Arsène Wenger recalls tactical error in 2006 Champions League final loss | inside World Soccer


Arsène Wenger recalls tactical error in 2006 Champions League final loss

Friday, May 6, 2022

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Former Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger has finally admitted he did make a mistake with one of his substitutions in the 2006 Champions League final against Barcelona.

The legendary tactician came agonisingly close to leading Arsenal to their first Champions League title in 2006 only for Barcelona to stage a late comeback at the Stade de France.

Sol Campbell had given the Gunners an unlikely lead towards the end of the first half despite Jens Lehmann receiving an early red card.

Arsenal were 13 minutes away from becoming the first London club to lift the famous trophy, only for Samuel Eto'o and Juliano Belletti to win the game for Barcelona and break Arsenal hearts.

Analysing the defeat, many fans suspected Wenger made an error in picking Robert Pires as the outfield player to sacrifice in the wake of Lehmann's dismissal.

However, the Frenchman remains adamant he made the correct decision to withdraw the winger for back-up goalkeeper Manuel Almunia.

Speaking on beIN Sports, Wenger explained:

First of all you have to make quick decisions. At that time, Pires was born in 1973 and we were in 2006, against Barcelona you know at some stage you have to defend.

Pires was an offensive player, a very offensive player. Up front, we had [Alexander] Hleb, who was a hard-working type on the right-hand side and Pires on the left with [Freddie] Ljungberg as well.

I had to decide is it Hleb, Ljungberg or Pires and, at the end of the day, I thought I keep the guy on the pitch who has the most energy.

Wenger did, however, concede he made the wrong call later in the game.

If I made a mistake it's not at that moment. It was later in the game. In the end, with 15 minutes to go, I took [Mathieu] Flamini on for [Cesc] Fàbregas out because I wanted to defend the lead.

Maybe I should have brought a third centre-back in at that time and keep the midfield as it is, take Hleb out and put a centre-back in and to try to defend as long as we could because there was only 13 minutes left.

Sometimes with 10 minutes to go you just want to get your team over the line and focus on that. So overall, I would say many people question the change of Pires but if you had to play the game again it is not exactly what I would change.

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