Thursday 29th September 2016
Although the spelling is not quite the same, arguably the 2 most famous Basils us Brits know are both from the art of comedy (although admittedly of very different and varying levels!) There was Basil Fawlty of course, the bungling proprietor of the Fawlty Towers Hotel what was and still is a legendary sitcom long since passed. And then there was the puppet that was Basil Brush. Similar eras but…..as I said…..very different in their field! I could also mention the well known herb too……well……I just have. And that will do.
The puppet however, had a quite famous line of two words, often quoted after an attempt at comedy. Having won 2 nil against our friends from FC Basel of Switzerland, those 2 words seem quite apt the day after another excellent performance.
But if it wasn’t for their goalkeeper on the night you could at least treble the number of times those 2 words would be used!
Champions League nights have always been very different to those in our normal week to week domestic season. Both on and off the pitch.
Firstly those club to club rivalries are rare and secondly the matches themselves can be extremely different tactically than an English League affair. But, as last night proved, if your attacking performance is as good as the way we played on Saturday for example, a positive result will still be the outcome.
Basel are no mugs. Far from it. They are in the Champions League yet again on merit, they have a huge amount of experience in the competition now and in 8 previous games in Europe against English sides, they have never lost. Not 1 or 2. Eight. Home and away against your Chelseas, your Liverpools, your Man Utds, your Tottenhams of this world, the latter being on a Thursday of course.
Our first half performance was almost mindboggling I felt. The attacking football was out of this world. We created clear cut opening after clear cut opening with some quite dazzling football. The 2 goals were of course thoroughly deserved but it is no exaggeration that it could quite easily have been 6 or 7 by the break.
The scorer has had a great start to the season. Often a frustrating player and one many Gooners were genuinely starting to lose their patience with, the one thing where we are all 100% agreed is we all would rather he went on to be a total success in the red and white of Arsenal. That will depend on him, his confidence and probably above all given his history, if he manages to remain injury free.
The programme last night confirmed Theo is reaching a milestone. After his double he is only a couple of goals from being in the top 20 of our all time goalscorers. And if he keeps this form up he will be heading for that top 10 sooner rather than later.
Our professional second half performance, similarly to Saturday made sure it was another fine night and puts us in a great position to go on and progress from the group over the next couple of months.
Turf Moor Burnley awaits and a long old Sunday it promises to be. That time however, will feel much shorter if we continue our good run and come home with a positive result.
Come on you…..er…..yellows! (I assume!)
Monday 26th September 2016
There was something very beautiful about Saturday. Something rather special. And it certainly wasn’t just that people got to see me attend a home game wearing something a little bit more normal than a flashing fluffy ‘gilet’!
Beating that lot from the Russian end of Fulham has proved rather difficult in recent times you see. In fact it has proved frustratingly impossible at times, even on days where we’ve arguably been the better side.
But for a couple of quite awesome hours at the weekend, we not only beat them, we took them apart. And it was extremely enjoyable.
We went into the game in good form of course, every result and performance being thoroughly decent since our opening day disappointment. And with our visitors losing a couple of games in recent weeks it was an overall package that had many Gooners pretty confident it could be our day on this occasion. But, we’ve been there before. On many occasions in recent times. And we came out the other side with nothing.
So, although I am extremely positive and was confident we were very capable of winning, I also approached the game with understandable trepidation.
From minute one we certainly looked up for it but the mistake that led to Alexis’ superb finish was crucial. That lift a goal gives to everyone was never more evident but if the noise levels were high they were nothing compared to the ecstasy that followed when Theo finished off a simply stunning passing move to double our lead. Get in.
Three nil at half time did not flatter us one bit after Mesut and Alexis bamboozled the Chelsea defence once again to complete a near on perfect first half display.
An early goal for our visitors in the second period would have meant game on of course so it was all about being switched on from minute one and being thoroughly professional. And we added both those attributes to our sharpness and desire to see the game out. A fantastic performance, there’s no other way to describe it.
5.30pm kick-offs are quite enjoyable to be honest. But that extra couple of hours does tend to mean things can get a little bit messy. Personally I had one of those tricky situations to overcome on Saturday where I fully intended to thoroughly enjoy the build up in the traditional fashion but needed to remain aware that I was supposed to be attending a birthday meal afterwards!
Not something that is too difficult to achieve I’m sure you are thinking but it was good day. One of those. One where we spanked Chelsea 3 nought. One where the train journey home was that cosily satisfying that actually remaining awake was undeniably difficult.
But I did. Just. A sudden jolt woke me up, the train doors were open and it was my stop. Job done.
Fortunately those attending the meal were expecting me to have ‘enjoyed my day’ so it was no shock when a forty something idiot grinning like a Cheshire cat strolled into the restaurant looking for the table with a spare seat! Never in doubt. Happy days.
FC Basel come to London N5 on Wednesday night and will be very much aware they will need to be totally on their game. Given our recent run of form, this alone means we have to do everything to concentrate on not being complacent.
Having fought hard for an excellent point in Paris last time out we need to back that up with a win this week. And if we perform to the level we are proving we can there is every chance that will happen.
Come on you mighty reds!
Wednesday 21st September 2016
There was a time when many of us Gooners lost total interest in the League Cup. If my memory serves me right a 5 nil thumping at home by a Chelsea first choice eleven had many deciding the youthful team choices were not worth taking time and spending money to see.
Mr. Wenger has been enormously consistent with his policy in this competition and although he has never won it, we have reached both semis and finals on a few occasions. And as time has gone by the fact we have all grown to understand why he uses the competition to give fringe and young players a chance to experience first class action, the crowds have flocked back with sold out home games and huge away followings more the norm.
Personally I have always loved the competition. Our assaults on the Littlewoods and Coca Cola versions back in the late eighties and early nineties are packed full of fantastic memories and the fact we get to enjoy cracking old fashioned cup nights like this week’s trip to Nottingham Forest add to my reasoning.
4 of us made the trip in our mini party and once checked in to our hotel we enjoyed the pre-match hospitality of the city with many of the usual suspects.
It’s a long time since we’ve made that walk over the River Trent past the cricket ground and to the City Ground’s away end. But, with a full house expected it certainly was as atmospheric as any previous visit.
Even with every single player being different to those who started against Hull on Saturday, it looked an exciting combination of well known names, new signings and our most promising younger talent that took the field and it was to prove a thoroughly enjoyable evening.
Lord Bendtner of Nottingham was given an excellent reception and although I am genuinely pleased he did I’m not sure if I was surprised or not. He certainly had his moments as a Gooner and although we are aware he was never quite good enough to be the ‘answer’, I don’t think he deserved to get any stick.
The start of the game was relatively even but once Granit spanked home his 2nd long range effort of the week the result never looked in doubt. Lucas’ penalty pretty much finished the game off as a contest and his 2nd and Ox’s strike were pleasing and put the icing on the cake for the thousands of noisy travelling Gooners behind the goal.
So into the 4th round hat we go and we celebrated into the early hours as always.
I’m writing these notes before tonight’s games so my preferred choice for the next round might not even be relevant! But Bristol City away would make me very happy!
Chelsea at home comes next, always one of our toughest fixtures. The game needs no build up but like every other fixture it is one we can win if we are on our game.
Come on you mighty reds!
Sunday 18th September.
Train travel is something I quite enjoy. Not only is it relaxing but when you throw football into the equation the journey includes the usual banter. If you choose to stay overnight however, any travel option is likely to be less ‘comfortable’!
And although that is the case this morning, it is gloriously sunny and we head back home with the three points we came here for.
This is the 3rd time I have stayed over in the city of Kingston-upon-Hull but both the previous occasions it has been midweek so experiencing the Saturday night fare has been a new experience.
Consequently our smooth train journey from Kings Cross and past our home had us all thoroughly looking forward to the hours ahead. Although we like to think that the post match entertainment will be equally as enjoyable whatever the result, the reality is if we get a poor result, the night out can end up being a bit of a damp squib.
One of our travelling party (Finbar) enjoys a real ale (or 5) and the rest of us don’t need too much persuading to join him. And no matter where we end up he will have an idea of which establishment(s) we should head for.
Having dropped our bags at the hotel, this time was no different so we headed through the roadworks and shoppers to a basement local for our pre-match refreshment, an interesting establishment if nothing else.
The main event of course produced the result we all wanted in an incident packed game where although I felt we played pretty well, it was a bit of a strange one.
We could and should have been 3 goals to the good before the penalty incident through no more than a thoroughly dominant display. But although the handball didn’t change the game due to the spot kick being awarded, the sending off did and it was pretty harsh and arguably incorrect having seen the TV replays.
Santi should have taken it and the debate over why he didn’t was considerable. For me however, Alexis should have buried it anyway and the fact he didn’t was more frustrating.
Come the break it was all about being professional and avoiding complacency.
And to be fair other than perhaps a few minutes after we conceded we did that pretty well. And Granit’s goal was worth the entrance money alone. 4-1 away from home. That will definitely do.
I mentioned the roadworks in Hull earlier and due to the city being ‘City of Culture’ in 2017 (but they don’t like to mention it!) the place is one massive building site at the moment. But believe me that’s not me being critical. I absolutely love Hull. The history and architecture is quite awesome in places, the old town is awash with superb pubs and everyone we have met once again could not have been more friendly.
And for a few hours it very much played host to our celebratory mood.
Another successful away day then, finished this morning by eating a full English whilst the participants in the Hull Marathon ran past the cafe. Slightly guilt ridden watching them go by having enjoyed a skin full last night and a fry up this morning (only slightly mind) that pretty much brings us up to date.
Looking out my train window we are at Retford. One more stop and London beckons.
The City Ground, Nottingham comes next.
Come on you yellows!
Wednesday 14th September 2016
Three times I’ve been to Paris previously but unfortunately each of those trips is littered with bad memories. Over the years however, I’ve always wanted to return with time available to get a better indication of what is described by many as one of the world’s greatest cities.
That achieved accompanied by Alexis’ late equaliser, I’m heading back to Charles de Gaulle airport with an altogether satisfactory vibe.
Bestival came to a close late on Sunday night and I’d be lying if I said I was ‘full of beans’ departing for Gatwick early on Monday morning. If the weather is kind music festivals are awesome. But they are absolutely exhausting too.
Getting from the airport to our hotel on a packed commuter train in sweltering heat didn’t help to be honest but showered, changed and enjoying a pint in an establishment that was to become our ‘local’ went a long way to lifting the spirits!
One or two other hostelries were treated to our presence before we made our way to see the late showing of the Moulin Rouge. Tacky but certainly spectacular and well worth going to, it completed a long, hot but entertaining first day of the trip.
If the ‘Moo Red’ was done as a tourist, Tuesday morning provided the opportunity to see some of the more well known sights by day. And they don’t come any bigger than the Eiffel Tower. An awesome thing to see against the blue sky of a sundrenched city.
That done, our ‘local’ played host for the pre-match build up before we took the metro to the ground.
The Parc des Princes is quite iconic. Not only is it the home of PSG but before the Stade de France was built it also played host to internationals in both football and egg chasing. And as it is 21 years since we last visited on that dreadful night back in May 1995, it was good to see it full and rocking this time round.
Before a ball was kicked we would all have definitely taken a point. So to get just that is very pleasing.
PSG do not lose many home games. 1 in their last 40 European ties in fact. So it is an extremely tough place to get a result.
And although we rode our luck a little bit at times and David Ospina performed admirably, we kept going and played some good football, especially in the 2nd half and after such a disastrous start.
We all like a late goal, in particular when it means so much. And last night’s produced the typical away end jostle as you would expect.
So a point from our toughest fixture on paper then. Very pleasing from a tough night……and we drank to it in the traditional way back in our local.
Consequently today’s touristy walk was a little bit uncomfortable at times. The whole dehydration/hangover/intense heat combination is not a good one!
But with Notre Dame, Pont Neuf, banks of the river Seine and the Louvre ticked off the list the pain was worth it.
I’m going to finish by saying congratulations to Mick and his now fiance Sami. The soppy sod proposed at the Eiffel Tower!
See you in Hull.
Saturday 10th September 2016
Swearing is not big or clever. Although I do quite like it. In the right situation or context. It can provide enormous emphasis when required. But I don’t particularly like unnecessary bad language when its……..well……..unnecessary.
But today I have received a torrent of ‘abuse’. All justified. Why? Well……as I went to the game straight from Bestival, I was dressed like a bit of a tit.
It kinda started in the ferry terminal early this morning where despite the advertising videos chucking out pictures of the event for all to see the fact I walked in looking like death warmed up and dressed as previously described, the ‘shoppers’ of this world gawped as if I was a freak of nature.
That was nothing compared to the tube journey. Although most probably just put that down to being ‘London’.
Walking to my usual pre-match pub however, I got wolf whistled by burger vans! That is a whole new level.
Upon arrival I was told in no uncertain terms ‘now I know what it’s like to be a woman’. Of course I took that on board, offered the lady a babysham and asked her why she was at football and not at home darning some socks. Coz I’m a modern man you see.
All this took place before the main event of course. But it was a strange day. Firstly my football routine had been thrown out of the window. Secondly I was dressed like an ostrich. Thirdly it was a Saturday 3pm kick off. So we weren’t on the telly. Ridiculous.
I enjoyed the game. But only because we got a late winner. If I was writing this having drawn (or lost) I’d have the right ump. But, that’s football in a nutshell.
I thought we started the game in control. But it wasn’t exactly dominance. We didn’t deserve to be losing. And we reacted well with Kos’s overhead kick an awesome highlight. And post equaliser and until half time I thought we played well.
But although we were the team looking for that winner our visitors had their share of the good chances in the 2nd period.
I genuinely haven’t seen a replay of the penalty incident. So I can’t comment. Sorry. But we’ll take that. Just as they would had it been the other way round.
3 points. Lovely.
It turned a good day into a great one.
I’m going back to Bestival. I fit in there.
Up the Arse!
Monday 5th September 2016
Like everyone I was a little bit disappointed that Thierry and Dennis were not on the pitch on Saturday. But having seen them for a combined total of nearly 600 times, I certainly wasn’t going to lose sleep over it. Arsenal Football Club is a family you see. A ‘club’ in every sense. And that means I don’t care who wears that shirt as long as they are proud to do so. I genuinely didn’t think I would enjoy the entertainment on show as much as I did. But as an event, as a hugely successful way of making money for worthy causes, as a thoroughly relaxing way to spend a few hours in the company of near on 60 thousand others, I was extremely pleased I went along.
It is only on days where the clubs in the upper reaches of this country’s football pyramid are not playing that you witness just how many people are on their way to games on ‘normal’ weekends. Of course there are many millions who support other clubs and they were still present on my small part of the railway network on Saturday morning, but the level of quietness emphasized the lack of travellers heading to games in the top 2 leagues.
There was still plenty of red and white about with a near on full house expected in London N5 all adding to what promised to be an interesting occasion.
The numbers were swelled by a huge number of youngsters too, all the more interesting when many would have only ever got the chance to see these players don the red and white on video, DVD or online. Trying to avoid the fact that also makes me feel very old I spent much of the day reminiscing about particular moments when at their brilliant best. Bobby Pires lobbing Schmeichal at Villa, Gilberto’s equaliser at Doncaster, Anders’ late destruction of Coventry at Highfield Road, Nutty’s late winner at Chelsea, Freddie’s goal in Cardiff, Luis Boa Morte’s crucial FA Cup goal at Preston, Gilles’ winner against Palace, Manu’s all important winner against Derby, Kanu’s hat-trick at the Bridge, Ray’s rocket against Valencia, Seaman’s Sampdoria heroics, Kolo emerging as an invincible centre half, Keown’s desire against Van N at Old Trafford, Jens’ penalty save in Villareal, Overmars run and goal at Highbury 98…….the list goes on and on.
And for possibly one final time, although a little older and little slower, we were to see all these players once again.
Although visibly and understandably not quite as mobile as in the past, the players’ style is still so recognisable. Trying hard not to offend here, Bobby still runs a little bit like a duck, Nutty Nige still plays as if his life depends upon it, Gilberto still moves from side to side like that all important moving ‘brick wall’, Freddie’s all action bustling runs were still present and as for Kanu, his massive feet still make the ball look like a marble and despite the technique looking even more languid these days, he is still an absolute magician with a football!
Goals and a win were far from essential of course but totally helped make it a thoroughly entertaining day as well as Nige’s fun and games with Paolo di Canio and Keown threatening to throttle Mr Wenger for not bringing him on.
Those of us that were lucky enough to witness Bobby and Freddie’s Arsenal careers have seen goals similar to the 4th time and time again. And just like when Thierry came back to score that goal against Leeds, Saturday’s run, cross and goal led to serious goosebumps. Seems silly thinking about it. But it happened.
A few post match beers with fellow Gooners from local, Yorkshire and Australia were thoroughly enjoyed after, emphasizing once again how far and wide this Arsenal family stretches.
And for just a couple of priceless hours on Saturday afternoon we got to relax and look back.
See you on Saturday as we take on the Saints.