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This football season, like every one that has passed before, will see Arsenal produce performances that amaze and delight, and others that will frustrate. What will determine how the season pans out is how we are able to dig in and get results when we are doing the latter. Today was one of those, and while many have been critical of a ‘one nil to the Arsenal’ against ten men we may care to consider how important the three points gained today will be.

The team news produced a real surprise. Mesut Ozil’s knee-knack came out of the blue, and let’s hope that Arsene was right when he said it would only keep him out for one week. The selection of Theo Walcott ahead of Olivier Giroud was perhaps less of a surprise, but once again his performance in the central striker role raised more questions than answers. It was good to see that Laurent Koscielny was fit enough to return alongside Gabriel, and they formed an impressive partnership in the match that followed.

Steve McClaren told BT Sport beforehand that he had told his team to ‘get in their faces’ and his charges took him literally. Less than three minutes in Sissoko was shown a yellow card by Andre Marriner for his second foul of the contest, a stamp on Coquelin’s foot.

The first clear opportunity fell to Theo who came out second best in a one on one with Krul. Minutes later we were denied a clear penalty when only Marriner and his assistant failed to spot Thauvin’s trip and push on Hector Bellerin as the right-back ventured into the box. Had we not made the breakthrough later on we would have been bemoaning yet another decision that cost us two points, as on Monday night.

To be fair to the referee it was probably his only mistake all afternoon, although the fiercely loyal Toon Army, not privy to the replays that television viewers enjoyed, howled in dissent when Mitrovic was shown a straight red for an awful studs up challenge on Coquelin. The sending-off changed the nature of the match and the hosts were happy to concede possession while denying us space in the advanced positions. They remained combative, with both Mbemba and Thauvin getting yellow cards before the break.

So often we are frustrated by the two banks of four deployed around the edge of the box that many sides have employed against us. Some days we are able to unlock such defences with speed and precision of our passing. On others, like today, we are a little too patient and one-paced to break down the resistance. This is perhaps where Ozil was missed most.

We looked most likely to score when someone actually attempted to shoot rather than walk the ball in. An Alexis snapshot was parried to Theo but his attempt went high, wide, and not so handsome. If it sounds as though I am being overly critical about Theo then that is not the intention. He continues to see his future in the middle but his finishing is nowhere near consistent enough for that. Today we were crying out for his trickery on the right flank, where Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was having a rare off-day.

Six minutes after the break came the moment of good fortune that decided the match. Theo and Rambo were denied in quick succession by Krul but it was third time lucky for us as Oxlade-Chamberlain’s shot, heading wide of the far post, took a deflection of Coloccini and bounced in off the inside of the post. From this point our laborious, if patient, sideways football proved advantageous as it simply gobbled up the clock.

Newcastle’s determined resistance had drained them of the ability to produce any sort of effective counter-attack. In the final twenty minutes Arsene changed the personnel with Giroud replacing Theo, and ten minutes later Mikel Arteta coming on in place of the Ox. In the last minute the big Frenchman was put through by Rambo but Krul once again proved to be the master of the one on one situation.

So, not a day that will stick in the memory, but one that has been made better by Chelsea’s continuing troubles in the early stages of this season. If we can keep ourselves three points ahead of them then we won’t be far away at the season’s end. We will have to be far more incisive, however, to achieve that.

The timing of such a performance will add to the pressure on the club to bring in fresh blood before the transfer window is shut on Tuesday. Own goals as leading scorer after four matches is not a great sign. None of us knows for sure what is going on behind the scenes, but Ian Wright expressed his fear that we had put all our eggs in the Benzema basket and may have left it too late to switch our attention to alternative options. We have shown in the past we can close deals at short notice when the situation demands so I guess I will do what I always do in these situations.

Have a drink and chill out. Cheers, ‘holics.

“Maybe we are not firing on all cylinders at the moment. By definition, finishing is a little bit cyclical and it goes in cycles.”

Arsene Wenger in reflective mood ahead of a Saturday lunchtime trip to the north-east, one not entirely appreciated by the traveling faithful, but our allocation is again sold out, and at least it isn’t another Monday night game.

It’s a handy analogy that the boss is using. The quicker you go on a cycle, the sooner you tend to get where you want to go. Counter-attacking at pace is something we did on occasion at Selhurst Park on our previous away day and that may require a rethink of the attacking options we field at whatever St James’ Park is called these days. We certainly need to quickly put together a chain (I’m sorry) of wins to keep pace with those currently occupying the top League places.

It is however defensive considerations that will most occupy Arsene’s mind ahead of the match. Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker remain doubtful after both surprisingly missed the goal-less draw against Liverpool on Monday night. The former is thought to be the likelier of the two to be fit and it would be a comfort to many if he can line up alongside Gabriel, a defender who looks close to regular first team football.

There is a school of thought emerging that Arsene should consider sacrificing either Santi Cazorla or Aaron Ramsey to free a space for either Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain or Theo Walcott to get paint on their boots on the right flank. The counter argument is that Rambo cutting inside so often presents opportunities for Hector Bellerin to advance and whip in crosses on which Olivier Giroud can feast.

In truth the same could happen with any of the three options as both Theo and the Ox look to nip inside a fair bit themselves, particularly the former. It is possible if both his preferred central defenders again miss out that Arsene will not want to experiment further forward as well.

Newcastle come into the match seeking a first Premier League win under Steve McClaren. On the opening day of the season they played out an entertaining 2-2 draw with Southampton, and followed up with trips to Swansea, where they were beaten 2-0, and Old Trafford, where they comfortably held Manchester United to secure a second League point.

Moussa Sissoko could feature in midfield for the Geordies after missing their last two matches with a groin injury. New signing from Marseille, Florian Thauvin, is tipped for a start on the wing after helping his team to a 4-1 COCup win against Northampton in midweek.

The ‘holic Pound

The ‘holic pound is encouraged by our recent record at Newcastle, a far cry from my formative years when it was most definitely a bogey ground. It is now almost ten years since Nolberto Solano (remember him?) became the last man to score a home winner against the Gunners. Olivier Giroud has feasted on them somewhat, with eight goals in six matches against them, including a brace in both League meetings last season. I’m backing a repeat of last season’s 1-2 triumph, and why not. That scoreline pocketed me a tidy little bonus at Selhurst Park and 8/1 is again the best price on that.

All that remains is to wish those of you rising at sparrowfart to board the first trains north a safe and enjoyable day. The rest of us will be with you in spirit (single malt in my case, obviously!).

Have a great one, ‘holics.

The draw for the group phase of this season’s Champions League has paired us with three sides we have met before. Indeed we are becoming very familiar with both Bayern Munich and Olympiakos. Dynamo Zagreb and their raucous ‘Blue Boys’ made quite an impression in their last fixture at the Grove nine years ago.

In our last meeting with the Germans Lukas Podolski netted in a 1-1 draw following a 0-2 home defeat two seasons ago, just a year after we won 2-0 in Munich with goals from Laurent Koscielny and Olivier Giroud, but went out on away goals after a 1-3 reverse at the Grove. So to 2004/2005, in the round of sixteen Bayern whacked us 3-1, but a Thierry Henry goal gave us a face-saving ‘1-0 to the Arsenal’ night in the return. In 2000/01 we drew at Highbury,  2-2, but Bayern proved too strong in front of their own supporters and beat us 0-1.

In 2012/13 we met Olympiacos in the group phase, winning 3-1 at home but a weakened side slipped to a 1-2 defeat in the return fixture. It had been a similar story in the preceding season when we won 2-1 at the Grove but were on the wrong end of a 1-3 scoreline in Greece. You won’t be surprised to read that was also the case in 2009/10 where we established the pattern of winning at home but then losing at Olympiacos.

In 2006/07 we faced a 4th qualifying round test against a Dinamo Zagreb team that included Luka Modric and one Eduardo da Silva. Of course the latter gave the visitors a hope of recovering the 0-3 thrashing we had dished out to them in Croatia with the opening goal at the Grove, but Freddie Ljungberg and Mathieu Flamini struck to clinch a 5-1 aggregate win for the Gunners.

Bayern will go into the competition as favourites to win the group. The change in the seeding system has seen us, quite rightly, demoted to pot two and so we were likely to be in with a big name. Should we go through it is likely we will be alongside Bayern and therefore will at least avoid them in the round of sixteen again.

The fixtures have fallen in such a way that we would hope to have a strong start and hopefully not need a result on match day six at what has become a bogey venue for us. They are ;

September 16th v Dinamo Zagreb (a)

September 29th v Olympiacos (h)

October 20th v Bayern Munich (h)

November 4th v Bayern Munich (a)

November 24th v Dinamo Zagreb (h)

December 9th v Olympiacos (a)

The draw wasn’t so kind to Manchester City who will face Juventus, Sevilla, and Borussia Monchengladbach. Hopefully a tough group will distract them from their fine start to the Premier League? One would expect their neighbours, United, to progress against PSV Eindhoven, CSKA Moscow, and VfL Wolfsburg (come on Lord Bendtner!), and Chelsea shouldn’t struggle, one would imagine, to see off Porto, Dynamo Kiev, and Maccabi Tel-Aviv.

Come back tomorrow for a Newcastle preview. Cheers ‘holics.

Hopefully, A Reality Cech

The evening started with a surprise couple of selections in the centre of the defence due to Laurent Koscielny being ruled out by injury and Per Mertesacker by illness. Calum Chambers and Gabriel were chosen to start, and would go on to have a torrid first-half, particularly young Calum.

The uncertainty in the Gunners rearguard was evident with barely two minutes on the clock as Coutinho hit the bar. Arsenal responded when Alexis headed narrowly over from a Nacho Monreal cross.

We might have struck again when first Ozil, and then Sanchez, failed to take advantage of the dithering Skrtel in front of goal. The opening phase was end to end and in the eighth minute Aaron Ramsey was denied what would have proved to be the match winner by a wrongly raised assistant’s flag. It prompted Liverpool, and Coutinho in particular, to respond and control the remainder of the half.

That was made easier by the surprising number of misplaced passes as nerves visibly gripped a number of the younger Gunners. Francis Coquelin became an increasingly impressive presence and made two significant challenges as Liverpool threatened. One misplaced pass aside he looked back to the Coquelin of last season, and a crucial player to have on a competitive night like this.

In the 33rd minute Gabriel denied Coutinho at the expense of a corner, and as the half drew to a close Petr Cech had to be at his best denying Benteke at point blank range, then finger-tipping a wonderful Coutinho effort onto the far post. Those saves were to win him the Sky Sports man of the match award.

Quite what the manager and his staff must have said at half-time we can only imagine, but thankfully it had an effect of sorts. There is no doubt that the second-half belonged to Arsenal, and as Coutinho dominated before the break so did Ozil and Cazorla afterwards.

On the hour Giroud put in Alexis who smacked his effort into the near post. The Chilean isn’t quite back to his best, but you cannot fault his effort and desire, even if his distribution needs work. When he does click again, we could go on a serious run.

Slowly the chances arrived. Put in by a Ramsey pass, Giroud was denied by Mignolet, and the Frenchman had strong claims for a penalty when Lucas stamped on his foot in another attack. With eighteen minutes remaining Theo Walcott was introduced for the luckless Giroud, rather than as support for him. Then Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain came on for the last ten minutes, replacing the impressive Coquelin. It was a gamble that didn’t quite reap dividends on the night, but could have.

Ramsey’s deflected effort was just about kept out by Mignolet as Arsenal turned the screw, and moments later the Ox fired wide when Liverpool failed to deal with a corner. The Liverpool ‘keeper finally received a yellow card for time-wasting with six minutes remaining. It was long overdue. Referees seem to put up with this until the closing stages of so many games. It isn’t offered in any way as an excuse, more an observation. Tackle it earlier and much frustration may be avoided in tense situations?

In the last of four added minutes the Ox tested Mignolet again but the resulting save ensured the unlikeliest of 0-0 draws. We can feel both relief that our first-half uncertainty did not result in Liverpool claiming all three points, as well as frustration at the disallowed goal that would have proved to be decisive. Asked for the positives from the night, apart from his own performance, the man of the match offered the expected response.

“We played more in the Liverpool half in the second-half which is obviously a positive.”

Arsene Wenger was frank with his assessment of the evening. He will now see a pattern developing with our failure to score in five of our last six Premier League home matches. Another option or two is surely in his mind again in this, of all weeks? The natives are getting restless, even at this early stage.

“Our game is still not fluent enough in the final third, and that’s why we didn’t score. The West Ham game left a trace in our heads, and it was important tonight not to lose because you could see that was a shock for us and it was important for us to get that game out of our system.”

On to Newcastle, and an important week and weekend for all manner of reasons.

“Your confidence is linked with your last result and at Crystal Palace we responded well. You could see that we were a bit edgy at times but we responded in a very strong way. From that we should have enough confidence to go into the game positively against Liverpool.”

Arsene reflecting on last week’s victory and the importance of it in relation to a tricky home game against Liverpool on Monday night in his pre-match press conference. It may not be decisive either way at this early stage, but a victory against a team who have themselves picked up a maximum of six points in the opening two weeks will be a barometer reading of our competitiveness in the coming weeks and months.

There is no team news as such, with no players expected to return, and no new injuries to report following the win at Selhurst Park. It would be something of a surprise therefore if Arsene were to change a winning side. Whilst most, quite understandably, are hoping for some transfer activity in the next week it is one hell of a squad that can boast a bench consisting of Ospina, Debuchy, Gabriel, Gibbs, Arteta, The Ox, and Theo.

For the visitors Henderson is a major doubt with a foot problem but Emre Can, sent off at the Grove in April, is fit and ready to step into midfield if required. On the opening day they pinched the points at Stoke with a late Coutinho strike, and a second 1-0 win was secured by Benteke’s controversial strike against Bournemouth last week.

The ‘holic pound

In the corresponding fixture last season we struck three goals in eight thrilling minutes before half-time and went on to win 4-1. A repeat performance is as low as 20/1 which doesn’t look like the sort of odds that should be offered against lightning striking in the same place twice. I am drawn instead to the 17/2 you can get if you shop around on a 2-0 home win. The pound is already on it.

Transport Update

The club have published a transport warning for those who are going to the match. The ongoing work at stations in the area is enough to keep me away from this one, so if someone could have a couple of pints of Guinness for me I would be grateful.

Have a good one, ‘holics.

A Grand Day Out

Another reminder, as if it were necessary, of the depth of our fanbase worldwide was provided in the wake of our victory at Selhurst Park. A ‘virtual’ friend was over from Australia, and we had planned via Twitter to attend a match together. As it turned out the only game he was able to see live was the trip to Palace. “Tickets are like rocking horse droppings, but we’ll try”.

Well a big thank you to another ‘virtual’ friend of his who texted while he was in the air to London that he had sourced a ticket. Kane was literally in the clouds. I took Monday off and made arrangements to meet him at Arsenal station for a relaxed afternoon around the Highbury area. What to do in those few hours. I needn’t have worried. It all fell into place.

Pretty much on the strike of twelve we met outside Arsenal station and he started to describe his experience of Sunday as we strolled up Highbury Hill. I interrupted to point out the view back to the station. “Remember the end of Fever Pitch?” Indeed he did. A few paces later the almost incongruous entrance to what was the West Stand and west entrance to the Clock End.

Once a secure site, the gates are left permanently open these days, it seems, and so in we strolled to take in all that Highbury has become. It wasn’t my first visit back, obviously, but it is hard to describe what an experience it is to look around the old girl, even now. Lump in throat time. Kane has an interest in architecture too, so when we turned the corner into Avenell Road and the East Stand loomed large in front of him, some furious camera action ensued.

We snuck inside the marble halls and took a peek at the original bust of Herbert Chapman, and the wonderful motifs set in the floor, and then it was time for another reminder of days long past. I can’t remember the last time I was in the Gunners, and we very nearly weren’t on Monday. A huge thanks to Una for opening the door to two strangers, and the excellent pints that fuelled the next leg of the journey.

Past the Supporters Club, the birthplace of Piebury Corner, Highbury House, and up the steps to the Ken Friar bridge, and a tour of the statues from Tony to Dennis. I’m not sure that Selhurst Park or Highbury had prepared Kane for his first view of the new home of football. Down the steps to the Armoury, he made the essential purchases from the club shop and then would not let me put my hand in my pocket for the tour of the stadium.

They give you headphones and a media player that guides you around the West Stand. “I’d sooner you tell me about it” said our visitor, which turned out to be a good idea as his player kept breaking into pieces. It’s a short climb to the Directors Box, but the view out to the pitch and stands is so impressive. The gold Invincibles Premier League trophy stands out.

Up another flight of stairs and we were in the Diamond Club. I explained to Kane to make the most of it, as the hoi polloi only see it on the tour and won’t get near it on a match day. The lift took us back to the bowels of the stadium. He was fascinated by the booths where the post match interviews are conducted, and we fleetingly sat in the auditorium where the post match press conferences are delivered.

The differences between the home and away dressing rooms are marked, and devised personally by Arsene. We strolled out of the tunnel to the Arsenal ‘bench’, although of course there are no benches these days. Here you get some sense of what it must be like when the place is full. Kane was also fascinated at the press area, expansive, and complete with an impressive catering zone. The historic front pages on the walls act as a window on those who have plied their trade reporting on the club in years past.

Now we should have gone to the museum after that, but Kane muttered something about beer, and the Tollington is just a short stroll away. High tea is more pints, and we review the afternoon. There are worse ways of spending a Monday afternoon, I can assure you if you are ever in the area, and at a loose end. It’s also a great way of finding out a lot about someone you don’t know in a few short hours.

I hope Kane enjoyed it as much as I. It’s fantastic to think that someone who has followed the club for over twenty years, watching matches in the middle of the night more often than not, should prove beyond all doubt that where you come from has no bearing on the depth of your love for the club. The next time someone tries to tell you they are a better, a more deserving, supporter of Arsenal than those thousands of miles away, just try and explain one more time that they aren’t.

If you want to check out my Flickr account with photos from around Highbury and Ashburton Grove then click here.

Gunners Storm The Palace

Yes, that predictable! The Arsenal hit the ground running at Selhurst Park and a combination of wonderful attacking football in the first-half, a degree of grit in the second, and yes, a bit of good fortune at important moments enabled them to win 1-2. The first three points will hopefully lift everybody ahead of next Monday night’s match against Liverpool.

Arsene recalled Hector Bellerin at right-back, possibly with one eye on the sprint squad send out by Alan Pardew. Predictably Alexis also got his first start of the season, although Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could not be blamed for feeling a little surprised.

From the off though there was a much better balance to the Arsenal side. Santi Cazorla was back in the box to box role, and Aaron Ramsey went right, but his desire to cut inside from there was probably a deciding factor in the selection of Bellerin, ever keen to lend a hand in attack.

Palace were supposed to be the counter-attacking team, but it was the Gunners who first broke with astonishing pace and the imperious Ozil freed Alexis. Still shaking off the rust, the Chilean was denied twice, but his moment would come.

With ten minutes gone he had been denied again, as had Giroud and Ramsey. At the other end Cabaye had seen a couple of snapshots dealt with comfortably by Petr Cech. Fifteen minutes in Palace were unlocked by Ozil’s cross and a wonderful volley from Giroud, contorting to hook home. Alexis saw an effort from an oblique angle comfortably saved, and then headed over.

We were penalised for not having added a second goal while clearly on top when Palace got an unlikely equaliser from an even more unlikely source. Ward, teed up by McArthur, took advantage of a poor effort to block from Laurent Koscielny to rifle one just inside the far post from Twenty yards. I’ve seen criticism of Cech for not saving it. He would have needed to be eight feet tall to get anywhere near it.

Not surprisingly, and obviously not for the first time Lee Mason was confounding both sets of supporters with yet another display of utter incompetence. We were the beneficiaries of that when Francis Coquelin, already booked, survived further censure for three fouls either side of half-time having been booked five minutes before the break.

Early in the second-half we could conceivably have been behind. Defensively we were all at sea when Zaha picked out Wickham on the six yard line and the Palace striker hit his effort against the post. Souare somehow avoided a card when Mesut Ozil turned him inside out on our right flank. It was the trigger to another spell of Arsenal dominance.

Aaron Ramsey had an effort blocked and Alexis headed just wide as we cranked up the pressure again. Alexis finally had his moment five minutes short of the hour, showing enormous desire to win a venomous far post header that Delaney could only divert into his own net. The time had come to dig in, and dig in Arsenal most certainly did.

Cech was more than equal to a tame Puncheon shot from close range, and then the last of Coquelin’s indiscretions brought about his long overdue substitution, the Ox getting half an hour on the right wing with Rambo dropping in alongside the impressive Cazorla. The Ox traded chances with Wickham but Arsenal were increasingly forced to rely on pressure relieving counter-attacks. From one Rambo was just off target after being put through by Ozil.

Alexis was sacrificed to allow Mikel Arteta to come on and add to our solidity in front of the back four, and shortly afterwards Ozil was withdrawn to a standing ovation from the traveling faithful. Mutch headed over and Ward headed straight at Cech as Arsenal saw out the tense closing minutes, with Wickham avoiding censure for a blatant foul on Per Mertesacker.

The man of the match award went the way of Santi Cazorla. No arguments from me other than I wonder how you could differentiate between he and Ozil today as the Arsenal midfield once again rediscovered shape and confidence. Asked for his opinion on the win Arsene said afterwards,

“We have shown our strong response and we have shown different aspects in our game that are vital in the Premier League. We had a good, fluent game in the first half and when they came back to 1-1 it was a mental test to see how we could respond. We managed to find a second goal and after that in the second half of the game we just had to dig in, fight, and we did it as well.”

So, job done, with the added bonus of the ‘holic pound secured. A healthy early season profit is much appreciated.

Come on now, you must have expected something like that, surely? There the lightheartedness ends. The trip south of the river has already assumed an increased significance after our opening day home defeat to West Ham. The nature of early season football was emphasised in week two as the Hammers were beaten at home by Leicester.

So can we turn around our fortunes as well, and in the right direction? It is 23 years since we lost back to back matches at the start of the season, although we did gain the consolation of a domestic cup double back then. Arsene Wenger will be keen to avoid a magnification of the reaction of some to last weekend’s reverse.

“We have a big following and disappointed people are emotional, that is understandable and it hurts us as well to disappoint people who have a high level of expectation.”

The hosts will unfortunately (for us!) be missing Marouane Chamakh, gone in the fetlock. Goalkeeper Julian Speroni is also ruled out with a hand injury. They are dangerous on the break with plenty of pace on the flanks where they can perm two from Zaha, Puncheon, and Bolasie. A significant addition to their line-up is Cabaye in the centre of midfield, scorer of the clincher in their 3-1 opening day win at Norwich.

They look a far stronger side than when Alan Pardew replaced Neil Warnock in January. He’s no favourite with us after previous run-ins with Arsene, but has shown more respect to his peer this year, and fears a ‘wounded animal’ response from the visitors.

“Arsenal’s manager has enough experience to use that negative last weekend as a positive this weekend. It’s difficult to stop them but we need to play our game.”

The Gunners squad that faced West Ham remains available. It was be a surprise if the goalkeeper and back four were to change, despite those two unfortunate lapses last Sunday. The midfield could be a different matter if Alexis Sanchez is given his first start. Although Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain might be most at risk he looked the most likely player to turn things around for us. An alternative would be a rest for Aaron Ramsey with Santi Cazorla dropping alongside and ahead of Francis Coquelin in the box to box role he enjoyed last season.

Then of course the boss has to choose between Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott. An in-form Giroud would be a shoe-in away from home where his ability to function with his back to goal would be invaluable. He has started the season slowly, however, and Theo may be fancied to test the likely centre-back pairing of Dann and Delaney for pace.

Two seasons ago we responded superbly to an opening day defeat by stringing together ten wins on the bounce. That would be even more remarkable this time around, with fixtures against Liverpool (h), Chelsea (a) and Manchester United (h) in the next ten this season.

The ‘holic pound

The ‘holic pound was obviously off to a bad start last week, and early season matches have a habit of producing the unexpected. Having said that I am drawn to us repeating the 2-1 triumph we achieved on our visit to Selhurst Park in February. Indeed that was also the scoreline at home last season. Shop around for 8/1 against lightning striking twice, or indeed thrice.

For those going I hope you have another excellent afternoon at the Palace, where we not lost in eleven visits. Indeed we have only lost once there, in 1979, and yes, this Jonah was there that day so be pleased I will be missing it! The traveling faithful will be joined by my Aussie Twitter mate @TheReaper76. Have a great time, all, and bring the three points home.

Have a good one ‘holics.

Ode To Joy

For weeks we were treated to fillet, the pre-season dining was fine,

Three weekends, three trophies, we did it, and toasted the Gunners with wine.


So on Sunday the train journey eastwards, was filled with the growing belief,

That The Arsenal were destined for trophies, a title perchance, oh relief.


Now the first day of any new season is laced with surprises and gloom,

You hope it’s not us, but it was, to the glee of purveyors of doom.


“That Cech, told you so, what a stinker, and don’t start me off on Giroud”,

One by one our faults are transmitted, “that Coquelin, he’s rubbish too”.


But of course we have seen this so often, and more often than not we bounce back,

Though of course we could do with some cover, and a goalscorer in the attack.


But the squad we have now should be able, though they had a bad day it is true,

To get some reward at the Palace, and take points off the red scousers too.


Bank holiday, off to the Geordies, play hard, and battle, in we’ll dig,

Then the chaos will hit three days later, deadline day, and a chance to spend big.


Yes of course it could be so much better, there’s no doubt that the start was not great,

Yet there’s much to look forward to also, and in May we might just celebrate.


*I’ll get me coat…*

First Day Nerves

On this day in 1969 I witnessed something so very soul destroying, for the first time in living memory. Just about recovered from the League Cup Final defeat by Swindon earlier in the year, and buoyed by a serious attempt at a title eventually secured by Leeds United in May, I was treated by ‘holicdad to the opening match of the 1969-70 season. For some reason the details escape me, other than the fact we played Everton at Highbury, and lost 0-1. Inspired by Alan Ball, among others, they would go on to win the title, and we would end a seventeen year trophy drought by beating Anderlecht in the European Fairs Cup Final.

Fast forward to 1976, and the visit of Bristol City, newcomers to the top flight. We had tried to buy a couple of their players in the summer, which seemed odd. Not to worry, because we had snapped up Malcolm Macdonald for a record fee of £333,333.33 to replace Brian Kidd. On this day, however, Supermac didn’t deliver and the cow-lickers left North London with a 0-1 harvest in their favour, much to the chagrin of what felt like the only four Arsenal supporters in the Clock End.

Another five years and we were at home to Stoke City on day one. Lee Chapman (don’t cry older Gooners) produced the performance that would lead to us buying the lanky streak of piss, and we went down 0-1 again. Dark days lay ahead. I can’t remember if I would have eased the pain in the Gunners, Bank, or Hen & Chickens then, so out of it was I.

In 1987 we were ironically chosen to start our league season at home to Liverpool, whom we had conquered in the League Cup Final earlier that year with two goals by Bonny Prince Charlie. The Mickeys extracted full revenge 1-2, and would go on to lift the title, but our turn was coming, and how, the following season.

In 1992 Kevin Campbell and Steve Bould saw us two to the good at half-time at home to Norwich. We were destined to win both domestic cups, but on this day we collapsed spectacularly and the East Anglians departed 2-4 winners. That was a crap day to be sure, but nothing compared to the following year, when fat Micky Quinn grabbed the hat-trick that made his name in Coventry’s 0-3 defeat of the double cup holders, and European Cup Winners Cup holders elect. Are you getting the picture?

It is quite a fast forward to the 17th August, 2013, and what shall be ever known as ‘Anthony Taylor’ or ‘Spend, spend, spend’ day at the new home of football. I still don’t understand why I nervously had to text a friend, busy at a festival, that we had lost 1-3. Of course the season would end with our first major trophy in this decade and the celebration of coming from behind to defeat Hull will never be forgotten, but on day one it felt like the end was nigh.

Not much of a leap forward is required to today. Three pre-season trophies, and deservedly so. But the real deal lay in capitalising on the result experienced by Chelsea yesterday. It didn’t happen. So, what is the point of this piece? Well, I cannot be arsed to relate what a performance we put in today. It was lazy, it was as if we expected to win without putting in a shift.  Complacency is the word that leaps to mind. West Ham wanted it more and were the better side.

However, understand that history tells us that day one means little in all honesty. To others delight we are at the foot of the table after week one of the season. History tells us we could be anywhere at the end, but goodness me we are making it difficult again. It’s the Arsenal way!

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