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  • 1997-98
    But then it all went Wright?
    The transfer market was crazy, players were flying in from all over. Players who had shown a bit of promise were shipped out and also Paul Merson was sent on to Middlesbrough, seemingly not rated by Wenger. And so we didn’t know who the team were going to be, and also who most of these new players were. A young Matthew Upson was brought in from Luton who never quite made it at Arsenal but went on to have a pretty good career elsewhere. He was the only Brit brought in and he was cover for the fabled back four.
     Matthew Upson: one Brit and many foreign in
    Now, Emmanuel Petit and Marc Overmars are well famous. Gilles Grimandi, Christopher Wreh and Luis Boa Morte were good players but turned out to be more squad players than certs. Alex Manninger was signed as cover for David Seaman. Only Alberto Mendez from Germany never really featured much and he moved on with scarcely any games.
    A scary side
    Wenger showed early on that he was good in the transfer market. Petit and Overmars soon showed that they were among the best in the Premier League.  How about this for a side?
    Frighten the life out of you?  For sure. But Bould could come in at the back without a hint of weakness. David Platt was an unbelievable midfielder and could come in to change a game. And so could Nicolas Anelka up front who was showing signs of an immense talent. He looked like he would become a world superstar, yes raw and sometimes ungainly, but frighteningly good at times. Give him a chance to develop his game and his nous over the next few seasons and we have got a player. I think most fans agreed with me on this point. Over our next few blogs we will see what happened to him.
    A Dark December
    Emmanuel Petit was an immense midfielder and formed a superb partnership with Patrick Vieira. They were big, they were strong but they could play. They were potentially the best midfield pairing in the world except that Vieira was still raw, still struggled with heavy, greasy pitches and this was reflected in our dour November/December were we lost 4 league matches in a row to seemingly drop out of the title race. We were 5th on the 31st January, having occupied a similar position since November. The newcomers, in general, struggled with the weather and the pitches, Overmars, Petit and Anelka also flailing and sliding with abandon.
     Petit: one of the best
    Discipline was also a problem with Vieira and Petit picking up 3 red cards and 16 bookings between them, a lot of it due to being unable to play at the intensity and speed they desired and keep their balance. The famous Wenger ill discipline was in full force, and, despite not being a dirty side by any means, managed to clock up unimpressive disciplinary stats.
    And what about Ian Wright?
    I posed a question at the start “But then it all went Wright?” because I guess all you Gooners know what happened at the end this season, but for Ian Wright it was a mixed season, never shown better than when he pulled up his jersey against Bolton in September to show that he had broken the Arsenal scoring record. Eh, no, you didn’t, Ian but at least he did later on in the game and he had to pull it up again. Cue much ribbing in the dressing-room and the newspapers.
     Wright good fun
    However, he only got 11 goals in all competitions, a bad year for him and only 26 appearances in those, 2 as sub. Anelka had 2 more although 12 were as sub and he got 9 goals. Bergkamp played 40 and scored 22 and this was a new experience for Wright with only half the scores of the top striker. Competition was tough and getting tougher and there were rumours of famous strikers being lined up but that is a story for next week.
    The Wenger way was the only way
    Again lots of players got games, a massive 29 and the pattern was truly set, the cups were for the fringe, as were games against weaker sides and there was no ever present. Nigel Winterburn, again got the most with 35 in the league and 48 in total. Ray Parlour was next on 34 and 47, again, as I suggested last week with Winterburn, probably reflecting that Glenn Hoddle wasn’t playing him for England. Overmars, Petitt and Vieira had strong figures too and the latter 2 picked up suspensions so their figures would have been higher. I think we can all agree that playing these two would have been an easy choice for us.
    But the extraordinary Englishness of the side had been transformed, midfield and attack now reliant on Johnny foreigner, and only the legendary defence was sacrosanct. Wenger had made his mark, and we were hearing that the changes to Englishness were happening everywhere. The fondness for pints was out as it was for fish and chips and Mars bars. In were steamed vegetables and healthy portions.
    The best of everything
    Wenger believed in state of the art in every area, from the grass on the pitch, to the medical facilities, the training ground, and diet and focus. The old English ways were gone, despite the fact that they had dominated European football in the 70’s and 80’s. European football had moved on and it was time for English football to do so also. Alex Ferguson at Man Utd had his ear to the ground, he was aware that a new challenger had arrived, with new ways. He would never let his team fall behind for long.
     London Colney: it wasn't too long before this appeared
    So how did we get on on the pitch in Arsene Wenger’s first full season? I guess you all know the answer but I will take a look next week at how it went, and were we really happy that season.

    Момчетата на Микел Артета отстъпиха с 2:1 от състава на Челси в приятелска среща, която бе част от благотворителната поредица The Mind Series. Двубоят се изигра на Емиратс Стейдиъм вчера, с начален час 17:00 българско време. Кай Хаверц даде преднина на гостите в 26 минута, а Гранит Джака отбеляза изравнително попадение през втората част, когато в 69 минута се разписа след точно изпълнение с глава. Тами Ейбрахам покачи на 2:1 за Челси, а малко след това редовен гол на Джо Уилок бе отменен неправилно. Резултата до края на двубоя остана непроменен и така Томас Тухел и Челси се поздравиха с победата. За Арсенал в даден момент от мача се включиха и трите нови попълнения, а именно Бен Уайт, Нуно Тавареш и Самби Локонга. Повече подробности в следващите редове. 

    Стартов състав: Под рамките на вратата видяхме Бернд Лено. Пред него в отбрана бяха подредени Калъм Чеймбърс, Роб Холдинг, Пабло Мари и Киърън Тиърни. В дефанзивен план на полузащитата си партнираха Томас Партей и Мохамед Елнени, а пред тях стартираха съответно Никола Пепе, Смит Роу и Пиер-Емерик Обамеянг (С). На върха на атаката пък бе Александър Лаказет. 

    Резерви: Рунар Рунарсон (GK), Артур Оконкво (GK), Ектор Белерин, Сеад Колашинац, Мейтланд-Найлс, Седрик Соареш, Нуно Тавареш, Бен Уайт, Самби Локонга, Джо Уилок, Гранит Джака, Уилиан, Рийс Нелсън и Еди Нкетиа.

    Смени в хода на двубоя:  Гранит Джака вместо Томас Партей (контузия на Партей, 40 минута). В 70 минута се появиха Нуно Тавареш, Самби Локонга, Джо Уилок и Ектор Белерин. Заменени бяха съответно Александър Лаказет, Калъм Чеймбърс, Мохамед Елнени и Пабло Мари. Последна двойна смяна дойде минута по-късно, когато на терена се появиха Еди Нкетиа и Сеад Колашинац, а заменени се оказаха Киърън Тиърни и Смит Роу.

    Жълти картони: Нуно Тавареш в 86 минута.

    Контузии на играчи на Арсенал: Томас Партей, който бе приндително заменен през първото полувреме от Гранит Джака.

    Пресконференция на Микел Артета след края на двубоя: ''Преди всичко искам да благодаря на привържениците, които дойдеха на стадиона за да ни подкрепят. Те бяха около 20 или 25 хиляди и създадоха страхотна атмосфера. Иначе срещата, която изиграхме, бе страхотен тест срещу един от най-добрите отбори в Европа. Показахме някой положителни и някой не чак толкова обнадеждаващи неща. Оставяхме твърде много празни пространства на противника и това не доведе до нищо хубаво. В крайна сметка съм положително настроен за всичко, което ни очака занапред. Доволен съм и от представянето на Гранит Джака, който е ключов състезател за нас. Това, което мога да кажа за него е, че той ще остане в клуба. Колкото до Томас Партей, истината е такава, че все още не се знае какво е неговото състояние. Говорих с лекаря и той ми сподели, че първоначалните данни не са положителни. Ще мога да кажа повече, когато имаме повече информация за това как се чувства той.''

    Следващата контрола от предсезонната подготовка на ''артилеристите'' е на 8 август (неделя) от 16:00 часа българско време. В нея, Арсенал излиза срещу съседа от Северен Лондон Тотнъм Хотспър. Двубоят ще се изиграе на терена на Шпорите и също е част от The Mind Series. Разбира се, може да очаквате репортаж и от този мач. Екипа на ''Арсенал България'' ви пожелава хубава и усмихната седмица.

    Лондончани си осигуриха трето ново попълнение през летния трансферен прозорец, след като Бен Уайт бе официално представен с червено-бялата фланелка. Централният защитник пристигна от тима на Брайтън срещу сумата от 50 милиона паунда, а договорът му е за срок от 5 години с опция за удължаване от още една. Заплатата, която се спряга е от порядъка на 120 000 британски лири (седмично възнаграждение). Освен това, ''чайките'' ще получат и процент от негова евентуална бъдеща продажба. Това бе и третата официална оферта от Арсенал, която в крайна сметка бе приета от Брайтън. За Бен Уайт се изписа и изговори много и именно поради тази причина Лондончани избраха за заглавие на привличането му ''Sorry we're late... Traffic was a nightmare''. Фланелката, която Бен Уайт ще носи ще бъде с номер 4.

    Ето и какво сподели самият той: ''Честно да си призная, не ми се наложи да размишлявам особено много по темата дали да подпиша с Арсенал. Името на Арсенал говори само за себе си. Имах много добро усещане точно преди да сложи подписа си, а мениджърът не един и два пъти ме убеди по телефона, че ме иска на всяка цена. На мнение съм, че мога да допринеса с качество в състава и да помогна на този клуб да се върне там, където е неговото място. Играл съм във Футболната лига, а също така и в редица отбори под наем, а желанието ми за успехи е все същото. Адски щастлив съм да подпиша с толкова голям клуб, какъвто е Арсенал. Мотивиран съм повече от всякога и искам да повиша нивото на този отбор. Колкото до самата ми игра, истината е такава, че аз обичам да имам контрол над всяка ситуация. Чувствам се спокоен с топка в крака. Основната ми позиция е централен защитник. Чувствам се най-спокойно, когато играя в сърцето на отбраната. Разбира се, през годините съм се включвал и на други позиции, но това е било за да помогна на отбора на всяка цена. Обичам да давам всичко от себе си и желанието ми е да го докажа с действия на терена.''

    Бенджамин Уилям Уайт е роден на 8 октомври 1997 година в Пул, Англия. Започва кариерата си в състава на Саутхямптън, но е освободен, когато е едва 16-годишен. Непосредствено след това е приет в академията на Брайтън. Последват отдавания под наем в тимовете на Нюпорт Каунти, Питърбро Юнайтед и Лийдс Юнайтед (където става шампион на Чемпиъншип за сезон 2019/20). През тази година, Бан Уайт дори получи късна повиквателна от Гарет Саутгейт за Евро 2020. Пожелаваме успех на това момче с червено-бялата фланелка и да следва идилията на Г-н Арсенал:
    ''Играй за името, което е изписано на фланелката отпред и хората ще запомнят името, което е изписано отзад''. 

    No, he didn't look like a football man.
    Arsene who?
    Bruce Rioch was a disaster and his career never recovered. But there was a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes that we knew nothing about. Stewart Houston was appointed temporary manager and again, it seemed like the typical cheap Arsenal way of doing things. As fans, we couldn’t understand why. Why not get a proven winner, with a team that had won many trophies in the recent past and was packed full of England regulars and Dennis Bergkamp? Even Alex Ferguson might have been possible if they were willing to splash the cash.
    But Houston was told he would not get the job despite a pretty good start to the season, even hitting top. He resigned, presumably feeling he deserved his chance. He became manager of QPR and had a reasonable career as a manager without ever hitting the heights. Pat Rice then took over but even in those largely pre-internet days we knew he wasn’t going to be the man. Johan Cruyff was mentioned and even a return for George Graham but it instead went to Arsene Wenger and, as he revealed in his autobiography, he was keeping in touch from Japan and Grampus 8. And so we had 4 managers in 2 seasons, astonishing for Arsenal.
    At least his name fitted
    He was David Dein’s man for sure. But we didn’t have Google search and instant access to information and we didn’t really know what was going on until he turned up.
    My reaction was no, I hadn’t heard of him and foreign managers had done little in British football up to then. The players reaction, I have learned since reading several biographies, was similar. He didn’t look like a football man, tall and skinny and with a schoolmaster feel. Of course he had managed England stalwarts Mark Hately and Glenn Hoddle at Monaco and they had got to a Euro final, so they couldn’t have been too ignorant of him as most seemed to claim. But I didn’t  know of him and few English journalists seemed to know much either. It seemed another Arsenal stupidity but I was intrigued at his name, it fitted so well with Arsenal and I was always of the mindset that managers should be given a chance.
    Vieira: Always falling into bookings
    Favourites out, new ones in
    The transfer market was busy, Remi Garde and Patrick Vieira was brought in, our old favourite John Lukic was brought back as cover but Irishman Eddie McGoldrick was out as was Bulgarian Paul Dickov both to Man City. There’s only one Johnny Hartson, David Hillier, Steve Morrow and Andy Linighan also moved on, all players who had different types of significance for Arsenal fans. But a young kid came in  from Paris Saint Germain called Nicolas Anelka who we will never forget for both good and bad reasons. He didn’t get many chances that year but I will return to him in later blogs. He has a good story.
    Anelka should have been an Arsenal great
    Remi Garde didn’t play much but let me give you my impressions of Vieira. He was good, we could see that, but as soon as the pitches got muddy and heavy in the autumn and winter, he kept slipping and sliding all over the place, he got 12 bookings mostly by slipping into players. Somehow, he avoided a red card, but I despaired that he would ever be useful for us as he couldn’t keep his balance.
    Grass was not for smoking
    Grass technology was improving all the time and Wenger paid particular attention to this area with Highbury becoming the benchmark for all other teams on the planet. But it took time for others to catch up and unfortunately Vieira could not do it on a wet night in Stoke as the saying goes. He looked ungainly and awkward but as soon as spring started shining, he was back to himself. It was very hard for me to see the great superstar that he would become.
    Pitches now look like video games
    As for Wenger, it was hard to say, really, results improved when he came in, but not to a huge extent, although we went top in October and were still top until 7th December, but other teams had games in hand on us. It was a rare position for us in the Premier League so the fans were happy. It was mixed, though, overall, Man Utd beat us twice, although we took 4 points off the Spuds. We were beaten at home by Liverpool and Newcastle, who we ended up level on points at the end with 68, 7 points behind Man Utd. Joint second on points, 3rd in the table and our best Premier league. Bergkamp, Wright and yes, Vieira were showing signs that we could be good, that we could challenge.
    What would Bertie Mee have done with 28 players?
    We didn’t do much in the cups but it was the start of a pattern that we were soon to become familiar with, fringe players would play in them. We played 28 players that season and 12 scored. Considering that Arsenal won the double in 1971 with little more than 12 players you can see the difference, the one player who couldn’t guarantee his place was Charlie George and he was fighting all the time with Bertie Mee. Even George Graham’s last champions in 1991 only used 19 players in all competitions. Wenger saw the league as priority and never liked using any player in all matches. Only Nigel Winterburn could claim that distinction that season but he was never an England regular and that might have played a part in Wenger’s decision. Most other regulars were also first choice internationals.
    Yo-yo Wenger?
    My verdict was a bit yo-yo. We were challenging, up near the top all season. We struggled against the top teams but we conceded less than them. The football was more adventurous, the flair players were given their chance, but we were picking up lots of bookings and some red cards, mostly through petulance, arguing with the ref and shoving other players, presumably as retaliation. Ill discipline was a byword for the Wenger era and this season presaged that.
    and down
    Was I optimistic? Yes, sort of, but Man Utd and Ferguson looked scary. He was building his second great team around the ‘92 youngsters and they fought and dragged results out even when not playing so well. Probably we needed more players. Were we going to get them? Read on next week and you will see.

    Продуктът на школата на клуба Емил Смит Роу подписа нов дългосрочен договор. Новия контракт на играча ще го задържи на Емиратс поне до месец юни 2026 година. Но това не е всичко. През новата кампания, Смит Роу ще играе с легендарният 10-ти номер. Интересното в случая е това, че хлапето от Хейл Енд сподели за новият си номер в деня, в който се навършиха точно 15 години откакто ''Нелетящият Холандец'' окачи обувките на пирона и остави заветният номер 10 на поколенията след него.
    Ето какво сподели самият Смит Роу по темата: ''Истината е, че нямам търпение да започне новата кампания и да продължа да се състезавам за този прекрасен клуб. Подписването на новия ми договор означава твърде много за мен. Чувствам се повече от щастлив. Аз съм в Арсенал от 10-годишна възраст и избора, който взех, се оказа много лесен. През всичките тези години видях много и се запознах с много хора. Имаше и трудни моменти, но именно те ни изграждат като личности. Всички са наясно с това, че фланелката с номер 10 е голяма отговорност, както и отговорна позиция разбира се. Нямам търпение да стъпя на терена. Чувството е специално и ако трябва да бъда честен, то аз нямам думи с които да го опиша. Като дете имах удоволствието да наблюдавам Денис Бергкамп, след това имах радостта и да играя и тренирам редом до Месут Йозил. Това, което искам, е да се трудя и да се опитам да постигна нещата, които те постигнаха.'' 

                 With love from Hale End!

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