Fractious

Wednesday 23rd March 2017

When it comes to an entertaining away day, all the ingredients are still there as they have always been. Consequently, Saturday was filled with the usual banter and laughter. We got beat and that filled me with levels of disappointment and frustration to match any one out there. But there are an increasing number where a defeat or a bad spell like the one we are experiencing right now are dealing with it with sheer anger. Almost using the situation as an excuse to rebel. To join in with an ‘anti-establishment revolution’.

Lunchtime kick-offs are a potential problem for me and my fellow nearby Gooner mates given where I live these days. Staying the night before is often the only option although admittedly as long as that isn’t too inconvenient I’m never against a Friday overnighter somewhere! Alternatively I have to leave early, very early at times. Saturday was one such occasion and it didn’t help when our first ferry option was cancelled due to the crew not getting out of bed or something. It is absolutely fantastic living in a relaxed part of the world. We do however, have to accept the situation being a tiny bit over ‘laid back’ now and again!

A quick taxi divert to one of our alternative (but slower) cross Solent options and we were on our way, our smooth car journey along the M275, M27, M3, A34, M40, M42 and M5 seeing us parked up and having just over an hour to enjoy the pre-match fare provided by our usual hosts for this fixture.

Overall it had us in fine spirits and we looked forward to the game as we always do. That anticipation however, was definitely accompanied by a degree of wonder as to how our travelling army of fans would react on the day given the hype surrounding both our team’s current form and the future of our boss.

To be fair I heard nothing but full support for the team before the match and during the vast majority of the first half. I didn’t see the aircraft although even that was nothing short of farcical given the two messages. I’m sure there are people out there who know who arranged them but I couldn’t help but have the cynical view that it was the media or someone connected with another club who find the divide amongst our own fans comical. Seeing Arsenal ‘fail’ pleases the majority more than anything else remember. That has been the case ever since the thirties when we dominated and was quite clearly born out of jealousy. So anything that can be added to stir up the fire those responsible will only be too keen to get involved.

I’ve mentioned it before but during periods like this we have always stuck together. Unfortunately however, we seem to have a generation these days who get pleasure out of joining the ‘knockers’ from outside of our club rather than standing as one against them.

2nd Half Optimism?

Other than the defeat one thing is more disappointing than anything else from our trip to The Hawthorns and that is our inability to deal with our hosts’ set piece threat. Everyone knew they had one. But we coped abysmally. Our record cannot be argued unfortunately. Defensively, as a unit, we are weak and easily penetrable right now. And in a situation like that we will continue to drop points.

Murmurings from the ‘rebels’ began once we went 2-1 down and intensified when The Baggies nodded home the 3rd with another unmarked header. And we can talk all we like about majority ‘for and against’, the fact remains there is a severe lack of unity amongst Gooners right now.

That, along with everything else, is not just a negative but surely doesn’t help the situation we find ourselves in.

The fact only 4 teams can win the FA Cup and we are one of them will see many of this country’s football supporting fans looking at us as spoilt children right now and the fight for match tickets for our semi final against Man City feels no less intense than our previous recent visits. And if there are any Gooners out there that are so fed up with supporting their club they don’t want to go to Wembley please feel free to send your tickets my way. We have hundreds within our supporters club who would love to be there to support their team.

And it’s the super rich boys from the Etihad that we welcome to North London next as we look for a strong end to what has been a hugely inconsistent season.

Enjoy the international break and wear your cannon with pride. I certainly will be. That will never change.

Victoria Concordia Crescit.

Frank
@stubbsy70

Into The Last Four

Tuesday 14th March 2017

Despite the fact we are now only one of four teams that can win the FA Cup this year I have waited until now to pen my thoughts so we know who stands in our way of yet another final. And if I’m honest I would have chosen our opponent if I had that option. As condescending as this sounds that is not for any other reason than the fact us Arsenal fans will never consider Man City as what you would describe as a ‘rival’. They are not based in London for starters and historically it is only money that has seen them reach the upper reaches of the league on a regular basis.

I found out the result of last night’s quarter final on my mobile phone. I didn’t watch the game due to a total lack of interest on my part. After all, in addition to watching our under 23’s latest encounter live on arsenal.com, getting 1 question right on University Challenge or watching Mary Berry knock up a fine beef and ale cobbler were both far more appealing.

My attitude to watching football live on the TV has changed dramatically down the years. Once upon a time I would pretty much watch everything. When we weren’t playing, Sunday’s meant a day on the sofa nursing a hangover getting up just in time for the 12 noon kick-off, followed by the 2pm and 4pm games and finishing with a game from Spain in the evening. Movement was confined to the loo and to answer the door to the pizza delivery man!

But these days, there is a massive live football overkill with games from all over the world on TV every single day and night. As a result I only watch one if I am genuinely interested. And that is more likely to be a top of the table clash in the National League where I can watch the game as a complete neutral than anything on offer from the Premier League. I watch football to relax when it’s not my team, anything involving a rival or a club I am not fond of tends stress me out. Personal choice I guess.

I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend just gone. Spent in the company of great friends and massive Gooners it involved many of the things I enjoy most about life including of course our match on Saturday evening. And summarising briefly, in a situation where there was absolutely no way we would be seen as ‘winners’ on the day, I think we pretty much did the job well. Wembley beckons. Yet again.

On more than one occasion pre-match I heard people parading as genuine Gooners come out with lines such as ‘a bit of me wants us to lose today’. You know the type, those that when it suits them claim to be the biggest Arsenal fan on the earth yet can’t attend the game that afternoon as they need to go shopping or something.

I find that attitude astounding. An FA Cup Quarter final and you’d be happy if we lost. That’s no Arsenal fan in my book. Although I would be more than happy if the 9000 Lincoln fans had the best football day out of their lives I wanted just one thing from the day. Progression to the semi final and another chance to walk down Wembley Way.

And that brings me on to something else I don’t agree with! Although I have no problem with the rule that sees the away teams in FA Cup ties getting a bigger share of the match tickets, I passionately feel this should be based on the visitors’ average home attendance. From what I understand it can be up to 15% available for the away team under the current FA rules. If that is above the normal allocation for a league game I believe it should only be relevant if that total matches 15% of their average home attendance. So Man Utd for example get 70 odd thousand through the door and I would expect them to take their allocation of 9 thousand. But with Lincoln getting 5 odd thousand every week, the fact they got 9 thousand tickets on Saturday is ridiculous. Three thousand would have been more than sufficient for their genuine week in week out fans. That meant 6 thousand Gooners, including loads of regulars in our own supporters club, could not attend the game. And no matter who you support, that is not right in my book.

As we see year in year out with cup finals however, there is no shock in the FA mucking up when getting genuine fans of the clubs taking part through the turnstiles.

In one aspect I felt Saturday evening would be similar to the Munich home game. I felt our visitors could make it tough for us in the first hour but was confident they would run out of steam. So as long as we didn’t give ourselves a mountain to climb I never felt at any stage we would do anything other than win comfortably. And overall, that is exactly how it panned out. I’m not really sure how else it can be analysed.

As (hopefully) we come out of what has been an extremely disappointing, frustrating and difficult period, that result will certainly do and we can look forward to a day out at Wembley in a few weeks time.

Before that we very much need to get our league form back on track and that starts with a tough looking trip to The Hawthorns this coming Saturday lunchtime. I say ‘tough’ because it doesn’t matter who you play when your form is below par, every game looks daunting. And our results away at West Brom have been pretty mixed down the years.

But if we get behind the team like we know we can we are capable of coming away with a positive result.

Come on you mighty reds!

Frank
@stubbsy70

Firsts and Rarities

Tuesday 7th March 2017 Part 2

A couple of things tonight I haven’t done or experienced before. Firstly I don’t remember ever writing two blogs in one day. Secondly and more importantly of course I have never seen us lose a cup tie by 8 goals.

But, from the moment Laurent was sent from the field there was always a chance that could happen.

That doesn’t mean I am going home without a sense of pride.

Being proud to be a Gooner and support my club is part of what I love for. And that hasn’t changed one bit as a result of tonight.

Me leaving a game early is rare. And very early I can only remember 2 other occasions in 40 odd years. The first was the Charity Shield back in August 1979. I was a young boy so didn’t get a choice but when my dad and his mate decided to leave early I do remember we were getting well and truly spanked.

The second happened on my birthday and it was the day we got beaten 6-1 at Old Trafford. After 5 I’d had enough and so headed home to watch us fight another day.

Tonight was the 3rd occasion. For all our effort and good play on the night it was painful once Bayern equalised and we were reduced to 10 men. So once the 4th went in I headed for the tube station and the start of my journey south.

I don’t feel gutted or numb or hard done by or shocked etc. My hope for progression from tonight was only just above non existent. So to feel any of those emotions would be hypocritical.

For the best part of an hour the game was very very similar to when we so nearly turned round an almost impossible situation against AC Milan a few years back. But although the first half of that game gave me hope, the way our initial play was followed by grit and determination despite being absolutely cream crackered told me if we were to have any chance tonight I was convinced we would need to be 4 up inside an hour.

And do you know what? We had a go. In fact I’m not sure we could have done an awful lot more than we did on the night.

We could have scored 5 or 6 in that first hour. Genuinely. Our intensity was spot on and we created many chances. But on a night like that you need them all to go in and the refereeing decisions to go your way to give you hope.

What happened after the penalty is a bit irrelevant for me. It extinguished that little tiny candle of hope once and for all. And the referee might as well have called a halt to proceedings at that moment. The tie was lost in Munich, it’s as simple as that.

So I am happy to leave it there.

We need to pick ourselves up and move on. If we win on Saturday we are going to Wembley. Not a bad incentive that.

Proud to be a Gooner until the day I die.

Frank
@stubbsy70

Defensive Glue

Tuesday 7th March 2017

Rarely do I pen my thoughts on the day of a match and once again there is no actual reason why it has taken me this long since our disappointing trip to Liverpool. Like everyone else however, I also can’t deny feeling particularly downbeat about our whole situation right now. But I’m old enough to have seen it worse. And an awful lot worse at that. And when I feel my back is against the wall it makes me want to go to games even more than ever. Some strange in built extra determination to stick my two fingers up at everybody else. And when I get home from tonight’s match in the early hours of tomorrow morning, whatever the score, that feeling will not change.

There is a well used saying that goes something like, “if it isn’t broken don’t fix it’. But at the moment it is very difficult to support that argument. The alarming way our form has dipped since just before Christmas is both disappointing and puzzling (despite every single one of us of course being world class managers!) One thing is for sure, something just isn’t right.

Once again, off the field, our particular travelling party had a great time. A journey that started walking up the pier near my home and watching the sun rise where the sea meets the sky in the east is always something to behold and makes what can be quite a difficult 20 minute stroll all the more uplifting. And despite our whole train journey being potentially packed with a huge amount of problems, our careful planning proved fruitful and the whole package could not have gone more smoothly.

Our train from London’s Euston station was graced with a large travelling Gooner presence too, pleasing given the ‘uprising’ or ‘revolution’ that seems to be going on within our following if social media and the press are anything to go by. On the other hand however, we did have a few texts from people who could no longer make it. Due to ‘the dog needing a bath’ or ‘forgetting a nasal hair trimming appointment’ etc.

That situation always makes me smile. I can absolutely guarantee all those who pulled out would have been there had we been top of the league. I have absolutely no problem if people choose not to travel (other than the fact it means other Gooners have potentially missed out when they would have travelled) but I would rather they would give me the ‘I can’t be bothered’ excuse rather than some of the other rubbish!! 😉

Having checked into our hotel in Liverpool’s historical docks area we made our way to our chosen pre-match hostelry/wine bar/cocktail lounge and it would be safe to say the company and banter had us all in extremely high spirits. And that breeds confidence. Usually. But the general consensus of opinion was it depends on what Arsenal turn up for us to even have a chance.

For me it’s more that I have absolutely no confidence that we can keep a clean sheet at the moment. Certainly against sides in the top half of the table. And in that situation it means we need to score 2 at the very least to have a chance of winning. And that’s not something new this season either. I don’t think we necessarily have bad defenders. But we appear ‘soft’ right now. We are conceding goals that look ‘easy’. Not a piece of incredible attacking football where we are forced to offer a certain amount of admiration for the opponents.

And that means there is something wrong.

Before nil turned to one

Saturday evening was a perfect example. There was absolutely nothing from our hosts that impressed in the opening exchanges. If anything in fact we looked to have started the game slightly quicker and sharper. Yet in a flash, with what appeared little effort, we found ourselves one down.

Not only does that give us a mountain to climb away from home at one of the more difficult grounds to get a result, but a team that itself is arguably lacking a bit of confidence gets a huge lift, as does the home crowd. And a tricky fixture becomes a hugely difficult one in a split second.

For the rest of the half we were poor. Our hosts were comfortably on top but didn’t offer much of a goal threat so it looked like we would get through to half time just a goal behind and with the opportunity to get a breather and start again. Another softly conceded goal just before the break and we were virtually dead and buried. Very very deflating and disappointing.

Our second half performance was much better admittedly but although we enjoyed much more attacking situations we simply gave ourselves too much to do. As often is the case a potential 2-2 became a 3-1 scoreline in the dying seconds and once again we came away with nothing from an away fixture against one of the top 8.

As much as it frustrates and can put a real downer on the day we were determined not to let it spoil our Saturday night out and consequently our host city’s hospitality was enjoyed until well into the early hours of Sunday to conclude a thoroughly entertaining away day off the pitch if not on it.

Messy

And that brings us to tonight.

The fact that if we go through it will arguably be up there amongst the greatest victories in our club’s long and successful history is probably the best way to describe the situation we are faced with. We are all but out, it is as simple as that. But….we are not quite yet.

And that little tiny bit of hope is what we have to cling on to.

Come on you mighty reds.

Frank
@stubbsy70

With Ribbons Intact

Tuesday 21st February 2017

What is it with Arsenal bashing? Why us? Always. 

We should have won the league last year. Liverpool shouldn’t have. Nor Chelsea. Nor Man Utd. And definitely not Tottenham. Maybe if any of them had put in a performance against the deserved Champions we might have won it. But that doesn’t matter. That’s our fault. We should have won it.

We should have won the league for a number of years now. And the fact we haven’t we are being absolutely slaughtered for it. No mention of Liverpool going 25 years without doing that despite spending horrific amounts of money. Tottenham doing the same and still waiting after near on 60 years is not worth a discussion. And Chelsea going 50 years until they pretty much bought it is all very hush hush.

Knocking the Arsenal is nothing new. We have always had to deal with that. But things have changed a little for me.

So, after a disappointing period, the vultures were well and truly circling above Gander Green Lane last night. Nothing (and I mean nothing) would have pleased the football world more than seeing us get beat last night. But I (and fortunately all of the people I attend fixtures with) were thoroughly looking forward to the whole event and were not going to allow the knockers of our great club to ruin it. It was a special occasion in many many ways. Almost unique in fact. And we came through it with a win to send everyone but us Gooners home disappointed.

But it wasn’t all good and I will detail just why……

An ageing souvenir cap from a memorable day out

An ageing souvenir cap from a memorable day out

Back in January 1993 we played Yeovil away in the FA Cup 3rd Round. I remember the hype surrounding the fixture due to a combination of our hosts being a non league side, the link to our previous fixture back in 1971 and the fact the whole football world wanted us to lose. We had a fantastic day out, Wrighty banged in a hat-trick and that was that. A few months later we put the grand old pot in our trophy cabinet once again. 

But the difference back then was all the criticism, all that dislike of the Arsenal, all that desire to see us fail made us Gooners stick together. The attitude if everyone else is against us we’ll make doubly sure we are in it as one. That ‘siege mentality’ we’ve all heard about. And that is in a season where we had already lost against the likes of Norwich, Blackburn (twice), Wimbledon, Leeds, Southampton, Villa and others. A season where leading up to the Yeovil game we had scored 1 goal in our previous 7 league games! In a 1-1 home draw with Middlesbrough for the record…

But, that sticking together, that ‘us against the world’ doesn’t seem to be the case any more.

Once again, every single person outside of Arsenal FC wanted us to lose last night. And that I completely understand. But the fact, even in the away end of Gander Green Lane with only 750 of us present it felt like there were many who would have been quite happy to see us get beat I genuinely do not get. Why bother going if you don’t go to enjoy it? What is the point of constant negativity? Back in the day, even if we weren’t exactly overjoyed about the way things were going, we certainly didn’t show that to anyone outside of the club. We are Arsenal. Bollocks to everyone else. I wish I could say that is still the way. But I genuinely don’t think amongst the ‘new generation’ it is.

Or maybe I’m just getting old.

‘Minnows beat the Arsenal’. The headlines were already written. And we would have endured that until the day we died. But on the night, due to a thoroughly professional if not stunning performance we made sure it didn’t happen.

And no matter how much it was expected we should take that with pride, satisfaction and class and look forward to a quarter final where we’ll need to go through it all again.

A surface covered in banana skins

A surface covered in banana skins

Those of us who were lucky enough (and in the majority of cases deservedly) to have a ticket for tonight’s match were thoroughly looking forward to it. Supporting a top side we have been able to travel the globe and visit some of the world’s greatest stadia. And some of our most awesome moments have been in the world’s greatest club Cup competition.

And to win it 12 times you need to overcome many teams.

But to visit such a stadium for a massive fixture with interest being present globally is kind of unique. Winning would make sure it wasn’t an experience ruined.

This season we have beaten Burnley twice, both with last minute winners. At the weekend that team lost, at home, to a team from the conference.

So, apparently, that means last night was easy for Arsenal. Should be a stroll in the park.

We all knew that wasn’t the case. Everyone was waiting for us to fail. But we didn’t. Sorry about that. 

I had a bit of PMT in the build up. To be fair I always do for cup games. But that fear of embarrassment intensifies that emotion. But once the game had started there wasn’t a single moment where I felt we would lose. And as a result, into the last 8 we go……yet again.

We now have a short break due to Southampton’s success in the League Cup. A rare weekend off. And it’s my birthday. So I will enjoy it. And if you want to knock me for that you go ahead.

We’re used to it.

Frank
@stubbsy70

A New Emotion

Thursday 16th February 2017

Wembley 1978 and again in 1980 along with Brussels just a few days later I remember being disappointed. But I was a little too young to feel any other emotion. Losing to Luton in 1988 always springs to mind when trying to remember the first time I felt genuinely gutted. And of course there have been other times too, Liverpool robbing us down in Cardiff, Bergkamp’s penalty miss at Villa Park and a couple of trips to Paris to name but a few.

But, in 40 years of support, I don’t ever remember experiencing the feeling of total and utter deflation after last night.

Trip wise it has been fantastically entertaining as always, no shock when visiting a city that never fails on that front.

Arriving around about rush hour on Tuesday evening there was always only going to be one thing on the agenda and an establishment that we have been in so many times now that it almost feels like a ‘local’ played host until the wee small hours. A fine start.

Oh go on then.....

Oh go on then…..

Matchday arrived graced with beautiful sunshine and consequently the city was full of people enjoying the local wares al fresco. That of course included the usual travelling army of Gooners spread far and wide inside and outside one of the many bierkellers. A good atmosphere full of anticipation if not exuberant confidence.

Actually getting into some stadia amazes me. The Allianz is one of the world’s greatest modern sporting arenas. An incredible sight as you approach and equally impressive inside. But getting through the turnstiles, for both home and away fans was unnecessarily slow, difficult and chaotic.

We had been warned that we would all have our photo ID checked and this could take some time. But that bit took no more than seconds and caused no delays or problems. But actually getting through the turnstiles, in a modern stadium, in a country known for its clockwork efficiency was ridiculously difficult and meant many, even having arrived in what should be ample time, missed the kick-off.

False optimism again

False optimism again

Normally when we get beat you can pinpoint particular incidents or moments that could have been different. Mistakes, bad luck, that kind of thing. But our second half performance last night was like something you see in a school playground.

None of us were shocked that our hosts completely dominated the first half possession. Defending well and trying to make the most of opportunities on the break were not unexpected tactics. And short of an absolute worldy we did that pretty well I felt. In fact after we equalised we enjoyed our best spell and could and arguably should have taken the lead.

So, at half time we found ourselves in a better position than before a ball was kicked.

Then, Laurent limped off and basically we collapsed.

Of course we can all scratch our heads as to just how we fell apart but more alarming was the fact we appeared to just give up. At 3-1 down we were still in the tie. Yet we looked like a team already defeated.

Since mid December we have lost 5 times. That period includes a last minute penalty win at home to Burnley and having to come from 3 nil down to scrape a point at Bournemouth. That form speaks for itself. And consequently losing last night was more likely than not. But the manner of the defeat was very very worrying.

Drowning your sorrows until nearly 4am is not big or clever. But I almost felt I had no choice.

It almost has an ‘end of an era’ feel today. And I genuinely have never felt like that since Georgie Graham departed.

So what happens next? Well, first things first we need to show Sutton United some respect and put in a performance that sees us into the FA Cup quarter final.

We are Arsenal.

We’ll come again.

Frank
@stubbsy70

An Essential Victory

Monday 13th February 2017

We all have differing opinions in life and football is no exception. And that is the way it should be. The ability to accept other people’s, especially when they are different to yours, is almost a skill in itself! I used to believe that comes with experience. The increased wisdom the older we all get. But when we look at the ‘debates’ we all have I am no longer convinced that is the case! Some get even more set in their ways and consequently their opinions as their age increases. One thing I think the majority of us agree on however, is the most important aspect of any league game is to come away with the three points. Everything else, especially as time goes by, becomes almost irrelevant. If you look back at your copy of the 1977-78 official Arsenal handbook and page 51 tells you on 15th January 1977 we beat Norwich at home 1 nil, only a minute few will remember the details of the game. But the result is in the book. A home victory. Nothing else matters.

Given the previous few days, Hull at home on Saturday afternoon was one of those. Freezing cold and largely forgettable, the 2 nil home win will very much do. We can save the more entertaining days for other matches.

I’ve mentioned it before but Sunday matches are the ones I’m not a fan of. Anything on a Saturday is fine by me and Friday and Monday are not the end of the world either. But if I didn’t say the walk to my ferry on Saturday morning was a tad painful I would be lying. Most of you will be expecting me to say that was as a result of a ridiculous decision to hit it hard on Friday night given the following day’s lunchtime kick-off but no, you would be wrong! I had a ‘quiet night in for a change’ as Smashy and Nicey used to say. But leaving my house, as night was just about turning to day, it was proper freezing. And that is my excuse for having a few breakfast liveners on my train journey into London! 🙂

The atmosphere was a little flat in the ground and that cannot be put down totally to the cold weather. None of us can be blamed for being a little downbeat after our previous 2 games. But there is nothing like a win the improve the mood.

The better team won on the day but there is no doubt it was a tough old game. Not until Alexis penalty in injury time was it put to bed and it needed some good defending, a couple of good saves and plenty of discipline to see it home.

Considering how advanced the game has become I think it is incredible that there are still a number of grey areas within the rules and laws. Penalty decisions, diving, simulation, call it whatever you like is certainly one of them and I’ve discussed that before. And handballs are definitely another. For me it must come down to the officials’ opinion and decision and nothing else. If the rule was changed that if the ball strikes your hand it is handball whatever the situation we would be faced with players just aiming for an opponent’s hand to win a penalty. And that is simply ridiculous.

Our first goal on Saturday was one such example. Did Alexis mean to put his hand there so as to knock it into the net? Or was it simply smashed against him from a foot and he knew very little about it? The goal was given so we can only assume the officials saw it as the latter. The referee has since been reported as saying if he had the benefit of a replay it would have been disallowed. But does that mean it shouldn’t have been a goal? That means if Alexis did know absolutely nothing about it and the ball went in off whatever part of his body it hit, that is deemed a ‘foul’. And that seems a little bit odd to me.

Fortunately for all of us it is a decision that has gone in our favour on this occasion. And it was crucial too, given the way the game had gone so far.

We’ll take the three points from a tough game on the day and move on and that of course takes us to Germany and our latest trip to Bavaria. The majority of our previous visits have been either for a group game or the second leg after a disappointing result at home. Although this one is different to that we have been in this situation before. On a freezing cold night in 2005 (those who attended will remember the snowball fight!) we got beat 3-1 in Bayern’s old Olympic Stadium ground and it was enough to put us out despite Thierry scoring in the home leg in a 1 nil victory. So, despite all our encounters, actually getting through against the Germans of Bayern Munich is not territory we have reached before.

Our 2 games over the next 3 weeks will determine if we can change that, starting with Wednesday night’s latest trip to the Allianz Arena.

Over Land and Sea!

Frank
@stubbsy70

Forearm Smash

Monday 6th February 2017

Everyone knows and can see that the first goal we conceded on Saturday was a foul. In fact, if it happened anywhere else on the pitch not only would it have been penalised but there is every chance it would have resulted in a sending off. We could see it from the away end….but the officials got caught up in the moment and excitement and decided to let it stand. Believe you me that is not me offering an excuse for getting beat but those who argue it wasn’t crucial and influential are simply wrong in their conclusions.

If we had won in the week against Watford, Saturday would have been ever so slightly easier to take. It still would of hurt. All defeats do. But if the gap was an unlikely one to bridge before a ball was kicked it is almost impossible now. The likeliness of the Bank of Russia losing 4 games between now and the end of the season is as likely as us managing to win all of ours.

I don’t like going to Chelsea. And before anyone suggests that is hardly surprising in recent times, I never have. Even during the period when we pretty much used to get a result over there every season. Those victories used to make it a lot easier to endure of course but since the money has changed them from a middle sized ‘yo-yo’ club to one where they can persuade anyone to join just because of their unlimited wage budget, the trip and surrounding area are still remarkably irritating and uninspiring.

My emotions approaching the game were a little bit confusing. Everyone knows I am extremely positive and consequently I go to any game confident we can win. But Saturday morning that feeling wasn’t there. Once I had convinced myself that Tuesday’s disappointing defeat doesn’t make us a bad side overnight however, I entered the turnstiles after the usual almost degrading body search feeling far more optimistic.

Before the 'assault'

Before the ‘assault’

Overall I think we played ‘ok’. But nothing better than that. And away at the team looking most likely to take the league title, that level is never going to be good enough. Our hosts don’t let in many goals. But we created chances on the day. And there were some crucial moments too, none more so than the opener and the header we missed during our best spell of the first half.

But the fact we still continue to concede goals is more worrying for me. We know we can score. And generally, pretty much in every game we play we do just that. In all 5 of our league defeats this season in fact, we have done just that. That means if we had kept a clean sheet we would have won those games. But every game we play at the moment I feel we could let in goals. And that is not the sign of a side that will go on to win trophies.

We have endured a seriously bad week since our win at Southampton in the cup. But there is still an enormous amount to play for. And that is more important than anything else right now.

That starts with the visit of in form Hull City on Saturday lunchtime. It’s a game where we need to start again. Create a new base to build upon. And the only way we can do that is to take the three points.

Keep the faith.

Victoria Concordia Crescit.

Frank
@stubbsy70

Disaster?

Tuesday 31st January 2017

I’m at Earls Court. The driver of my District Line train has just announced we need to get off, ‘coz the train is faulty’.

Earlier today my 1 hour and 40 minute train journey took nearly 3 and a half hours.

So……I should have known.

I thought we played well in the second half. And I’m not going to knock that because it was the only thing we could do given we were 2 goals behind.

But it is so so frustrating that we didn’t wake up until then.

Gilly is leaving soon. For pastures long off. But he managed to squeeze this one in. So we met in Covent Garden for a few pre match ales and our opinions were laced with confidence, optimism and anticipation. Why wouldn’t they be?

But. We were also aware of what happened against Burnley.

And tonight we experienced what happens if your opponents make the most of early opportunities. 2 nil down before we could even blink. Brilliant.

It’s easy to criticise with the benefit of hindsight, so I’m not going to. But, having got ourselves in a position of threat, we blew it. Against Watford. At home. Draw your own conclusions.

Chelsea away next. Much the same as Watford at home I guess.

Chins up.

Come on you mighty reds!

Frank
@stubbsy70

Marching In

Sunday 29th January 2017

There is absolutely nothing mildly interesting, enjoyable or appealing about ‘The One Show’. Yesterday’s fun day out on the south coast however, means Monday night’s will contain something of interest to all us Gooners. Just 16 teams can now win the FA Cup. And we are very much one of them.

Living where I do a trip to Southampton is pretty much my local game these days and that of course means its exactly the same for all my fellow Arsenal fans in this area. That means it is always one helluva day out. In recent years however, the enjoyment off the pitch has been tainted by performances and results ranging from deflating to crushing.

Our pre-match fun yesterday matched any previous trips entertainment wise, a couple of pubs and fantastic company adding to those unique football emotions only cup games seem to throw up.

One of our supporters club members was to experience an altogether unexpected treat when checking into his hotel too. The team were using the facilities for their own pre-match build up and it was great to hear Mr Wenger, Bouldy and the players could not have been any nicer or approachable, especially with his young children. When the media are always so quick to jump on anything negative that kind of thing restores our faith (and hope I guess) that the club appreciates us as fans.

Mr Wenger and friends

Mr Wenger and friends

Similarly to Preston our travelling army was large in number and noisy with anticipation. But as always only our team could prove if our confidence was foolhardy.

Ten changes from the team that beat Burnley was a brave decision in my book but also demonstrates the total confidence Mr Wenger has in every member of our squad. Our hosts made a similar number of changes but we can only assume this is not something our boss was aware of before he picked his team. And with the Saints impressing so much in both legs of the League Cup semi aganist Liverpool, it certainly looked like we would need to be at our best to get a result.

What unfolded in front of us was simply sublime. Every player all over the pitch put in a performance and it was thoroughly enjoyable. 5 high quality goals, marvellous entertainment and of course progression to the next round. A job well done.

24 hours after we find out who will stand in our way from a quarter final appearance we take on Watford in another fixture where we need to come away with the three points.

Who to pick is a good problem to have I would say. On Saturday’s evidence it could be any of our squad and we couldn’t moan.

Come on you mighty reds!

Frank
@stubbsy70