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The Arsenal stepped up their pre-season preparations with a match against old foes Bayern Munich at the Dignity Health Sports Park.

Through these bleary eyes at 4am I thought the first-half an entertaining affair. Bernd Leno had the first save of any note to make when denying Thomas Muller, and a second followed from Ontuzans.

The Arsenal were not without threat, however, with Mesut Ozil not only standing out because of his hair colour. Indeed he was a whisker away from giving us the lead after a lung-bursting run from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to set him up.

Surprisingly goalless at the half, the match sprang into life four minutes after the break when Henrikh Mkhitaryan played Aubameyang in on the right and the striker’s cross was deflected in at his near post by the Bayern left-back Poznanski.

The Arsenal 1-0 Bayern Munich

It was a goal that we needed as Bayern had unleashed their first choice strike trio for the second-half. Serge Gnabry, keen to show his old club what they were missing, shave the far post which appeared to be covered by substitute goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez.

The tall shot-stopper then had to go full length at the feet of Gnabry to deny him once more. Third time lucky when Gnabry crossed and Lewandowski, unmarked eight yards out, picked his spot with a typical headed equaliser.

The Arsenal 1-1 Bayern Munich

As the time ticked away we sent on a number of youngsters to give tiring older legs a rest. We awaited a penalty shoot-out but better lay in store when Tyreece John-Jules and Calum Chambers combined to tee up Eddie Nketiah for the clincher.

The Arsenal 2-1 Bayern Munich

They were not the only Young Guns to catch the eye. Joe Willock started alongside Granit Xhaka at kick-off and gave a fine account of himself in a box to box role and has surely given Unai Emery food for thought as the Premier League season looms ever closer.

The head coach was full of praise for his young charges post-match.

“I am very happy with their work every day in the training sessions and also today in the match. We are going to play next Saturday against Fiorentina, also in another match (against Real Madrid!), and we are going to use young players. It’s another chance for them to show us how they can respond, but today, for example, is very positive.”

All in all that was well worth getting up at sparrowfart for an overseas supporters Arsenal experience. Well done lads.

Quickly into tonight’s post as it will be a full one.

Our 2019/20 season kicked off in the early hours of this (Tuesday) morning with a less than taxing fixture against another of Stan Kroenke’s clubs, the Colorado Rapids. A young Arsenal side put a stranglehold on the fixture early on. Debut boy Gabriel Martinelli was off target with a great chance to open his Gunners account in the fourth minute, but the reprieve was temporary and Bukayo Saka burst through to chip an effort goanward that the goalkeeper could get a hand to, but not enough to prevent it crossing the line.

James Olayinka, there may be a name for the future, cut out a wayward defensive pass, strode forward, and unleashed a piledriver into the far top corner to double our advantage just before the half hour mark was reached. Well worth a look if you can see it.

Martinelli, impressive on first viewing, added the third when he got either chest or shoulder to a Dominic Thompson cross from point-blank range just past the hour. As a contest the game was over.

A tougher challenge lies in wait in the shape of Bayern Munich in the early hours of Thursday morning, UK time.

#WeCareDoYou

I had the good fortune to be asked to do an ABW Podcast special on my understanding of the proposals shared by an alliance of Arsenal fan groups, blogs, and influencers on Monday evening. Please find the finished article below with my usual loss of faculties in the fourth minute left in! Do feel free to ask any questions as I said at the end of the wonderfully brief show.

Josh Kroenke Responds

I spoke of us wanting to open channels of communication with the Kroenke family and today we were in receipt of an open response from Josh. There may be parts of that response that we need to address further, but thanks to Josh for engaging so quickly. Let’s see where we can go from here.

Please check out the response, with thanks to our friends @TheGoonersPod here.

That’s it for tonight. I will try and cover the Bayern Munich match on Thursday evening as best I can whilst enjoying a first drink in eleven nights and preparing for a day of golf on Friday. It may just be brief!

Until then, take care ‘holics.

A broad cross-section of the Arsenal support have put away past differences to come together with a vision for the future good of The Arsenal Football Club. All of the signatories to what is reproduced below have always had the best interests of our club at heart. Now we come together with a plea to Stan Kroenke to live up to his promises of what we could expect under his custodianship of our Football Club.

As Arsenal fans we have watched with frustration as the team’s football performances have declined over the past decade. When Stan Kroenke began buying Arsenal shares the club had just competed in a first Champions League final. Twelve years on, Arsenal are about to play in the Europa League for the third year running.

Off the pitch, fans have never felt more marginalised, less listened to or valued. This was sadly illustrated when Stan Kroenke forcibly bought out the last remaining supporter-shareholders without even a word of appreciation for their custodianship role in the club.

It feels as though Arsenal is at a crossroads. Things need to change. 

What all of us as signatories to this statement want to see is meaningful action by Stan Kroenke to reinvigorate our football club.

This requires work to strengthen the club’s board and football executive and to once again make Arsenal a place where fans have a real sense of belonging.

Change needs to start with better leadership. In his takeover document Stan Kroenke said:

“‘KSE’s ambitions for the club are to see it competing consistently to win the Premier League and the Champions League.”

We see little evidence of how this is to be achieved. Instead our club feels like an investment vehicle, personified by the owner’s statement that he didn’t buy Arsenal to win trophies.

It is sad that an institution like Arsenal FC has such passive ownership. All of us want to see a clear sense of purpose and direction. KSE should start by being more open and accountable and explain how they intend to achieve the goal of winning the game’s major trophies.

If Stan Kroenke is going to be absent from London he needs to make sure the board he delegates to is fit for purpose.

There is a desperate need for some new and dynamic appointments. The addition of independently-minded directors can act as a genuine check and balance on the owner. Ideal candidates would have football and commercial expertise relevant to the needs of a football club in 2019, and ideally some ‘Arsenal DNA’.

Arsenal have invested money in recent years, but their approach to both buying players and paying wages looks uncoordinated and appears to lack strategy. There has also been a lot of turnover in the senior football personnel. A strong board would be proactively managing this.

On a matchday the Emirates Stadium can be a soulless place. The atmosphere is poor and there are thousands of empty seats blighting almost every game. If Arsenal really cared they would make sure seats weren’t left empty by investing in an improved ticketing system and actively supporting initiatives like safe standing. The club uses the strapline ‘Always ahead of the game’. It would be good to see action to demonstrate this.

Finally, the very fabric of football in England and across Europe is at threat from proposals for a European Super League. 

These moves are driven by the greed of a few so-called elite clubs who want guaranteed entry into top-level European competition every year. Why care if you finish fifth or lower if automatic qualification is guaranteed? Arsenal and the other clubs involved should understand that fans do not want more meaningless group stage fixtures designed only to rake in more broadcast and ticketing revenue. You could call it the ‘franchisation’ of European Football. Arsenal should immediately clarify they will have no part in this.

As Arsenal Supporters, we care deeply. We would like to hear from our club and see actions that demonstrate that they do too. The first opportunity comes when the Managing Director and Head of Football speak to invited supporters on July 25th. We urge them to address the issues raised here. We will watch with interest.

Signatories:

Arseblog
Arsenal Armed Forces Supporters Club
Arsenal Supporters’ Trust (AST)
Black Scarf Movement (BSM)
Highbury Library
Highbury Squad
Hugh Wizzy
Gooner Fanzine
Goonerholic
Gunners Town
Gunnerblog
Le Grove
REDaction
She Wore A Yellow Ribbon
You Are My Arsenal Blog
7am Kick Off

I understand there are some who feel our job is just to support and not be critical of the club. This is not a time for us as supporters to be falling out when we ALL want the club to achieve it’s maximum potential. We just have different ideas about how to achieve those aims from time to time. We don’t pretend to speak for everybody, but we do believe we are expressing popular commonly held views of our situation.

It’s pitchfork and lit torches time for me this evening. Those who have seen me at close quarters in the North London derby can attest to the fact that my usually calm veneer can very quickly become what others would describe as irrationally tarnished. It’s my experience of the fixtures over many years that causes these extremes of reaction.

The only other times I get over-excited, shall we say, is at perceived injustice. This injustice is often political in nature so it’s for the best that I don’t give examples here, isn’t it Mr Duncan Smith, bludgeoner of the disabled.

Those who have followed me a while on Twitter know that I can get pretty emotional about the unnecessary use of the ‘Y’ word these days. Racism is another topic over which I have low-hanging blue touch paper, and what happened to one of our young Gunners last night has got the veins in my neck bulging today.

I want you to picture a scene with me. Jordi Osei-Tutu, our 20 year old full-back has gone on loan to Vfl Bochum in Bundesliga 2. He made his debut in a pre-season friendly, yes friendly, against the Swiss team St Gallen. Three minutes before half-time He had what appeared to be an exchange of words with the Swiss club’s Tunisian defender, Sliman Kchouk, as reported in the Daily Mirror by Liam Prenderville.

The upshot was that a visibly upset Osei-Tutu, after an angry exchange with the referee, left the pitch apparently in tears. Although he missed the remainder of the half he did return to the action after the break.

Before I get busy with my implements of protest I have to consider that I did not see the incident live, and am therefore bound to come to a view based on the likelihood of probability interpreting the statement of others and the evidence of a video of the incident.

Firstly I am bound to ask what would cause the young player to react in such a way on his debut for a club on whom he clearly wants to make an impression this season in order to enhance his future prospects at The Arsenal. On this basis alone it is clear that something occurred to prompt it.

Secondly the reaction of the St Gallen Club today leaves a very sour taste in the mouth.

“FC St.Gallen 1879 makes it clear that it strongly condemns all forms of racism and discrimination. Such misconduct would be sanctioned immediately. Our players have a respectful relationship with each other regardless of origin, skin colour or religion. In a clarifying conversation with the managers, the player concerned credibly assured that he had also adhered to this club principle yesterday in the match against VfL Bochum.”

With respect, although precious little, I would suggest that taking the word of a player who unquestionably said something yesterday and quickly condoning his likely racism looks like a very hasty cover-up of what happened.

Thirdly, the standard absurd defence of the truly guilty. In response to a complaint from a German supporter St Gallen’s Twitter account assured us that,

“Where does the certainty that he is lying come from? Notabene are the player’s two best friends, two dark-skinned teammates.”

That’s all right then. Everybody believes that old chestnut.

The Arsenal have been quick to respond to reports of the incident. The club website – arsenal.com – carried the following statement today.

Last night Jordi Osei-Tutu received unacceptable racial abuse playing for VfL Bochum during a pre-season friendly match against Swiss club St Gallen. 

We are working closely with Bochum and Jordi and we are giving him our full support. 

Racism has no place in our game and we do not tolerate any form of discrimination.

Jordi, who is on a season long loan, said: “I am very disappointed about what happened. 

“No one should ever be subject to any discrimination and it is really hard to understand how a fellow professional footballer could do this. Arsenal and Bochum have provided great support to me and I hope that if nothing else, we can show that racism has no place within football.”

I wonder what the attitude of UEFA, proud endorsers of the Kick Out Racism campaign in public, will be to this incident? What action will they take against a player who apparently practices racist acts, and against his club who undoubtedly have been seen to endorse such disgusting behaviour?

I won’t hold my breath.

Refreshed and tanned it is apt for me to recap on a week away, Arsenal style. I had hoped that things would have picked up on the week preceding it when precious little happened. Welcome to yet another Gunners close season.

After a quiet weekend we launched a shiny new kit on Monday. I have to say I have been swept along with the tide of joy about the return to Adidas. Quite apart from the great new strip I hope we are all to put the doubled sponsorship package to good use this summer. Yeah, I know…

I’m not sure I understand the furore that surrounded our £40 million bid for Wilf Zaha, in instalments dammit! Who would offer a transfer fee in instalments, for goodness sake, apart from every club and every deal known to man. Apart from when we signed Sol Campbell of course, when we offered the entire zero pounds and zero pence, up front in order to seal the deal.

We did, however, announce a shiny new signing. Gabriel (yes, another Gabriel) Martinelli joined us from Ituano in Brazil. Will the eighteen year old slot straight into the first team set-up, or get a grounding in U-23 football first? At this point we know not, other than the fact that given our reported financial situation we should see some young talent given the opportunity in the senior side in the coming months. The young Brazilian not surprisingly enthused about the move. Good luck lad.

“It is a dream since I was a child and also my family’s dream for me to be playing in Europe and playing for a big team like Arsenal. I am going to take this opportunity.”

Another young player was taking his development to the next stage by agreeing a season-long loan deal just down the road from me at Swindon Town. Daniel Ballard skippered the Gunners in Premier League 2 last season and earned a call-up to the Northern Ireland senior international squad. Hopefully I will get to see him at close quarters in the season to come before he returns to oust Sokratis Papastathopoulos from the first team.

Celtic’s signing of a left-back prompted the inevitable speculation about our reported bid for Kieran Tierney. Allegedly our initial £25 million offer isn’t acceptable to the Glasgow club. It’s far from certain that the young man is worth even that given his experience to date.

It wasn’t all about arrivals, potential or otherwise. David Ospina completed his move to Napoli so we have added a few pennies to the available funds. Whilst he never commanded the utmost confidence Ospina provided experienced cover for Petr Cech and lest we forget was in goal for our 2017 FA Cup Final win over Chelsea. Imagine beating them in a Final! Let’s hope David is able to nail down a regular starting berth at the Italian club. Good luck to the Columbian.

Back to incoming rumours, and the latest forward to be linked with us is Lucas Vasquez of Real Madrid. If this means we are considering releasing one of the current attacking pairing then someone, please reconsider that strategy. It’s almost as insane an idea as, say, buying William Saliba from St Etienne and loaning him back to the French club for next season. Really?

Finally the pre-season fixtures kicked off with the U23s match against their host club, Boreham Wood, in the Saturday sunshine. Two down in fifteen minutes, it’s fair to say we did not start on the front foot against the National League club. Close to half-time Matt Smith reduced the arrears, but the gap was back to two goals before the whistle blew thanks to a fine strike by Adam McDonnell.

It’s perhaps over-egging the pudding to say we needed a second-half response in the first friendly of the summer, but happily that is what we produced. Supersub Tyreece John-Jules levelled things with a low drive and a smart penalty kick after seeing his first attempt of the half cleared off the line.

Coming up, another week of intense speculation, and hopefully a shiny new signing, or heaven forbid, two. Might we also see further migration from the club, perhaps in the direction of Selhurst Park? We shall see.

Have a great Sunday, ‘holics.

Apologies all, I didn’t realise it had been a week since the last post, not that there has been much to write about other than the dreaded transfer speculation. The lack of apparent activity is probably due to the fact that the international players were, or still are, in action and having a deserved (or not!) holiday. There is another believable theory that any new signings will not be announced until the new Adidas kit launch, now just a week away.

Who might it be? I wrote of Yannick Carrasco a couple of weeks back. All has gone quiet on that front, interestingly. The rumour du jour is that we have bid from £15-25m for young Celtic left-back Keiran Tierney. The Glasgow club are said to be asking for £40m for an inexperienced player with a poor injury record. They won’t be getting that from us!

I see from the drinks that a number of you are following the Womens World Cup. Me too, and I’m finding it largely enjoyable other than the antics of the Cameroon team in the match against England, and the length of time the referees are taking over some VAR reviews. I thought the FA were making improvements in the Cup matches where it was trialled last season. Usually quick and as the competition progressed they tried to give more information on the big screens to keep the supporters informed.

They have stopped short of what would be the major plus of such a system. Mic up the referees so we can hear what is being done. Rugby Union and cricket administrators trust their officials enough to allow that. The FA it would seem do not.

The other thing I would do is to make the offside law more straightforward. It seems harsh that your uncut toenail can be adjudged to be offside. Let’s go back to there being clear daylight between the attacker and the last defender.

France have looked impressive in the tournament but face a test against holders, the USA, in the quarter-final. England too are getting results and improving as the tournament progresses, which is always a good sign. There still much football to be played, however.

I have also caught glimpses here and there of the Copa America. Those on the other side of the pond may care to agree or disagree with me that the tournament has yet to spark into life?

I haven’t caught any of the African Cup of Nations. Alex Iwobi impressed as Nigeria opened their campaign with a 1-0 win over Burundi. Maybe I will catch some of the latter stages of the tournament?

Finally I have a plug for another piece by Dave Seager in his Gunners Town blog. We are thinking on very similar lines for the coming season and Freddie Ljungberg’s appointment as a first team coach would look to be a shrewd move if we were to offer more first team opportunities to our best young talent.

Have a good week, ‘holics.

The announcement of what is in effect a job swap for Steve Bould and Freddie Ljungberg is not entirely surprising. It is clear from the article in arsenal.com that both men are happy with the switch. Steve has been a bit part player in the first team coaching set-up and makes no secret of enjoying a return to a similar role he has already held for eleven years at the club.

“I have always had a deep commitment to developing young players and am delighted to be back working in an area which is so important to the future of our club. We have great young players and my job will be to help them maximise their potential.”

The Arsenal Head of football, Raul Sanllehi, explained the thinking behind the switch and revealed clear thinking about helping to develop the talent rolling off the academy production line.

“Identifying, recruiting and developing young players is a key part of our strategy. We have some great talent coming through our younger age groups and, like all top clubs, the challenge is to help them make the most of their abilities. The hardest part is always the transition from academy football to senior football. We already have good programmes in place but these staff changes will ensure our plans are even more robust and clear for every single player. I’m confident it will make a significant difference to our ability to bring players through to the first team.”

For Freddie too this gives him experience of working with the first team, an ambition he has harboured for a while I believe. This would appear to be a clear sign that we will have to utilise some of our young talent in the coming seasons if Champions League money continues to be absent from our bottom line. Freddie is the ideal choice to continue to help the players he himself has been developing.

“I’m really excited by this opportunity to continue helping develop and work with some of the great young players we have coming through in the first-team environment and to work alongside Unai and his coaching team to help Arsenal win trophies.”

Good luck to both men in their new roles. I’m sure both will be happier as a result, and look forward to Steve producing more young players for Freddie to inject into the first team set up.

Off to watch France women in the so far largely excellent Womens World Cup. They have been a great watch in their two opening fixtures.

Buy All The Left Wingers!

Wouldn’t you know it? Last night I settled down, this page open, and ready to chart the performances of Yannick Carrasco and Ryan Fraser in the Belgium versus Scotland Euro 20 qualifier in Brussels. The team sheets went up, and both were on their respective benches. Just my luck!

Fraser did get on for the last hour and actually looked the pick of a Scotland side that not surprisingly were second best on the night to a team that finished in third place in last summer’s World Cup.

Until recently these were being touted as the most likely attacking additions to the squad, and I seriously doubt with limited funds that we would buy both. Reports, largely originating in European press sources, have suggested that we are close to pipping Bayern Munich to Carrasco’s signing and that the haggling over his price from his Chinese club, Dalian Yifang, is now the final brick in the wall. I’m dubious about us not agreeing a fee of £25m for a young Belgian international.

I’ve been further persuaded to the benefits attached to signing Fraser from Bournemouth. First and foremost he is a ‘homegrown’ player, and remember we had to play the latter stages of the Europa League with a reduced squad because we didn’t have sufficient numbers of those, and we have already lost Rambo and Danny Welbeck this summer.

John Welsh, with whom I often enjoy a shared platform on A Bergkamp Wonderland, made the point that he would lean towards Fraser simply because Carrasco’s decision to go to China suggests that his main motivation is money, and not the club. That is a valid point, and he does not have the Premier League knowledge and experience that Fraser would bring. Fraser shouldn’t need a year to settle in, and the language barrier would be slightly less of an issue with the Scot!

My mind made up, I ventured into Twitter again today, only to read of our apparent interest in Ismaila Sarr. Where does he principally play, I hear those of you who have forgotten his performances for Rennes against us in the Europa League ask? He actually caused us real issues all across the front line, but is more often than not found on the left wing even though he is right footed. He has pace to burn, and looks decent value at a rumoured £30m.

But wait, what more is being written about him? The excellent Layth Yousif, writing for Football.London, wrote of “Rennes hoping for a bidding war for Sarr, with Monaco and Premier League pair Leicester City and Watford interested, along with Serie A giants Inter Milan and Roma”.

There is a powerful whiff of an agent and a club looking to maximise the fee, and then wages, for their ‘asset’. I’m not sure we will be playing those games with our rumoured budget. Again he may take time to settle in the Premier League.

I can’t wait to open up Twitter tomorrow and read the latest rumours. Especially if we are linked with…. who plays left wing for Dortmund these days?

The official announcement of the players released this summer contained no real surprises. Petr Cech had already announced his retirement from playing before the season is out. It seems likely that he wasn’t prepared to continue as a cup tie goalkeeper. A return to Chelsea as director of football is rumoured.

He signed a four year deal in 2015 for a reported £10m and in his first season he won the FA Community Shield and the Golden Glove. Injury denied him a place in the FA Cup winning team against his old club Chelsea, but in the following season’s opener he was back for our penalty shoot-out win against Chelsea and a second Community Shield win with The Gunners.

Petr remained our number one until he was injured against Watford at the end of September, but in his role as cup tie goalkeeper he was instrumental in us reaching the Europa League Final. We wish him well in the future.

Stephan Lichtsteiner was an interesting signing last summer on a free transfer from Juventus. If he was perhaps no longer at his best his arrival had one massive positive for the club. Genuinely feeling his place was under threat Hector Bellerin returned to the player we had seen prior to his injuries in 2016/17 and prior to picking up another bad injury this season. That meant that Stephan made 23 appearances for the team this season.

Aaron Ramsey will be a big miss for the club after devoting a decade to the service of The Arsenal. Regardless of the reason for his departure on a free transfer to Juventus his performances in his farewell season were worthy of the highest praise. Professional to the end, we will remember his goal at Wembley against the neighbours and his subsequent celebration. His comeback from a broken leg at Stoke should inspire many who suffer serious injuries in the future.

Danny Welbeck too has been allowed to run his contract down although a serious injury restricted our options to make any money for him in January. I’m told the club did make him a new contract offer very much on a pay as you play basis, but Danny has better offers on the table. Fair enough. The goals he popped up with against his former club, Manchester United, and in the 2015/16 season against Leicester, will stay with us.

Thank you all for the memories you gave us.

Three young Guns were also released.  Julio Pleguezuelo has signed for FC Twente in the Netherlands. Charlie Gilmour and Cohen Bramall are now free agents, and hopefully the club are still active in seeking clubs for the youngsters they let go.

It is safe to assume there will be further departures as Unai Emery seeks to take advantage of his third transfer window with the club. After just one season at the club it already feels as though this will be a critical season for his Arsenal future. As supporters we have to hope that he returns success to the club next season.

Jose Antonio Reyes

It’s the first non-football Sunday evening of the close season. It’s always a bit of a downer and it rounds off an emotional weekend for us all. This isn’t about me, me, me. It’s about us, us, us. So with a keyboard and a very large glass of Laphroaig Select in front of me let me vent our anguish and hope that it helps.

The breaking news yesterday morning of the death of Jose Antonio Reyes in a tragic automotive accident obviously impacted many in ways we had not expected. At various stages of the day I know it hit many of us. I should have known better than to open the video of him and his little daughters when he returned from China in the local pub just before teatime.

Those extending their sympathies to his friends and family read like an invincibles who’s who, and demonstrated the affection that his peers felt for him. For example, Thierry Henry.

“I’m devastated to hear the sad news about José Antonio Reyes. Wonderful player, superb team mate and exceptional human being.”

Probably the fullest appreciation came from one who Jose Antonio took under his wing arriving as a sixteen year old from Barcelona.

“A humble guy who always had a smile on his face, great footballer and great person. I could not wake up today in a worse way. I will never forget when you and your family welcomed me at your home in my first Christmas in England when I was alone and was 16 years old. I will never forget our tennis football matches in the gym before and after workouts. Our connection in the field was also special, since it was always easy to find yourself between the lines so you could make the difference. 

I always say that you have been one of the greatest talents in football and I know that I am not wrong. 2 days ago I was talking about you in an interview, it might be a sign, who knows, to remember you, my great friend. I will never forget you, we will never forget you. Always in our hearts. Rest in peace Jose Antonio Reyes. Love you very much. Cesc”

There were also acknowledgements posted by Lauren, Sol Campbell, Ray Parlour, Robert Pires, Kanu, Rami Shaaban, Freddie Ljungberg, Gary and Colin Lewin, Stuart Macfarlane, and, of course, one Arsene Wenger on Bein Sports. I’m sorry if I missed any others.

As with most of you Jose Antonio introduced himself to us at Highbury with a brace against Chelsea in the FA Cup, and oh, that first, a screamer into the top left corner. In the North Bank, well everywhere in the ground, we went nuts. “We’ve got ourselves a player!”. He would go on to net 5 goals in 21 appearances as the invincibles wrote their name in history.

The true recognition of his value to that team came at Old Trafford in the infamous match 50 in our unbeaten run. I’m not sure that rotational fouling was a recognised term then, but it is certainly what United perpetrated upon the player seen as the biggest danger to them. Rooney, Scholes, and the cowardly Neville brothers committed ‘challenges’ on him that day that Mike Riley either turned a blind eye to, or eventually produced a token yellow card. They effectively kicked him out of English football.

It wasn’t immediate. Jose Antonio scored 12 goals in 45 appearances in that second season and satisfyingly ended up an FA Cup winner at Cardiff against, fittingly, Manchester United. The following season he was an integral part of our run to the Champions League Final and made another 44 appearances for the club. He was at the forefront of Arsene Wenger’s thinking at a time when we had Ljungberg and Pires. There is no higher compliment.

Home sickness is a thing, and Jose Antonio felt it increasingly during his time in London. Reluctant to sell a prized asset, we agreed a loan deal for him. This was no ordinary loan. The talented winger/forward found himself at Real Madrid for a year as we hoped he would agree to come back. It wouldn’t happen. A year on he was an Atletico player where he won the Europa League twice.

In his later career he returned to Sevilla where, under Unai Emery, he won three more Europa League winners medals. As a full Spanish international he scored 4 goals in 21 appearances, but his life and career was never about statistics. It was about a talent who brought pleasure to all fortunate enough to see him play. It was about the player who had to be ‘reduced’ to try and stop The Arsenal from dominating matches.

Here’s hoping that his young family are able to relatively quickly grasp the esteem in which he was held by fellow footballers and supporters of his various clubs alike. I haven’t a clue how to finish this other than to say that we would sign the 2004 Reyes tomorrow. We need someone with his gifts.

RIP Jose Antonio.

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