Ajax 0 Arsenal 0: All White Flags And No Total Football

Last updated : 26 February 2003 By Darren Hawken
Arsene looks on, wondering where the goal is coming from
Domestic matters are running along nicely, but Europe is still something we need to take by the scruff of the neck and show our true worth.

After the massacre of Manchester City at Maine road for the last ever time, Arsenal welcomed back Cole and Seaman from injury and old age as Arsenal went into this match with arguably their strongest line up, missing really only Freddie Ljungberg. Judging by the pre-match hype, Ajax were going to set their stall out by defending deep and offering little up front, whilst man marking Bergkamp and crowding the midfield.

The game kicked off to a wall of sound as the Ajax fans urged their team to play in both half's of the pitch, some hope as, as expected Ajax stuck everyone behind the ball except for Zlatan who played up front on his own, this left the onus on Arsenal to dictate the tempo and try and pick holes in the wall of White shirts. Henry had an excellent shot on the run and turn pushed aside for a corner, Wiltord shot into the side netting after a nice flowing move and Pires dropped deep to probe and pas through the Ajax wall.

Chivu had a free-kick easily headed off the line by the as ever excellent Cole and Lauren on the other flank was putting in some crucial last ditch tackles to quell Ajax. Cole was harshly booked for a shoulder to shoulder challenge on an Ajax player who looked like he was shot and the only real entertainment of the first half was the odd firework or two that was let off.

In the other game though Roma were incredibly 3-0 up at the Mestalla, in a stadium that is meant to be impregnable with goals from Emerson and two from Totti. The carrot of qualification for Arsenal and Ajax was now theirs for the taking what with Valencia faltering at home.

Second half started and I have to say it followed the same dreary pattern o f the first half as Ajax although a little brighter, refused to play ball and basically killed the game and played out for a draw. I suppose you could say Arsenal should have taken the game more to Ajax, but why risk losing a game just because you want to entertain a little more than the home side.

Robert Pires is tackled by Trabelsi
Vieira was booked for a perfectly good challenge and the game fizzled out into a draw with most of the play in the last twenty minutes concentrated in the Ajax half, but also so were all the players making space a premium. So next game up in a few weeks at home to Roma and of course a win is vital and an Ajax win over Valencia will see Arsenal through with a game to spare in a group that was always going to be tight, but for me Ajax being the surprise package and so far Roma the biggest let down.

I am off to watch the Untouchables, let's hope come the end of the season that is what the mighty Arsenal are called. And one final thought, it takes two teams to make the game a spectacle yet Ajax refused to play ball and it is no wonder they are the lowest scorers in the Champions League this season.

Charlton next, we owe that Curbishley a beating after the game last season at Highbury that left me shell-shocked and two hours after the game still trying to work out how the hell we lost a game we had 30 shots on goal?

Alan Curbishley should also win the manager of the year, as his team gets written off for relegation every year yet this season they are up for Europe are outperforming the mighty Spurs and have had a few players called into the England squad.

Keep the faith