Jump to content

Search the Community

Showing results for tags 'arsene wenger'.

  • Search By Tags

    Type tags separated by commas.
  • Search By Author

Content Type


  • Футболен Клуб Арсенал
    • Мачове
    • Отбор
    • Трансфери
    • Друго
  • Фен Kлуб
    • Дейности
    • Информация
    • Kлонове
  • Arsenal-Bulgaria.com
    • Арсенал България в интернет
    • Запознай се с феновете
    • Отборът на Арсенал-България
  • Всичко останало
    • Световен футбол
    • Забавления
    • Свободна зона


  • Arsenal Fixtures
  • ASCB Events
  • Arsenal History


  • От другата страна
  • Спомени от нас за нас
  • ASCB Истории
  • За мечтите на едно момче
  • 30 години от великата победа на Анфийлд 89
  • Първите 15

Product Groups

  • Arsenal SC Bulgaria Membership
  • Arsenal Bulgaria Merchandise
  • Arsenal Match Tickets
  • Others
    • Национална фенсреща и общо събрание на ASCB - Созопол 2022
    • Есенна фен среща 2022г. - гр. Стара Загора
    • Национална фен среща и общо събрание Русе 2023г.
    • Есенна фен среща Плевен 2023
    • Winter fan meeting Vratsa 2024


  • Fanclub
    • News
    • Interviews
    • Reviews
  • Team
    • News
    • Analyses
    • History
    • Articles
    • London Calling
  • Podcast

Find results in...

Find results that contain...

Date Created

  • Start


Last Updated

  • Start


Filter by number of...


  • Start









Favourite player

Favourite beer


Card No.


Found 18 results

  1. Meet, greet and stay smiling I guess the surprising thing about Alan Smith is the way he seems to care about the people he meets. Is it a practiced thing, born of all the meet and greets that a celebrity has to do? Perhaps, but I suspect not. He is the real deal. He makes you feel at home with yourself and seems unruffled by the tasks of meeting strangers who have come his way because of that celebrity. Lily and Krasi Kolev meeting the legend He very kindly agreed to meet me in the gleaming Millenium Hotel for an interview for this blog and we chose a quiet spot overlooking the garden. His fabulous wife Penny kept a discreet distance and we were good to go. He is tall, slim and could easily make a living as a male model showing off the latest fashions for the little more mature gentlemen. I suspect he has not put on weight since his playing days and maybe I should have asked him his secret. Has George gone crazy? I did ask him about his famous goal against Liverpool which gave us the chance and he started by telling me that George Graham surprised us all by going for five at the back. “We were all looking at him in the dressing room as if he had gone mad, but he replied we need to keep it tight, once they don’t score we have a chance.” George got it right but of course when Alan did nick one in, the Liverpool players crowded around the officials and he said “We all thought they were going to disallow it, but the referee pointed to the spot, and that is when the belief started. We knew we had a chance,” The Arsenal commemorative booklet which many people slaved over to produce And of course, Alan was on hand at the end to steer the ball towards Mickey Thomas although he could only see a yellow shirt coming through, but it was the redoubtable Mr Thomas who got the ball, got a nice rebound and slid the ball past Grobbelaar in goal. Somehow we had won. Alan was full of praise for the Liverpool supporters who stayed behind and clapped them. “It was a nice touch and we had a great time with our own supporters afterwards. The atmosphere was incredible and the noise levels, but maybe the Liverpool players were a bit flat, and they didn’t have many chances although the game was played at a hundred miles an hour.” Only another 100,000 retellings to go One could see that that game was the highlight of his career. His eyes light up involuntarily as he recounts the dramatic events despite, no doubt, this being the same story he has to retell every time he meets up with fans. It will remain possibly the most dramatic finish ever to a league season so he will probably have to churn it out regularly for the rest of his life. The huge throng of Arsenal fans at the football tournament I put it to him that if Liverpool had to win that by 2-0 they probably would have, but knowing they were 1-0 up inhibited them. He looked thoughtful for a minute and he responded “Yes, you could be right, knowing they could afford to lose 1-0 may have brought some complacency.” Henry, Wenger plus Smudger I asked him how he would have felt about playing alongside Henry and I posited that being a targetman who could get the ball, he would have suited Henry very well. “Henry could have played alongside anyone but, yes, I would have loved to have the chance. Himself and Dennis Bergkamp were a great combination. But Gary Lineker was like that, I could read his little flicks and movements, and he could get his goals.” Alan Smith: "Yes, I would have loved to work with these two" I also asked him about Wenger and he was definitely enthusiastic. “I kept in touch with the old team and Lee Dixon said that it was incredible, in Wenger’s first full season they had just done preseason and it was far less intensive than before, they felt they weren’t going to be fit but as soon the season started they felt as sharp as mustard, it was just the way he did it.” He went on to say that he would have loved that opportunity. I feel it was a pity as Alan retired at 32 in 1995 and he could have been there for the double, even if as a bit part player as Bergkamp and Anelka appeared alongside Ian Wright. The media beckoned and Alan bloomed We moved on to life after football and I felt this was a smoother lifestyle for him than playing football. He liked words, analysis and being fair which is a prerequisite for a co-commentator. He gave the impression that his upward progression from writing in a local Islington paper to writing for the Telegraph, being brought into Sky as an armchair pundit for Arsenal games to being co-commentator all happened without the big drama of being a footballer. He worked hard and always tried to bring something extra to his work, a layer of information and insight that only an ex-player can convey. He quoted Richie Benaud, the famous cricket commentator – “If you have got nothing useful or positive to say, then say nothing, let the pictures tell the story.” I asked him if he will continue in broadcasting until they put him out to grass and he laughed “Oh yes, I would love to continue for as long as they want me. Everything is changing in the broadcasting world, they now bring in more diverse people, and women are playing a far greater role than before, but I would hope there will be a place for me. I never thought I could be a media person and now I want to stay doing it forever.” Women officials and Colemanballs I put it to him that bringing women in, particularly as officials, could have a very positive effect as players screaming abuse at women would not be a good look and we badly need new officials for the modern game as it cannot exist without them. He agreed and opined that referees can get staggering abuse at lower levels. He wondered how anyone could be attracted into that and that women could potentially help to bridge the recruitment gap. Women are so much a part of football now I then asked him about pundit mistakes and I have to admit I couldn’t find any in a search online. Perhaps he is too shrewd to make such slipups but he told me about a time in Denmark with Martin Tyler at an under 21’s tournament when England scored. 1-0 to England and they were watching the replays when the game restarted. They kept talking about England being one nil up for the next few minutes until the news was passed on to them that the goal was disallowed. They had never noticed. Still, in comparison to the cockups I have made in my life this was minor. He is a rare person who appreciates the gifts life has thrown him He has had a great life in many ways and I feel he is one of the few of us who know that and accept it. He had to work hard, yes, to succeed as a professional footballer. It is down to many factors of which football skill is only one. Learning all the time, never giving up, working for the team, being disciplined, and being able to cope with lots of disappointments and defeats are grist to the mill of a professional footballer. Yet he did it all and won it all. Penny and Alan Smith plus a certain Mr Worth having a great time I feel that his second career really suited a man of learning, of words, of deep reflection, and was easier than the hard slog of dealing with the many personalities, angers, disagreements, jealousies and pressures of life in a top team’s dressing room. The subsequent career was something that he adapted to very well, he succeeded in a different way than the first one, and that suited an academic boy who loved languages. I am very happy he found fulfillment this way, that he wants it to continue for as long as possible and maybe he can come back again to talk about the Arsenal. We would love him back.
  2. Don’t despair And so now we are useless. Arteta out out out and we need a new team to replace the cloggers we have currently. Eh, no, teams always get beaten. Even when Alex Ferguson had little competition in the ‘90’s, he still had a few defeats every season. I am going to take a look at our previous title wins and see how we recovered from wobbles to win in the end. George Graham didn't despair The most dramatic finale to a season was Liverpool vs Arsenal in 1989. Does anyone know what our previous two scores were before we headed to Anfield? I wrote about it here and we drew with Wimbledon at home and beaten by Derby also at home. And by the way, we were beaten by Aston Villa at home that season. We had run out of steam and Liverpool were the unstoppable Red Monsters. Of course, nobody told George Graham and the players that and Arteta should give old George a shout as to what he did then because it could be very useful. He had an impossible task and the players achieved it for him. Iconic Chapman destroys them all Our first legend was Herbert Chapman and he smashed it out of the park on his first title in 1930/31 with 8 wins and 2 draws in our last ten and won comfortably. His next title was 1932/33 and he could afford a draw and a loss in his last two matches as he had already won the title. Next season was Chapman’s last as Joe Shaw, our captain, took over as manager in January. We won with 3 points to spare over Huddersfield, comfortable enough with 2 points for a win. The next season 1934/35 was George Allison’s first and he won with 4 points from Sunderland. We were the Arsenal then, the Red monsters who always won. George Allison didn't give in to despair Except we weren’t as we didn’t win again until 1937/38 where we had 3 draws and 2 losses in our last ten. Wolves obliged us by losing 1-0 to Sunderland to gift us the trophy as we thrashed Bolton 5-0 and won by one point. I guess the fans thought we had no hope that last day as Sunderland were mid-table, a bit like West Ham now. Preston were right in it at the end only 3 points behind us so that was a three-way finish until near the conclusion. You must stick with your team and support them as they need it. It definitely gives extra points. Don’t despair. Preston by goal average on the last day long before Liverpool And so the war struck and the league was over. We next won in 1947/48 by 7 points from Manchester United so, although we dropped many points at the end it didn’t matter. The next time was 1952/53 again under Tom Whitaker. We beat Preston and it was dramatic, almost the same as the Liverpool game as we won on goal average with both teams on 54 points. They lost to Bolton Wanderers 2-1 and we beat Burnley 3-2. Bolton were close to the bottom and Burnley were close to the top. And like against Liverpool, we had lost and drew our last 2 so our fans were in misery. Don’t despair. Tom Whittaker didn't give in to despair I covered the Liverpool match earlier for George Graham’s first in 1988/89 but his next was when he consigned Liverpool to history in 1990/91. He won by 9 points from them although 2 points were taken away because of the battle of Old Trafford when both teams got embroiled in throwing their handbags at each other. I was there for that one. No drama for George. Let’s hope if Arteta does manage to win this season he also gets an easy win for his second. Wenger was our ace in the hole And then the master, our ace, Arsene Charles Ernest Wenger took over and he recorded his first title in 1997/98, a nerve jangling win over Manchester United by one point as a win over Everton 4-0 in our 3rd last game was enough. No last game dramas though. Arsene: made Man Utd despair Then came 2001/02 and we again beat Manchester United but this time by seven points. Some of you will remember how exciting that season was as by the end of March we were 3rd and miserable. We then went on a string of wins for Wenger’s best ever finish to a season and won easily. Don’t despair when there are matches to go. Of course, Wenger’s final win was the one you know everything about. 2003/04 was the year we did something great but I cannot remember what it was. What was it again? Oh, yes, we were Invincible, we didn’t get beaten, and we won by eleven points. Chelsea were looking up at us this time but we didn’t head into a period of dominance as we all hoped. We are still waiting. C’mon the Spuds and West Ham So, we could be hoping two of our London rivals, the Spuds and West Ham do damage to City and Liverpool. Our margin for error is really tight. We possibly could get a draw or a loss and still win. Liverpool are away to Everton as well and derbies are unpredictable. They have those four matches one after the other which adds to their difficulty. C'mon the Spuds but not against us Don’t despair, people, as I have shown in 1938, 1953, and 1989, we have done it on the last game when all looked lost. We can do it again and I suspect we might have to, City and Liverpool will be battling to the end. I reckon if all 3 teams have a chance on the last day, at least one of them won’t win, despite them being favourites. Six games to go and I believe six wins will be enough. We can make it happen. We do have the best goal difference if that comes into play. Don’t despair, we are Arsenal. Update to the Table of Doom Table of Doom Fixtures Current Max Man City Spurs (a) 73 91 Arsenal Spurs (a) 71 89 Liverpool Spurs (h) Villa (a) 71 89 So, the inevitable has happened. The Blue Monsters have taken over. Strangely, the best chance we have of winning the league is to become Tottenham fans for two of these 3 matches. If we beat them and they beat Liverpool and City or even draw we are right back in it. We probably now do need to win our six matches but it is certainly not over. Liverpool may go out of Europe but that could give them a singular concentration. We have conceded 4 goals in our last two matches purely due to lack of concentration and focus. If we regain our laser focus we can win our last games. It is up to Arteta now. C'mon the Irons Of course, if my 86 points prediction is still correct there are a few more bumps for all teams to overcome. It may be three teams in it on the last day. In our favour is that West Ham is the toughest-looking match of the three, so City may have a wobble. If it is only us and City then beating Everton could be key.
  3. Bergkamp the Improver Book Review: Stillness and Speed – Dennis Bergkamp Ah, Dennis Bergkamp. In my opinion the greatest player Arsenal has ever had. And why? Because he could do things I have never seen anyone else do. I could watch a highlights video of him forever. Newcastle anyone? Bergkamp's control was magical Of course, Henry is regarded as our GOAT and probably rightly so, but it is illuminating that he rates Bergkamp as the best he has ever played with and that is because Dennis was the fulcrum of our attack and midfield. Ian Wright (probably regarded as our second GOAT) credits him with upping his game and wishes he could have played with him a lot sooner. Dennis could have been alongside Wolverine Bergkamp trained hard but smart, always watching what the ball does, how it moves, bounces, and how to control its movement. I would challenge anyone to demonstrate another player who could take a moving ball at any height and control it with, it seems, any part of his body. The ball stuck to him like glue. He was like a mutant and maybe we were lucky Professor X never snapped him up for the Xavier Institute. Better, better, better This book emphasizes one area above all else – Dennis Bergkamp improved Arsenal and Dutch football by being there, by showing his intelligence, by extraordinary diligence, and his never-ending striving for perfection. The Japanese concept of Kaizen could have been written by him, in which you must always push to do better, and is regarded as the manual of how Japanese became the world leaders in manufacturing. Cruyff always had the right ideas about football So what is this book? Well it is totally different from other soccer books in that it is less about his life and more about his football philosophy. But first I should explain that it is really two books, there is a huge Dutch version by Jaap Visser which basically includes both elements of this football book, it includes all the chronology of his life and covers what a normal football work does, photographs, upbringing, club records, etc., and the English version by David Winner which is a collection of interviews with Dennis and all the critical people in his life. Johan Cruyff, Arsene Wenger, Thierry Henry, Ian Wright and many others are interviewed and the ideas are bounced back and forth between them as Dennis comments on what they are saying and sometimes he sees things a bit different. Toy with the keeper If you read nothing else, read the extraordinary piece on freezing the goalkeeper, which Henry says was the biggest improvement he ever made to his game. When you are in on goal, you keep your eyes on the keeper, you do not look at the ball, and the keeper gets discommoded. You must always be calm but watch as the keeper panics. Henry became almost unstoppable when in on goal, we always knew he would score as we would with Bergkamp. I suspect that the two of them combined scored way more beautiful goals than any other pairing. Henry could put a keeper in the North Pole And hey, we could do with Bergkamp back and improving our goalscorers. Too many panic in front of goal, and our two icemen never did. Bring back Bergkamp and Pep would do poo poo in his trousers. Cruyff – the Dutch Master of all Johan Cruyff pops up all the time in this book and he has had an extraordinary influence on Bergkamp but also vice versa. I know some of my readers are young and I will give a brief resume of Cruyff here. He is regarded as one of the greatest players ever but I will nominate him as the greatest influence for good on the modern game. He pushed for total football, a strong press, an emphasis on creativity and attack, and that players must have the intelligence to decide what is best on the pitch. This he shared with Arsene Wenger. Players were not robots, and constantly telling them what they must do, a failing in the modern game, means that parking the bus can often work in the weaker team’s favour. Arteta, unfortunately, has this failing. He micromanages the team constantly which means the creative players can be stifled. Space – the football frontier Bergkamp believes that space is the most important element of football and you must have a clear vision in order to achieve that. Your opponent must never be able to predict what you will do and if he is confused, then you have space. It is why he put so much effort into controlling the ball, it creates space. Defenders could never predict Mesut Ozil Here he is on Mesut Ozil: “First touch in football is so important. If you talk about Mesut people say he is not marked properly, he always has a lot of space but he has got that space because he can create space by his vision and his first touch. With that you create your own time.” Dennis was multi-faceted This is a book for the football fan, certainly not just Arsenal ones. It shows a complicated person, a guy regarded as a gentleman yet hard as nails according to Martin Keown, and well able to handle the beasts of defenders prevalent in English soccer. He could not be pushed off the ball and I guess all the training with Adams, Keown and Bould helped a lot with that. Did I mention beast defenders? The book shows the unhappy time in Serie A. Still, Bergkamp learned a lot from them about diet, alcohol, and looking after yourself which slotted in perfectly to the next phase with Arsene Wenger who obliterated the English fast food and ten pints regime still prevalent at the time. Bergkamp gives great credit to how the English players could still perform strongly on the pitch and praises his Arsenal teammates for so doing. He did see them embrace the Wenger method though and add years to their game. To win all by improving Bergkamp, Cruyff and Wenger are shown as three different sides of the same coin. They didn’t always agree but perfection was what they all aimed for. Bergkamp was Invincible, thanks to Wenger, although I am sure they regard perfection as winning all matches. Cruyff was the genius who brought Barcelona to its peak. His flaw was that he had a penchant for argument, as the Dutch team are still famous for. Dennis preferred debate and not confrontation. But that dominant belief that you can always do better is the link that binds all three as they were conscious of it. I would say most great players were not. Rather they just loved being with a ball and doing amazing things with it. Everything must be improved I say read this book for a different perspective on what football has been for the past fifty years. It is a rare glimpse into what really goes on in the minds of the greatest names in world football. It is a cerebral tome about thinking about what you can do with a ball, what it does in certain circumstances and how you can train your body to use that to your advantage. Again I repeat that Dennis Bergkamp is the greatest footballer Arsenal ever had and the main playing reason, outside Wenger, that we won so many trophies. He made all the guys around him better. And I know, like me, you can watch those video clips forever.
  4. Three managers to top them all George Graham -deserves a statue George Graham Player 308 apps Football League First Division: 1970–71 FA Cup: 1970–71 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup: 1969–70 Manager 9 years Football League First Division: 1988–89, 1990–91 FA Cup: 1992–93 Football League Cup: 1986–87, 1992–93 FA Charity Shield: 1991 (shared) Football League Centenary Trophy: 1988 European Cup Winners' Cup: 1993–94 Mikel Arteta Player 150 apps FA Cup: 2013–14, 2014–15 FA Community Shield: 2014, 2015 Manager 5 years FA Cup: 2019–20 FA Community Shield: 2020, 2023 Terry Neill Player 241 apps Manager 7 years FA cup 1979 Arsenal managers through and through In my lifetime we have had 3 Arsenal managers who played more than 100 games, won at least one trophy as manager, and who were fulltime managers of this great old club. Terry Neill, George Graham and Mikel Arteta. Now, all of you out there know who the current best one is – George Graham, who is ranked behind Herbert Chapman and Arsene Wenger. He took on the Liverpool machine and came out on top, who were the best ever English team at the time. He won 8 trophies at Arsenal as a manager, which puts him well ahead of the other 2. Arteta has won 3, an FA Cup and 2 Charity Shields, and Neill has just the one, the FA Cup in 1979. Of course, only Arteta has the chance to overtake Graham. I wonder how many Arsenal fans feel that he will? Am I really hearing Arteta out? The Arteta out brigade have already started with our current bad run, so if that is an indication getting George’s nine years will never happen. Even Terry’s seven won’t. I am, however, optimistic that Arteta is the right man at the moment. Of course, he now cannot afford the bad runs that he has had at the end of every season so far. We must finish strongly to collect trophies. I suspect that if he doesn’t get Champions league or a trophy it’s possible the Arteta out crew will get their wish. Certainly no European qualification could see him out for good. Terry Neill took us upwards Terry Neill never had that pressure. He took over in 1976 as the club were struggling. Relegation was somewhere on the horizon as the great double team were broken up and Bertie Mee lost his mojo. Neill took us up the table, got us 3 FA Cup finals in a row and a Cup Winners Cup Final appearance. His two best league efforts were 3rd and 5th. But competent rather than spectacular was the lot of Arsenal’s youngest ever manager. Bizarrely, Arsenal were his 3rd club despite being only 34 when he took over at Highbury. He had already managed Hull and a team from North London, I can’t remember their name. Terry Neill - a top class defender As a player, Neill didn’t win anything at Arsenal, and was gone just before the Mee/Howe axis started winning things. He did manage 241 games and was highly regarded as a top notch defender. He had 59 international appearances for Northern Ireland, way more than the other two. Arteta didn’t even manage one for Spain. He was our youngest ever, he had way more caps, and he had one of our greatest days under his belt, the 1979 FA Cup win over Manchester United, the famous Liam Brady final. Overall, one of our own, and he could be seen on matchdays escorting VIPs. He deserves more recognition And, of course, he also had a huge hand in creating the extraordinary amount of Irish at Highbury, cementing a massive fanbase across the pond. Ok, he is number 3 on this list of players/managers at Arsenal but for me, it was a colossal boost watching all the Irish superstars strut their stuff. Terry Neill - a fan till the end Will he get a statue? Probably not but he remained Arsenal through and through all his life and was one of our most dedicated followers, always being seen around the Arsenal on matchdays. The rookie could beat them all Mikel is number 2 and he has a long way to go to catch up with George Graham. Will he? Maybe not but I feel he will get somewhere before he has to leave. The only one on the list who was a rookie, and he did make rookie mistakes, allowing Aubameyang and Ozil a latitude that he shouldn’t, have, but he learned, and if he has learned how to finish strongly this season, then we might be celebrating. He needs to stay in touch, as at the end City may have lots of high pressure matches like last season. Arsenal capitulating made that easier for them last time, and they won the league easier than they should have. That, above all else is his benchmark, stay in touch and finish strongly. Mikel -Our captain, my captain He won the FA Cup and the Charity Shield at his first attempt, a wonderful achievement. His immediate predecessors were 2 greats, Unai Emery and Arsene Wenger, and he has done better than any Manchester United manager since Alex Ferguson in fashioning a team in his image, consistently getting better. When an immense manager goes, such as Arsene Wenger, the void becomes a giant chasm to fill. Arteta has the capacity to fill that void. Will he get a statue? Time will tell. Graham conquered all And so George Graham, the mighty tactician, disciplinarian and creator of a team that moved together like puppets, always catching teams offside, with a magical midfield of Rocastle, Merson and Thomas to feed the strikers. He gave us probably our best day ever, when we went to Anfield in 1989 needing to win 2-0 for the title, and won in injury time. It never got better after that. George Graham - an elegant player The critical thing about George is that he made Arsenal great again over many years. The last such time was the 1940’s. His nine years with our only 2 League Cups, the only European Cup Winners Cup, and the only ever winners of the Centenary Cup, plus 2 league titles and an FA Cup means he is number one on this list and number 3 overall in the pantheon of prodigious Arsenal managers. He didn’t get many caps for Scotland but won trophies as a player and was a vital member of the Double winning side of 1971. Tactics, discipline and teamwork He was responsible for bringing many top young players through at Arsenal and Leeds. He had one defining belief, that you get the best possible player for every position even if it means removing a fan favourite as he did with John Lukic, replacing him with David Seaman. Football was chess for him, you had to stay ahead of your opponent by thinking ahead of them. Can any of them get a statue like the legendary Herbert Chapman? Will he get a statue? He deserves one. The scandal that removed him certainly seemed to have a lot of extenuating circumstances, and an honest review of that could see him getting the recognition at Arsenal he deserves. And so there you go. We had 3 top players that became top managers, something that not many teams have achieved. Liverpool had 2, Bob Paisley and Kenny Dalglish, but I cannot think of any other top team that had trophy winning managers who also played for them. Good old Arsenal, we always lead the way. And if Arteta knocks out George Graham, boy would we be happy.
  5. The big boys stand up to the bullies Just recently I watched a chat between Gary Neville and Thierry Henry over the famous Ruud Van Nistelrooy penalty miss and the aftermath with especially Martin Keown getting in the Dutchman’s face, and Neville wondered why Arsenal were so fired up. Henry responded that United were very physical that day and all the time. The crucial thing about that game was that United failed to beat Arsenal at home allowing Arsenal to remain unbeaten for the season. Roy Keane loved winding Patrick Vieira up To put it into perspective, Man Utd were easily Arsenal’s biggest rivals at that time. If Arsenal didn’t win the league, Utd did, simple as that. From Arsene Wenger’s first full season in charge in 1997/98 when he won the double until the Invincible season in 2003/2004, that’s what happened, 8 seasons and 2 teams locked together. That never happened before in English football and probably won’t happen again. What that intense physical rivalry did, though, was create the phenomenon that is the Premier league. It certainly looked like hate The two biggest hatreds were Ferguson and Wenger, and Vieira and Keane where the battles seemed non stop. The media loved it, stoking it up at every opportunity. The Red cards, Yellow cards, the wild tackles, the screaming in faces, the insults, the intimidation even in the tunnels, and a pizza being thrown by little Cesc Fabregas. Of the 2 teams, though, only Roy Keane and Martin Keown could conjure up that eyes popping, veins protruding, pure anger of a face that would send the Incredible Hulk running for cover. It was a violent circus with both sides only caring about one thing, beating the other. Scream louder, Martin, he can't hear you So, I decided to take a look at all matches from the time of Wenger to the Invincible season up to losing that tag at, where else, Old Trafford, and instead look at the card count for each match and see who were the winners there. I decided one goal for a yellow and 3 for a red. Now I should emphasise that there was a very strong belief at the time that Ferguson intimidated officials so much that Utd got treated leniently. Certainly before I went into checking this I can say I felt Utd were the most physical of the two, but that could be my Arsenal bias. Key: I will put Arsenal first every time whether home or away. Every match is Premier league except where stated. Arsene kept the intensity high All the matches And so the first match was in November 1996 at Old Trafford. Utd won 1-0 but we won 5-1 on cards with no reds. 5-1 Then February 1997 at home 2-1 Utd, and their first double over us. But we got the double on cards at 4-2 with no reds. 4-2 Then Nov 1997 at home 3-2 to us but a draw on cards 2-2. 2-2 Then March 1998 away and we did the double with one nil to the Arsenal and 3-2 on cards. 3-2 1998 Charity Shield and we hammered them 3-0 but they beat us on cards. 2-3 1998 September at home we again won 3-0 but lost on cards as Roy Keane got yellow but Nicky Butt got the first red of the sequence to give them 4 to our 2. 2-4 February 1999 away and 1-1 and a draw on both cards and goals. 2-2 April 1999 away FA cup 0-0 but we get our first red with Nelson Vivas to give us 4-2. 4-2 April 1999 again in the return at home and they beat us 2-1 and the snarling Roy Keane captures his first red card to give them 2-6 on cards. 2-6 The Charity Shield in 1999 and we won 2-1 but they got 2-3 on cards. 2-3 Shortly after we played them at home and were beaten 2-1 but they managed 1-4 on cards. 1-4 January 2000 at Old Trafford and a tame 1-1 with a gentleman’s game of only one card for Gille Grimandi. 1-0 October 2000 at Highbury and one nil to the Arsenal but Man Utd beating us at cards 2-3. 2-3 February 2001 Old Trafford and a horror show at 6-1 Utd. No cards though. 0-0 November 2001 League cup home and revenge at 4-0 but poor John Halls came on as sub and got a red to give us a 5-1 on cards. 5-1 November 2001 home and 3-1 this time but they beat us 2-3 on cards. 2-3 May 2002 and we beat them 1-0 at Old Trafford to secure the title but they won 2-4 on cards. 2-4 December 2002 Old Trafford and 2-0 to the Mancs but 2-1 to us on cards. 2-1 February 2003 FA cup Old Trafford 2-0 to us but 1-3 on cards. 1-3 April 2003 Highbury 2-2 but 3-2 on cards as Sol Campbell got sent off. 3-2 Charity Shield 2003 1-1 but Francis Jeffers got sent off for us giving us 5-3 on cards. 5-3 Old Trafford September 2003 our Invincible year and a feisty 0-0 match saw Patrick Vieira get sent off to give us 5-4 on cards. 5-4 March 2004 Highbury sees a 1-1 draw for both goals and cards. 1-1 April 2004 Villa Park FA cup semi-final and 1-0 Utd but we won 4-1 on cards. 4-1 And I will finish the sequence on our next match against them as they beat us 2-0 at Old Trafford in October 2004 to end our unbeaten spell in a match where we won the cards at 3-2. 3-2 We were the real bullies? I stopped it there as our time as Manchester United’s biggest rival was over. We haven’t won the league since. The money boys took over. One surprising aspect in all this is how few red cards there were. 4 to us and 2 to them. Alex Ferguson always had the refs in his sights So 59 card goals to the Red Devils and us? The mighty Arsenal? 67 putting us clearly in the lead as the dirtiest team in the sequence. 26 matches and 126 card goals equals almost 5 cards per game. I think that emphasizes the physical aspects to the contests. It always draws in the fans. The Premier league became the world’s Premier league, thanks, in large part, to the emergence of Arsenal as Ferguson’s first strong challengers. The battles on and off pitch were mesmerizing viewing for the punters and nowhere else could match. It is still the most fearsome rivalry in Premier league and First division history. Keane and Vieira never really made up although, perhaps surprisingly, Wenger and Ferguson did. They were the best of their time and loved snarling at each other. Up for the fight But come on, how many neutrals would feel that Arsenal were the dirtiest team, really? I suspect not many. Alex Ferguson did have a fearsome cachet that worked in his team’s favour. Refs were intimidated and it was widely believed that the intimidation worked. Ferguson always believed that any margin that he could get in his favour, he would make sure they did. My card analysis seems to backup that belief but we do have to remember one thing, Arsenal were a big strong team at the time. We had height everywhere, and we were certainly bigger than Man Utd. Wenger moved to smaller, less physical players when this team ran its course as did football fashion. Roy Keane - the most frightening face in football I can’t truly say whether we deserved this title during this period as I doubt if there was a more physically intimidating player than Mister Keane in all of the Premier league history. But he kept himself on the pitch for this fixture only going once at 74 minutes all the way back in 1999. He was probably afraid that Arsenal would kick poor Utd to pieces without him. And Fabregas didn’t throw the pizza at him. The only thing I can truly say with certainty is that rivalry defined the Premier league, had an intensity that I doubt if we will ever see again, and brought us to where we are now in football.
  6. Born to be a footballer. Liam Brady and I have some parallels. We are both from Dublin, we come from large families, and being almost 2 years older than me, we grew up in that same milieu of Irish nationalistic Catholic forces controlling a poor country on the edge of Europe. He differs in that his brothers are all older and several were professional footballers before him. His uncles and outside family also played sport at the highest level in Gaelic games so it inspired the title of his book Born to be a footballer. Johnny Murphy, David O'Leary, Frank Stapleton and Liam Brady as young Irish kids at Arsenal He bumped up against the same Catholic forces early in his career as, when picked to captain Ireland against Wales at under 15, his school, run by the Christian Brothers, refused to let him go to represent a foreign game. He was expelled and forced to find another school exactly when studying for an important state exam. This was par for the course in the 60’s and 70’s, and in every area of society, the Catholic church held sway. Not so chippy about his nickname Around the same time he was chosen by Arsenal, despite, typically of an Irish kid at the time, being a Man Utd fan. He recalls an early occurrence during this time when the chief scout at Arsenal, his parents and himself were taken out to a fancy restaurant in London. His mother looked at the menu and said “he only eats chips”. And his immortal nickname was born, from fried potatoes and not an ability to chip the goalkeeper. The name never went away, although, reading the book, I am not sure he particularly likes it. This is how to win an FA Cup He broke into the first team at 18, under the mentorship of the legendary Alan Ball, and it wasn’t too long before everyone realized we had something special. If you do nothing else, look at a Youtube highlights clip to get an appreciation of what he could do on the pitch. The art of dribbling around multiple players has gone from modern football as has the degree of ball artistry that we could see on a regular basis. There was an excitement when Brady got the ball, a cheer from the fans, and an expectation of something different. Watch him ghost through several players near the end of the famous Brady cup final of 1979 against Manchester United, as Arsenal were on their knees when Man U rattled in two goals late on to almost destroy us. He took the ball well in our own half, with nothing on and players with heads bowed, and cut through Man U, bringing the ball close to the edge of the box, whipping it out to Graham Rix on the wing, who fired it in to Alan Sunderland, and one of our most famous late goals was created out of Brady’s magic. Juventus wanted him and the Arsenal board were greedy We all loved him but knew Arsenal were stingy with money, particularly with home grown players. When he bravely moved to Juventus in the early 80’s, there was little personal anger towards him. We hadn’t done anywhere near enough to keep what was probably the best player in the league. And so he went to Italy for huge money and a team brimming with many world superstars, Tardelli, Rossi, Zoff, Gentile, Scirea and Cabrini were integral parts of Italy’s 1982’s World Cup winners and Juventus had the legendary Giovanni Trapattoni as manager. It must have seemed an extreme ask of a kid from Dublin but Liam became one of the fans favourites and is still loved there today despite being ousted after 2 years by the arrival of Michel Platini, then probably the best midfielder in the world. Brady and Juventus - a love story Brady was incandescent with rage when told the news and said he would never play for them again. But on the last match of the season, there was a penalty given, and Brady, being the penalty taker, was urged by his teammates to take it. He stepped up and scored to win them the title in his last significant kick for them. But you can still trace the bitterness in this book as he recounts the story. He loved Juventus, the fans, his teammates, playing on the biggest stage in world football at the time. He and his wife learned Italian, loved the country, the food, and their fabulous villa by the lake. And it was all snatched away. But he spent many more years in Italy and is an iconic figure there. Italy took football very seriously One aspect that struck me on reading the book was how different the footballing culture was in Italy. England were dominating European football at the time but Italy had already embraced changes which Arsene Wenger brought with him a long time later, a good diet, little alcohol, top training facilities, etc. English football dominated despite the fast food, hard drinking and basic training culture prevalent at the time. Brady reunited with Trappatoni at Ireland All aspects of Liam’s life are covered here, from the early days with Arsenal and Ireland, to Italy and back to West Ham, where he seems to have had a very positive experience, on to his managerial days. First at Celtic, where a combination of many factors conspired against success, and then Brighton for 3 years. The Brighton years are a fascinating read of mismanagement at boardroom level as the club was laid low by greed. Brady did well considering all, but often had to dig into his own pocket to keep things going. He, however, kept in touch with all developments and played a role in getting the club back on its feet. He still lives there and is immensely pleased at how good management turned the club around to being probably the biggest success story, given their resources, in the Premier league. Anecdotal Bulgaria and other great stories Oh and by the way, there are several mentions of Bulgaria throughout the book as Ireland had them on the international stage, well worth reading. And also a good tribute to Paul Dickov, who Brady had at Brighton. He was full of praise for him. Brady always supported Arsene Wenger All the way through, there are references to funny and illuminating passages in his life. Pavarotti, silk pyjamas, Trappatoni’s 2 fingered whistle and his insistence that players must know their jobs and work very hard, his love of music, his “friendship” with Bono, the mentorship of Johnny Giles, his bizarre relationship with Jack Charlton, his media work and his struggles with Ireland’s most controversial football pundit, Eamon Dunphy, the early days with Arsenal, the amazing Irish connection, the amount of good friends he has in football, some surprising to me, and the list goes on and on. But don’t miss out on the funny story with Bruce Rioch. He spanned all our modern history The critical element to Liam Brady and this book, for football fans, is that he straddled all the important history, from Bertie Mee’s double to Terry Neill’s FA cup finals, both with the legendary Don Howe to guide them. Then the 90’s and the emergence of Arsene Wenger, with whom he built up a very strong partnership with Wenger famously saying that Liam was the most important person at the club. David Dein made an inspired decision to match Liam Brady with Arsene Wenger David Dein, the man who made the modern Arsenal, appointed Brady as Academy director in the mid 90’s, and insisted that Brady’s job was not to be connected to the manager’s, he could not be fired. He wanted someone who understood the continental values and culture that Wenger famously brought with him to change English football. The Academy kids could have continuity and safety because Brady was always a decent man and insisted on giving bad news to players and their families in person. All the Hale End stars bouncing bright for Arsenal now were first nurtured by Brady. Here he has produced a top class football book. It will stay as a classic of the genre forever, I feel. As a writer, a storyteller, an insight into 3 different worlds of football, the international, the pre-Premier League days of English football, and the all encompassing milieu and harsh cauldron of Italian football as it pushed along the modern game. Liam has shown a great talent as a chronicler of football and I hope he produces another tome for us to enjoy. But for us fans, it was the beautiful football he could produce, we were enthralled by the way he played, the grace, the movement, the balance, the goals, we couldn’t get enough of our wonderman. Johnny Giles said he was the most beautiful footballer Ireland ever produced, and I am going to say also for Arsenal. He was bello, stupendo, and in modo magnifico and definitely Nato per fare il calciatore.
  7. Don’t be Blue, because my heart is true One day soon Everton will go down if they don’t find a way to put themselves back up near the top. They have skirted relegation for the past few seasons and one day their luck will run out. This year they are hoping the others will be crappier than them and that may save them again. The newcomers look especially poor. And yet Everton often pull out good performances against us. They won three in a row against us not so long ago. The first ever major football ground was Goodison Park We have probably kept them in the league. Will we get any thanks? Will we heck as like! They are our biggest rivals for the longest time in top flight football having been in since 1954, and they have had the longest period of being in the top flight of any team, only spending 4 years outside it. They had the first ever football song. They have 9 top flight titles, level with Man City in fourth. Man Utd and Liverpool are top with 20 and 19 and we are 3rd with 13. They have the record top scorer with Dixie Dean netting 60 goals in 1927/28. I don’t think Haaland will best that as possibly teams may figure him out and restrict him from now on, or maybe not. However, 60 or even 50 will probably not be achieved again. They were Giants They also, when Liverpool had their golden years, knocked them off their perch with 2 title wins in 3 years and almost a double, beaten by Liverpool in the FA cup final. They had the first major ground in Goodison Park in 1892. They are one of the old money football aristocracy of England. They are building a fabulous new stadium down on Liverpool docks. They have big money owners. They have an extraordinarily loyal fanbase, one of the best in the world. They are very similar to us. The fans want to save their great old club With one big difference, we are still near the top, we are just about kings of London, whereas their two huge rivals, Liverpool and Man Utd, have left them trailing helplessly in their wake, and the new money Man City are also easily surpassing them. Manchester is a short hop from Liverpool. It is far quicker to get there than for Arsenal to some parts of London. There is massive rivalry between Everton and the two old giants and the new one, than we have to face in London. If Everton go down and stay down for a while, we could even surpass them as the longest serving team in the top flight. The Survivors that don’t survive? I guess a lot of you out there would like that and there is a part of me also that would for the prestige of the Arsenal, but it is sad to see a great team laid low just by mismanagement. It is a fate that could happen any top team, even us. A great stadium for the Championship? I suspect some of you are wondering why an Arsenal blog seems to be about Everton and why it matters? I will try and explain my rationale. I think, of all teams in English football, Everton are our closest brothers. We are survivors, we take the bad times and ride them out, still turning up to support the team. We don’t get relegated, we battle and fight and turn things around. Neither Arsenal nor Everton ever had such a poor spell, in my time watching football, as the Blue boys are having now. Fans watching helplessly as huge money is spent, big plans unveiled, and for what? To battle with Luton and Bournemouth and suchlike for the privilege of dropping down to the cauldron of the Championship? Arsenal are too good to go down? Everton show that we should never be complacent, never think that it cannot happen to us. Rival fans criticized us unmercifully in the latter Wenger years for feeling entitled to being at the top. A lot of that criticism was justified. We hounded and humiliated our greatest ever manager because he believed in doing things the right way and we also didn’t have access to the fabulous money of the Chelseas and Man Citys. Wenger, almost singlehandedly, kept us in Champions League and winning FA cups and we drove him out like an ailing dog we no longer wished to take care of. Arteta is regarded as a great for bringing us what Wenger got run out of town for. The last time Everton had a sustained spell near the top was when Moyes and Arteta were there Of course, it was only some of our fans, and I hope and believe that the majority understood what our greatest was still achieving. But the criticism is valid. Tottenham, West Ham and many other London teams fans would have given both legs to have a manager who was giving them what Wenger was still giving Arsenal. Their fans love football Those Arsenal fans let us down. But as far as I can see, Everton fans have reserved the majority of their wrath for the owners, not the managers. Appointing Rafa Benitez, given his history, was, frankly, stupid. Even so, the fans reserved most of their ire for the owners who appointed him, and the same applies to Frank Lampard, who fell down a hole with the Toffees, yet the fans were reluctant to scream at him. Sean Dyche, a decent and well respected football man, could well make number 13 to move on since David Moyes took over at Man Utd in 2013. They couldn’t hang on to Carlo Ancelotti, who was making strides with them, and that started the abyss yawning at them. Rafa Benitez had made fun of them at Liverpool Pure luck seems to have kept them clinging on to their proud record, mostly relying on other teams to be crappier than them and last day results going their way. That must stop because one day they will make the drop. It doesn’t look like Sean Dyche is the right man to push them back up before that happens although I would be happy for him if he is. Hunting our great man was our lowlight We have seen at Chelsea that spending money on players is not the answer. What is needed now, at a big club, is a united vision, a team of backroom staff all facing the same way for the benefit of the team, fans who love the badge and players who come to love that badge. Arsenal seem to have that now, but the only sure thing that Everton have from that list is the fans. I have been in Liverpool and Dublin talking to true Blues, and in my opinion they, not their Red neighbour’s fans, are the best in the world. Even the greatest can be laid low by fickle fans In many ways, a lot of our own fans are similar, they can applaud the opposition and see goodness in any football fan. The entitled, and the Tottenham haters, are not in this category. They brought tears, that he was desperately trying to hold back, to our greatest ever Arsenal man. I cannot find it in my heart to easily forgive that, and I would not be happy to see Everton’s last proud record taken away from them even if we are the only beneficiary. I would love to see them sort themselves out, get back among the big boys, and get to see Arsenal take them on as second place to our first in the new Everton stadium. So, c’mon the Toffees!
  8. Arsenal 2007-08 Anyone want to buy our players? One stark thing that strikes you about 2007-08 is the ability that Arsene Wenger had at getting the best out of players, and keeping us competitive while losing our finest players. Paying for the Emirates and competing against the huge money available at Chelsea, Man Utd and City put him at a big disadvantage. They could buy, we were selling. This year we lost the little known players Thierry Henry, Freddie Ljungberg, and Jose Antonio Reyes. Also among the biggest earners so saving on salary as well. Still we looked like we could win the league for a good while and had a pretty good run in the Champions league. Lassana Diarra - Arsene always knows We sold those three for 25 million (the world was different then ) and our most significant purchases were Eduardo and Bacary Sagna for 13,5 million. Wenger totally justified his reputation as a canny operator by buying Lassana Diarra from Chelsea for 4m in August 2007 and selling him for 5.5m to Portsmouth in January 2008 after only 13 games, some as sub. Including that in the calculations means that we spent 16m and got in 33.5m. No wonder the owners and the banks loved Arsene. But did the fans? Did we really care about our finances? Fans didn’t care about money I suspect most didn’t really. Our squad was now visibly weaker than the Invincibles of a short few years before. Only Gilberto and Toure were left as regular players. Almunia replacing Lehmann was probably the biggest drop in class but Bergkamp, Henry, Pires and Ljungberg were replaced by Adebayor, Eduardo, Van Persie, Bendtner and Walcott. Still good players but the most striking of them was Eduardo. We loved him and he would surely have gone on to have a great partnership with Adebayor but he was cut down with a broken leg in February against Birmingham and never got his game back on track. Sometimes bones just don’t heal right or the psychological strain stops you from performing at your best. Eduardo - a true tragedy Most fans agree that Eduardo was the player from that era that we most wanted to succeed. He had the ability to become a world great. Injuries were to plague Rosicky, Diaby, Van Persie and Walcott as well from that time. Those five, if operating at full throttle, would surely have got us the league that season and kept us at the top for seasons after that. We were going backwards And so we were behind I feel in the quality of players we had as compared to our peers and still got 83 points and 3rd behind Man Utd 87 points and Chelsea 84. When you consider that Henry, Ljungberg and Reyes never quite captured the heights after they were let go, it seems like Wenger, as usual, knew. Good luck with injuries could still have seen us capturing big trophies in the post Highbury era. Yes, even though an emerging City decided that the best way to challenge was to grab our best players. The mighty Barcelona also liked the look of our players. We were now a selling club like Brighton at the moment and Southampton not long ago. The third best team ever in England with one of the biggest stadiums and fan base were grooming players for what? Lesser upstarts like City. It was a hard time to be an Arsenal fan. Bacary Sagna - Arsene's best buy that season We were looking on with despair. We knew that teams don’t win by selling. But despite all that, it was testament to Wenger that he kept getting us so close. Probably close to a miracle. What then transpired on the pitch? A lowlight was the old chant of one nil to the Arsenal nearly disappeared with only 5 across all competitions and 58 matches. But we did have some nice wins coupled with some bad defeats, the most painful of all for me was being beaten by Liverpool in the quarterfinal of the Champions league. We played better than them for most of the 2 matches, got caught out by dodgy refereeing and got beaten 5-3 on aggregate. And the wait went on for my dream. The Spuds teach us a lesson Another bad defeat was Man Utd in the FA cup on the 16th February of 4-0. But the kicker of all was the Spuds in the League cup semi-final. An annoying Bulgarian and an even more annoying Irishman (I will let you supply the names of this partnership)kicked us in the arse. 5-1 to the Spuds and we ended up fighting amongst ourselves with William Gallas throwing a strop with Niklas Bendtner. The indignity of it all. Yes, Wenger played some kids but we were hopeless that day. I am sure you all watched on in disbelief. I am sure you have all blanked this horror from your mind We had good wins in the league against Everton 4-1 and Derby twice 5-0 and 6-2. We could still play a bit. A lot of draws though at 15 in all competitions and nine 1-1’s meaning we could have had a new chant – 1-1 to the Arsenal. This pair should have shown the fight against the Spuds, not themselves We did have a super 7-0 against Slavia Prague in the Champions league qualifying and we didn’t have a bad campaign although we came second to Sevilla in the group stage. We beat the champions A.C Milan in the last 16 in an unlikely fashion as I am sure you all remember. 0-0 at home meant we had to go away to the San Siro and beat them, something no English team had ever done. But we are the Arsenal, we destroyed them 2-0 in one of our best displays of the season. But then of course, that hard to take defeat against the Scousers of Liverpool. I could have smashed Steven Gerrard’s face in that night I was so disappointed. Long undefeated run We had a 28 match undefeated spell and we were top of the league for a long period but Eduardo’s injury coincided with us falling down the table. Wenger was somehow keeping the hope alive of the big trophies but there was a big but in all our minds, I reckon. We destroyed Derby twice But perhaps coincidentally, it was also the year that the Kroenke’s first appeared. They are different types of owners to most. They like to stay in the background and they have a great belief in hiring experts across many different areas. I believe they saw what Wenger could do that season and wanted to keep him or hire another such manager who could get the best out of his players. Unai Emery had such a reputation but it didn’t quite happen for him. Arteta has inherited that from Wenger, you must always get the best out of your players and I think the Kroenke’s saw that about him in the interviews. Overall, though, the feeling was worrying. We were selling our best. We had potentially great players injured. All around us new teams were appearing and the established ones were strengthening. Wenger would have needed to be a true magician to win the league or Champions league with our teams. We still had hope but not much else. 2007-08 was, I feel, the watershed moment when we truly became second best.
  9. The series is back! I will put it together up to last season as I plot how I felt in the doldrum years when not much went consistently right. I will plot the downfall of Arsene Wenger and the attempts to replace him. All change on the North London Front Putting together the Emirates was probably the glue that holds 2006-07 together. Lots of good players left, presumably to cover costs and not so many came in. Results on the pitch were very patchy, and it was the first time in a long time that we heard transitioning in a negative way about Arsenal under Wenger. We were to remain in negative transition more or less ever since until hopefully last season. Easy to spend money at the Emirates Strangely enough, though, I remember being hopeful at the start of the season. We had just come off a good performance against Barcelona in our only Champions league final, where bad luck and Jens Lehmann cost us the win. We would now have a much bigger stadium so close to the old one that Highbury could be omnipresent and remain in our hearts. Gone was trudging past houses into the stadium to be replaced by bridges, statues, photos, shrines to players, and a huge commercial experience with plenty of ways to remove fans from their money. It was, and still is, impressive though. It changed from our dear old Highbury to an all encompassing Arsenal event at every stage. You were looking up in wonder all the time. But it did not lead to an uptick in our performances. But I will get to that. Our best players gone, and the new ones struggled First was the astonishing amount of players let go or loaned out, I reckon to save wages. 14 went, including Dennis Bergkamp, Robert Pires (still hurting from being subbed in the Champions league), Sol Campbell, Ashley Cole, Lauren and Jose Antonio Reyes among the most notable. It was hard to replace Robert Pires We got in 5 players, Rosicky, Song, Gallas, Denilson and Baptista and the bind that connects them was that they never managed to quite make it at Arsenal, although only Gallas is probably not remembered with much fondness by Gooners. Some were plagued by injuries, with Rosicky being the most tragic. He could have been superb for us, but getting consistent game time proved impossible to achieve. I still believed So why had I any optimism? Henry was still there, and Adebayor and Van Persie were emerging. Alex Hleb had come in the previous season and was showing a silky touch on the ball and of course Cesc Fabregas was top class. We still had good players and Arsene always seemed able to get the best out of his teams. Bergkamp was another big loss My optimism was misplaced though straightaway. Our first match was against Aston Villa at the Emirates and we drew. Then we lost to Man City and drew against Middlesbrough. 2 points, 3 matches and it wasn’t looking good. But then luckily for us we came up against 2 Uniteds, Manchester and Sheffield. The champions Utd were beaten at Old Trafford 1-0 to the Arsenal and then Sheffield United were beaten for our first win at the Emirates. Why did I doubt Mr Wenger? We didn’t frighten teams anymore But in truth, we never truly got going. We had 8 losses and 11 draws in the league and somehow finished 3rd, level on points with Liverpool on 68. We needed 84 this season to come second, in contrast. Yes we had some good wins like the one at Old Trafford. We had four 3-0’s against the Spuds, Liverpool, Watford and Sheffield Utd, a 4-0 against Charlton and 6-2 against Blackburn. Our home form was decent with only one defeat (West Ham) and 6 draws so the Emirates was doing us some good. Rosicky could have been a great for us As for the League Cup, which is certainly not our favourite trophy, we had lots of tough ties but came through them all up to the final against Chelsea. We had West Brom away and we won 2-0. Then Everton away and we won 1-0. Then Merseyside away again when we destroyed Liverpool 6-3. The hapless Spuds up next in the semi’s and over 2 challenging games we triumphed 5-3. Chelsea though were a bridge too far. A bad tempered match saw Jose Mourinho come out on top 2-1. Wenger, to his credit, stuck with the young players he had trusted in the lead up to the final. That was very brave against a Chelsea team who were starting to dominate English football. Wenger was never to lift the League Cup. Alex Song could maybe have been another And the FA Cup? Our trophy? Not this year but we again showed our superiority over Liverpool with an away win of 3-1. Bolton next and it took us 2 matches to also dismiss them 3-1. Then Blackburn and another two matches before they beat us 1-0. That 1-0 beating was part of a sequence I will come back to later. But in the Champions League we will destroy them all? And so the Champions League. Easy enough in the qualifier against Dinamo Zagreb 5-1 on aggregate. Then Hamburg, Porto and CSKA Moscow in the group stages. We did ok and were top of the group with 11 points, equal with Porto. But we never showed the devastating form of the previous season. The patchiness all round was worrying. We got an easy draw in the round of 16 against PSV Eindhoven. We had, after all, hammered the best teams in Europe on the way to the final the previous year. But for us Gooners, every time we believe that Arsenal are about to show our true merit, it seems to go wrong. Eindhoven beat us 2-1 over 2 legs and it was bye bye to my dream of the Champions league. We haven’t really looked like winning it since. Easy peasy PSV I know most of you out there remember all this as we moved to the Emirates but the quality of the team started to deteriorate. Big money signings were disappearing and our players were being snatched up or coming to the end of their times. It was starting to look like the 2 big trophies were out of our grasp, the Premier and the Champions League. Chelsea and Man Utd were pulling away from us. Big money had derailed us and we were no longer even kings of London. One nil to not Arsenal There was something else that year that maybe was a bad portent of the years to come. Our old chant of one nil to the Arsenal could have been replaced with its opposite, one nil to not Arsenal. We were beaten by that score 5 times in the league, by Man City, Everton, Sheffield Utd and West Ham twice, all teams below us. Twice in the Champions League against CSKA Moscow and the crucial match against Eindhoven. Blackburn also kicked us out of the FA Cup by that scoreline. 8 times our favourite score bit us in the bum. We only won four 1-0’s in all competitions, probably our lowest ever. We hadn’t even got anything to sing about in our shiny new and expensive stadium as none of those happened at home. Oh, Arsene, we needed a miracle, I would take 1-0 to the Arsenal all day long if we could win the big trophies. The odd bright spark in that season seemed like the dying embers of a once great team and manager. Could Arsene put it right?
  10. The war for excellence Have you ever thought about what happens in elite sports? How it develops, changes, expands its vision, so that records constantly get broken, old truths get demolished? It is because of a war, a war between the old guard and the new, the previous generation and the now. And, of course this is a football column so I will concentrate on that but other sports provide a clearer, starker emphasis on what I mean. Pep Guardiola - found guilty of taking performance enhancing drugs in 2001 but then cleared on appeal First we must go back in time. When we talk about the greatest teams ever in football, we think of the Hungary side in the 50’s, Real Madrid also in the fifties, Brazil in 1970, Liverpool in the 70’s and 80’s, etc. I would say if you took any of these teams in their prime and put them against say Fulham, exactly halfway in the Premier league, Fulham would win easily enough. Not because they are better footballers, but because they run harder and longer, they have everything done for them, diet, training, physiotherapy, modern medicine (painkillers, etc.). Not for them eating greasy chips and kebabs washed down with 10 pints of beer and an ashtray full of cigarettes. The New always beats the Old Of course, the comparison is spurious, as the old teams had heavy pitches, heavy balls, and different rules to contend with. Sports science was in its infancy and football was slower than most Olympic sports to utilize the power of pharmacy. The logic being that drugs cannot make you a better player. But if you can run harder and faster, you can press your opponent every time they come near the ball, not let them settle, and use your modern advantages to win. Ergo my belief that even the greatest teams of the past could not win against an average modern team. And why Olympic records are always broken. The sum total of the controlled life of the modern athlete gives them an advantage over competitors of the past. Arsene did not believe in cheating And so Roger Bannister’s miraculous 4 minute mile in 1954 is now a distant sum with more than 17 seconds faster being achieved. But nothing has been achieved, no matter what the sport, without the fact and suspicion of performance enhancing drugs. I believe football is no different. Here is Arsene Wenger: The Frenchman lamented that his Arsenal side had "played against many teams" using performance-enhancing drugs and stated later: "I'm not satisfied with the level of testing." The drugs do work In Hajo Seppelt's 1999 documentary "Indictment Doping: The Legacy of East German Sports," he put forward his suspicion that footballers were partaking in the use of illegal substances. Hajo Seppelt has the right suspicions "People who say that there is no doping problem in football, that's bull**t," Seppelt told CNN. "People say the drugs have no benefits, but look at the science and the distances covered by players in the game today." He is absolutely correct. Please go and look at a great game of the past on the internet, say Man Utd and Benfica in the European Cup final in 1968. The movement was much slower. Then, technique, vision, ball skills, dribbling and defences that would kick the ball anywhere away from the goal were the norm. Now speed is the critical factor, you push the ball past your opponent and outsprint him to get around him. Dick Pound has similar suspicions Here is Dick Pound, the founder and president of the World Anti-doping Agency: “We have always had trouble attracting FIFA to the problem. For many years, they sort of didn’t think the world anti-doping codes should apply to them. At one time, the world’s largest sport’s registered testing pool consisted of just 10 players, and you’re never going to catch anyone doing that.” They cheat, we cheat, and everyone cheats So what are we left with? The strong suspicion that drugs are endemic in soccer and that the authorities are not too interested in changing that. In all honesty I have stopped caring about many sports, athletics, swimming, cycling because I don’t believe they are clean. I clung to the belief that in soccer they cannot make you a better player but nowadays when I see the speed, the stamina and the 90 odd minutes of haring around a field I am pretty certain that players are using drugs. It goes back to the point I was making at the start. Anything that gives you an advantage must be used. Your best player is injured? Give him an injection and send him out. If your opponents are doing it you must, it is as simple as that, no matter what it is. Maradona - didn't understand that cocaine makes you a worse footballer We all know that cheating is normal on the field of play, stopping an opponent on a breakaway by any means possible is what is expected. As is diving and buying a freekick or penalty. Surrounding the referee and putting your hand up for everything is commonplace. But that is the cheating we see. What goes on that we don’t see? And as I have said, there are teams of people working in football who are trying to figure out any way they can get an advantage, no matter how small. Soon, a normal plane will not be enough to ferry your team to an away match and only a Boeing 777 will do. Cheating is now the only way to improve The thing is, they have most likely exhausted long ago any safe or legal way to improve performances across all sports. My suspicion is that the only way now is to cheat. Suppose you have talent and you are willing to train hard. Your mentality is strong enough to withstand the abuse you receive when you play a bad game, or make a silly mistake. But you know that your opponents have an advantage and it is them that will win the trophies, get the huge money, and the acclaim of being champions. In short, if one does it, then all have to. Otherwise you are Real Madrid of the fifties being unable to beat a mid-table team today. The sport moves on and you must move with it. Every little advantage must be taken up, legally such as tactics, sports psychology, diet, training, good pitches, and so on but also the underground stuff, the drugs and the cheating, the corruption and the scandals. Diving is now expected cheating Can anything be done to change it? Answers on a postcard, please. To me, at least, it is depressing that my heroes on the football pitch are probably utilizing performance enhancers. Let’s take Arsenal, we have divers, we have referee intimidators, we have hands going up for everything, we commit professional fouls, we waste time and it is because all teams do it. We cannot let an opponent have an advantage. So, do you believe we don’t keep up with underground practices also, that we can’t see on the pitch? We can’t see it, so it is not there? The unhappy fact that you must keep up and always improve, could well lead to the death of professional sport and there are very few talking about it. So, this time, my C’mon Arsenal is to show the way, to stop the cheating on the pitch and off it even if it means we cannot keep up. I doubt if many agree with me.
  11. Squeaky bum time is when it matters. Key to below – These are the points total for the last ten matches under Arteta per year and the results for Arsene Wenger over the last ten matches for his era. The stars denote title wins. Mikel Arteta 2023 12 -18 points 2022 15 points 2021 20 points 2020 16 points Arsene Wenger 2018 18 points 2017 24 points 2016 20 points 2015 21 points 2014 20 points 2013 26 points 2012 18 points 2011 14 points 2010 17 points 2009 23 points 2008 18 points 2007 13 points 2006 23 points 2005 28 points 2004 23 points * 2003 18 points 2002 30 points * Max 2001 20 points 2000 25 points 1999 25 points 1998 24 points * 1997 20 points We must never finish Spursy again We have gone all Spursy, falling apart at the end. As you can see from the table above we have never had a strong last 10 games under Arteta. In all seriousness, it is a fault that we need to correct. The maximum we can now get from our last 10 games is 18 points. The minimum is 12. Last season we had 15 and we might be worse this season. If it continues then we will never win the league. You cannot win the league by losing games. For our 3 title wins under Wenger we had 24, 30 and 23. As 30 is the maximum and City has a tendency to get close to that in recent seasons, you can see the necessity to address this issue. We need to change our state of mind We are never likely to be so far ahead at squeaky bum time that we can afford to lose even the 10 points that has been Arteta’s best finish to a season so far. We will definitely lose at least 12 this season. It is the most pressing problem facing Arteta for certain. We cannot drop points against lesser teams I think we can fairly say that last season we were good enough to get points from Spurs, Newcastle Brighton and Southampton but we didn’t and fell out of the Champions league spot. This year we should have beaten Liverpool, West Ham and Southampton and, yes, Brighton which would have given us 9 points more and we would have been looking forward to beating Forest and claiming the title. This year we have been better than all those teams but failed to be clinical when it mattered. No more looking like this at the end of the season, Mikel One point to keep in mind is that Man City would still be regarded as better than us even if we had managed to get those extra points and won the league. I could live with that, Arsenal the under-dogs punching above their weight to snatch the title from City. They could do the double over us and lose the league just as we did over Leicester when they had their win. Next year we may be at the business end in Europe, the FA cup and League cup. That will bring extra pressure. Address this problem and all will be well But I really do believe that our biggest problem is having a Spursy end to the season. And, like I have said, it is not getting better and this season may be the worst under Arteta. So, what can be done about it? To talk about this, I would like to explain why I came up with this as a topic. My memory was that under Arsene Wenger, we normally finished strongly and so I took a look. The figures above show that I was right for most of the time. We finished with 20 points or above lots of times and for sure did on our 3 title wins. Arsene Wenger knew how to finish strongly. Bring on the evil flying monkeys Arsene knows and he is the answer And this is what I would offer. For Arteta to talk to the maestro and ask him what he did to produce such strong finishes. Because this is not about tactics, it is about man-management, and Arsene Wenger was maybe the greatest ever at that. As I have said above, we are better than the sides who took points off us but we allowed them to beat us when it mattered. Wenger normally didn’t when it got to squeaky bum time. As you can see above, even in the lean times as Arsenal were trying to pay for the Emirates, he regularly got 20 or above. Call on our greatest for help, Mikel Man management was Arsene’s forte I have alluded to before in this column about how very few players ever complained about him and also that quite often, once players left Arsenal, they didn’t perform to the heights that they did under Wenger. Most players say that he improved them enormously in their effectiveness. This is Arteta’s first job in the hotseat. He is doing great. But he must ensure that we finish strongly or his good work will be compromised. And who better than our greatest? Well, possibly Guardiola but I doubt if Arteta could ring him up and ask him to help him to win at the business end of the season. Of course, he would have seen what Guardiola does to make sure they have a strong finish when he was there. And Guardiola can rotate seamlessly, which we can’t. Arteta has been using his first choice players whenever he could as he doesn’t seem to have the same belief in his second string. Guardiola is happy at the end of the season but he won't help us Of course, I do accept that a lot of players are young. They probably need to get more football wise and yes, improve their consistency. And injuries haven’t helped. But that is the pressure point Arteta has to address with urgency if we are to make the jump up into champions. And my strongest recommendation is to ask Arsene for help. Arsene knows, we all know that. He can help you, Mikel, so that next year City and any other challengers see Arsenal as the juggernauts who keep winning and sicken them all, that despite their best efforts, Arsenal will be champions. At the end we need to be juggernauts Listen to this Irishman, Mikel, there is an answer out there. Use it. We are all Arsenal, we are behind you. We have your back. P.s I would just like to say thank you to the Arsenal Supporters Club Bulgaria for letting me write this column, and for putting up with my sometimes strange mode of thoughts which I fashion into a blog. It is refreshing to be allowed to write what I like, and I truly appreciate the support I get. I have brought in George Orwell, Shakespeare, Charles Dickens and even Abba and crafted my story around them. Probably few football writers do but the Arsenal Supporters Club here have never complained about me when I drift off into the matrix. Thank you very much!
  12. Invincible: Arsène Wenger the movie, a review Our ACE arrives Arsène Charles Ernest Wenger = ACE Wenger and he was by far the greatest Arsenal manager in my lifetime, definitely our ace. This documentary is, in many ways, a sad reflection of the end of his days at his beloved Arsenal. Yes, it celebrates his life, his early days, the glory years and above all the invincible season, but perhaps its greatest feat is showing the ordinary man behind the genius, the guy out jogging, being put under stupid interrogation by journalists (?) at the start of his sojourn, and the heartbreak evident in his face as he got pushed out of Arsenal. His top achievement as a player One sure thing I can say about Arsène, is he never boasted about himself, he had a humble upbringing in a small town in France, it was just after the war and everything was scarce. And if he had a humble background, it was even more so in football. He was well down the ladder and it took time to climb himself upwards. Implicit in this film is that he realized he would never be a master footballer so he dedicated himself to the process of becoming a virtuoso coach and manager in his twenties. Slowly his talent was recognized. His ability to work with people is unsurpassed, it is hard to think of anyone who has a bad word to say about him. In contrast to his two biggest rivals, Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho, who have plenty of players with nothing but bitterness towards them. Jaap Stam, Luke Shaw, Roy Keane, David Beckham, Gordon Strachan, and Paul Pogba spring to mind but there are plenty more. Love wins out at the end? His greatest achievement, to my mind, documented in this film, is when he came to Arsenal in 1996.He really got an unprecedented amount of abuse and piss-taking. Our own Ian Wright said “who?” when asked about him. He was accused without any basis, that he had a private life scandal. Players thought this was never a football man because he didn’t look the part. No foreign manager had achieved much in England and the English football establishment and media perpetuated this myth. Eh, no, Arsène proved them wrong in spectacular fashion by winning the double in his first full season by playing beautiful football. The Double? Easy! The film has its focus on Arsène Wenger and particularly the invincible year. Us Arsenal fans know all the story and there is nothing much new in this movie. For me, though, the surprising thing is how ordinary Wenger was portrayed in many ways and there is a recurring theme of sadness as a great man is laid low, partly, at least, by idiot fans and an aggressive media. A present from our ACE -London Colney He is regularly shown watching matches from his past in a deserted and bleak warehouse on a very large screen. He is alone, as if he has no friends. It really does look heartbreaking. For me it is strange, as I feel such an intelligent man as Wenger must have known it is not a good depiction as a majority of people still believed in him. I knew at the time we would struggle to replace him. Football had moved on and money was king so a new manager had to operate within Arsenal’s financial constraints and equal Arsène’s achievements. There are few such geniuses out there. Maybe we have found one now in Arteta but it still remains to be seen. Another present from our ACE It shows his final days, the protests by the numptys, the constant barrage by the media, and you can see the confusion and hurt in his face as he tries to comprehend how people cannot see that they are asking the impossible – build a new stadium that befits a top team but costs a fortune, and win major trophies with a very constrained budget just when the super rich are clambering into football and spending whatever they like. 100 million was what it cost to run a top team not so long before for a year, and now it might get you a dud player. Time for a major statue outside The matches leading up to the Invincible year are delineated, the inexorable march towards the title, the draws that knocked us back, the wins that pushed us forward. It was an extraordinary achievement, belatedly recognised by Alex Ferguson in this film as he was dismissive of it at the time, saying it wasn’t a record points total and there were 12 draws. However, this video shows a Ferguson who is a big fan of Arsène. Obviously he had a lot more respect for him at the time than he let on but I do feel that the reality was that there was a great mutual dislike. The strange thing, alluded to here, is that Manchester United offered Arsène the role of manager and he turned it down. Wenger doesn’t say when that happened but it is generally believed to be when Ferguson first said he would retire but then changed his mind. So is it worth watching? I would say so for the non Arsenal fan as it gives glimpses into the man who made Arsenal, with its top class grounds, superb training facilities and high standards. It also shows that success breeds discontent, win and you are expected to keep on winning, fans get cranky, abusive and show no respect or understanding for how greatness is achieved. Fans from say West Ham or Bournemouth would love to have the problems Arsenal fans have. Our ACE had a sense of humour Foe Arsenal fans it gives us insight into how a small section of fans were allowed to show their lack of class, how a great man was hounded from his lifetime’s work instead of being allowed to walk away with his head held high when he felt he could contribute better with a different role. He should be like Alex Ferguson and Kenny Dalglish, at every match and applauded. But the overriding feeling instead is that we hurt deeply the man who gave us everything, who took on the Manchester giant who had unlimited cash and gave them a bloody nose. 2 doubles and an Invincible year, 49 matches unbeaten, a record number of FA cups, and yet he is hounded out. He should never had had to experience that and maybe that is why he agreed to be portrayed as an ordinary man watching matches alone in a dark and bleak warehouse. His last day -we will never see his like again Arsène, you were the greatest in my time, you brought in incredible players and you nurtured many others. The football was exciting, the chasing down of teams, the quest for cups, the huge teams coming to Highbury and the Emirates, the respect garnered from every quarter of football and above all else, your creation, almost singlehandedly, of the magnificent Emirates Stadium which has enabled Arsenal to stay in touch with the big boys. That is the one aspect that I am truly grateful for, that Arsenal are among the big boys, and we achieved it with a man whose integrity is unsurpassed in football. Our heads are high in the air with the man who offered Sheffield United a replay as he called foul on himself. Nobody in football wants to do that but he did. A giant among giants and he is ours. Our ACE. Merci beaucoup Monsieur Wenger et merci pour les merveilleux sentiments que vous m'avez donnés.
  13. Is the Wenger era finally over? Granit Xhaka Eddie Nketiah Rob Holding Mohammed El Neny Reiss Nelson This great man's story is all over Arsenal Why am I going to write about these 5 players? Because they are the only 5 full squad members left from Arsene Wenger’s time in 2018. That leaves Granit Xhaka as the only certain starter from that era. Nketiah might finally make it and even Reiss Nelson is possible, but neither are sure of anything at this stage. One player for Wenger then. Is that a testament to how Wenger had fallen behind in his ability to run the team? In less than 5 years his team is gone. Hardly any considered good enough to get a start. That is sad but maybe it is the reality. And probably up to a year or so ago, a lot of fans didn’t rate Xhaka. He was out the door, bags packed, when Arteta came. Arteta said, “hey Jack, where are you going? Come back here and play for the Arsenal!” One of Arteta’s best moves, he may even get our player of the season this year with a strong finish. Are the current squad Arsene style players? Probably not. He liked to have a sprinkling of pure skill players like Pires and Ozil who couldn’t tackle or defend. In the Champions league final against Barcelona when Lehmann got sent off, he chose to take off Pires rather than Ljungberg on the basis that with ten men he needed someone who could defend. Pires never really forgave him. Wenger also liked players to play without too many instructions, trusting them to know what to do. This led to accusations that he wasn’t great tactically. Arteta is, by contrast, mad about tactics. Players have specific roles and guidelines under Arteta, they must work extremely hard, fill any holes, and do what they are told. Setpieces are seen as a way to win and are given high priority. 1. Granit Xhaka: The comeback kid After the impossible comeback, can he achieve the possible? So where now for these players? Let’s start with the only sure starter, Mr Xhaka. He is 30 and could be there until he catches up with his number and maybe beyond. He could maybe have 500+ appearances for Arsenal before he finishes. He can play fullback, defensive midfielder and attacking midfielder. He plays for the team at all times, you never see him playing only for himself. Now that he has abandoned his penchant for cards and has limited his mistakes, it seems impossible to drop him. He will be hoping that he can add to the 3 trophies picked up so far. A Wenger yes, so. 2. Eddie Nketiah: Will goals be enough? Eddie - young enough to break Henry's record Eddie Nketiah? I feel that it is going to be hard to displace Jesus no matter what he does. He has bulked up, he has improved all the time and he could surely have a great career, but will it be at Arsenal? It is hard to say. He is giving Arteta the best possible headache, though, as he has made Jesus’s injury almost irrelevant, not something Arsenal’s fans thought when Jesus left the World Cup. Jesus will have to fight for his place back, for sure, but I feel he may well get it. And I suppose Eddie will then have to leave for the sake of his career. A Wenger maybe, I think. 3. Rob Holding: Holding on for dear life A move down the table seems likely Rob Holding? He seems to have settled for his role as bit player. At 27 he is still young but he has only 153 total appearances for Arsenal, around 21 a year over 7 seasons. Few fans see him as getting a first choice position so will he stay? You never know, particularly if Arsenal become a winning machine. 20 games a season with trophies might seem better than 45 at the likes of Leeds or Southampton. But if we get one more great defender he may not even get those 20 appearances even with 5 subs allowed. I suspect he will move on or be moved on in the summer as I expect us to be in the market for a top defender. A Wenger no, I reckon. 4. Reiss Nelson: He could be anything Close to make or break for Reiss Reiss Nelson? An enigma. Over 6 seasons at Arsenal he has only played 25 league games and 55 in total. Now, Arteta has made many statements about him, always positive, and he has done well in some matches when given a chance but 6 goals does not seem to indicate that he will make the step up. Amazingly still only 23, so it is hard to truly speak with confidence but, honestly he needs an injury to a top player and to come in and do an Nketiah, give Arteta a major headache. I like him and his attitude. I feel he will have a successful career but I doubt it will be at Arsenal. A Wenger no? Probably. 5. Mohamed Elneny: I am there to do a job for Arsenal Our most faithful and reliable servant And now the last. The wonderful Mo Elneny. He has made it clear he wants to stay and be a bit player. I feel Arteta will accept that. He is Mr Arsenal, always reliable, occasionally scores a great goal and sometimes bosses midfield. 90 plus caps for Egypt and major trophies for them. 3 trophies for us so far and I hope many more to come. I feel Arteta would have to be soft in the head to let him go as he can play a few positions, runs hard, has a lot of experience and always plays for the team. Only 5 league appearances this year but surely more to come if he recovers and only 5 needed anyway for a league medal if we manage it. Seemingly a great character to have in the dressing room. I don’t see Arteta letting him go. A Wenger yes, then. Is the Arteta era truly about to start? King of tactics, fan involvement, and players 5 players left from the great man’s time, but only 2 might be left over the next year or two. The feeling is that Arteta will continue with his vision, make Arsenal one of Europe’s feared sides again. It will be his side, with an unmistakable Arteta stamp on it just as Arsene Wenger’s sides always had his imprimatur. He doesn’t seem to have quite inherited Arsene’s way with players as virtually all seemed to love him, but once all players are his, then I feel they will run through brick walls for him. And his ability to work with tactics is surely a big plus? The one argument against Wenger, a lack of tactical nous, cannot be levelled at Arteta. The only question now is, is Arteta good enough? I truly feel he is. To me, all our great managers were Arsenal through and through. Arteta is that. I believe in him.
  14. Moyes Ghost I am Arsenal. All Arsenal from early days to now. I am walking to my normal entrance in the Emirates on Christmas eve. It is dark, it is cold, but I need to make sure that we are ready for West Ham on the 26th. I can feel, all around me, a grim chill enveloping me. There are murky shadows everywhere. But I dismiss such foolishness from my head as I apply my key card to the door. Suddenly, it pours red blood down its white facade, and a head that seems familiar to me then forms from the blood and screams at me. It looks like David Moyes. The door opens and it all goes calm. I am shaken but I feel my imagination is running away from me. I go inside to my office but there is a distinct frost in the air. The heating mustn’t be working I say to myself. Anyway, I have work to do so I set about my tasks. I do have an electric heater that looks like a real fire so I put that on and pour myself a nice drop of rum. The world starts looking like a better place. It is Arsenal and I am home. Was it him??????? I am not sure how long after that the real strangeness happened but I seemed to be asleep with the drowsiness induced by the dark liquid. I heard loud knocking coming from all sides and the room started shaking. The door flung open and it was Harry Bradshaw, our first successful manager, but he looked like a zombie. “Harry, is it you?” Harry Bradshaw 1899 - 1904 “Of course it’s me. I need you to understand what it is to be Arsenal. You must listen to me. Tonight, you will be visited by 3 spectres, the first at midnight, and then at one and then two. You must take strong note of what they show you, and finally, you must take action to bring us back to being Arsenal, the most feared team in the land.” The First of the 3 spectres Then he disappeared. I looked at the empty bottle of rum on the ground and laughed. Look at the damage you have caused me, giving me nightmares. 3 spectres, indeed. I retired to my bed up high near the boardroom to get the rest I need. Sleep came quick. Slumber was delicious until my grandfather clock tolled way louder than ever before, a noise like being inside a huge church bell. Herbert Chapman, smiling, came out of the FA cup of 1930. He looked like he used to, dapper, but with those intense eyes which commanded respect. I immediately embraced him for I always loved him. He made Arsenal great. “You have something to show me, Herbert? You are the spectre?” “Yes, I have many things to remind you of. Let us away.” Herbert Chapman 1925 - 1934 He took me by the hand as we flew through the air. I recognised where we were going. Upton Park. It was surely in his time as all the crowd were wearing cloth caps and virtually everyone was standing. We sat down in the dugout. The match started. I was getting a dreadful sense of déjà vu. It was confirmed when James Ruffell scored for West Ham. I will never forget this game. And now it was played out horribly again in front of me. Goal after goal were fired in including a hattrick from Victor Watson and two own goals from us. 7-0, to West Ham, of all teams. 7th March 1927 will always be etched on my memory. A ghoulish day at this place “Why, Herbert, why are you showing me this?” And then a terrible fear caught hold. “Is this going to happen on the 26th? Oh sweet Jesus, not that.” The second of the 3 spectres I started shaking uncontrollably. My mind was spinning. Then the whole world started whirling. Suddenly, I was back in my bed. It was a dream. I must stop drinking rum. Sleep came with ease, though, as I settled down under the duvet. For how long? Not long as at one it sounded like I was inside the grandfather clock again. Clanging so hard I thought I would go crazy. Then it stopped. George Allison popped out of the 1936 FA Cup. Now, George was a great manager, totally underrated. 2 league triumphs and an FA Cup. But this time I was afraid. What could he show me? George Allison 1934 - 1947 He took me across London again. I remember this day. It was the Fa Cup on the 5th January 1946. The cloth capped men on the terraces. The memory of the war still fresh in everyone’s minds. I inwardly screamed as all of West Ham’s six goals went in without reply. I can never forget that day. “West Ham! West Ham are the demons that are going to derail our title dream. Please tell me, George, tell me that’s not the case?” But he just smiled and turned away, as my mind was spinning again. I fell into a vortex, out of control, until I landed in my bed. Bad news on my doorstep again. I am being warned. 2 of our great managers got hammered by the Hammers. Arteta must be warned. This is a big match. But then I realised that there was still one more spectre to go. But surely I know the message? West Ham gave 2 of our worst defeats to 2 of our greatest managers. What more do I need to see? I couldn’t sleep, and was tossing and turning but somehow I dozed only to be thrown back inside the insidious bells of the grandfather clock. The noise was frightening, all encompassing, ethereal. Then it all stopped. The last of the 3 spectres A scary ride to Highbury Arsene Wenger climbed out of the 1998 FA Cup. I was never so glad to see anyone. Arsene knows. That’s all I can say. He made us into the modern day club we are. He was a mentor to Mikel Arteta. He will show me what to say to Mikel to stop this nonsense. I gladly took his hand as we flew. It wasn’t very far. To my beloved Highbury, in fact. It was West Ham again. I could remember this day, too, 1st Feb 2006. Nigel Reo-Coker and Bobby Zamora rifled in 2 goals before Thierry Henry got one back. Matthew Etherington made it 3-1 and then Robert Pires got another towards the end. 3-2. A horrendous day. Ok, I get it, West Ham can still be dangerous at home. We must prepare. But Wenger wasn’t done. He then brought me to Upton Park again. It was the next time we played the Hammers. Nov 5th. Another bad day as they scored a very late goal by Marlon Harewood and 1-0 it finished. But it still wasn’t over. He took me back across London to our shiny new Emirates stadium. It was our next match against the bubble blowing Irons on the 7th April 2007. Arsène Wenger 1996-2018 Bobby Zamora scored on 45 to make it a miserable day for us. We couldn’t score. 3 times in a row Arsene Wenger was beaten by them. I had almost forgotten that, an indignity that even the best teams couldn’t manage. I was in despair. Surely this meant that it is all about to go wrong. I gladly threw myself into the vortex knowing that I would get back to my bed. West Ham are the harbingers of doom! My great dream of getting back to being Arsenal is over. No more sending teams home crying. Woe is me, I sobbed. The end of it Things were no better in the morning. Desperation was etched in my face as I looked at my mirror. What are we going to do? I could hear a noise coming from outside so I looked out my window. It was Mikel Arteta going towards the entrance. He was smiling, in huge contrast to my black tear stained eyes and the wretched look upon my face. “Hey, big boss Arsenal, what’s up? You look terrible.” “I have a bad feeling about this game. West Ham have done terrible things to our managers in the past.” Mikel looked serious for a second. But he had a confident look on his face. “I have done all the preparation. The players know what to expect. I know exactly how David Moyes brain works. I have worked out how to get the tactics right. We are ready. We will continue our fight towards the title. Don’t worry, Arsenal, this Christmas West Ham will be good to us. “ After we Hammer the Hammers “And we will give you the money you need, Mikel. We may have have been stingy in the past but buy the best. We have loads of money. No words have ever made me happier. I hope to Dickens he is right. And God bless us one and all.
  15. The new Matt Busby? Matt Busby - The Kids and the glamour Ah, there was a great buzz around London in the swinging Sixties, but it didn’t buzz around Arsenal. It did around Matt Busby and Manchester United. It was our first dry decade since we burst on the scene in the 1930’s under Herbert Chapman. Manchester United and Liverpool had both won titles before us so we gave them a head start. We never managed to catch them up. Can we? Certainly not easily, but with both teams up for sale, maybe they can stay still for a while, while we jumpstart a great period under Mikel Arteta. Our great years came under extraordinarily innovative managers who transformed football, Chapman and Wenger. Few clubs worldwide, even the huge ones, have had managers that brought about the changes they did. George Graham, who achieved wonders on the football pitch, didn’t really have an overall vision about football or the club, other than achieving success. Nothing wrong with that, it is the same as the majority of managers, even the true greats. Arteta achieves success? So is Arteta in the innovative mould, like his two extraordinary predecessors, or potentially more of a great football man? Does he have the vision to transform football and Arsenal in a new, unique way? Of course the first question is, can he achieve success? That is a prerequisite. He needs fantastic years of winning for people to say, the Arteta way is the best way. That is yet to be seen. He has one big difference to Chapman and Wenger, they had top achievements before Arsenal. He has none as it is his first go. And so far, it is not obvious whether he has a vision for a new way of doing things. That may come. Herbert Chapman - the founder of modern football Chapman was a groundbreaker in football: physiotherapists, floodlights, European competition, numbered shirts, and, critically, the WM formation, which is still the basis of all subsequent patterns. are all down to him. Wenger cared about diet, training and a holistic approach to modern footballers whereby they always had to focus on their career, their health and their fitness. He introduced an enhanced level of training grounds and cared deeply about the surfaces on which top footballers play. He also believed they should enjoy their time on the pitch, and their talent. This was in sharp contrast to the hard drinking, make do attitude prevalent, particularly in English football, at the time. He was smart enough to do things slowly, yet was boosted by the instant success which allowed him to change things to his liking easily. A better playing career Neither Wenger or Chapman had distinguished playing careers, Chapman even appearing for a team in white and black from north London that no-one has ever heard of. Wenger had even less so, with the highlight at RC Strasbourg for a short few seasons at the end of his career where he was never first choice. Arteta, though, had a pretty successful time, and was on the fringes of what was the greatest Spanish national team of all time. He won trophies at PSG, Rangers and Arsenal. Wenger changed football Perhaps a better comparison is to Matt Busby, the legend who brought Manchester United to prominence in the 50’s and 60’s. It was also his first managerial job. Busby was a good player who played for Manchester City and Liverpool. Busby wasn’t a great innovator but he did believe in European competition at a time when English football was still insular. Where Arteta and he are similar is their belief in young players, and their seeming compatibility with youngsters. Busby created the Busby Babes, speckled with great talents such as Duncan Edwards, Bobby Charlton, Liam Whelan, Dennis Violet and many others, who won the league in 1955-56 and 1956-57 and looked set to dominate football for many years. The team had an average age of 21-22. 8 died in the Munich air disaster and 2 more never played again. It took a few years for Busby to fashion a new top side in the 60’s with George Best, Bobby Charlton and Dennis Law at the forefront. Can disaster fall? If Arteta does manage to win this year, then this group of players can only get better. They have many years of development left in them and it is clear that Arteta, like Busby, wants to get the best out of them, improving one improves all is his philosophy, and so he works with all players to make them better players, more tactically aware, and buying into the team system that is essential for success. The Munich air disaster stopped Busby’s team from dominating but, while it is unlikely a similar disaster could befall Arsenal, the modern day curse could derail all our hopes. Arteta could be poached, say to Barcelona, and so could our players to various major entities with large wallets. Now Arsenal are no Ajax, another recent team to have many young stars, who found their top players pinched. We have money and lots of it. If Arteta goes, though, maybe our players will follow suit. Success will be the key. The Munich disaster - a real tragedy for football There is another parallel with Busby. Busby, when he took on the job with Man Utd, insisted on a long term commitment and a five year contract plus total control of team affairs. He argued that 5 years was the time it would take him to bring Utd to the level required. There is evidence that Arteta argued the same and successfully managed to get the Kroenkes to back him longterm as he imposed his vision of how he wanted Arsenal to play, the type of players he needed and the ethos that will make Arsenal a true top team again. 13 league defeats last season and some bumpy patches never saw the Kroenke’s come out of the traps to criticize him. They believed in him, as did all of the Arsenal staff, it seems, even if that didn’t extend to all fans. A manager needs to be given a chance, even at a big club. The glamour and the glory Manchester United was the glamour club in England under Busby. They were the team players wanted to play for. There are signs that Arsenal are becoming the same with players from other teams such as Michael Owen, Jamie Carragher and Rio Ferdinand saying they love this new look Arsenal side. Does Arteta have the vision? We are young, we are strong, we play together and we could be immortal like all the greats of football that have flowed through our lives, making our time on this planet a brighter place. Arteta may not prove to be a big innovator like Chapman or Wenger but he could turn out to be an extraordinary manager like Busby. I would take that all day long. Bring us back to the future and the Swinging Sixties but this time Arteta and Arsenal.
  16. The Dark Side entered football He kept his darkest side for Wenger Note: the Steve Bruce mentioned as the author is not Steve Bruce footballer and manager but possibly a poet/writer which I found on the internet. It is difficult to be certain as nowhere seems to have actual details on who the author is. Regular readers will remember a blog I wrote some time ago https://arsenal-bulgaria.com/site/team/london_calling/the-fickleness-of-football-fans-r488/ in which I posited that Alex Ferguson underachieved at Manchester United because they were easily the richest team in England and the world at some points. And yet he never really came close to winning everything and certainly underachieved in the Champions league in that context. I can imagine the foul mouthed abuse I would get if I dared to suggest that he underachieved at Manchester United. Don't speak out, Rafa A new book has come out called The Dark Side of Alex Ferguson by Steve Bruce. I have recently read it and I feel it is worth a blog. Now there is nothing really new in it but he does manage to show the hypocrisy Mr Ferguson had and the power to keep the whole football community in thrall, FA, referees, journalists, the BBC and the media in general. This book reminds you of a lot of the incidents that you may have forgotten about but I feel the biggest remark I can make is that you could not write this about any other manager no matter how great. None had the insidious control to silence both the football authorities and the media once remarked upon by Rafa Benitez. Bully boy Alex The book is short at 100 pages. It covers his early years as a manager in Scotland in which he seemed more of an overt bully than he managed to get himself portrayed in later years. Gordon Strachan was a particular target saying the treatment he got was horrendous. Ferguson never let the enmity drop throughout his life. It also shows his hypocrisy in claiming he was from a poor background and because of that he became a champion of the underdog. Many footballers were truly poor, mostly from Africa and South America but they never tried to make it a defining element of their character. Ferguson was never really poor and a champion mostly of himself not the underdog. Gordon Strachan got dog's abuse We are reminded of his atrocious treatment of John Motson of the BBC when he had the temerity to ask Ferguson about discipline after Roy Keane had received 3 red cards. He managed to fit many fucks in there at a decent man only asking what anyone would ask. Ferguson never forgot to hold a grudge. Destroying Manchester United And so we are treated to the many indiscretions. Roy Keane, after they fell out, went from being the greatest footballer he ever had to not even getting in Ferguson’s top Man Utd team he had managed. Perhaps the biggest was the takeover by the Glazers, which is directly attributable to Ferguson. The Rock of Gibraltar chapter is the most significant of the whole book. If Man Utd fans want to know how the Glazer’s took over, saddled the club with enormous debt, and presided over their drift downtable and downmarket, it is all in there. Ferguson created the Glazer's Briefly put, two main directors of Man Utd, The Irishmen John Magnier and JP MacManus known as the Coolmore Mafia, had promised Ferguson an equal share of the horse’s winnings in return for investing in the top racehorse Rock of Gibraltar. Ferguson decided that it was a share of the stud value he should get, which was worth far more. After a hugely destabilizing court case, Ferguson backed down. The 2 Irish millionaires decided that they could not work with him anymore and sold their stakes in United to the Glazers, who promptly bought it by leveraging the sale with all the physical assets, including the ground and the buildings, which meant Utd would have to pay it all back to the Glazers. A club which was generating huge profits suddenly became massively in debt and caused a vast amount of resentment in fans, which is still felt strongly even now. Ferguson cheerleaded the Glazers and continues to do so to this day. Wenger alone got to Ferguson But this is an Arsenal blog so let’s move on to Arsenal and Arsene Wenger. Wenger got under Ferguson’s skin far more than any other, mostly because he was dismissive of Wenger when he came. Japan was rubbished as was Wenger’s five languages, with Ferguson claiming he had a young uneducated foreign footballer there who could also speak many languages. The Professor, he sneered, but then Wenger straightaway won the double, putting Ferguson in his place. Wenger transformed how footballers trained and where, how and what they ate, rotation of squads, and all of that Ferguson had to swallow as he also had to make such changes to Man Utd if he was to keep up. So the insolent Frenchman made him change his ways. Oh, the indignity. He alienates two Keanes The book is an enjoyable read, showing so many petty grudges, jealousies, bullying, hypocrisies, and sometimes downright nastiness of a man who ruthlessly fought off any attack he perceived, whether justified or not. It covers Roy Keane and even a cruel and unnecessary remark about a very young Robbie Keane. It covers agents, his manipulation of so many football people in favour of his sons, his treatment of journalists, banning so many for the most trivial of crimes such as asking him a question about his team. It goes over a life characterized by bullying, but somehow getting away with it in a manner no other manager has ever managed. A big falling out And so he is revered as a great, often referred to as the greatest ever manager, and has had so many hagiographies written about him it is almost unreal. But perhaps the greatest criticism he should get, but doesn’t, is that Man Utd’s troubles, stemming from the Glazer takeover, are squarely down to Alex Ferguson believing he could bully the Coolmore Mafia. They were Utd fans, unlike the Glazers, and they would have backed him to the hilt without putting the club in debt. The moral of the story is bullying will always do badly in the end. Arsenal finished above Man Utd last season. This season we are challenging for the title. I hope we always stay classy and never have such a book written about any manager of ours. It is ok to attack a 19 yr old Robbie Keane
  17. Winning Victory through our own harmony, I say We must win at all costs? Last week I spoke about losing, but the other side of the coin is winning and maybe there is not so much difference in some ways. I mentioned drawing last week as being similar to a defeat as you didn’t win. They take away from your win percentage so despite Wenger’s great years he had only a 57% win ratio. But what can we analyse about winning that is useful to a managerial team and the players? I am going to argue something here that I believe should be critical to all team’s planning. You must, at all costs, beat the teams below you. These boys don't lose often to lower teams To explain, we were beaten by Brentford, Manchester United, Everton, Palace, Brighton, Southampton plus Forest in the cup. Draws – Brighton, Burnley and Palace. Convert them to wins and viola! Equal to City on 93 points. Second on goal difference only. Defeats happen for a reason So why do these defeats happen? The only logical conclusion is complacency and luck determine these defeats. Bad luck, maybe cannot be foreseen, but complacency can. I want to draw your attention to Mr Mourinho, who, regular readers know, I have little time for. He bucked the trend of modern managers of resting players (of which a major proponent was our own Arsene Wenger) in playing his strongest team wherever possible. He wanted to win all and pushed his players to their limits. It meant Chelsea rarely lost to lesser sides and they eclipsed the two giants of the time, Arsenal and Man Utd. I think this aspect he got right. Jose Mourinho -win at all costs I believe dropping top players against lower sides adds to the complacency. The manager is saying we can beat these teams with an unfamiliar side. Players don’t find each other so easily, the rhythm is disrupted and last season we got defeated too often against lower sides. I strongly believe we should treat these matches as the must win ones. We might get beaten by the top sides when playing our best players and last season we were beaten at least once by all the sides above us. We only managed 2 wins against Spurs and Chelsea. But it wouldn’t have mattered at all being beaten all those times as in the scenario outlined above, we would have ended up with 93 points if we had beaten all the lower sides. If changes have to be made, make it against the top sides as we were beaten pretty much every time anyway. We might still get 2 wins out of eight by resting some players. Fire them up against the little teams You need to play your best players, fire them up, get in a motivational speaker to say let’s go out and beat these Palace or Brentford fuckers for all those fans in the stadium who love you. Get the tactics right, get the preparation right as these are the matches that will win you the title. Our players are fired up for the Liverpools and Citys anyway. Wenger regularly rested players This is the bleeding obvious, yes? So why am I saying it? Because managers have been duped into complacency and the necessity to give squad players games. Mourinho never cared about that, only winning. It meant he made enemies and never stayed too long at a club as players start to grumble. As a football manager, you are not there to make friends, your only friends are the players you play all the time. The winners of Chelsea, Lampard, Terry, Drogba, etc., loved Mourinho because he made them winners. They didn’t care about the players who were just backup, made most appearances as subs or whatever. Let them be unhappy. Winning is your job as a football manager and that was probably Wenger’s biggest weakness, despite having, I believe, the best team in Europe, he never won the Champions League. I don’t believe Mourinho would have tolerated Bergkamp’s refusal to fly or arduous driving to matches. Thierry Henry rated Bergkamp as the greatest player he ever played with but we had to do without him in a lot of away matches in Europe. We could have done with him away in Europe Coping with losing is key to winning Last week, I concluded that winning means coping with losing, quickly turning things around and having the ability to pick yourself up off the floor. Plus having a top team around you, both staff and players to bring you back up to the top. Lewis Hamilton had the magical Mercedes team to pick him right back up from defeat. Losing some matches should help you win matches by closing matches out when necessary. The excruciating pain of defeat helps you not to lose. In the optimistic scenario outlined above, we would have been beaten 6 times by Liverpool, Man City, Chelsea, and Tottenham and still might have won the league. Winning and losing are two sides of the same coin. Should we learn from Mourinho? What does it mean for this season? I reckon if Mikel Arteta made that one tweak, that the must win matches are the lower sides, played his best side and convinced his players that these are the matches we absolutely have to win, we could be an awful lot closer to the title. Mourinho made his career out of a ruthless focus on winning matches, the League Cup was not a joke trophy to him. He won most finals he contested. Arteta is not Mourinho, you can see he tries to look after all his players and have a relationship with them, He will play mostly second string in the Europa League, The League Cup and the Fa Cup and against some of the lower teams he will rest some players. He is thinking long term and the overall good of the club. Players need games to improve and show their ability. We need to send these home crying Maybe he is right. However, it does mean sacrificing some games to losses. Do we really want to be beaten by Olympiacos at the Emirates? Or Brighton? We must start a new culture that we send the lower teams home crying again and again. Not the ruthless focus of Mourinho where players play second fiddle to winning, perhaps, but a merciless aim to take the victories we deserve. Victoria Concordia Crescit yes, for sure, but only harmony amongst ourselves, we don’t owe the Brightons or the Olympiacos anything else.
  18. Arsenal, English? Really? My top 2 English teams for Arsenal (at least 100 appearances) David Seaman John Lukic Ashley Cole, Lee Dixon Kenny Sansom, Viv Anderson Tony Adams, Sol Campbell Martin Keown, Steve Bould Peter Storey, Michael Thomas David Platt, Ray Parlour Bukayo Saka, David Rocastle George Armstrong, Charlie George John Radford, Ian Wright Alan Smith, Malcolm Macdonald Arsenal are an English team. Arsenal are an English team? Really? So who is our best ever manager? The Englishman Herbert Chapman or the Frenchman Arsene Wenger? Not so easy to say but Wenger has far more trophies and upgraded Arsenal to the top of the pile when Manchester United, full with money, stars, and a huge fanbase, were in their prime. I think you have to put the Frenchman ahead, just. More trophies = Better? Our best ever player? Also French. The magical Thierry Henry. It is very hard to put a real English contender against him, especially in my time, which, as I find it too hard to judge players from the past, means I can only go on their records. So, Cliff Bastin (396 appearances, 178 goals) is behind Ian Wright (288 appearances, 185 goals). Not a true reflection as they are totally different eras. Ian Wright is a big favourite of mine, as he is to us all here in ASCB, but I have to concede he wasn’t as good as Henry or Bergkamp. The tall one is Ian Wright Our English defence were so good Our best goalkeeper? Well, certainly Seaman has some competition in Jennings, or Lehmann, with all three having their champions. I would go for Jennings. With fullbacks there is an argument for English dominance as indeed in defence generally. David O’Leary, Terry Neill, Frank McLintock, Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny, Bacary Sagna, Kolo Toure, Pat Rice and Sammy Nelson were super players but as you can see from my 2 teams up above, the English defenders could hold their own against the best of the outside brigade. In midfield not so much. Brady, Vieira, Fabregas, Cazorla, Pettit, Pires, Ljungberg, Rosicky, Ozil, Ramsey, and others would have to be just that bit stronger than the 4 I have nominated above. On the wing, I chose Saka and Rocastle with just behind them Charlie George and Geordie Armstrong, who often played in a 4-3-3 which was a bit different from today. But are they better than Brady, Pires and Ljungberg who often played on the wing and Marc Overmars, Sylvain Wiltord and others? I would say that again the outsiders were a bit stronger. Super, super foreign stars up front Up front, it is very hard to make a claim that the best English forwards are a match for the best foreigners. The four Englishmen I have chosen were super players but the contest is phenomenal. Henry, Bergamp, Kanu, Anelka, Sanchez, Aubameyang, Van Persie and others of the Wenger era were true superstars. In the end, I probably have to concede that only in defence, including goalkeepers, can Arsenal claim to be an English team and even then with strong competition. Anyway this week I decided to take a look at who would be our first and second best English team. One rule was at least a 100 competitive matches so it knocked out guys like Ramsdale, who is surely itching to make my list. Send me VIP tickets for every match, Aaron, and I will put you top . I chose Seaman over Lukic, mostly because that is probably the consensus choice but truly John Lukic was a superb keeper and only a shade weaker. Ashley Cole and Lee Dixon over Kenny Sansom and Viv Anderson, Very little difference. Superb players with lots of England caps. Adams and Campbell, wayhey! In central defence, I chose 2 legends, Adams and Campbell over Keown and Bould and probably most people would agree with that. Again I should say that I am choosing from 1969 onwards, the year of my conversion to the Arsenal cult, so the great defenders of the past are omitted. Surely a dream defence? In central midfield, I chose Peter Storey, who was true class. He could play across the defence and in midfield, always won the ball and made himself available for a pass. Alongside him the legend that is Michael Thomas, who scored what was for me our greatest ever goal against Liverpool at Anfield to win us the title. It’s only Ray Parlour and David Platt provide good backup but probably the first 2 have the edge here. Saka our future GOAT? On the wing, Saka is surely destined to be a world great and we all love David Rocastle but the competition is huge with Charlie George, a massive fan favourite in my time, and the sublime Geordie Armstrong, our top appearances up to David O’Leary. Very little difference here. Ramsdale next to make my list? I chose John Radford and Ian Wright up front against SuperMac and Alan Smith. Radford was my hero, scoring vital goals, always leading the line and scoring 149 times. Always someone ahead of him for England and he only got 2 caps. Geoff Hurst and Bobby Charlton, anyone? Ian Wright also lost out to Lineker and Shearer but battled his way to 33 caps all the same. In my time no Arsenal centre-forward claimed the top English spot for any length of time. Can Nketiah? He has managed to be the underage top scorer. Time will tell but at this juncture it seems unlikely. Does Englishness matter? And so there you have it. Would My top English team beat my second best? I guess so as in one or two areas they are stronger. But it is tight and could not be guaranteed. I don’t feel they could beat the best foreign 11 though. Spot the Englishmen! So, to answer my question, posed at the start – is Arsenal an English team? Sort of is my answer. The best players come from everywhere, including England. The fans also come from everywhere as anyone who has been at the Emirates can testify. The owners are American and lots of the staff are from everywhere. Is it important? I don’t know. I think it could be if Arsenal don’t get back to the top. You do need the locals to support and a strong English presence will always help in that regard. Now we have so many English guys playing and starring in all sectors that we probably have the strongest English team at the moment of the teams in the top five. I await the day the Irish make a comeback and we get a Bulgarian superstar for our English team. And c’mon the Arse! These Englishmen looked to be the future. It is hard to make it at Arsenal
  • Create New...