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Found 7 results

  1. Our best of our crop The home grown team Martinez VS Jennings Rice Adams O’Leary Cole Dixon Toure Campbell Sansom Saka Fabregas Storey Brady Ljungberg Cazorla Vieira Pires Radford Smith Rowe Bergkamp Henry This week I turn my attention to our best home grown players. The rules being, like last week, that they have to be brought through from the younger age squads and also in my fan timeframe from 1969 onwards. Again it is incredibly hard but I have made my choices and this week, as promised, I will go head to head against the bought team I chose last week. Martinez was the only choice in goal It is hard to find a keeper from my period 1969 to today. We don’t bring them through homegrown. Graham Stack never made it and he was my second choice. Wilson, Rimmer, Jennings, Lukic, Seaman, Lehmann and the rest were bought. So step forward Emilio Martinez, a true Arsenal man who dedicated a great part of his career to us. He only had one great season but what a season. He never let us down. And he won’t let down this team. But on the head to head from last time I have to put him behind Pat Jennings. So one-nil to the buys. Defence was far harder to choose Pat Rice against Lee Dixon? Well, this is difficult. Rice was such a great servant for us and Northern Ireland, but Dixon probably had that touch of class above him so I am going to go 2-0 to the buys as they race into a big lead. Pat Rice -one of our greatest servants Ashley Cole vs Kenny Sansom and Cole has to be the choice. 107 England caps. Lots of trophies and surely an England all time great. He shades Kenny Sansom in a tight race as Sansom was superb. 2-1 to the buys. Cole: Not so popular because of his (bad)choices Martin Keown couldn’t get into this team as a centreback despite being a giant of a player but our 2 longest serving players, Tony Adams and David O’Leary did. And I am going to give it to evens with Sol Campbell and Tony Adams leaving Kolo Toure and O'Leary out. So now it is 3-2 to the buys. No, I am not going to tell you who these legends are Midfield even harder Saka vs Ljungberg, oh no, how can I make this choice? I am going to give it to Saka for one reason. He is our best player at the moment, causing danger all the time whilst getting kicked unmercifully. Ljungberg was never our best player because, well, we had extraordinary players like Bergkamp, Henry and Viera in his time. So now it is 3-3. I couldn't leave these two out Fabregas vs Cazorla? Gus, why did you start this? This is impossible. Looking at great players we have bought vs players we have brought through and they are all brilliant. But I think I will go Fabregas, he was a genius, he stepped into the boots of Vieira, despite being a different sort of player and we didn’t really feel the difference. And now the homegrowns have made a comeback, 4-3. We did bring through some great players, didn’t we? The genius Spaniard that was Fabregas But now Peter Storey vs Patrick Vieira and I am so tempted to go for Storey. He was truly tough, but he made himself available all the time and was incredibly under rated. Alf Ramsay didn’t pick him for England for a long time regarding him as a clogger. When he finally did towards the end of his career, he said he had made a mistake and should have been playing him all along. He was like Roy Keane, he drove the team on and was always available for the ball. We could do with such a player now. But still, Patrick Vieira is Patrick Vieira. I have to give it to him. Now it is 4-4 and it is looking tight going down to the wire. Probably the most underrated player we ever had - Peter Storey Robert Pires vs Liam Brady? I hope you now realise how difficult this is. Two legends, guys we will love forever. But I am going to give it to Brady for the same reason I gave it to Saka. He was our best player in the team winning 1st division player of the year. And so now the homegrowns have got in front late in the game – 5-4. Brady- our best player of his time Attack was also a hard choice I put Smith Rowe in that Bergkamp role as I feel that is where he can be killer for us. Scoring goals, creating assists, making a danger all the time around the box. He could turn out to be a world superstar. But John Radford, despite being a super forward, and always being a threat, was no Henry. Frank Stapleton and Ray Kennedy were my next choices. At least the front two are easy. Bergkamp and Henry. I need say no more. And so the buys wing it at the end 6-5. I would love to see this team playing against the other in real life assuming all players are at their best. I suspect the buys might just shade it again but you never know. John Radford - a seriously under rated striker Some of the decisions were so hard. But I had to choose 11 for both sides. For the home grown team in defence there were Sammy Nelson, Terry Neill, Martin Keown and others who didn’t make it. In midfield there was a huge choice, David Rocastle, Michael Thomas, Graham Rix, Jack Wilshire, Charlie George and lots of others were considered. In attack we aren’t so strong, though. Ray Kennedy, Kevin Campbell, Niall Quinn and Frank Stapleton spring to mind but none are like the legends up front of Bergkamp and Henry, one of the strongest partnerships ever at any club. Nketiah and Balogun, or Biereth could make it and displace the two I chose but I can’t see them being better than Henry/Bergkamp. Let's cheer for our own So there you have it. I have chosen my best bought team and compared it to the home grown. My conclusion? That the bought team is a little better than the home grown. That buying well is the key to a great side, but bringing on your own gives far more satisfaction and fun for the fans. The Arsenal chant of “He’s one of our own” reverberates throughout the decades. And for sure they will play football the Arsenal way. And hey, let’s raise a goalkeeper or two.
  2. Santa Gus comes down your chimney with lots of presents Hey all you wonderful Arsenal fans out there, do you want ideas for Christmas presents and maybe warnings for stuff to avoid? You have come to the right place here on the most wonderful Arsenal fan site of all. https://arsenal-bulgaria.com Because today I will give out some recommendations for Arsenal books and some that you can miss unless you have a particular interest in the esoteric. Now, as you can probably guess, the team here at Arsenal Bulgaria.com are an erudite bunch. We have our own messenger space where deep philosophical brooding on the state of the Arsenal is the norm. Highly intelligent argumentation happens all the time. A poor simple guy like me gets lost, they are so smart. No spam ever comes from their lips. Seriously, though, they do an incredible job, writing, analysing, going through the history and staying up-to-date on what is happening at the Arsenal so you can read straightaway the latest news in Bulgarian. For those of you who don’t speak English, this is a great boon. My little sideshow, London Calling, tries to give a different perspective on what you can read anywhere else. And this is my take on some of the books I have read this year. Well worth reading I will start with Ian Wright, because we all love him. My Life in Football is his second one and has been translated for you by the team here. You all have a copy. So is it worth reading? Yes it is. It covers his later career mostly, and also his domestic life and his difficulties with relationships. Lots of great football stories, insights to the various managers in his career, Steve Coppell, George Graham, and Arsene Wenger, and his disastrous relationship with Bruce Rioch. There is an honesty about Ian Wright’s 2 books and I can strongly recommend both. And this is even better Which brings me to Mr Wright: The Explosive Autobiography of Ian Wright, his first one. Honestly, I enjoyed this more, it gave a real feel for how he struggled in his early life, the immense difficulties in trying to make it all intertwined with a lively writing style that has you turning page after page. He scores a lot with this one It’s Only Ray Parlour, however, is the second best of the Arsenal bunch. This is such an enjoyable read, lots of funny stories, pisstaking of so many incidents and people, even Arsene Wenger is a target. Check out his story about drinks on the plane. And his story about Martin Keown’s final match. Grab this one, you will enjoy it. Our leader, our winner Sober by Tony Adams is also strongly recommended. This is an epic story of a man who came to personify Arsenal. A deeply flawed human being who had to battle against his demons to succeed. Bizarrely ending up in jail at the peak of his career, but coming out of it stronger, he was a winner, an onfield and off-field coach while still playing, the inspiration behind the team, putting up with all sorts of insults in his early and even middle career but ending up Mr Arsenal and still today, the icon of the team. Again you will enjoy this, lots of great insights and anecdotes. A great read My favourite will surprise you, I reckon. True Storey by Peter Storey is an immense book that never got the recognition it deserved. Probably because he was dismissed as just a hardman and a bit of a villain. He ended up in big trouble when his career ended with several criminal convictions and this was his attempt to give his side of the story. He was a good footballer and made a big difference to the Arsenal. Alf Ramsey famously dismissed him as a clogger for most of his career but when he finally picked him, chose him over several big names. He had a run of 15 straight games for England in his 19 caps. He never seemed to miss a penalty. But it is his after career that a lot of the book concentrates on. In those days footballers did not make big money and he set up several businesses which didn’t go well. Partnerships went wrong and there was a strong feeling of naivety in the real world waters he was now swimming in. Overall, a picture emerges of a good man struggling to get out, not having the nous to say no to a bad deal, but finally finding love and a sanctuary in the South of France. A story of redemption that would make a good film. It was mooted but never happened. It should. Everything is good about this one and its in Bulgarian Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby was also supplied by us for free and it is a great read for Arsenal and football fans. His god was Liam Brady and his description of the famous Liverpool Arsenal game is unmissable. Read it and enjoy. Interesting but not very exciting Arsene Wenger’s My Life in Red and White? Truly, it is not very exciting. A good insight to his early life and his football philosophy, his inner destruction when he lost, his man management, his attention to detail, his time in France and Japan and the glorious English years, it doesn’t really touch too much on the stories I wanted to read. The rivalries with Ferguson and Mourinho, the celebrated incidents, the sendings off to the stands, the insider personal football stories are at a minimum. Read it if you are interested in the minutiae of football. Oh and forget about Arsene Wenger - The Unauthorised Biography of Le Professeur by Tom Oldfield, it doesn’t bring much to the table. For the real fan, I suppose The same can be said of The Big Friendly German by Per Mertesacker. Great for those who want to find out about how German football is organised, how it was ahead of its time in training facilities, medical and physiotherapy and such treatments, but it is short on good football stories and insights. Thierry Henry: Lonely at the Top by Phillippe Auclair did little for me. I don’t think I even finished it. Nothing new in it. A great laugh I want to mention one more which has little about Arsenal in it but is truly worth a read – How to be a Footballer by Peter Crouch. This is a collection of funny stories about his time in football. Really superb, laugh out loud and you just keep turning the pages until you are finished. Hey, have a great Christmas, I hope you and Arsenal have a wonderful time and if you want a copy of any of these books, even the ones I don’t recommend, send me a message at gus_worth@yahoo.co.uk and I can send you a digital edition.
  3. The Emergence of Great Players 2001-2002 Top players, top goals and a double! We have had some great seasons in my time as an Arsenal fan. The greatest, I suspect, will always be the double of 1971. And why, because it was so miraculous. As a child, all the Irish around me supported Man Utd, Liverpool and Leeds, Arsenal were second rate and I was made fun of. But suddenly, we were the best, we had accomplished the miracle of the double. Since then, this allure has dropped as Liverpool, Manchester United and us in 1998 had all achieved it. It was no longer miraculous as it had seemed throughout the majority of the 20th century. It was getting easier, helped by the huge money flowing through the Premier League, the enormous squads, the creation of elite teams. I will make a prediction here and now, I don’t believe we will see in my lifetime another Leicester winning the league, or a non-elite squad winning a double. At the moment, this season, I would confine that to Man City and Liverpool, with a lesser chance of Chelsea and Man Utd. And I doubt if few would seriously argue with me. Arsenal 1971 was easily the equivalent of Leicester winning the league as it was equally unexpected to me. An unexpected season But 2001-2002 had its similarities. As I said last time, we had 3 seasons in second. Man Utd were winning better than us. We were letting go some of our best players, only if Ferguson had a fight with one would that happen there. The feeling was that we had settled for second best and in fact were second best. However, one significant transfer happened this season. Sol Campbell came from Spurs. Our defence was aging, Tony Adams was finally coming to an end as was Lee Dixon. David Seaman also and Richard Wright was brought in to take over. Ashley Cole had appeared and Gilles Grimandi, both good players. But Campbell was hugely important. I was a big admirer despite the Spud background. He was consistently England’s best defender at big tournaments. He linked with Keown, Adams or Grimandi to form a solid partnership that conceded little. A beast of a defender Sol Campbell was the star From the time he arrived, he formed part of our elite trinity, he in defence, Vieira in midfield and Henry in attack. I reckon most fans rated Henry as the most vital of those but I didn’t. It was Sol Campbell, he snuffed out danger, allowing Vieira and Henry to accomplish their miracles. The under-rated Sylvain Wiltord Pires and Llungberg came alive this year, terrorising the opposition and got 30 goals between them in all competitions. Sylvain Wiltord never quite got the acclaim of the other two but honestly I don’t remember him missing a match. He also scored 17. I have just checked, he played a massive 54 times equal to Vieira and well above the rest. This shows the importance Wenger attached to him. Sol Campbell played 48 times, more than any other defender. We were getting teeth. But so were Pires, Llungberg and Wiltord Our superstars had arrived Giovanni Van Bronkhurst was brought in from Rangers as was Francis Jeffers from Everton. Two blues but whereas Van Bronkhurst did well, Jeffers didn’t. An Everton friend at the time, an actual Scouser, Jim Woolridge, believed he would be a great signing for us but it wasn’t to be. So what happened on the pitch? We thrashed Middlesbrough 4-0 in our first match, then beaten by Leeds 1-2, and were unbeaten until November 4th when, improbably, Charlton beat us 4-2. We were playing well, hard to beat, and scoring every match it seemed. Those 2 defeats, plus a few draws, meant we were challenging for the top but rarely getting there. Liverpool had popped up as challengers under Gerard Houllier, a close friend of Wenger’s, as had Newcastle under Bobby Robson with Alan Shearer as his spearhead. It was all close up to Christmas. We struggled in Europe and the League Cup In the league cup we went out to Blackburn in the 5th round 4-0 on 11th December. Wenger consistently used this trophy for the reserves and he never won it. I reckon he did far better in the FA cup because it started in January and our options were narrower by then. The Champions League wasn’t so great either but we got through the first qualifying round with Panathinaikos topping the group on 12 points and us scraping through in second on 9, level with Mallorca. Then we fell out at the next group with only 7 points for 3rd. Bayer Leverkusen and Deportivo La Coruna qualifying. These were the type of teams we should have been capable of beating but for some reason we were mostly poor in Europe under Wenger. He could not seem to find the magic formula against even lowly European teams. Unbeaten in the second half of the season But in the league, we were performing. On 18th December we were beaten 3-1 at Highbury by Bobby Robson’s Newcastle but that was our last defeat. We went on a long unbeaten run including our final 13 matches in which we won all. Man Utd, astonishingly, it seemed, could only finish 3rd on 77 points. Liverpool were second on 80 and we were top on 87. Back on top, and the Northerners left to scurry on home crying all the way. We were Arsenal. And the FA cup? Mostly tough matches but we kept winning. Watford 4-2, Liverpool 1-0, Gillingham 5-2, Newcastle 3-0 after a replay, Middlesbrough 1-0 in the semi to set up a final with Chelsea. We won all the awards We won 2-0. It’s only Ray Parlour and Freddie Llungberg scoring to send them home to collect their pension down the King’s Road. We were the best. We were clearly Kings of London with Chelsea the next best at 6th and with 4 northern teams between us and them, also Kings of England. The great days had returned. What had seemed improbable at the start of the season had become reality. We had managed to overcome Alex Ferguson. We had won the double twice now under Wenger. Robert Pires won the Football writers player of the year. How did Bergkamp do it? Freddie Llungberg won Barclaycard player of the year. Dennis Bergkamp won goal of the season for his astonishing goal vs Newcastle. I never get tired of watching that and still don’t believe it. Arsene Wenger won manager of the year twice and Henry won the Golden Boot. Even Paul Burgess won groundsman of the year because of the amazing surface at Highbury, generally believed to be the finest in the world. Paul Burgess, we sold him for a million to Real Madrid Ah Arsenal, my Arsenal, you are the best in so many ways. But I wanted more. I wanted, so badly, the Champions League. I wanted, I needed, us to be the best in Europe. Next year, surely, we can do it?
  4. The Dark Side takes over 1994-95 Last week I wrote about how we won the European Cupwinners Cup on May the Fourth. I, and many other Gooners were hoping that we have disturbed the force that is Manchester United and are ready to be Arsenal again. George Graham could surely now come up with the tactics to hit us into warp drive. We had the players, we could put out an entire England team and it would be nearly as good as the actual one. We bought Stefan Schwarz, John Hartson, Chris Kimomya and Glenn Helder. Surely Darth Vader (Alex Ferguson) couldn’t stop us now? Certainly Man City couldn’t. 3-0 first match. Your Death Star is about to be demolished, Mr Ferguson, the Arsenal are back. Except we weren’t. Defeats to Liverpool, Leeds, and Newcastle along with draws to Norwich and Blackburn meant we were going to be confined to the farther reaches of the galaxy, more likely. What it is to be an Arsenal supporter. Finally on 25th September we beat West Ham 2-0. We never got going after that and didn’t play like contenders, let alone champions. Dark rivers of cash Ah, but there were rumours appearing, enquiries into irregularities, and something was going on behind the scene. Not with the Arsenal, surely? We were squeaky clean, not like many others, with Don Revie and Brian Clough regularly in the frame when such allegations appeared. All us football fans believed that there was a river of bungs, underhand payments, and brown envelopes streaming through clubs. Many articles and books speculated on this but it was George Graham who was caught, tried in an FA inquiry, and found guilty. The details were simple and undisputed. Graham had received £425,00 from Rune Hauge for services supplied. He claimed he helped him to operate in England, providing consultation and advice when required. He described them as gifts which he never asked for. It is perhaps best put in this extract from the Guardian here Rune Hauge: Did this smiling man really cause all the trouble? ”The "bung" details are complicated, but, in simple terms, George accepted two lumps of cash, totalling £425,000, from a Norwegian football agent with whom George, as manager of Arsenal, had been involved in various transfer deals. He had also helped this agent, giving him advice and contacts in British football in general. George, therefore, so he says, looked upon this money as an unsolicited gift. He didn't see it as having strings attached, either before or after. At the time, he didn't appear to see anything wrong at all. Arsenal, the club, didn't lose out. His "gifts" had come out of a middleman's pocket. No one, so he maintained, was cheated.” Hey, it's capitalism It is fair to say that in business, such arrangements are normal, you scratch my back and I scratch yours. Capitalism is built on such things. But sport is different, and should be. There are sporting rules that you shouldn’t break, both on and off the arena. In golf and snooker, the highest standards are maintained, and players are expected to call foul on themselves, but football is probably the dirtiest sport of all. Professional boxing? Maybe, but it is very much a minority sport in terms of participants. So George was banned for a year, he lost his job at Arsenal, his reputation was thrashed and he lost a lot of money as he handed it all back and had to pay high legal fees. Arsenal struggled on the pitch as players were in shock. Graham had always seemed so straight, he was tough, but they liked him, mostly. They understood what he wanted, what he valued, how he dealt with them in general. One has to understand that a football manager can only pick 11, and must piss off players every week and the skill is getting them to understand their role and value to the team, even if it is a peripheral role. But also helping them through difficult times, Tony Adams with alcohol and Paul Merson with gambling are examples of this. A long tough battle for Paul Merson Paul Merson, this season, came out about his severe gambling, alcohol and cocaine addiction. 3 months rehab was offered and George Graham welcomed him back into his role, but shortly after was fired. Merson recovered his career and Graham played his part. He obviously understood human frailty. The good and the bad of George Graham Graham had been the best manager of my time with Arsenal till now. For a shortish period we were the best team in England. He had a distinct belief in how football should be played and the type of footballer he wanted in every position. He ran Arsenal as a tight ship and must have been a dream for the directors, always being canny in his dealings, keeping plenty of money at home for them. He believed he had a deal with them that he could return but the Arsenal board, being representative of the higher echelons of British society, decided that they did not wish to be tainted with the unsavoury aspects highlighted by the FA, and threw him to the wolves. Graham, doing what he does best So, what is my view on the matter? George Graham was caught, he did wrong and got a fair enough punishment in my opinion. Put in context, though, I feel he was a small fish in a murky pond, and countless others participated in a lot more dirty dealings. It is still going on, probably a lot worse now as there is a lot more money floating around. Football seems to be irredeemably corrupt, from FIFA downwards and nothing really happens despite periodic exposes. Qatar, anyone? The squeaky clean home of the next World Cup? Yeah, sure. Can it be fixed? What can be done? I would start on the pitch. Make it an offence not to admit to a foul. In other words, no arguing with the ref, the cameras can see what happened. No claiming anything, from throw ins to penalties, the cameras and the officials can see what happened. Players forced to be honest, on penalty of far worse punishment if they are not, would be a start. No deliberate kicking or pulling of a player to stop them moving. No diving, falling down holding your face when you weren’t even touched on the face and such things like that to be replaced with being punished severely for it. Cleaning up on the pitch, I believe, would be the first step necessary to cleaning things up off it. Would fans be happy with my proposals? I have a feeling no is the answer. Often fans are blind to their own teams failings and over sensitive to the oppositions. What next for Arsenal? For George Graham, he had succumbed to the dark side of the force. Arsenal were knocked back in their attempt to tackle the Man Utd empire and the Premier league trophy was turning out to be in a far distant galaxy which Arsenal had no hope of reaching. But as always with Arsenal, there are grounds for hope and next week I will talk about matters on the pitch in this season. Could we rescue it at all? And who would come after George Graham?
  5. The 80’s Were we Better? My first full decade as an Arsenal supporter was the 70’s. It was an amazing time but a rollercoaster. We flirted with relegation, we got to many cup finals and won the impossible double. We had an astonishing Irish presence that is unlikely ever to be achieved again at any English club, and so many legends were of this time. Charlie George, John Radford, Frank Mclintock, Bob Wilson, Terry Neill, Don Howe, Alan Ball, our longest serving player, David O’Leary (why is there no statue?) and our sublime magician, Liam Brady were among the names and in fact almost every player we had could fit into that frame. We had no sponsors at the start But the 80’s belonged, more than anyone else to a player also from that era, Stroller himself, George Graham. He took over in 1986 from Don Howe, who had taken over from Terry Neill. George was different. I am not sure that I have ever seen a manager who decided that things had to be done his way as much as he did. Possibly Jack Charlton also was similar. He imposed discipline and did away with any weak links. John Lukic was his goalkeeper and there were few better but he was replaced by one who was, David Seaman. Kenny Sansom was a superb fullback but it seemed that Nigel Winterburn better fitted Graham’s ideas. Niall Quinn was working hard on his game, was always a handful but was deemed, probably fairly, to be a bit short of greatness and had to go elsewhere. He often elected to play David O’Leary as a sweeper as he had a good touch and could find the midfielders. We had good players in every position He played a solid spine of black players, Thomas, Davis and Rocastle were the right blend of strength and finesse to provide goals and attacking flair. Alan Smith, in another era, might have been an England regular but the England front three of Lineker, Barnes and Beardsley picked itself and players such as Mark Hateley were also pushing strongly. But for Arsenal, he caused huge problems for the opposition, he scored with his head, he had a deft touch, right foot, left foot goals, and he held the ball up very well. Graham always played him and never seemed to consider selling him. So what did we do in the 80’s? We started well. Got into 2 finals but lost both. The Fa cup to West Ham and the European Cup Winners Cup to Valencia in 1980. After that we were waiting for George Graham to arrive to make us challenge again. In 1987 he delivered a League Cup, our first. In 1989 he gave us the League at Liverpool in the most dramatic game ever and we also won the Centenary Trophy that season. Not so good in the rankings Where did that leave us in the 80’s? Quite a bit down the rankings it has to be said. A long way behind Liverpool as I would need a calculator to tot up their trophies. Well behind Everton who had a purple patch in the middle of the decade with League wins in 1985 and 1987, FA Cup in 1984, Cup Winners Cup 1985, but they contested many finals and were runners up in the league as well. Aston Villa won the league and charity shield in 1981, the European Cup in 1982 and the UEFA Super Cup also. Forest won the European Cup in 1980, the League Cup and the Full Members Cup in 1989. Manchester United won the FA Cup twice in 1983 and 1985 winning the Charity Shield in 1983. Tottenham won the FA Cup in 1981 and 1982, Charity shield shared twice following those, and a Uefa Cup in 1984. I am going to argue that the League trumps both of the last 2 but Spurs and United fans probably wouldn’t agree. As I always wanted Arsenal to win the European Cup/Champions league I am going to give Forest a marginal nod over us. Feel free to disagree. The Fifth team in England? That puts us as the fifth team in England in the 80’s and only barely above Man U and Spurs. We were the last champions though so the best at the end. That is reflected in our league positions as well. 4,3,5,10,6,7,7,4,6,1 which would put us around fifth as well. The 80’s weren’t so good for us but a definite improvement when Mr Graham took over. He would have kicked out Tony Adams? As he was at least 3rd choice behind Terry Venables and Alex Ferguson could we have done better with those two? I never wanted Venables but Ferguson? I think with the players that were coming through at the time and the fact that he reckoned Tony Adams was a Manchester United player maybe he could have come through quicker with the league at Arsenal than Man U. But despite his admiration for Adams he hated a heavy drinking culture so would he have booted him out? And Niall Quinn, his drinking buddy? And others who liked a drink? George Graham, though known as a tough disciplinarian, obviously tolerated that aspect of players lives. I never heard of players being kicked out for that reason. I would say that we got the right man. Mr Arsenal liked to win The Kings of London I think we can say we were kings of London though. Spurs really were the only challengers to us. They had a good decade for them and still we beat them. Their league positions – 14,10,4,4,8,3,10,3,13,and 6, I feel gives us the edge. West Ham and Wimbledon won the Fa Cup once and Chelsea the Full Members Cup. Watford, QPR and Palace had some good seasons but a long way behind us. Kings of London for sure. The difference for me was palpable as we headed towards the end of the 80’s, though. We had a team that was hard to beat, well organized and packed with top players, although we didn’t have many England regulars, even though virtually all the team were English. It was an exciting time as I felt we were on the verge of greatness. I must point out that 2 FA cups and a League title plus a UEFA cup in the 70's meant we went backwards in trophies but I felt that finally we were going forward. The board took a gamble with George Graham. Typically Arsenal, they took the cheap route, and appointed an unproven manager at the top level. It worked. In boxing, it is where you are at the end of the fight that matters. At the end of the 80’s we were Champions, we were Arsenal and ready to send all teams home crying to whatever footballing dungeon they operate from. Not a Stroller as a manager Still 61 points total to play for. For a change we won easily at Newcastle and it should have been easier. They rarely mounted an attack and made us look good. I hope it is great for our confidence as our next match is our biggest so far. We must win. And play a striker Arteta! We have Aubamayang, Lacazette, Martinelli, Pepe, Nketiah and Balogun but none are considered good enough to play as a striker? Nonsense! However, if you said at the start of the season that we needed to beat Villareal 1-0 or better at home to reach the final, we would have said that sounds doable. It is. Let’s do it, Arsenal.
  6. Why couldn’t we win all our matches? 1990-91 Invincible? It was considered unachievable in the modern game, because English football was so competitive. Every year low teams beat top teams, not to mention that you had to beat the top teams as well. Of course you could draw, but if you drew every match you are flirting with relegation. Once 3 points for a win came in in 1981, they became they only real currency to trade in. George Graham never made any bold prediction like Arsene Wenger did, but if you examine what Wenger actually said was that no top manager ever plans to draw and no manager ever plans to lose. He said he aims to win every match. I am sure Ferguson, Dalglish, Clough and others felt the same. I have no doubt George Graham was the same. So I left you last time with us unbeaten in October with a fairly lucky win at Old Trafford. 6 wins and 3 draws and behind Liverpool. At that stage Liverpool had one of their best spells ever, winning match after match. It was hard to see us being champions. Last season we were 4th, a distant 17 points away from Liverpool. It is hard to imagine nowadays what you had to do to beat them. These days so many fans are dreaming of billionaire owners coming in to the clubs and buying them success. Chelsea were the first such, in England. Man City popped up later, Leicester now as well. The traditional big clubs, Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal, who had hoovered up in their existence a huge chunk of all trophies ever won in England, also succumbed to the allure of the billionaires. Everton and Spurs also, who were the next layer of top level clubs, are now part of the rich clubs and can believe they can compete. It was better for the smaller teams Tradition at that time meant you could attract the top players, yes, but unlike nowadays, once the first 11 was set, it was hard to get a game. So top players went elsewhere meaning that late developers, or players who found a nice groove at a new club, or those who kept improving with age and experience, could strengthen lower clubs and they could challenge. Aston Villa, Notts Forest, Derby and others were proof of this. But it is undeniable that Liverpool, Man U and Arsenal had an advantage in terms of attracting players, revenue and expectations. Liverpool the more so as succeeding there guaranteed trophies. But still they could only put 11 on the pitch and all supporters could rattle off the starting 11’s of most teams. Try doing that now? George Graham only thought of winning George Graham, I believe, wanted to win all matches and that is pretty much what we did after beating Man Utd on Oct 20th. 6 wins and a draw ending with a win 3-0 over Liverpool at Highbury to end their unbeaten run on Dec 2nd. Merson, Dixon and Smith rattled in the 3 goals to announce that we are Arsenal, we send even the greatest home to Liverpool crying all the way. Kenny Dalglish was feeling the pressure and wasn’t looking very happy but they were still the target and ahead. It took us until well into January to go top with a win over Everton on Jan 19th. We were still unbeaten. A Car Crash to crash our Season? But there was a huge dark cloud hanging over us. Our talisman, our leader, Tony Adams, was a man who loved to drink. He got banged up in jail on December 19th not long after beating Liverpool. Excessive drink driving and a car crash left him behind bars for 2 months. He was disgraced and our club was thrown into shock. We still had top centrebacks in O’Leary and Bould, and Andy Linighan had been signed. But we were beaten 2-1 by Chelsea on 2nd February to end our invincible run. Of course we didn’t know it then but we were not to be beaten again in the league that season. Oh My God, Tony! What have you done? We would go on to be out of sight, the 2 points deducted at Man Utd sunk into irrelevance as we showed the world that we could do it again. Twice champions in 3 seasons. Liverpool and Kenny Dalglish seemed mesmerized by us. We beat them again 1-0 at Anfield on 3rd March to emphasise our superiority. Dalglish had just quit a few days before that match and it really did feel like Liverpool were no longer the team of old. The end of a Red Empire signals the start of a different Red era? We didn’t know it then, but the Ancien Régime had crumbled. The empire was led into darkness by Graeme Souness and it was a long time before they troubled the top of the table again. But as I say, we didn’t know that then. They had tradition, finances, expectations, and the ability to attract the top players. Certainly in those days, that did not mean guaranteed success. You needed that extra spark and we had it in George Graham. Now we were ready, now we were Arsenal. We were the boys to beat. Even the great Kenny Dalglish walked away from the fight. Looking at the table, Palace were 3rd and Leeds were 4th but a long way back from our 83 points. I really felt now we could dominate. I looked at the rest and said, we can beat them. I had never felt that before. None frightened me. Not like when we had won the double and I definitely felt Liverpool and Leeds were better. Now, there was no one better. We were the champs. We just needed to bite down on the others and show them who was boss. Graham showed Wenger the way One defeat by Chelsea. One time our concentration had slipped. Arsene Wenger would have been saying I want to emulate George Graham instead of being laughed at. It was a great season, though, and maybe the only time as an Arsenal fan that I truly felt we were better than the rest, because even in the superb Wenger days, Ferguson kept coming back off the floor to knock us out. We never quite managed to dominate them. But back then we had Seaman, Dixon, Winterburn, Adams, O’Leary, Bould, Linighan, Rocastle, Thomas, Davis, Merson, Smith and Limpar and others who could walk into most teams. I couldn’t see anyone to frighten us. We were the best and almost the invincibles. Win all our matches? Surely that was the aim of George Graham? Oh, and by the way, we knocked 6 past Man U in the League Cup, 6 against Coventry in the League, 5 against Villa, and 4 against Palace and Chelsea alongside several 3 goal matches. Boring, boring Arsenal, I don’t think so. And only six 1-0 to the Arsenal all season in all competitions. Next season was to be looked forward to. Back in the European Cup, could we win that as well? We were good, very good. The Invincible`49 !!! Our 1990-91 team were almost Invincible before this great team !!! And maybe this team was better !? 61 Max points total Well, Everton did it to us. Our last real hope of qualifying for Europe via the league is most likely gone. It is all or nothing in the Europa league. Can we do it? Yes, we can. C’mon Arsenal.
  7. Charlie Nicholas and John Lukic with Terry Neill at the start of the season 1983-1984 We didn’t have a George or an Orwell but we did get a Charles and a Nicholas in one person. Charlie had signed for us. The most promising talent on the island was brought on board by Terry Neill. He had got us a big player, as everyone had wanted him. £750,000 was spent which was a huge sum at the time. He was 21 and was to be the new George Best. He had dazzled with Celtic, who were then the footballing equivalent of a major English side. Kenny Dalglish and Graeme Souness implored him to go to Liverpool. I still don’t know why he chose Arsenal. Maybe Terry Neill told him Maradona and Platini were coming. We were 10th, the worst in London but somehow he must have felt we were going somewhere. Unless the thoughtpolice had got to him and he thought he was joining a top team. He may have thought it was Animal Farm when he saw Tony Woodcock and Brian Sparrow in the dressingroom. Allied to Tony Woodcock, our top scorer last season, surely now we could start winning again? Yes we could. Two wins on the bounce against Luton and Wolves. 2-1 both times but wins nonetheless. Charlie, you are our darling. Except this was Arsenal and reality came back to bite us. We lost away to Southampton before being beaten at home by Manchester Utd and Liverpool. We would go on to lose 6 more times by December 10th and by the 16th, Terry Neill was turned into an unperson by Peter Hill-Wood. But, as expected, Don Howe took over. It was very hard to have any great expectations with him as he had been there so long. I wanted a fresh approach but it wasn’t to be. Not Newspeak but Newplayers What he did, though was bring in good players. Paul Mariner, the England international centreforward came in in February, Tommy Caton, centrehalf, came in December and formed a good partnership with David O’Leary. A very young Tony Adams played 3 times, making his debut at barely 17, almost a miracle for a central defender to play that young. Colin Hill, of Northern Ireland, had got the right back spot the previous season for the last 7 games and he became a regular. He was good but never quite made it. John Lukic had arrived in the summer to be Pat Jennings understudy. It took him some time but he eventually did it to become a firm fan favourite and is a hero to us in the Arsenal Supporters Club of Bulgaria. Mr Arsenal himself appeared and he was never a donkey We had a better second half of the season and finished 6th in the end. But it was a yoyo existence, full of ups and downs, lots of big wins, and lots of big defeats. Down and out in London? Not exactly as we finished above Spurs, West Ham and Watford, who all finished above us the previous season so we were the best in London? At least we were Arsenal in the Big Smoke? Er, no, QPR had come up and finished 5th above us. But we did at least manage to put manners on the Spuds beating them in the League cup 4th round 2-1 at White Hart Lane with Charlie Nicholas scoring (becoming a fan favourite) along with Tony Woodcock. Then on Boxing Day, they had their match for revenge at the Lane in the league. Eh, sorry Spuds, go back to room 101, 4-2 to the Arsenal with Charlie rattling in 2 more and Rafe Meade getting the other 2. And at home? Sent them home crying 3-2 with Charlie again scoring. I’m certain I remember him saying that he didn’t understand them, did they not know they were supposed to stop him scoring? I should, in fairness, mention that they won the UEFA cup that season beating Anderlecht on penalties in the final. Charlie loved making the Spuds miserable The cheek of them, though! Better than us the past 2 seasons in a row? We are Arsenal. You are the Spuds. We are your worst nightmare. Room 101 Arteta needs to teach the Spuds their place in life Arteta needs to understand that, I don’t know what he learned at Arsenal but he should have learned that. From next season, Mikel, you need to put them in their rightful place in Room 101, where every waking day, they see that Arsenal are better than them. If they look in a mirror they see a red and white jersey ready to score against them. If they look up the table they see Arsenal staring down at them. If they draw us in a cup, they know they will be sent home crying. It is the natural order of things. It is never good to upset the natural order of things. But QPR, coming up like Watford the previous year and playing a stormer? 71 points only got them 5th, 10 points above us. Spurs on 8th, West Ham on 9th and Watford on 11th. QPR beat us 2-0 both times, West Ham beat us 3-1, and 3-3, Watford beat us 2-1 and we beat them 3-1. Honestly, it was hard to stay upbeat. Charlie loving to score against the Spuds was the only true consistent bright spark. Coming up for Air But we did have good wins, 6-2 against Aston Villa at Villa Park with Tony Woodcock scoring 5 times! I am certain that if Arteta had shown that on repeat all week before the match after every training session, and played Martinelli up front, he would have said I have to do the same. Let them score 2, we score 6 and I’ll score 5. We beat Notts County 4-0, Forest, Ipswich, Wolves and Coventry 4-1 on our way to being the top scorers in the division with 74, one more than Liverpool on top. They had a goal difference of 41 and us? The inverse, 14. We liked leaking goals. It was a pity that Tony Adams was only 17. Don Howe had brought an improvement. He deserved his chance. Arsenal always tried to act with class regarding managers and Peter Hill-Wood, the chairman, having finally backed Terry Neill with cash for our Charlie, was left with little choice but to let him go as we hovered above relegation. He said he couldn’t sleep for a week before doing it. Terry Neill was 41 and never managed again. He is still involved with Arsenal. Don Howe had such as Nicholas, Woodcock, Mariner, Sansom, Jennings and Lukic, O’Leary, Rix and Paul Davis at his disposal, top international players, most of them, and surely it was now time for us to be Arsenal?
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