It seemed like a good idea at the time, opening the old stadium for Arsenal to play at Wembley in the Champions League. Events unfurled somewhat differently with Gabriel Batistuta noting that playing at Wembley motivated the opposition to perform at a higher level than a visit to Highbury might have.
The results were underwhelming with 1998-99 showing a 2-1 win over Panathinaikos, memorable for a Martin Keown and Tony Adams double, followed by draws and defeats against Kyiv and Lens respectively.
The following season was even more disappointing. A missed Kanu penalty in Florence meant Arsenal had to settle for a point whilst the home win over Solna preceded a superb battling point in the Camp Nou.
However, the two crucial return matches at Wembley were devastating. Barcelona overwhelmed Arsenal 4 – 2 whilst Batistuta scored the solitary goal that sent Fiorentina through to the next phase at Arsenal’s expense.
From a spectators point of view, over 420,000 were able to see the six group games played but at what cost. Certainly in both seasons, playing at Wembley inhibited the players and arguably cost the club the chance to progress. With the old stadium being rebuilt, 2000-01s campaign returned the club to Highbury.