Willoughby Court

Tuesday 17th January 2017

Any 4 nil victory away from home should be memorable. Even though we thoroughly enjoyed our day out in South Wales however, the game almost felt like a little bit of a damp squib. And, despite having a few days to think about it, I’m still nowhere closer to understanding why that is. With the third Monday in January often referred to as ‘Blue Monday’ or the ‘most depressing day of the year’ I have decided to put the whole feeling down to Saturday’s close proximity to this occasion!

Given the fact our away games are pretty much split between London and the North I quite enjoy going to Swansea. The change of scenery is almost enough but just travelling in a different direction for once can help the monotony!

We set off bright and early as always and the usual banter on route was only matched in its intensity once settled in the warmth of our chosen pre match hostelry.

Our hosts currently prop up the Premier League table and there is a reason for that. So before a ball was kicked a win was absolutely essential. But football doesn’t always work like that as we all know, especially when your opponent has a new manager sat on the bench for the first time. New beginnings, new horizons, a chance for the squad to show their new boss what they’ve got, more intense optimism etc etc make the whole affair a potential banana skin. And one we have slipped upon in the past.

And in the opening exchanges all the above was quite evident. The Swans didn’t exactly ‘threaten’, a couple of shots from distance the extent of their positivity, but they were definitely up for it and not looking like a side who simply cannot buy a win right now.

For me, in that situation you need to match your opponent toe to toe in the battling side of the game, remain thoroughly switched on defensively and bide your time. The league table dictates we are a superior outfit and with this in mind you will at some stage dominate the game. It is during that period that you need to make it count. And on Saturday afternoon we pretty much did that.

All 4 of our goals had a degree of good fortune about them, a couple of OGs and close finishing after a bit of ‘pinball’ in the box but in between those we showed considerable domination and could and probably should have scored a hatful.

Overall then, despite a relatively low key atmosphere it was a job well done in Wales and it keeps us in the hunt.

An enjoyable journey home accompanied by some quality (or dodgy depending how you look at it) Saturday night tunes and a few celebratory beers upon our return completed a fine day all round.

Tomorrow night we will know if its Southampton or Norwich we head to at the end of the month but before that we welcome Burnley to London N5 in a fixture that is a ‘must win’ once again. Anyone who went to Turf Moor earlier in the season will know what a tough side The Clarets are to beat so I expect nothing but a similar encounter once again.

So…why the title to this piece? Well…walking into the Liberty Stadium I found a twenty pound note on the floor. So, those in our group wacked it on some random horse running in the 3 o’clock at Warwick. Half way back up the M4 we remembered……and checking the results on my mobile, it romped home!!

Not exactly a tactic that will beat the bookies I feel but these things happen on days when you are victorious! If we had got beat down in Swansea I’m convinced it would have come nowhere.

See you Sunday.

Frank
@stubbsy70

A Proper Away Day

Sunday 8th January 2017

The FA Cup will always hold a very special place in the minds of all us Gooners. My late grandfather was at Wembley for our triumphs in the thirties and 1950 and my dad still regularly describes the day Charlie belted in the winner to clinch the double in 1971. In my lifetime, who can forget Alan Sunderland’s dramatic injury time goal back in 1979 and all our numerous victories during the nineties, noughties and within the last three seasons.

But on top of that, it’s some of those quality days out in earlier rounds over the many years that make up that overall package of quite fantastic memories. And yesterday is right up there with some of the best.

In earlier years of our lives the birthdays, stag/hen dos and weddings far outweigh anything negative. Life’s natural process dictates that changes the older we get unfortunately but on the positive side we get to celebrate friends and family reaching milestones along the way.

Friday night was another one of those as many of us got together to congratulate fellow Gooner Grant (‘upgrade’) on reaching his 50th birthday. A very fine night it was but sitting in my lounge with a glass of red and a lump of Stilton on the go at about 2am with the long trip to Preston to embark on was probably not the best idea!

Admittedly I’ve said it before but it takes some commitment to get out of bed in that situation, especially on a cold and dreary January day when you are in self inflicted pain. But we all do it. And why? Well, not only because we want to, we love it, red and white runs through our veins and nothing beats that sense of loyalty and belonging. But what exactly would we do if our club wasn’t there? Probably the biggest aspect that many off should consider a little bit more often I feel.

There are too many Arsenal fans out there at the moment who go along ‘angry’ and not because they enjoy it. I’ve always felt if you find going to support your team a chore, don’t do it. Simple.

FA Cup 3rd Round is very special. And even more so if you get something a little bit different like yesterday. There was something about the whole of yesterday that felt a little bit ‘old school’.

London’s Euston station was full of Gooners. And it was a theme that continued throughout the day. I’m sure it sounds a bit weird to all the non believers out there but when nearly 6 thousand fans from ‘the big city’ arrive in good spirits and voice and kind of ‘take over’ a town/city in the distant and mysterious ‘industrial north’ for the day, it does give you an almost unexplainable buzz.

The North?

The North?

And when our train arrived into the cavernous Preston station a ridiculously quick 2 hours and 8 minutes after leaving London, the noise announcing our arrival was something else.

Our country has changed and developed in many ways over the years but that ‘North South divide’ is still talked about to this day. The fact travel and our desire to visit other areas to our home has increased so much means the mystery has probably gone and the friendliness of everywhere extends to all to a very large extent.

And although it is hugely important that all areas stick to their local traditions, customs, culinary offerings etc etc, the fact the differences are looked at with humour rather than distaste and offence is an enormous plus point that is often overlooked.

Southern Softie?

Southern Softie?

Our pre-match refreshment was enjoyed as always and the misty and murky early evening sky only added to the incredibly atmospheric approach to an expectant Deepdale.

FA Cup ties, especially away to any club in a lower division, are always described as potential ‘banana skins’. So for that reason only we all knew it could be a very tough afternoon. I’ve always felt in any such tie however, if you match your hosts in terms of effort, strength, sharpness and desire, your ability as the superior team will see you home. That victory however, becomes far less likely if you don’t bother with the former aspects.

And it doesn’t need me to tell you our first half performance pretty much lacked any of it. Disappointing and bordering on not acceptable to be honest I also feel we should give credit to PNE for the way they approached the game. The only plus as we reached half time was we were only a goal behind. Although I felt our host’s goal was a tad fortunate they could and probably should have at least doubled their lead.

Roll on the 2nd half

Roll on the 2nd half

We all like a cliché and the ‘game of two halves’ was exactly what we all longed for. And, to be fair that is exactly what we got.

Rambo smashed home our fine equaliser and the mood amongst the travelling masses changed from one of disillusionment to optimism.

Wave after wave of attacks followed but with time running out it looked like we might have to do it all again back in North London.

If we could choose how we would like to win a cup tie I’m sure we would all go for going behind, equalising and grabbing a late winner right in front of the away end. Only with the benefit of choice or hindsight might I add! And Olly continued his current knack of late goals to send the travelling masses doolally.

It meant that long journey home was happy and enjoyable. Preston station was amusing to say the least. Thousands of Gooners all getting on pretty much the same train. The victorious mood probably helped and what might as well have been an ‘Arsenal Special’ set off for the South with our name firmly in that 4th round hat.

The trip concluded with the sound of ‘Wemberleeeeee’ echoing around London Euston as we arrived home…….and me finally getting indoors at 4am! Tired but happy. And ecstatic my ‘commitment’ led to yet another day that will live long in the memory.

Monday’s draw will determine our next opponent and potential adventure scheduled for the end of the month. Before that we are on the road again, this time heading west and into Wales to take on Swansea.

Our 2nd half performance in both our previous 2 games has been pretty good.

A vastly improved 1st half showing is essential however, if our season is to produce any kind of success. Hopefully our recent experiences demonstrate that enough to make sure we put that right.

Still on the march………

Frank
@stubbsy70

Softened Pain

Wednesday 4th January 2017

At half time last night I went downstairs in the away end as I needed to use the facilities. I wasn’t particularly angry but I was definitely deflated and disappointed. But, a few of the game in, game out faces were there (more noticeable in a smaller away allocation) and many of them were smiling. Not because they were happy with what they had witnessed of course. But they had seen it all before. And a good day out with fellow Gooners, fellow believers, fellow winners and fellow sufferers is far more important than anything else.

We’ve heard about ‘the pain and the glory’ and most of us have witnessed both. League wins, cup wins, history being made etc etc. Walsall, Wrexham, York and the like make up the other side to that coin.

And I’d like to throw last night’s pie into that mix. The chicken variety was all they had left. And being a bit cold, a bit peckish and in bad need of something to take my mind off the first half I handed over the 3 or 4 quid that you are forced to part with if you require such refreshment.

Opening the Bournemouth FC packaging (quite obviously designed for a burger rather than a pie!) I was faced with a dark brown blob that was so burnt it was stuck to the side of the silver foil trough making my decision to purchase already looking like a poor one.

Fiddling with it like the first time any of us ever handled a Rubiks Cube, removing it from its longer than required home was proving rather difficult. Then my thumb pierced the surface and I experienced that ‘pain’ mentioned above. Walsall, Wrexham, York…..and a pie in Boscombe. Leaving my hand in the oven to cook along side it might have hurt less.

It didn’t help my mood and the likes of Hector watching players dancing round him, many of his colleagues going through the motions and even the likes of Alexis acting like a spoilt child who has been asked to play in a position different to his favourite, our hosts going three nil up was seriously spoiling what had been a pretty good day out. I very rarely pick on individuals as it could not be more of a team game but I have purposely used the above as an example when it could have been any one of the players out there for the following reason. Every team’s fans have their ‘favourites’. Players that almost seem beyond criticism. And at the other end of the spectrum there are the ‘scapegoats’. Those who whatever the situation get the brunt of the blame. In the first 70 minutes last night nobody deserved any credit. So players who rightly receive praise when it is due should take criticism on the chin when it is the other way round. We were poor in every department, failed to undertake the basics and lacked that desire and effort that we normally have in abundance.

And being 3 nil down was nobody else’s fault than our own. I appreciate players can be carrying bumps and bruises over this busy period but it is the same for both squads. The penalty was very soft but that happens so I have no particular gripe with the decision. Admittedly however, I have more of an issue with the incident that led to the 3rd goal and challenge the referee to advise what exactly was different with that to the one that led to the penalty.

A draw away at a relatively decent Bournemouth side is not a result of potential Champions. And having to come back from 3 nil down even less so. On that basis i’m not going to claim anything different.

But a game like that is difficult to conclude.

After 70 minutes we were dead and buried. Beaten comfortably. Our performance was at best poor, worst embarrassing, although I appreciate that is almost condescending to our hosts who are sitting in the top half of the league for a genuine reason. But instead of hanging in there on level terms or a goal behind, we were getting stuffed 3 nil on a night that could have gone down as one of the greatest in our hosts’ history.

People don’t remember that Bournemouth are in this country’s top flight on merit. I can’t help but feel if things had ended differently, when they looked back at their history people would have said, “do you remember that night in the Premier League when we spanked the mighty Arsenal?!”

And to be fair, with time running out, it hurt. Like all defeats. But up there with those that hurt that little bit more.

Then Alexis gambled, nodded home and we had a glimmer of hope. We poured forward and looked very dangerous from that moment on and as always in football it remains a mystery as to why we couldn’t have done that earlier in the game.

Lucas smashed home an absolute belter of a volley and the mood lifted that little bit higher. Realistically however, with time fast running out a defeat still looked on the cards. But if nothing else, this Arsenal side keeps going to the bitter end. Olly’s header grabbed us an unlikely equaliser and point from a seemingly impossible situation and that embarrassment and pain was considerably softened.

Don’t get me wrong, I am aware and agree with the whole ‘papering over the cracks’ opinion and I, like all of us, am disappointed we didn’t come away with the victory we all know we were extremely capable of securing. But I am definitely one of the those ‘glass is half full’ characters and always will be. So being 3 nil down and getting something from the game I will take the positives.

After our disappointing week prior to Christmas in the North West I looked at our next 6 league games with a view that we should aim for 16 – 18 points and see where we sit after that. Coming back from the dead last night just about keeps that alive.

The long trip to Preston comes next as we approach the first hurdle in our bid to continue our great club’s love affair with the world’s greatest cup competition.

Preston North End v Arsenal…..a hugely historical fixture and one that has ‘classic cup tie’ written all over it. I’m totally ok with that as long as come the final whistle I will be joining the 5 and half thousand odd travelling Gooners in celebrating our progress into the 4th round.

That however, will only be achieved buy showing our hosts the respect they deserve and not waiting 70 minutes to turn up!!

Come on you mighty Gunners!

Frank
@stubbsy70

New Year Satisfaction

Sunday 1st January 2017

Happy New Year to all. Happier of course with three points in the bag.

Feeling rough on New Years Day is not exactly unusual. So I’m not embarrassed that this morning I wasn’t at my best. I can deal with hangovers, especially if they follow a good night. But I’m not good on transport. It’s motion I think. It seems to treble the nausea.

My alarm clock was met with a thumping head. Proper banging. Seeing in the new year with a pub visit and a glass of bubbly at midnight doesn’t sound too excessive……but the couple of bottles of port that followed probably were, no matter how enjoyable they proved. And my head expressed it’s considerable displeasure this morning with bells on!

My journey started with a short car ride and a ferry. Not great on the whole transport/motion/nausea combo. And by the time I was 30 minutes into my train journey the coffee I had consumed in a bid to improve the way I was feeling was down the pan. Not nice.

The tube journey almost finished me if I’m honest but in a ‘kill or cure’ hair of the dog half hour or so, a quick 2 or 3 Jack Daniels and ice had me back in the game. Happy days!

At the moment I think it feels like we need to look after our own results more than ever. That might be an obvious statement but with everyone talking about Liverpool this and Tottenham that, Chelsea blah blah, Manchester waffle waffle, we need to keep winning our games and quietly progress in the background.

And 2 home wins over Christmas are a good way to start.

As much as none of us were impressed with West Brom’s tactics on Boxing Day they definitely offered more of a threat than Palace this afternoon. Our domination of the game from start to finish (apart from about 30 seconds at 2 nil when Petr Cech made a couple of good saves) was almost ridiculous. And the victory at the end of it was more than deserved.

Half way through the first half there was the small matter of our opening goal. An interception on the edge of our own box was followed by a superb sweeping move and concluded with a finish that was simply incredible. A goal that if it was scored by a Ronaldo, a Messi, a Aguero or another one of the media darlings it would be talked about for years and years. But it was Olly Giroud. And our big centre forward should receive plaudits of equal intensity.

Another three points will do as we look forward to Tuesday nights trip to Bournemouth.

For now, I’m going to have an early night I think……but I might just watch Olly’s goal one more time on Match of the Day before I turn in.

See you in Dorset.

Frank
@stubbsy70

You Leave With Nothing

Thursday 29th December 2016

Chilly weather, an expanded waistline, that festive feel, a defensively strong team in your way, blatant timewasting, the opposition goalkeeper having a blinder, time running out, nerves, frustration………I quite enjoy games like that. But only if you get a late winner of course! Winning one nil at home to West Brom is not an achievement that will live long in the memory. But that ‘glow’ as you head home after a game like that is difficult to explain. It is only ever matched in its intensity by that feeling of frustration if you don’t come away with the three points.

Boxing Day fixtures are always quite special, not just because everybody has that festive bank holiday feel but if you live outside of our capital city’s public transport system, actually getting to the game can be quite a challenge. That applies to all of us who fall into that category of course including my journey from my abode on a small island off the south coast.

Ferries have been known to be few and far between on Boxing Day in the past but were running as per a Sunday service on this occasion so that bit certainly didn’t prove problematic. I like a pint or two. And you can keep your ‘no shit sherlock’ comments to yourselves! But driving is pretty much the only way to do the bulk of the journey on this day when there are no trains. There are a few other options of course. Someone else could drive, but whatever way you look at that, at least one person would be ‘missing out’. You could stay in London overnight I suppose. But I enjoy the home stuff this time of year so would see that as a sacrifice unless there was no other choice. You could pay an absolute small fortune for a return taxi I guess but in the end, in what is already an expensive time of year, not having a beer for a few hours doesn’t feel anything more than a good decision if like me, you want to attend the match more than anything else.

After a few heavy days, an easy ferry, drive and journey from south to north London on the tube and a full English brekkie, my pint of shandy with my fellow Gooner friends was altogether very enjoyable and set everything up nicely for a game that probably shouldn’t have generated quite the level of PMT it most definitely did. Two defeats on the road gave it more of a ‘must win’ feel than West Brom at home should in every season, no disrespect to The Baggies intended. Even with this long to go in fact, not winning would have felt like this season’s league challenge might already be over.

Timewasting in the latter stages of any game is frustrating but arguably both understandable and acceptable. When it is present from minute one however, it is a tactic that is not only irritating and annoying but extremely disappointing. I am aware football is looked at as a ‘results’ business but there is an argument that is sheer selfishness on the part of the team’s manager. Sacrificing any chance of entertainment just to keep your job.

But being a paying customer I am looking for my team to get results of course…..but with football being incredibly expensive I also want value for money. And that means two teams trying to beat each other not waste away the 90 minutes by every possible tactic available.

Coming to Arsenal and attacking without any consideration could well be suicide. And I get that too. So I would expect very few teams to ever come to London N5 and do just that. But keeping a good defensive shape is one thing. Adjusting your shinpads and laces every time there is a break in play, letting the ball run past you when you could easily stop it, walking over to take a throw in before putting the ball down again so someone else can take it, feigning injury time and time again etc etc etc eventually becomes boring and nauseating in its repetitiveness.

And teams who employ these tactics are clever too. They take just enough time to keep within the rules. Just at that limit where the referee cannot do too much about it.

But guess who misses out? Us, the fans, the paying public. The people who without, the game wouldn’t exist.

Overall I feel that is why if you get a late winner it is enjoyed so much. It’s not just the relief, the three points it yields, the pressure it releases, the fact it doesn’t ruin your day. It’s that the team with the spoiling tactics goes home with exactly what they deserve.

Nothing.

Overall I thought we played pretty well all afternoon. Our passing looked sharp, we worked extremely hard and we kept our defensive shape well on the very rare occasions The Baggies ventured into our half. Chances were numerous but that combination of resilient defending, great goalkeeping, the woodwork and slightly nervous finishing at times were all to the fore. Along with sheer bad luck.

But we kept going and going and going again. And eventually from Mesut’s cross, the only player in red and white who could score a goal like our winner did just that. Body strength, determination, strong neck muscles and an eye for goal, Olly’s effort was a fine finish. And it produced a jostle containing every one of the feelings and emotions I have described above.

One nil. After a tough few days before Christmas, that will definitely do. It certainly made the cold meats, pickles and late night beers back home thoroughly enjoyable.

Crystal Palace next as we head into 2017 full of hope.

Thanks for reading my thoughts and your kind words throughout 2016 folks. May your new year be happy, successful and above all healthy.

Arsenal TWD.

Frank
@stubbsy70

Omnibus Edition

Sunday 18th December 2016

Tactically it was extremely obvious what we were going to do this afternoon. In fact it always is. That doesn’t mean I necessarily disagree with them either. Let our hosts have most of the ball, keep our defensive shape well and capitalise when we have dangerous situations on the break. And in the first half we got it spot on.

Even after City equalised as a result of yet another questionable decision, we saw out a period of pressure that inevitably follows a goal.

But just when the opportunity was looking good to perhaps have a spell where we took the game by the scruff of the neck we let in a soft goal and we were facing another away defeat.

And for me if you can’t keep a clean sheet, something that it is becoming increasingly obvious we can’t, our tactic falls down.

Chelsea have scored the same number of goals as us away from home this week. They have 6 points, we have none. It may well be a thin dividing line but it’s a genuine situation that can determine whether you win the league or not I’m afraid, no matter how strong your squad looks.

I try and keep my blog as a kind of ‘diary’ surrounding my life supporting our team home and away rather than a match report. The fact you can pretty much pick up our game ‘live’ by numerous means whether you attend or not means nobody needs to be told what happened anyway!

On that basis I can be guilty sometimes of going off on a bit of a tangent. But having left my house on Thursday afternoon for today’s match (and I have some time before my flight back south) I feel I need something to take my mind off our thoroughly disappointing and frustrating week!

This weekend being around my better half’s birthday is an annual affair (no shit!) so depending where we are playing she pretty much knows if I decide to take her away to celebrate, it will be somewhere that includes accessibility to our fixture.

For the second time in 5 years, Manchester’s stadium built for the Commonwealth Games has played host so once the 4pm on a Sunday kick off was confirmed I made some plans.

Apart from a relatively fleeting visit I have never enjoyed the sights, sounds and hospitality thrown up by the city of Chester. So, with an evening train on Thursday, a cross Cheshire train on Sunday morning and a flight back south this evening all fitting in very nicely that is where I have spent the last couple of days.

The food, wine, beautiful city centre, Christmas market and witnessing a baby elephant no more than a few hours old at Chester Zoo making up the highlights it has been a thoroughly enjoyable weekend (whether that is your thing or not)!

Baby

Baby

But I feel I should paint the picture of my Saturday and Sunday nights for no other reason that it became so ridiculous it was amusing.

The hotel I booked was one of those that described itself as ’boutique’. And the reviews I read online were more than favourable. Location wise it was fantastic, a few minutes walk from public transport and everything the city had to offer. The rooms were different and quirky, clean and very comfortable. All just perfect I would say.

But being located on one of the main thoroughfares, the weekend nightlife made it a tad noisy!

Picture the scene Friday night…..cracking day out, an awesome bit of dinner, a few drinks and we decided to retire and relax. But outside in the street, being Christmas and a Friday, it was carnage.

Believe me I like a party. But when you don’t want to be invited……

I turned on the TV which drowned it out for a while. But the later it got the louder it got. I thought when I heard ‘Brian, get in your fucking cab’ at 4am followed by considerable laughter and a short period of silence, it was all over.

So I rolled over, closed my eyes and looked forward to some shut eye.

Until at 4.30am I heard ‘beep, beep, beep, beep’ as the the street cleaners arrived! For a full hour they roared, beeped, scrubbed and polished at a noise level that was beyond ridiculous. I’m assuming it was so clean that when the giggling, carol singing Christmas shoppers started arriving about 7am they could eat their fucking breakfast off it!

Anyway…..despite a couple of challenging nights sleep I absolutely loved Chester and will be returning.

As I will to Man City next season.

Because we are Arsenal.

And always will be.

We'll be back

We’ll be back

Merry Christmas to all.

Frank X
@stubbsy70

Unmarked

Thursday 15th December 2016

We’ve got a pretty good record at Goodison Park down the years but you are only as good as your next game. And although I’ve seen us play a lot worse, we certainly didn’t do enough on Tuesday night to deserve any more than a point.

When things are that ‘tight’ defending crosses properly is essential. And no matter whether the second goal came as a result of an incorrect corner decision or not, that doesn’t allow excuses for not doing that.

As can be the case, it put a real dampener on what was a thoroughly enjoyable away day. Our train journey proved on time and relaxing and our hotel in the city’s Albert Dock area was quite superb.

Party

Party

There are an enormous amount of establishments to enjoy pre-match fare in Liverpool and this time of year the atmosphere is very festive. Consequently 3 different hostelries looked after us and proved very hospitable.

Goodison Park is one of the more atmospheric stadia in the UK and always has been. It’s location amongst the terraced houses matches many of the ‘old style’ grounds we have visited down the years, including our very own Highbury of course.

Night match atmos

Night match atmos

But, that often means the facilities and viewing is not of a standard we have become used to in recent times!

img_20161213_201829

Having taken the lead it was extremely disappointing to not get through to half time with that advantage intact. Theo arguably could have done more to prevent the cross from coming in and although it was a decent ball, a player being able to nod in unmarked is very very frustrating.

The longer the second period went on it looked like we would take home a point for our efforts. Not perfect but not disastrous. But another unmarked header saw us leave with nothing despite going incredibly close to snatching something in the dying seconds.

It made the city’s hospitality into the small hours less enjoyable by some distance.

A tough one to take then but an extremely tough away day back up in the North West on Sunday means we have no time to dwell on it.

Come on you Gunners!

Frank
@stubbsy70

Very Satisfying

Saturday 10th December 2016

Not many people like Stoke. Not necessarily because they do anything wrong either. Just because they are always very difficult to beat. And especially away from home, they seem to save some of their best performances for us. Not today Potters. You played well. But we thoroughly deserved the 3 points.

There are 3 similarities between today’s game and our last home outing. One is the final score, the second the referee awarded a very soft penalty and the 3rd is ultimately it didn’t prove costly. But, again that doesn’t take away we were pegged back by poor refereeing.

Having not seen TV replays as yet my judgement might be proved inaccurate but you show me a similar challenge go unpunished to the one the Stoke centre forward made in the build up when he wasn’t even looking at the ball! It was a foul all day long. Seconds later we were one nil down.

We beat Bournemouth well in the end last time out at home but I didn’t come away feeling we had been fantastic. Today I thought we played extremely well from start to finish and it always looked only a matter of time before we would score.

All over the pitch we looked sharp, up for it and full of desire even, somewhat crucially, in that period from when Stoke were handed the lead and Theo’s equaliser just before half time.

The mood ‘out the back’ during the break was definitely more upbeat than not. We were playing well and having gone behind everything looked positive for the second period.

Mesut nodded us in front and our thoughts looked to have been the correct ones.

Alex’s good finish completed an excellent win and day tainted only slightly by Mustafi limping off with what looked like a ‘hammy’.

A big chance for Gabriel to shine at centre half and at least he comes in match fit having enjoyed plenty of game time in Hector’s absence.

Two extremely tough fixtures come next as we head to the North West, firstly to Goodison Park on Tuesday night.

Sandwiched between now and then however, is the Champions League draw and when we find out which one of the 6 teams we will need to overcome to reach the quarter finals.

I quite fancy a trip to Lisbon.

Another one successfully ticked off today, onto the next one we go.

See you in Liverpool.

Come on you mighty reds!

Frank
@stubbsy70

Basel – A Humbling Afterthought

Thursday 8th December 2016

Sitting in reception of a Basel city centre hotel approximately 12 hours after I was expecting to be home indoors is altogether unexpected. But, whilst trying not to be over dramatic, at least we are safe and well.

Many of the media websites detailed extremely speculative and largely inaccurate information as to what happened at Basel Airport last night but the conclusion was a loss of life and that is both dreadfully sad and difficult to comprehend.

Those sitting (like me) on the left hand side of our BA flight, second in the queue for take-off in the taxi area running parallel to the run way, saw a flash of orange that lit up both our aircraft wing and the dark and very murky area around us. It lasted less than a second but was unlike anything you would consider as ‘normal’.

A few moments later I looked out my window and backwards and could see a mass of blue flashing lights.

Our captain announced there had been an ‘unsuccessful landing attempt’ and very quickly it became apparent this had resulted in a loss of life and the airfield had been closed down.

After further waiting time we headed back to the airport and our BA staff made the decision to cancel the flight and to try again in the morning.

Only when looking at aviation news stories once back at our hotel did it become clear that the stricken aircraft appeared to have missed our own plane’s cockpit by a ‘matter of a few feet’.

The atmosphere amongst us felt kind of surreal and the fact it seems none have us slept well suggests we all found it difficult to remove those thoughts from our head.

At the moment we have been told we are booked on a flight at 11am…..but given the number of cancellations and delays we certainly aren’t counting our chickens.

But inconvenience is one thing….

Frank
@stubbsy70

We’re Not Spending Enough!

Wednesday 7th December 2016

Helsinki was not a cheap weekend when we played Man City pre-season a couple of years back. Nor was Gothenburg or Stavanger. And Trondheim for Rosenborg away a few years ago gave the wallet a right caning too. But I’m not sure they were anywhere near to the levels of expenditure Basel has yielded.

In that situation you have 1 of 2 choices. Get involved and ‘deal with it’ later or sit in your room and get bored. The former idea won comfortably but a house remortgage might be on the cards!

Basel is a very pretty city in parts and this time of year it very much gets into everything Christmas. And with everything from Gluhwein in the markets to chestnuts roasting on an open fire every single cliché was there to be enjoyed.

Things on our jolly didn’t start there although there is an argument that it followed a traditional theme as an Irish Bar played host to our first Swiss refreshment and live coverage of Everton v Man Utd. It was a decent enough way to commence proceedings before Monday we hit the markets and in particular the Gluhwein.

Xmas Gluhweins all round

Xmas Gluhweins all round

Although I am a believer that coming first or second in your group can only ever be declared as important either way with the benefit of hindsight, winning the group keeps the confidence high and that all important feel good factor shining brightly.

So although come matchday those nerves and adrenalin were not to the fore, a win and things going our way in Paris, along with coming through injury free, were all aspects we would prefer from the trip.

So after some matchday refreshment in the city centre we took one of the trams up to a misty and murky St. Jakob Park and with kick-off approaching, enjoyed the hospitality of one of the bars located just outside the ground.

Misty viewing

Misty viewing

On a freezing cold night we soon had plenty to keep us warm and with the news from Paris also looking favourable the mood amongst the travelling Gooners was certainly upbeat.

A hat-trick for Lucas Perez and Alex Iwobi’s strike reflected our dominance in what was a quite superb display on the night. Knowing that a win for us wasn’t absolutely essential, our hosts needing a win to continue their own European adventure and Paris St Germain being so strong at home, the overall result couldn’t really be described as expected but it was extremely pleasing nonetheless.

A few celebratory beers post match and one more sightseeing walk today has completed a highly entertaining and successful, if grossly expensive, trip.

My flight is due to take off in about an hour but it’s very foggy outside. We all have our fingers crossed that our journey home matches the success of our latest European jolly.

Stoke at home comes next, always a difficult game as we look to continue our fine run of form.

One thing is for sure, it promises to be a cheaper day out!

Frank
@stubbsy70