On an electric night of Champions League football at the Emirates, Arsenal struck twice in five minutes to overcome Barcelona, the icing on the cake being Andrei Arshavin's perfect goal producing memories for all Arsenal fans to savour.
It is quite likely that when Arshavin leaves Arsenal he will have three goals and arguably a fourth, this one, that feature in the top 10 of Arsenal’s Greatest 50 Goals. Having played less than four seasons at Arsenal, mostly from the bench, that is quite an achievement.
I must confess that despite his failings I have maintained a loyal affection for the diminutive Russian since he joined Arsenal. Probably because he is undeniably unique in everything he does. (You need to read ‘Ask Andrei’ on his own website to understand why).
I could have written this article about a number of Arshavin goals. I spent some time considering whether to write about one of the four goals he scored at Anfield during the 2008/2009 season, which, if one game had to sum up his time in England that would of course be it.
Arshavin’s short and pretty unsuccessful career since joining Arsenal will of course be forgotten in an instance when this goal is remembered in the future. And this was a really, really good goal, one made in the traditions of Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal, not some cheap La Cantera-made Spanish knock-off. It was a fitting winner for a stunning comeback and almost certainly Arsenal’s greatest victory at the Emirates Stadium.
Above any result it was the night for me in which Jack Wilshere really came of age. He bossed the midfield without putting a boot wrong all evening.
Barcelona’s record-breaking run of 16 straight wins in Liga had only ended at the weekend and this was only their second meaningful defeat of the season – they were bang in form and undeniably the best team in the world at the time.
Everyone expected a repeat of the toe-to-toe slugfest of the previous season where we lost 6-3 over two legs but the early moments were more frantic than finessed and after the game settled down, and despite our high line it was a match in which I felt very few nerves. We were comfortably assured while Barcelona squandered numerous chances.
Above any result it was the night for me in which Jack Wilshere really came of age. He bossed the midfield without putting a boot wrong all evening. And he was up against the best midfield partnership for a generation, Xavi and Iniesta – two World Cup and multiple domestic and Champions League winners.
The current Barcelona team will probably be the best footballing side I will witness in my lifetime. Lionel Messi is certainly the best player I have ever seen play. But for all the lavishly gifted Barca stars the Arsenal team deserve some credit for the way they played that evening. From front to back there wasn’t a bad performance. We were good, very good.
There are a few moments in your life when you experience everything in slow motion. For a second or two, the world seems to exist through a camera lens, you can hear your heart beating loudly through your ears, and everything that you can see seems to be perfectly clear while you try and focus. I had that. And Arshavin was running straight down my lens. I had the perfect view sitting about four rows back, bang in line with his shot behind the goal when he scored the winner. I lost all sense of perspective in every sense. It is was glorious.
I had the perfect view sitting about four rows back, bang in line with his shot behind the goal when he scored the winner. I lost all sense of perspective in every sense. It is was glorious.
I can remember it vividly. Quick feet from Wilshere, then a sublime pass off the outside of Fabregas’s right boot delivered the ball into Na$ri’s stride and he took the ball into the box where a galloping RVP drew Abidal’s shoulder and then Na$ri delivered the ball into an onrushing ARRSSSHHHHAAAVVVVIIIIINNNNN!
The proverbial roof lifted off.
The visceral raw leftover from Paris, Wembley and the Camp Nou was set free and the stadium went bonkers. The bloke behind me ripped his earring out. It was nuts.
Of course these days you can relive any football match in HD on YouTube and I think this is perhaps why the memories for me are so great. From the moment Wenger undoes his puffa jacket with such vigour in the opening seconds you know its on.
There are not many teams that will beat this Barcelona team. We did and it was with the sweetest 1-2 combination you could imagine. There are not many teams who have been able to put that face on Pep Guardiola. I will savour it for some time.
And that’s just the beginning, Pat Rice completely loses it running through the camera with his arms in the air like his legs are on fire and Scheszney is still on his knees fist pumping as I write this. Unbelievable night, unbelievable Arsenal.
Thank you, Andrei.
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