Saturday sees Juventus head to north London for our final warm-up game before the resumption of Premier League football next week, and the visit of the Italian giants will conjure up some fond memories for Gooners.
We have been involved in some classic clashes with the Old Lady for more than 40 years, and here we reflect on our six competitive meetings during that time:
1979/80: European Cup Winners’ Cup semi-final
First leg: April 9, 1980
Arsenal 1-1 Juventus
As the Gunners prepared for this semi-final, they knew the odds were stacked against them. ‘The Old Lady’ were the arch purveyors of the zona mista, a combination of zonal marking, brutal man-to-man marking and a relentless attacking of space.
“Their backline of Zoff, Scirea, Gentile and Cabrini formed the backbone of the Italian national team,” explained Gunners boss Terry Neill. “Within two years, they were all World Cup winners. English football was physical back then, but Italian sides could always resort to brute force when they needed to.”
This was perfectly demonstrated at Highbury in the first leg. A cagey encounter exploded when Roberto Bettega removed David O’Leary from the equation with a shin-high tackle. “It was disgraceful,” Neill said, “but it made us all the more determined.” Antonio Cabrini’s opener was cancelled out by Roberto Bettega’s 85th-minute own goal. It was justice of a sort, but our task in Turin looked hopeless.
Second leg: April 23, 1980
Juventus 0-1 Arsenal
From the outset of the return match, Juventus appeared content to go through on away goals, but the atmosphere in the Stadio Comunale was electric. “The Juventus fans had Roman candles,” recalled central defender Willie Young, “which belched out red and purple smoke. There were also flares going off. It was like a fireworks display.”
Home fans, incensed by Neill’s complaints to the press about Bettega’s reckless tackle at Highbury, were unforgiving and booed him whenever he bellowed instructions to his players. Nonetheless, we needed divine intervention from somewhere. It came, courtesy of Gillingham-born striker Paul Vaessen.
Thrown on late in the second half - “I told Paul to use his height and muscularity to disrupt them,” Neill explained - his late header, from a beautifully-flighted Graham Rix cross, gave us an aggregate lead. Virtually out on their feet, Juve knew that they had nothing more to give. On the touchline, coach Giovanni Trappatoni slumped in disbelief. On one of our finest European nights, the outfoxing and outwitting of Juventus in their own backyard continues to stir the senses.
2001/02 UEFA Champions League second group stage
Matchday 2: December 4, 2001
Arsenal 3-1 Juventus
When the Italians turned up at Highbury, it seemed to be our worst nightmare. Gilles Grimandi admitted: “As well as a formidable backline, Juve also had Alessandro Del Piero, David Trezeguet and Pavel Nedved. They have a secondary instinct to create that extra yard of space, turn you, and whoosh – be gone.”
For the first few minutes Trezeguet and Nedved seemed poised to pulverise our backline, and Stuart Taylor, deputising for the injured David Seaman, made excellent saves to deny both. However it was a Gianluigi Buffon error which led to us taking the lead midway through the first half; Patrick Vieira thumped a shot directly at him, and Freddie Ljungberg snaffled up the rebound. A few moments later, Thierry Henry revealed his growing penchant for spectacular free-kicks by curling home a fantastic 20-yard drive.
With Matthew Upson excelling, we appeared watertight but Juve pulled a goal back six minutes after the break when Sol Campbell’s attempted clearance cannoned in off Taylor’s back, but as Juve pressed for an equaliser, Dennis Bergkamp received the ball on the edge of their box, dummied Alessandro Birindelli and dinked a pass into the path of Ljungberg, who lobbed Buffon in front of the North Bank.
Matchday 6: March 20, 2002
Juventus 1-0 Arsenal
Sadly the return clash in Turin was a damp squib for both clubs. With Juventus already out of contention to qualify from the group, a paltry crowd at the unpopular Stadio Delle Alpi saw the home team edge Arsene Wenger’s men out courtesy of Marcelo Zalayeta’s strike.
Thierry Henry’s penalty miss – his second in a week – cost us a draw on the night, but ultimately didn’t matter as Bayer Leverkusen’s 3-1 victory in Spain over Deportivo La Coruna edged us out of contention in Group D, meaning we wouldn’t have progressed even if we had claimed victory.
On an unsatisfactory night for both clubs, following the game, legendary Juve midfielder Edgar Davids described the 8,562 crowd in Turin as ‘embarrassing’.
2005/06 UEFA Champions League quarter-final
First leg: March 28, 2006
Arsenal 2-0 Juventus
Following his shock summer transfer to Turin during the 2005 close season, the pre-match headlines focused on returning Vieira, but our former talisman was completely overshadowed by the excellence of young Cesc Fabregas.
The symbolism of Robert Pires’s early tackle on Vieira, which set up Fabregas’ opening goal, was clear; it simply wasn’t to be his or Juve’s night. Fabregas put us ahead with a low strike from 20 yards, and later knocked the ball to Henry, who stroked the ball into Buffon’s net to score against his former side.
With our 93-year stay at Highbury rapidly nearing its end, it was fitting that this was one of the great occasions at the old ground. Pires recalls: “Juventus were an excellent side, but that night, we never allowed them a second on the ball. We were able to impose our style on them. I felt that we were in control throughout, and Cesc Fabregas’s goal reflected his growing ability, and Thierry’s simply reflected his stature in Europe. It was a wonderful night, and we thoroughly deserved to win 2-0.”
Second leg: April 5, 2006
Juventus 0-0 Arsenal
Wenger warned against complacency in the return leg, and his players heeded their manager’s warning, drawing in Turin in what proved to be a scrappy encounter to book their place in the Champions League semi-finals against Villarreal.
Apart from a near miss by Henry, we rarely threatened in the first half, but Gilberto went close with a second-half header. With Del Piero injured, Juve lacked any real creative spark, and every time they looked like puncturing our defence, Kolo Toure or Philippe Senderos was present to make sure the danger was snuffed out.
Czech star Nedved’s frustration eventually got the better of him and he was dismissed 13 minutes before the end after elbowing Emmanuel Eboue in the face. Wenger was delighted with the result, saying: “This was a controlled, disciplined performance, where we showed great maturity. Once a team is in the final four of any competition, there is every chance they can be successful.”
These fixtures and much more about our history with the Old Lady is included in the official Arsenal v Juventus matchday programme - get your copy
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