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Head to head rivalries Arsenal vs Bayern Munich
Augustine Worth posted an article in London CallingThe BFG’s tower above us They like winning trophies Last time I spoke about the hapless Spuds and how our biggest rivals are not really rivals at all. They only manage to be better than us when we are poor. So I never felt the hate that some supporters on both sides feel. Some teams and managers did get under my skin, though. And today the rivalry that I will talk about is a team that have got under my skin. I came to hate the sight of them whenever we drew them because they always seemed to win. This rivalry all but the younger fans among you will be well aware of. The BF Germans, our nightmare – Bayern Munich. The thing is, in these blogs, I am not trying to depress you, and so, when I write about a bad season, I try to find the positives, the good things that happened. And I will try to do so here. It’s not going to be easy. You see, regular readers know that my biggest dream is the Champions League, and these BF’s destroyed the dream season after season, often giving us a football lesson as well. But I could have taken the easy way and only write about English teams because, no matter who I choose in this series, if they are English, I can find plenty of good things. But the BF’s? They haven’t given us much. They are destroyers of dreams, wreckers of worlds, and, as they only appeared on the scene lateish in my life, maybe ensured I will never see my dream fulfilled. We are not even getting into the Champions league lately. Bayern Munich? We can beat them. Strangely, the earliest competitive match I can find is the Champions League of 2000 and we haven’t played them in any other competition. Of course, if you were to throw a dart at the Bundesliga winners of any season, you would most likely hit Bayern Munich. 31 championships, well ahead of any English club, and us. Kanu got the winner or did he? But back in those 2000 days, I was starting to feel more positive about our European ambitions. For the first time, we waltzed through the first group stage and got Bayern, Lyon and Spartak Moscow in the second one. We nearly did great in our first match at Highbury, Henry got an early goal and then Kanu got the second on 55. Except Bayern did what they always seem to do to us, they scored and seemed to crush our self-belief on 56 minutes. Ten minutes later and they scored again for the final score. We had a top side out, except for Manninger in goal and Kanu in place of Bergkamp so we had no excuses for quality. Adams, Keown, Vieira, Henry, Pires, Llungberg, Cole, etc., were all there. They beat us 1-0 at home and topped the group. We came second and qualified. The truth is, Bayern are one of the legendary teams in Europe, and had to be the target to aspire to. They were who I wanted Arsenal to be, imperious in putting teams to the sword. Feared from the moment you are drawn against them. In every direction they are better So, in fairness, we can not claim to be their equals. There are only 2 metrics I can find where we are their equal. 1 UEFA Cup and 1 European Cup-winners Cup. But then, they normally play Champions League. Even the German Cup they have won 20 times. Champions league 6 times. Don’t go looking, Arsenal fans, you will only get depressed. You shouldn't have taught Arsenal how to gift goals, Kolo The next time was 2005. We were getting better in Europe, qualifying for the knockout stages regularly. My heart sank a little when we drew them but we had such good players I figured if we played to our best, we could beat them and others like them. I felt head to head, our players were better than theirs. We were not long past being Invincibles. But in the first few minutes Toure did something that we have become familiar with at Arsenal since then. Our biggest problem, in fact. He gifted the BF’s a goal. They scored 2 more to leave us clutching at straws. Toure gave us that straw on 88 minutes to give us an away goal. We won 1-0 at Highbury but that, our first win against them, was rendered meaningless as we went out. A nightmare rolled up in Armageddon The next time was the start of a sickening sequence of results. 2013, the knockout stages and at the Emirates they taught us a lesson 3-1 after being 2-0 up after 21 minutes. Amazingly we beat them 2-0 in Munich to record our second meaningless win. Arsene Wenger complained about the away goals rule after the match but to no avail. Next year we got them again in the first group stage, and another lesson at the Emirates 2-0. Ok a draw in Munich 1-1 but they go through, we just look on bewildered. The Pep knocked out of us Next year again, but this time group stage. Pep Guardiola was their manager. 2 late goals gave us what looked like a meaningful win 2-0. Ah, Arsenal, you are having a laugh. 5-1 in Munich and we looked like amateurs and bye bye. Send us home crying? Screaming more like. Who are these BF’s? Guardiola taught us a lesson Our biggest nightmare, that is who. 2017 we get them again, first knockout stage. Carlo Ancelotti had replaced Guardiola but not the score. 5-1 in Munich and it was dreadful to watch. A pub team against the masters. The tie was over but I felt at the Emirates we could salvage some pride. Theo Walcott scored on 20 and we were 1-0 at half time. No real chance of winning the tie but I was hoping for a respectable score. Eh, hello, we went back to being an amateur team, they threw the ball into the net 5 more times for three 5-1’s in a row. And so did Ancelotti twice We were supposed to be Arsenal, not a Sunday kickabout team. There was only one way to watch these final 3 games against our BFG rivals, with your hands over your eyes. Arsene Wenger was our manager for all these matches here. I can only imagine the pain he feels when he hears the name Bayern Munich. Destroyed and made fun of And so, what does it mean? I’ll tell you what it means. The BF’s are laughing at us. They are laughing at me if they read this blog. For me pretending that we are rivals. Arsenal the bums, is what they think. I doubt if we have been beaten so easily 3 times in a row ever. And they don’t care that my biggest dream is winning the Champions League, and they don’t care that I am getting older like my dream. Close to the end, Arsene But surely we are Arsenal? Surely we can come back? Howabout these Arteta youngsters standing up to these BF’s at their own stadium in a Champions league final and sending them home screaming and crying with a 5-1 victory? That is one way I can say there is a metric that says we are better. C’mon the Arse!
Where can we finish 2022? part 2
Augustine Worth posted an article in London CallingMan City (H) Spurs (A) Burnley (H) Wolves (A) Brentford (H) Watford (A) Leicester (H) Villa (A) Wolves (H)? A sea of improbabilities This is probably the hardest time to predict results as a transfer window is happening all around it. I don’t know what players we will have or our opponents will have. Newcastle will probably spend big, for example, maybe transforming their squad. If Eddie Howe gets to pick players he likes they could be a lot better. But we don’t have them over the next few matches that I will cover. With 3 of these gone, will we miss them? The African cup of nations will deprive us of Aubameyang, Pepe, El Neny, and Partey with the last 2 the biggest problem at the moment. As far as I know the teams in this run are not going to lose significant players like us so that might have an impact, El Neny and Partey being defensive midfielders. If Maitland Niles goes and Xhaka gets sent off or injured I am not sure what DM’s we have left. Asking a lot of Lokonga who is still a little wild. It will more impact our 2 cup runs in this period and it could leave us out of both. But’s let’s be optimistic. I am hoping for a cup win this year. Can Auba make a deadline for once? Aubameyang? Can he come back, show the skills and scoring ability we all know he has? I have reservations about such types of players, who seem to think that the rules are for the little guys. But I do feel he has a genuine love of the Arsenal and if he got a wake-up call with this, knuckled down and worked like a demon, he could yet show us how he can be world class. And that would make a huge difference to the rest of the season. Listen to your manager, Auba With this Covid we also don’t know what or if any more matches will be postponed. I have included Wolves twice as I suspect they will try and include that match in this period. Neither ourselves or Wolves have European games. All the results – right here right now Anyway I am not going to give up, I will still try and predict the future. I have done pretty well so far last season and this, considering how impossible the task is. I seem to get to within 3 points all the time and again this time, I was optimistic by 3 points, we got 35 I said 38 in my last attempt. Waving your hands, Pep, may not help against your protege Man City at home. Surely the toughest match of all? They are knocking over teams in their sleep, good or bad ones. And we have looked poor against the top teams so far. So a guaranteed win for the Light Blues? I have a sneaky feeling that they are due a bad match. Why not against us? Arteta knows City in a way Guardiola cannot know Arsenal. If he can figure out a way, and we play to our best, we have a chance. Our big problem is the way we hand chances to everyone, including Norwich, with disastrous back passes and suchlike. City will destroy us if we do that. But if City misfire, then away we go. I am going to say 2-1 to us and a great start. 38 points What’s their new stadium called? And then the Spuds. In their shiny new stadium and their dogged new manager, I can’t see it being easy. We struggle with teams unafraid to defend. There are so many inponderables, Covid, injuries, transfers but I am hoping that we get an undeserved win this time. We don’t play all that well but somehow get a win a bit like Mourinho contrived against us some time ago. 1-0 to the Arsenal. 41 points Burnley? This is a game we have to win, surely? Sean Dyche has had a few unlucky defeats against us and this time the gods favour him and he gets a lucky draw where we totally outplay them but the ball refuses to go into the back of the net. 0-0. 42 points Almost Eaten by Wolves Wolves away? Away games are getting better for us but this is a banana skin. Wolves are an up and down team, like us and I feel this is going to be one of those games where, in the end, we get a late goal to give us 2-2 and the euphoria of the first two wins dwindles. 43 points Brentford at home and we are out for revenge. We are ready, we are pumped, we challenge for everything, Tomiyasu and Gabriel stand strong and Ramsdale laughs at the Brentford hard men and their jeering supporters and we run out 2-0. Back on track and 46 points No cojones? Wat For? Watford? We will never forgive Troy Deeney for saying we have no cojones and despite home advantage, we grind them into the ground 3-0. 46 points Stick your cojones in your ear, Troy Leicester. There was a time when Brendan Rodgers was linked with us. To be honest I didn’t feel he was right but he has done a good job with Leicester. They have good players and with them all fit, are a match for most. I feel that this is the one that gets away from us despite the fact mostly we do well against them. 1-2 to Leicester. Still 46 points Stevie G crying The Villa? Under Steven Gerrard? No, no, no. We bounce back. We play well. We send them home crying. First we sing 1-0 to the Arsenal then 2-0 to dee Arsenal. 49 points. 2-0 to dee Arsenal, Stevie G And Wolves in the rearranged fixture at home. We are just too good for them at home despite the fact they score an early goal. We are so annoyed that we can’t sing one nil to the Arsenal that we fire in 3 against them. 52 points We can see Champions League And so nicely set up for our final assault. With our closing 9 matches we can get to 79 points if we win them all. We can push up around the 70 if all goes well. That would be a repeat of the first half. Should be enough for Champions League. However, we badly need to keep our good run going and we need to do much better against the top teams. It is asking a lot of a young team to be so consistent. Like I said earlier, if Aubameyang finally acts like an adult, uses all his experience and abilities, that would make a difference. One more experienced player in the transfer window, maybe a class DM, could add another layer of maturity. We could finally get back where we belong, in the Champions league. Last season, I said in this blog that without Saka, Tierney and Leno we are in trouble. Now that has all changed, we have lots of key players all over the pitch. The only areas I am a bit worried about is Tomiyasu, Gabriel and yes, that man Ramsdale. We do not have like for like cover for those. Let’s hope they stay fit. Go Arsenal and a final little thought. Rumours persist that Jack Wilshire may get another chance. Now that is a fairytale thought, but sometimes, if you dream hard enough, fairytales come true. Go Jack! Come back, Jack!
The ten great years dream
Augustine Worth posted an article in London Calling23 trophies over ten years We need an awful lot more trophies, Mikel, for me to be happy That’s what we need, Gooners, to become the best team in England. The best ten years ever in English football was achieved by Liverpool from 1975 to 1985 and if we equalled it we could certainly argue with Manchester United and Liverpool as to who is the greatest. We are unfortunately, well behind those 2 and we have strong rivals to overtake us in Chelsea and Manchester City. What did Liverpool achieve in those ten miraculous years? 4 European Cups (Champions League) 7 First division (Premier League), 1 FA Cup, 4 League Cups, 1 UEFA Cup, 1 UEFA Super Cup, and 5 Charity Shields. The quiet man, Bob Paisley did it Where would that leave us if we did the same? 20 Premier league - at the top with Man Utd 15 FA Cups – at the top 6 League cups – behind Liverpool and Man City on 8 21 Charity Shields – at the top as we have only one shared and Man Utd have 4 4 Champions League – behind Liverpool on 6 2 UEFA Cups – behind Liverpool on 3 Add the European Cup winners cup which we share on one with Man Utd and Liverpool have never won. So that is the benchmark, an astonishing standard to be fair. And we would need our kids all to become major superstars and stay with us for it to have a chance of happening. But dreams are the hallmark of fans and without them a fan’s life is not worth living, I think we all agree on that. And because this was actually achieved, we can say it is possible. Yes, these are different times, and many teams have incredible resources to ensure a dream like mine would never happen. But if Saka, Smith-Rowe, Tierney, Ramsdale, Martinelli, White, Gabriel, Odegaard, Tomiyasu, Lokonga all improve as they mature, and say Tavares, Balogun and Saliba also come into the reckoning, we potentially have a frightening team coming through. Amazing young players These two conjurors could become the world's best These are all young players with so much prospects, who could learn to play together as a dazzling unit exactly like the Lacazette wonder goal against Southampton at the weekend and could eclipse the giants that will oppose them. The 2 Manchesters, Liverpool and Chelsea, maybe newly rich Newcastle and even the hapless Spuds or West Ham with their fabulous grounds and extensive fan base are all hoping for their ten years, too. Leicester, Villa and Everton also. We will need saves like this Is this the real life, or is it just fantasy? I say my dream is possible, despite all these teams. Of course, those of you of a practical bent will say that Liverpool and Manchester United would also need a lean ten years for us to be able to make a strong argument that we are the best. That’s true. But if we win all those trophies, there aren’t all that many left for them, are there? Anyway, let’s say I am right and these players stay and become better, and let’s say that we also do well on transfers, what else do we need to make it happen? I will first go through what we have and not what we potentially have. We have a fine big stadium that gets filled regularly, comparable to the top teams. We have a large amount of corporate boxes to generate huge sums. We have a worldwide fanbase and are particularly strong in Africa. We have an attractive image well suited to kickass marketing campaigns. We have training and medical facilities equal to anyone. We have an academy system which is superb and surely as good as any worldwide. We have the tradition of winning trophies as our position in English football proves. We are 3rd but best in FA Cups and not hugely behind the 2 beasts of Liverpool and Man Utd in that my magical ten years would push us right up there. This noisy man also had ten great years Do we have a great manager? So, we have these things going for us, what do we potentially have? Is Arteta the right man to take us forward? We would need a top manager for sure and at this moment I am not sure Arteta is that man. I would like to believe he is. In fact, I would love to believe that he is, because I like him. He has undoubtedly got great football knowledge, he has won trophies at Arsenal and Man City, the players seem to like him and most play with a smile on their face. He has brought through superb young players and he has been a disciplinarian, which is necessary in a manager as players can never be bigger than the club. The exquisite ten years will only happen with a great manager, though, and the verdict on Arteta is unproven. The 2 teams which have had a great ten years in my lifetime, Liverpool and Man Utd, both had managers who had a lot of critics before going on their great runs, though. Bob Paisley was reckoned to be only a lieutenant and Alex Ferguson considered to be out of his depth after several years of failure. Without their trophy hauls, Arsenal would now be the greatest team in English football, let’s not forget that. Ah, but the owners, the Kroenke’s, they are the imponderables in my wonderful dream of a fantastic ten years. Could it happen with them? Hands up any Arsenal fans who think so? Please put up your hands, I can’t see any. Sorry, let me put on my glasses. Ok, my sight is good now. Can you put up your hands again? There must be something wrong with my glasses, I still can’t see any hands up. Make it real So is that it? My daydream, or it can become a reality? I will take you back to the Arsene Wenger magic years of 7 FA Cups, 3 Premier Leagues, and 7 Charity Shields and an Invincible year over more than 20 years. I was ecstatic with that and I truly never expected it when he took over. Still a long way short of Bob Paisley’s achievement, though. And if Chelsea or Man City have such a ten years I would have to listen to them shouting in my face. My face doesn’t want that. Wenger gave me reason to dream C’mon Arsenal. Give us the Liverpool 10 years from 2022 to 2032. Or even 2023 to 2033. But don’t leave it too long, I am not getting any younger and I would love to be able to argue that my team is truly the best, better than all the rest, better than anyone. And Arsenal are the greatest football team.
My Life as a Gooner part 49
Augustine Worth posted an article in London Calling2005-2006 Champions of Europe? My biggest dream - Old Big Ears I will say here at the start that this is my last in this series, for now at least, of My Life as a Gooner. It is 49 and I will talk about when we were almost Invincibles again. Invincibles of Europe, that is. I will write about different things from now on but if there is any aspect of Arsenal that you would like me to write about, please request it and I will do it. Up The Arse! One of the defining matches of my life was the European Cup Final of 1968. I was 10 years old, my older brother was a Manchester United fan and we watched it together in black and white. It was magical. The quality of the football was superb, although played at a slower pace than we see now as grounds were heavier, as were balls and boots. Fitness technology had not really entered football so diets were also heavy. Everything was heavy. It’s no wonder heavy metal music had its origins in that period. The Joy was unprecedented for Man Utd It was 1-1 at full time. Then George Best and Man Utd upped their game against Benfica to score 3 times and it seemed like everyone in Ireland celebrated. Worldwide that must have brought in lots of new Man U fans. The European Cup was the glamour trophy to win in club football just like the World Cup was the one to win for a nation. The magic of Bestie trumps all When I chose Arsenal a year later, they didn’t make me wait too long to get our own crack at the European Cup. In 1971 we won the double and we also started our first attempt that year. We did well until March 1972 when we came up against the amazing Ajax side, who were champions, in the quarterfinals. Ray Kennedy scored an away goal for 2-1 in the first but they beat us 1-0 at Highbury. They went on to win it and we gave them a harder time than any other team. The great Ray Kennedy got to lift Old Big ears R.I.P. Not allowed to play But we didn’t win the league again until 1989 and we were barred from Europe then. That team, under George Graham would have had a chance. George was always good tactically and a strong defence was always important in Europe. And so it was 1991-1992 that we got our second chance but we didn’t even make it to 1992. We were knocked out by Benfica in the second round. So we had to wait for Arsene Wenger to weave his magic but he left it behind in Europe. We were constantly being beaten by teams that were lesser than us. It didn't look possible By then, though it was up to four teams getting through so no longer true champions. And 2005-2006 was one of those. We were not champions. And honestly, how many of you out there would agree with me that once we lost that Invincible tag, we had gone backwards and it was difficult to be optimistic for this venture? And like I said last blog, the players we had got in were not of the calibre of the greats of the past and money was tight because we had staked all our cash on the Emirates stadium. But somehow in Europe, we looked like Invincibles again. We waltzed through the group stage like they didn’t exist. Thun, Sparta Prague and Ajax were thrown aside like the fodder they were. A final game draw with our reserves against Ajax the only dropped points. Yes, lesser teams, but teams like these had been our downfall in the past. Could we dream again? My biggest wish always was this trophy, ever since 1968 but I was afraid to dream at this point. Galacticos vs Invincibles And, of course, we got Real Madrid in the first knock-out round. The one club that never worry about money, never worry about buying the best, and never worry about Arsenal, either. We had them away in the first leg, so we needed to keep ourselves in it for Highbury as Real were never beaten at home. Except we were the Arsenal, we had our own royal in Thierry Henry and he popped in a goal to mean that Madrid had to come to Highbury to win. My eyes nearly jumped out of my head, we had beaten the magnificos at home! Our king beats the Royals Ok, it was 0-0 at home but that was good enough. If we could beat Real Madrid, surely we could beat anyone? Except we then got Juventus, the Fiat juggernaut of Italy who had our monster Vieira playing for them. Ok, I thought, the gods don’t want us to win. They don’t appreciate how much this trophy means to me. A nice monster beats a scary monster But we beat them 2-0 at Highbury. Fabregas scored to make a point to Vieira that we now had a nice monster who played pretty football to replace him. And our king Henry scored the other. They had no away goal to boost them and 0-0 in the second leg was good enough to send them back to their villas crying. We were Arsenal! And we were invincible in this Champions League! But then we got Villareal in the semi’s. They were very good at the time and even had a young Santi Cazorla in their squad although he didn’t feature. The first leg was at Highbury and it was the last European match played there. For some reason I can’t remember, we played in our change strip but it didn’t stop us playing well. Late in the first half, Henry took a corner that was headed back out to him, he fizzed it into Hleb who popped it across to Toure, who was still lurking in the goalmouth from the corner, and he stuck out a leg to knock it in. 1-0 to the Arsenal rang out across the stadium and that was good enough. Another 0-0 away and we were through, for the first time, to my dream trophy. We can beat them all Heartbreak no.1 It was Barcelona, another giant of the game, with some of the best players ever lined up for them. They had Giovanni von Bronkhurst, one of our old boys, against us, as well as huge stars such as Ronaldhino, Eto’o, Puyol and the rest. We had a top side, most of the Invincibles were there and we were the Champions league Invincibles that year with 10 clean sheets and no defeats. I was allowing myself to dream big. We had already knocked over monsters and there was just one left. I watched it in Murphy’s in Sofia as I had an English visitor, Ian McMaster, a West Ham supporter, over. I guess some of the Arsenal Supporter’s club in Bulgaria were there with me but I wasn’t aware of their existence at the time. Heartbreak no.2 Maybe it is petty of me but I have never fully forgiven Lehmann for dragging down Samuel Eto’o to get himself sent off. Almunia came on for a visibly distressed Pires, who was very angry with Wenger and left the club next season. I feel Wenger made the right choice as, with ten men, you can’t take off a defender or holding midfielder and it was between him and Ljungberg and he probably felt Ljungberg would run harder. It took him a long time to repair that rift. And then Belletti kills the dream And so it had all gone wrong. Barcelona had the wind in their sails and were looking the better team but somehow Campbell scored from a Henry free kick. Could we do it? Had the gods decided to reward me for my longstanding hope of lifting this immense trophy? But the loss of Lehmann and Pires was too much. Eto’o scored a probably offside goal on 76 minutes and it was hard to see how we could come back. I kept hoping for a miracle but Belletti, who had come on as a sub not long before, knocked in their second to sink us. Heartbreak no.3 The dream died that day. If Lehmann had done anything else bar foul Eto’o, I believe we would have won. And now, 15 years later, we are not even qualifying. Please Arsenal, understand that I am 63, qualify this year, and give it to me as a Beatles present for when I am 64! All you have to be is Arsenal again.
My Life as a Gooner part 45
Augustine Worth posted an article in London CallingGeorge Graham showed the way in 1991 It couldn't be done 2003 - 2004 Was Arsene Wenger a fool of a manager, in 2002-2003 when he unwisely said we could go the whole season unbeaten? The media loved it, taking every opportunity to laugh at him. We lost 6 times in the league and came second. Only in the early days of the league was it possible when Preston won in the first ever league campaign unbeaten in 1888-89. However, it was a much smaller league with only 22 matches and they had, a bit controversially, brought down a load of Scottish players to boost their team. None of the great teams after that could do it, Ourselves in the 1930’s, Huddersfield earlier, Wolves, Manchester United, Liverpool and many other great teams tried, but it never happened. The league had expanded to 42 matches although the Premier League knocked that down to 38, and the difficulties of travelling long distances, playing on cold, wet, muddy pitches, injuries, loss of form, bad luck, bad refs, sendings off, and a myriad of factors contributed to it taking mythical status. Few teams had even got close, with 5/6 losses quite normal for champions. George Graham did show the way though in 1991 with only one defeat. But Wenger said it could Wenger argued that he sent out his teams to win every match, and, as they were pretty much better than the rest, it should be possible. Manchester United never really came close, 3 defeats in 2000 being their best under Ferguson. Particularly as in parts of the 90’s, they were clearly better than the rest, but, of course, you have to play your close rivals twice and cope with trying to motivate players once the season is won, which it often was with matches left to play. Jens Lehmann: A good buy Lots of defeats But Wenger had said it. And didn’t even win the league let alone go undefeated. Manchester United had come back at him again so now could he take down old red nose again? Honestly, the transfer activity didn’t inspire much belief. Players were brought in who would turn out to be very significant, Van Persie, Fabregas, Clichy, Senderos and Djourou would all go on to claim first team spots but not this season. Only Jens Lehmann, and to a much lesser extent, Jose Antonio Reyes, would get much of a chance this time. Lehmann, taking over from David Seaman, was an ever present, but as Seaman was top class, it was hard to make a case that the team had improved much. Kolo Toure, though, emerged as Sol Campbell’s partner and they just worked so nicely together. It was a partnership that performed really well, Campbell dealing with his defensive duties superbly but Toure reminded me of Bobby Moore as to how he would win the ball and distribute it very well. He was mobile, flexible and a good ball player. In fairness to Wenger, we had top players, all, with the exception of Bergkamp (who anyway was rested), still with plenty of miles left on the clock, and he was never one to buy for the sake of it. The quality of our players was not a barrier to going undefeated as we had shown we could beat Man Utd home and away and they were the best of the rest. We really only worried about Manchester United Chelsea had been moving steadily upwards and this season Roman Abramovich had taken over, promising a Blue revolution with an unlimited war-chest to spend, but surely that was unlikely to happen straightaway? Liverpool, Newcastle and Blackburn were also close but for a few seasons now, it had been Arsenal and Man Utd as the biggest rivals. We did expect to come at least second. Around this period, under Wenger, we would play close to 60 matches a season, and if you were to win all your matches, it would be closer to 70. I am going to say that winning all matches is never going to happen, the different demands of the various trophies mitigate against that. So could we really go undefeated in the League, which I feel is what Wenger was talking about? Was comical Wenger right? I feel that he, having said it, felt it as a pressure that started to build the longer the run went on. Ray Parlour, in his autobiography, said that the players didn’t really feel pressure about this for a long time. They didn’t really feel it was possible and they had other trophies to worry about. Could we win all trophies? So how did we do in the other trophies? The Charity Shield and Manchester United gave us our first defeat although it was only after penalties. In the league cup we came close although we struggled against Rotherham in our first round scraping through 9-8 on penalties after extra time. Then much easier against Wolves in the next 5-1. Then 2-0 against West Brom before the 2 legged semi-final against Middlesbrough. We were beaten home and away despite playing quite well for an aggregate 3-1. 3 defeats. We were taught a lesson at Highbury against Inter The Champions League was a bit of a disaster. We were beaten first time out against Inter 3-0 at Highbury, then a draw against Lokomotiv Moscow in Moscow before another defeat against Dynamo Kiev away 2-1. Our poor European form was a true puzzle to me, it never made any sense. Wenger was from continental Europe, he had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the teams, he had players that most teams craved but somehow couldn’t put them away. But maybe he was stung by these defeats as we won our next 3 to top the group including destroying Inter in Milan, 5-1, and, a match I was at, Dynamo Kiev at home where Ashley Cole got a late goal to give us a chance as that was the first game of the second half of the group. Ashley Cole gave us hope against Dynamo Kiev Then Celta Vigo 5-2 over the 2 legs of the first knockout round. Then Chelsea, doing really well under Roman Abramovich, beat us in the quarter finals with 1-1 at Stamford Bridge and 2-1 at Highbury with Wayne Bridge scoring very late to send us crying back to North London. 3 defeats in total in the Champions League. No, we couldn't And the FA Cup? Our trophy? Leeds first and dispatched 4-1. Then Middlesbrough 4-1. Then Chelsea 2-1 and Portsmouth 5-1 to leave us Man Utd in the semi’s. But they beat us 1-0 thanks to a Paul Scholes goal. 1 defeat. Scholes scores for our old enemy Which left us with 3 defeats in the first half of the season and 4 in the second. It only left us the league to be undefeated. Could we do it there and prove that Arsene Wenger was not stand-up comedian material but instead soberly looking at his team and saying “We can do it”? Some good results in those other trophies aside, there weren’t a huge amount of reasons to have that idea. I don’t remember having much belief myself. In October, I was in a pub in Dublin watching Arsenal draw with Charlton 1-1 and was talking to a random stranger who opined that Arsenal are not so good this year, too many draws. It was hard to argue. Next week I will take a look at what happened in the league in what was maybe our most momentous season.