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Found 7 results

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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?
  5. George Graham was integral to both teams Red Devils vs Red Angels I could very easily have been a Manchester United supporter if it hadn’t been for the famous Swindon Town defeat of Arsenal in the 1969 League Cup. Watching a team dominate, keep trying despite half of them recovering from flu, I felt sorry for them and wanted them to win. I became a Gooner that day. And I was on my own. Most people in Ireland were Man Utd and my older brother Joe certainly was. My dad was more of a GAA fan and brought us to many games but from that moment on Arsenal were my biggest sporting love. I was lucky for them as trophies followed in quick succession. As soon as I followed them, they became a big team again. A toothless Nobby Stiles celebrates The European Cup in 1968 Strangely enough Man Utd went into decline after their fabled win over Benfica in the 1968 European Cup final. It can only be put down to one factor in my opinion, Matt Busby, the extraordinary creator of the Manchester United legend retired shortly after the Benfica win, probably because the stress of doing everything there was very draining. He had to control everything, wages, transfers, finances, the ground, in those days managers had far more to do with far less staff. So Arsenal went up, United went down. We sent them down This was reflected on the pitch in our games with them as we drew and lost in 1969-70 but hammered them 4-0 and 3-1 in our magnificent double year 1970-71. The amazing thing was, virtually all of their superstars were still there, George Best, Denis Law, Bobby Charlton and the rest but they were a mediocre team, finishing 8th both seasons. We went from 12th to 1st and I definitely believed I had handed Arsenal the lucky gene. We were back, we were Arsenal, and we were winners. Matt Busby - the genius behind Manchester United For United, relegation was the next step in 1973-74. And who started them off on that journey? You guessed it, we beat them 3-0 on their first game of the season. George Graham had switched to them but made no difference. Their huge stars had gone but they still had big names such as Willie Morgan, Sammy McIlroy, Martin Buchan and Lou Macari who helped them go down. They did manage a point off us in the return but that was the start of them being beaten by us in a significant fashion in my era. It seemed impossible for such a team to go down but they had finished 18th out of 22 the year before and then the Arsenal destroy them in their first match. It clobbered the belief out of them. The richest, most glamorous club in the world go down It was their last relegation and truly they were the biggest side I had ever seen relegated on the pitch, not by a ban like Juventus, for example. They were the richest club in the world, fans everywhere, glamour stars of which the greatest was the unbelievable Georgie Best, the best player I have ever seen, but he was unable to cope with fame. Watch the Youtubes to see things you have never seen before, he could do everything, all while getting kicked unmercifully. I believe that Matt Busby going meant the last chance for Bestie also went. He protected him. George best - the most exciting footballer I have ever seen Busby was their Herbert Chapman. He made them the greatest in England. He believed, as did Chapman, in European competition. Early connections between two greats They had 2 great managers in my era, Busby and Ferguson, and we had 2, Graham and Wenger. Later on we will get to them as they are integral to the story. But let us take a trip down memory lane first to give you an idea of the connections between 2 of the greatest clubs in England and certainly the biggest rivals in my time. Newton Heath and Woolwich Arsenal played out their rivalry in the 2nd division for many years. In 1898 we played an extraordinary 3 matches all finishing 5-1 with them winning only the middle one. In 1906 we both met in Division one for the first time and they won 1-0 with the wonderfully named Alexander Leek Brown Downie scoring the goal. They had become Manchester United and we were still Woolwich Arsenal. They have the edge They have the edge on us in wins, 100 to our 86 and 50 drawn. They have more trophies as you all know with only the FA cup being our lead. They are close though with 12 to our 13. Let’s hope a great spell is on the way for us with the Arteta young guns and we climb closer to them. Their 3 Champions league could be a target although it certainly doesn’t look possible from this viewpoint. We need to improve to catch up with them. A miraculous ten years would do nicely. Cup winners courtesy of Liam Brady I want to mention another time and a match that will always stick in my memory. Arsenal vs Man Utd in 1979, the FA cup final. It was yet another time when we proved their nemesis. We had all the Irish players with Liam Brady being the finest. He played superb, we were 2 goals up on 86 minutes and they were ready to go home crying. But Gordon McQueen lashed in a header and then Sammy McIlroy scored a peach and we were on the floor like Tyson Fury, eyes rolling back in our heads just like him, unconscious. Somehow Brady, Rix and Sunderland crawled up off the Wembley floor, decided we were Arsenal, we give nightmares to Man Utd, not the other way round, and scored a goal that gave me the highest level of delight I had up to the point as an Arsenal supporter. From strolling around the ring, giving Utd an odd clatter around the head to show our superiority, to being hit by a sucker punch that sent us down burst like a sack of spuds, to gathering all our pieces together and showing we were champions, it was the greatest single match I had experienced to that point. 10 years later I was to experience another fantastic moment against Liverpool but I have covered that before. This time we climbed the Wembley stairs as giants and Man Utd? It must have been sickening because if it had gone to extra time all the belief and momentum was with them. Brady gave us that little bit extra to make us win within that tiny crazy moment that was left of injury time. Alan Sunderland destroyed the ecstatic Man Utd fans Next week I will go up to the modern era, George Graham, Arsene Wenger, and the manager who was scheduled to come to us before George Graham, Alex Ferguson. The most unbelievable rivalry, the ups and downs, the earth shattering defeats, and the joyous wins.
  6. Arsenal vs Leeds Rocky: Didn't want to leave us We Leed the way Leeds are our rollercoaster team, we either seem to go on long unbeaten spells or they do. Some of our greatest names have been involved with them as well, George Graham, David O’Leary, David Rocastle and John Lukic spring to mind. And I am going at the weekend to see them and I hope obviously, we win. It is particularly important as The Spuds have Liverpool away and they could easily drop points. We could be four or five points ahead come Sunday, making the showdown less of an ordeal on Thursday May 12th. He loved us both We first played Leeds on 20 December 1924 and we hammered them 6-1 in the old first division. It was their first season up and we showed them what Arsenal meant. They learned from that to beat us in the return in April 1-0. But we have had plenty of big wins since and they have put 3 and 4 past us a few times and paid us back for that 6-1 with one of their own in May 1973. Those early clashes were little dippers compared to the later ones. We won 3 and they won 3 of our first six. Between 1932 and 1938 we were unbeaten for 11 games. In 1959 to 1968 they were unbeaten for 10 games. We beat them 4-3 in May 1968 (I would take that this May even if it gave me a heart attack) but then they were unbeaten the next 6 until 1971. And for that win 1-0 in April, we thought we had handed them the league but we came back to win the double on the last match against, well you all know, the hapless Spuds. They like beating us in finals They beat us the next year in the FA cup final 1-0 for their only FA cup win. But we truly had a torrid time against them in the 60’s and 70’s, scarcely winning a match and they went on a another long unbeaten spell from their famous 6-1 in May 1973 to 1977, winning most. That time, in the late 60’s through a lot of the 70’s was Leeds golden spell, with 2 league titles, one FA cup and 2 Uefa cups plus challenging strongly all the time. They should have won more and Johnny Giles famously said years later the reason was that Don Revie, their manager, had a blind spot, playing Gary Sprake in goal instead of David Harvey. Most fans regarded them as the best team in England for many years until Liverpool finally emerged to dominate. 3 of these boys on the scoresheet for Arsenal - surely a record? But it all turned around in the 80’s. Just before that, in September 1979 we played them in the league cup winning 7-0 with 3 Irish getting on the scoresheet, Brady 2, Sammy Nelson 1 and Frank Stapleton 1, and that may be the only time 3 Irishmen scored for Arsenal in one game, I can’t remember another. After that match they must have hated us as we let them beat us 1-0 in the league in January 1980 because we just kept beating them like poor whipped puppies after that with a long unbeaten spell of 15 matches until March 1992. It was like little dippers on the rollercoaster after that with us winning some and them winning some until November 2003 when we won 4-1 at Elland Road in the Premier league. We haven’t been beaten since and I really want that to continue this Sunday. We are the Arsenal, let’s show it, team. Make it 12 undefeated, we are the undefeatables, after all. We smash them on trophies Of course when it comes to trophies we are well ahead, they have 3 league titles to our 13 and one FA cup to our 14 and they beat us for that one in 1972. They have one league cup to our 2 but they also beat us in 1968 for their one. They seem to like taking trophies off us. They have 2 Uefa trophies to our one and one European cup final appearance to our one Champions League. The other Alan Smith who liked playing for Leeds So on most metrics we are nicely ahead, with 50 wins to their 41 and 33 draws. They have been up and down divisions regularly whereas we never have. I have to say I always liked Leeds even when they were a dirty team in their heyday in the 60’s and 70’s. They had Johnny Giles, one of our greatest ever, and a team of superb players such as Billy Bremner, Alan Clarke, Terry Cooper, Jack Charlton and many others. They took our gorgeous great George George Graham took them over when his Arsenal greatness disappeared with the bung scandal and he set about making them a top team again but didn’t stay too long as Tottenham, then pretending to be a big team, poached him from them. David O’Leary, his assistant took over and brought on lots of teenagers such as Alan Smith (the other one), Jonathan Woodgate (now England manager), Ian Harte, and others who went on a great run reaching Champions league semi-finals in 2001. George and David - among our greatest And so we have had lots of interactions, a true rollercoaster of emotions as we start winning and keep winning, then they start winning and keep winning and then we start again. We need to keep it going. C’mon the Arsenal. Beat a team near the bottom and make us all happy. Mikel needs Champions league, or does he? I feel qualifying for Champions League will be the boost Mikel Arteta needs in his quest to gain respect from experienced professionals. My good friend Zdavko Talvi of this Arsenal parish ventured his opinion that maybe Europa League might be best in some ways next season as it will allow him to play the youngsters in that. I like the way he thinks longterm. This is a strong argument, for sure, but I believe a greater need is for Arteta to believe in himself and for the players also. When David O’Leary took over Leeds he may have had the same problems, experienced players giving him problems, and he preferred to play the youngsters. It mostly worked out for him but he was probably too nice to be a successful manager longterm. Arsenal are a far bigger team, expectations are far higher, and Arteta is not too nice to make hard decisions, we have seen that. But he must be able to have an experienced spine in the team and bring in big names if necessary, and not have them acting like prima donnas. A strong finish to the season, knocking over the Spuds on the way, will do that. It will do wonders for his confidence and the players attitudes. Let’s start with Leeds and continue our rollercoaster climb upwards. Keep smiling till the end of the season, Mikel
  7. Arsenal v Chelsea The Boys were Blue When I was a kid growing up, Chelsea were a good side with plenty of top players like Peter Osgood RIP, Peter Bonetti RIP, John Hollins, and they had George Graham before us plus the legendary Jimmy Greaves RIP graced Stamford Bridge. They had the Indian sign over us in the ‘60’s, beating us most times, a bit like when Mourinho was in charge. Their flair centreforward - he was good But Arsenal didn’t choose me until the late 60’s and by the 70’s our record against them was pretty good. That continued into the 80’s and 90’s. And so they didn’t haunt my nightmares and I didn’t worry too much about playing them. They didn’t win trophies as their only league title was in 1955, before my time. They won a league cup in 1965, but it was very much a minor trophy then. In short, they weren’t big boys at all and nor were any London teams other than ourselves. We were the only southern team to challenge the complete dominance of teams north of Watford but in the 60’s we were an average side, living on past glories, and unable to push for the top. George Graham played for Chelsea when he had hair The Blue Demon awakes And so it is shocking how Chelsea have risen. Since the millennium shifted they have been the best team in England, notching up trophy after trophy, leaving us, and most teams, trailing in their wake. By some metrics they could even claim to have surpassed us as the 3rd best team overall in England. I will get to the metrics later. Even at our height, under Wenger, we could not claim a long time as the best team in England as some Scottish guy’s team were often better than us. Chelsea better than us? It seems so hard to take as they were like the other London teams when I was growing up and indeed long after I became an adult. They would be beaten when necessary. Only Arsenal could take on the big boys as equals. We could sneer at the others, let you enjoy your little cup runs, or winning minor trophies. Arsenal were the kings of London, it was as simple as that. And now Chelsea are. The Blue Demon is worse than the Red Devil We were so far ahead of them it was unreal. But now? 13 league titles to 6, yes we are better. 14 FA cups to 8, again better. And then it all goes wrong. 2 League cups to their 5. 1 Uefa cup to their 2 including when they destroyed us a few years ago. 2 Champions leagues to our, well, none. 2 Cupwinners cups to our one. A Fifa club world cup and 2 Uefa Super cups to our none. And on the pitch? Our recent record is not too good since the millennium. A lot of losses and draws as the new Chelsea emerged. The only chink of light is Arteta’s record is pretty good including beating them at Wembley, 3 wins, a draw and 2 losses. I would love this trophy Chelsea have The Devil changed the ball game Roman Abramovich changed the way football works. He, almost by himself, raised the bar in so many ways that it is staggering. The extraordinary prices charged at the Emirates? Down to him. The unbelievable wages paid to top players and even average players? Down to him. The belief that buying a football club can transform your image worldwide? Down to him. The belief that using money wisely in terms of who you buy, but to extravagant levels that can never be paid back? Down to him. All those titles that are mentioned up above? Down to him. Arsenal and the others are like towns caught in the wake of a tornado, battered, and having to change they way they are built not to be destroyed. All the big teams do things the Abramovich way, or they go nowhere. He wanted to buy Arsenal, they wouldn’t let him. It is reasonable to assume that if he had, we could have won even more than Chelsea, coming from a stronger base. We would probably be vying with Real Madrid now in terms of international revenue. He changed football. But for the better? This is the background to our rivalry. A giant that has risen from the bowels of the earth, devouring all it can as it rises. Making us look small. We are the Arsenal, we should make you look small, not the other way around. And this is the position we need to get to. Back on top. One Man, One Team Probably, the end of the Abramovich era is going to help us. I have never seen an owner have such a direct effect on a club’s fortunes as Abramovich. Win or be sacked worked for him. Replacing managers if things dipped slightly. And yet there were other factors, the academy is superb, and the amount of players out on loan is staggering. The fact that only 11 players could play doesn’t seem to hinder them. But Roman is gone, presumably never to come back. And is this where Arsenal are now? Needing outside factors to impact our league position? At the top, one thing is certain, your rivals will not fall apart. If you don’t win matches, you will not win trophies. It is not about hoping rivals will lose, they rarely will. It is about you winning. When you are scrambling lower down the league, as we are, it is about your opponents losing. And so we know what we need to do to beat Chelsea. We need to win and keep on winning. Can we do that? I hope so. Because whether we like it or not, they are now the new kings of London. They are the first target to overcome and I would prefer to beat them on the pitch, become winners again, than hoping Abramovich being ousted is how we leapfrog them. Arsenal must go back to being Arsenal. We need those days again
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