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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
The impossible cannot happen! I told you a lie last time. I said that Arsenal had to beat Tottenham away to win the league in 1971. When I checked just to make sure my memory was right, it seems that a 0-0 or a win was required. As a 0-0 is very difficult to get my memory wasn’t far out. Spurs were good, they were 3rd and we were 2nd. It was White Hart Lane. If we won, they would have to endure the humiliation of giving their biggest rivals the title on their own ground. They did everything to spoil the Arsenal party and it was 0-0 late in the game. Spurs forced to give us the title and our party Till George Armstrong got the ball and Ray Kennedy popped it in the net very late on, becoming the top scorer in the division that year. Spurs forgot one thing, we are Arsenal, we know how to win. And the fans piled on to the pitch. Winning the league was beyond my dreams. We were now big boys. We would play in the European Cup. Manchester United, the top Irish team, were in decline. I could go to school as a winner. And we still had the cup against Liverpool. I couldn’t believe it. We had gone 4, 12, 1. in league positions over 3 years. It was a fairy tale, somehow the players became giants, Arsenal were big boys. I had my bet to win, 10 shillings on the double with Michael Nolan, my schoolmate. I just thought, though, that we can’t win the double. That would be a fairy tale too far. Liverpool, despite being 5th, were on the way to becoming a feared machine under Bill Shankly, who looked like the type of guy you didn’t want to meet on a dark alley way. Bertie Mee, our manager, by contrast, looked more like a kindly school master, who would bring you home safely if you were in trouble. Liverpool the Giants in our way Bill Shankly Liverpool manager Liverpool had many star names, from Ray Clemence in goal, Tommy Smith, their feared captain, Emlyn Hughes who became captain of England, Steve Heighway and John Toshack up front. We had a tired , stretched team playing our 64th match. But we still had good players, Mclintock our captain, John Radford, Ray Kennedy and Charlie George up front, Peter Storey, George Graham and George Armstrong in midfield, and we had an Irishman at right back, Pat Rice. If we weren’t too drained, we did have a chance. The game started with Liverpool the better team. But we came back and we had chances, they had chances, and nothing went in. The game went to extra time. I was really worried. We had just had an emotional win in White Hart Lane, Liverpool were playing for their season. They surely would be better now. The Double is over Bertie Mee Arsenal manager And so it turned out, within 2 minutes, Heighway stuck the ball past Bob Wilson into the net. Then Toshack produced a great save from Wilson and Liverpool were dominating. The double was over. How could we come back? I was still really learning that we were Arsenal. And we were and are. Because towards the end of the first half, with Liverpool on top, a breakaway produced a goalmouth scramble and Eddie Kelly got a touch to become the first sub to score in an FA cup final. I celebrated like crazy. I should say that by now a couple of my younger brothers had become fans also. Could it be possible? A team coming from nowhere to win the impossible double? In the second half, both teams looked tired, movement was slow, players were going down with cramp. But Radford got the ball in the 11th minute, passed it to Charlie George who fired a bullet into the corner of Ray Clemence’s net. It was 2-1. And nobody was going to take away the double from us after that. Charliе George lying on the ground at Wembley after scoring the winning goal to clinch the 1971 Double So who knows what this picture above represents? It is the Arsenal legend Charlie George celebrating scoring the winning goal after extra time in the 1971 cup final. His famous lying down pose, immortalized for us Gooners as one of the most iconic pics of all time. And if you talk nicely to Mr George at one of his legends tours, he may even sign one of these pictures for you. I went into school with my head ready to explode. In my excitement, the first thing I said to Michael Nolan was give me my ten shillings. After some teasing, he paid up. We had come from nowhere to win the impossible double. Leeds were behind us, Liverpool left lying on the floor at Wembley, and the Spuds handing us the trophy at White Hart Lane. Life could not get any better.