Substituted after just 18 minutes of a Champions League Final, Robert Pirès never played for Arsenal again.
After Jens Lehmann saw red, Pirès was sacrificed and it was the moment that convinced the then 32-year-old to end his time in London. Barcelona went on to win the game and Arsenal haven’t reached a European final since.
The Gunners have met Barcelona twice since, both times in the last 16. On both occasionss the Spanish giants have gone through, and the Champions League draw has given history the chance to repeat itself this season.
“The draw for the Champions League…everybody knows it’s difficult,” Pirès admitted in an interview with Omnisport. “When you play Barcelona or Bayern Munich you know it’s very difficult and is going to be a very tough game.”
However, Barcelona failed to win at the Emirates Stadium in 2010 and 2011, while Bayern Munich lost 2-0 to Arsenal this season (only to beat the Gunners 5-1 at the Allianz Arena weeks later). It’s clear that Arsène Wenger’s side are capable of beating anyone on their day, and that gives Pirès hope for his former club.
“But I repeat the same. When you talk to everyone about football, I think anything is possible. Of course Barcelona are one of the best teams in Europe. But I believe in Arsenal for this game, yes.”
I believe in Arsenal for the game too, but perhaps only the home game. Travelling to the Nou Camp in need of a performance to kick Barcelona – the current holders – out of the competition is a daunting prospect.
Since one ended Pirès’ Arsenal career, ties against Barcelona have twice ended Arsenal’s hopes of European success for yet another year. Fourth time lucky?