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Found 5 results

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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?
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