Congratulations to Dennis Bergkamp on his eleven years of service at Highbury, which he crowned with a trademark goal in Arsenal’s 3-1 win over West Bromwich Albion on Saturday, much to the delight of season-ticket holder Elaine James, revealed by Match of the Day 2 on Sunday night as the source of the “Highbury scream” which has punctuated so many moments of goalmouth action at the famous stadium over the years.
Elaine will be hoping to get all worked up again tomorrow night as Arsenal host Villareal in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final. Arsenal’s biggest problem could be that they are finally playing a team rather than a reputation. Neither Real Madrid nor Juventus lived up to their legendary billing, but suddenly the Gunners will be favourites against a team with little European pedigree but bags of organisation and a genuine threat up front from several quarters.
Diego Forlan has shown that his Manchester United struggles were a blip rather than him taking a step too far, former Barcelona man Juan Roman Riquelme may not be quite in the very highest echelon of playmakers but is well capable of picking apart a defence on his night and goals can also come from defenders like Rodolfo Arruabarrena who has scored in each of his last two Champions League appearances. However the Villareal defence will be without its two key central defenders for both legs. Fantasy football players with limited budgets might like to know that Cesar Arzo and Alessio Tacchinardi are being touted as the likely replacements.
Jens Lehmann, a key figure in this season’s march to the semi-finals, will be hoping to impress still further his fellow Germans who, having watched his European performances on television, are now switching their support to him to be their number one keeper in this summer’s World Cup ahead of long-time incumbent Oliver Kahn of Bayern Munich. A recent survey by the Forsa polling institute reported in the Guardian shows a big swing to the Arsenal custodian, though he still trails by six percent. Clean sheets against Villareal could prove decisive in the battle for public opinion and would go some way to soothing Jens’s no doubt dented pride in losing out to his rival for a coveted place in the tournament’s Panini sticker album.
Finally in this all-Arsenal bulletin, congratulations to the ladies team who last Thursday secured the Premier League title when they defeated Charlton Athletic 2-0 at Boreham Wood FC.
Picture via Project 404's Flickr stream.