."
Well Manchester fans...in your own words, have fun with your consolation prize, the Gunners will live with the fact that they were beaten by a good Chelsea team, and the Premiership crown will do a lot to heal our wounds.
Isn't life wonderful! The Arse were glorying it up seven days ago. What a difference that one week makes. First the mighty Man U knock them out of the Cup and now Chelski do them over in the Chumps League. How smug is Arsene Wenger feeling now? I just love it!
Perhaps Arsenal's dismissal last night can best be seen in terms of karma.
After all, this is a club that built its reputation and fortune during the late 80s and 90s. At that time, Arsenal was synonymous with the ugliest, most negative tactics anywhere in world soccer. They played a route-one long ball game, hoofing the ball upfield as if there were a 20 foot net across the halfway line. Their oafish back line would push halfway up the pitch and raise hands in unison whenever a pass went beyond them, desperately claiming offside.
They constantly hit the ball 'over the top' and had people like Wright and Smith chase it like terriers, rather than passing to feet.
Instead of skill and guile, they used brute force and percentage play to win games.
The fact that they won titles and cups with this grotesque distortion of the beautiful game cause many other teams to copy them, leading to a period when English football became all but unwatchable.
Since Wenger's arrival the club has become far more sophisticated. At its best, the current Arsenal team plays beautiful, open, attacking football ? the way the game is meant to be played.
How ironic then, that Arsenal fans, having grown arrogant about their current side's abilities, have had to learn that playing this way doesn't guarantee results. And that sometimes, less skillful but more physically robust sides with greater determination will stop you playing, and beat you.
As I say, there's a karmic poetry at work here. I hope all Arsenal fans can savour it. It might alleviate that bitter taste in their mouths.
Alix Sharkey, France
Maybe Arsene Wenger & many others in the football world, now realise the magnitude of what United achievement in 1999! At this level, the powers of concentration/skill/determination & some good old fashioned luck cannot be underestimated.
Also, Claudio Ranieri's face when Chelsea buried the second. goal was a delight - the emotion quite palpable!
Also, Deportivo oust Milan....
Let me be the first to congratulate Deportivo La Coruña on an absolutely stellar performance, and Juan Carlos Valeron in particular on a magnificant showing. Their game was an utter pleasure to watch, which had all of the elements of a classic game - the skill, determination, and emotion.
It is games like this that make football the worldwide loved sport that it is. Absolutely brilliant. This one goes in the archives, fellas, know that you have all made history. What a week for football. You cant help but think the game of football is the real winner here.
Dennis Martin, Hong Kong
Before the match I heard some bloke saying that in order for Deportivo to win they needed to play their best game and Milan their worst. Well, that is exactly what happened and now the holders have tumbled out of the competition.
While some may say that this is detrimental to the competition, I think it offers a great opportunity for one of the 'lesser' clubs to make their mark on Europe and then move the club forward with the cash received from making the Champions League semi-finals.
Well done Deportivo! Even though I lost my £10 bet for Milan to win the whole tournament.
Also, Monaco shock Madrid....
Real Madrid paid the price for assuming they were through to the semi-finals. They did not have the correct mentality and apart from Zidane, and possibly Raul who squandered some good chances, none of the so called galacticos delivered the performances they are capable of.
Madrid's failure to buy a decent defender came back to haunt them, as did their refusal to purchase squad players and would rather rely on untested youth at such a high level of football.
That is not to take anything away from Monaco who were magnificent. All the stars performed when they could have been excused for taking it easy after Raul opened the scoring. However, unlike Real they took nothing for granted and battled back to knock Madrid out.
Monaco's defeat of Real Madrid in the Champion's League by Moncao just goes to show that the biggest spending teams do not always win the trophies.
Benny Anastasia, Australia
Have your say on any of today's news. Email the newsdesk