Arsenal return to Liege - so much has changed in 15 years
PUBLISHED: 11:18 15 September 2009 | UPDATED: 16:27 07 September 2010
The build up to Arsenal s successful 1993/94 Cup-Winners -Cup trip to Standard Liege shows just how far the club has come in the past two decades. George Graham s side negotiated a tricky first leg 3-2 against the Danish part-timers of Odense BK before a
The build up to Arsenal's successful 1993/94 Cup-Winners'-Cup trip to Standard Liege shows just how far the club has come in the past two decades.
George Graham's side negotiated a tricky first leg 3-2 against the Danish part-timers of Odense BK before a trip to Wallonia in the Last 16.
Locking horns with the Belgian League runners-up was seen by many as a tough challenge that could prove their undoing, particularly after a barren run in front of goal for the misfiring Gunners.
"A very tough test for an Arsenal side lacking confidence" is how one national paper looked at the tie.
In the days leading up to the Highbury leg, Standard's coach Arie Haan, a member of the famous Netherlands total football side of the 1970s, mocked his Premier League opponents.
'I think British clubs all play the same style,' he said dismissively. "We have played Hearts, Portadown and Cardiff in the last two years - all the same. Cardiff could not play football so they kicked us.
"Arsenal should know that my players are used to it and are not afraid of anyone. It's an advantage we've played British sides before."
He should have kept his mouth shut - an Ian Wright double helped Arsenal to a 3-0 first leg Highbury win.
Even then Haan, could not resist another dig. "'It is not impossible to overturn this deficit. We need a goal every half an hour. We'll show that Arsenal have some weaknesses.'
The real fireworks came in the return across the North Sea when the Gunners - missing Wright, who was rested - smashed seven without reply past Haan's side at Sclessin Stadium, a record away win in Europe which made up for a 3-1 loss on their first visit to the city in 1963/64 when they lost to Standard's rivals Royal Liege in the Fairs Cup.
These days Standard's coach, Laszlo Boloni, is showing far more respect than his predecessor Haan, with Arsenal now firmly seated at Europe's top table.
He has Arsene Wenger's side down as overwhelming favourites. "They play fantastic, inventive football," he said.
He is already eyeing second place as his best hope.
Standard, who won their second successive Jupiler League by beating bitter rivals Anderlecht in a two-legged play-off after the two sides finished the regular season with the same points, currently lie in seventh place after just one win in their opening five outings, drawing the rest.
One player familiar to the north London footballing public will be Ricardo Rocha, the Portuguese defender who played just 14 games for Tottenham in three seasons before leaving in June.
He replaced Oguchi Onyewu, the Nigerian born US international who holds Belgian citizenship. Onyewu, who had a spell at Newcastle on loan in 2007, is now at Milan, a move which may surprise Toon followers after a litany of errors on Tyneside.
Their star man, Milan Jovanovic - not to be confused with the Rapid Vienna midfielder of the same name - is a Serbia international with a penchant for spectacular free kicks who has become a cult figure in Belgium following his move from Lokomotiv Moscow in 2006.
Hull City reportedly lined up an £8 million bid before the transfer window closed.
Standard have little Champions League experience but did take Liverpool to extra time before a Dirk Kuyt goal floored them last season.
Belgium international midfielder, Axel Witsel, should be fresh for the visit of Arsenal; he received an eight match domestic ban after a horror challenge left RSC Anderlecht defender Marcin Wasilewski with a broken leg in an incident which drew comparisons with Martin Taylor's leg-breaking tackle on Eduardo last year.
Wasilewski's season is over. Arsenal's European season is about to begin ...