Arsenal FC

THE GREAT ESCAPE: Champions League Preview

Olympiakos v Arsenal, Wednesday 9th December (7.45pm KO)

 

Arsenal require a win against the Greek outfit this evening to progress through to the last 16 of the Champions League knock out stages.

 

Last night Manchester United crashed out of Europe’s elite football competition after a 3 – 2 away defeat to VfLWolfsburg. This sent shockwaves around Britain. How could a club of this stature be prematurely KO’d from the Champions League, a competition they won merely 7 years ago?

 

Will the Gunners suffer the same fate?

 

Arsenal can only qualify for the last 16 as Group F runners-up if they better Olympiakos 3-2 win at the Emirates.

 

A 1-0 or 2-1 win will not be enough. The Gunners require 3-2 or a higher score line to give them a better head-to-head record than their Greek rivals in the group.

 

With this score line, Arsenal would then finish above Olympiakos on overall goal difference.

 

The Stats

  • In Greece, Arsenal have drawn one and lost four of their last five games

 

  • The Gunners have won seven and lost four of their last 13 European away fixtures

 

  • Olympiakos are aiming to progress to the knock out stages of the Champions League for the second time in three seasons.

 

  • Olympiakos are currently unbeaten in six home Champions League ties against English opposition; winning five of those games

 

YOU GOTTA HAVE FAITH!!

 

There have been many great escapes in Champions League folklore, from which Arsenal can draw strength.

 

Here are some of the best.

 

FC PORTO 2003/2004

 

FC Porto after being crowned UEFA Cup winners in season 2002/2003 began their attack on the UEFA Champions League under the leadership of a young, Jose Mourinho.

 

The Portuguese side did not get off to a good start in their first group game against Partizan. Porto drew one all with the Serbians in their away fixture. There home leg against Real Madrid seen Jose Mourinho’s side hammered 3 – 1. All seemed lost, until the young Mourinho wielded his magic and defeated French side, Marseille in a double header (3 – 2 away then 1 – 0 at home). Porto would later go on to win 2 – 1 at home against Partizan and draw with Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu.

 

After the home defeat to Real Madrid left the Portugese side one point from two games all seemed lost. But eventually, Porto stormed through the competition taking a staggering 10 points from a possible 12.

 

Porto went on to reach the final in Germany, and were crowned the Champions of Europe defeating Monaco 3 – 0.

 

LIVERPOOL 2004/2005

 

In their opening group match Liverpool comfortably won 2 – 0 against Monaco. The Reds struggled to pick up points in Greece however, and Olympiakos finished them off with a 1 – 0 win. Liverpool again struggled to make the grade, and drew 0 – 0 at Anfield against Deportivo La Coruna. That meant Liverpool had only taken four points in three games.

 

In the return leg against Deportivo away, Liverpool won 1 – 0. However defeat at Monaco meant that Liverpool required a victory by two clear goals against Olympiakos (sound familiar?).

 

Liverpool initially went behind after a well worked Rivaldo free kick. This set piece set the stage for one of the most dramatic comebacks in Liverpool’s and Champions League history.

 

Liverpool scored two minutes after the game restarted through Florent Sinama-Pongolle. The second goal came from Neil Mellor who scored in the 81st minute. The Reds needed a goal, and who better to pop up and deliver it than Captain Fantastic himself – Steven George Gerrard.

 

25 yards out, dying minutes of the game, in front of the Kop and boom – GOAL!!

 

3 – 1 Liverpool.

 

Of course, if you know your history, the Reds later went on to produce arguably the greatest Champions League final ever. Does anyone remember the certain heroics of one Jerzy Dudek? Simply unforgettable.

 

WERDER BREMEN 2005/2006

 

The German side collected merely four points from five games during their Champions League campaign. Going into their final fixture against Greek side Panathinaikos they needed a victory, of four or more goals and Barcelona to beat Italian side Udinese. To summarise, they needed a miracle. And by God, did they get one.

 

The Germans battered Panathinaikos 5 – 1, they has done their bit. Barcelona however left it late to seal a victory over Udinese, scoring twice in the final 5 minutes of the match.

 

Bremen would later be knocked out by Juventus in the last 16 but they gave us a hell of moment to remember.

 

OLMPIAKOS V ARSENAL 2015/2016

 

Will there be another great escape?

 

Arsenal awaits their fate this evening. If they do drop out of the competition it will be the first time in 16 consecutive seasons.

 

The Gunners will have to progress without star striker Alexi Sanchez and midfielder Santi Carzola. Arsenal did secure a comfortable 3 – 1 at home against Sunderland at the weekend taking the London side to 2nd place in the Premier League. They will have to build on that confidence and their success in domestic competition to give them any sort of chance of completing the great escape.

 

“Que sera sera, whatever will be, will be.

The Future’s not ours to see. Que sera, sera!”

 

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Homophobia in Football: What’s the problem?

(I would like to highlight that the following information is drawn from a football perspective within England)

 

“If a player did come out, I think everyone would be supportive, but I’m 100% sure that people in the changing room would be joking, and that some would be ripping it out of him.  If there’s a gay player in our changing room, I’d understand why he wouldn’t come out.”

(Anonymous, professional League One player)

 

BBC Sport reported yesterday that Premier League executive Richard Scudamore supports the idea that openly gay footballers would be treated with respect in the Premier League.

 

This was a bold assumption from Scudamore, who has held his position as Chief Executive at the top flight of English Association Football for 16 years. Scudamore believed openly gay footballers would be treated with “tolerance” and “that the time would be right” to come out.

 

The Chief Executive however appeared ill informed on the subject. When discussing the gay footballer “coming out”, Scudamore questioned whether this language was appropriate and consistently referred to openly gay players as “them” and “they”.

 

There is only one openly gay player in English football. His name is Liam Davis, and he plays for Gainsborough Trinity. In an interview with BBC Sport in January 2014 Davis spoke about a fairly positive response from his team mates, opposition and fans. Davis stated that on the one occasion that he did encounter abuse from an opposition player, the player apologised for his behaviour after the match via a text message. During an interview with the Lincolnshire Echo Davis expressed his wishes that professional footballer Thomas Hitzlsperger would have “came out” before retiring in 2013. Davis did however admit, that the closer you get to the top flight then the harder it will be for players to be open about homosexuality due to greater media coverage and increased fan exposure. Davis seemed to be in the perfect community club environment to “come out”, and has received massive support from family, friends, team mates and the football club itself. However, the same cannot be said for others. And the fact of the matter is, out of the 2 million adults who participate in football every week in England only one is openly gay despite 1.5% of the English population being homosexual or bisexual. This does not support Scudmore’s statement, and it is plainly obvious that the environment in England is not entirely suitable for homosexual footballers.

 

Thomas Hitzlsperger, the former Aston Villa and German national player, also received positive responses upon coming out to the public.  This is a great thing, however Hitzlsperger never experience a match day response inside a Premier League stadium. So there is no telling how a crowd would respond. I would like to think the reaction would be positive, but past experience tells us otherwise. Justin Fashanu, England U21 International, came out as homosexual in 1990 – he was the first footballer to do so in the United Kingdom. He committed suicide at the age of 37, tragically, as a response to his sexuality.

 

Fundamentally, the difficulty with this subject is that gay footballers are the invisible minority. Popular football magazine FourFourTwo reported a survey of professional footballers who responded to the question, “Do you know any gay players?” 11% of the 123 players asked responded “Yes”.  (Please note that some Scottish Premier League players responded to this survey)

 

“A player confided in me and came out. I’ve kept my mouth shut. It’s none of my business. It’s no one’s business.”

 

This one response from a professional League Two player highlights the eagerness to protect gay footballers. This may seem like an act of kindness, but personally I believe this suggests a lack of tolerance in the English game.

 

The Gay Football Supporters Network (GFSN) was formed in 1989, “as a social network for LGB&T football fans across the UK.” The organisation uses football as a tool to tackle “homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia” on and off the football field. It has helped to establish LGBT supporters clubs, assisting the development of an inclusive and equal football fan experience. London based clubs, Arsenal FC and Tottenham Hotspurs, are two such clubs with LGBT supporters groups. The Gay Gooners and The Proud Lilywhites are the clubs official LGBT fan communities. These fierce rivals share solidarity and a common goal to create a safe and inclusive fan environment. BBC Newsbeat investigated LGBT supporters clubs in the Premier League in August this year. Excluding Arsenal FC, who formed the first Premier League LGBT group in 2013, BBC Newsbeat asked the remaining 19 clubs “if they had an official one connected with the club”. From the 11 respondents, 4 chose not to answer the question, 5 said that yes they did have LGBT fan groups and the remaining two stated that they didn’t have one at the current time.

 

Proud Lily Whites.jpg

 

GFSN have stressed that Premier League clubs are not doing enough to support their fans. Ed Connell, GSFN Chairman, is shocked at the number of Premier League clubs and officials (such as Richard Scudamore) who believe that homophobia in football is not a problem. Out of the Fields conducted the first International Study on homophobia in sport. The results were posted in May this year and despite the majority opinion, out of more than 9,000 people in the United Kingdom 77% claimed they had “witnessed or experienced homophobia in sport”.

 

Back to Richard Scudamore, the man who places blind faith on football and football fans to “tolerate” homosexuality. The statistics show little proof that coming out will be welcomed in English football. I hope I am proven incorrect, but I simply cannot support Scudamore’s thoughts. It is clear that we have a number of gay footballers who do not want to come out, for whatever reason. Clearly they are known to other professionals who they work with on a daily basis but they will not expose themselves to fans or the media. This highlights a significant problem with homosexual inclusion in English sport, particularly football. This problem isn’t exclusive to the football players alone, and football fans are seeking new ways to enjoy the sport that they love. Homosexual, bisexual and transgender fans are forming LGBT supporters groups in order to feel safe in Premier league grounds, and yet clubs, officials and executives are still denying that there is a problem. Without a shadow of a doubt Scudamore’s comments are ill informed and misjudged. I cannot say that I am a member of an LGBT group, but if I was I would not be very happy with my league executive for completely downplaying a very serious problem within football.

 

 

 

Reference

 

http://www.lincolnshireecho.co.uk/Gainsborough-Trinity-s-Liam-Davis-openly-gay/story-20431222-detail/story.html

 

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/reality-check/2013/oct/03/gay-britain-what-do-statistics-say

 

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/87288.stm

 

http://www.gfsn.org.uk/news/beta-gay-players-11-of-players-know-one.html

 

http://www.tottenhamhotspur.com/news/formation-of-lgbandampt-fan-group-060214/

 

http://www.arsenal.com/fanzone/gay-gooners

 

https://proudlilywhites.wordpress.com/

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/article/33760649/footballs-lgbt-fans-want-more-help-from-clubs

 

http://outonthefields.com/