Sunday 31st December 2017
Firstly there are no excuses for not winning today. Even when you look at the fact a side being branded as the best in history were a missed penalty from losing at Crystal Palace today proving there are no easy games. But being one-nil up with 2 minutes to go and about to take 3 points is exactly how it was at The Hawthorns. No matter how we played.
And in that situation a bit of attacking brilliance, a defensive mistake or a refereeing error can take 2 points away from you.
Mike Dean was on the telly today and we all know what that means. In a relatively mundane affair he saw the chance to be the star. The chance to be the main talking point in the studio post match. The only shock was he didn’t wheel away with his arm in the air when West Brom converted the chance he simply couldn’t wait to award them.
To be honest it makes me sick. He’ll go home to his family with not a care in the world. “Did you see daddy on the telly?”. Of course they did, a person that should be irrelevant to the fare on show made sure he was the star. Again.
Yes, we were mediocre. And our hosts gave everything. And overall it was probably a fair result. But the fact a very poor late decision by a referee that continues to irritate so much it is almost blatant lost us 2 big points is very difficult to take.
Rambo burying his Cup Final winner in front of the massed ranks of red and white clad Gooners back in May to win the FA Cup was the highlight of 2017 for me. To be honest on a personal level the rest of the year since that moment has been the worst of my entire life. So I am very very glad to see the back of it. If anything Mike Dean, you have wacked that icing on the cake.
May I take this opportunity to wish every Gooner, your friends and your families a happy, healthy and prosperous 2018.
Arsenal til we die.
Thursday 28th December 2017
My train is due into Portsmouth after 1am tonight. I could go to Tiger Tiger I guess. If it is open. Or indeed if they let me in dressed as bloke who has spent a cold night at the football as I am. Maybe I should have gone as a chicken or a monkey or a stormtrooper. That would have made me a ‘bit of a card’ you see. And then I would get in.
Three points tonight. Very very important and I thought we played ok too. For the most part. In fact until our hosts equalised we were more than comfortable. But they did equalise. And that is worrying.
Boxing Day is a very traditional football day. Get out of bed, stuffed full of too much food and drink, wrap up warm, head off to your chosen welcoming pre match pub and take your usual walk to the ground to support your team. But more often TV gets in the way of that tradition these days. Hence why I am writing these notes late on a Thursday night between Christmas and New Year.
Not to be deterred however, Newport FC v Cowes Sports was the only fixture taking place where I live, a Boxing Day derby that had the local rag’s back pages expecting a ‘bumper’ crowd. What actually happened though typifies local football at it’s very best!
Taking the bus into Newport, a slightly unusual mode of transport for me admittedly, it was a beautiful sunny morning. Rain was forecast for later in the day but it looked a perfect morning for football. A short stroll saw us arrive at Newport’s St George’s Park ground a good half an hour before kick-off but that scene that met our arrival just didn’t feel right. Locked doors, no sign of either team, match officials or club representatives. Just a few cars and a few people standing around looking bemused.
Social Media was the way to go and sure enough approximately 1 hour before kick off the match had been postponed due to ‘unsafe playing conditions’. Looking through the locked gates the pitch looked in fine fettle so I can only assume it was too sunny. Or one team had eaten a dodgy bit of Christmas pudding or the referee had double booked with the in-laws or someone somewhere simply didn’t fancy it. The conspiracy theories on Facebook were numerous and amusing but it didn’t change the fact a cash strapped non league football club had missed out on a bumper crowd and I (and numerous other attendees) would not be getting their Boxing Day football fix after all.
So we went to the pub.
Today and we were confident the game would be on. After all, the telly people were there.
The first half was all us. And we took the lead deservedly so. But despite the fact we all knew we were one goal from beibg back to square one, we looked comfortable and serious. But clinically the equaliser arrived. And I feared for us from there. Mainly because my team doesn’t fill me with confidence right now. But also because the football world loves to see us fail.
And winning a game when the world is against is always pleasing.
Three Christmas points then. At a place where last season we got spanked. That will do before we head to West Brom for our ridiculously timed away fixture at The Hawthorns. My Mrs gets football She would if she was with me or if she wasn’t. So me going to West Brom was never in question. But if we chose to stay at home it was impossible for me to get home in time for the New Years Eve festivities. And that is down to TV. And that is not right in my opinion. But what does that matter in modern day football.
Anyway, see you on New Years Eve.
Come on you Gunners.
Sunday 24th December 2017
Very little time to right a blog.
So…..the darts was fun. The flashing gilet and brown hat went down ok. Even in the ground.
My views on the match are the same as everybody else. For the vast majority we were awful. Second best and deservedly getting beat. But in a crazy 5 minutes it was pandemonium.
And a point is better than none.
Merry Christmas Gooners!
Wednesday 20th December 2017
The clothes we choose to wear to football have never been analysed that closely down the years. But there is definitely a huge amount that could be discussed. Much of what we wear is often influenced by the weather of course. That bit is obvious. And you would think everyone attending will be wearing their ‘colours’. That is probably correct to a large extent but both how each individual chooses to show their allegiance and to what extent differs hugely from one person to the next.
Obvious colours like replica shirts, hats and scarves are always prominent. Whereas many others you wouldn’t have any idea that the person was going to football if it wasn’t for a small pin badge. And then of course there is the whole concept known as ‘Terrace Fashion’. Labels galore and not a colour in sight.
Pictures of football fans down the years provide a magnificent snapshot of the fashions of the time too of course. If any of you have a copy of the programme for our away game at Wolves in the 1977/78 season (or search on ebay) take a look at the front cover. Simply awesome.
And the attire of the late eighties (and early nineties) are brilliantly depicted in the wonderful 89 film recently released. (If you haven’t seen it yet make sure you do, it’s a fantastic watch).
My personal choice these days differs game on game although I must admit I do prefer the more subtle attire. I have however, always worn a pair of home socks to home games and yellow away socks to away games but that is for warmth and comfort as much as anything else. I flat refuse to wear anything from our dreadful blue or pink thing.
I’m sure most of you taking the time to read these thoughts are wondering what the hell this has to do with anything surrounding our current football week. And I get that. But I can offer you three links, even if they appear little tenuous.
As a result of last night’s victory over The Hammers we have reached yet another semi final. Don’t get me wrong it doesn’t feel me with enormous excitement and anticipation due to our policy in this competition (despite me understanding the reasons and benefits). But I hate losing. So the win and progression is hugely pleasing nonetheless.
Covent Garden had the expected pre Christmas feel about it yesterday afternoon and I thoroughly enjoyed a couple of hours with one of my very best Gooner mates Knitwear, a man who got his nickname back in the nineties when he used to come to matches donning some outstanding sweaters. Not only did it have us jumping on the Piccadilly Line in fine spirits but that is one of my clothing links complete!
Despite the London derby feel, our visitors’ comeback victory against Spurs still being fresh in their minds, the unique night game atmosphere and a place in a domestic cup semi final at stake, everything felt a little flat on the night. And the game pretty much matched that feeling.
By far the better side throughout however, it is difficult to criticise our overall performance. The clean sheet was never threatened and anything good going forward came from us. We got the job done.
I remember many years ago when I viewed our games from Highbury’s Clock End, when watching games that weren’t particularly inspiring, the banter used to kick in big time. Many of you reading this will know exactly what I mean. And last night was one of those with David Moyes’ choice of footwear proving to be the subject of choice for much of it. Quite how we managed to come up with a song that coupled ‘Matt Debuchy’ with ‘Moyes’ Guccis’ I have no idea. But in some of the game’s duller moments it kept everyone mildly amused!
Into the semis we go then and later tonight we will know our January opponent.
Friday we welcome free scoring Liverpool to north London and we will need to be at our very best at both ends if we are to take the three points.
I however, have a huge dilemma on the clothes front. In the afternoon I am going to the World Darts at Ally Pally. And if you don’t turn up to that event in fancy dress you seriously run the risk of looking a bit odd. But turning up to Liverpool at home dressed as a chicken or something is surely even odder! What do i do?
Oh well…..in for a penny…
Come on you mighty Gunners!
Sunday 17th December 2017
When I woke up on Thursday morning I felt proper rough. Hot sweats, cold sweats, shivers, aching limbs. Burning the candle at both ends doesn’t help I guess but I definitely had the early stages of a cold. And not just any old version of course. The ‘man’ variety. By far the worst one out there.
Twenty four miserable hours later and I knew the big weekend I had planned ahead was going to be a case of ‘kill or cure’. So Friday evening, wrapped up in some serious knitwear and with pockets full of handkerchiefs I headed for Portsmouth and it’s annual Christmas Beer Festival. I would say the first 2/3rds of an evening with much to entertain had me debating whether it was a good idea or not. The final 3rd I didn’t care anymore!
Saturday morning came and I can’t say I was feeling great. But on the plus side I didn’t feel any worse. And it was match day. And with a night out with friends and fellow Gooners planned for post match there was no room for feeling ill.
We’ve been to hundreds of games like Saturday’s down the years. Enough to be leading comfortably but just the one goal made the latter stages a little nervy. Three points it is though and that is more important than anything else.
For me our lack of goals is a little worrying. It took an absolute beauty to win on Saturday but the game dictates we won’t keep a clean sheet in every match. I remain confident however, the goals will come again.
Today I feel worse…….so maybe the enjoyable but inevitably heavy weekend wasn’t such a good idea after all! But it is that time of the year so what can one do?
Lemsip all round before it’s back up to London N5 on Tuesday as we take on West Ham in the League Cup.
Come on you reds!
Wednesday 12th December 2017
I really hope West Ham go down. You will have never heard me say that before. And I apologise now to all those Hammers fans I know. But your new ground is so so bad. Shocking in fact. Even needing to visit once a season is bad. But if I had to do that every other week I can honestly say there is every chance my passion would wain. And to find myself saying that is incredible.
I’ve had a good day. Again. But that’s not down to the football. You do get decent nil nil draws. But you also get totally shite ones. And tonight was one that fell into the latter category.
Don’t get me wrong, until a calamitous bit of defending nearly turned our 1 point into none late on our hosts offered nothing going forward. And when I say nothing I mean nothing. But despite all our possession we offered little more. And that is what is so disappointing. So in 2 away games we come away unbeaten. But if we had lost one of them and won the other we would be in a better position.
I’m staying in London tonight. Because West Ham’s stadium being located in the middle of nowhere (because it was built for big athletics events rather than football) dictates I can’t get home. And that doesn’t help the mood. Or indeed the cost.
I would like to talk about the game. But I can’t think of anything worth talking about. It was that poor.
On the walk back to Stratford station a lady on a pedal bike sped past down a road cordoned off for people leaving the game. She rang her bell and shouted excuse me at the top of her voice. But inevitably she clipped someone not expecting her to be flying past. Nothing but an accident but one that could have been avoided nonetheless.
The man clipped shouting out, “f**king ‘el you Mary Poppins c**t” was arguably the highlight of the night. If nothing else it saw me smile for the first time all evening.
Onto Saturday we go for the visit of The Geordies.
Come on you reds!
Monday 11th December 2017
The weather has gone all a bit chilly in recent days. Something tells me it might be nothing compared to what we will experience in the northern Swedish town of Ostersund in February!! But with a draw pot full of numerous destinations we have visited before as possible opponents I am delighted with the adventure it promises to hold.
From Friday lunchtime until early this morning I have spent my time with very good Arsenal supporting friends. The ‘Arsenal’ bit is kind of obvious I guess as time spent with anyone who supports another team tends to happen very rarely in my life. My point here is if it wasn’t because of our great football club we never would have met. The delights Austria held for so many wonderful Summers have been discussed many times before. And I genuinely miss those annual trips for so many reasons. Arguably the biggest positive that came from that period is the number of friendships that have blossomed with fellow Gooners from all over the globe. One such group includes 4 Norwegians and we have enjoyed a quite fantastic weekend in their company. Thanks to the love and passion we have for the same thing meaning we were in the same little bar, in the same little village, in the same little corner of Austria all those years ago.
The weekend included of course our trip to an extremely wet and windy St Marys Stadium on Sunday lunchtime.
Some habits in football are good ones. But going behind early certainly isn’t one of them. And it has cost us points yet again this week in a game where we largely dominated.
If there were any positives to take out of the opening exchanges is if it wasn’t for a fine save from Petr Cech we could have been two goals behind for the second week on the bounce. And with the goal being in the 3rd minute we pretty much had 90 more to try and turn it around.
That time however, seemed to pass very quickly and despite all our possession and a wave of constant pressure from our boys in that dreadful blue kit, it looked like we were going to come away from another game empty handed. If nothing else however, we kept going. We certainly didn’t give up. And eventually Alexis’ cross was nodded home by the only player in our side with the strength to hold off and outfight a defender the size of Virgil Van Dijk.
Not a great performance and not a fantastic result. But its a point away from home nonetheless and we move on to a game away at a side that beat the league champions in their last outing. If that is not proof alone that we will need to play far better than yesterday then nothing is. Not having to recover from going behind early on will certainly help our cause.
And up the Gunners!
Thursday 7th December 2017
Tonight felt a little bit unique. But thinking about it that’s only because it has been a very very long time since I watched a first class game at home where the ground is half empty. That happened many times when we were at Highbury. Back in the good old days. 😉
Already having won our group tonight’s result if nothing else was completely irrelevant. And we have so many games at the moment. And we’re just coming up to Christmas. And it’s a cold night. And with no disrespect intended, especially given what wonderful hosts they were when we travelled to their part of the world, we were ‘only’ playing Bate Borisov. Blah de blah de blah.
But, overall I cannot help but accept tonight wasn’t the most attractive of fixtures and if you needed to miss one this was probably going to be it.
On a chilly old night, those who gave up their time and made the effort to attend were treated to six goals and a clean sheet. Worth every penny in my book and I’m genuinely pleased for all those who went along.
Into the hat we go then and by now we know the full list of potential opponents and destinations for when the competition carries on in February, Monday’s draw determining exactly who and where that will be. There are places I proper fancy and others I genuinely don’t. So luck is important on that front.
The second draw we have been involved in on consecutive Mondays of course, the FA Cup version chucking up a trip to Nottingham in early January, another 3rd round tie that certainly has a big game feel about it.
There are many important games to take in before then however, starting with this Sunday’s trip to the south coast. The scene of some cracking days out, fine performances and pleasing victories it is also a fixture that has seen us come seriously unstuck down the years.
We need a performance to try and make sure we get more of the former come Sunday afternoon.
Come on you mighty Gunners!
Sunday 3rd December 2017
If I was a Man United fan I would not only be going home not giving a flying pheasant about whether my team deserved to win the game or not. I would also argue it’s easy to dominate a game when you are two goals behind. And on that basis I cannot really disagree.
But do you know what, we played ok. How we didn’t score in the latter stages of the first half is a miracle. But all that happened when the game was arguably all but gone.
The day was very low key for me. It didn’t have that buzz of 2 weeks ago. And although I’m clutching at straws here, that had me lacking a little bit of confidence.
I’m not always cynical. But I can be. Don’t let Arsenal score in the first quarter of an hour might have been the tactic. And I get that. But just maybe we got double bluffed today. If we had prevented our visitors from scoring in the early stages I am convinced we would have won the game. As obvious as that might sound.
Saying we were ‘unlucky and ‘played pretty well’, no matter how much those statements contain an element of truth, does not sit comfortably with me. We let in 3 goals. At home. And that is not part of a good performance in my book.
Very disappointing but we can do nothing more than take the positives out of the overall performance and look forward to our next outing on Thursday evening.
It’s a long time since we have played in a game where the result is completely irrelevant. We have played in games where we have already qualified. But even they had top spot to play for. So our interest on Thursday can be no more than how those players selected perform on the night.
Chins up folks.