Liverpool 4-4 Arsenal: Remembering Andrey Arshavin’s 90 Minutes of Fame

?Only Liverpool would have their run to their first ever Premier League title potentially nullified by a global pandemic. Only Liverpool would have their modern-day icon ironically slip to allow Demba Ba to dent a previous title charge.

And only Liverpool would allow Andrey Arshavin to score FOUR on the Anfield turf to put the brakes on their title assault in the 2008/09 campaign.

Okay, maybe that’s all a bit rich coming from a Spurs fan.

Rafael Benitez

But when an under-strength Arsenal side rocked up to the red side of the Mersey on 21 April 2009, the Reds had a chance to take a two-point lead at the top of the table over Manchester United. 

The encounter itself certainly wasn’t one for tactical buffs, but it was the perfect amalgamation of late-2000s Premier League football: frenetic and intense with some of Europe’s finest talents on display.

In an error-ridden contest, Fernando Torres cancelled out Arshavin’s opener with an imperious header before Liverpool took a second-half lead through a scrappy Yossi Benayoun ‘headed’ finish. Jamie Carragher and Fabio Aurelio then set up Arshavin for his second and third strikes of the evening as the Gunners restored their 3-2 lead.

The Russian then bagged an incredible fourth in the final minute of normal time after an iconically headbanded Torres had equalised 15 minutes earlier. Benayoun then provided one final twist, however, scuffing home from inside the area after the loose ball fell to the onrushing Israeli.

There was remarkably little made about Benayoun’s goal from either side. It was hectic. It was shambolic. It was ridiculous. It wasn’t even unexpected any more.

A classic.


Liverpool

Key Talking Point

It would’ve taken a while for Rafa Benitez to have gotten over this performance and result.

Javier Mascherano,Fernando Torres

For such a disciplined and tactically stringent coach, the 4-4 classic was an absolute nightmare for the Spaniard, as three individual errors and a poorly taken set-piece gifted the Gunners their four goals.

While they were impressive going forward and able to sustain attacks like Jurgen Klopp’s current side, defensively they were shambolic – with the normally so reliable pivot of Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano failing to cope with the fluid nature of Arsenal’s midfield, thus struggling to provide ample protection for Liverpool’s sub-par back-four, especially on the counter.

The draw was the only blemish on a remarkable 11-game unbeaten run to round off the campaign and despite United winning the title by a four-point margin, you feel that if the Reds were able to secure the win that Tuesday night things may well have turned out different. 


Liverpool Player Ratings

Starting XI: Reina (4); Arbeloa (4), Carragher (5), Agger (5), Aurelio (4); Alonso (6), Mascherano (4); Benayoun (9), Kuyt (8), Riera (6), Torres (9)

Substitutes: Babel (6), El Zhar (N/A)


Yossi Benayoun

Liverpool's Israeli midfielder Yossi Ben

A hugely underrated performer throughout his Premier League career, Benayoun enjoyed a fine night – scoring twice with, well, not exactly the cleanest pair of strikes you’ll ever see.

But it wasn’t just his brace that made Benayoun’s stellar performance, the Israeli was a constant menace in and out of possession all night; occupying dangerous positions between the lines while persistently hassling the Arsenal side when the Reds didn’t have the ball. 

He certainly didn’t deserve to be on the losing side that night, and when the loose ball fell to him inside the area in the third minute of added time, Benayoun sliced the ball into the corner to ensure he wasn’t.


Arsenal

Key Talking Point

No Emmanuel Adebayor and Robin van Persie? No problem, as an inferior Arsenal side were inspired by an unlikely source to grab a well-earned point on their travels. 

Liverpool's Spanish defender Álvaro Arbe

While they were under siege for much of the contest and certainly reliant on Lukasz Fabianski between the sticks, Arsene Wenger’s side counter-pressed to tremendous effect to often catch Liverpool out high up the pitch before proving deadly in attacking transition as the Reds desperately searched for goals. 

Wenger’s decision to bring on Walcott was an obvious one, and it worked a treat as the former England international set up Arshavin for what looked to be the winner following a rapid counter-attack. 

The visitors themselves, however, were also victim to individual errors: Bacary Sagna horrifically sliced his clearance into the path of Dirk Kuyt for Torres’ expertly taken header, while Fabianski should’ve got a stronger palm on the Spaniard’s second strike.


Arsenal Player Ratings

Starting XI: Fabianski (7); Sagna (6), Toure (5), Silvestre (5), Gibbs (6); Arshavin (10), Song (7), Fabregas (8), Denilson (5), Nasri (7); Bendtner (5)

Substitutes: Walcott (8), Diaby (N/A)


Andrey Arshavin

Andrey Arshavin

Signed in the winter window following a brilliant campaign with Russia at Euro 2008, this was the night Arshavin wrote his name in Premier League folklore.

He joined an exclusive list of sharp-shooters to have scored four goals in one game, so let’s take a look at his four goals:

Goal One (39′): A combination of Fabregas and Nasri dispossessed Mascherano on the edge of his box before the former cut back to the Russian who made no mistake with his left-foot from eight-yards out.

Goal Two (67′): Arshavin nipped in front of Alvaro Arbeloa to intercept Carragher’s headed pass before unleashing an incredible strike from range which swerved away to beat Pepe Reina. Superb technique.

Goal Three (70′): Aurelio inexplicably laid his attempted clearance on a plate for the possessed Russian, who settled himself with a fine first touch before firing through Reina for his hat-trick from 12 yards.

Andrey Arshavin

Goal Four (90′): The Gunners broke to deadly effect from a Liverpool corner, with substitute Walcott picking out a marauding Arshavin. With all the time and space in the world, the diminutive winger made no mistake, crashing another left-footed effort home at Reina’s near post. In the surreal nature of the contest, however, that strike still didn’t prove the winner.


What Aged the Best

Yossi Benayoun,Lukasz Fabianski

Arsenal’s Yellow Away Strips: It’s fair to say that the current away strip donned by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and co. is a monumental upgrade on the murky yellow number on display in 2009.

Lukasz Fabianski: There was a reason why Gooners labelled the Pole ‘Flappy-Handski’ during his time at the Emirates. Fabianski was one of the very few who made Manuel Almunia look competent. And despite a fine first-half performance at Anfield in 2009, he still went on to concede four – one he certainly should’ve done better with. Nevertheless, Fabianski would go on to establish himself as one of the Premier League’s most reliable shot-stoppers at Swansea and now West Ham.


What Aged the Worst

Fernando Torres

Rafa Benitez: Following the domestic highs of 2008/09, the 2009/10 campaign was one to forget for Benitez. Liverpool struggled to cope with the loss of Xabi Alonso – who they replaced with Alberto Aquilani in the summer – as they finished seventh and failed to qualify for the Champions League knockout stages. That dismal campaign proved the end of the road for Benitez on Merseyside. 

Fernando Torres: In his prime, he was untouchable. The headband, the Total90 boots, the long-sleeved adidas shirt – defenders were in serious trouble. The Spaniard followed his 14-goal campaign that season with 18 Premier League goals in 2009/10 before things went south. He forced a move away from Anfield and ended up at Chelsea, where apart from that one Gary Neville-elevated moment, he simply wasn’t the same. 


Players You Completely Forgot Existed

Liverpool's Spanish midfielder Albert Ri

Albert Riera: A typical Benitez wide midfielder due to his unimaginative nature in possession and stellar defensive work-rate – see his masterclass in shutting down Real Madrid’s Arjen Robben – Riera was below the standard quality to win titles and was sold in 2010 following a spat with his Spanish boss.

Nabil El Zhar: Good luck remembering El Zhar if a Sporcle quiz about this classic encounter ever pops up.

Denilson: The mightily talented Brazilian who was converted by Arsene Wenger into a pure defensive midfielder in a bid to find their Claude Makelele. It didn’t work. Talent down the drain.


What Happened Next

Manchester United v Arsenal - Premier League

Liverpool didn’t win the league despite winning their final five Premier League games at a canter.

Sir Alex Ferguson existed, so United won the title again.

Despite getting steamrolled by Chelsea at the Emirates, Arsenal strolled to fourth-place and another Champions League berth. I don’t think Gooners didn’t quite appreciate those days enough.


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How a Shocked Alex Ferguson Reacted to Eric Cantona ‘Kung Fu’ Kick at Selhurst Park

?Alex Ferguson was so shocked by Eric Cantona’s infamous ‘kung fu kick’ on that night at Selhurst Park in 1995, the Manchester United boss didn’t even speak to the Frenchman in the dressing room after the game. The usually forthcoming Scot was seemingly stunned into silence.

Cantona, who had already steered United to Premier League glory in 1992/93 and 1993/94, was sent off as a result of kicking Palace defender Richard Shaw. But it was as he walking away down the touchline that things took an even more sinister turn.

PALACE V MAN U

A Palace fan by the name of Matthew Simmons, a man Cantona has dismissively referred to as ‘the hooligan’ in the years since, rushed down several rows of the adjacent stand to hurl abuse. In response, Cantona jumped over the hoardings and landed a kick and some punches.

In a new book by author Wayne Barton titled King Eric: Portrait of the Artist Who Changed English Football, former United chairman Martin Edwards described the shock that followed.

“I went into the dressing room afterwards and it was dead quiet. We were all stunned, really. I don’t think Alex said anything to him,” Edwards recalled in an extract published by the Daily Mirror.

“The controversy went with the territory of being at Manchester United, but I had never seen anything like Selhurst before and I don’t think anybody else had. It was deeply unusual.”

United took swift action, immediately suspending Cantona for the rest of the season. He was also given an eight-month suspension by the FA that ran into the following campaign, while a criminal charge even yielded a two-week prison sentence that was dropped to 120 hours of community service.

FOOTBALL-CANTONA

Cantona returned to action in October 1995 and went on to inspire United to a domestic double that season, but his absence in the final few months of the 1994/95 campaign left a big ‘what if’.

At the time, United were battling nouveau riche Blackburn for the Premier League title. Without their talisman and X-factor, Ferguson’s team finished just one point shy of the new champions on the final day of the season, while they also lost the FA Cup final to Everton.

Might Cantona have made the difference that could have given United three in a row? That could even have become four in a row the next year, and five with further success in 1996/97.


For more from Jamie Spencer, follow him on Twitter and Facebook!

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Newcastle’s Saudi Takeover ‘One Step Closer’ After Bid Lodged With Premier League

Mike Ashley’s reign of terror at St. James’ Park could soon be over as the Premier League have been informed of a bid from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) to buy Newcastle United.

Club owner Ashley has long been looking for a buyer, but his asking price has often proven to be the problem. The Saudi prince was ?tipped to buy the club back in February, although it was thought that he would prefer Manchester United instead.


However, according to ?The TelegraphPrince Mohammed bin Salman has turned his attention to ?Newcastle, and his PIF have now contacted the ?Premier League to inform them of his desire to buy the club in a £340m deal.

PIF would take 80% of the club, 10% would go to Amanda Staveley, and the final 10% would be given to Reuben Brothers, who also own the Newcastle Racecourse.

The prospective owners have all been in contact with the Premier League to register their interest in buying the club from Ashley, with Staveley, Jamie Reuben and PIF governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan all named as potential directors.

Al-Rumayyan is expected to named as director, while Reuben would need to resign from his role as ?Queens Park Rangers director if the deal goes through.

Contact with the Premier League is said to have been made several days ago, and it is thought that it could take up to a month for league officials to conduct their evaluation of the potential buyers.

Mike Ashley

The coronavirus crisis has put them under real pressure, so finding time to analyse the funding sources of all three interested parties is obviously not their top priority right now, although they still intend to deal with the purchase in due course.

The group hope to invest heavily in all aspects of Newcastle – something which Ashley has often been accused of refusing to do – and they see the Magpies as a club with enormous potential as a result of their history and city-centre stadium.


For more from Tom Gott, follow him on Twitter!

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Wojciech Szcz?sny Reveals Cristiano Ronaldo’s Punishment for Red Card in 2018

?Juventus goalkeeper Wojciech Szcz?sny has revealed that teammate Cristiano Ronaldo was made to buy the entire squad iMacs after being sent off against Valencia in 2018.

During what was a slow start to his Juventus tenure, Ronaldo was given his marching orders just 29 minutes into his first Champions League game with his new side when he was controversially ruled to have pulled the hair of an opponent.

Speaking on his ?Prosto w Szczen? podcast, Szcz?sny revealed that former boss Massimiliano Allegri had a rule that a player must buy his teammates presents if he gets sent off, but ?Ronaldo did his best to fight it.

“Yes, we all have an iMac,” the goalkeeper said. “It took a very long time because [Ronaldo] couldn’t process that red card and insisted high and low that he did not do anything wrong. 

“It took him a while, about two months of arguing, but we all have received an iMac.”

It wasn’t just Ronaldo who was punished for a lack of discipline last season. Both Federico Bernardesci and Douglas Costa were shown red cards during the campaign, so it must have felt like Christmas all year round at the Allianz Stadium.

Szcz?sny also added that the presents rule also applied to players who turned up late for training, with the Poland international himself falling foul of Allegri’s punishment once.

“I thought it was Tuesday, but it turned out to be Wednesday that day,” he explained. “Allegri called me and said everyone was already there. 

Wojciech Szczesny

“When I arrived half an hour late on the training field, everyone said ‘oh, we’re getting presents!’. I ended up buying headphones for the boys.”

The rule is no longer in place following Allegri’s departure at the end of last season, but his replacement, Maurizio Sarri, doesn’t exactly come with a reputation for being the most fun to work under. Ask any ?Chelsea fan.


For more from Tom Gott, follow him on Twitter!

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Real Madrid Set to Move for ‘New Kaká’ Igor Gomes But Face Competition From Barcelona

We all know Real Madrid like to sign a Brazilian player or two. 

Casemiro and Marcelo are long-running servants to the club, while in Eder Militao, Reinier, Rodrygo and Vinicius Jr, they host some of the country’s most exciting emerging talents.

The association doesn’t stop there either. Even going back to the early days of the ‘Galáctico’ era, the likes of Ronaldo (Nazario edition) and Roberto Carlos famously donned the white shirt to much success. 


And according to ?AS, the trend of recruiting the best Brazilian talent is set to continue, with the club’s South American scouts issuing glowing reports on Sao Paulo’s Igor Gomes. 

The Spanish outlet say Los Blancos are ‘set’ to make an offer for the 21-year-old, who is reported to have a €50m release clause in his contract, although the likes of ?Barcelona, Sevilla and Ajax are all said to be circling. 

Attacking midfielder Gomes came through the club’s youth ranks with Militao, with the former going on to join Porto in 2018. Gomes, meanwhile, has stayed in Brazil, making 44 appearances for the Serie A side, including two in this year’s Copa Libertadores – scoring in their most recent clash with Ecuadorian side LDU Quito. 

A classy attacking midfielder whose best asset is his keen eye for a pass, Gomes has drawn more than a few comparisons with Sao Paulo legend and ex-?Madrid man Kaká, with some in the Brazilian press even dubbing him an ‘improved version.’


Those are comparisons which Kaka himself has attested to. 

?“It’s not good to make comparisons, it puts too much pressure on him,” he said recently. “But yes, it’s true that he reminds me a lot of myself in terms of his style of play.”

Kaka left Brazil for ?Milan aged 22, so just having turned 21 this month, Gomes has a year of first-team football to make up on his predecessor – though he might not get that at Sao Paulo if Real get their wish.

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