Tag Archives: Pires

What Is A Legend Anyway?

I have an infatuation with words.

 

There is always a better word to describe things. Much like the late Robin Williams describes in the film, ‘The Dead Poets Society,’ why use the word ‘tired’ when you can use ‘fatigued.’ Why use ‘happy’ when you have the word ‘overjoyed.’

 

The beauty of the English language is that we have so many to choose from, picking the right one is an art form of sorts.

 

The ruination of the word ‘legend’ though, is something that is blighting everyone’s lexicon – and everyone is guilty of it.

 

Now, you can use the word ‘legend’ to describe a friend who volunteers to make the cheese on toast for everyone. Or the guy on your night out who is the designated driver. It’s been devalued to a huge extent.

 

So, what constitutes a legend?

 

I had this very discussion while attending our recent Arsenal Legends versus Real Madrid Legends game at The Emirates.

 

There was a generous helping of bona fide Gunners players who had achieved glory with our side.

SOCCER-LArsenal-161617

Bobbi Pires, Ray Parlour, Nigel Winterburn, Jens Lehmann, Gilberto. These men had won big trophies with our side, and also had amassed plenty of appearances in a Gunners shirt.

 

Then there were players who had won titles with Arsenal, but their name was not as familiar as the above. David Hillier, Perry Groves, Jeremie Aliadiere. They had played their part in campaigns, they had made their mark and the title medals in their possession are proof enough that they should be held in high regard.

 

Some would say – and have via social media – that some of the players who lined up against Real Madrid on this game that raised funds for The Arsenal Foundation, didn’t warrant a place.

 

The legend status comes in varied forms though.

 

Tomas Rosicky won very little in his time as a Gunner, but he is held in high regard by the Gooner faithful. He stayed when all and sundry were jumping ship, and if it weren’t for injury, his career at Arsenal would have been very different.

 

David Hillier is a youth product of the club, and played a huge part in the title winning side of 90/91, which was his breakthrough season.

 

There are inevitably players who are the first we recall when harking back to halcyon times, but every single player who was on the pitch for the Legends fixture came back for the love of the club, and to raise vital money for a worthwhile charity.

 

It was great to see them all pit their wits against Real, who had the likes of Raul, Morientes, Campo and Butragueno. There was precious little goalmouth action, but the chance to see our heroes again is always one we should relish.

 

They are all players who have donned the jersey and gave their all, and now have returned to give more for a good cause.

 

To be called a legend is a high honour, even in these times of varying impact of the word, but each one heartily deserve it.

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.

Arsenal Legends Vs Real Madrid Legends Match

Last year, amidst the apathy that surrounded our team and their lackadaisical efforts on the pitch – FA Cup aside that is – the club did do something that was truly special.

We assembled our legends – from different generations – to take on an AC Milan Glorie side that contained some of the biggest names of seasons past. Now, we’re doing it again, as we call up our luminaries to take on the best of Real Madrid’s recent past.

Legends from the Spanish and English game, putting on a footballing spectacle at The Emirates.

It’s enough to start salivating over, and the details that are spilling out from both clubs surrounding this festival of football and fandom spread out over 90 minutes only serves as a teasing appetiser.

We first take on Real Madrid’s outfit of legends at the Santiago Bernabeu in June, with a second match due to take place at The Emirates on Saturday 8 September. The matches were announced in Madrid and Robert Pires, one of our finest, was in Spain’s capital to help herald the news.

What really makes this exciting news is last years installment of Legends goodness. We took on AC Milan Glorie, and some of our most beloved former players were on show, as well as some glittering players from Milan’s yesteryear.

It was a smorgasbord of fan-heaven, and names that are forever etched in football;s annals took to our home ground’s pitch to strut their stuff. The match didn’t disappoint, and we were privy to a Nwankwo Kanu hat-trick, but the cherry on the Arsenal cake was our last goal, scored by our very own Bobbi, ably assisted by Freddie Ljungberg – we love you, because you’ve got no hair…

So, if that unforgettable game is anything to go by, this delicious prospect of a match against Real’s finest from the past is one to keep tabs on – but who can we expect to see take to the pitch and entertain us once again?

Bobbi Pires is one name that is sure to get us Gooners interested, and there are a few other of his fellow Invincible’s expected to take part. Freddie Ljungberg, Sol Campbell, Lauren, Gilberto Silva and Ray Parlour are all set to wear the famous jersey once again.

We also had David Seaman in goal at the ripe age of 52, Emmanuel Petit in midfield as well as cameos from Super Swede Anders Limpar, some parts of the best defence our shores have ever seen with the appearance of Nigel Winterburn – who also recreated the famous Paolo Di Canio ref push with the man himself – and AC Milan had Marcel Desailly, Alesandro Costacurta and Cafu to rely on. Our players won the game 4-2, and enthralled us all in the process.

They’ll need every bit of their famous talents in order to gain a favourable result against Real’s pool of icons.

There have been a few names mentioned that will be wearing the white of Madrid. Raul Gonzalez, Xabi Alonso and Roberto Carlos are just three names that will line up against our men in red and white – and there’s better news than that.

Both games are being played to gather funds for each clubs’ respective Foundations, with the first game going to Real Madrid’s charity efforts, and the second game at our home ground will go to the Arsenal Foundation. Last years game vs AC Milan Glorie raised over £1m, so there are high hopes for this upcoming tussle.

Tickets for Platinum and Gold Members go on sale from 3 April. Silver and Junior Gunners can purchase tickets from 16 April and Red Members from 18 April.

I don’t normally disclose ticket details, but this is for a great cause, and above all else – missing out on one last chance to see our heroes take to the pitch is something that we should all really endeavour to see.

Old Pals Act to Help or Hinder Arteta?

It’s often said about the workplace, that having your closest people around you is a mistake. The phrase, ‘don’t sh*t on your doorstep’ can probably surmise this far better for you, but does this also apply to former players returning to the club in a coaching capacity?

Mikel Arteta is the name lined up to succeed Arsene Wenger, and the Spaniard’s lack of managerial experience will be reportedly offset by the coaching framework around him.

There are other names that are being mentioned though, that may well be as big a gamble as hiring our former player himself.

The names in the frame to form a coaching team around him are all former Gunners, could this unbalance Arteta’s own vision, which is hewn from his own experiences under other managers and styles? .

Can former teammates and ex-Gunners benefit the status quo?

Does friendship between Arteta and Mertesacker, for example, undermine any potential targets however?

It was often said about Wenger that he needed a sounding board for some of his ideas, and he needed an objective voice occasionally. Someone to allow him to see scenarios from a different set of shoes.

Is this same chemistry set to continue? Does a buddy-buddy relationship or other strong ideas about the club mean that Arteta will lack the ability to give decisions the extra thought they require from a different view?

No, quite frankly.

There may well be doubts surrounding Arteta’s capacity for this mammoth role, but hiring Santi Cazorla – as discussed before he reportedly decided to leave the club – or any other former Gunner to lend their wealth of experience can only benefit him and the players under his tutelage.

Henry, Pires, Ljungberg and BFG are also well versed in the ways of Arsenal, something that is high on the priority list for the Board.

Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry and Robert Pires each have different likelihoods of coming in as part of the extensive team that will back up Arteta,, and each of them would be a huge plus for our side – for differing reasons.

Per Mertesacker is now our Academy man, watching over our kids as they attempt to make the grade. Freddie Ljungberg is also set to rejoin us as a coach, and both are excellent appointments.

Not only do they have the necessary badges, but they also know Arsenal and what it takes to represent us at the highest level.

Crucially though, they also love the club. Isn’t that an ingredient that is important?

Of course, we could hire some merc who has a chest full of glittering medals, but when it comes to the crunch, will they give everything? Will they go above and beyond?

Ljungberg, Henry et al would make sure our kids and our first team would play for the cannon above all else.

We shouldn’t judge these men on former coaching merits. With the likes of Mee, Graham and Wenger himself having precious little experience in the way of top flight management, we should see these appointments as the heralding of a new era, rather than a cut-price attempt at success.

Arteta in the dugout, aided and abetted by A club icon, can only help Arteta. Much the same as if he had an old hand next to him, slowly handing him the reins. Arteta needs to do this his way – and if he had an assistant manager who had seen and done it all, then that may muddy Arteta’s field of vision.

We need to take a big gamble, but if it pays off, we could enjoy a Spanish renaissance.

Friendship could just be the icing on this particular cake.

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:

Ajax

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

Arsenal 

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…..

Robert Pires – True Artistry

A true icon of the modern day game officially retired on the twenty fifth of February 2016 at the age of forty two.

A glittering career full of impressive numbers and shiny trophies, but his professional path contains one blot, and it happened on the day when his talent was on one of the biggest stages.

Robert Pires effectively saw the most glorious period of his career end on the 17th of May 2006, in Paris, in the 18th minute of the Champions League Final.

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Continue reading Robert Pires – True Artistry

Bobbi Pires Saved Our Season

Originally featured as a guest article on The Armchair Gooner

Every football club has those memories of glory which are dusted down and polished to aid recollection. Each retelling of these slices of triumph add a little more lustre and a dash of vibrancy as each person who delves deep into their own memory banks includes their own experiences which only enhance the tale.

When any fan – be it a Gooner, an Everton fan or a Cobblers supporter – is asked about Arsenal, they will invariably talk about the much heralded ‘Invincibles’ squad. The season of 2003/04 has permanently daubed itself on the echelons of football itself, with  countless memorabilia and books on the men who have now created their own lore.

For Gooners though, every rose-tinted view of the titans of that campaign is extra special. Knowing that their has NEVER been a team in the modern era to match this achievement, not one team has had the honour of picking up an all-gold League trophy, makes it unmatchable.

Continue reading Bobbi Pires Saved Our Season