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  1. The greatest of all time And so in 1953, we had more championships than any other English team with 7 titles and 3 FA Cups achieved in 16 competitive years between 1931 and 1953 with 6 war years lost. We were the best, the famous Arsenal and the only southern team, to that time, to win the league more than once. We were about to embark on an unprecedented spell of winning everything. And then it all went wrong, in a scenario so familiar to Gooners, just when it all goes right, it goes haywire. Because we settled into mid-table obscurity from that point, not frightening anyone except our own supporters. The Mee Howe dynasty brought us back to greatness Then we, rather strangely, appointed the physio, Bertie Mee, as acting manager in 1966 presumably waiting for a proper candidate to appear. But Don Howe was appointed coach and that surely was the key decision. Howe was a real football man, good with players and tactics and a vast football knowledge, a bit like Arteta in our time. The Chinese dynasty sounding combination took time to get going but in 1968 we got to the League Cup final against Leeds and again the next year against Swindon, when I first set my eyes on bonny Arsenal as my love. We lost both but something was stirring in that old sleeping beast. We won the predecessor to the Europa League the following season, meaning the long wait to be Arsenal again was surely over? Howe did Mee do it? The Double 1971 - the Mee Howe dynasty's greatest achievement And wow it was! The next year we captured the almost mystical double of league and cup, only won by the Spuds in the 20th century to that point, and something our great teams of the past could not do. The combination of Mee and Howe, accidental though it was, enabled us to get back to the top, one complementing the other as it is hard to see Mee achieving it by himself and Howe never had great success as a manager. That accidental pairing brought great rewards to the Arsenal and we were surely crazy to let Howe go to West Brom straightaway as Mee found himself out of his depth and we started another downward spiral, although we remained competitive for a year or so, almost getting relegated over the next few years. The Neill Howe dynasty - not so great Terry Neill was appointed in 1977, still Arsenal’s youngest manager. He brought Don Howe back and got us to 3 FA Cups in a row and a Cup Winners Cup Final, of which we only won the famous Brady final of 1979 against Manchester United. He had 6 Irishmen to choose from and that gladdened my heart. More crucially, the pairing got us back near the top again. But then, being Arsenal, we fell back to being mediocre. Our wonderful Georgey boy And so the next crucial time was the double winner George Graham taking over in 1986. He hadn’t managed at a top club and it was a definite gamble. But it worked! He won two titles in 1989 and 1991, the FA Cup in 1993, our second European title in 1994 with the Cup Winners Cup and our only 2 league cups in 1987 and 1993, The thing is that 2 events happened fairly close together, one was the creation of the Premier league in 1992 and Graham taking a bung in 1994 which led to him getting banned and losing his job. George Graham deserves a statue The Premier league also introduced the no backpass rule and this severely discommoded George as he liked to play it very tight at the back and his team were struggling a bit in the league. The thing is that he was a very knowledgeable football man and he may well have been able to put that right and Graham seemed to be the only one to get punished for taking a backhander as it was rife in football at the time. Possibly David Dein had a hand in this as he was generally regarded as the real creator of the Premier League and had a very prominent position within it. He may not have wanted to be tarnished by dirty dealings. But if Graham had not lost his job he could have been at Arsenal for another ten years or more if he was reasonably or very successful. The Arsene Wenger era would not have happened and the magical changes he wrought turned into dust. David Dein – the magician who made everything happen Now, I am going to take a jump backward at this point to talk about David Dein as I believe his time at the Arsenal to be crucial to Arsenal once again becoming a major force in world football. He became vice-chairman of Arsenal in 1983 until 2007 and proved himself a very knowledgeable football man who cared about everyone associated with the Arsenal. Most people accept that he ran Arsenal in his time. So, the appointment of George Graham was done on his watch to bring us the great times back, and he pretty much forced the appointment of Arsene Wenger through believing that English football had fallen behind the great teams from the continent of Europe in many areas, from training facilities, to medical practices, grounds, tactics, diet, etc. He pushed for Wenger to allow him to revolutionise English football as befitted its status as the pioneers of the Premier League. David Dein - at the heart of everything Arsenal Dein was very close to the players and staff at Arsenal, he was involved in every major decision, he pushed for top players to be signed such as Ian Wright, David Bergkamp and David Platt. He allowed George Graham the freedom to bring his tactical know-how, his discipline, and his ability to shape a team where he had the best possible player available for every position to make Arsenal once again winners. The new giants He did the same with Wenger, giving him the freedom to find the players he wanted, control over training, facilities, diet, pitches, and the holistic approach to football that garnered so much success. They worked as a double act, a sounding board for each other as Dein discussed team issues and Wenger discussed financial and control issues. And as I have said, most people credit David Dein as being the creator of the Premier League which gave Arsenal and Wenger the opportunity to take their place among the giants of the era in the new televised and analysed from every angle global phenomenon that is professional soccer. The European Cup winners cup - Graham's last trophy Next week, I will finish up with the Wenger era, the expansion of mega money in football, the creation of the Emirates, the overthrow of Dein and then Arsene, the doldrums following their departures, and the hopeful awakening of a new epoch for that grand old club, the Arsenal, under Mikel Arteta. And finally, I will choose my candidate for the most important era.
  2. The Table of Doom Update Arsenal Current 73 Max 97 Man City(a) Newcastle (a) Brighton(h) Man City Max 94 Brighton (a) Arsenal (h) Man Utd Max 83 Brighton(a) Tottenham(a) Newcastle Max 83 Tottenham(h) Arsenal(h) Tottenham Max 79 Newcastle(a) Man Utd(h) Brighton Max 76 Man Utd(h)Man City (h) Arsenal(a) Liverpool Max 71 gone The first team to go has emerged. Liverpool’s max is 71 and we have 73. Bye, bye Scousers, yes, you gave us a crazy upside down match, but we are the only ones still vying for the top place. Brighton are now given an almost impossible task of winning all their matches to catch us and surely they will be next to go. I have removed Liverpool’s games from the list as they are no longer eligible for the Table of Doom. City, Utd, Newcastle, and the Spuds all won (although they should have been reported to the police for robbing Brighton of 3 points) and it may be a tight end of season for the fourth place CL. At the moment you have to fancy that the top four will stay in place. Can we do it? Yes, we can and if we do, then only the craziness of the Liverpool game will remain. Man Utd’s hammering at the same ground may not so easily be erased but unless Liverpool can scramble an unlikely maximum points by winning all and fourth place is at 71, which seems unlikely, then they are also out of CL for the first time since 2016. A huge letdown for the team, who, last year, looked like a different kind of invincible as they chased all 4 major trophies. What’s it like being an Arsenal fan? The Arsenal double winners of 1971 - the only time it was won by a bunch of granddads I feel being an Arsenal fan is different to all others: 1. We were the innovators, instigating many features which are still around today 2. We are the top FA Cup team 3. We had the first successful foreign manager 4. We were the winners of the most dramatic end of a season ever 5. We had marble halls to show our class 6. We were the only team ever to call foul on itself when offering to replay an FA Cup game against Sheffield United because we took a throw in wrongly 7. We have never been relegated from the top division 8. We have been renowned for looking after former players 9. We had 7 Irishmen on the pitch at one time and an Irish manager 10. We beat Real Madrid, Juventus, and Villareal on the way to a Champions League final without conceding a goal 11. We are the only team to win the double in the old First Division and the Premier league 12. We are the Invincibles Seven Irishmen on one team - only at the Arsenal And there’s probably lots more that are not coming to mind at present. But it is hard It’s also the most infuriating thing ever being an Arsenal supporter. My first 3 years being an Arsenal supporter included winning the old Fairs Cup (Euro League) then the amazing double as we weren’t considered anywhere near the best team in England then falling apart to the point that relegation seemed a possibility. Coming back with 3 FA Cup finals in a row, then going downhill again, only for George Graham to appear and put us back on the winning track. Rioch, the worst manager in my lifetime Then he gets done for taking a bung, despite it being prevalent in English football at the time, he is the only one I can remember being sanctioned for it. Then a hopeless manager in Bruce Rioch (he famously didn’t rate Ian Wright, who went on to be our top scorer) and then Arsene who?, a manager plucked from the Japanese League in a moment of pure idiocy. But somehow, it was good idiocy as he quickly delivered a double, and pummelled the entitled team and fans of Manchester United into despair. They recovered, though, and we went through ten years of back and forth battles as we vied to be the best team in the land. Our first Premier League double - can we make it four and break the record? The Emirates put us back among the big boys Then we put together the Emirates stadium at a huge cost to the finances of the team. We suffered as we struggled to even hold a place at the top table, never mind the top place. Then we lost that as well, falling down to Europa League and even not that. The Emirates stadium was necessary, though, as Highbury was not sustainable for a top team. But we sacrificed the man who was responsible for making us the top team in the land, filled with exciting stars, shining brighter than any other, such as Henry, Bergkamp and Vieira. Wenger knew that without the Emirates, that decline would have happened anyway. He persisted in creating the conditions that would make us the best again. We struggled to find a successful manager without him and finally took a chance on an unproven former player in Mikel Arteta, who impressed with his love of Arsenal, and his knowledge and vision of the game. He had a great start but then he had problems with big stars who didn’t want to listen to him. The performances suffered and we were criticized for having a weak underbelly, falling apart when it mattered. Arteta tries to add steel Arteta has worked hard to correct that, believing that the only way to combat it is to win even after setbacks, to encourage every player to have constant improvement, to have routines in training that inspire partnerships and understanding and that crushing will to win. Unai Emery frustrated me at Arsenal That has been my life up to now, hoping and hoping that Arsenal can win. Screaming at the screen with the possibilities that my heroes can score. Complaining each time we drop points that the manager should have done something different, done it my way. Rarely for me, though, calling for the manager to go, Bruce Rioch being the main one and Unai Emery as well, although Emery is, obviously, a good manager, but maybe better with an emerging team than an established one full of big stars with big egos like Aubameyang. Our most exciting player and never a complaint by the manager Most of the managers I have seen have been Arsenal through and through, Wenger being an obvious exception, but he grew to be the true embodiment of Arsenal, a love affair that persists, just like all us fans. I wake up in the morning thinking of Arsenal, although the constant pings from the web group at ASCB help in this regard. Us fans also have our favourites, different from other fans, as we wonder why the manager persists with some players, and doesn’t play others. Zinchenko for me is the former and Smith Rowe is the latter. Tierney is a better defender as far as I am concerned and Smith Rowe should at least be among the first subs to be used. Joys and heartaches Ah, but that is what it is to be a fan. We all have opinions, and sometimes we change them. It is only fans like me, that write every week, where you can see me getting it wrong, changing my mind, and can challenge me on it. The written word doesn’t fly away. And so we scream, we shout, we cry in despair, we jump for joy, we hug all around, and we are in bad humour for the weekend after a defeat. We send messages on the forums and social media, we try to get tickets, but most of all we are part of one big Arsenal family and long may it be so.
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