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  1. The series is back! I will put it together up to last season as I plot how I felt in the doldrum years when not much went consistently right. I will plot the downfall of Arsene Wenger and the attempts to replace him. All change on the North London Front Putting together the Emirates was probably the glue that holds 2006-07 together. Lots of good players left, presumably to cover costs and not so many came in. Results on the pitch were very patchy, and it was the first time in a long time that we heard transitioning in a negative way about Arsenal under Wenger. We were to remain in negative transition more or less ever since until hopefully last season. Easy to spend money at the Emirates Strangely enough, though, I remember being hopeful at the start of the season. We had just come off a good performance against Barcelona in our only Champions league final, where bad luck and Jens Lehmann cost us the win. We would now have a much bigger stadium so close to the old one that Highbury could be omnipresent and remain in our hearts. Gone was trudging past houses into the stadium to be replaced by bridges, statues, photos, shrines to players, and a huge commercial experience with plenty of ways to remove fans from their money. It was, and still is, impressive though. It changed from our dear old Highbury to an all encompassing Arsenal event at every stage. You were looking up in wonder all the time. But it did not lead to an uptick in our performances. But I will get to that. Our best players gone, and the new ones struggled First was the astonishing amount of players let go or loaned out, I reckon to save wages. 14 went, including Dennis Bergkamp, Robert Pires (still hurting from being subbed in the Champions league), Sol Campbell, Ashley Cole, Lauren and Jose Antonio Reyes among the most notable. It was hard to replace Robert Pires We got in 5 players, Rosicky, Song, Gallas, Denilson and Baptista and the bind that connects them was that they never managed to quite make it at Arsenal, although only Gallas is probably not remembered with much fondness by Gooners. Some were plagued by injuries, with Rosicky being the most tragic. He could have been superb for us, but getting consistent game time proved impossible to achieve. I still believed So why had I any optimism? Henry was still there, and Adebayor and Van Persie were emerging. Alex Hleb had come in the previous season and was showing a silky touch on the ball and of course Cesc Fabregas was top class. We still had good players and Arsene always seemed able to get the best out of his teams. Bergkamp was another big loss My optimism was misplaced though straightaway. Our first match was against Aston Villa at the Emirates and we drew. Then we lost to Man City and drew against Middlesbrough. 2 points, 3 matches and it wasn’t looking good. But then luckily for us we came up against 2 Uniteds, Manchester and Sheffield. The champions Utd were beaten at Old Trafford 1-0 to the Arsenal and then Sheffield United were beaten for our first win at the Emirates. Why did I doubt Mr Wenger? We didn’t frighten teams anymore But in truth, we never truly got going. We had 8 losses and 11 draws in the league and somehow finished 3rd, level on points with Liverpool on 68. We needed 84 this season to come second, in contrast. Yes we had some good wins like the one at Old Trafford. We had four 3-0’s against the Spuds, Liverpool, Watford and Sheffield Utd, a 4-0 against Charlton and 6-2 against Blackburn. Our home form was decent with only one defeat (West Ham) and 6 draws so the Emirates was doing us some good. Rosicky could have been a great for us As for the League Cup, which is certainly not our favourite trophy, we had lots of tough ties but came through them all up to the final against Chelsea. We had West Brom away and we won 2-0. Then Everton away and we won 1-0. Then Merseyside away again when we destroyed Liverpool 6-3. The hapless Spuds up next in the semi’s and over 2 challenging games we triumphed 5-3. Chelsea though were a bridge too far. A bad tempered match saw Jose Mourinho come out on top 2-1. Wenger, to his credit, stuck with the young players he had trusted in the lead up to the final. That was very brave against a Chelsea team who were starting to dominate English football. Wenger was never to lift the League Cup. Alex Song could maybe have been another And the FA Cup? Our trophy? Not this year but we again showed our superiority over Liverpool with an away win of 3-1. Bolton next and it took us 2 matches to also dismiss them 3-1. Then Blackburn and another two matches before they beat us 1-0. That 1-0 beating was part of a sequence I will come back to later. But in the Champions League we will destroy them all? And so the Champions League. Easy enough in the qualifier against Dinamo Zagreb 5-1 on aggregate. Then Hamburg, Porto and CSKA Moscow in the group stages. We did ok and were top of the group with 11 points, equal with Porto. But we never showed the devastating form of the previous season. The patchiness all round was worrying. We got an easy draw in the round of 16 against PSV Eindhoven. We had, after all, hammered the best teams in Europe on the way to the final the previous year. But for us Gooners, every time we believe that Arsenal are about to show our true merit, it seems to go wrong. Eindhoven beat us 2-1 over 2 legs and it was bye bye to my dream of the Champions league. We haven’t really looked like winning it since. Easy peasy PSV I know most of you out there remember all this as we moved to the Emirates but the quality of the team started to deteriorate. Big money signings were disappearing and our players were being snatched up or coming to the end of their times. It was starting to look like the 2 big trophies were out of our grasp, the Premier and the Champions League. Chelsea and Man Utd were pulling away from us. Big money had derailed us and we were no longer even kings of London. One nil to not Arsenal There was something else that year that maybe was a bad portent of the years to come. Our old chant of one nil to the Arsenal could have been replaced with its opposite, one nil to not Arsenal. We were beaten by that score 5 times in the league, by Man City, Everton, Sheffield Utd and West Ham twice, all teams below us. Twice in the Champions League against CSKA Moscow and the crucial match against Eindhoven. Blackburn also kicked us out of the FA Cup by that scoreline. 8 times our favourite score bit us in the bum. We only won four 1-0’s in all competitions, probably our lowest ever. We hadn’t even got anything to sing about in our shiny new and expensive stadium as none of those happened at home. Oh, Arsene, we needed a miracle, I would take 1-0 to the Arsenal all day long if we could win the big trophies. The odd bright spark in that season seemed like the dying embers of a once great team and manager. Could Arsene put it right?
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