The way I see it - Liverpool v Arsenal

Last updated : 27 November 2004 By Jason Hogan

No, it wasn't the other day when we played at Old Trafford believe it or not. Remember when we played Newcastle at Highbury three years ago when we got beat 3-1? I can tell you that I was so angry after that game I punched a hole clean through my bathroom door. I never thought that I would ever see the day when I would be as furious as that again - but that was before I saw us play PSV on Wednesday night.

I have been an Arsenal fan long enough to know that our cards (no pun intended) are well and truly marked in this country. It's got to the stage where I wouldn't put it past a referee in this country to send say Thierry Henry off, for example, for not celebrating a goal properly, Ashley Cole for picking his nose or Paddy Vieira just for looking at an opponent the wrong way.

However on Wednesday night's evidence, it's quite clear that it's not just British referees that are hell bent on marking our cards either and there are certainly a few choice industrial words that I could use to describe the German tosser who was officiating the other night.

True, Lauren made a rod for his own back by unwisely waving an imaginary card at a ref who had already made it clear by then that PSV (unlike us) had virtually had free reign to commit however many offences they wished without incurring any heavy sanctions. But if his fist booking was cheap I thought his second was a joke. Yes, the challenge he made was robust and at worst clumsy - but he GOT THE BALL! And as for the events that surrounded Vieira's dismissal…. Well, I'm not going to even bother going there because that whole situation was nothing short of bullshit.

Throughout the game text messages went back and forth between me and my buddy Gazza and when Vieira was dismissed he actually phoned me and we spent the rest of the game ranting and raving (for the second time in five days) at each other in our shared annoyance over what was going on.

I remember saying to him at the time that if we held on for a point here we will not get much credit for that in most of the papers. Instead, we will be considered to be a bunch of ill-disciplined so and so's who still cannot cut it in Europe. And, surprise, surprise I was absolutely right.

The Sun and The Mirror reporters not only backed up my theory in full but incredibly, they were also readily prepared to promote Guus Hiddink's assertion that Arsene was indeed a whinger.

When Arsene had the audacity to point out the fact that we had two chaps sent off whilst Mark Van Bommel was allowed to completely get away with all kinds of offences, you had the Mirror's Martin Lipton, for example, claiming that Van Bommel DESERVED to get away scot-free with his misdemeanours because of his "commitment" during the game!

Lipton wasn't alone in his cheap views. Steven Howard of The Sun also insinuated that Hiddink was right and that Arsene had no right to condemn Van Bommel's actions in the face of what happened to Vieira and Lauren.

So much for patriotism, huh? This is why I never make any attempt to actually support any other English club in Europe other than ourselves. If ManUre, Chelsea or anyone else for that matter had been through what we went through, the press and the media certainly wouldn't have dared to promote and endorse the views of a coach of a foreign club over those of Ferguson and Mourinho; they would have been screaming blue murder from the rooftops over the dismissals and wholeheartedly praising the English team for getting something from the game in spite of it all.

My message, particularly to Lipton, Howard and their like is that they both should f@ck off and write for the Manchester Evening News or work for Chelsea TV rather than waste time watching or commenting on Arsenal matches. Regardless of what happened they wouldn't, certainly after a European game, have dared to stab either of those clubs in the back in the same way they have done to us yet again.

If they spouted their views from behind those mediums, where there is blatantly no regard for Arsenal, I would actually be inclined to have a crumb of respect for them as opposed to the contempt that I have for them now. Mind you, that will probably never happen because the chances are that even Abramovich probably wouldn't be able to justify the size of their expense accounts!

Still for all that, I have to say that Henry (who found himself very much in the wars along with Reyes and Van Persie) hit the nail flush on the head when he said that the team showed real commitment on the night.

It was easily our best performance of the season in Europe so far and whilst we still have a job to do against Rosenborg in the final game in order to qualify for the last 16, I will be amazed, all things considered, if the boys are not totally fired up for that game despite the fact that Vieira and Lauren amongst others will be missing on the night. Here's to hoping that's a significant factor, I say.

And now, it's time to look towards Sunday and our trip to Anfield where we will take on Liverpool.

There are certainly parallels that can be drawn between the two clubs of late. The Reds, severely depleted by injuries upfront, were robbed of a result in Monaco when Javier Saviola clearly handled the ball before putting it into the back of the net for Monaco's winning goal on Tuesday night.

As a result, Liverpool are in a similar position to us in that they have to win their final home game against Olympiakos in order to guarantee themselves a place in the last 16 of the Champions League. All I will say is that the atmosphere at Anfield will be every bit as hot for the Greeks as it was for Liverpool when they went to Athens that's for sure.

To be fair them, I think that Liverpool's season, recent injuries notwithstanding, has gone almost as I expected so far in that it has been very much up and down. For example, I think that they actually pulled off the best result gained by any of the British teams so far in Europe when they beat Deportivo in The Riazor a few weeks ago yet not long after that they went and got beat at home by Birmingham.

Without a shadow of doubt the nature of their results is down to the fact that they, unlike ManUre for example, are in a GENUINE state of transition. Many people have put ManUre's indifferent start to the Premiership down to transition. Well, since January they have spent £60 million. Half of it went on a young bulky jug-eared Scouser who is widely considered, to put it mildly, to be the most amazing thing this country has seen since the wheel was invented and another £20 million went on bringing in established Premiership players like Alan Smith and Luis Saha.

At Liverpool, they have of course brought in a new foreign coach, Rafa Benitez, a man that has never plied his trade in English football's top flight and he in turn has brought in a clutch of foreign players (that have never plied their trade in the Premiership either) into the first team set up. Now THAT is what I call transition.

Benitez is an interesting guy. A lot has been made over here of the success he had at Valencia despite the fact that he didn't have a lot of money to spend but as usual the media have been a little economical with the truth about that.

You see, the fact that he didn't have an awful lot of money actually helped him when he took over from Hector Cuper at the Mestalla in 2001.

Cuper, of course, had led Valencia to two straight European Cup Finals (2000 and 2001) and when Benitez took over the reins, the nucleus of the squad that helped him go on to win two La Liga titles and a UEFA cup (the likes of Ayala, Carboni, Canizares, Vicente, Baraja, Albelda, Marchenna, Rufete, Angulo and Aimar) was already there.

Having said that, I believe that Benitez will turn Liverpool into a side that EVERYBODY in the Premiership will have to watch out for Liverpool over the next 18 months. He has got something about him has Benitez and, in terms of being a success over here, I wouldn't put anything past him.

Since that oh so famous night in May 1989, this particular away fixture has without a doubt has become more special to me than any other simply because that night we not only beat a team that I respected we also won the title at the expense of a club that I respect.

And there is no doubt that the victories we have got over Liverpool in more recent times both at Highbury and particularly at Anfield since then have often proved to be pivotal where our season has been concerned.

The one thing that worries me, despite all the injuries they have and all the injuries we may have going into the game is that although Liverpool have had their ups and downs this season they will nonetheless feel, quite rightly, that they are definitely due a result particularly at the expense of one of the big boys.

But then if you care to think about, I think that you could easily say the same about us as well.