Wednesday 25th November 2015
Two things needed to happen last night. It couldn’t really be any simpler. The great news is they did. A productive evening then. I can’t really think of any other way of looking at it.
Finding a similar fixture from our history didn’t throw up a huge choice as you can imagine. But the one it did produced a result that will always be used in our great club’s lists of historical moments.
After winning 3 nil in the first leg of our 2006 Champions League Qualifier, the 2nd leg could be remembered as a fairly low key and uninteresting affair with all the hard work already having been done out in Croatia.
But nothing can change the fact the 2-1 victory was our first in our new stadium. Interestingly on that occasion one player scored who was in last night’s starting eleven over 9 years later! Mathieu Flamini accompanied Freddie Ljungberg on scoring responsibilities and played an equally important role this time round.
A few beers and a meal with a customer preceded the match on this occasion, not my usual routine but thoroughly enjoyable nonetheless on an evening that felt strangely low key, probably as a result of it taking place on the back of our defeat at the weekend, our continued bad luck with injuries and the fact the vast majority of us still think it will be something of a shock if we manage to progress.
My vantage point was different on this occasion too and my upstairs view totally changed the way I witnessed the game when comparing it to my normal lower tier season ticket seat.
Overall I feel it is difficult to have anything but satisfaction with our performance on the night. We passed well, were patient, scored 3 good goals, limited our opponents to very few half chances and appeared to come through without any additional injuries.
So our bit was done. Something that would have been completely irrelevant if Olympiacos got anything in the Allianz Arena.
I assume the players were not aware of it but the fact Bayern were a couple of goals up inside the first ten minutes certainly calmed any nerves in all of us sitting in the stands.
So a very good night and a huge positive to take into our trip to Norfolk on Sunday.
Our defeat on Saturday means it is a fixture that has taken on additional importance. And like every away fixture in the Premier League we will get beat if we are not ‘on it’ in every aspect of our game.
See you in Norwich boys and girls.
Monday 23rd November 2015
In a season that gives a sense of ‘stuttering’ rather than ‘motoring’ it feels strange that we are only a couple of points from the very summit of English football. We could and should have been at the very top, even now after the dust has settled on Saturday afternoon’s disappointment but even though it was definitely one of ‘those’ days where everything works against you, we took nothing from a game we definitely should have won.
For today’s corresponding nostalgia trip I’m taking you back to April 1971 and a huge match at The Hawthorns. An O.G and a goal from captain Frank Mclintock secured what was to be an absolutely crucial point with just 3 league matches remaining.
Those of an age to remember that season have plenty of stories to tell and rightly so it what was a momentous time in the history of our great club. One of those refers to The Baggies’ previous match away at title favourites Leeds United. After not winning away from home for an incredible 16 months and sitting just above the relegation zone the Albion went to Elland Road and won 2-1, a result that had it gone the other way could and probably would have changed our whole history. The amusing part to that story was West Brom’s winner was apparently offside. In fact if you believe some people’s description (especially those from Yorkshire), he was so far offside “feckin’ Usain Bolt wouldn’t have caught him”!
In the matchday programme for our visit and amongst the news that the 1971 ‘Queen of the Clubs’ beauty contest would be taking place at the Tipton Club on Wednesday (surely something that should be re-introduced ;-) ), there is an interesting interview between West Brom captain and a local journo. John Wile said, “I don’t really know what all the fuss is about. Maybe Leeds have some reason to be unhappy about the outcome of the game which was vital to their championship hopes, but whatever else is said, Albion fully deserved to win the game!”
Journo replied’ “My sentiments entirely. I thought Albion created enough chances to have won the match by a four or five goal margin.”
So there we have it. Leeds were rubbish.
After we lost at Leeds 2 days later, with 2 games to go (1 in hand on Leeds), our point at The Hawthorns meant if we won them both, whatever Leeds did in their last game, we would be Champions. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Rather than the Leeds (and other) fans always talking about that ‘offside’ incident robbing them of the title there is very little ever said about the fact up to our visit to the Black country that April afternoon we had won our previous 9 games on the bounce, conceding just ONE goal along the way.
And that leads me back to our most recent encounter…..
There are some out there that believe a professional footballer should never miss a penalty. Although I agree to a certain extent, the sheer athleticism of goalkeepers these days and the availability of various kinds of media enabling them to study how every player takes a penalty evens those odds up in the modern game for me. The one thing you cannot allow for however, is if your standing foot slips away from you at the crucial moment. Even the world’s greatest players have experienced that down the years and it is down to nothing but bad luck. Crucially for us on Saturday afternoon, Santi experienced one of those unfortunate moments.
A win would have put the icing on the cake of a very fine weekender. Our usual pre-match haunt was enjoyed in the expected fashion, the sun was shining on a bitterly cold day and we enjoyed a fine night out in Britain’s 2nd city after. The reason and ‘excuse’ for us being there however, was very disappointing and frustrating.
Even though we totally dominated virtually all of the game and came close time and time again, it is the few moments where we conceded goals that concerns and disappoints me. I compare defending to a test match cricket batsman a little bit. You can be in the form of your life and not looking under any threat of losing your wicket for hours on end. Yet one second where you show a lapse of concentration and all your hard work can be undone in an instant. If we are going to challenge for the title this season, it is an element we need to eradicate from our game. And fast.
I can’t help but look back to that 1971 double winning season and that 9 match unbeaten run. 8 times our opponents got nil. That takes among many many things huge concentration along the way. And if The Baggies had got nil on Saturday we would have won. And probably by an even more handsome margin.
Tomorrow night is huge. Whatever our opinion as to whether we are good enough there is no other way to describe it. And I don’t just mean our game. If things go well for us in London N5 and in Munich we still have a chance, hope and probably most importantly, positive momentum.
And we can do our bit as always.
Come on you mighty reds!
Monday 9th November 2015
Like every Gooner I want to beat that lot down the road every time we meet. Every single time. But do you know what, going into the International break, yesterday’s result is certainly no disaster.
Munich away, like pretty much every European away trip, especially in Germany, was a ‘heavy’ old few days. And as a result I headed into the weekend seriously feeling it. Aches, pains, sore eyes, UDIs, lethargy and general misery!
Sleeping by a cool swimming pool in the sunshine would have been perfection. But work and normal life stuff got in the way. How dare it?! ;-)
Football is the ‘norm’ in my life as well. But playing against that lot never feels like the ‘norm’. Season after season, year after year, it never changes (except in the mid seventies when they got relegated of course). But they don’t like to talk about that. Nor the 54 years since they last won the league of course. Or our 13 league titles to their 2……etc etc etc.
Back in April 1984 we welcomed them to Highbury after already beating them twice that season on their own patch. A 2-1 league victory was followed by a nice Christmas 4-2 spanking where I remember ‘Jingle Bells, jingle Bells, jingle all the way, oh what fun it is to see Arsenal win away” echoing into the sky from the away end. It was important we joined in with the whole Christmas spirit thing you see.
After visiting Wembley in 3 successive seasons we were very much going through a rebuilding process and developing and relying on our successful youth set up to launch our next assault on English football. Those days came just a few seasons later when George arrived and have pretty much remained ever since. Tottenham however, were still very much crowing about their early eighties FA Cup successes and telling the football world how they were ready to end that long long wait to win a league title. That, surprise surprise, never materialised.
In a relatively non productive league season for both clubs, those derby days took on even more importance (if that’s possible!) and having won the previous two it was a fine opportunity to complete a memorable 1983/84 season treble.
On a warm and atmospheric Easter day I watched the game from the standing enclosure in front of the West Stand, reserved at that time for Junior Gunners, a membership I held when just about young enough in it’s fledgling years. As well as all the other memorabilia and benefits membership included, it meant I could get in for £1!
Not all derbys live up to the hype but this was certainly one such occasion. Stuart Robson and two memorable goals by Tony Woodcock and Charlie Nicholas completed that treble as part of a 3-2 victory and made for a very Happy Easter.
Coming back to the present day other games have an ‘edge’ to them. But nothing like this one. And you could feel that in and around the stadium as kick-off approached just like back in 1984.
We knew we had been on a good run. But so have our visitors. And with many players missing right now it made it a hugely difficult game and result to predict.
We started fantastically well against Man Utd a few weeks back and added 3 great goals to our dominance. The first 20 minutes on Sunday was similar……but without the goals for our hard work. And that formed an accurate pattern for the game as a whole. Our best spells were in the first 20 mins of the 1st half, and the first and last 15 minutes of the second. And during those periods we did not make our chances tell, the usual combination of woodwork, goalkeeper and poor finishing keeping us out.
Our visitors on the other hand did get their goal during one of the two periods where they were on top.
We looked tired at times, almost a little ragged but we dug in when it mattered most and got something from the game. Hugely important not only on the day but it takes us into what for the first time I can remember is a welcome international break sitting joint top of the league. On that basis and considering how both the day and the game panned out, all in all a draw is ok. Not outstanding, but ok, especially as we were still losing with time running out.
Our visitors had their own chances in the second period too so it could have been a worse day. But it could have been better too.
Once this fortnight away from the domestic side to the beautiful game comes to a close we head to The Hawthorns next, another away day that is always enjoyable off the pitch. A win and it will make sure that enjoyment is graced with even more satisfaction of course.
Enjoy the break.
Thursday 5th November 2015
Remember Remember…..I’d rather forget it if I can!
Knowing that we have seen our team defend extremely well at times this season makes being taken apart in the Allianz Arena all the more difficult to take. They can do it. They’ve proved it. But at times last night we looked like we were playing together for the very first time.
Yet again it has been a marvellously entertaining trip off the pitch. To be fair they are rarely anything else.
Tuesday we did the culture bit with a walk through a sun drenched city and to one of the outdoor bars in the huge ‘Englisch Garten’. A lazy lunch and few beers got us back in the mood after Monday night’s exploits and consequently preceded an equally lively old night in one of the city’s many hostelry offerings.
Matchday arrived with the usual delicacy and on this occasion we joined the German Gooners in one of the most traditional bierkellers in the city. And as a result the pre match build up was enjoyed with gusto.
The Allianz Arena is hugely impressive inside and out, the latter in particular on night games.
It does feel like a fair old trek to get there though. Alright as a ‘one-off’ but I can’t help but feel if we hadn’t been able to find a location so near to Highbury and ended up with a similar situation to our hosts, getting to every home game would be frustrating and irritating.
As always the travelling Gooners were large in numbers and noise.
It is extremely difficult, downright impossible in fact, to claim anything other than we were well beaten when you lose 5-1.
But along with the things we did badly, there were some snippets of good going forward and we definitely didn’t have the rub of the green either.
The opener was millimetres from being offside, our ‘equaliser’ could definitely have gone in our favour on another day. The 2nd took a deflection and the killer 3rd might have been a foul in Santi.
Santi could and should have scored and we did create other good opportunities, especially in the second half.
Not excuses, but fact.
The other fact however, is we were extremely poor defensively and beaten by a better side on the night.
Olympiacos’ late winner (again) was the final kick in the proverbials and it means we need a minor miracle to progress.
So, extremely disappointing but these Euro trips are always little orbs of joy and we rarely let any disappointing result spoil the fun off the pitch.
Football humour and that love of a jolly prevails, “we’ll do you in the final” one such comment heard on that lengthy walk back to the metro.
Each time we have lost in this season’s disappointing Champions League campaign we have bounced back immediately in our next game.
Once again that is hugely important as we welcome our ‘friends’ from Middlesex on Sunday.
Keep the faith.
Tuesday 3rd November 2015
Lufthansa is an airline I have used a few times now. I like them. Unsurprisingly they give off an air of efficiency. But one thing really amuses me. A few years back a slight delay was described as due to ‘London’s inability to get us away on time’!! And any delays being due to a fault in England has been a regular occurrence ever since!
Yesterday it was mentally foggy. In England and from what I understand all over Europe, including Germany. Naturally, it caused delays and cancellations. But as we departed a satisfactory (all things considered) 45 minutes late, an apology was offered. ‘Sorry for the delay ladies and gentlemen, this is due to the weather London has managed to produce’! Priceless.
The in flight magazine offered something new. I have never been on a plane where you could purchase not only the usual perfumes, jewellery and souvenirs but a hedge trimmer, washing machine and a trampoline. Not a Toblerone in sight though. That’s just not on.
Nothing that a few in flight ‘Warsteiners’ couldn’t sort out of course!
Given how many flights were cancelled or seriously delayed, arriving slightly later than scheduled into an equally foggy Munich was definitely no inconvenience and once our jolly airport to hotel transfer lady efficiently got us to our destination and we’d checked in all was extremely rosy.
I’ve mentioned before I am totally aware of how fortunate I am to be in a position to follow my team over land and sea but I am writing these notes lying in a bed in Munich. And my eyes and head are unsurprisingly sore.
My plans for all European trips follow a similar pattern and have done for many years. If we are playing on a Wednesday I try and leave early Tuesday morning and come back Thursday evening and if we play on a Tuesday leave Sunday back Wednesday evening.
There is some personal logic to those plans including wanting to avoid being in the air during 9 til 5 work hours as much as possible, leaving room for error if any delays are experienced and giving time to enjoy the sights and sounds our host city has to provide.
Living on an island as I have done for 5 years or so now throws up its own transport challenges, one of which being if you take an early morning flight it is likely you will need to stay overnight somewhere before you fly. The ‘middle of the night’ ferry options are a little bit limited you see.
This trip was one I found so rather than stay in one of those soul destroying airport hotels I put it to our travelling party of 12 that we take a Monday night flight and consequently ‘wake up’ in Munich on Tuesday morning.
That seemed a great idea on paper.
Until the nearest bar to our hotel stayed open until 5am.
Needing to be awake at 9am UK time latest……that was always going to hurt.
And despite the gloriously blue sky I can see out of my hotel window, it does.
That’s rock and roll I guess.
A life not fulfilled is one not worth living.
Wack that on my gravestone when time runs out please someone!
The Bavarian city of Munich awaits.
And in 24 hours time it is matchday.
Over land and sea.
Sunday 1st November 2015
Although ultimately extremely satisfying, Saturday afternoon was a much tougher affair than the scoreline suggests. The difference between both halves in fact was quite remarkable.
Previous trips to this part of the country have yielded a variety of results. Our most recent encounters in fact have produced defeats both home and away. That along with our lengthy injury list were comfortably enough to give the fixture a real difficult feel to it.
For our previous fixture this time round I am going back to May 1966 and a testimonial.
Taking place 4 years before I was born it is not a fixture I can claim to have attended and there is little I can tell you about the game other than we won 3-1!
Fifty odd years later however, so much has obviously changed for yesterday’s hosts. The ‘Town’ part of the name was ‘upgraded’ back in 1969 in recognition to Swansea being awarded city status at that time and they left their Vetch Field home in 2005.
The programme notes described the ‘Mighty Arsenal, for many years Britain’s finest sporting ambassadors. In village and township throughout the World, the game of soccer, at its finest, is synonymous with one club. ARSENAL’
No change there then….. :-)
As for Brian Hughes, his testimonial for which we made the trip to south Wales had been awarded for the usual ten years service, a career where he made well over 200 appearances for The Swans.
Our journey west proved trouble free but whilst enjoying our pre match fare in our usual haunt, I wouldn’t say the air amongst the travelling Gooner army was filled with confidence. It is difficult to work out exactly why given our recent League form but our injuries, recent results against Swansea and the media vultures waiting to pounce if we lost our second game in a week were all enough to approach with a certain amount of trepidation if not negativity.
Even though it is extremely obvious by the 8 or more team changes we make for every League Cup tie I find it amazing how the media don’t seem to recognise that fact. Our ‘first choice’ team went into Saturday on the back of 4 successive league wins, a run that included beating arguably the best side in Europe and that could only give an air of confidence. Yet had we lost against The Swans we all know the media would have created a sense of mini ‘crisis’ despite there being 2 completely different teams playing in the 2 competitions.
We created a couple of chances in the first half but generally we could be nothing but delighted to go into the break on level terms. We had been second best throughout, dug in and rode our luck at times. We could and possibly should have been losing. But most importantly of all, we weren’t.
Playing like that again in the second period we probably would have lost. But from minute one it was obvious whatever had been said in the dressing room, it worked.
Olly’s header, Laurent capping another great performance by tapping home and Joel Campbell finishing well on his full League debut gave us 3 quality away jostles and secured those massively important 3 points.
Mesut was my man of the match though, he simply purred in the second half and produced the kind of football I could watch all day long.
A great result then and celebrating long into the night felt the right thing to do. So I did.
Online check in is my next job this evening as Munich is our destination. A city we have visited on a number of occasions now we have proved we can match Bayern in our previous encounters. We are also aware however, getting another result is a hugely tough ask.
Enjoy the usual German hospitality if you are joining me in attending…..and make some noise as always.
Come on you yellows!!!
Thursday 29th October 2015
As much as I agree that when such a huge Gooner away following has spent enormous amounts of time and money getting to Sheffield on a Tuesday night we all expect to witness a performance where there isn’t just one team in it, I do also believe if you choose to support the team in League Cup ties there is always the chance you will get to see a game like that. After such an entertaining night out in the previous round however, I can’t help but feel a little disappointed that we went out with such a whimper against a side, who despite playing very well and thoroughly deserving to win, are little more than an average Championship outfit. Our distinct lack of success at Hillsborough continues.
Those regular bad days included many in the nineties and for this piece I am going to take you back to September 1998 and an afternoon where despite our double winning team suffering a defeat, will be remembered throughout football for an incident involving Paolo di Canio and referee Paul Alcock.
The majority of football fans will have seen the incident on the TV or via social media these days but it didn’t look any less shocking or amusing from the away end believe me. The shock was only the fact that seeing a professional football player (and a high profile one at that) push a referee so that he ends up on the ground has always been extremely rare and remains that way to this day. The amusing side came from both the way Mr Alcock stumbled to the ground like someone who had enjoyed too many jars down his local and the way Nigel Winterburn danced like a boxer trying to avoid a punch in the same incident! Altogether not something to be condoned of course but a very amusing memory nonetheless!
The fall out was something like an 11 match ban for the Italian and for Mr Alcock, despite him very kindly agreeing to be a speaker at a future Maidstone Arsenal Supporters Club Christmas do, I detected on the night that even after a number of years he still didn’t really see the funny side! The difference between footballers, fans and referees at times I guess….
Despite the very long drive and the disappointing game, overall I pretty enjoyed my trip to Yorkshire. Like all cities with universities present, the lifestyle is pretty social in Sheffield and consequently we enjoyed the pre-match build up in one of the many options such a city centre provides.
Hillsborough is old school. Traditional, atmospheric and in places, a little bit ‘grotty’ to be honest. Despite the night time cup tie feel very much being present, the Leppings Lane end can do nothing else but evoke graphic memories and emotions for the vast majority of football fans, especially those of a certain age, no matter what your views are about what happened on that terrible day 26 years ago. And for that reason, it did feel a little bit of a strange night at times.
The love for cup ties has always been there for the majority and although our success in this particular competition is limited to semi and final defeats since Stephen Morrow’s winner against Tuesday’s hosts back in 1993, our success in the FA Cup over the last 2 seasons has certainly re-lit any dwindling flame for this kind of fixture. And to have 5 odd thousand travel to Sheffield on a Tuesday night it is difficult to argue with that fact.
The game was as odd for me as it was disappointing. For half an hour absolutely nothing happened. Plenty of passing but little else. Then, with their first soiree into our defensive third, our hosts took the lead. Everything we concede is disappointing, frustrating and annoying defensively of course, but to be fair, I thought it was a decent goal. It certainly meant we needed to improve and pull ourselves together if we were to progress.
The team selection process for these games is a difficult one for me. Mr Wenger has been consistent down the years and depending on the games immediately around each fixture he adjusts his matchday squad accordingly. If we have injuries in the squad he is reluctant to play his ‘first choice’ players. He made 10 changes against Tottenham, but with very few injuries it was still an experienced line up. And we got a night and performance to enjoy out of that.
Tuesday on the other hand was different. He could have picked 10 or 11 first choice players and we might have progressed. But if 2 or 3 of them picked up injuries he would have been slaughtered for it. He chose to only pick 2 or 3, we got knocked out……and we still came out with a couple of knocks. It’s difficult to know how our manager can win in that situation.
On the other hand however, Tuesday did demonstrate one thing. Outside of our ‘main’ squad of 18, we are a long way from putting together a team that could compete on any professional level. That’s not me saying individually these players are not talented and could go on to prove me wrong but ‘en masse’ we struggle. And on the showing the other night it is difficult to argue.
And I’m sorry, but I cannot stand that ‘cup kit’. We looked like clowns on the night. And at times, we played like them too. I sincerely hope we never have to wear it again. Red for home, yellow/gold for away. Wednesday play in blue. So either would have done.
So, our League Cup adventure comes to an end for another season and will be remembered for 2 things. A great great night at the Lane where Matty Flamini slammed in a 20 yard volley to put us through and very much a damp squib of a night at Hillsborough.
And it was the former we discussed as we enjoyed the city’s Tuesday night hospitality until the wee small hours. If nothing else, student night’s certainly give you an option of ‘cheap’ drink deals, whatever your age!! :-)
The tough trip to south Wales comes next as we visit the Liberty Stadium and take on a team where we have enjoyed a mixed bag of results since their return to the top flight.
There is definitely no reason to feel down after this week I feel and taking positivity into Saturday afternoon is hugely important.
Both on and off the pitch.
Saturday 24th October 2015
I’m travelling home on one of those trains that splits. Not my usual route but trying to cut a long story short, last night I went to see Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse in Brighton. A very very good deal and my intended ferry back to the little island where I live working on my plans means I am at Horsham.
We are being held up because someone has ‘thrown up’ and the driver of the rear ‘portion’ going to Bognor Regis is refusing to go forward because it ‘pongs a bit’. Genuinely.
At this stage that is very amusing. And I’m dealing with it. But it would be very difficult had we not just got a positive result.
But we did. Whatever way we look at it. Or want to analyse it. We won. 3 points. Yes. Thanks. Lovely.
And it don’t smell of sick.
I like 5.30 kick offs. In fact I’m thinking of starting a campaign to name this the new 3pm. Whatever way we look at it, it certainly makes for a good day out. If you like a pint of course. And I do.
It was Royston the other week……..but today it was Brighton. A ‘different’ routine keeps us all fresh I guess! But within an hour I was embarking on a similar London pub tour to pre-Watford away. It’s these 5.30 kick offs you see……
Looking back at home games against Everton, one in particular will always spring to mind for all us Gooners. The 4nil victory to seal the League title back in 1998 (yes that was 17 years ago!!) was yet another very special day in our history. And footage of that ‘would you believe it’ moment still sends shivers down the spine.
For this memory jerker however, I’m going back a further 10 years and our Littlewoods League Cup Semi final 2nd leg victory in 1988.
After a fine Perry Groves strike had given us a hugely important 1 nil lead from the 1st leg at Goodison we were strong favourites to return to Wembley just 12 months after our famous win over Liverpool.
That confidence was tempered however, when reminded Spurs were one up from their away leg that year and we all know what happened after that!
Highbury was packed to the rafters and with the atmosphere electric we secured our spot at Wembley with an emphatic 3-1 victory on the night against The Toffees.
Those are the facts and figures but I also remember it for one particular moment for me personally that has forever remained in my memory as the evidence things just ‘had to change’.
I’ve watched us play from all parts of Highbury but my favoured spot at that time of life was the North Bank. Half way up, just in front of the gangway that separated the ‘top side’ from the ‘middle’ and just to the left of the left hand goalpost to be exact.
It used to get very busy at times looking back, but that slight discomfort was heavily outweighed by the sheer excitement and enjoyment of swaying and jostling and feeling as one. Like down the front at gigs, there was an unwritten rule that you all looked after one another should things get a bit ‘hectic’.
As a result I, along with all of us who remember those times, look back on them with a huge amount of fondness.
On that night in early 1988 however, there was a few quite frightening seconds where I genuinely didn’t feel safe.
Rocky had just smashed home and the usual pandemonium ensued. As it progressed however, I remember being somehow twisted so my back was to the pitch. And then that same back was against one of the crush barriers. For the first time that involuntary (as it had become at that moment) leaping up and down as one was really hurting my back.
The sheer weight of those around me was bending me backwards over the barrier. Not only did I think I was going to snap but I couldn’t breathe and/or do anything to stop it.
Of course, as it always did, that swaying, swell and forward pressure subsided within a few seconds and relative normality returned. But it was a moment I will never forget and the grazes and bruises on every single one of my back bones the following morning was the evidence. (Yes I was pretty skinny back then, no comments required! :-) )
I loved the terraces. I really did. But change needed to happen. And quickly before something catastrophic happened. But what did we/I know? Terribly, shockingly and desperately sadly, an awful lot it seems.
This afternoon the world’s eyes were upon us. Nothing unusual of course but we needed to win. Above all else. And we did. Not particularly impressively in the second period, but we won. 2-1 goes in the record books, we’ll take 3 points and move on to another competition.
That will do. And tonight if you start at the bottom of this country’s awesome football pyramid and keep looking up, eventually you will see the name Arsenal. That’s alright that is.
Sheffield Wednesday, for a long time were our bogey team. Certainly at Hillsborough. I’ve been there many times over the years but victories are hard to find. That needs to change on Tuesday night where the number of travelling Gooners expected exceeds those back then by quite some distance (apart from our FA Cup Semi final exploits back in the 70s of course).
We know our travelling support can make some serious noise. Let’s show our hosts the respect they deserve and give another example.
Come on you mighty reds!
Wednesday 21st October 2015
We have a decent side. One that can be hard working, marvellously entertaining and victorious most weeks but bordering on naive, calamitous and incredibly frustrating on occasion.
And we are a long way from bring able to claim to be the best club side in Europe. You know that, I know that and i’m pretty sure our great club’s players and staff know that.
Bayern Munich however, can claim to have that right. They are arguably the best side in Europe right now. The vast majority will agree with that statement.
Yet last night, with correct tactics, guts, desire, ability and a little bit of luck we turned them over. And on a night where a positive result was crucial to any chance of survival in this year’s Champions League.
Roughly ten years ago we also beat them. But on that occasion we were to go home disappointed, Thierry’s winner at Highbury not quite enough to overturn the 3-1 defeat we endured at a freezing cold Munich Olympic Stadium a couple of weeks previous.
Against a side containing the likes of Oliver Kahn, Michael Ballack and a young Bastian Schweinsteiger I felt there were similarities to last night when I remember I felt we got our tactics right. Conceding would have been a disaster so we concentrated on that for large chunks of the game. Thierry’s goal past one of the world’s great goalkeepers at that time meant we needed one more to progress but it wasn’t to be.
It would have been slightly naive to go into last night’s encounter actually confident of victory I feel but we all new we have been in good form and if we got things right on all fronts we certainly had a chance.
Each time we have shown our colours before kick off at our new stadium, by means of a planned and combined effort, it has preceded a disaster on the pitch. So although I knew it would look impressive this time round, I wasn’t convinced it would be a good idea.
Nobody could argue however, along with that very special night game atmosphere, it looked absolutely fantastic as the spine tingling Champions League music blared out. A massive congratulations to all those involved in organising it…….especially as we won this time! :-)
We started well I thought, looking dangerous each time we went forward but then there was a 20 minute spell where we hardly touched the ball!! It was a period that included the first of Bayern’s 2 clear cut chances on the night and of course the first of Petr Cech’s great saves.
Defensive shape is talked about a lot and last night was a perfect example of why it so critically important, especially against the world’s best passing and possession based teams. Had we shown the kind of concentration we showed last night I am convinced we would not have lost to either Zagreb or Olympiacos.
The whole game was depending on a combination of our collective defensive concentration and application and our ability to be dangerous on the break.
Munich’s goalkeeper demonstrated just why he is considered the world’s best with his incredible save from Theo’s header shortly before a quite breathless first half came to a close.
Before a ball was kicked I genuinely stated if it was nil nil after 70 minutes I would be happy. And that is what we got.
Because I felt if we could hold out for that long I would really fancy us in the last 20 minutes.
And that was some jostle! However messy the goal appeared!!
The noise inside the ground was phenomenal. Right up there with some of the loudest I have heard. And like it or hate it, the Giroud song sounds incredible when the whole stadium sings it with gusto.
The late second was the icing on the cake of course and completed a memorable night that just about keeps us in with a shout.
Football dictates however, we now need to get the whole night out of our system as Everton come to North London with their fans and staff demanding a positive reaction to their home defeat last week.
Home games should be about us though and we need to put in another performance to keep our League challenge on track.
Come on you reds!!
Sunday 28th October 2015
Many of us have that ‘collecting’ bug and I am certainly one of them. It was football stickers and train numbers when I was a kid living near the railway line through Medway in Kent but even back then I would always keep anything I had involving the Arsenal.
That included match tickets and programmes of course, all kept relatively neat and tidy, definitely in date order and logged in a book.
If you do get involved in this kind of activity, gaps in your collection tend to niggle. Ridiculous really but they do.
The likes of eBay have been around for a while now but recently I’ve seriously got that ‘bug’ again and 2 weeks without football has seen me feed that particular addiction a little bit too fervently!!
Seeing this week was the anniversary of Mr Wenger taking the helm at our great club had me digging out the programme for his first ‘official’ game away at Blackburn. Seeing the notes welcoming him to the English League feels strange and the haircuts, players and fashions confirm it was a whole generation ago.
9 major trophies, countless other finals, semi finals, runners up spots, a brand new stadium in London N5 and permanent European Football later and he is still our leader.
Time and age dictates he is now in the latter stages of that incredible career. I look forward to enjoying both that and hopefully our future under a new boss when it happens.
We all completely dread these international breaks for a couple of reasons. Firstly we have to go without a proper football fix for a fortnight and that fear members of our squad will return injured is extremely strong. Incredibly with so many involved we seem to have come out the other side with everyone relatively unscathed.
And the former had me almost biting at the bit to get out of bed and onto my London bound transport.
The 5.30 kick-off had our group making plans to enjoy the refreshment on offer in and around the Charing Cross/Leicester Square part of our great capital city, an area full of good traditional pubs before heading up to Euston for the short journey to Watford Junction.
Great company and banter as always and it meant we made our way in fine spirits.
Watford hasn’t been an annual destination over the years but depending how old you are, one we have visited numerous times. The recent rekindling of my programme collecting passion has made me decide to include some references to our similar fixtures from history as this season progresses, some I would have attended and some not.
A couple spring to mind on this occasion.
Back in September 1984 the likes of Charlie Nicholas and Tony woodcock looking bang in scoring form meant things were looking up for us Gooners after a relatively disappointing period and an exciting 4-3 win at Vicarage Road was one such example. It would be 3 more years of course before the silverware started to appear back on the shelf but it was a good win away at a Graham Taylor side fresh from going all the way to the FA Cup Final only a few months previous. Costs were a lot different back then too, 50p for the programme emphasising that. And if you were lucky enough to predict the 2nd ‘Golden Goal’ against QPR you went home with the princely sum of 30 quid!!
Roughly sixteen years on and Graham Taylor was still at the helm at Vicarage Road against an Arsenal side that although made it all the way to the UEFA Cup Final in Copenhagen were kind of ‘between trophies’ at that time. Another entertaining encounter saw 5 goals, a quite awesome individual strike by Thierry being the outstanding memory. I also recall there being one or two almighty thunderstorms around that afternoon, the kind that make it feel like the world is ending!! Cost wise we were up to £2.50 for the programme by then and 2nd prize in the ‘Gold Draw’ saw the winner pick up a tidy 500 quid. The top prize was given out to the lucky winner by a grown man in a huge hornet suit, a sign that mascots had well and truly hit top flight football by this time!
Back to the present and we played ok in the first half I felt. Certainly well enough to make me feel if we did the same again in the 2nd period we would win.
And we did. With bells on. And chocolate sprinkles.
It doesn’t matter how much a jostle next door to a JCB graced building site feels, it is always enjoyable away from home. And we got 3 of them. Lovely.
The perfect result from a highly entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable day then, and a good way to prepare for our hugely tough home game with Bayern Munich on Tuesday night, a game that could pretty much decide whether we are still in with a chance of progressing from this year’s Champions League group.
The walk through my home town felt a bit odd yesterday morning, dozens of people standing on street corners carrying cameras not something I have seen before early on a Saturday. Then I remembered. It’s a real ale and vintage bus weekender! 40 odd examples of transport history taking enthusiasts not just to well known pubs in this part of the world but also to many not normally on a bus route.
Today, especially as yesterday’s result deserves additional celebration, I plan to get involved. Just for the transport reasons of course! :-)