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Our very own ‘Nam In contemporary American folklore, Vietnam (The ‘Nam) has a unique place. Many soldiers came back traumatised or got attacked for having been there in the first place. It was an unpopular war and the ‘Nam has a grim place in American folk memory. But we here at Arsenal have our own ‘Nam – Totten-Nam! But as we will see here, In contrast to the American one, they have a happy place in our folk memory. And why? Because they were mostly crap and we flew high above them. I will take a look at the 90’s this time and our position versus London clubs and the ‘Nam. It is good reading. Even their badge is a cock on a ball. What were they thinking? What cocks! As I have mentioned before in these pages, most of the time I have been an Arsenal supporter, The ‘Nam were second best. The only real times The ‘Nam were better than us was when both were struggling. The ‘Nam have not won the league since I became an Arsenal supporter (1969) whereas we have won it six times. They have won the FA cup 3 times compared to our 10. The League cup is better for them at 4 times to our 2. They won the Uefa cup twice compared to our one and European cup-winners cup one apiece. Overall we are very clearly ahead up to the end of the 90’s. The same is true of the other London clubs, Chelsea, West Ham, Crystal Palace, QPR, Watford, Fulham, etc. 3 Immense managers Mr Chapman, you gave us so much class I think it is fair to say that Arsenal have had 3 great managers: the incomparable Herbert Chapman, who brought titles, innovations, marble halls, physiotherapy, training, and an Arsenal way of doing things that oozed class. You could be proud of Arsenal. George Graham took on the mighty Liverpool, then undisputedly the best team ever in English football, and cut them down to size. He won many trophies and brought a level of onfield organisation that has never been seen before or since. And of course the magnificent Arsene Wenger, who comes close to matching Chapman in how he organised the club off the pitch, with his superior stadium, training and medical facilities. And he, of course, surpassed the previous 2 in terms of trophies, although he did get a lot longer. Graham and Wenger coexisted in this decade, the 90’s, and that is unusual, to have 2 superlative managers in the same decade. So we were easily the kings of London in this decade as The ‘Nam were pretty good by their standards , as also were Chelsea, and other London teams were popping up and sometimes doing good things but we were well ahead. For the previous 2 decades I made a case that we were the best as we were the only team to win the league, which is the ultimate domestic trophy. But in the nineties, I do not have to make a case for Arsenal. We were the best. Not the best in England, as Man Utd had that distinction, but Kings of London for sure. A little stutter at the start 4, 1, 4, 10, 4, 12, 5, 3, 1, 2 was our final league standings giving us 2 league titles, one better than the previous decades. We had 2 Fa cups compared to The ‘Nam one. We both had one league cup but we had 3 Charity Shields to their one. The emerging Chelsea won the Fa cup once, League cup once, Cup-winners cup once and Uefa Super cup once. West Ham had 2 promotions from the second tier in this time. Promotion was the best for the others. But let’s take it year by year. 1989-90 we were 4th, the ‘Nam 3rd and Chelsea 5th with the rest down the table. Palace were 15th but got to the final of the FA cup to be beaten by Man Utd. So the ‘Nam in the lead but waiting for us to knock them down again as we always did. But then we took off Bye, bye, Spuds 1990-91 we were top, Palace were 3rd, the ‘Nam, Chelsea and QPR were 10th, 11th and 12th respectively. The ‘Nam won the cup but now us clearly in the lead. Can you even see us? We can sell you binoculars. 1991-92 we were 4th but Palace were next in 10th, QPR 11th, Wimbledon 13th, Chelsea 14th, The ‘Nam 15th and West Ham had come up but went straight back down. Further into the lead. We can offer you a telescope. 1992-93 10th but we did the double of both domestic cups. QPR 5th, The ‘Nam 8th, Chelsea 11th, Wimbledon 12th, and Palace relegated. I say further into the lead. A long range telescope might help. 1993-94 4th. Wimbledon 6th, QPR 9th, West Ham 13th, Chelsea 14th, Tottenham 15th. Chelsea got to the FA cup final but we won the Cup-Winners cup. Again further into the lead. A space telescope might be needed. 1994-95 12th. Tottenham 7th, QPR 8th, Wimbledon 9th, Chelsea 11th and Palace relegated. The ‘Nam got to FA cup semi and Palace got to both domestic semi’s. But we got to the Cup-Winners Final. Maybe we moved back a tiny bit. 1995-96 Again top London team at 5th. The ‘Nam 8th, West Ham 10th, Chelsea 11th, Wimbledon 14th and QPR relegated. A semi in the League Cup fpr us as well means back out in front. By now the ‘Nam need to start tracking us by satellite. We are that dot in the sky laughing down at you. 1996-97 We were 3rd, Chelsea were 6th, Wimbledon 8th, Tottenham 10th and West Ham 14th. Chelsea won the FA cup. Possibly a little bit back this year because of Chelsea but still well out on front over the ‘Nam. They need to get on to the Space Station telescope to see where we are. We put a rocket up our Arse 1997-98 Ah, but now Mr Wenger had properly come and we nearly did a domestic sweep winning League and Fa cup and being beaten by Chelsea in the semi of the League Cup which they won. Chelsea 4th, West Ham 8th, The ‘Nam 14th, Wimbledon 15th and Palace up and back down. We had flown so far ahead at this point no other London team was remotely close. The poor old ‘Nam now needed the Hubble telescope to find us. This could help you, Spuds 1998-99 Arsenal 2nd, Chelsea 3rd, West Ham 5th, the ‘Nam 11th and Wimbledon 16th. We got FA cup semi-final and Chelsea Cup-Winner cup semi. Further away from the pack for us. Oh, what fun we had as the ‘Nam went down to Greenwich observatory begging for advice to see where the stars of Arsenal were, and will they ever be able to get into our orbit again. Spuds scurried down to Greenwich to find where we were Ah, we had a great big laugh No London team got close to us in the 90’s as you can see. Chelsea had started the investment process and were moving closer. The ’Nam and the rest were nowhere near. I have to say that was the case for me regarding the ‘Nam, they were mostly well behind us. I never hated them as they were very rarely serious challengers when we were good. I think that is why they always seem to hate us more, because we were much better. And we had a habit of humiliating them on their own ground. And they couldn’t afford space telescopes. And we had got the magical Wenger. The guy we didn’t know we wanted was our saviour. He transformed Arsenal, we had great great players, he was to give us a magnificent stadium, unbelievable training and medical facilities, an exhilarating style of play, lots of trophies, 2 doubles, an unbeaten season, oh, the wonder of it all. We still needed to be better In fairness, though, yes, we were clearly kings of London but not of England as the Millennium approached. We had a good decade and in most other decades it would have been a great one but Manchester United had an unbelievable decade. They had to be our target. The ‘Nam were a joke by comparison and Chelsea were still well behind us. We needed to be Arsenal and we needed to send the Mancs scurrying home north crying all the way. We could not, and should not accept second best. Having a laugh at the ‘Nam was good fun but that was easy, getting on top of the Mancs was harder.
We could win things with these two 1997/98 again We weren't all that happy Last week, I explored the changes Arsene Wenger had made or he was putting in place. But what actually happened on the pitch? Honestly, most of the season we weren’t very happy. Yes, we had a nice spell from game 8 to game 12 when we were top, including a 4-0 thrashing of West Ham and a 5-0 of Barnsley, but after that we were back to the old Arsenal and down the table to 5th. We didn’t look like winning anything nor qualifying for Champions League. So it was same old same old. His £2M salary looked bad value in many ways. Lots of players playing meant some of our old favourites like Ian Wright weren’t playing every week. We were in the UEFA Cup and were dumped out in our first round in September by PAOK Salonika despite playing the top squad, only without Bergkamp in the away match because he wouldn’t fly. That didn’t help Wenger’s cause. Beaten by Pensioners in the League Cup We did better in the League Cup, beating Birmingham and their neighbours Coventry in our first two rounds, although we made hard work of it as we had to go to extra time in both matches. Here Wenger did play many squad members but he got away with it. Then we played some Pensioners in the semi’s. That wasn’t so good. We were beaten 4-3 over 2 legs. Chelsea were turning into a top team and had lots of fancy foreigners such as Ruud Gullit and Dan Petrescu, plus De Matteo, Vialli and Zola from Italy. Wenger played a strong team for both matches only giving starts to a small number of squad players. He kept saying his priority was the league but we weren’t lighting any fires in that. It was frustrating for fans not to see our absolute top team playing in a semi against our true biggest London rivals at the time. In fairness, Vieira got sent off on 48 and on 51 and 53, Chelsea made it 3-0 and the tie looked over after we won 2-1 in the first. Ill discipline was costing us again and Vieira was making it a habit. Wonderful player but loved red and yellow. Bergkamp scored a late consolation penalty but we were out. The FA Cup? Our trophy? We had Port Vale to start and bizarrely, Wenger put out a strong team only to draw 0-0 and go to a replay where he once again put out a strong team and they took us to penalties after 1-1 after extra time, both of which were scored in extra time. Pretty much our top team couldn’t score in 2 matches in normal time against Port Vale? I hope you are getting the idea that Wenger wasn’t really feeling the love from the fans. Next time against Middlesbrough we scored 3 goals, Overmars and Parlour put us 2-0 after 19 minutes and Merson got another on 62 to make it 3-0. Just joking, he had been sold to them by Wenger so I am sure he was delighted to show he wasn’t finished. It ended 2-1. Paul Merson happy to prove Wenger wrong Then Palace in the next and a scattering of second choice players gave us no goals and a replay which, again a bit understrength, we won 2-1. Considering Palace finished last that year, it wasn’t good. The glory days of George Graham looked to be far back in the distance. We couldn't really understand Wenger's logic with Alex Manninger West Ham up next with a young Rio Ferdinand and Frank Lampard in their line-up. Except for Manninger in goal, a strong line-up. But we couldn’t understand Wenger’s logic of resting a goalkeeper. They rarely have physically demanding matches, particularly with our defence, and we felt that he was messing up the understanding by playing him in cup matches. And we struggled again but came through after a replay with a restored David Seaman. We were making it hard Championship Wolves in the semi, and again a bit of a struggle to win. An understrength side got an early goal via a squad player. Christopher Wreh, after 12 minutes and that was enough. Now I am going to switch to the league. We were frustrated, Arsenal were playing attacking, fast football, scoring lots of goals but also many poor displays. Suddenly, though, on March 11 we beat Wimbledon 1-0 to the Arsenal and couldn’t stop winning, Wenger must have put premium petrol in our tank because we won 10 in a row culminating in sending Everton back home to Scouseland crying after we lashed 4 goals against them. We were back, we were Arsenal and we had won the league with 2 games to go. We were the best, Wenger was the best and the players were glorious. We weren't scared of Shearer On to Newcastle in the final. We had done the double over them in the league and duly won 2-0 from Overmars and Anelka. But it went wrong for Wright. He didn’t play, Christopher Wreh being preferred. No sub for him either. He was to be shipped out to West Ham in the summer and a bit of a sad end to a legend. I guess records like that are only going to be broken at the end of your career anyway. Anelka was seen as increasingly first choice, and raw or no, he looked explosive and set to be a world great. Wright was top class but not a world great. But he did get a league title and another FA cup medal courtesy of Arsene Wenger. Surely he would turn out to be an Arsenal great? But we, now, were surely world greats? Who was better than Bergkamp, Overmars, Petit, Vieira and Anelka? Our defence was still super and we had 5 one nils to the Arsenal in the league, Wenger’s nod to George Graham. And his nod to Bertie Mee with a magical double. Enchantment was performed before our very eyes by a wizard Frenchman. The Brightest star in the sky I can’t really convey the emotion we had. A season that had stuttered and spluttered like a firework gone out, unexpectedly exploded into a lightshow unlike any we had ever seen. We were Arsenal, we were fast, bright and shone throughout the sky. And hey, Mr Ferguson, that is us, the Arsenal, that you can see as a new star in the sky.