Arsenal were the only one of this season's Champions League seeds who had not won the competition. editor Richard Clarke, in Villarreal tonight, argues there is no more fitting season in which to end that duck.

Arsenal are "going to the show".

That is the phrase routinely trumpeted by jubilant American Footballers when they reach the Superbowl - the most watched annual sporting event in the world. 

The Champions League Final is its European equivalent; a night when footballing legends are created. Now finally, after 35 years of trying, Arsenal Football Club have a shot at the biggest club prize in their sport.

Gerrie Mühren in 1972, Isaias in 1991, John Carew in 2001, Wayne Bridge in 2003 - all these players have scored goals to knock Arsenal out of Europe's top competition when those within Highbury believed maybe, just maybe, they might go all the way this time. They are villains in Arsenal's history. 

The Club's newest heroes were created tonight on this sultry April evening in eastern Spain. Arsène Wenger's young side were forged in fire of that 1-0 win at the Bernabeu on February 21 and galvanised by the 2-0 victory over Juve at Highbury five weeks later. 

Tonight they had the task, yet again, of defending a first leg lead. It was a tall order but Arsenal have made a habit of stretching themselves to the occasion. For example at the start of the season few fans would have had faith in young full backs Gael Clichy and Emmanuel Eboue standing up to the cauldron created by the Villarreal fans. Tonight they did.

The Frenchman raced across the pitch at El Madrigal when he replaced the unfortunate, injured Mathieu Flamini after nine minutes. It was one hell of a re-introduction after five months out. Clichy took his familiar position on the left flank. The man on his inside, Sol Campbell, was also a little rusty after just one game since February 1. 

The situation shifted responsibly on to the shoulders of Kolo Toure and Gilberto. This duo have had that particular body part broadened this term. Not that they had an easy night. Villarreal, so cautious at Highbury, played like the situation demanded. 

Toure was troubled by Guillermo Franco. The Argentinean front man beat him to thump a shot at Lehmann's chest in the first half and hammered a header just wide at the start of the second.

Arsenal had to defend desperately deep but were working hard and playing in intelligent triangles to work the ball clear. When Villarreal threw inquisitive crosses in the area, they were met by the hands of Jens Lehmann or the head of a centre half. 

It was hardly the classic, fluent Arsenal but, in this competition, a team needs to be articulate in every aspect of the game. 

When Diego Forlan missed a sitter in the 65th minute you started to believe. Goalless draws had been good enough second leg results against Real and Juve, it looked it would suffice against Champions League debutants like Villarreal.

Then Clichy nudged Jose Mari and referee Valentin Ivanov pointed to the sport. Lehmann preserved a record-breaking 733 minutes without conceding a goal by blocking.

The German is probably Arsenal's player of the season. We knew all about his character, agility and mental strength. His team-mates realised once more it tonight. That is why they mobbed him at the final whistle.

So Arsenal venture into unknown territory of the Champions League Final. But then 2005-06 has been one long journey of discovery.  The Club has spent this season saying goodbye to Highbury and, as part of that farewell, eschewed their tradition red and white shirt for a season.

The Final Salute to that grand old stadium takes place on May 7. Ten days later, there will be an encore in Paris when, after 35 years, Arsenal finally go to the show.

Copyright 2017 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to as the source
25 Apr 2006