Arsene rotated the squad once more and rested a few players who needed resting. With Keown, Parlour, Lauren, Campbell and Seaman all not fit or fully fit and others given the night off our line-up looked arguably a tad lightweight but still contained enough International and World Class players to do a job.
Shaaban made his debut and in front of him a back four of Luzhny, Cygan, Stepanovs and Toure had an experimental look about this somewhat enforced combination. A midfield of Pires, Vieira, Edu and van Bronckhorst looked solid, while with Henry and Francis, our token Englishman, up front we certainly had the potential for goals. Our bench included Bergkamp, Taylor, Gilberto and Wiltord so Mr Wenger had more than enough quality players to throw into the mixer if required. I've no idea what Le Boss's motivational pre match talk was like but it was to be hoped that the squad realised that there are no easy matches in this competition.
And so it proved. The first half was a turgid affair in which we played it around at the back hoping to draw PSV out and hit them with a long ball. But they were not buying it. It looked like they come for a goal less draw. Edu got a lot of the ball early on and looked the part. Jeffers headed well wide from a Henry cross when he looked as if he'd lost his bearings. Van Bommel fouled Edu. Henry tried from range aiming at the top corner but was nowhere near the target. Pat was fouled. Great ball from Pires to Jeffers who found space down the middle and got a one on one for our best chance of the half but the keeper saves for a corner. Shaaban out well to gather.
Edu was our main man at this stage and seemed to get a lot of the ball. Pires also saw a fair amount of the ball moving inside from his nominal position on the right flank. Mind you he was chopped most times he gained possession although to be fair to the Dutch they did at least take it in turns to hack him. No real excitement though. Bouma took out Bob, Jeffers was fouled and although both Oleg and Kolo got decent enough crosses in we were seriously outnumbered by their defenders who were playing deep. Vogel got a yellow for a foul on Bob unlucky perhaps, because it was just his turn on the chop Bob rota.
Igors summed his start up with a header that skimmed his bounce when no one was challenging. There was the odd combination play but no real flow, this wasn't exactly aided by a rather whistle happy Mr Tom Henning Ovrebo. Kolo conceded a free kick, which was fired across the face of our goal. Then Kolo earned a yellow for a half collision, half rugby tackle on Rommedahl. Oleg conceded a corner that Henry headed clear. Lots of passes from Arsenal now but they were not taking us anywhere. Kolo made a stupid trip, got a second yellow and we were down to ten men. At the other end Jeffers went down in their box in front of the Clock End. No pen.
After the break it opened with a bad foul by van Bommel on Pat. Henry did well on a run after a receiving a good cross-field ball. Gio swings in a fine corner and wins another. Good Arsenal move after Jeffers run was spotted by Pires. Dennis, Sylvain and Gilberto warm up. Great play by Henry. Great cross by Gio. Rommedahl dives for a free kick doesn't get one and was roundly booed for the remainder of the evening. Good save by Shaaban who's not had a lot to do. Henry tried a run and won a corner. Rommedahl blasted a cross miles too far and was jeered. 'There's only one Dennis Bergkamp' - the natives are restless. Bob fouled again, as Arsenal appear to be in control, despite the ten men.
'4-0 to the Arsenal' in response to a Dutch ditty. Pat was far too good for van Bommel and they don't appear to be the best of mates. 'You'll never play for Arsenal'. Fine run from Thierry but no power in the shot. Dennis on for Thierry as Hofland got a card for a trip on Bob, who else? Edu takes the free kick but it's too far for Cygan. Brilliant play by Dennis as the ref gives a throw that never was. Van Bommel fouls Pat again - not given. Van Bommel fouls Pat yet again - why no card ref? You ****. Wiltord on for Jeffers. Keeper fumbles from a corner so Gio tries to score directly from the next one. He goes close.
Van der Schaaf on for Bruggink. Wiltord to Pires to Bergkamp but it goes just behind Dennis, fine move though. 'Arsene Wenger's red and white army - we hate Tottenham' as thoughts already turn to Saturday's match. Bob almost through. Brilliant run by Sylv who plays a return ball with Dennis but slides his shot past the far post. Our closest yet. Gilberto on for Vieira and the captain's armband was passed on to Dennis. Van Bommel shot straight at Shaaban. Van Bommel fouled Gilberto. Lucius fired over a half chance. Ooijer off and he's replaced by Vennegoor of Hesselink (I kid you not). Oleg still working well as Robben fired one at the executive boxes.
News came through that Liverpool had failed to beat Gross and his Swiss yodelers and so the crowd sang 'Liverpool won feck-all' as we also learn that Auxerre had beaten Borrusia Dortmund which meant we topped our group.