Tuesday 29th September 2020
Firstly I’m glad last night’s game wasn’t decided by another ridiculous penalty decision. As much as it is highly amusing when it’s not your team, I think we all know it’s only a matter of time before it is.
When you’ve got enormously experienced and hugely respected figures in the game such as Roy Hodgson making statements that the current situation is making them seriously considering quitting the game it’s time to make an urgent change.
But getting players, ex-players and people who know the game to have an influence on any rule changes appears impossible for some reason. Again, short of corruption, I genuinely do not know why.
I read somewhere that any adjustment cannot be made until the season is over. Why not? It can’t be due to the fact it will affect the integrity of the league now it’s underway. The authorities threw that argument in the bin last season when they restarted football with different circumstances and rules.
All I know at this stage is the current rule is both unfair and ridiculous. Gutwrenching when it goes against you I would imagine. Almost embarrassing if you benefit. I’m sure we’ll find out sooner rather than later.
A 9am appointment for some potentially quite painful dental work this morning meant yesterday’s pre-match build up was a lot more low key than most. Sensibly controlled I would call it. The thought of a hangover and breathing morning after alcohol all over the dentist as he worked comfortably made sure I kept things to a minimum.
But I needed a couple. Just to calm the PMT that is still there before the most majority of games. The PMT that often gives you optimism. Even confidence. And although I would be lying if my emotions included the latter, the former was pretty accurate.
Liverpool played pretty well last night and I think that needs to be considered first and foremost when attempting constructive analysis. We played ok. And we kept ourselves in the game until right at the death. But we will play a lot better. And worse I’m sure.
For us Gooners, the crucial moment was when Laca missed his great chance. Credit needs to be given to the goalkeeper but we know he will be disappointed he didn’t bury it and bring us level. At 2-2 with time running out we might just have come away with something from the game. Even if we had been second best on the night.
All goals conceded can be avoided of course. Some more than others. And I’m sure analysis will be made to try and improve on areas of our defending for all 3 goals. And ‘improvement’ is a good word to end on I think. We are doing just that. And it is essential that continues if we are to close the considerable gap between where we are now and those at the very summit of our game.
So what comes next? Liverpool away I’m afraid. With a whole different group of players involved I’m sure. But we want to win like in any game.
I’m hungry. Slurping soup it is then!
Thursday 24th September 2020
“It’s only the League Cup”. “Leicester ‘handed’ Arsenal a 2 goal victory”. “Arsenal made just the ‘seven’ changes from their starting eleven against West Ham”. “Arsenal scraped home against an under par and understrength Foxes team”.
To be honest I’m sick of hearing this stuff about our club. There is not a single Gooner out there that didn’t see Leicester away as an extremely tough cup fixture. And you know what? We played quite well. Sorry and all that. Through to the next round with a thoroughly professional and dominant performance. If I was walking out of that away end at full time I would be delighted with my evening. And I refuse to let that change just because I was not allowed to be there.
Into the next round we go and a trip to Lincoln or Liverpool is the prize.
Safe in the knowledge my old fashioned brain had managed to link my laptop to my telly with an HDMI lead so I can watch the game on a decent size screen, yesterday morning my mind turned to how I would approach the build up. I would have left my house yesterday morning if I was going to Leicester so I continue to try and at least match some of those absent arrangements every matchday.
The little island off the south coast that is my home is a beautiful place to live and I consider myself extremely lucky. But like everywhere it has its critics of course. Is it old fashioned? Yes, in certain ways. Does it have a slower way of life? Definitely compared to any major town or city yes. Could it come under the ‘out in the sticks’ banner? Despite being just a 10 – 30 minute crossing from two major cities I guess it can. But that brings me to my next point.
For somewhere of that nature it has a quite unbelievable bus service! Very regular, they run early til very late (all night on some routes at the weekend) and cover routes island wide. And that means of course, pre-match plans can be varied, interesting and ‘different’ as a result.
So late morning I jumped on a bus. Proudly wearing a cannon on my chest and following the rules of a bruised banana face mask.
The whole idea of nipping in a pub for a quick pint has become very difficult as a result of the ‘rules’. These days we have to sign in, wait to be seated, get taken to a table, wait for someone to take your order and wait for your pint to arrive. And it is a bit irritating to be honest. But, that’s all it is remember. A ‘bit of a pain’. Not the end of the world, especially if you relax a bit and accept it for what it is. And hopefully as temporary as it takes us to beat this pandemic.
I still believe sport and other events normally attended by a crowd are getting the raw end of the deal however. The things you can and cannot do, or more importantly choose to, are hypocritical in the extreme. Four people from two different households can sit in a restaurant or a pub without a mask on at the same table. Yet 2 pairs of people cannot sit metres apart in a sporting arena whilst wearing masks as had been planned for the coming weeks apparently. Sport etc should not have been knocked back again. Plans just needed some adjusting.
And remember, whatever those plans are, each individual has the choice as to whether they choose to attend or not.
But its not to be and I’m not going to turn my ramblings into a political argument. It is what it is folks and we go forward, whatever our individual views.
The pretty village of Godshill played host to my and Finbar’s 1st pint before we jumped back on the next bus and headed for Ventnor, a cracking Victorian style British holiday resort with numerous hostelries to enjoy. We were joined by Steve for a couple, another season ticket holder and discussed many subjects including the utter ‘boredom’ of not being able to go to football.
Shanklin’s old town was our final stop on our thoroughly entertaining pre-match ‘bus tour’ before we headed back to mine to tune in to my laptop/TV set up for the game.
An all blue home kit clashes with our iconic red & white apparently so out we came in our away abomination and a much changed but still strong looking team set about trying to progress to the next round.
Considering the level of opposition I felt we were the better side pretty much throughout. Admittedly there was one scare when they hit the post with Leno well beaten but going a goal behind would have been undeserved. Our overall dominance was pleasing and the 2 nil victory even more so.
Another good day to be a Gooner then and we now look forward to the tough trip to Merseyside and the home of the League Champions on Monday night.
With it being possibly the first of 2 visits in a week, one cannot help but have memories of Tommy Rosicky and Juan Baptista back in January 2007. Yep, that was over 13 years ago folks! Lincoln of course will try and have a say tonight in our 2nd destination.
Come on you Imps! 😊
Monday 21st September 2020
Today’s latest covid-19 news makes for depressing reading. So more than ever right now, us followers of the beautiful game are extremely grateful for the fact we have that passion. Not being able to attend is still very disappointing of course. But until this thing is defeated, we simply have to understand how difficult it is. Whatever our individual opinions.
And 6 points out of six to start our season is satisfying and helps the mood in a positive away.
Watching the weather report last night, it seems Autumn might finally be on its way. Nothing drastic but a promise of quite big drops in temperature, even in the sunny south, as this week progresses are the first sign Summer is coming to a close. And whilst that is no shock as we reach late September, these ‘difficult’ times have at least been doused with the kind of sunshine that has allowed the majority of us to get out and about.
Saturday’s strange feeling 8pm kick-off left a free and lengthy pre-match to plan and with a sunny cider and cheese festival at the beautiful Haven Street on the island, there seemed no better way to enjoy the build up. Sunshine, relaxation, cider, cheese and 8 hours til kick-off. Although I’m not a fan of the fruit based drink, there were other options so what could possibly go wrong 😉
Everyone was expecting us to pretty much walk all over West Ham. And that along with any early complacency and our visitors arriving like a wounded animal after their disappointing opening day was a dangerous combination in my book. Yes, I was confident we could win the game but I certainly didn’t expect the trouncing some were predicting.
Indeed for some periods I felt we were second best on Saturday night. And on another occasion we may well have come unstuck. Saying that, I always fancy us to score. And even during a time where our visitors were looking more likely to do just that, I knew we had one or two more chances left in us.
We have to remember even some of the greatest Arsenal sides in our history had their off days. But we also need to remember that part of their greatness was getting something from games where that was the situation. So as Saturday definitely wasn’t one of our most memorable performances, I definitely don’t feel guilty coming away with the three points. And even less so for enjoying the fact.
A trip north to Leicestershire comes next for the team. An extremely tough start to our League Cup campaign I think its inevitable there will be numerous changes to both sides as the games come thick and fast.
I managed to catch our EFL Trophy win at Ipswich via a live stream and from what I understand that will be our only option on Wednesday. Just weird. But it is what it is.
Come on you mighty Gunners.
Sunday 13th September 2020
There’s something big happening at our great football club. I openly admit I might have suggested that once or twice before and was wide of the mark. But this time I genuinely feel it. Our style of play has changed. We look stronger and tighter at the back. And we look creative and exciting going forward. And most of all we look together. Genuinely exciting times.
One swallow doesn’t make a Summer of course and I’m also extremely aware we will meet far tougher opponents than the Fulham side we took on Saturday. But looking at it with huge positivity, the short break between the end of last season and the start of this makes it feel much like a continuation. And our performances saw us reap a couple of very silver rewards. On top of that, I don’t believe there are any easy games. So three goals and a clean sheet on the opening day is very very pleasing.
Of all the games during ‘lockdown’, there was something different about my pre-match build up for this one. A top quality bit of dinner and a live band in a local pub with good friends meant it was a cracking Friday night but the lunchtime kick-off meant there was no chance to get out and enjoy the sunshine as I’ve done for pretty much every single one of our games since going to West Ham at home back in March.
I don’t really know my neighbours that well. The occasional, “Hello, how are you?” over the garden wall but other than that very little else. And given our lack of contact or conversation it was unlikely until earlier this year they knew about my passion for the Arsenal. After all, in the 10 years I have lived here I had never watched us on the telly.
Dani Ceballos’ late winner at Bramall Lane may well have given them their first indication. The Summer weather meaning my lounge windows have been wide open, the noise as our late season form turned to glory would have become hugely apparent. By Cup Final day believe me they knew. Red, white, yellow & blue carnage.
And come early afternoon on Saturday they will definitely have recognised the roar on another three occasions.
After a slightly dicey start to the game, once we took the lead I thought we were excellent. In particular in the second half. For me it was difficult to pick out individual performances as we were collectively superb. But both our debutants will be delighted I’m sure and I thought Mo Elneny was very good too.
Two relatively simple ‘scruffy’ goals pleases me. Things of beauty such as our 3rd are fantastic of course but every kind of goal is equal. So Laca stabbing in a lose ball from a yard and Gabriel’s slightly mistimed header from a corner we’ll take all day long.
A day out by the Thames is where I wanted to be. Everybody knows that. And to be honest I’m almost boring myself now talking about it. So I’ll leave it there. And if there is one plus for me on a personal level, I’m lucky enough to live in a truly beautiful place to ‘celebrate’ a victory. So a sundrenched pub crawl by the sea completed a rather marvellous opening day of our league season.
The Mikel Arteta revolution continues. West Ham come next.
Enjoy your week Gooners and keep safe.
Tuesday 8th September 2020
Be it a friendly, an FA Cup Final, an FA Youth Cup tie I have attended or as in this case, a match in the EFL Trophy, I have always written thoughts and details about my day. And even though I was unable to attend I’m not about to stop doing that now.
Portman Road is a stadium many of us have visited many times over the years. Defeats, draws and victories are in the memory, like with most grounds, my particular favourite when we seemed to take over a large chunk of the stadium for a 4-2 victory in the FA Cup quarter final in our run to winning the trophy in 1993.
Suffolk’s finest are currently going through a difficult period in their history but a club of such a size, tradition and history will be back I’m sure.
I wanted to go to Ipswich today. Of course I did. But as a glimmer of light approaches on the possible attendance front, it wasn’t to be today. And knowing that early, the next stage was to try and find somewhere that was streaming the game so at the very least I could watch it.
That mission accomplished (at the princely price of a tenner), I looked forward to the game in a competition I have thoroughly enjoyed ever since we decided to enter.
My working day complete and dinner cooked and consumed, I took a cold beer from the fridge and placed my laptop on my lap to watch the game. Very odd. That’s all I can say.
Previous match build ups have involved the standard football emotions. The importance of getting a result overriding my frustration at not being able to attend. But never have I found myself saying out loud, “Ten quid for this, the picture is shite!” or “if you are going to control a camera you could at least keep up with the action!”
The games in this competition can throw up any result. Any game. Any performance. A 3 nil win at Coventry or a 6-1 defeat at Cheltenham for example. And that uncertainty definitely adds to the attraction of the whole package.
The game itself was very entertaining. Lots of examples of the same tactics, shapes and football we see the first team trying to play coupled with some impressive individual performances. When we didn’t have the ball we worked extremely hard to keep things tight and our passing and movement when in possession was equally as encouraging.
After going behind we equalised on the stroke of half time when debutant Lewis slotted home. And yes I did punch the air and say ‘get in’.
With our hosts dominating the possession for much of the 2nd period we looked very dangerous on the break. Balogun calmly slotting home what turned out to be the winner was just one of a few such chances across the half. And a private one man celebratory ‘jostle’ ensued on my sofa as a result. I like a goal you see.
Late on we were definitely hanging on a bit but we ground it out for a pleasing win.
Thoroughly enjoyable and I hate losing. So well worth the tenner. Wembley beckons again 🙂
Saturday lunchtime sees the first game of the league season and our trip to Fulham. A late Summer jaunt along the Thames for our opening away game. Why on earth would we miss that?!
But that’s still the way it is folks.
Come on you mighty Gunners!
Tuesday 1st September 2020
Not writing my thoughts for 2 to 3 days after one of our matches normally means one of two or three things. Maybe travel has got in the way. Or I’ve simply found myself too busy to allocate some time. Or (usually by means of celebration), the weekend has been just too ‘messy’. And I’m afraid to say on this occasion it has very much been the latter.
Is the traditional season’s opener just a friendly? I think there are arguments either way to be fair. It certainly doesn’t make or break your season. And in this year particularly it does feel just part of the preparation. But, saying that, winning and lifting trophies is a fantastic habit to have. And as I’ve said a thousand times before, if it was a game of snakes & ladders I would still want to win.
So, despite the knockers, the critics and the doom & gloom merchants, I’ll take that.
After our lot’s successful plans over cup final weekend, something similar but perhaps a little bit more low key was put in place. To match the game’s overall importance level I guess. But with plenty of lovely sunshine on the sunny island in the south once again, it was always going to be one to enjoy.
August Bank Holiday weekend always sees a fantastic ‘scooter festival’ on the island and although most of this year’s organised events had been cancelled there was always a chance that thousands would still turn up. And that they did, making sure even with the vast majority following social distancing guidelines, there was a tremendous summer vibe to enjoy.
A full English brekkie Saturday morning helped soothe Friday’s antics and come lunchtime it was off to a local pub that is having a full refit during this time. But rather than shut completely they have turned their car park at the rear into a kind of pop up pub. Sunshine, marquees, a bar/shed the whole thing has a kind of festival feel. And with plenty of ale, food and a flat screen telly our decision to watch the game there was perfect.
Liverpool won the league last season by a country mile. And even though we beat them at home during lockdown, I was still conscious they made 2 huge defensive mistakes that night and the result could have been very different.
Our superb performances and results in our run to winning the FA Cup gave me confidence of course, but I was also aware on their day our opponent can tear teams apart.
As a match I was extremely pleased with the way we played once again. Our goal was a thing of absolute beauty and if anything we could and possibly should have found ourselves more than just the one goal ahead. We defended fantastically well I felt, the scousers’ goal being one of those ‘ricochet’ types that could have fallen anywhere before their forward slotted home.
I feared the worst once they equalised but that is a natural reaction. And if anything we looked the most likely side to grab a winner in the closing stages.
Overall, I think a draw was just about a fair result and the lottery that is a penalty shoot out decided who took home the shield. 5 out of 5 and it was in the bag. So, take the mickey all you like, but we decided to celebrate. 😊
Needing to clear considerable hangovers we decided to go for a long walk on Sunday. The problem was it started at noon at a pub. And it ended very late in another with live music in the garden. And there were 3 other pubs on route. Walking is thirsty work in the sunshine so what could we do?
And with more silverware in the cabinet it just felt right.
Up the mighty Gunners.
Wednesday 26th August 2020
One of the main aspects of my blog, and the diary before it, has always been my emphasis that it has never been for someone just looking for a match report. There are dozens of them available, in print, online, on the radio and of course the TV. And in a world where there are very very few matches that are not available to view ‘live’ anyway, match reports have become largely for those unable to see it.
My tales of making arrangements well before matches take place, the inevitable (costly) changes that often occur with little notice, the various kinds of travel, the pre and post-match activities with my fellow Gooners, the emotions we all go through along with some limited opinion when a situation warrants it all make up the package I have always tried to produce.
But that of course, becomes more and more difficult when we can’t attend.
Not all my ramblings are full of joy. I know there are many thousands out there that find my tales intensely uninteresting. Boring in fact. But that’s ok. I appreciate the feedback and accept everybody has an opinion.
But when my pre-match tales consist of not finding out we even had a game until around yesterday lunchtime and post-match being nothing more than buying a new dishwasher, getting it home and finding it’s got a massive dent in it, I really struggle to pen anything of interest.
I’ve never seen Arsenal play at Milton Keynes. Wimbledon yes, many times of course. But MK Dons are not Wimbledon. Never have been, never will be. In my humble opinion I still think it is disgusting how that was ever allowed to happen. For so so many reasons.
But I’ve never been there. And that was/is intensely frustrating. Being a big ground, having a few tickets made available for a low key friendly and fans dotted around the stadium would have been easy and safe. But not to be. So in a time when a new destination to see our team becomes increasingly rarer, the chance to put a yellow pin on my map goes begging.
And at a time when as long as guidelines are followed you can go to work, you can use public transport, you can shop, you can go to cafes, restaurants and pubs, go to indoor snooker finals and you can go to parks and beaches, I don’t mind admitting I’m getting thoroughly pissed off that outdoor sporting events are still no go areas.
Think about it. I could have walked along the busy August seafront where I live. I could have got a ferry to the mainland (whilst wearing a mask). I could have got a train to London Waterloo (whilst wearing a mask). I could use the London Underground to get to Euston (whilst wearing a mask). I could have got a train to Milton Keynes (whilst wearing a mask). I could have gone in a pub and enjoyed food & drink (whilst sticking to socially distancing rules). I could have got a cab to the stadium (whilst wearing a mask). And I could have booked overnight accommodation should I have chosen to do so. But we are still being stopped from attending football matches even if I could have followed queuing rules, sat in an allocated seat and watched my team play their 1st pre-season friendly.
Hypocritical madness in my book. And intensely irritating.
I should be getting used to it by now I guess. But I’m not. In fact I hate it more now than ever. And I make no apology for that.
I watched the live stream of course. And we won 4-1.
I have no match report or opinion to offer you I’m afraid.
Has anything else Arsenal related happened since my last blog? Well, my away kit has turned up. One for the hanger that. I certainly wont be wearing it. One or two of our youngsters have gone out on loan deals. And one or two have come back. And if you believe the rumours, we are in for signing at least 20 new players this week alone.
I’m off to return my dishwasher.
Up the Arsenal.
Friday 21st August 2020
When giving consideration to writing my first blog of any new season I always try and wait until something of ‘note’ happens. And given the fixtures have been released, we have a new away kit and we know our opponents in the EFL Trophy, now seems as good a time as any.
So, welcome to season 2020/21 Gooners. I think.
Just 3 weeks ago it was FA Cup Final eve so things are still very ‘different’ of course. No Summer off. And I say that recognising for many of us, the enforced situation could already be described as a ‘break’. But when my non football time of the year consists of holiday, travel, cricket, gigs & festivals I’m not having that as my time away from the beautiful game I’m afraid.
But, I am relatively healthy (I think!) and touch wood have not had to deal with this horrible virus so far. And for that, above all else, I am truly grateful.
I’ll take on the three aspects mentioned above in chronological order I think and that means looking at the EFL Trophy draw. Not considered a ‘first team’ affair, I’ve always said any competition where the prize at the end is a Wembley Cup Final is good enough for me. Throw in the fact it throws up destinations and stadia on the football pyramid that in general we don’t get to visit following our team and it means since we entered 2 seasons ago I have attended every one of our fixtures.
Of the 8 groups we could have been allocated, six had a stadium I haven’t seen Arsenal play at. One had two and another had all three. So, in normal circumstances, I’m not embarrassed to say, I would be genuinely excited by what the draw might throw up. But, that knowing it is highly unlikely we will be able to attend anyway, tends to knock any anticipation and enthusiasm for six.
As it was, Crawley Town, Gillingham & Ipswich came out of the hat, the former being the one ground I haven’t seen the mighty Gunners. I’d like to go to all 3 of course. But the chances of that seem slim.
Just pipping the away kit to the post announcement wise I think, was yesterday’s 9am release of the tentative Premier League fixture list. One of ‘the’ moments on the football calendar, something, like most of us, I look forward to with eager anticipation. But not this time I’m afraid.
Those who know me well have experienced my optimism. My enthusiasm. My desire. My positivity. So much so in fact I have been accused by many of wearing glasses that are far too rose tinted. And on that basis I offer no apology for coming across as so negative right now. So downbeat. Almost lethargic.
Not about the team. Not about my club. Not about Mikel being at the helm. And not about our future. But until I can go to games I just can’t get myself up I’m afraid.
Normally I find myself asking, “who have we got opening day?”, “what are our xmas games?”, “the game nearest my birthday?”, “when are we playing that lot from Middlesex?”, “what’s our run in like?” etc etc etc. But not this time. Why? What’s the point when we don’t know if we can attend or not. And I don’t just mean that pending possibility that very few might be able to go to home games soon. I mean the fact that its highly likely that any chance of going to away games is a long way off.
I’m unsure if this is simply down to my lethargy towards the whole situation but is it only me that thinks the fixtures are becoming very similar year in year out too? Southampton away midweek again, Chelsea away midweek again, Chelsea at home at Christmas again, Everton or Liverpool away last weekend before Christmas again. The fact I feel I could have predicted all those before they were released can’t be just coincidence surely.
I’ve tried to take a relatively level headed look at our new away kit. And believe me that is difficult. Everyone knows how passionate I am in my belief our away colours should be yellow and blue. And I say that whilst offering a totally blank canvass for our 3rd kit. Do what you like with that one as far as I’m concerned.
Maybe its because I was born in 1970. Brought up on that iconic image of Charlie George lying on the Wembley turf after smashing in our double winning clincher against the scousers. And maybe Wembley 79, Anfield 89, Old Trafford 02 & Wembley 15 are all fantastic memories of that wonderful kit. So yellow & blue are for me, our away colours. Nothing else.
I say this knowing our history. Knowing we had numerous away kit colours before I was born, many of which were white. But even then, one of our most iconic images is of Joe Mercer with the FA Cup in 1950 in a shirt always remembered as gold.
In the last 50 years however, show me all the dozens of pictures of our team holding trophies aloft in anything other than either red & white or most importantly here, yellow & blue. That’s in 50 years I’m talking about.
Some have said it is just a kit. But I’m sorry, I’m not having that. There is something very special at away games when we run out in that yellow & blue. The Arsenal have arrived. And who can forget the sea of yellow at Wembley in 2015.
Others have pointed out that the kit is a marketing show and nothing else. Something for the fashionistas or our overseas ‘market’. Firstly I don’t believe for one minute shirt sales will be higher than if we stuck with yellow. And secondly, surely number 1 is what happens on the pitch. And I don’t know what it is, but our success is and always will be associated with yellow.
The song ‘Come on you yellows’ echoing into the air is spine tingling. Just ask all those who were at Anfield in 1989. Any suggestions as to what we sing with this one? ‘Come on you blood stained marbles’ perhaps?
Oh, hang on, I’m getting ahead of myself, sorry. Away fans needing songs to sing. Not something we need worry about I guess.
I have no doubt we will be wearing it at Wembley for next weekend’s Charity Shield (err….sorry….Community Shield). Will it remind our illustrious opponents of Wembley 1950? Wembley 1971? Anfield 1989? Of course it won’t.
Up the Gunners. Yellooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwww!!
Monday 3rd August 2020
The year two thousand & twenty will be remembered for many reasons, the vast majority being negative. A year that has not only seen a pandemic that has and will continue to change the world forever, the sadness and heartbreak for many is almost beyond comprehension for those of us who have been fortunate enough to just experience what for the majority, in relative terms, is inconvenience.
Yet in Arsenal supporting football terms we will remember it as when we came away with yet another FA Cup. Fantastic.
Sport divides opinion even when things are normal. To some it can often feel more important than life itself when deep down we all know that is not the case. The level of importance in many of our lives however, is incredibly high, whilst for those non-believers, it can mean little or nothing.
It can give people a major lift when things are not going well of course. The whole ‘when skies are grey’ adage and I do believe as a result, despite my personal views, this potential ‘lift’ for our sporting nation was the only reason it was brought back.
I think we struggled to accept this was the real football being back. Until we can get back to full passionate stadia in fact, I still don’t believe it will be. And I for one, totally and wholeheartedly get that.
Although frustrating when results have gone against us in recent weeks, I found not being able to attend even more difficult to take. I wanted us to win. Of course I did. And my emotions ranged from being pleased to having the right royal hump depending on the results, but I couldn’t get that whole ‘what is the point?’ attitude out of my overall feelings.
For me there is 1 particular moment when that changed a little bit. After conceding late at Bramall Lane, Dani Ceballos slotting home had me leaping out of my chair and jumping around my lounge like a total lunatic. I don’t know why exactly but have a good idea. Nothing beats a late winner. And I always felt, despite having an outside chance of nicking a European spot in the league, our pre Mikel Arteta form and poor results had left us with far too much to do on that front. So a late winner in the greatest domestic cup competition in the world felt all the more important.
Not being at Wembley on Saturday was absolutely gut wrenching. Not surprising of course. There are many thousands out there that would have felt the same. But some of my best friends deciding to come to the island to share the whole host of emotions the weekend was always going to bring, had me feeling far more upbeat about the whole situation.
I was optimistic we could get a result, without being enormously confident. Our performance against Man City in the semi final gave us every right to know we were capable. And with that I mean both going forward and defensively. But it would have been naïve of me not to worry about the result going against us too.
Friday afternoon, with those nerves and strange feelings only football gives you now and again starting to kick in, the first of my Gooner mates started to arrive. Over land & sea as they say! And the weekend began in earnest with a pub crawl affectionately know locally as the ‘Ryde Experience’. Thoroughly entertaining, the banter was not only exceptional but gave this ‘football weekend’ a kind of sense of authenticity. Something I don’t mind admitting I thought was almost impossible.
Cup final morning began with a walk long a sundrenched seafront thoroughly decked out in red and white before enjoying a fantastic full English and the first of the day’s many refreshments. A couple of the local hostelries around these parts have become used to Gooners enjoying a few pre-match jars in recent weeks of course, something they wouldn’t have noticed previously as we would be at the games! So, they had a look of ‘I wondered when you lot were going to turn up’ come Saturday afternoon.
Along with those who had travelled down, we were keeping in constant touch with all those other mates going through their own plan and arrangements for the day. And the pictures and videos out there are numerous, funny and emotional.
Being at Wembley, I have always made sure I am in my seat by the time ‘Abide with Me’ echoes out. A unique and incredible moment, it too is insanely emotional. And being back in my house, the silence in my lounge this time was accompanied by many a non dry eye believe me.
This was it boys and girls. Whatever had gone before in this strangest of all seasons, this was our moment. Drink it in and don’t let it pass you by.
It wasn’t the greatest of starts for us of course, yet going one behind I felt strangely confident. They’d scored too early. Or at least that’s what I kept telling myself.
The referee Anthony Taylor had some big decisions to make. And if you win or lose, opinions on them will always be different. The first came with our equaliser. Was it a foul? Definitely. Was it outside the box? Well it certainly started there. But would Auba still been in on goal with the keeper to beat had the defender stopped hauling him back once in the area? !00% yes so it was a penalty all day long. Personally I felt Taylor got it right as whether to send the offender off or not. But on another day, I don’t think he will be so fortunate.
Auba still had to put it away of course. And that he did. Cool as you like, sending the keeper the wrong way. Game on. Come on you mighty reds.
I stood for the whole match. In my own lounge. Not because I couldn’t have a seat if I wanted one. But I kicked every ball. Made every tackle. Appealed every decision. And like a good Gooner friend down in Dover said to me, he did exactly the same and was ‘frankly, man of the match’!
Auba’s feign, turn and finish after a midfield burst by Hector, was simply world class. A goal worthy of winning any FA Cup Final. Cue absolute carnage. Having got our noses in front we could win this.
Although not result changingly influential, the referee’s decision to send a Chelsea player off also went in our favour of course. Should he have been sent off for that tackle? No, never in a month of Sundays. But was it, after a number of warnings, as a result of accumulative fouls? Quite possibly. Harsh sendings off are part of the game these days. We all know that and they can go for or against you on the day.
The seven minutes of injury time were painful. Despite Chelsea not really causing us too many problems during that period. And that final whistle was met with total pandemonium. Just crazy. Get in there you absolute beauties. Yes. Yes. Yes.
Very very special. A tiring, nervy and emotional day, the celebrations went long into the night and throughout Sunday too.
It means Europe again too of course. Something that looked very unlikely for most of the season. Something that a whole generation of Arsenal fans have understandably just taken for granted when supporting the Arsenal. Because since the day they were born that’s what we’ve had. Those of us older Gooners out there know differently. Getting European football felt massive once upon a time. Nothing is guaranteed. You have to earn it. And having beaten 2 Premier League sides on their own patch and high flying Man City & Chelsea to win it, we’ve certainly done just that in this season’s FA Cup.
It seems strange saying this in early August. But that is exactly what this season is all about. Strange. But enjoy the football ‘break’. Although it looks increasingly unlikely, I hope to see you all again around the UK and Europe over the coming months. We will be back. Its just a matter of when and how.
Keep safe Gooners.
Arsenal Football Club, FA Cup winners 2020. Again.
Sunday 26th July 2020
Despite the fact I want us to win every game that we play, the most important outcome from this afternoon’s final match of this weird and truncated league season, was to come out with no suspensions or injuries. Next week’s match is difficult enough without our first choice options being limited further.
And initial conclusions look positive on that front. And we won of course, so a satisfactory day I guess.
The final game of the league season can produce the full emotional spectrum. From nerves shot to bits to a totally relaxing day in the sunshine. From the mundane to the surprisingly enjoyable. From gutwrenching disappointment to sheer unbridled elation.
But attending the final day always offers a conclusion to take you into the Summer break. A chance to meet up with those football pals for one final time. Those you only see at football. A chance to say, “Enjoy the Summer, I’ll see you in a couple of months or so.”
After a bit of Sunday roast dinner, I watched it completely on my own today. And for one final time it confirmed, unless I can go to games, its simply not for me. I’ll watch any game on the telly if I feel like it. And on my own too. But when its my team? Awful.
The game was massive for our visitors of course. And consequently I knew with the combination of the kitchen sink being thrown at us and every chance our players would be holding off a little, any result was possible.
We are all used to Mike Dean’s antics so it was no surprise he wasn’t going to award our early penalty. But that challenge was a definite foul anywhere on the pitch. So as it happened inside the box his decision should have been no different. But as I said, with Dean you are guaranteed inconsistency and poor decisions. Its all about him remember.
It gave us a good start and we took the other opportunities we created too giving us an arguably unexpected 3 goal lead.
Watford created chances. Quite a lot of them to be fair but we could have scored more than the 3 we did too.
Overall it was a ‘circus’ of a game to conclude a post lock down set of matches I have described using the same word.
I’m not sure what the answer was, or indeed is but I stand by my view the season should have just been abandoned. Now all the games have been played my opinions remain the same. I’ve given my reasons before.
Every Thursday during this strange old time, a group of us Arsenal mates have met at 8pm by means of a Zoom meeting. Not only has it been enjoyable, funny and thought provoking , it has felt almost essential. Personal matters, world peace, political & social issues, football involving our club & others and the kind of subjects that are discussed when ‘boys are being boys’ have all been approached with fantastic banter accompanied by a few beers.
During our last, most have said they are going to come to what looks like it could be a sundrenched little island off the south coast for a (socially distanced) cup final weekender.
We should be at the final. Of course we should. But to go through the same emotions as my very best friends and family together, the very same people who would be walking up Wembley Way with me if things were different, means the world to me if I’m honest and hopefully will make our absence very slightly easier to take.
With a start to 2020/21 looking like mid September, we still await decisions on possible attendance, still the most important aspect of all this.
For the time being I’m going to look forward all week to a sunny cup final weekend with those I should be spending it with.
Come on you mighty reds.