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Found 3 results

  1. Arsenal v Man Utd part 2 Handbags, surely? A most serious war Fighting! That’s the key to Arsenal vs Manchester United. So many fights, and so spectacular. The thing is, though, it became the biggest derby in English football purely on football terms, which is unusual. Normally it is your local rivals who are your biggest opponents, not so these two. It was football, it was that mad scramble for superiority, to be better. Yes we had big games, the FA cup final of 1979 which I wrote about here being one. I also wrote about the brawl at Old Trafford in 1991 here. I was there in 1991 when Arsenal had a 20 man brawl with Man Utd at Old Trafford. As far as I am concerned, Man Utd were the instigators as any examination of the videos will confirm but Arsenal got the worst punishment. The beginning of the belief that Alex Ferguson always got better treatment from authorities. It was spectacular, with almost everyone involved although not really vicious except maybe for Brian McClair kicking Nigel Winterburn on the ground, for which Winterburn got booked! Arsene Wenger Vs Alex Ferguson But they were just tasters, little morsels to whet the appetite for the big battles first with George Graham and Alex Ferguson and then the supreme one, when Arsene Wenger arrived on the scene. He seemed straightaway to get under Ferguson’s skin and of course in his first full season he was 12 points behind and going nowhere when he did the impossible, reeled them in and essentially got the title with a Marc Overmars wondergoal at Old Trafford. From then on, they all knew, there was a new kid on the block and they were Arsenal. No wonder Ferguson was sickened and bitter. No more Mr Nice Guy Of course, Arsenal never quite managed domination under George Graham, but Man Utd, under Matt Busby, not that long past, were a great and dominant side just as Manchester United were becoming under Ferguson. They seemingly could just march to the title every season. Eh hello, Arsenal are here now. It was our first Premier League title. And the true start of what was to become the biggest rivalry in English football. They hated each other, hyped themselves up for every match as if their life depended on it and they were always feisty affairs. Both sets of players were desperate to win Now, Ferguson and Wenger seem friends. Ferguson, though, then, was far more responsible for the war. He liked to use any method to gain an advantage, mindgames, a sense of us against the world, firing players up, diving. Even the arrival of Arsenal he used to push his team to their first Champions league. They had to get better to beat Arsenal and that was also good enough to beat Bayern Munich. Wenger always wanted it to be about football, sporting competition, and doing things the right way. Thanks, Patrick, for the eye examination However his players didn’t see it that way. They also wanted to win in any way possible, Adams, Keown, Vieira and others would try to intimidate opponents, to fight as hard as they could for victory. Witness Patrick Vieira intimidating Gary Neville in the famous tunnel incident. This fired Roy Keane up so much that he wanted to fight Patrick Vieira before the match. I had never seen this before in football and kept expecting Keane to be sent off before the match had even started. Maybe that is not in the rules so he wasn’t and United went on to win 4-2. Keown was the hardest fighter of all Martin Keown’s most famous image is when he screws up his face at Ruud Van Nistleroy when he missed a penalty at Old Trafford after Diego Forlan had gone down soft. It ended 0-0 and all the Arsenal players celebrated wildly, so wildly that several of them got suspensions. Nothing for Man Utd. Ferguson, unbelievably said that Arsenal’s conduct was the worst he had ever seen in football. Ah, good old Fergie, always playing the mindgames. Get closer, Martin I have to mention Pizzagate as well. The next season, at Old Trafford, Utd ended our great unbeaten run with Van Nistleroy scoring a late penalty and Wayne Rooney scoring even later to give them a 2-0 win. Arsenal had played the better football, controlling the game to that point. It boiled over into the tunnel, and Mr Ferguson got pizza thrown over him by a young Cesc Fabregas, allegedly. This time, both teams kept shtum and no punishments were handed out. Surely not innocent Cesc Fabregas? So there were plenty of fights, red cards, yellow cards, wild tackles, squaring up, and sly grins when intimidation worked, as Wenger vs Ferguson, Keane vs Vieira, Keown vs everybody and lots of other battles raged all around us. It was a time of heightened emotions as the two great teams of English football battled throughout new players in a ten or so year yoyo war for supremacy. Every time a team got knocked down they got back up and knocked the other down. It was a fantastic football war as well But what about the football, I hear you ask? It was high class. Dennis Bergkamp had brought football to a new level as did Thierry Henry, Vieira and superb players for the Arsenal. Beckham, Scholes, Giggs, and others were world class for Utd. Ruud Van Nistleroy ramped up the rivalry by trying to keep up with Henry, but eventually conceded Henry was better as he skulked off to Real Madrid. They fought on football skills though, I never remember them getting physical with each other. Nistleroy was beaten by Thierry Henry During George Graham’s time, Ferguson famously said that Ian Wright was destroying us and he did acknowledge that Arsenal players could play. He also thought that Tony Adams should have been a Manchester United player. And Ferguson learned from Wenger. All the modern ideas he brought were swiftly introduced at Old Trafford, diets, training methods and grounds, pitch technology, large squads, rotation, he was always one of the best learners in football. One thing both managers believed in was attacking football, always trying to score. They were never good at holding on to a lead, always wanting to increase it by preference. Hence the high scoring matches as both sides, once they fell behind, kept trying to win, leaving gaps for the other to exploit. The infamous 8-2 to Man Utd was not as one-sided as the scoreline suggests, as Arsenal continued to press forward, looking for a miracle. Watch it again if you don’t believe me. Are there battles to come? There is no doubt in my mind that Utd had reached an easy pinnacle until Arsenal arrived to challenge, winning title after title, and that push helped Ferguson to get his players to perform better. Both sides had managers and players who only cared about winning, battling and fighting to the end for that top prize of not losing. For trophies, they have the edge and we would need a long great spell to catch them up. It is not impossible, though. Can we overtake them on money, however? Probably not, they are at the top level of fan support with an income to match. They can pay huge salaries even as they are struggling at the moment. A long period for us in the doldrums makes it harder to get the owners to spend money. Again we would need that long great spell to match them for money. They do go in with an advantage, a bigger fan base, a bigger ground, owners who spend more money, and, of course, a stronger modern tradition. What do plucky little Arsenal have to offer? A potentially exciting young manager, who, if he tackles his weaknesses in dealing with players, could become a true great. We also have an extraordinary range of young talent, which, with improvement and some of that battling ability which I have written about here, could bring us that dream spell of dominance. I believe in this team, do you?
  2. 2005-2006 We won trophies at this stadium The end of Highbury. Highbury was a great ground. I loved it and I cannot say I get the same buzz from the Emirates. To go on to the terrace and mingle with the real fans, listen to the banter, get shoved around whenever something exciting happened, sometimes struggling to see what happened when being shoved, all added to the fizz in my belly as I watched my team becoming close to being a great one in the late 80’s under George Graham. We were finally able to go toe to toe with the giants of English football, Liverpool and I was able to go to Highbury to watch them climb that mountain. People accused it of being the Highbury Library but it never seemed that way to me, there was always a noise, lots of singing, and sometimes some very witty comments. And, something that might surprise people who only watch on tv is the negativity of a lot of the crowd. Cries similar to “The team is fucking useless and always have been”, “the manager is an idiot” and many others came out of the lips of fans regularly from the terrace. That has died out dramatically since we changed over to the stands. There is still a little banter now but nowhere near the same. Football is worse for that, although I have to say I do like being able to sit and have a bit of comfort watching Arsenal, I miss the connectness of the terraces. But not at this one And I miss Highbury. The financial argument was inescapable. Roman Abramovich had altered the landscape of football as he transformed Chelsea into a contender for the best team in Europe. A seemingly bottomless supply of money and an aggressive attitude towards managers not achieving it meant that even Mourinho got sacked after toppling the 2 giants of English football, Manchester United and Arsenal, both with far greater resources at the time in terms of fans worldwide and ability to coin money from that fanbase. The big teams of Europe, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Barcelona, the Italian giants, and several within England had much bigger grounds. And so the plan that had started several years before had come to fruition and Arsenal would spend their last year at the hallowed and exquisite turf of Highbury. Arsene Wenger and David Dein, along with the board, set it all in place. A new ground, close beside Highbury so fans are not discommoded, with around 60,000 fans, a huge increase on what was there before, and a far greater amount of corporate boxes to cater for the sexy image football had garnered for itself. Arsenal needed that money to be able to take on the big boys. The banks insisted on Arsene Wenger The banks got that call right Perhaps not so well known is that the banks insisted that Arsene Wenger had to remain at the helm to guarantee the loans.This was certainly prescient as, although attendances have not been hit too badly since Wenger moved on, they have certainly taken a hit now that we are no longer challenging for honours. The shiny new stadium did come at a price on the pitch though. Although lots of new players came that year, none had the impact of Bergkamp (believed to have been a Wenger choice), Vieira, Henry, Petit, Overmars, Campbell, Pires, Llungberg and others that became legends. Adebayer, Walcott, Diaby, Song, and Hleb did come on board and made various types of impressions but none are contenders for greatest player in their position for Arsenal as those previous players I mentioned are. It looked like Wenger could get us good but not great players now. Our greatest midfielder gone This guy frightened players And so we lost one of our greatest this season. Patrick Vieira finally left for Juventus after grumbling for a few seasons about a move. Cesc Fabregas came through from the academy finally as first choice but he was no like for like replacement. He did not have the aggression or the physique of Vieira but he did bring a superb skillset to the team so that Vieira’s loss was not so keenly felt. Fabregas almost bridged the gap Lots of teams sent us home crying Still, on the pitch, we weren’t so good, 11 defeats in the league meant we finished a distant fourth to Chelsea. We fielded understrength teams in the FA cup and the League cup because Wenger concentrated all efforts on winning the Champions league which meant we went out to Bolton in the 4th round of the FA cup and Wigan in the semi-final of the League cup. We played lower teams in the league cup and got away with it until the semi’s where Wigan drew 2-2 over 2 legs but went through on the away goals rule as they scored a goal at Highbury in extra time of the second leg. We were beaten at Highbury by Chelsea and West Ham in the league, our only 2 defeats there that season although Wigan got a sort of a victory in the League cup. Highbury was always a difficult place to come to and the Emirates has never quite managed to achieve that. At least I got to feel it throughout my whole body And so we got our send off. Every match had a theme like players day, European night, 49-er’s day, Wenger day etc. and there was a party type atmosphere all season. Highbury was no more and I could never recreate my days of younger as we moved into our new giant stadium with its dizzying heights. Impressive, yes, and lots of interesting parts around it but without that buzz which so many of you will never experience. I am so glad that I got to feel it all through my body as I looked around at all the fans, strangers yet family, buzzing and fizzing and erupting as the goals went in. Next week I will talk about our Champions league campaign that season. It will be the final, for now, of this series My life as a gooner. The 49 has significance. The Champions league is the title I have always wanted and we came so close. List of themed matchdays at Highbury Matchday Date Players Day 14 August 2005 Goal Celebrations Day 24 August 2005 European Night 14 September 2005 2 November 2005 Doubles Day 19 September 2005 Internationals Day 2 October 2005 Wenger Day 22 October 2005 Memorial Day 5 November 2005 49-ers Day 26 November 2005 League Cup Night 29 November 2005 24 January 2006 Boxers v Jockeys Day 7 December 2005 Great Saves Day 18 December 2005 Hat-trick Heroes Day 28 December 2005 Back Four Day 3 January 2006 FA Cup Day 7 January 2006 1913 Day 14 January 2006 London Derbies Day 1 February 2006 Home Grown Players Day 11 February 2006 Managers Day 8 March 2006 Captains Day 12 March 2006 Junior Gunners Day 18 March 2006 Decades Day 28 March 2006 David Rocastle Day 1 April 2006 Dennis Bergkamp Day 15 April 2006 Records Day 19 April 2006 Kits Day 22 April 2006 Goals Day 7 May 2006
  3. 2004-2005 Another invincible season? I am guessing a lot of you readers remember this season and how you felt. We seemed better than the rest. We were unbeaten and we started the season as if we had forgotten how to be beaten. Man Utd in the Charity Shield? 0-0 and we beat them on penalties. And then we just started throwing the ball into the net in the league. 4 against Everton away, 5 against Middlesbrough at home, 3 against Blackburn at home, 4 against Norwich away, we couldn’t stop scoring and winning. Finally, Bolton got a draw 2-2 on game 6 and this, combined with beating Arsenal in the return fixture allowed the fantasist Sam Allardyce to claim he had the beating of Wenger. Had he heck as like! Check his record against Wenger, Wenger is clearly on top but he did take 4 points that season. In fairness to Allardyce, he always had a weaker team so any good result deserved merit. At least Fabregas didn't miss But that didn’t slow us down. 4-0 against Charlton and 3-1 against Villa and we were ready to consign Manchester United and old Red nose to the bin in our next. But that game is etched indelibly in all our minds. We were looking for 50 undefeated, they wanted to get back to being the champs. They were dirty, and the ref seemed not to notice as he turned a blind eye. Then Campbell made an attempted challenge on Rooney, the referee said penalty and Van Nistleroy converted. Then Rooney scored again and we had the famous pizzagate in the tunnel at the end when Cesc Fabregas was alleged to have thrown a pizza at Alex Ferguson. And we were beaten by our biggest rivals and it was like a dagger through the heart and a stiletto in the back. They really did send us home crying. I was so down I guess you all remember how you felt. Of all teams, Man Utd! Would have been nicer, really, if it was Charlton or someone like that who got a fluky goal, defended for their lives and somehow managed a win against the odds. Those type of results happen every season to the top teams. It hit us hard. 2 draws next against Southampton and Palace and we were consigned to 2nd place. We had been top all the way. Oh, Arsenal, you break our hearts. Every time I feel we are going to dominate, it seems to go wrong. Our new nightmare And did I mention that a Blue Demon had arrived? Roman Abramovich had taken over in the previous season. He had only one target, to be the best team in Europe. He brought in Jose Mourinho, who had accomplished miracles at Porto. At his first press conference he said he was special. He certainly hit the Premier League like a special express train. He brought in Didier Drogba to terrorise defences, Ricardo Carvalho at the back, Arjen Robben on the wing and Petr Cech in goal among others to take them up a notch. They were second under Claudio Ranieri last season but that meant nothing to Abramovich. He knew where he wanted to be and he saw Mourinho as the guy to get it for him. Shortly after we were beaten on our 50th game, they went top and they stayed there to show that the dynamics in London had changed, the dynamics in the Premier League had changed, with a dynamic, arrogant manager in charge. No, I don't like you, Jose I never liked him. I disliked how he dismissed other managers and players, plus he seemed to have a particular hatred for Arsene Wenger. He had a defensive style of play and everything seemed to be allowed on the pitch, with winning at all costs and any methods acceptable. It would be impossible to imagine Mourinho offering a replay to Sheffield United as Wenger had done a few years previously when Kanu picked up the throw in from Parlour who had thrown it towards Sheffield Utd and Overmars scored. Mourinho probably thought it showed that Wenger wasn’t a real winner like him who would take a win in any circumstances. He never missed an opportunity to get under his skin and it seems like it worked as Wenger had a bad record against him. Ferguson’s mindgames never seemed to work but Mourinho’s did. Drogba epitomised Mourinho's Chelsea - dirty but brilliant It is often said that we fell apart after the loss against Man Utd but that was not really true. We had some draws and defeats , yes but we hovered around second and third for the rest of the season. We picked up 83 points for second, enough to win in many seasons, and we scored 87 goals, well more than the winners Chelsea on 72. Chelsea, though, were really really good, with 95 points and only one defeat, at Man City, who were a mid table team at the time. Mourinho had arrived, Abramovich had arrived and we had a new challenge. We had too often been second best to Alex Ferguson, now were we about to be second best to Mourinho? I hated being second to Ferguson and I detested being second to Mourinho. He is the one guy in football I have the strongest dislike for. But he seemed to have the winning touch and access to as much money as he wanted for the best players. We needed Wenger to bring his own special qualities to bear, bringing through gifted youngsters and finding gems at good prices like he had done with Henry, Vieira, Overmars, Petit and others. He had brought through Fabregas this season from the youths but his buys didn’t inspire too much. Manuel Almunia as backup to Lehman, Mathieu Flamini in midfield and the guy I felt more sorry for than any other Arsenal player, Emmanuel Eboue, who never deserved, and nor does any player, the abuse he got in his career. In comparison to the monsters Chelsea had got, it didn’t inspire hope. Senderos and Djourou This is not Adams and Keown We had finally got in front of Man Utd 2 seasons in a row, only for Blue ogres to emerge. We conceded 36 goals with the end of the fabled Arsenal defence and players like Senderos, Djourou and Cygan were not going to be our new Adams and Keown. Chelsea had conceded 15 with Mourinho’s park the bus method. We needed a stronger defence but Wenger had embarked on his new policy of trying to score more than the opposition. Was it going to work? Honestly it was hard to see. My normal optimism was being tested. There were some grounds for optimism, though, in our other tournaments that season and I will get to them next time. But there was one ground for hope in that we did have ten one nils to the Arsenal that season, better than George Graham could do. Maybe we did have a chance.
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