Three Points Up North

Sunday 2nd May 2021

The fact the chance of European qualification via a league position has all but gone in recent weeks made it a strange build up to today’s game. I wanted us to win the game of course. That will never change. And both the confidence and momentum any victory can give you should not be under estimated. But with our inconsistent form and our hosts having picked up some big results of late, the whole package became hugely unpredictable.

Off the pitch it was difficult to get particularly up for the game, probably I guess as a result of all the above factors but if nothing else I hate losing. And important game minutes for some players and the opportunity to show they are ready should they be called upon on Thursday created enough interest for the game to still bear a degree of importance.

We started the game on the front foot, looking sharper than the Geordies and dominating the possession and crucially took the lead with Mo’s strike from the edge of the box. A base to build on and if anything the only aspect that was disappointing was not going into the break with a more comfortable lead.

Newcastle came at us a little bit in the early stages of the second period but in all honesty, not a lot. The next goal at that stage however, would definitely go a long way to determining the outcome. And in probably our best attacking moment of the game, Auba superbly volleyed home Gabi’s fine cross and the scoreline finally reflected our overall comfort and dominance.

Much has been said about whether we played particularly well or if our hosts were just very poor. But even if the latter is accurate, we can hardly be blamed for controlling the game and putting in a thoroughly professional performance. Would we take a 2 nil win away at St James’ Park in any season? Of course we would, all day long. So for today at least, happy days.

Thoughts turn next to Thursday and the 2nd Leg of the 10th European Semi Final in our history. A massive game and our second half penalty out in Spain gives us a chance. We know we are capable of turning round the one goal deficit. But the sobering thought is our thoroughly inconsistent season provides ample evidence that we are equally capable of making a complete Horlicks of it.

I’m pretty sure it would have been a noisy old night if we could attend as I think we all know we could have played our part in being that 12th man. But unfortunately that is not to be. It is down to the players alone to be committed, up for it and produce a performance to get us through to yet another major final.

But, we are behind you.

Come on you mighty reds.

Frank

@stubbsy70

In With a Shout

Friday 30th April 2021

I guess the question is would we have taken a 2-1 defeat before a ball was kicked? The correct answer to that is probably no. But although not ideal, it is not a complete disaster, especially given how we played. And at half time, with the 2nd half at home, we are definitely still in it.

One of my earlier recollections of European football is from back in 1978. Given I was only 8 years old it was a time when my match attendance was very much decided by my parents. And with school commitments, although my dad still took me to many midweek games, it certainly wasn’t all of them.

But the 2nd leg of a tie at home to Hadjuk Split is definitely one I remember watching from my seat in the West Stand Lower. Why am I recalling that game in particular? Well, we came away from the 1st leg in Yugoslavia with a 2-1 defeat. So an identical situation to the one we find ourselves in 43 years later.

If my memory serves me right it was a fiery encounter back at Highbury with a couple of players sent off including one of my early big heroes Chippy Brady. And I say that recognising you had to do something particularly bad back then to be dismissed! Nil nil would of course see us eliminated but with time running out up popped big Willie Young to grab the winner and see us through on away goals.

Would we take that next week? Of course we would.

We all should have been in Spain of course, back at a stadium where we witnessed one of our greatest European nights when Jens’ late penalty save saw us through to our first and only Champions League final. But with these what seem never ending restrictions in place pre-match yesterday was another bus tour to various hostelries on the Isle of Wight, the refreshment in the sunshine to help calm the nerves perhaps the only similarity to what we would have enjoyed if we had been on Spain’s east coast. And it was thoroughly enjoyable once again. And as it often is when we can actually travel to the games, it was far more satisfying than the performance unfortunately.

We could and possibly should have been dead and buried and pretty much out of the tie on the night. After a ‘difficult’ period for him personally, Bernd made a couple of fine saves to prevent us from going further behind and it was to prove crucial.

Going down to ten men looked like being the end of our challenge for another year. But to be fair, after a disappointingly poor performance we showed some grit and determination to get ourselves back into the game. And Bukayo’s run and drive into the penalty box was to prove massive. Was it a pen? Debatable I would say. I certainly wouldn’t have been happy had it gone against us. But in a season where we’ve found ourselves frustrated at game changing poor decisions time and time again, I’ll take that one, whatever opinion suggests.

Maybe wanting an equaliser is a bit greedy considering how the night went but Auba’s slip just as he was about to shoot in the dying seconds was frustrating given the fact had he buried it we would have snatched an unlikely draw.

Half time then and we are 2-1 down.

Can we come back and win next week? Of course we can. But not if we play like last night.

Newcastle away next, one of my favourite trips of the season. That doesn’t make being forced to watch in front of my telly again any easier believe me.

Come on you reds.

Frank

@stubbsy70

The Day The Football Came Second

Saturday 24th April 2021

Never in my Arsenal supporting life have events off the pitch quite clearly been more important than those on it. But with injuries, mediocre performances and VAR putting pay to a chase for European qualification via a league position, it is impossible to argue that wasn’t the case yesterday. And rightly so. And with the passionate juggernaut the proposed ‘super league’ has created against a competition where our league position would become irrelevant, our improved league form just dwindling away in recent weeks feels almost more significant.

I rarely write what could be referred to as a match report anyway so I’m not going to do that now. I don’t think we were awful. But we certainly weren’t very good either. Luck went against us and if we ever needed a summary of our season in one moment, it was yet another individual error that cost us the game. Disappointing? Of course. But it almost felt inevitable after what has been a rollercoaster of a week.

The protest against our owners gave me a sense of pride. Football needs to change. We’ve had enough. And the number who turned up was fantastic. And I do believe this week is just the beginning.

I know that is a short summary of what was an incredible few hours. But there’s nothing I can add to what you will of already seen. Our owners have made it clear they simply do not understand English football. They must go.

Thursday sees the 1st leg of our remaining chance to pick up silverware. Nobody can doubt after yesterday how ‘up for it’ we are off the pitch.  We need our team to match that to give us a chance.

It’s as simple as that.

Frank

@stubbsy70

Just The Beginning

Wednesday 21st April 2021

Normally I wouldn’t write two blogs between games. But this has been no ‘normal’ week. In 45 years of watching football in fact, I do not remember anything quite like it. The devastation I felt late on Sunday night turned to a state of euphoria last night as things, for now at least, turned completely on their head.

When I am honest and think about it, football has been enormously influential in shaping the human being I am today. It has created that passion that still burns inside me to this day. It has huge bearing on my loyalty. To my family, to my friends and of course to my football club. I can be very stubborn at times, selfish in fact, but I am well aware football and my team are a massive reason for why that is instilled in me. I am competitive, adore winning whilst being respectful to those I have beaten and absolutely hate losing. Yet more that I know is as a direct result of me supporting the Arsenal.

And on Sunday night I lied in bed thinking that had just been taken away from me. Dramatic? Maybe, but money always wins, right? And unless any match is a genuine ‘friendly’, non competitive sport means no reason to attend in my book. So my life in it’s current guise was over. I felt sick.

Because I have often been described as ‘obsessed’. An ‘idiot’ for dedicating a huge part of what is a very short lifetime to actually doing something I thoroughly enjoy. And many other derogatory things quoted by those who are quite obviously happier with their own life choices, I kind of felt that I was alone. I knew there were many thousands out there like me. But were there genuinely enough to make a difference against these money crazy billionaires?

Yet Monday morning it was not just clear but extremely uplifting that the whole football world was not only appalled but simply not having it.

We all have our teams, our clubs, our pubs, our fellow match attendees. And we all have our rivalries, some based on location, others by history, big matches, success or even something very personal. And that should and will be there for ever more. It is what football is all about. But the way fans, pundits with bias and players (ex or not) have come together as one is incredible. Almost spine tingling. And the way that has built over the last couple of days is not just extraordinary but unexpectably empowering.

Fans, not just of the six clubs involved but all around the world have recognised that whilst there are several ways they can point the fingers of blame, one can certainly not be aimed in the direction of the supporters. Everyone has their club. And knowing how they would feel (or do feel in some cases) that their club is being taken away from them has created a massive degree of empathy.

Views on why it happened in the first place are widespread but filled with incredible passion and will continue to be that way. And that is a massive positive.

We must remember of course that ‘greed’ in football is not a new thing. It has been around for years. And maybe, just maybe, this mindblowing week will be the start of an enormous u-turn. And I repeat, maybe.

Arsenal, our club, sent an ‘apology’ late last night. Is that enough? Of course it’s not. But for me, rather than be negative, it’s a start. I would rather they sent it than didn’t. Can we see it as an olive branch? A door that is perhaps now more open to discuss what happens in the future? Or do we attack and threaten it being slammed shut in our faces? For me, surely it needs to be somewhere in the middle. But this is only the start. We all know that. And those that love the game need to be relentless in their desire for change.

Looking at the history of the owners of OUR football club, I repeat, OUR football club, it is mindboggling the destruction they have caused in the world of sport, in particular in their own country. We knew it when they arrived, we feared things could go horribly wrong but we, arguably naively, hoped that a new direction and an influx of money would help us to ‘eat at the top table’ before it was too late. Is that greed on our part? Or just that undying passion for success and to not get left behind?

Football in general needs to change. And that starts with the attitude and methods at the very top. And I think it is safe to say that is not going to happen with our football club all the time we are owned by this current regime.

I try to write balanced blogs. And despite my bias towards my club making that extremely difficult at times, I do believe those who read them regularly understand that. But many things have built up to this week and the decision making made on behalf of us many millions is disgusting. So do the right thing Mr Kroenke & your team. Get out of OUR club.

This must never happen again.

#koenkeout

Frank

@stubbsy70

The Final Nail

Monday 19th April 2021

Some of you would not have seen last night’s announcement until this morning. I slept on it because I genuinely thought I might wake up this morning and it was all a wind up. Clearly however, it is not. Football plays an enormous part in my life and has done throughout. Although some would disagree I felt VAR was and is a nail in the coffin of the beautiful game. But not a strong enough one to make me turn my back on it. Should this latest bit of utter tripe come to fruition I genuinely believe that will be that for me. As a good friend has said this morning, ‘it has given me a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach’.

What a wonderful start to the week.

That 9 month domestic league season full of rivalries and that challenge to finish in a position to enjoy a European tour. An achievement that creates incredible excitement and anticipation as to where that journey might take you. From Sweden to the Ukraine. From Portugal to Azerbaijan. All gone.

Those midweek trips to Hartlepool, Scarborough, Plymouth and Macclesfield for league cup ties. The wonderful competition that is the FA Cup. There is no evidence as yet that these will be scrapped in their entirety but they will be treated by the so called ‘big six’ as no more than an inconvenience. That is if of course, if there is any room left in the calendar to fit them in.

Not being able to go to football has made me feel really down at times. I hate watching us on the TV as much now as ever. But the Arsenal are my club. My team. And have moulded my life. And the dates getting ever closer where I could start attending again has kept me going if I’m honest.

But be part of a poxy European League that you don’t even have to qualify for. No thanks.

We played in a game yesterday but even that feels almost irrelevant now. But play we did so I’m going to pen my thoughts.

I have seen my team play poorly and win one nil many many times over the years. Even the greatest Arsenal teams I have been fortunate enough to witness. And whatever analysis and opinion we have about yesterday’s performance it is a game we would have won if it wasn’t for yet another piece of totally inept officiating.

VAR has been around a while now. So the fact they are still getting it so wrong is not only shocking but simply unacceptable. Gabriel clearly had his feet firmly on the ground and the attacking player kicked his foot (on purpose) and threw himself in the air. Not necessarily immediately apparent in normal time. But crystal clear from each of the slow motion replays. Having watched there was no way it was going to be given and if anything the player would be booked for trying to con the referee. ‘Simulation’ I believe the offence is caused. But no, the decision stood. I was and still am absolutely fuming.

We weren’t brilliant, I get that. But we created more than enough chances to win the game. Fulham created nothing. And at the death we grabbed a goal that should have been the winner. Twice now, Burnley away being the other, in my opinion we have been cheated of 2 points.  And I couldn’t get that thought out of my mind last night.

That was of course, until I read about the destruction of football as we know it. That realisation that those 4 points are now irrelevant. Once you cannot win it or cannot get relegated, every league point will become worthless. Reserve sides being put out because we’ve got to play Liverpool in a European match on the Wednesday. Such joy. Imagine if in January we are 6th in our domestic league and cannot win it and finishing in the top 4 of this two bob European nonsense is impossible. How wonderfully enjoyable those last 4 irrelevant months will be.

Of course, there is a lot of water to go under the bridge yet, but I can’t see, even if it gets slightly adjusted, this not happening. And whether like me you are a supporter of one of the teams involved or if you are a fan of any other club in this country’s fantastic league pyramid, that is the death of football I’m afraid.

And there’s me thinking VAR is bad.

A sad and for many like me, life changing day.

Frank

@stubbsy70

Sun, Buses & Goals Galore

Friday 16th April 2021

Back in early March last year, never did I think I would see the day where I looked forward to a day so much where my team were playing and I wasn’t at the match. Yesterday however, that day arrived. Why? Well other than the obvious that my team were involved in a massive European quarter final second leg, it was the first game since the latest round of lockdown rules have changed. As a result, plans were in place that meant as long as the weather was kind it was always going to be a hugely entertaining off the pitch. But could our team make it an equally satisfying day on it?

Oh yes.

We all know how important our Arsenal supporting mates are. And how the banter, the glory and the disappointments we share are even more crucial than what happens on the pitch. That being taken away as far as attending matches is concerned has been extremely difficult. So having the chance to meet and enjoy those aspects whilst accompanied by some fine refreshment was absolutely fantastic.

So, my bus ticket (or beer rover as we prefer to call it) in hand and a trio of garden ‘bookings’ secured three of us (initially) headed out into the glorious sunshine late morning, one of this island’s many fine hostelries our destination. And not only did it help to calm the nerves, being served a pint of ale in a pub garden was simply glorious.

Cheers!

As the day progressed the banter’s intensity increased, as did that PMT. And by the time we left the final garden on our tour, it is safe to say it was incredible. We knew we could win and that gave me confidence. But the fact we also knew we could muck it up kept those nerves nagging.

Settled onto the very edge of my sofa, we started the game extremely well, looking sharp and on the front foot. And then it came, Bukayo’s run and fine effort was tipped onto the post and ESR tapped home the rebound. Get in………………….I hate VAR. Cue a round of expletives aimed at my telly.

The worry at that moment was knowing they had got off the hook by the narrowest of margins, our hosts might step it up. But that worry genuinely didn’t last very long. Our waves of attacks were relentless and Slavia simply couldn’t cope. ESR slipped the ball through to Nico and this time there was no computer evidence that could thwart us taking the lead. Pandemonium in my lounge, that away goal we conceded felt a long time ago.

One became two and two became three as we swarmed all over our Czech hosts and as we enjoyed the sheer delirium, by half time  our semi final place was in the bag. Yep, as we did at West Ham just a few weeks ago, a three goal lead can be clawed back, but the way we were playing there was no way that was going to happen last night.

Laca’s second and our fourth did not flatter us at all. It just put the icing on the cake in what was a near on faultless and dominant performance. Lovely, the celebrations continued until late on our weekly Thursday Club Zoom call and it is safe to say spirits were understandably high. The state of my kitchen this morning it appears the cheese and biscuits came out at some stage too! I know how to celebrate 😊

So, even in this strange and inconsistent of seasons our wonderful football club have reached yet another semi-final. Fantastic.

Back to concentrating on our slim chance of reaching Europe by our league position next as a Fulham side come to North London in desperate need of a result. That alone makes them a dangerous opponent. Only another good performance will give us the chance to take the three points. Obvious? Yes. But as always, that is no gimme.

Enjoy the weekend Gooners.

Up the mighty Arsenal.

Frank

@stubbsy70

Points, Scissors & Beers

Monday 12th April 2021

Anything but a comfortable victory against a totally lost and demoralised team that are a massive eighteen points from safety would have been rightly criticised and worrying. But West Brom proved at Chelsea last week anything is possible in football, an adage that if you don’t know by now you are following the wrong sport. We still had to put in a performance and earn those three points. And overall I think we did that extremely well. Three points away from home, a clean sheet and the pubs open today. What is there in that package to dislike?!

Things change a little bit in the UK today. The most important shops of all (ie; local) are re-opening, I am finally getting my messy mop of hair cut and if I choose to, I can wrap up warm and go and enjoy a pint in one of my local pub’s garden on the way home. Very basic and ‘normal’ things but not what we have been able or permitted to do for a number of months. With Spring in the air it gives everyone a lift and an air of optimism. Something I think we all have desperately needed for some time.

Meeting with friends and family, enjoying the hospitality of cafes & restaurants and of course, being able to attend sport, gigs, festivals & theatre are all getting ever closer. The smiles are on their way back folks.

Yesterday was one of those games with a bit of a ‘no win’ air about it. Get beat and we would have been absolutely hammered for it. And win as we did, we have received very limited praise. But, with a changed and almost ‘twisted’ kind of team line up, we dominated throughout, we looked sharp, incisive and scored three excellent goals. So, caring little about the lack of plaudits, that will do for me.

The optimism I mentioned above is something I feel we must take into Thursday’s big game out in Prague. Along with confidence and hope. Things could go terribly of course. We could get knocked out. But going in with the right attitude on the pitch is absolutely crucial. So I see no reason why we shouldn’t do exactly the same off it.

The capital of the Czech Republic (or Czechia as it is now known) is a city I have visited on numerous occasions, most of them following the Arsenal. It is beautiful, interesting and hugely entertaining. A fine goal by Sylvinho, a 2 nil Champions League Qualifying victory and Thierry breaking the record all provide wonderful memories on the pitch. Although only a largely irrelevant nil nil in the pouring rain back in 2007 involved this week’s opponent. Overall however, I’m sure I speak on behalf of all travelling Gooners that I’m absolutely gutted to not be returning.

Enjoy your week, and let’s get that win.

I can almost hear my hairdresser sharpening up her shears!

Up the mighty Gunners.

Frank

@stubbsy70

All To Play For At The Break

Friday 9th April 2021

Sometimes life seems to be mapped out before you. On other occasions it is completely influenced by the decisions we make personally. And on others those situations are based on the decisions made by the people around us. When it comes to what football team we support, the very large majority will have chosen based on a combination of all three.

My choice was made for me. My dad has been Arsenal since his mum persuaded his Middlesex supporting dad to take him to Highbury back in 1955 because his lot were away from home. A ‘mistake’ that fortunately my dad was never going to make with me. So in January 1977 I walked into Highbury and my lifetime love affair began. Talk about a ‘sliding doors’ moment. Imagine if he hadn’t done that. The decades of misery watching your rivals win trophy after trophy after trophy would have been unbearable.

The main reason I have started with these words is to emphasize they are ‘our’ club. You don’t have to support them. You can support someone else. You have a choice. If you don’t like being a supporter. If it makes you angry. If it makes you depressed. Go and support someone else.

I choose to support my club. That’s my choice. And I will do that until the day I draw my last breath. And d’you know what, I thoroughly enjoy every minute of it. Sorry and all that.

I get fed up with moaning. Be that by friends, strangers or by people in the media. And I use that word meaning both the social and professional kind. Griping, bitching, criticising, call it what you like, it does nothing but have a negative effect. And I mean on life in general as well as football as is more relevant here.

When things don’t go well for your team, us football fans tend to get the ‘ump. Nothing ‘well balanced’. Nothing ‘realistic’. Nothing that is a ‘worthwhile contribution’. Just the right royal ‘ump. And when we I feel like that, the very last thing I want to hear or read is moaning and groaning by people who I swear sometimes genuinely think they could do better.

After our extremely disappointing performance and result on Saturday evening I decided to take a small ‘break’. Not read social media, not get involved in discussion and generally get away from all things Arsenal for a few days. Why? Well, believe me I was proper down about how we played so I didn’t need to hear or read the barrage of abuse that was being aimed at the club I love and to put it simply, I’d just had enough.

I’m old enough to know that football goes in cycles. Or it certainly does for my football club. Ever since I was born we have won major trophies. But not every season. There have been lengthy periods where we haven’t, 8 years in the seventies from 1971 to 1979 followed by another 8 years to 1987 after that for example. And more recently the 9 year gap from 2005 to 2014. But even during those ‘barren’ times, the European football we have enjoyed and numerous finals and semi finals are evidence we have come close.

Why am I saying all this?

I am genuinely a little bit concerned at the moment that there are far too many ‘fans’ out there who are either forgetting or intentionally sucking the fun out of football. And if that bit is taken away from me as world ‘normality’ gets ever closer, I can’t see my future continuing to be crammed full of experiences created by the beautiful game. And I believe a large chunk of those people are not those who hope and dream of success but think we have a god given right to it. Win every game, win every trophy or we are shit. Those that then fully intend to tell everyone too. The angry ones. The negative ones. Those who’s glass is permanently half empty.

I would describe our performance last night as tentative. A little bit nervous perhaps. Maybe that fear of ‘failure’ created by the enormous negative vibes. And I mean both players with experience or our younger members of the team. After all, if I can see, read or hear them, human beings such as football players must be able to see, read and hear them too.

Too many people out there thought Slavia Prague would just turn up as lambs to the slaughter. The fact they knocked out Leicester on their own patch being conveniently forgotten. That was never going to be the case but even without being at our best we totally dominated the game, never looked in any real danger and could and genuinely should have been a couple of goals up before we headed into the latter stages.

Finally getting in front was pleasing and could have (and possibly still will) proved crucial. But conceding in the dying moments was disappointing and deflating. One all, with the away goal, is not ideal of course. But not only did our visitors show very little to be scared of, but our away form has been better than our home. I always thought we would need to score out in Prague and that situation hasn’t changed. So at half time, I am still confident we can progress.

So how do I summarise today? Well, if you decided to read my thoughts in search of negativity you have come to the wrong place I’m afraid. There are plenty of places, far too many in fact, that you can go if that is your thing. If you want to have a beer, a laugh, a reminisce and join me in the never ending emotional journey made up by my undying loyalty for my football club, then please do. Believe me, its not only enjoyable, but hugely rewarding when those good days come.

I remember leaping around my lounge when Dani Ceballos slotted home our winner in the FA Cup tie up at Bramall Lane a few months back and its to that location we head next. There are 24 points available between now and the end of the season and all we can do is try and secure as many of them as possible. That starts on Sunday night.

Victoria Concordia Crescit. It’s what we stand for. Be proud of it. Not just when it suits you. But through thick and thin.

Frank

@stubbsy70

Well Beaten

Let me take you back to the 8th November last year. Aston Villa not only beat us, they took us apart. 5 months on, tonight it has happened again. Have we improved then? In many areas, yes. But if tonight doesn’t demonstrate just how far we are away from being at the top table again, I am living with the Queen of Sheba.

Liverpool having key players back and us having key players missing had me concerned. But our squad have proved in recent weeks that we can get results when that is the case. Tonight however, we were miles away.

I’m not going to say too much else about the game. The Liverpool media love in will provide you with more than enough. So no need for me to provide more negativity.

There was nothing positive we can take from tonight. Well beaten, KT limping off and the sight of our own so called ‘fans’ not just giving their ‘uneducated opinions’ but abusing their own team pretty much sums it up.

I’m looking forward to Thursday. I might even get a garden based pint.

Arsenal til I die.

Frank

@stubbsy70

Thirty-Five, Fifty Five, One

Sunday 21st March 2021

Should we be happy with a point away at West Ham this season? Given how well The Hammers have been playing, possibly. And I think had our form and points earned not been so poor in the first four months of the season, even more so. But that dreadful period of results has meant every game we play right now, less than three points feels inadequate. Overall, I don’t believe I should be too disappointed with a point from the game. And having been 3 nil behind, I won’t call the way I am feeling ecstatic. But I’m definitely quite upbeat.

We were poor from the first minute. And apart from the fact we must factor in our hosts were excellent, that goes against the grain of they way we have started the majority of games in recent months. And boy did it cost us.

Every goal conceded is avoidable. At some stage you can avoid an error or defend better at the very least. But I always feel you can also admire a piece of good attacking play. And for me, our hosts’ opening goal falls into that category. Our poor start invited West Ham to attack us of course, but it was a magnificent strike.

Our second goal on the other hand was a calamity on all fronts. Shambolic in fact. I’m unhappy about the referee’s involvement admittedly. Whether when you’ve clearly got the paint spray out to place the line on the pitch should still allow a free kick to be quickly taken I’m not sure. But even if I accept that, it annoys me that the kick was taken a good 7 yards from where the foul was committed. Influential? 100%. The goal would not have happened without it. But believe me I’m not offering yet another refereeing mistake as an excuse. They are part of the game, week in week out, even now in VAR days.

All our players had their back turned. All our players were asleep. Including unfortunately our goalie in letting the ball slip past him. One, like the first 20 minutes with all our players out there, he will want to forget. Not good enough. Basic errors at the highest level. And punished in to be honest, the way that lack of sharpness deserves.

When you allow your opponent to have so much of the ball by being sluggish and not up with the pace, the 3rd goal was one of those that happens. It felt almost inevitable and it was very difficult to see how we weren’t on our way to a heavy, disappointing and worrying defeat.

Whether it was West Ham thinking their job was done or realisation that if we didn’t pull our finger out it could get embarrassing is difficult to tell. But, we suddenly came alive a little and Laca smashing home gave us just a tiny bit of hope. And I mean a tiny bit. Bukayo in fact, before the half time whistle could and probably should have reduced that deficit to one. So, somehow, despite the disappointment and deflation of being deservedly two goals adrift at the break, there was that little bit of optimism that we were still in the game.

Our second half performance was magnificent. Wave after wave after wave of attack and not only did we get ourselves back on level terms, we dominated and created so many good opportunities we could have gone on to win it. And yep, I did jump around the lounge when Laca’s thumping header got us back on level terms. As awful as was our defending in the opening 35 minutes, our efforts to come back in the remaining 55 and get an impossible looking point from the game deserve opposite superlatives. An unlikely result from an incredible game.

Nine league games to go then and however unlikely a top 5 spot looks right now, we certainly cannot afford to drop any more points if we are to have any hope of sneaking in by the back door. Just the league champions blocking our path next. Their title defence might have faltered but we all know it will be another extremely tough game.

Nobody has ever said supporting The Arsenal is easy guys and dolls. But if you hold on to the rollercoaster tight enough, those thrilling moments do come along.

Enjoy the break.

Up the mighty Gunners.

Frank

@stubbsy70