Monday 29th August 2016
Three games in and it’s been around 20 – 30 minutes that have proved disastrous. As frustrating as that was we go into the first international break in a far more positive frame of mind. In fact it has been a pretty good few days to be a Gooner.
With a number of things to catch up on I’m going to start with cup draws on this occasion.
As much of the country enjoyed the sizzling August sunshine we initially found out who we face in the 3rd Round of the League Cup. As with all domestic draws I want something ‘interesting’. Preferably an away tie at a stadium I haven’t been to. With just 3 teams falling into that category for me personally that possibility always looked unlikely. But a trip to somewhere we haven’t been for a while would be nice.
The City Ground, Nottingham, 17 years since we last visited, that will do. A fixture full of great memories, it is one I am looking forward to and expect a stern test. Our trip to Hillsborough last season demonstrated what happens if you don’t turn up!
I found out our League Cup opponents at The Rose Bowl in Southampton, England’s one day cricket victory over Pakistan on a sticky hot (and very messy) day being my latest ‘away from football’ fix. 24 hours later and the ridiculously over the top draw ‘ceremony’ in Monaco determined the destinations for our next European tour.
In recent years we have seen repeat destinations happen time and time again, so much so in fact it seemed to suggest the draw process simply doesn’t work. And before Ian Rush’s hilarious inability to open the plastic balls this time round, I couldn’t see anything other than a similar set of fixtures.
But, I pretty much couldn’t have handpicked our draw any better. A stadium we haven’t visited for a European tie for over 20 years and 2 cities I have never been to before. Get in!
Travel and accommodation bookings come next as the dates are announced and down the years I have been pretty consistent with the way I do things. Time permitting, if we are playing on a Tuesday I try and go Sunday to Wednesday. Such a trip not only gives you time to enjoy the matchday build up but plenty to take a good look at what else our host destination has to offer.
Being at Bestival just prior to PSG away and flying back from Sunderland away the Sunday before the Ludogorets away match have made the plans a little trickier than normal but…….tours are booked and ready to rock for me and my fellow travelling Gooners. Bring them on!
Carrying on with last season’s theme of looking back at previous corresponding fixtures over the years, we travelled to Vicarage Road back in May 1997 for a low key fixture in honour of Watford’s then groundsman Les Simmons. After 50 years he was retiring and with the programme notes suggesting he was both well loved and quite a character, we brought our season to a close with a 4-1 victory.
12 months later and it was Martin Tyler’s cries of “Would you believe it” that us Gooners will never forget.
August Bank holiday weekend not only sees a massive annual Scooter Festival in my part of the world but Victorious Festival on Southsea Common too. So with a fellow Gooner kindly offering to drive I left home on Saturday morning armed with tickets for my live music fix as well as our Watford away game.
Steamy weather once again meant quenching the thirst pre match was more welcome than ever and it was accompanied by the news one of our lot has booked a trip to Razgrad for late October. I’m sure it will be very nice. Shame the match is being played 200 miles away in Sofia!!
Time for the real stuff and we headed into Vicarage Road confident but well aware our haul of just one point so far meant anything but a win would have been hugely disappointing. And with that comes a few nerves.
Not wearing our 1st or 2nd kit when we can shouldn’t annoy me. But it does. There is absolutely no reason whatsoever why we couldnt wear red and white on Saturday. The fluorescent thing was more of a colour clash if anything.
Watford are one of those teams who always make chances so I expected us to struggle if we didn’t take those we too would no doubt create.
But Saturday, at least in the first half, we certainly did that.
The first was a clear cut penalty having seen TV replays and the other 2 were quite superb (if the finish for the 2nd was a little ‘scruffy’). 3 nil at half time. Perfect.
If we were guilty of anything in our afternoon’s work it was not taking one of the many chances we created in the 2nd period. Just one more, either at 3 nil or 3-1 would have made it a lot more comfortable.
As it was, our host’s goal gave them hope and as a result we had to defend stoutly and big Pete had to make one or two saves to see us home.
Overall though a good performance and three welcome points sees us move up to 7th. And a cracking journey home, Saturday night and all of Sunday enjoying the beer and bands on Southsea Common finished off a pretty perfect couple of days.
It looks like over the next couple of days we will see a couple of new additions to the Arsenal family. I hope that’s not tempting fate of course! Any experienced signings that improve the depth of our squad are welcome and if the 2 being discussed go through they are certainly in positions where I think we all agree most needed strengthening.
Time will tell on those of course but for now we all hope and pray our internationals return injury free in a couple of weeks time.
I like many of us will be at our home on Saturday afternoon for the Legends game. It’s not the type of event I tend to like to be honest. But the chance to see players I followed all over the world in their prime, run out in the red and white for one more time will certainly prevent the trip from feeling a ‘grind’.
And after all……it’s that, gardening or shopping.