Tag Archives: title

Arsenal’s Near Future

The gulf has stretched in the last decade, transforming into a hungry chasm.

Manchester City and Liverpool have both taken the initiative over the last two to three years and left the chasing pack with nothing but dust clouds to latch onto. Chelsea only won the Premier League three seasons ago and yet if we inspect their current situation – it is enough to dispirit even the most ardent optimist.

Chelsea possess some truly world-class players. Ngolo Kante, Antonio Rudiger, Kepa – all wouldn’t look out of place in most top European teams.

But heed their failures and you can see what it really takes to establish yourself with success in the modern era – an era which barely resembles its old self from a decade ago.

Replacing a player of the ilk of Eden Hazard was always going to be difficult, but they also failed to replace mercurial midfield talent too. The likes of Juan Mata, Oscar and Cesc Fabregas could conjure something from nothing, but instead they have the more industrial strengths of Mateo Kovacic and Jorginho. Not without their merits, but very different players.

A change in coach has heralded a change in tack from Chelsea – and most importantly, Roman Abramovich. No longer are they completely reliant on the Roubles he provides. They want to be self-sustaining – or as near as they can be without their new stadium plans. That means a certain air of frugality in the transfer market in comparison to how they acted in order to escape the realms of obscurity when he took over.

However, they’ve also recruited wisely. Timo Werner and Ziyech look like astute purchases.

All this combined has led to Chelsea still fighting near the top – but unable to keep up with Klopp and Guardiola.

As Gooners, we are also seeing two managers at the top of their game, duking it out at the same time, leaving others not so qualified or talented, feeding from the scraps left by the German and the Spaniard.

It makes for some pretty depressing reading when you look at the face of things. We all are hoping that the decision to bring in the fresh-faced Arteta, his belief in our values and most importantly, the testimonials of those who have worked with him, that this move will bear precious fruit if given time.

We see promising signs. Our destruction of United this season showed exactly the cornerstones of what Arteta wants. Pressure on the ball. Obtain possession high up the pitch and attack and defend as one. Responsible positioning – but most importantly, clear instructions for the players.

Something that was apparently lacking during Unai Emery’s tenure.

We are still in recovery, but can we hold out hope of a title challenge any time soon?

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Next season – after this season in terms of growth for Arteta and the embedding of his tactics – will probably come too soon, but improvement is key. A top four finish and a shrinking of the gap would suffice for the majority – and it would also give his charges the evidence that this is working. Belief is key – but the proof is in the pudding… or top four.

A decent – and first – pre-season for Arteta could prove crucial. The more time he spends with his squad, the better we will become. You get the feeling that all of the players are completely behind him and his staff – and that is an excellent foundation to build from.

Pep Guardiola normally gets an itch and searches for pastures or challenges new after a few seasons and this is well overdue. For Jurgen Klopp? He’s now won the PL this season, his job will be mission accomplished and he will be so sought after, that he will definitely have his head turned by one of the bigger Euro teams.

Chelsea are rebuilding. Man United will look to plug some big gaps and will always have the resources to do so. It is vitally important that after our hiatus from the Champions League that we regain that position sooner rather than later. We are living off of our reputation right now when it comes to luring talent.

If you also take into consideration that our young stars will be one year older and wiser – and with a season of growth behind them – we will be stronger regardless of who is signed and who isn’t.

It is time to make some new memories.

The good times are coming, but we will need patience to see it bloom.

Paul Davis – An Arsenal Warrior Bleeding Red and White

For fifteen years, Paul Vincent Davis was a Gunner.

From his debut in 1980 – in a derby no less – all the way to his injury hit last year in 1995, Davis embodied the drive, hunger and above all, class, that is synonymous with our club. The phrase, ‘The Arsenal Way’ could well be written within every DNA strand of the man.

Davis signed as an apprentice in 1977, and it didn’t take long for him to start pushing toward the first team. The central midfielder built a reputation for his patrolling of the centre of a pitch, and his Swiss Army Knife-like set of skills.

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You needed a pass? No problem. Tracking back? He’s got it covered. Tackling? Those telescopic legs were made for hooking the ball back. Davis had it all, and a player doesn’t become a mainstay of a top-flight club for such a long time without earning it.

No matter who he partnered, he moulded himself to fit the strengths of his other half in the centre. Most famously was perhaps his iconic duopoly with Mickey Thomas. Whereas Mickey had a great ability to ghost into the box to aid our attack, Davis knew when to stand sentry, and when to pivot. They dovetailed perfectly, and in 89, their partnership was the ideal platform for the most dramatic title triumph.

It was no coincidence that an injury to Davis coincided with a faltering of Arsenal’s title charge. Dropped points to QPR, Coventry, Millwall, Forest and Charlton saw Liverpool claw their way back, and upon Davis’ return – the draw versus the Addicks, we started to claw our way back from the brink.

Two title wins, four cups and earning more appearances than the majority of our past and current crops, Davis may have fought his fair share of injuries, but he was one of our own.

Not only that, but he was one of the flagbearers for racial equality within football – a battle that is still being fought. He, with a select few others, showed that Arsenal saw no colour, only talent, and Davis never let the bias get him down, as he steamrollered opponents no matter where or when.

He was a soldier for race and for Arsenal, and it was absolutely criminal that Davis never established himself on the England scene. Davis made 11 England Under-21 appearances, but not one cap for the full side. Davis would no doubt have added to England’s cause during his time at the top, and his pedigree of passing was difficult to match in the top-flight.

Davis continues to fight racism as an ambassador for ‘Give racism the red card’ and ‘Kick it out’ but it is his displays in our title winning teams of 89 and 91 that we will always hold dear and ensure Davis is and always will be, considered one of our Greatest Gunners.

Davis was a Gunner for fifteen years, helped bring glory to the club through silverware, and never let his standards drop throughout that time. He was a fine example to those younger than him of what it takes to make it. Tenacity, a thirst for betterment and a will to win that is never dampened throughout the years.

Can we say that Davis is one of our finest? Of course, there aren’t many in the modern era that can hold a candle, Vieira aside. Davis ticked all boxes.

Davis in non-Arsenal circles will always be remembered for punching Glenn Cockerill, but we will remember him for much more than that.

A bona-fide Arsenal legend, who bleeds red and white.

Almost Invincible – The Perfect Christmas Gift

Christmas is on the horizon, and buying the ideal gift is troublesome to say the least.

If you have a Gooner to buy for though? That means you always have a present in mind for them to unwrap.

There is plenty of merchandise that would put a smile on their face. Jerseys, training kit, stationary, everything up to and including their very own Gunnersaurus.

I’m here to tell you that my book, Almost Invincible, is the answer you’re looking for.

Don’t believe me?

Let Bob Wilson, Arsenal icon, convince you;
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Not enough to sway you? What about the words of Arsenal goal machine and title winner Alan Smith?

Arsenal legend Alan smith endorses my book!

My book has even won rave reviews from one of the best writers in the business. Amy Lawrence, Guardian and Observer journalist, had this to say about Almost Invincible;

This book thoughtfully details an historic campaign for Arsenal; a team full of character and a season that required a band of brothers to succeed.”

My book looks in depth at the title-winning season of 1990/91. A season that saw points deductions, a 23 man brawl, our captain being sent to prison – and a league campaign that saw our squad rise above it all in a spectacular fashion.

One single loss was incurred in the face of these huge setbacks. A loss that should never have happened.

I delved deep into the annals of the British Library to take from newspaper excerpts, player interviews and more. I also enlisted the help of some esteemed Gooners who were fans and enjoyed the season first hand, to get as close to the feelings and events that they went through.

This book is much more than just a stats book, or a focus on a season. This book was written to give fans a time machine with a sole destination – the incredible season of 1990/91.

Any fans who find this book under the Christmas tree will have the chance to enjoy that wonderful season.

So consider ‘Almost Invincible’ for the Gooner in your life, or leave a few hints to your nearest and dearest if you’d like it yourself!

You can find the book here or on Amazon here.

Competition Time! Win Signed Copies Of My Book!!!

My book, Almost Invincible, has been released.

 

It covers the tumultuous and enthralling title-winning season of 1990/91 – and you can win a signed copy!

 

I’ve got two signed books for you to win, and it’s ridiculously simple to have your chance.

 

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All you have to do is retweet the pinned tweet on my Twitter profile – you can find it here.

 

Or, you can share the pinned post on my Arsenal page on Facebook, which you can find here.

 

The book would be the perfect Christmas gift for the Gooner in your life – or you could keep it for yourself!

 

So, just follow the above instructions and you could have a rare signed copy before Christmas!

 

What are you waiting for?

 

If you don’t win, then you can buy a copy here!

 

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Invincibles Vs Almost Invincibles

Featured in The Gooner Fanzine

Comparing things is pretty big business. It harnesses our compelling need to put different versions alongside each other and gauge each and every characteristic – despite the flaws in the method.

We can’t help but do it, but comparing things has far too many variables to reach a conclusive answer.

Especially when it comes to football – and yet we are all guilty of it.

Ronaldo and Messi compared to Maradona and Pele or any other titan of the game is one that is often bandied around, but the nuances of time and the different permutations surrounding each generation render any result reached a moot one.

We do it with different teams too – even ones that wore the same jersey.

As Gooners, we are pretty spoiled when we visit the annals of our past, as we have a multitude of teams, players and seasons when success was reached and memories were encased in a gold-tinted amber. We can hark back to these slices of time and wonder how they would have fared in today’s game – and if they would have emulated some of our more recent successes.

George Graham helped us achieve a few of our brightest moments, but will always be remembered for probably the most dramatic title win in history. The Miracle of Anfield 89 has been converted into film twice and is never far away from any self-respecting Gooner’s recollection – and for very good reason – but was that his finest team?

Probably not.

Two years later, his Arsenal side reclaimed the title ahead of rivals Liverpool, conceded just 18 goals in the process over 38 games, and scored a hatful of goals to dispel any notions that his men were mere defence merchants.

They won the title with games to spare too – and perhaps the most compelling argument to sway anyone who thought the 89 team was better? The team of 90/91 did all this even with their skipper being sent to prison, being deducted points for the infamous brawl at Old Trafford – still the only case before or since where a team has been deducted points – and having a squad that was light in terms of numbers.

They played every three days for over a third of the season, and lost just one game. One. That sole ‘L’ in the league table came at Stamford Bridge where an offside goal and a tackle that wouldn’t have looked out of place in an MMA Octagon took out our sole recognised centre-back combined to thieve points from GG’s team.

It is quite the story, and there was much more too. How did the squad keep the good ship Arsenal on a steady course despite missing such an inspirational figure in Tony Adams? How did the team cope despite being lambasted by the press for their part in the mass melee at Old Trafford? Above all, could they have gone ‘Invincible’ before Wenger’s fabulous side achieved it thirteen years after?

This amazing and inspirational side are one of the finest that Arsenal have ever had, but they get a paltry amount of limelight compared to the 03/04, 89 and even the 97/98 sides.

Never mind about were they as good as the hero’s of 89 – we should be asking whether they stand shoulder to shoulder with the Invincibles – arguably our greatest ever eleven.

You see? We can’t help but compare.

My book, Almost Invincible, does this extensively, and uses library newspaper records and the accounts of David Seaman, Lee Dixon, Nigel Winterburn, Bob Wilson, David Hillier and Alan Smith to illustrate how they did what they did. It also features expert opinion from Guardian journalist Amy Lawrence.

Undecided? Let my book show you how good the side of 90/91 truly were, the side that was ‘Almost Invincible.’

Just go to the ‘My Books’ section above, or go to my Twitter bio, my handle is @JokAFC.

Book Signing Event!

By now, the majority of you are well aware that my book, Almost Invincible, is being released.

 

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It has been a labour of love for me. Writing my first book about a subject I feel so passionately about was a fantastic and frustrating experience. Fantastic because I got to relive every facet of the fantastic 1990/91 title winning side and share in the experiences of those that achieved it – and frustrating as I tried to make every single word as excellent as the displays on the pitch during that amazing campaign.

Now, the book will have a launch event.

 

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On the 12th of August, the day of our first game of the season against Man City, at 7pm, come along to The Gunners Pub, 204 Blackstock Rd. David Hillier, a member of the 90/91 squad, will be there to sign your books – as well as some special guests…

So, it’d be great to see you there. I speak to so many of you regularly through social media, so please come along so I can thank you in person for the support!

It is a dual event, with another Arsenal book – Royal Arsenal, Champions of the South – being launched too.  This is a fascinating window into Arsenal’s origins in the South of London, and well worth a read for any discerning Gooner.

It’ll be a blast, I hope you can all make what will be a memorable evening!

12 August, 7pm, The Gunners Pub.

Be there!

Arsene Wenger’s Highest High and Lowest Low

How do you judge the highest highs and the lowest lows? The peaks that made you giddy? the troughs that had you on the ropes?

Arsene Wenger’s 22 year spell as Arsenal manager has finally ended the rollercoaster ride that has in recent years, kept journalists in a job and fans heading for the exits.

His tenure can be split into sections, with the first decade being the reason why expectations are so very high now, dragging the club firstly into contention, and then ensuring its survival at the forefront of a sport that was transforming rapidly.

Then came what most know as the stadium years, when The Emirates required funding and the fallout from this was the transfer budget had to be created, rather than given. Perhaps his greatest feat was keeping Arsenal in the Champions League during those lean years, when other clubs were burning money to keep warm.

And then came the years of doubt, where Arsenal were supposed to herald in a bright new dawn, free from the albatross of uber-debt around our neck, we could now compete with the big boys, but instead, we slipped further down the ladder as Wenger’s shortcomings in tactics and his recalcitrant approach to these failings meant that not only was a first title since 2004 well out of reach – we also let in clubs that were previously playing perma-catch-up.

If we look at Wenger’s highs and lows on a game by game basis, naturally we’ll look to his first ten years for the best moments, and his last decade will be littered with references to instances when we feared the worst.

But there are matches in every season that could be nominated for either.

Our 8-2 and 6-1 stuffings at the hands of Man Utd are obvious picks when highlighting nightmares. What of our 6-0 hammering by Chelsea though? Or when Liverpool pasted us 5-1? We’ve also racked up a few derby defeats as well, after going so long without one. Let’s not forget our European nightmares too (we don’t talk about Paris).

In terms of high points, our 1-0 win at Old Trafford to win the league in 2002 was golden-hued, and I’ll never forget our recent FA Cup wins. We thumped Inter Milan at the San Siro, we were the first English club to beat Real Madrid in the Bernabeu, and winning the league at the pisshole down the road ranks pretty highly too.

So many of either to mention, but if I had to pick just one of either…

Manchester United 0-1 Arsenal – 14 March 1998

This match broke United’s previously unbowed spirit. We had the perfect gameplan, we had the back 5 as the perfect foundation, Vieira and Petit were patrolling midfield and in Marc Overmars, we had a weapon that was unanswerable. The flying Dutchman chased a flick on and headed the bouncing ball into his own path, before finishing low past Schmeichel. It was a signal, to both Fergie and our own fans, that we were a real force. It was unforgettable, and it was the beginning of the best years as a Gooner for quite some time – if ever.

Arsenal 2-3 Leeds Utd – 4 May 2003

We’d won the double the season before, and humiliated United in the process by winning it at Old Trafford. The next season had been given the perfect platform, and we made it count for the most part, but our slip against an underwhelming Leeds side managed by Peter Reid. Mark Viduka had one of his games where he was unplayable, and we shot ourselves in the foot. It handed the title back to United, meaning we failed to regain the Premiership yet again. This was a title we should have won, but defeats like this hampered us. Thinking about it even now gives off waves of ‘what should’ve been,’ and of massive missed opportunities.

These are just my own choices. Mentioned before, there’s plenty of both to choose from. Our 3-2 defeat to a weak Man United side and subsequent loss to Swansea City in 2015 ran the Leeds loss unbelievably close.

What are your personal high and low matches in Wenger’s reign? Drop me a comment, it should make for interesting conversation!

Arsenal Revive the FA Cup

Manchester United’s participation in the Club World Cup in the early part of this century was widely reported to be the reason for the FA Cup’s demise.

The club decided to prioritise the tournament instead of the oldest cup in the world, and the devaluation of our domestic cup was such that it was put on the back burner in terms of importance for clubs.

The influx of money has seen the tides shift yet again though, and now, with the dial of competition firmly ramped up to 11, the once-derided FA Cup has now risen, phoenix-like from the ashes.

It’s now seen as a saviour from ignominy. The Champions League is a pipe dream for most clubs, the Premier League is a trophy that requires a huge slice of luck with injuries, as well as top level consistency.

It means that clubs need to maximise every opportunity to lift silverware – and the FA Cup is a genuine chance to keep supporters on board and keep the club relevant when it comes to transfer targets.

Success breeds success, so having your name etched on the cup means that next season gets a firmer foundation to build from. It also makes the lustre of the club a little more alluring for any potential new players.

Our own relative woes have exacerbated the FA Cup’s rise to prominence once more. Winning the Cup in 2014 against Hull, and in such dramatic circumstances that really turned heads at other outfits.

Then, when we won it the next year by smashing Aston Villa, we not only regained it, we yet again saved our season with the lifting of the old cup.

Two seasons ago was perhaps the best example. We slipped out of the Champions League places for the first time since 1996/97, we also slipped below our hated neighbours for the first time in over two decades, but the fact we won the FA Cup, meant we had silverware in our trophy cabinet.

The ‘drought’ we suffered between 2005-14 may seem a long time, but as the top teams get better and the gap becomes more disparate, decades between cup wins will become commonplace for most.

It means any cup win should be embraced – just look at City and United in recent years when winning the League Cup. Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola are considered to be among the leading lights of world football management – and lifting this cup meant a fair amount to them.

The FA Cup is a grand old competition, and our previous wins are amongst our most glittering. The recent cup wins are among them. The 2014 final snatched from the jaws of defeat especially seems vivid upon recall. The Cup matters hugely.

Being knocked out by Nottingham Forest last season smarted a fair bit, and FA Cup fixture weekends without our club – the most successful side in FA Cup history – seemed a tad remiss.

We can glow with pride at the fact we’ve won this famous cup more than any other side – but we can also take a little satisfaction that we’ve reminded other clubs that the Cup is well worth winning indeed.

It grants you a European place, it gets you a slot in the Charity Shield – but it also gives us fans a memorable day – and those memories are what binds fans to a club.

Almost Invincible, The Book of Arsenal’s 1990/91 Title

I’ve written a book, and it’s been over a year in the making.

You can pre-order ‘Almost Invincible’ here and if you do, you get your name in the book and a signed copy.

Now that’s been mentioned, why should you buy it?

It looks at Arsenal’s epic title-winning team of 1990/91, and the horde of problems that beset George Graham and his squad. Despite all the obstacles in their path, they still went through the season with just ONE defeat, and the book looks at how they deserve far more plaudits than they currently get.

It features from the squad Alan Smith, David Seaman, Lee Dixon, David Hillier and Nigel Winterburn, as well as Sir Bob Wilson and journalist Amy Lawrence. It looks at every aspect of the season, from pre-season, transfers and every league and cup match.

The infamous brawl at Old Trafford that saw us docked points – still the only occasion before or since that this has occurred – our Captain Tony Adams being sent to jail and how the squad coped and the sole loss that never should have happened are all under the spotlight.

I started writing this book as I feel our club has a history like no other, and this title-winning campaign is amongst the finest things our beloved club has achieved in its illustrious past.

I’ve always had a fascination with words and it’s been a legitimate aim of mine for years to author a book, so if you notice me getting a little giddy at times on social media, then you now know why.

Plus, the book is designed to raise awareness of possibly the greatest unit it has ever assembled. Hence my frenzied tweeting.

We should be shouting about it, but it has faded into the background in amongst the perceived brighter lights, and this shouldn’t be the case. That is what my book is here to address.

We had the top scorer in the league. We had assembled the finest backline these shores have ever had the pleasure to see. Our team was complete, and the scary statistical similarities to the Invincibles of 2004 only embolden the fact that they achieved this with a far smaller squad – and a more testing fixture schedule.

With more games in less days, a far more competitive league with more contenders and Liverpool still the giant it was from the 80’s, Graham’s team worked miracles.

Don’t believe me? It’s all in the book, which you can pre-order here.

This team broke the monopoly of Liverpool and left the domestic game open. The Premier League era was dawning and Arsenal’s title-winning team of 90/91 were the ones who sent the old regime toppling.

The Miracle of Anfield 89, The Invincibles, The Double-Winning teams of 1971, 1998 and 2002 and the FA Cup winning team of 1979 are all fan favourites, but this particular campaign really does rank amongst the finest.

I hope that you’ll come to appreciate the lustre of this team. If you were a fan back then and were lucky enough to enjoy the season as it unfolded, or if you were like me and love the club so much that you want to know as much as you can – especially the good bits – then my book will fit the bill.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it, but you can pre-order my book here.

Thank you all for your support.

Man City 3-1 Arsenal – A Tough Lesson

Manchester City played out a tough lesson to Arsenal as they took the points in an entertaining Premier League clash.

Pep Guardiola’s men played with real purpose and looked dangerous on the ball, but it was their press that strangled the life out of their opponents and set up a stable foundation for victory.


Arsene Wenger opted for stability in his lineup. A surprise call was to drop Alexandre Lacazette and name Alexis in the sole striker spot, with three men in midfield. Francis Coquelin, Aaron Ramsey and Granit Xhaka had the task of quelling the runs of DeBruyne, Silva and Sane, but the gamble was to backfire.


The first minutes were pretty well balanced as both came close to opening the scoring, only for the final ball to let each of them down. It didn’t take long for City to hit top gear though.


The 19th minute to be precise.


DeBruyne’s shot from outside the box was well saved by cech but the ball eventually found the Belgian again and he arrowed in a low shot into the far corner to give the home side the lead.









City were unrelenting and refused to let us into the game. We were battling hard, but Coquelin seemed to be dropping into defence and wires were being crossed. We were winning the ball but we were unable to retain it in the final third. Every time we attacked, City would hound us and then break at speed.


City broke through on three or four occasions, but a combination of desperate defending, some unfound passes across the box and Petr Cech kept the scoreline at 1-0.


Raheem Sterling came closest to doubling the score, but instead of shooting in a great position, he opted to pass and missed his intended teammate. Then, we had a chance to level at the best time, just before the interval.


Aaron Ramsey was found in the box. He checked back and hammered a shot but Ederson parried it away. The whistle blew and we went into the break a goal down and bewildered at our opponent’s strength.


We were battling well and were competitive, but the gap between where we want to be and where we actually are was exposed by brutal City. It took only five minutes for City to get their second goal. Raheem Sterling got the right side of Nacho Monreal and both were running into the box, shoulder to shoulder. Sterling went down easily, but in this present day version of our game, these decisions are being given and Michael Oliver didn’t hesitate to award the spot-kick. Sergio Aguero stepped up and scored, 2-0.


Wenger made an early change. On the 55th minute he hooked Coquelin. The decision to stifle City had not worked, so Lacazette came on in his stead. Back to our favoured formation, and we started to work a lot better.


Ten minutes later, we had a lifeline. Aaron Ramsey found Lacazette and the Frenchman ran onto the ball and fired through Ederson’s legs.


Game on.


The match went one way and the next, with promising situations for both teams ending prematurely. It could’ve gone either way, but City always looked a little sharper, a little more capable than we did in attack.


It showed, as substitute Gabriel Jesus took advantage of a poor offside decision to slot home from close range. Replays suggested that both DeBruyne and Jesus were offside, but there was no flag and they reestablished their two goal cushion.


From there, we made subs and huffed and puffed, but in truth, City ran out deserved winners. It is a sad indictment of our side that we were outplayed in the style we used to be the best at. Now, we must concentrate on top4 and cup runs because on this evidence, we are miles away from being the best.


City were quicker and made better decisions. We are not a million miles away but we are not where we should be.

After this game there can be no doubt about that.