Sunday 29th October 2017
If you go behind and come back to win the game that is always very satisfying. And it is something we’ve had to get used to over the last 7 days. Turning round games is a good habit of course but taking the lead and keeping it is definitely a better one! Overall though, summarising yesterday, winning the game after being behind at the break is pleasing.
Saturday, 3pm kick-off used to be the norm. In fact for the best part of 10 months of the year if it was that time and that day you would be at the football. Live TV coverage is not a new thing. But the fact it now feels like there are no parameters or restrictions to when and what time you will be playing, situations like yesterday are very much a rarity.
And as a result it was a day to look forward to.
Breaking down a blanket defence is another thing we are very much used to in home games. And patience is often the key. That becomes all the more difficult of course if you concede to a team’s very first venture into our defensive third of the field.
The atmosphere at half time wasn’t totally doom and gloom or certainly not as much as you might expect. Frustration was there of course but also a belief I feel that we were well capable of turning it around.
And Sead and Rambo’s strikes did just that.
So, not the greatest of games or performances….but 3 points and a job well done….in the end.
Red Star Belgrade showed enough out in Serbia for us to be fully aware that any complacency on Thursday night could be punished.
But with 9 points already in the bag it is a great opportunity to make that 12.
Come on you mighty reds!
Tuesday 24th October 2017
Life is about a number of things. But one of them is definitely making new memories. The league cup contains some of my very favourite down the years…..but also some I would rather forget. For a young striker trying to make his way wearing the cannon on his chest, tonight was a night I’m sure he will remember for the rest of his life.
Win, lose or draw it is a competition where I don’t genuinely get too stressed about the outcome, especially I would say in the Wenger era. But I hate losing. In anything. And so despite in a period where more sleep deprivation is on the cards as a result of extra time, I am travelling home pleased we have progressed to the next round.
The Canaries attended in their thousands, always expected with that away cup tie novelty factor, cheap match tickets, subsidised travel and school half term week all major contributors and for the majority of tonight they thoroughly enjoyed their night in the capital.
In a similar fashion to Sunday up at Goodison we dominated the opening exchanges and succumbed to a counter attack that saw us go behind.
For the remainder of the half and much of the second we huffed and puffed but Norwich coped pretty comfortably, looking dangerous on the counter attack in addition.
The game had a kind of deja vu feeling for me. Going back many many years too. Back in the mid nineties we took on The Canaries in a League Cup tie at Highbury and it was also the time that if the game finished all square it went to a replay. Having booked a week in the far north of Scotland with my girlfriend at the scheduled replay week I longed for a result on the night.
But, despite being favourites things didn’t go well and we headed into the latter stages 1 nil down. Wrighty smashed in a late equaliser at the North Bank end and that replay I feared became reality.
The result was the longest I have ever driven for a game, 2 whole tanks of fuel each way in fact, to attend the match from somewhere that felt nearer to Greenland than London N5. Looking back it was probably the final nail in that relationship’s coffin but, we won 3 nil so it was worth it! After all, plenty more fish and all that!!!
Tonight, although not quite as dramatic, I knew anything other than a result in normal time means getting home about 4am. So I didn’t really want extra time if it could be avoided.
With time running out we were finally putting our visitors under a bit of pressure. And almost with a last throw of the dice, on came Eddie.
And with his first touch he flicked home to keep us in the competition.
Extra time followed and in a penalty area full of giants, his leap to power home the winner was quite something and what looked like an increasingly unlikely victory now looked a big possibility. I thought we played pretty well once we took the lead and were probably at our most comfortable. But even then we had to survive a late penalty scare to get over the line.
So into the 5th round then and a truly memorable night for young Eddie Nketiah. I’m sure you’ll struggle to sleep after that. Give me a ring Ed, I probably won’t be home yet!
See you on Saturday as we take on The Swans.
Sunday 22nd October 2017
This afternoon’s first half was right up there in various categories. Looking positively we were quite superb all half in creating chances. Our want to win was there in abundance and our passing and movement were magnificent at times. But a combination of desperate defending, good goalkeeping, bad luck and wasteful finishing meant we didn’t have the considerable lead our dominance deserved.
Above all else however, was a feeling of frustration and disbelief, at least until we equalised, that was so intense that many of the travelling Gooners, or at least those who choose to get behind the team, were simply shaking their heads.
Not for the first time Granit got caught in possession and his mistake was punished in the harshest way possible with Rooney’s fine strike. All the possession, looking sharp all over the pitch, creating countless chances yet 1 goal behind with virtually the first time Everton had got anywhere near our box.
Nacho’s equaliser coming before the break was crucial I feel and in my opinion there was no doubt if we put in a similar performance in the second period we would go on and win the match.
Scoring 4 more to complete an emphatic victory suggests we not only matched but bettered our first half showing but I’m not sure we did. That’s not me being negative but our hosts definitely played better and we had to dig in a little and bide our time before grabbing that opportunity to take the lead. And man of the match Mesut’s superb header was well worth the wait.
Since leaving Belgrade it has been a bit of a short period of firsts for me. One of my flights aborted it’s landing attempt a few feet from touching down due to the preceding aircraft having not totally left the runway whilst on a more positive note I was able to watch Huddersfield’s win over Man Utd ‘live’ on the screen in front of me before we touched down at Heathrow. And I definitely haven’t heard something so ridiculous as a bit of stormy weather being called Brian. And with the link being the fact we were at Everton today, at least our players managed to escape unscathed from any potential child carrying adults trying to dish out a right hander!!
And today completed that list with our first away league victory of the current season.
A good way to end a good week but looking at how much we would be ‘in the mix’ if we hadn’t blown our lead at Watford is another of those footballing frustration examples.
But we can’t go back and after today looking forward has to be the way. That starts with Norwich on Tuesday in the League Cup.
For now, as I write these thoughts on the southbound M6, getting back from Belgrade late last night before getting up ridiculously early to travel up to Goodison this morning I desperately need a good night’s sleep.
Up The Gunners.
Friday 20th October 2017
Many cities have 2 big clubs and the rivalry that goes with it. Belgrade is no different and as a result of Olly’s acrobatic late winner our celebratory few beers were accompanied by not just begrudging offers of congratulations from the Red Star supporters who had been so hospitable all day but lots of smiles from Partizan fans.
Don’t get me wrong the warnings about not doing anything ‘silly’ were heeded, a point emphasized by the odd seat, lighter, coin and bit of concrete that sailed into the away end after we went one up but the advice a cabbie from the airport gave one of our lot was probably the best we received. He said the people of Belgrade will be very welcoming and they will make sure you have a good time…..but……don’t try and be the big man. And we got that totally.
Wednesday’s early start and our relatively trouble free flight had us checking into our two superb apartments in the very heart of Belgrade, right opposite Republic Square. And a decent bar right opposite gave us our first taste of Serbian hospitality since last time we were here in 2010.
Match day began with a Stubbsy walking tour where admittedly I went completely the wrong way. But the fact our host bar/restaurant on the banks of the river Sava within sight of where it meets the Danube was simply magnificent meant I just about redeemed myself!
And it was a fantastic build up, great food, loads of refreshment, top service and great company from my Gooner mates before we headed across the city to Red Star’s iconic and atmospheric stadium.
The taxi dropping us off in a location where we had no option but to walk through the home fans was an experience. Trying ‘not to look English’ is all well and good. But almost impossible. And even harder when Dale Boy looks like a walking advert for Burberry! Funny. Very funny. And the walk was fine and if anything added that ‘edge’ to a game in a competition that perhaps lacks one due to our general apathy at being in a so called weaker European tournament than we’ve been used to for such a long time.
Noisy and a great experience, the home fans were exactly as expected. But I wouldn’t necessarily call it hostile.
The game was not one to live long in the memory with both teams enjoying a share of the few chances. But with only one English team having ever won here it’s definitely not an easy place to get a result.
But if the game overall failed to impress, the winning goal was a thing of beauty. And it was met with much jubilation by the travelling Gooners.
Being kept in the ground at a European away game is nothing new. Italy tends to be the worst time wise but last night’s 2 hours seemed particularly long given we were told it would be only an hour. But as frustrating as it was the military style operation that got us all back to the city centre was incredible. A copper in full battle armour was located at the side of the road every 50 yards or so for the entire 20 minute journey! It all seemed very ‘over the top’ but we certainly can’t claim to have more expertise about their city than they’ve got.
A few more late night G n Ts in a really cool bar down by the river completed a fine day and a stroll round the city’s historic fort and a few more beers in the sundrenched afternoon pretty much brings me up to date.
If my flight tomorrow manages to avoid Storm Brian I will return home with 3 points and loads of good memories before getting up ridiculously early yet again on Sunday morning for the trip to Everton.
Over land and sea.
Really really shit.
That was my answer when a lady (with kids and a dog) asked me how my day had been. I probably could have left out the first (or second) really but I’m not sure it would have been entirely accurate without it.
I’m writing these notes on my train from Clapham Junction to Portsmouth Harbour. It’s full of people in pretty good spirits. They’ve all had a pretty good day out it seems. And so have I to be fair. Or at least I did until Mezut fluffed his opportunity to secure the 3 points and within seconds a very soft penalty went from 3 to a maximum of 1.
The lady with the dog thanked me for my honesty (I think). But if she had told me to fuck off I wouldn’t have heard her.
We can all blame Wenger today but if Mezut had buried that chance we all would have looked at the game as spot on.
We weren’t great. But we were very comfortable. And we lost.
Bed for me.
See you in Serbia.
Monday 9th October 2017
Whilst being very aware my blog/diary has always been about my life as an Arsenal supporter I have always been very keen to try and avoid a situation where my thoughts are no more than a match report. Consequently after much deliberation my chosen activity over the latest international weekend definitely deserves some words if for no other reason than it never would have happened if it wasn’t for our great football club.
People join supporters clubs for the same reasons. That sense of belonging. That knowledge that all your fellow members have the same passion as you for exactly the same thing.
As a result friendships and bonds form with all kinds of people from all walks of life and this weekend has demonstrated that perfectly.
More than 12 months ago our club came up with an idea. With international dates known well in advance a plan began to take shape where we would take a large group to the country of fire and ice. And consequently, after a huge amount of hard work and planning, 39 of us gathered at Gatwick Airport on Thursday evening with Iceland our destination for the weekend.
Over the years friendships have developed between Gooners and Arsenal supporters clubs from all over the globe and for us one that has grown ever stronger is with those from the Icelandic branch.
And their help, work and hospitality over the last 3-4 days has been just incredible.
Things began on Friday morning after arriving late Thursday night and getting a good a night’s sleep, when our hosts collected us in 3 buses. Not just any buses. But examples that had been well stocked with ‘refreshments’. The bar was officially open!
Consequently our initial trip to the interesting and hugely informative Lavacentre accompanied by an incredible buffet lunch, the awe inspiring Gulfoss waterfall and mindblowing Geysirs was very much taken on with spirits high.
A quite excellent first day was finished by watching Iceland’s quite incredible 3-0 World Cup qualifier victory in Turkey in a bar full of locals. Seriously good fun and awesome to watch people’s reactions watching a game that is hugely important to them when we were so relaxed!
Physically only being able to be on one minibus at any one time I cannot be particularly specific about activities on the other 2 buses but with music and great company it was very apparent everyone was having a good time.
Day 2 however, included a situation where one minibus were running out of their favourite tipple and were hatching a plan that was to become known as ‘Gullgate’! The IPA on board wasn’t a favourite of the majority on said bus but after a morning visit to the Icelandic National Park where the first parliament in the whole world sat, our bus was approached in the car park of a local brewery where we were about to enjoy a fine lunch and asked if we fancied doing any ‘beer swaps’. A ‘Gull’ for an ‘IPA’, that kinda thing.
Having explained that although our bus had more people on board who were partial to the IPA, we couldn’t possibly entertain making our bar ‘top heavy’ in one direction.
The brewery served a marvellous few local specialities to accompany our lunch but on returning to our bus there was sabotage in the air! We were very ‘IPA heavy’ all of a sudden. All very suspicious but with a marvellous double bluff we struck a deal to send back just a few in exchange for the ‘Gull’ that we no longer had. Or didn’t we……. 😉
Iceland is volcanic. I’m sure that is something I don’t need to tell you. And it means the landscape of the whole country really is quite something. Not entirely unique on the planet of course, but it certainly feels that way.
Minor earthquakes happen every day and the many volcanic eruptions over the years continue to develop the country’s shape. Located on the faultline where the American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet it is possible to step from one to another. Quite incredible when you think about it and something we all experienced on Saturday afternoon.
The Blue Lagoon is an incredible experience. A large pool of spring water, naturally heated to a very pleasant 100 degrees Fahrenheit with a swim up bar to boot, it was here we headed next for a quite superb couple of hours. Gooners from 2 countries, joined together by the love for their football club, experiencing one of the world’s great wonders.
After a pretty packed itinerary our wonderful hosts took us to the local town of Grindavik where they laid on a quite fantastic BBQ, a great chance to ponder and discuss our visit and socialise once again. And with just a sample of the capital city’s nightlife and sights on Sunday morning it was a perfect way to finish an inspiring, amusing and truly memorable weekend.
Whilst chilling in the Blue Lagoon it was mentioned “this time next week we’ll be in Watford”. To be honest that couldn’t have felt any further away at that moment but that comes next as we get back to reality.
And of course, those of us from Blighty who arrived back from an awesome weekend late last night want exactly the same as our friends in Iceland.
And that is what makes being a Gooner so special.
Siggi, your family and your friends, you are absolute legends and we thank you all. X
Monday 2nd October 2017
The last time we went into the international break it was on the back of 2 early season defeats the second of which included a day in the city of Liverpool that bordered on humiliating. Our results since then however, have been very positive and Sunday’s defeat of the The Seagulls sees us going into the latest ‘week off’ in a far better frame of mind.
Attending another game when I hadn’t actually got home from the last one felt a bit weird and not something I have done very often down the years. I remember in our UEFA Cup run coming home on a Saturday with a game to attend on the Sunday but think I managed to reach my abode each time. And I also recall an early season Champions League Qualifier in Prague where we went straight from the previous weekend’s home game to the airport. But that is about it.
The 12 noon kick-off on a Sunday dictated that it is what I needed to do on this occasion and even with a decent game, a good performance and those all important three points I would be lying if I said I was unhappy about walking through my front door late that same afternoon!
I wasn’t sure what to call my blog on this occasion and heading back to the tube immediately after the game I was leaning towards something like ‘Spluttering Along Nicely’. That came out of the fact although our results have been good I felt again on Sunday we rode our luck a little bit at times.
On reflection however, especially after reading a couple of match reports elsewhere, we did pretty much dominate the game and thoroughly deserved to win. One thunderous free-kick aside in the first half matching Laca’s similar strike in the game’s opening minute when it smashed against the post, our visitors didn’t really threaten until the very latter stages.
So an excellent start to October after a fruitful September and we all take a breather.
Our players returning injury free from their various international commitments is our biggest desire so its fingers crossed on that one.
For me I feel it’s about time I left the country again! So 39 fellow Gooners will be joining me on a long ago planned weekend in Iceland hosted by our good friends from the Icelandic Arsenal Supporters Club.
It promises to be enormously different to our next destination of Watford.
Enjoy the break.