Arsenal reveal their secrets for penalty success
Friday 13 March 2009
Arsenal did not practice penalties before Wednesday night's Champions League tie in Rome which culminated in the Gunners defeating Roma in a shoot-out. "I did not think it would go to penalties," said manager Arsene Wenger.
So, lucky Arsenal again eh? Maybe, maybe not. Wenger said his players practiced penalties occasionally in training but would never do so the day before a match. "I don't think it helps," he said. Many coaches differ. Guus Hiddink's Chelsea took penalties before Chelsea's tie with Juventus on Tuesday, including John Terry, who missed the crucial spot-kick in last year's final.
Liverpool practiced prior to defeating Roma on penalties in the European Cup final a quarter of a century ago. Then again, only Steve Nicol scored in that training session. On the night Nicol was the only Liverpool player to miss as Roma lost 4-2 on their own ground.
The reality is that, however much innovative coaches attempt to replicate the scenario (at Watford Aidy Boothroyd had his players take kicks in front of the crowd following a league game), it is impossible to imitate the circumstances surrounding a shoot-out. Players will be tired, physically and mentally, the tension will be overwhelming. They may have had a good game, or a bad one. Whilst there is something to be said for practicing technique - and as golfer Gary Players once said, 'the more I practice the luckier I get' - that long lonely walk to the spot can only be experienced in the here and now.
Which is why England, as well as Arsenal, could prove to benefit from Theo Walcott being blooded. "It was a really good experience for me," he said after scoring his spot-kick. "It was the first shoot-out I have ever done. I didn't expect to take the third penalty but the boss (Wenger chose the first seven takers, Abou Diaby then volunteered to take the eighth) has faith in all of us. That definitely showed in the penalty-takers tonight. He told me I was third and I am not going to say, 'No'. I just wanted to get up there and see what would happen.
"I had a dry throat going towards the goal but I didn't look at the goalkeeper once. I didn't want to make eye contact because he might have put me off. Plus he was a big lad. I learned that from James Beattie (when they were both at Southampton). He's one of the best penalty takers I have seen."
Walcott added: "It's all about positive thinking. The best thing is not to change your mind."
Latest in Sport
Crystal Palace manager latest: Malky Mackay ruled out due to messy departure from previous club Cardiff
Sami Khedira to Arsenal: Midfield omitted from Real Madrid squad for Spanish Super Cup
David Gold furious after Carlton Cole parody account mocks up a picture of West Ham chairman as a suspect in the Madeleine McCann case
Manchester United's worst signings
Angel Di Maria latest: Manchester United target is Real Madrid's 'best player', says Diego Simeone
- 2 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
- 3 World peace? These are the only 11 countries in the world that are actually free from conflict
- 4 Nicki Minaj finally releases predictable 'Anaconda' video
- 5 James Foley 'beheading': Met police warn public watching murder video could be criminal offence
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Crisis? What crisis? A visiting US doctor gives the NHS a rave review
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Scottish Independence Referendum: Salmond described as 'arrogant, ambitious and dishonest' by Scottish women