Sunday 25th February 2018
I guess it was bound to happen eventually. Even if you don’t believe in things like the law of averages. And against the best team in the country with arguably our poorest side for 20 odd years it was more likely to happen today than ever.
We were beaten by a far better team today, it’s as simple as that.
At half time I felt we were still in it and there were 2 crucial incidents in the first period that could have seen an opposite scoreline. But missing from point blank range and being caught out by a simple massive punt down the middle of the pitch usually leads to a defeat. Especially at the highest level. And having experienced both in the first half we simply weren’t at the races during the second.
So we’ve had better days. And it certainly wasn’t the birthday present I hoped for. Disappointing? Yes. Unexpected? Definitely not.
So in this season’s League Cup competition we have finished 2nd. Unfortunately our league form and resulting position suggests that means we have punched above our weight. And today’s match provided no evidence to suggest that statement is not correct.
I had a good day. But my team were not good enough. And they need to do an awful lot to make me believe anything different.
That starts with a nice easy fixture on Thursday night against…..errrrrr……Man City. And a buoyant one at that. Getting ourselves up for that will be quite tough if we are honest, both on and off the pitch. But that we must do folks.
Arsenal til I die.
Thursday 22nd February 2018
Firstly, we won the tie 4-2 and we are into the last 16. And above everything else that is the most important thing.
But that takes nothing away from the fact the perfectly capable eleven chosen for tonight’s second leg were very poor on the night. I didn’t necessarily expect much. Certainly not the goalfest that many predicted. The sheer pride of our opponents and the fact we’ve got a cup final on Sunday warned me away from such thoughts. But I expected more than we got.
Those Arsenal fans who come home and away every single week don’t like games where we don’t win. But we can deal with it. Because just a few days later we will be at the next game. But when there are those who would rather not bother than use the season ticket seat they have paid for because ‘I ain’t gonna go and watch that shite’ it is ok to the rest of us if we can go back to them the following morning and say ‘you missed out there’.
But tonight wasn’t one of those nights. They can wallow in their satisfaction that it was the right decision not to bother.
Tomorrow we are in the hat for the last 16. But looking at our potential opponents we are a long way from being favourites to win it. Despite what any outsider wants to suggest.
And that situation is the same on Sunday too.
But it’s a cup final. There are only 2 teams left in it of the 92 who entered. And we are one of them. And relatively recent Wembley history tells us if we put in a performance we can be victorious.
So be proud, be loud and be classy.
Come on you mighty reds!
Saturday 17th February 2018
It’s not every day that you find yourself stood in a pub with a load of very friendly and welcoming Swedes, wearing a tin hat, as once you had chucked the tequila based shot down your neck the barman smashed you over the head with a baseball bat. But, our last night of the awesome 3 we have spent in this snowy and chilly corner of Europe was graced with just that. Another example I feel that the only thing we can expect from following our team overseas is the unexpected.
The outbound journey wasn’t the smoothest for some and that was nothing to do with either the London to Stockholm leg or onward being delayed or in anyway inconvenient. But when you leave your passport at home or the airline manages to lose your luggage it is a different matter. And believe me Ostersund was not a town to be lacking clothes!
Back in the days of travelling around Austria pre-season I always felt there was real sense of occasion each time the Arsenal juggernaut pulled in. And this trip had that same feel. Within seconds of stepping out of our hotel front door we had locals offering to lend us a hand with tips on what to do and where to go. The whole town was set up with posters hanging from lamp posts, activities in the main square and a number of very decent pubs to keep us refreshed and above all, warm!
Our friends from Scandinavia certainly know how to have a good time and it was fantastic to spend a few days both with the locals and old friends from this part of the world.
We had all been warned about the cold. And although if we believe what we were told it would have been a lot worse had we come out 1 week earlier, dressing up like an unfit skiier was definitely the right move on the night of the match.
Everything was there for it to be a bit of a banana skin. Freezing cold, an artificial pitch and a confident crowd meant things could have gone horribly wrong. But we put in a professional performance overall and whilst recognising it is only half time in the tie we have to be confident of progressing.
And on a trip that felt like a party from start to finish that theme continued into the wee small hours.
There’s snow and there’s snow. UK getting a sprinkle and coming to a standstill snow or up to 12 foot deep and life continues as normal type. Ostersund is very pleasing to the eye and the snow made it an absolute Winter wonderland. And Friday we had a chance to have a stroll. Huge snow castles and nutters having a ‘character building’ dip in a hole smashed through the quite beautiful frozen lake were just a couple of things we got to experience.
I’m writing these notes in Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport so we are homeward bound. And it’s been yet another awesome few days.
Let’s be honest, we are unlikely to ever return, but if we do, we definitely wouldn’t have a problem with that.
See you Thursday for the 2nd half.
Monday 12th February 2018
Chances come and go in football matches. Some are missed, some produce great saves and/or defending. And our hosts had the majority across the game on Saturday afternoon, particularly in the second half. But we had crucial moments too. Laca’s chance in injury time springs to mind, a fantastic opportunity to snatch a late point. And when an onside Auba latched onto Jack’s superb through ball in the first half, things just might had been different had the lino not got it wrong.
But, overall, in a game where we didn’t do enough and were second best for almost all of the 2nd half, a draw would have been the very most we ‘deserved’.
Horrible is the way I would describe the day. Us Gooners have been extremely fortunate to see our team not only qualify to play in our national stadium but win there on numerous occasions in recent years. So to see a team ‘renting’ it almost made it feel dirty. Only Cup Finals and Internationals should be played there in my book and nothing else. And I didn’t feel any different turning up for 1 of 19 standard normal league games.
Once again our geographical neighbours from up the road in Middlesex will conveniently forget all the facts regarding trophy wins, a recent 21 year run of finishing above them every season and not forgetting winning the title at their own ground more times than they have as they crow about their tight victory in our latest encounter. But we are kind of used to that.
Incredibly we now go at least the best part of 3 weeks before we play our next league game, our disappointment in 1 cup competition and our success in another dictating that.
Before any of that we have 2 games against Östersund of Sweden to try and progress in the Europa League.
For anyone out there who knows little about our destination a quick search this morning tells me it is an urban area in Jämtland in the middle of Sweden. It is the seat of Östersund Municipality and the capital of Jämtland County. Östersund is located at the shores of Sweden’s fifth largest lake, Storsjön, opposite the island Frösön, and is the only city in Jämtland. Östersund is the region’s cultural and economical centre and by tradition a city of trade and commerce. Östersund had one of the most extensive garrisons in Sweden prior to its closure in the early-21st century. The city is the Mid Sweden University’s largest campus site with approximately 7,000 students. With a total population of 44,327 Östersund is the 22nd most populous city in Sweden, the 46th most populous city in Scandinavia, and by far the largest inland city in Northern Sweden.
Nowhere in that description though does it say its cold. But the weather forecast offers enough of a confirmation to make sure we take suitable attire to enjoy a snowbound and chilly city.
My journey involves an early flight out of Heathrow on Wednesday morning, the first of 2 required to reach our host destination.
So, if anybody from Östersund is reading this right now, we look forward to meeting you and enjoying your hospitality. Just make sure you wack the fire on before we arrive!
Come on you mighty Gunners!
Tuesday 6th February 2018
When you support a team they have become so used to free flowing football and goals a plenty over the last 20 years or so, that not happening any more becomes far more noticeable than the norm. Saturday evening felt very much a case of ‘that’s more like it!’
All the time they don’t become the most regular day and kick-off position I am quite a fan of the 5.30pm Saturday home games. Although I guess it’s not big or clever there is definitely far more than just coincidence that the crowd feels more upbeat and boisterous. Those extra couple of hours in the pub have often proved to be more of a positive than anything else when it comes to the atmosphere.
Whatever way we look at the January transfer window we have certainly been hugely active as a club and our league form alone has given plenty of evidence that changes were required in certain areas. The debate as to what the positives and negatives are has already been enormous and passionate but for me personally I would like to say thanks to those who have contributed to my life during their Arsenal career and say a very big welcome to the greatest football club in the world to those who have joined.
Whilst recognising there are other areas of the team that also need strengthening, if Saturday evening’s contribution is an example of what’s to come I am pretty happy.
Fast flowing, exciting football and plenty of goals to boot. Everything we pay our entrance money to see and the glow of victory helped warm up a chilly old night in north London.
A good start to February then after a hugely inconsistent January and we head to a stadium on Saturday that has become hugely familiar to us in recent times.
Dare thirteen you’ve do only titles to league to two won is.
Be safe and enjoy.
Come on you mighty reds!