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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.
1983 горе и долу (Up and down) повече надолу, отколкото нагоре (More down than up) Up It is very hard to describe the season 1982-83 so I have borrowed the Bulgarian term which is also used in English- up and down. However, in Bulgarian it is a much more common saying. Good things did happen and let’s start with one of them. We finally replaced Frank Stapleton with an equally good player, England international Tony Woodcock was signed a year after Stapleton was let go. I am sure he cost a lot more than Stapleton in wages but that was Arsenal at the time. And we saved a years spending. And that’s a good up in the eyes of the board. We had finished 5th the previous year so now with a proper centreforward we could challenge? Tony Woodcock fired in plenty of goals for us Down Er, no we couldn’t. We started disastrously with 3 defeats and a draw before finally beating Coventry 2-0 on game 5. By December 16th we were hovering above relegation. It was one of our worst starts ever and similar to this year. I liked Terry Neill but his time had gone. He had lost our Arsenal. Don Howe was true Arsenal, player and coach He and Don Howe tried to steady the ship. However then we were beaten 3-0 by Sunderland. There was talk of Don Howe taking over. Honestly, although I liked Don Howe, he hadn’t got a great managerial record and I wanted us to get a top manager instead of going the cheap route. Ambition was our big problem, we wanted to do everything on the cheap. The magnificent marble halls of Highbury hid our big weakness, we got a heart attack if we wanted to spend money. It was very frustrating. Up But then we beat the Spuds 2-0. And that made us happy. But we still only had 24 points at halfway, 21 matches in a 42 match season. That was just above relegation form but they manufactured enough wins for us to finish a comfortable 10th with 58 points getting 34 in that second part. That type of form for the whole season would have put us a lot closer to the top so it put us in better heart for the prospect of next season. Highlights were beating both Manchesters 3-0 at Highbury in that second half, and beating Luton 4-1. Vladimir Petrovic, a one season wonder but I liked him Vladimir Petrovic of Yugoslavia was brought in, our first such foreign player under the system that had been created a few years before. But then we weren’t really a buying team. He was good, I liked him, but he didn’t get many games and was let go at the end of the season. At least it showed that we were prepared to look at foreign players. Down The Spuds hammered us 5-0 in the return on the 4th April. Chris Hughton the Irishman knocked in 2 superb goals, Mark Falco fired in 2 more great goals and Alan Brazil notched up his first of many. George Wood was in goal and I feel that was the end of him. He had been brought in a couple of years before to provide competition for Pat Jennings but allowing the Spuds to put 5 past him meant it was his last season. They were all great goals and it was a bit tough on him but we are Arsenal, we beat the Spuds not the other way round. And 5-0! Echoes of when we had run riot a few years before in 1978 and beat them by the same score. They had the FA Cup and the Charity Shield! They were now better than us for 2 seasons in a row, something that I never remember happening in my time before or after until the modern day, although maybe I should check that. My memory hasn’t been too bad in all this blogging. And I wasn’t very confident for next season. Oh no, Tottenham better than us. What nightmare is this? We had qualified for the Uefa cup but Spartak Moscow sent us home crying in the first round. A respectable 2-3 away from home gave us a chance in the second leg with 2 away goals. Eh, hello, they destroyed us 5-2 at Highbury. We were poor. Coupled with our results in the league it seemed we were going nowhere. It was a bad time to be Arsenal. I didn’t feel we were Arsenal at all. Up (and down) The League cup. Could we do something in this cup? We hadn’t won it in my time. Well we beat Cardiff 5-2 over 2 legs, then Everton 3-0 in a replay. Then one nil to the Arsenal at Huddersfield and Sheffield Wednesday. Then Man U in the semis. A disaster, 2-4 at Highbury in the first leg with Stapleton scoring and even our 2 goals coming at the very end to make it look like a tight match. Then 2-1 for Utd at Old Trafford. They now had Ron Atkinson in charge, a team full of top players and their ambition was to overtake Liverpool to put to an end of years of misery. They faced Liverpool in the final but got beaten 2-1. Well, the FA cup? Our trophy? We could win that? Well, let’s see. Bolton 2-1, then 3 matches against Leeds before another 2-1. Then 2 matches against Middlesbrough before 3-2. Then Villa 2-0 in the quarters to set up a return against the Mancs in the semi. This time we would send them home crying. And it started out that way. Petrovic blasted the ball at Bailey in the Manchester goal, he dropped it and after a scramble, Woodcock tipped it in. But Bryan Robson and Norman Whiteside scored and again they sent us home crying. Down What sort of Arsenal were we at all? Definitely not one that could challenge the big beast Liverpool, nor Manchester United, or even the Spuds. Watford had come up to the 1st division for the first time and came second, way ahead of us in tenth. West Ham were 8th and Spurs 4th. Seems we were a mediocre team, the worst in London, unless you include Luton, who were 18th. 2 semi-finals were all we had to show for our season. Could Don Howe jump us back to the top? We were better in the second half, but surely we needed players, we needed ambition, we needed something. But where was it going to come from? Instead of all this nonsense, could we not just be Arsenal? Fighters, punching above our weight? Making comebacks? I didn’t think Don Howe could be the magic man to do it. A good coach, very knowledgeable, but better as a coach. In all fairness, Neill was reputed to be trying to sign big players during his time and Platini and Maradona were mentioned, among others, but most of the players he actually signed were like Hollins and Talbot, good pros but not world beaters. He did get it right with Woodcock, though. Up (ish) Some good things did happen in our next season but you will have to wait till then to find out. But the teaser is, a donkey arrived. Oh, and I checked our record against the Spuds. I was right, they never topped us 2 seasons in a row before the modern day except for this season. I think most of us had come to the conclusion that Terry Neill could achieve no more, a bit like Bertie Mee before him. We needed a fresh approach but would we get it?