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Last Updated: Monday, 13 March 2006, 15:01 GMT
Alan Hansen's column

By Alan Hansen
Match of the Day pundit and BBC Sport columnist

Arsenal have had their critics this season - I have often questioned whether they have a "Plan B" when their pure-playing style is physically challenged - but there is no denying they have had an outstanding week.

Arsenal's style may actually be better suited to success in Europe this season than it is in the Premiership

They completed a two-leg Champions League win against Real Madrid and then beat Liverpool at Highbury to put themselves right in the frame for fourth place in the Premiership.

And now parallels are being drawn between Liverpool's efforts last season, which ended in a Champions League triumph, and the campaign currently being played out by Arsenal.

Liverpool struggled in the Premiership last season, particularly away from home, and yet kept digging out the big results in the Champions League until they actually won the thing.

Arsenal's season is following a similar pattern.

Indeed Arsenal's style may actually be better suited to success in Europe this season than it is in the Premiership, where their results away from home speak for themselves.

The results they achieved against Real and Liverpool were not against teams that will really hustle them and put their foot in, as in the games they lost against Bolton, Everton and Blackburn.

It will be a source of frustration to Arsene Wenger because the Premiership is the bread and butter when you start your season - and it doesn't need me to say that they have lost too many games on their travels this season.

But their natural style of passing and moving is very pleasing on the eye, and when they are in full flow they are still as good as anybody, even if they may not touch the heights of their unbeaten Premiership season when Dennis Bergkamp was magnificent, along with Robert Pires and Freddie Ljungberg.

And then there is the magnificent Thierry Henry - someone who has blistering pace and is unbelievable when he is finishing at his best.

They fully deserved to beat Real, who were a disgrace in the first leg and a bit better in the second - but Juventus will present a much harder test.

Benitez will have his sights on one striker, maybe more, in the summer

So will they win the Champions League? Probably not, but they should not be discounted, particularly in the light of Porto and Liverpool winning it in the last two seasons.

As for my old club Liverpool, it has been a week in sharp contrast to Arsenal as they went out of the Champions League against Benfica before losing at Highbury.

The problem is clear for all to see - they need to get a striker, maybe even more than one, when the season ends.

Liverpool are strong in defence and midfield, but up front the well has run dry of goals and the pressure has built up.

Even when they were on a great run, they were not putting teams away by three or four goals, so maybe the signs were there.

Now the goals are not coming, and this brings pressure on strikers, who might snatch at any half-chance that comes along.

And in defence, you can't expect Jamie Carragher and company to keep a clean sheet every game, no matter how well they are playing.

You can argue all day about what gives a team its solid foundations, whether it is the defence or the midfield, but there is one fact you cannot escape from, and that is the simple truth that if you don't score goals you don't win football matches.

Rafael Benitez is clearly aware of the problem and will be trying to resolve it in the summer.




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