The way I see it - Panathinaikos v Arsenal

Last updated : 19 October 2004 By Jason Hogan

It was, quite simply, one of those all too rare days when things just got better and better for us Gooners the longer the day went on. Having watched and then listened to what unfolded at both St Andrews and Highbury respectively, I was feeling pretty chuffed but after witnessing what then happened at Eastlands on Saturday evening, I was, well, over the moon.

So, before I reflect on how well the Arsenal did against Villa, it would be rude of me not to indulge in a little bit of gloating.

You see, there have been certain journalists (like Martin Samuel of the News of the World for example) that have strongly questioned the strength and quality of the Premiership in the wake of what the Arsenal did last season and have continued to do so far this season.

Well, I wonder what Samuel and his like-minded cronies in the press now make of the fact that since the start of last season, Arsenal have now gone precisely 47 league games (and counting) without defeat where as an expensively assembled, over hyped outfit governed a Portuguese chap who promotes himself as the "special one", only managed, by way of comparison, to go unbeaten for the princely sum of just EIGHT games from start of THIS season before sampling the bitter taste of defeat.

All I know is that in the aftermath of what happened at Eastlands proved two things. The first was that the Premiership is no where near as weak as Samuel (and his like) have tried to suggest at various stages.

Secondly the result at Eastlands surely proved beyond any doubt that (regardless of where and when it comes to an end) the run Arsenal are on takes on a level of achievement bordering on the indescribable. Well, that's what I think anyway. Feel free to let me know if you disagree, fellow Gooners.

Looking back on Saturday's game against Villa, the thing that pleased me the most was the way we didn't panic. Even by our standards the first 20 minutes of the game were amazing in so far as we could have been one up in two minutes, fell behind after about three minutes, nearly conceded a second only to then be confronted with inspired goalkeeper when we threatened to reply with interest.

Of course, from the moment Robert Pires brought us back to parity the thought that it was going be "just one of those days" evaporated and the rest, as they say, was blissfully constructed history.

Having put ourselves in a handy position in the league we should be heading off to Athens (albeit without Dennis Bergkamp and possibly Patrick Vieira) in pretty good heart.

This, I make it, will be the fifth time that we have played Panathinaikos in the group stages of the Champions League and I for one certainly have vivid memories of when we last played them in Athens three years ago because we lost 1-0 on the back of the worst display that I have seen from Arsenal anywhere against anyone certainly within the last five years.

I remember watching that game and thinking that we looked as though we were playing the game against our will. Even Thierry Henry was awful on the night and the only time he (or anyone else in an Arsenal shirt for that matter) showed any passion was at the end when he threw a bit of a wobbly at the officials at the end of the game.

The saddest aspect of all about that night was the fact that we were playing against a Panathinaikos side that were no real great shakes at all and funnily enough they gave us more problems at Highbury in the return leg which they lost.

Pana (as they are apparently called for short) definitely have one survivor from that game at Highbury who not only played but scored against us at Highbury that night as well - Emmanuel Olisadebe.

The Nigerian born Polish international has been laid up with a long term injury but apparently he could be fit for Wednesday's game. This lad is a typical of a long line of Nigerian forwards like Daniel Amokachi, Victor Ikpeba, Obefemi Martins and Yakubu in that he is big, strong and lightning quick. His return will be timely given that their key striker Papadopoulos looks like he is going to be missing.

As an alternative, Pana can call on the services of Michael Konstantinou. I have seen this lad play once or twice. He is very much a target man but technically he is very good and he had a good Champions League campaign a couple of years ago.

We will need to watch out for former Newcastle player Silvio Maric and the new sensation that is Ezequiel Gonzalez. He was the chap that bagged a pretty impressive brace to help Pana see off Rosenborg on Matchday 1.

We may not be playing this game in Athens' Olympic Stadium but anyone who thinks that Pana's 17,000 capacity stadium isn't an intimidating place invariably finds themselves in for a RUDE awakening.

The stadium is small, tight - and bloody noisy. The Greeks know how to get behind their team and we will be made to feel about as welcome as a Turkish kebab shop owner.

This game is definitely a tricky one but I cannot believe that we can go there and play any worse than we did three years ago. Besides, given the way that we tossed two points down the plughole in Trondheim, I think that it's high time that we put the record straight in Athens.