Tuesday 29th August 2017
At some stage during every person’s life they will experience pain. That sensation could be physical or mental of course and would be of varying degrees. But, when discussing this aspect of life it is crucial we put any example into perspective. Believe me Sunday afternoon was painful. But only in footballing terms. Not only have we been well beaten at Anfield before but we are only three games into a long long season. And only three games since we last won a major trophy.
Whilst on the subject of pain, some of it is self inflicted. And two day/nights at the Victorious Music Festival on Southsea Common meant Sunday’s early start after limited sleep was particularly uncomfortable. Last season saw a lunchtime kick-off at Watford, possibly the perfect game when attending such an event but the fixture computer had been very unkind on this occasion.
Journey wise however, it was smooth enough to outweigh the feeling of discomfort but when that and a similarly successful return are the best parts of the day you know the football aspect has been particularly poor!
The company was good as always and our magnificent travelling support was both numerous and noisy. Nothing new there. The choice of line up threw up debate. But again that is hardly unusual. It certainly wasn’t a team that left those present void of confidence.
I would even go as far as to say I felt we started the game quite well, Danny Welbeck firing over when he could and should have done better. But what followed is both difficult to swallow and understand. Mistake after mistake after mistake was punished and left us almost dead and buried at half time.
A poor and totally misjudged pass from Granit saw us go behind. That can happen but when it is the 3rd time in 3 games the excuses start to wear a bit thin. The second came when a player on the left with a decent right foot was shown the inside. Nothing but a basic error at any level let alone the very highest.
We came out in the second half looking like a team with a point to prove. And briefly we put our hosts under a bit of pressure. Cue more basic errors. I can put up with a player not trapping a ball. Footballers are human after all. But when that leaves a player the opportunity to run the length of the field unchallenged and with 2 team mates leading the chase it becomes difficult to comprehend.
Strangely I didn’t feel as bad coming away from Sunday’s game as I did last week. To me it felt like a very bad day at the office of course. But we can’t go back and change it and we need to start again with Bournemouth at home. Not every aspect of life allows this but football gives you the opportunity to eradicate mistakes and to alleviate pain with pleasure. And that is the way I am going to deal with it.
This week will dictate if our squad has new additions or players leaving for pastures new. Or both. My view on that situation has always been the same. Not only do I strongly believe if anybody, no matter who they are, genuinely doesn’t want to play for our great club, then let them go. Our club will always be bigger than any player and representing us is a privilege not a necessity or a chore. Likewise, whatever happens, in any week, in any season, I will go to support my team. That will never change.
Victoria Concordia Crescit
Tuesday 22nd August 2017
Having gathered my thoughts after Saturday evening’s excruciatingly frustrating trip to the Potteries my opinion has changed slightly to how I felt immediately after the match concluded. Those expressed via the latter means are probably full of more intense passion but are also extremely reactionary and often unbalanced as a result. A couple of extra days doesn’t ease the disappointment, but in addition to the hope and optimism the next game brings, my overall opinions find negativity and positivity a little bit closer I guess.
As I headed home I found it very difficult to work out how we had managed to come away from the game with nothing. Very quickly however, the reasons have become much clearer. We were unlucky on a close offside decision admittedly and directly in front of goal things didn’t go our way but overall there is one major reason. We simply didn’t take one of the many opportunities we created on the day.
Very few of us like going to Stoke. Various reasons would be given by different people but to suggest it is just the scoreline that makes up these feelings is not accurate for me. Back in the day my fellow travelling Gooners used to thoroughly enjoy going to the city of Sheffield for example. But the entertainment off the pitch far outweighed that served up on it, in particular at Hillsborough. Year in, year out we would come away with a negative result it seemed and to this day I’ve never quite worked out why! I still to this day however, look back at those trips quite fondly. But, returning to Stoke, there is no doubt the overriding factor is we rarely come away with a positive result.
Our fixtures get moved away from their traditional date and kick-off time more often than not and to be honest, that is not a new thing. I’m not too bothered about that situation overall, mainly because I quite like the variety these days. The most difficult aspect however, is trying to arrange travel, in particular by train. Saturday at 3 o’clock games are ok pretty much 100% of the time. But all other times present a huge number of issues. Too early to get there in time or too late to get a train back south for example. And Sundays can be ridiculous with the constant ‘engineering work’ aspect. Throw in the fact by the time TV have finished mucking up the fixture list many of the cheaper train options have long gone, it is altogether a messy and often expensive scenario us fans have to deal with.
Saturday evening was one such occasion for me. Needing to get home after but impossible by public transport. So I drove.
In recent times the most predictable aspect surrounding our performances is our unpredictability. Over the last 12 months we have produced everything from awesome to shocking. So when asked before the game how I felt the game would go I genuinely didn’t have an answer. I did state however, I felt we would need at least 2 goals if we were to be victorious.
We dominated large chunks of the game and although the stats heavily favouring us possession wise was always likely to be the case, I felt we created lots of chances too. But good goalkeeping, bad luck and disappointing finishing made it feel like ‘one of those days’. Or a day out in Stoke if you like.
Annoying, frustrating and deflating but there is no time for feeling down. A defeat is a defeat but it doesn’t have to mean long term failure. It is all about how you react in the next game. And they don’t come much harder than a trip to Anfield on Sunday.
Before that it is a week of ‘draws’.
First comes the 3rd Round of the League Cup in its latest guise, one that will take place in China just after 4am (UK time) on Thursday morning. Of course it will. We know football has gone mad and this is yet another example. If I’m not sleeping I might get up for it……but I’m certainly not setting an alarm!
As always I would like an away draw against someone ‘unusual’ and before this week’s fixtures there are still 14 potential teams (or stadia) where I have not seen us play. Given when the draw is I assume, no matter who we get, there is a chance it might kick-off at 2am!
Friday sees a whole new experience for all of us as the draw is made for the Europa League Group Stages. Looking at those teams we can draw there is as much chance of us getting repeat destinations as there is something ‘different’. The latter would of course be pleasing but time will tell.
See you in Liverpool.
Keep the faith.
Friday 11th August 2017
You can’t let three goals at home and expect to come away with three points. With 20 minutes to go that very line was in my head. And it still is. But, on occasion, you get a game where that is not accurate.
The whole novelty factor that goes with Friday night fixtures makes them ok in my book. Don’t get me wrong I am with the traditionalists who believe 3pm on a Saturday afternoon is king. But of all the other options I quite like this one.
Everyone is in an upbeat mood. Many are well oiled. If that is a phrase I am allowed to use. And if you get the right result it is a great package. And i’m writing these thoughts on my train journey home from that exact scenario.
The late afternoon build up was cracking. Loads of people having ‘knocked off work early’. Everyone in a mood that reeked of ‘i’m not going to admit I missed the football…..but feck did I miss the football’. The old routine back in place.
The funny bit about all that is I don’t remember one single person asking me how I felt about our ‘chances’ this season. Not one. And if that doesn’t put my feelings and thoughts in a nutshell nothing does.
My walk along Gillespie Rd felt the same, my purchase of my matchday programme still happened, my swift ‘one for the road’ just before kick off was still too tempting to turn down and even though it was match 1 of 38 I still had that same buzz.
Come on you mighty reds!
We could not possibly have asked for a better start. And that feel good factor as a result was hugely apparent. Get in.
But at the highest level defensive mistakes get punished and those in the ‘basic’ category got the ultimate treatment.
Our equaliser just before half time was crucial and at 2-2 I was hugely confident we would go on and win the game.
But, from an unmarked header, we found ourselves behind again. Disappointing, frustrating and extremely annoying. Two goals required to make it a less than satisfactory opening day once again.
Going forward we still looked dangerous and we came close on more than one occasion but time was flashing by.
But Rambo slotted home the equaliser and with more than ten minutes to go we could win this.
Accompanied by a crackling atmosphere it could happen you know.
And Olly’s quite superb header made sure it did. Cue bedlam.
An average night all round.
See you in Stoke.
Wednesday 9th August 2017
All of a sudden there seems to be a 70s music vibe surrounding sport in this country. Swedish sensations ABBA are now associated with a penalty shoot out and after we successfully negotiated this new format, Neil Diamond’s ‘Sweet Caroline’ is now, apparently, a fitting way for us to celebrate picking up some silverware! All very odd.
This is a Proper sporting week for me. Watching England’s cricketers complete a series win over South Africa has been viewed on a small screen in the corner of my PC whilst trying hard to concentrate on my work and witnessing Mo Farah’s victory on Friday night was quite special, even if athletics is not really my thing. I don’t think West Ham’s ground has seen anything that good since Alexis slammed in a hat-trick! 😉
Two other evening sessions in Stratford, full of emotion, drama and controversy, sandwiched our latest relaxing trip down Wembley Way on Sunday afternoon.
A thoroughly enjoyable few hours was on the cards whatever happened on the day but it was pleasing to see a competitive game, lots of incident, a decent performance from our team and ultimately another bit of silverware on the shelf.
With a number of key players missing I thought we acquitted ourselves really well, particularly in the first and last half hour periods.
Being the better side in 2/3rds of the game would have made a defeat a little cruel. A draw was the very least we deserved and Sead’s far post header made sure we got that.
Even without the penalties I would have been quite happy with that. But the fact i’d kind of resigned myself to probably losing given Pete Cech’s strangely unsuccessful penalty record doesn’t take away any victory is sweet.
Fun in the sun then and we start our league season next on Friday night. January 1977 seems a long time ago but being the first time I saw my team play this is my 42nd season. I might be wrong but I think this is the first where our opening game has been on that day of the week. Not the first time overall of course, numerous games spring to mind, none more so than the 26th May 1989.
Come May next year it would be nice to think we could be top of the pile once again. Positivity, that’s the name of the game!
Sunday was a good day. It ended for me personally back at the athletics. And as events drew to a close Neil Diamond was blaring out once again! What is going on!?
Leicester at home brings specific memories back for me personally. Way back in April 1984 saw an incident packed game where Charlie Nicholas and a Leicester player (maybe Andy Peake?) had an altercation that resulted in them both being sent off. At that time there were 5 minutes to go and we were 1 nil down, a result that would seriously dent our chase for a UEFA Cup spot. But late late goals from Paul Davis and Tony Woodcock saw us turn it around and win 2-1.
The personal side to all that was I, along with my team mates, were waiting to enter the field of play whilst this was all going on. Having won the Junior Gunners Easter Five-a-Side Tournament in the JVC centre behind the Clock End a few days earlier, we were to play a ‘decider’ against the winners of the Christmas Tournament. My memories of the whole affair are mixed to say the least. It was nothing short of fantastic to be running out onto the pitch as the crowd were still celebrating our late victory and to almost mingle with the players as they left the field. But fresh from being genuinely chuffed at finishing top scorer in the indoor tournament I remember the pitch (understandably) being in a shocking state, completely snapping my groin when turning to have a strike on goal and to top it all off we lost 1 nil!!
Thirty-three years on and its time to dust off your colours boys and girls, that rollercoaster awaits.
Come on you mighty reds!
Thursday 3rd August 2017
Most of pre-season I seriously enjoy and that has been the same for many years now. The chance to attend games with no stress, the chance to travel to some incredible destinations, the whole ‘circus’ that surrounds each tour and meeting up with fellow Gooner friends old and new making up an extremely enjoyable package.
But I genuinely dislike the world of transfers. Although it makes no odds to me who walks out wearing the cannon on their chest as I will be there supporting anyway, the constant never ending speculation surrounding who might be leaving and who might be joining drives me nuts. Those who have followed my thoughts are well aware I am not one for newspapers and that hasn’t changed now they are all available electronically. I’m not on Facebook and although I do quite like Twitter that is more for the occasional amusing tweet it throws up rather than some of the constant other rubbish it throws up. On the odd occasion I have been somewhere with Talksport on I have more than disliked the vast majority of its content and as a result my thoughts are not ‘influenced’ by anything on there and likewise there are no TV football debate shows I tune into.
Despite all that however, I do need to turn my computer on every morning. And with the BBC website being my homepage I do get to witness some of the daily barrage of speculative crap. And although much of the above makes me look an unsociable so and so I do like to go to events where there are other people present with views and opinions and questions regarding our great football club. If I hear the line, “I’ve heard from someone within the club……” one more time I will scream! Looking at some of the information this ‘someone’ has provided down the years I assume he is the programme or peanut seller.
The Emirates Cup was an enjoyable if altogether ‘tough’ weekend for me personally, in particular Sunday. Not for any other reason than my mum’s 70th birthday party and my gorgeous sister’s hospitality meant Saturday was an extremely ‘messy’ night!
Despite rail works meaning my journey up took considerably longer than usual, Saturday on the other hand was relaxing and thoroughly enjoyable. Pre-match refreshment was consumed as usual, a small sampler of the home game routine before the real stuff starts in a couple of weeks.
As always the whole weekend could not possibly be any more family orientated, group ticket discounts and a good atmosphere all contributing to this fact. And to see numerous generations of Arsenal fans all sat together is a massive positive.
Our game against Benfica was thoroughly entertaining too. Defensively mistake ridden if we are going to be over critical but with some fine goals at the other end too. And it was a result that although ultimately it was to be enough to see us win the overall competition, that fact doesn’t really sit comfortably with me!
Although the rules are admittedly clear, if one team wins both their matches I don’t believe a team that doesn’t should be able to win the trophy. And I’m sure our friends from Seville think exactly the same.
Sunday was one of those days where the journey up from Kent was more than painful. Packed trains, thousands of people, overheating and nausea are not aspects that make up an ideal package. And although I completely accept ‘hair of the dog’ is not necessarily big or clever it was definitely going to be the only ‘medicine’ that would sort me out on this occasion!
In a fairly even contest we conceded a couple of goals once again and on this occasion we were unable to overcome that deficit at the other end of the field.
So our second defeat in 6 pre-season matches but once again I emphasize over analysis is unnecessary I feel. I can think of more than one occasion in the past where we have won every pre-season encounter but got beat on the opening day. And on that basis in my opinion the results mean nothing.
Sunday and we head to Wembley for the Community Shield, just 2 months or so since we overcome the same opponents on that heady May evening. And incredibly this is our 9th trip to our national stadium in just 4 years. We have won the previous 8 so it is not only a place we have become used to but one we have thoroughly enjoyed.
Although win, lose or draw it is not the end of the world, come Sunday evening I do of course hope we have made it 9 out of 9.
And I also hope we are not wearing pink or that dreadful sky blue thing.
Come on you mighty reds!