Tag Archives: bergkamp

What’s Your Favourite Goal?

Goals are the currency of football.

Never mind the abhorrent amount of money that flows through the veins of the game, it is goals that keep the heart pumping, the turnstiles rotating and the clubs breathing.

When the ball hits the back of the net, for scorer and fan alike there is no greater feeling. They make the difference between glory and failure, ignominy and memories made. They encapsulate entire era’s, they symbolise icons and halcyon times.

They are also entirely subjective.

Just look at any Goal of the Month poll. Whether it be long-range screamer, thumping header or intricate team move, there are advocates for all. There are always football hipsters who will vocalise the attributes involved in a 6 yard finish, and the purists will always vouch for a twisting, turning solo goal, seeing opposition defenders sprawled on the turf with twisted blood.

Goals are enjoyed by all, but ask anyone what their favourite goal is and no matter their allegiance, they will always give a different answer.

It can be a long range, top-corner botherer, it could be a 20 pass manoeuvre that exhibits the finest one-touch passing before a slick finish bewilders the goalkeeper. More often than not though, it will be the occasion that elevates a goal from crowd pleaser to unique moment forever captured by all minds.

Look at Michael Thomas and his last minute heroics at Anfield in 1989. His run was astute, yep, but there was a bobble and a touch of luck before he put the ball over the lunging grasp of Bruce Grobbelaar.

michael-thomas Anfield

Pure it wasn’t, but you ask Gooners what their favourite goal was, and a large swathe of us will plump for it.

Thierry Henry’s effort against Liverpool in 2004. Champions League and FA Cup exits had left us raw, and we were on the rack against an inferior Liverpool team. Step forward Thierry Henry, at the time probably the greatest player in the world.

He picked up the ball about thirty five yards out and began to lead a merry dance, so fleet of foot and rapid that two, three, four Liverpool players attempted and ultimately failed to grab possession or even to stop Henry in his tracks.

Jamie Carragher left in a broken heap on the turf. The roar of the crowd as belief seeped in once again. The goal this time was beautiful, but much more than that, it was when we stayed on track during our greatest test in the Invincibles season.

The point here, is that as long as the net is rippled, we will greedily lap up all and sundry in terms of style of goal. We always appreciate a stylish effort, and if it grades high in technical skill then we will fondly remember it.

But should we progress to the Europa League final and one of our players knocks in the ball with his left butt-cheek? It will be held in the highest regard.

Aaron Ramsey’s winner Vs Hull City in the 2014 FA Cup Final. Andy Linighan, 1993. Charlie Nicholas, 1987, Eddie Kelly, 1971. Some goals were far more aesthetically pleasing than others, but each share a parallel – they won us something. They etched our name on silverware – and for that, they are also etched into our minds in indelible ink.

Wiltord Old Trafford.jpg

My personal favourite? Sylvain Wiltord’s effort against United at Old Trafford, 2002. His finish was snaffling up a loose ball after Ljungberg’s effort was saved. But it was everything else that makes it unforgettable. The stadium, the opposition, the fact that we had gone ahead and then won in a ground that gave precious few points away – the fact that it won us the title on enemy ground.

Not the prettiest, but it was pretty effective!

What about you – what’s your favourite goal?

2006-07 – A New Home, But Familiar Territory

First published in the Gooner Fanzine.

Arsenal had left Highbury. The 2006-07 season was the campaign that saw the Gunners move home from our beloved Marble Halls to the capacious Emirates stadium. Nothing could ever replace the memories forged and glory acquired at Highbury, but us packing our things and moving the short distance to our new home was necessary to keep up with our competitors – or so we were promised.

There were other changes too, and they too were sizeable. Our Iceman, the player who typified our club for ten years, Dennis Bergkamp, was no longer in our ranks. Other notable departures were fellow Invincibles Robert Pires, Lauren and Sol Campbell, as we attempted to move toward the future with a mix of youth and promise.

Another Invincible’s departure was not so warmly sent off. Ashley Cole’s acrimonious departure to Chelsea left an acrid taste and would do for years to come. We had bolstered the squad in order to fill the gaping apertures left by these players though, but could they come close to replicating the impact that these legends had made?

Tomas Rosicky, the diminutive Czech playmaker, was drafted in, as well as burly forward Julio Baptista, Chelsea defender William Gallas and Brazilian youngster Denilson. If we were going to enjoy an assault on the league, then these players would have to step up – and gel quickly.

The first match at The Emirates was versus a decent Aston Villa side, and they would take the honour of being the first team to score a competitive goal at our home – Olaf Mellberg being the player to take the plaudits. We scrabbled for an equaliser, and effervescent teen Theo Walcott crossed for Gilberto to smash home and take a share of the points.

Gilberto scores the first Arsenal goal at The Emirates
The only other match we had in August saw us take on Manchester City and lose to a Joey Barton penalty, and from two games we had just the one point.

After the international break, Arsenal returned home and ground out a dire draw against a Boro side that shouldn’t have been able to hold a candle to our side, but they still took a point and it left us with another slow start to a season, one that saw us playing catch-up at a ridiculously early stage.

We did start to fire though, and we enjoyed a rare win at Old Trafford in our next game, with Adebayor scoring the only goal. We defended stoutly and the result injected fresh optimism into the fanbase. We had the minerals to duke it out with our competitors.

It sparked a run for our boys, with wins earned against Sheffield United, Charlton (thanks to a Robin Van Persie volley that needs to be on loop), Watford and Reading. We had soared up the table after our less than palatable start, and we were looking dangerous – even without our talisman Thierry Henry, who was suffering with a succession of niggly injuries.

Thierry Henry 06-07

A slight slip in the form of a draw with Everton was compounded with a defeat to West Ham in the next game. The way in which we fell to defeat was to become all too familiar, as we peppered the goal of the Hammers, only for Robert Green to summon the spirit of Lev Yashin to deny us repeatedly. It would be a pattern that would haunt us for years to come.

We redeemed ourselves in the next match however, by hammering Liverpool 3-0 at our new abode. Mathieu Flamini opened the scoring, and further goals by Kolo Toure and new central defensive partner William Gallas bagged the points and sent the Scousers packing.

We weren’t out of the woods though, as a draw to Newcastle and damaging 3-1 defeats to Bolton and a 2-1 loss to Fulham left us with a haul of one win from five games in November. The loss to the Trotters was also another opportunity for journo’s to spread the old adage that this aesthetically pleasing Arsenal side ‘don’t like it up ‘em.’

What acts as the perfect recovery to a bad spell? That’s right, spanking our neighbours and reminding them of our superiority never gets tiresome, and a handsome 3-0 win over that lot down the road went down a real treat after the horror show that was November.

Another London derby didn’t quite go to plan next up, as Michael Essien’s rocket saved Chelsea a point at the Bridge.

We sneaked a 1-0 away win against Wigan in the next game, but clumsily dropped more points against Pompey thereafter.

December’s games were coming thick and fast, and we destroyed Blackburn Rovers 6-2 next up, although Rovers would have the last laugh that season, as they unceremoniously dumped us out of the FA Cup in the Quarter-Finals.

On Boxing Day, we scraped a 2-1 win over Watford thanks to a late RVP goal, but in the last game of 2006, we lost 1-0 at Bramall Lane to the Blades.

Just past the halfway stage in the season, and we had already accrued five losses, hardly title-winning form. In truth, the Championship was never really in our sights from a very early stage, and Chelsea and United were both battling it out in a two horse race. We were once again fighting for a Champions League place – a narrative that would run for the better part of a decade as the lucrative European money was too tasty for our club to resist.

We kicked off 2007 with a spanking of Charlton to the tune of 4-0, and followed it up with a 2-0 win over Blackburn Rovers, although we did so with ten men for the near entirety of the match, with Gilberto getting his marching orders on the 13th minute.

One of the highlights of this season was doing the double over United, and we completed this by winning 2-1 at The Emirates, with King Henry playing the part of our hero once again.

We then dropped points at Boro, before beating Wigan and Reading by the same scoreline, 2-1. A fourth win on the bounce was a 1-0 away win over Villa, with the lesser-spotted Abou Diaby providing the winner. Our run ended in the next game, as Andy Johnson scored a late winner for Everton, to wake us up to our limitations once again.

We had reached the League Cup Final with a team full of talented youths, but the final versus Chelsea saw Wenger use some more of our established stars, but the Champions edged us out 2-1 to take the cup, and deny us our best chance of a trophy that season.

We were still potent in attack, and we showed in fits and bursts that we could roll our sleeves up and fight for a result, but we seemed brittle at times and after the Invincibles, this nightmare would be a recurring one for Gooners. To underline this perfectly, we then completed an undesirable double by losing to the other half of Merseyside, this time the score was 4-1 and Peter Crouch bagged a treble, making him the happiest telegraph pole in all the land.

The telescopic-legged Crouch is an obvious aerial threat, and our failure to keep him quiet was excellent evidence of how our defensive woes would be our undoing. We then earned ANOTHER double in the season, as West Ham became the first away team to win at our new home, with a 1-0 win that saw the Hammers beat us home and away, and also give us our third straight loss.

We fought for a 0-0 draw in Newcastle next up, but our confidence was sapped. We needed a win quickly if we were to achieve a decent position, and a 2-1 win over Bolton showed we were prepared to give it our best. It wasn’t pretty, but it didn’t need to be.

Another home game, another win – this time versus City – was followed by a 2-2 draw at the hovel down the Seven Sisters road, and we ended the season with a win over Fulham, and draws against Chelsea and Pompey. We finished in fourth spot, mere goal difference below Liverpool in 3rd.

A Cup final defeat to Chelsea, Blackburn Rovers dumping us out of the FA Cup and a weak PSV side victorious in the Last16 of the Champions League was not the best return for us all, but there were highlights, particularly the wins over United, Liverpool and tottenham. As a whole though? It was distinctly underwhelming, and getting used to this after dining out on the finest teams in the last ten years would be hard to swallow.

Top 20 Managers to Possibly Replace Arsene Wenger at Arsenal?

Originally posted in The Sport Review

The winds of change are blowing at The Emirates. Arsene Wenger, who has been in charge of Arsenal since 1996, has so far refused to confirm where his future may lie after this current season ends in May.

The French manager is under severe scrutiny, after finally being able to assemble a squad capable of challenging for honours in the last few years, he has been unable to recreate the glories of old in the first decade of his tenure. It seems the old magic has been lost.

Wenger also appears to have lost a large chunk of the support in the stands too. Protests and marches have taken place in objection to Wenger continuing in his capacity as manager, and this season has offered no respite.

With the Gunners out of the Champions League places and yet again failing to make the Quarter-Finals of the same competition, speculation has been rife regarding a possible successor to the Arsenal managerial throne.

Many names have been touted, but here are twenty of the best candidates to lead Arsenal out of the doldrums should Wenger abdicate his position:

20 – Luciano Spalletti

Roma Manager

The Italian started his coaching career the hard way, bringing lowly Empoli up two divisions to Serie A. He eventually earned a move to Roma after a successful spell at Udinese, and a Manager of the Year Award was just reward for turning the Roma team around. He has other experience from different leagues after five years with Zenit St Petersburg, but he has since returned to the Stadio Olimpico – and has seen his team produce the only credible challenge to runaway Serie A leaders Juventus.

19 – Rafa Benitez

Newcastle United Manager

The Spaniard, when in charge of Liverpool, always showed Wenger ample respect when their respective teams duelled. Benitez has helmed some of the biggest teams in the game – Valencia, Real Madrid, Liverpool and Chelsea – and he looks like carrying Newcastle straight back into the top flight. Benitez would relish a return to the larger spotlight, and the ideals he shares with Wenger would make him a man that could come in with the minimum of adaptation time.

18 – Pai Dardai

Hertha Berlin Manager

The Hungary-born man may be inexperienced, but he is showing that his tactical acumen is spot on. Having spent over a decade with Hertha in his playing days, upon retiring he took a position as youth coach. Dardai has also taken charge of his country, before taking the reins at Hertha. The team from Berlin under his stewardship have climbed up to fifth place with a moderate squad, and the relatively young Dardai deserves the credit. His firm grasp on the modern game gives him a shout.

17 – Carlo Ancelotti

Bayern Munich Manager

The eyebrow-arching Italian has won it all in the domestic game, and his accumulated experience means he has much to offer. If Arsenal are planning long term, then Ancelotti could provide the perfect two to three year platform for their intended target to bed in. One thing Ancelotti can guarantee is success and making sure his teams are in contention. His short spell at Chelsea means he is accustomed to the pressures of the Premiership too.

16 – Laurent Blanc

PSG Manager

The Frenchman had a glittering playing career, and his managerial career has gotten off to a great start too. At his first club, he led Bordeaux to a Ligue Un and Coupe de la Ligue double. He also led them to a Quarter-Final in the Champions League. He also took charge of his national team, before being offered the lucrative position of Paris Saint Germain boss. He has led the capital-based team to three consecutive titles, as well as five domestic cups. The Frenchman is now a free agent, which would make negotiations a tad easier!

15 – Joachim Low

Germany Manager

The shaggy-haired German coach has led his country to World Cup glory. He was an integral part of the German revolution which began in the early 2000’s which saw all levels of German football adhere to the same playing model. The tactics have worked, and Low continues to lead his country to domination. His team play in the same way as Arsenal, and he would ensure the Arsenal Way is maintained. After so many years in international football, a new challenge would be a tough choice to turn down.

14 – Luis Enrique

Barcelona Manager

Enrique oversaw one of the most successful seasons in Barcelona’s history, when the Catalan club won the treble in 2014-15. They also won the Double in the next season. He recently announced he would be departing Barcelona at the end of this current season, which appears to be perfect timing. enrique has maintained he needs a rest from the pressures of being a manager, but could he be tempted to come to London?

13 – Dennis Bergkamp

Assistant Manager of Ajax

As a player, Bergkamp is heralded by Arsenal fans as perhaps the greatest man to have pulled on the shirt in recent times. The Dutchman opted to return home to begin his managerial career, but would a return ‘home’ lure Dennis to take the Arsenal hotseat? His lack of experience may harm his prospects, but his choice could prove to be a very popular one within Arsenal fan ranks.

12 – Dragan Stojkovic

Guangzhou R and F

The Serbian played for eight years at Nagoya Grampus Eight in Japan, and he played under current Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger. Wenger has touted Stojkovic as an excellent candidate for manager previously, but his lack of European managerial experience may cost him. However, if Wenger has any say in the process, Stojkovic may just be the surprise option.

11 – Julian Nagelsmann

TSG Hoffenheim Manager

The 29yr old German coach dramatically saved Hoffenheim from relegation last season against all odds, and he has continued to impress and defy the doubters. His side currently sit in 4th position in the Bundesliga, and his innovative tactics and relative success at a modest club are attracting suitors. Nagelsmann would be a high risk choice as he hasn’t yet managed in the top flight for a whole season, but if he earns Hoffenheim a Champions League spot, Nagelsmann will be a wanted man.

10 – Giovanni Van Bronckhurst

Feyenoord Manager

Van Bronckhurst has returned Feyenoord back to where they belong after many years in the shadows of the Eredivisie. They currently sit top of the Dutch league, and the Dutchman is responsible for the turnaround. Van Bronckhurst had a short spell as an Arsenal player, and he had a successful playing career playing under some great coaches. The accumulated experience has helped him as a manager, and if he wins the rotterdam club their first title for over a decade, he will be on the shortlist for sure.

9 – Eusebio Sacristan Mena

Real Sociedad Manager

Mena has allowed Sociedad a period of sustainability, slowly steadying the ship after many peaks and troughs. His managerial style comes from Barcelona after firstly performing the assistant role in the early 2000’s, before taking charge of Barcelona B from 2011 to 2015. Sociedad are his club now, and they are in 5th place as this is written – only one point behind Diego Simeone’s Atletico in 4th. Mena could bring the good times back to Arsenal.

8 – Eddie Howe

Bournemouth Manager

Howe has worked miracles at Bournemouth. The modest South Coast club have not only reached the Premier League for the first time, but under his stewardship, they have comfortably retained their status in the top flight. They are struggling at this moment in time, but the exciting brand of football he espouses is in line with Arsenal. Howe may lack the years of hardened competition in Europe, but Howe could be the long term option that Arsenal crave.

7 – Lucien Favre

Nice Manager

The Swiss manager started off in his native country, before making the short journey to the Bundesliga with Hertha Berlin and Borussia Monchengladbach. He was a success at both clubs, in both cases rescuing them from the relegation places and steering them to the Champions League. He has since taken over Nice, and yet again he is overseeing major change with Nice challenging for Ligue Un against more established teams like Monaco and PSG. Favre is accustomed to tight budgets and his brand of fluid football and unearthing talent is exactly what Arsenal need.

6 – Ralph Hassenhuttl

RB Leipzig Manager

The Austrian coach has earned his stripes. He has managed in all tiers of the Bundesliga, and his last club – Ingolstadt – have risen from the second tier to the Bundesliga under his leadership. He has since moved to cash-rich RB Leipzig, and they seem to be the only credible challengers to Bayern Munich’s domination. Hassenhuttl has changed the way Leipzig play, and has utilised the unique talents at his disposal to engineer a counter-attacking team that are resolute as well as lethal. It is unclear who pulls the strings at the club – whether it be Hassenhuttl or Sporting director Ralf Rangnick – but the Austrian Manager is on the radar.

5 – Leonardo Jardin

AS Monaco Manager

The previous managers of Monaco have proven that cash is not the sole reason for success, but since taking over at the club, Leonardo Jardin has taken Monaco to where they need to be to ensure the millions have not been wasted. The team from the tiny principality are top of Ligue Un and have a gap between them and PSG who have ruled France’s top league for the last three seasons. Jardin’s style has earned plaudits, and his recruitment policy has found some real gems. Jardin could revolutionise Arsenal, and his team’s display in the Champions League against Manchester City recently was the best advertisement for what he brings – fast paced, attack-minded football.

4 – Thomas Tuchel

Borussia Dortmund Manager

Tuchel has matched previous Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp’s path in management. Taking Mainz to the top flight and a  European spot, he was courted by some big German clubs before opting for Dortmund after six years with Mainz. He has lost only 13 games from his 91 Bundesliga matches so far, and he has replaced some players with promising young talent. Tuchel has maintained BVB’s trademark pressing style which he inherited from Klopp, but Tuchel could do with some success on the domestic front before making the leap to the big time.

3 – Jorge Sampaoli

Sevilla Manager

Sampaoli will be forever revered as a hero in Chile, after engineering back to back Copa America triumphs for the South American nation. Sampaoli has since joined Sevilla, and he has allowed the club to make the leap from Europa League to Champions League comfortably. They are also challenging for La Liga, in the mix with Barcelona and Real Madrid. Sampaoli is unflinching in his demand for 100% from his players, but he also manages to make the most from every percent. Sampaoli is one of the favourites for the Barcelona job, but Sampaoli can pick his next club from a host of offers.

2 – Diego Simeone

Atletico Madrid Manager

Simeone was a winner as a player, and as a manager this has been the same. He returned Atletico to the top of Spanish football and won La Liga in 2013-14. He also tasted success as a manager in South America, so his pedigree is one of accomplishment. The man known as ‘El Cholo’ in Spain is labelled as a counter-attacking specialist, but that would be doing a great disservice to his teams. He is adept at adapting his teams to the demands of every opponent, and can switch from possession football to defensively minded in an instant. Simeone has also reacted to losing key personnel by replacing them seamlessly. He has to be a frontrunner for the job.

1 – Massimiliano Allegri

Juventus Manager

Allegri has reportedly already started English lessons as he courts the Arsenal position, and the North London club would be getting a brilliant manager. Starting off in the lower reaches of Italian football, he eventually found his way to Cagliari and pushed them to their best ever season. This paved the way to AC Milan, and he duly won them their first Serie A title for seven years. He then moved to Juventus after four years at Milan, and he enjoyed instant silverware, winning the Double in his first season, followed by the same the very next campaign. Allegri has purchased shrewdly, created teams of strength and pace, and is as thorough in his preparations as anyone could be. The Italian has emerged as the favourite for the Arsenal hotseat, and it is easy to see why. 

Jonker and Ljungberg Leave Arsenal

Posted on Goonersphere.

Arsenal Academy Coach Andries Jonker has left the club recently, to take up the reins at VFL Wolfsburg and rescue them from the ignominy of Bundesliga relegation.

Jonker took the Academy role in 2014, replacing club legend Liam Brady. The Academy itself was not in the rudest of health, with a severe lack of honours competing against their domestic counterparts and also a drought in regards to these starlets making the jump into the first team squad.

Both parameters are the only true gauge to discern whether the Academy Chief is performing to the level necessary or not. In these regards, Jonker did not fail, but neither did he succeed. He plateaued, carrying on where Brady left off, but despite the constant stream of promise, there has been precious little sign of a breakthrough.

There have been shoots of growth though, where before there was none. Alex Iwobi is one who could be claimed as a success for Jonker, although with Brady leaving in 2014, ‘Chippy’ could lay claim to this treasure just as much as Jonker has. There is also Chris Willock and Ainslie Maitland-Niles who have made their presence felt on first-team matters, so Jonker was at least getting the Academy stepping in the right direction.

Then there is the issue of a club legend leaving the club. Another one.

Freddie Ljungberg was tasked with overlooking the Under-15 team alongside his Ambassadorial role for the club. He only took the job this year, and yet he has also left for Wolfsburg to take the Assistant manager’s job alongside Jonker.

It must have been a very tough option to turn down. Freddie took the Arsenal coaching position to earn his coaching badges and some vital experience, so an Assistant Manager job at a top flight club is the perfect stepping stone for the Swede. For Jonker also, to return to a club he has ties to and to be offered the top job – it was a no-brainer for him.

It is sad to see one of our own depart the club though. One who is steeped in our ways. One who achieved so much for Arsenal, to ply their trade somewhere else does not sit quite right. With Thierry Henry opting to cultivate his TV career alongside his coaching duties, Patrick Vieira in the MLS and Tony Adams in China, there is a wealth of experience that we could tap into and instantly improve our Academy and coaching setup.

New ideas alongside an affinity with the club is a potent mixture that is hard to find, but there is still hope.

With these vacancies, we could well recruit other legends who are working elsewhere and who have already accrued the experience needed to hit the ground running in a new job – especially one at Arsenal.

Marc Overmars and the one and only Dennis Bergkamp are two names who spring to mind.

The flying winger has played a role at his boyhood club Go Ahead Eagles, and he is currently Technical Director at Ajax. This position should not be downplayed, as Ajax’s youth system is one of the best in the world and is responsible for a huge amount of stars from the past, the present and more than likely the future. The pressure, the expectancy would be huge on Overmars’s shoulders. 

Then there is The Iceman. The player who has taken on demi-god status ar Arsenal. With such a level of worship, there is always the risk of sullying a reputation when you return to the site of your glories, but Bergkamp knows football. 

His book, ‘Stillness and Speed’ tells you all you need to know about how seriously he takes the technical aspects of football. It is undeniable that Bergkamp would be a massive asset at Arsenal and if he carries on in his current coaching trajectory, then there is only one place he will end up. We could get him sooner rather than later though.

There are many other names that could be added to the list, but with Andries Jonker gone and Freddie impressing so much that he has gone with Jonker as his Number2 – it means we have an opportunity to pick the best options now.

Thank you to Andries Jonker and we will all miss Freddie at the club. Let us hope they are both a success and that Freddie has a chance to come back home. 

The Museum of the Beautiful Game

Originally posted on Goonersphere

The inauspicious entrance offers no clue as to the treasures that await inside. 

The unremarkable automatic double doors silently allow you passage, and then, as if the buidling itself is taking a deep breath, the atrium yawns open ahead of you. The huge open space gives all who enter a plethora of choices as to where they begin their path to footballing enlightenment, but in the centre is a statue of one player. 

Perhaps the beacon, the standard bearer from where all technical brilliance begins – Johan Cruyff.

As you marvel at the icon before you, a tour guide offers you and your party a tablet and a set of headphones, which give each person extra information on each spectacle they are about to enjoy.

Then, the member of staff tells you to make your choice for where to begin your journey.

From left to right, all hallways which branch off from this wide open space are clearly labelled:


Johan  Cruyff

French national teams of the ’80’s and ’90’s.

AC Milan

Real Madrid European Cup winning teams

Manchester United of 1999

George Best

Lionel Messi

Barcelona 2006-2016

’70’s and ’80’s Liverpool

Brazil 1970

Pele and Maradona

Zinedine Zidane


Dennis Bergkamp

There were more, and the pole which signposted all choices looked like a confused person attempting to point in the right direction.

You walk toward your choice, and the plain white doors open, and your eyes widen.

In each room, when you enter, all that greets you is the darkest black your eyes could comprehend. As the doors close behind you, a slight panic tingles its way up your spine, but the noise that breaks the silence sweeps any negativity away.

A cacophony of cheering fills the room, and then, you are instantly put into the stands as a football match unfolds around you. Thanks to hologram technology, the fans that have popped up to envelop you make you feel as if you were there, as some of the most iconic and memorable moments of football occur right in front of you.

This museum gives all fans the opportunity to witness first hand – or as close as possible – football that refreshes the child-like wonder that all supporters have. Moments in time that have lived on thanks to the passing of stories between fans of all generations.

Some things aren’t meant to be forgotten. Some things are meant to be held up on the highest pedestal, as propaganda of sorts – to ensure that the root of football lives on.

The sport has changed immeasurably since it began, and it is now dominated by currency, but every now and then, something happens on the pitch which transports all who witness it back to their happiest memories.

Whichever choice you make in this museum, all the moments you care to choose are the finest, unblemished slices of the sport. Michel Platini bringing glory back to France. Jairzinho, Tostao and Pele in 1970 destroying their opposition with ingenuity. Ruud Gullit, Van Basten and Rijkaard reinventing not only AC Milan, but Dutch football. Dennis Bergkamp scoring his hat-trick Vs Leicester, and his World Cup goal Vs Argentina. 

So many instances where your breath gets caught in transit, as you first look on in wonder, and then query how it happened.

The control of the ball as it falls from the heavens, only for it to be put on an invisible leash by men that took the sport to the higher echelons.

Whilst the museum is built as an opportunity for all fans to enjoy what are pure, undiluted examples of the sport we all adore – it is also a tribute to the men who keep football alive. Modern day footballers who aspire to entertain like their heroes who they idolise.

So, take your seat in the holographic stand, as the hairs stand to attention on your arms, like they too want to catch a glimpse of what is about to unfold.

Thierry Henry and Robert Pires are about to kick off…..

The Invincibles, The ’99 Treble and 2 Missed Penalties….

Many recent films have touched upon the hypothesis regarding choice and the huge ramifications it can have on not only a life – but all across the globe.

In dystopian epic The Matrix Reloaded, Keanu Reeves’s mono-syllabic character Neo summed it up perfectly when in his signature monotone delivery, he uttered, “the problem is choice.”

Choice changes every path we take. The choice you made to grab some cereal before rushing to work changes your whole day, from the train you take to the people you meet. Choice is a chaotic animal that lords above every facet of your life. 

In amongst the unruly though, certain phenomenon occur. These anomalies crop up in the form of parallels and correlations, and most of these fly past our vision with nary a batted eyelid. Perhaps this is because the minutiae of day to day routine isn’t enough to shake us from our reverie, but I think it is due to the occasion not being grand enough. If it were to happen on a scale so large that millions were affected, then we would all see it and gasp with wonder, no?

The place? Villa Park, April 1999, and Old Trafford in September of 2003. 

Both games featured the same teams – Arsenal and Manchester United. 

Both games saw red cards.

Both games hinged dramatically on a penalty.

Both penalties were taken by Dutchmen.

Both spot-kicks were missed. 

Both incidents occurred in the dying embers of the games.

In 1999, it was injury time in the FA Cup Semi-Final replay between the Gunners and United. The first leg saw both sides unable to break the deadlock, but the replay saw David Beckham crack the resolute Arsenal defence with a 25yrd curler that left the outstretched Seaman with no chance. Not to be undone, Dennis Bergkamp restored parity with a long range shot that nicked a deflection and saw its way past Schmeichel. Plenty of chances later, but both outfits were so evenly matched that it was always going to go the wire.

No one told Phill Neville though. Ray Parlour received the ball just outside the box and took on Neville, and as Parlour darted past him, a swinging leg took down the Romford Pele, to win a penalty that would surely see Arsenal into a second final in two years.

In 1999, Bergkamp was one of the finest players in the stratosphere, never mind the Premier League. As he stepped up to the spot, confidence was high that this would make the net bulge and give Wenger’s men the victory that both teams had fought so valiantly for.

Peter Schmeichel, bedecked in brilliant green, stood between Arsenal and progress. Little did he know though, that the save he was about to make would also be the foundation from which United would go on to achieve an unrivalled set of silverware.

Bergkamp hit it to Schmeichel’s left, and that was the direction that the Dane had guessed. Minutes later and Arsenal had been left with the bill as Ryan Giggs, chest rug and all, rewrote the match – and history.

To Old Trafford in September 2003. 

Arsenal had finished runners up cruelly the previous season, and the team had started the season convincingly. No matter how well they had been playing though, a visit to the home of United was always the toughest venue – and the game both sets of players looked forward to.

This game had chances as did the cup game in ’99, but there was no goals scored. Where there was a dearth of goals, there was ample aggro. United’s goal-getting frontman Ruud Van Nistelrooy was no stranger to histrionics, and his playacting and gamesmanship was irking the Gunners. 

It all came to the boil when Van Nistelrooy clambered all over Patrick Vieira for a header, and ended up rolling off of the Frenchmans shoulders, sending Vieira tumbling. No free-kick from the referee, but Vieira wanted to dish out his own brand of justice, and a petulant flick of the leg went in the direction of the Dutchman.

The leg was at least a metre away from touching him, but Van Nistelrooy’s reaction provoked the referee to send of Vieira. A tumultuous gathering of players venting aggression and a few minutes later, order resumed.

The game went on and in the last minutes of the match, a ball came into the box. Martin Keown was marking Diego Forlan tightly, and both men went down to the floor. The referee instantly blew for a penalty, and it was panto villain Van Nistelrooy who stepped up.

The tension was palpable, and the Dutchman must’ve felt it too, as he smacked the ball hard against the crossbar. Some say the woodwork still wobbles to this day…..

Take a second to think about what was at stake for a single kick of the ball. 

The Treble of ’99, and the Invincible season. 

Both would never have occurred if it was a different penalty taker, if the chosen men had instead aimed for a different area of the goal. What about if the referee had refused to point to the spot in each game?

From such little decisions, massive consequences happen. 

It beggars belief how many tangents can be visualised with every alternate choice, and if string theory is indeed true – then in each parallel universe we would have both Dutchmen celebrating, taking, not taking, and missing the penalties. That in turn leads to different winners of each trophy and the lustrous gold Premiership trophy never being made.

All because Dennis Bergkamp chose to kick his penalty to the right, and Van Nistelrooy high in the goal.

You see? 

The problem is choice……

Ozil and Bergkamp

Originally posted on Goonersphere

At the peak of their powers, the Beatles proclaimed themselves to be ‘bigger than Jesus.’ This sparked a huge rebuke from the media, and the words resonated so loudly, that parodies of this comment are still prevalent today.

Were they wrong though?

The sheer arrogance of such a statement is hard to stomach, but in terms of cold fact, the fanbase they had accrued was truly global, and on a par with the numbers that followed Christianity at the time. They dominated TV sets and record players everywhere, and the impact they made is still yet to be matched now.

Some subjects though, are sacrosanct. To speak ill of such things is akin to assault for some, and any who cross this fabled line will feel the full force of its followers. 

In football, it is just the same. Some players, passed and still with us, carry the burden of the game on their shoulders. Memories they forged themselves are held up as shining examples of how to play the game the right way, and their moments of inspiration are like an instruction manual, used to show those who seek the knowledge the correct manner of the sport.

In short, they and their talents are the stained glass images that adorn our holy house of football. The merest mention of their names is enough to induce misty eyes and nostalgic conversations. They are the flag-bearers for the sport, and the anti-thesis for today’s game.

The plethora of primadonnas, scandals and money in football is the exact opposite of these footballing deities, and they will forever be used as an example of how modern day football pales into comparison.

Dennis Bergkamp is one of these men – at least he certainly is for us Gooners. He is perhaps the most talented player we have ever had, and in his tenure with us from 1995 to 2006, he created and scored goals that were hewn straight from heavens football pitch.

His vision, his touch, his awareness, is unrivalled. His love for the club though, really cemented the bond between player and fan. So what I am about to declare next may upset some.

Bergkamp is probably our greatest ever player. If Mesut Ozil extends his contract and stays, then he has the capacity to sit alongside the Dutchman.

Mesut Ozil has besotted us from the first moment he was declared a Gunner, during that crazy Transfer Deadline Day back in 2013. His first season, although slightly underwhelming, was flecked with the signature genius we all adore. It was last season that he truly broke the threshold from fan favourite to hope carrier though.

His bagful of assists exhibited a vision, awareness and touch that hadn’t been seen for some time. The similarities are there for all to see, but we choose to ignore them. He can’t hold a candle to Bergkamp!

At this moment in time, his Arsenal career is in the shadow of Dennis’s, and he has a long way to even come close to matching it. Three Premier League trophies, four FA Cups, and memories that ought to be pinned, framed, and put in a museum make him the poster boy for Arsenal. Mesut Ozil can only boast of two FA Cups, but if he can get his hands on the league title, and stay until his new contract ends – then what is stopping him being held in the same regard?

We all know of Ozil’s talents. Playing in the spotlight of a million cameras allows his every movement to be documented, and then streamed to every hungry eye that demands it. It also means that every sumptuous touch is seen and registered in our minds.

His talent is truly unique, and is unreplicated amongst his fellow world-class players across Europe and South America. If Dennis were playing today – the two would be mercilessly compared, and stats documenting every facet of their play would be scrutinised.

They are twins that were born separately, and look nothing alike. They are twins in a footballing sense.

A selfless nature on the pitch. The eye for a pass that no one else can see. The positioning that means they can have the biggest impact on their teams attack. Most importantly, that touch that seems as though their foot was wrapped in velvet. 

They share footballing DNA. The reason that Dennis towers above Mesut when looking at fans observation, is that he was the cornerstone of a golden era. Wenger built his side around he and Henry. Bergkamp represents a watershed moment in the history of our club. Like it or not, before Bruce Rioch brought in the Dutchman, our club was treading water. Filled with talent, but no motivation, our squad was going through the motions, but Bergkamp joined, and his approach to the game, to training, to everything he did, inspired his teammates.

Ian Wright, when asked about Bergkamp, always states that he tried to copy Bergkamp in everything he did for his approach to the match.

When Mesut joined, that was a watershed moment of sorts too. His capture was the tangible instant when we all finally realised that we could now be the club that we were aiming for . After so many years being shackled by debt and low expectations – we could dream again.

Bergkamp didn’t influence every minute of every game, but he had the capacity to change games with one nonchalant flick – just like Ozil.

Like it or not, if Mesut Ozil sees out his rumoured contract extension, and we win some trophies, then we could very well see another bronze statue outside The Emirates – to tribute the most talented footballer we have ever seen in our jersey alongside the Iceman. 

What Makes A Great Goal?

Amongst the usual levels of vitriol that is the norm for the Gooner fanbase, a spike in consternation has been seen across the social networks.

Arsenal over the summer, have been conducting a survey, asking fans to vote on the clubs greatest goal.

The results are in, and quelle surprise – the list that has been voted in has caused fury with some glaring omissions and what most would see as errors.


Continue reading What Makes A Great Goal?

Freddie Ljungberg – Swedish, Invincible and Lethal

Hindsight can be a wonderful thing. Memories of fantastic moments take on a golden hue as recollection makes every instant that little more vibrant.

Hindsight can also be a little blinkered.

Continue reading Freddie Ljungberg – Swedish, Invincible and Lethal

New Signings – Time To Adapt or Destined to Flop?

Football fans are renowned for their fickle nature. This isn’t a sweeping statement. Not all fans err on the side of the impatient or disloyal.  I’ve had the fortune to converse with some fantastic individuals who would bleed red and white if they had the misfortune to be cut.

We have all seen the opposite however – and we have all been guilty of this as well.

When a new recruit, still with that new player smell, is unveiled to fans, the hope emanating from all and sundry is that this man still in his wrapper will be the final piece in the jigsaw. He will rip the carpet from under all opponents and strike fear into all who face him. 

Continue reading New Signings – Time To Adapt or Destined to Flop?