The ‘should be’ Arsenal player that got away…..

February 23, 2015

Whenever I watch a football match I always look at the opposition players to see if there is one that could do a job for Arsenal. Obviously, players such as Suarez, Silva and even Harry Kane could well supply a steady stream of goals but what I really look for is someone who could have boosted our trophy count over a period of years.

Over time our (Arsenal’s) need has been most obvious in three positions, goalkeeper, centre-back and holding mid-fielder and it is in those positions that I have looked for my ideal players.

Since David Seaman left at the end of the 2002/3 season we have struggled with a succession of ‘keepers, some good, some not so good.

Mad Jens, a man who could pick a fight with his own shadow, always had us on the edge of euphoria, or despair, depending on the state of the tide, Almunia, Fabianski, Mannone, Szczesny and now Ospina have all been given a go with varying success, but the one ‘keeper, had we been able to sign him at the time of Seaman’s departure, who could have carried us forward in the long term is Petr Cech.

There is no doubt in my mind that the Chelsea stopper has been the best ‘keeper in the Premiership for years and what a difference he would have made.

At centre-back, again, we’ve struggled. Since Adams, Bould and Keown went it is only now that we have some pretty good cbs. Mertesacker and Koscielny have done well, while the recent signing of Gabriel looks promising but how about if we could have got our hands on John Terry when in 2002 he was sent out on loan to Nottingham Forest. Now Terry is not a person that I can admire but as a footballer he has been the rock that Chelsea’s success has been built on. Would our defence have been more solid for his presence? I think so.

Finally I come to the most important position for me. Holding mid-fielder, looking back we had Vieira and Petit who could play the role pretty well, and then along came Gilberto, The Invisible Wall. Since then we have been crying out for somebody to take up the baton, Arteta does a job there, but it’s not his ideal position. Flamini has done alright but only as a fill-in and Coquelin is showing promise but is lacking the physique.

The one player who could have filled the role, with his height, physique, skill, controlled aggression and sheer presence is Ya Ya Toure. There have been a number of opportunities to sign him, when he left Beveren in 2003, when he left Donetsk in 2005, when he left Olympiacos in 2006, when he left Monaco in 2007 and finally when Barca let him go in 2010. Missed chances all of them.

Petr Cech and John Terry have been together for a long time and have developed the kind of understanding so vital in a defensive unit, but their individual success may be a partial result of that interdependence, so for that reason I will pick Ya Ya Toure as the “One That Got Away”

OK AAers, over to you. Which of the three would you choose, or who else would you pick?

Written by Norfolk Gooner

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Arsenal’s Greatest Premier League Team

November 20, 2014

Seaman – no question, surely?

spunk

Cole – vile human being who never seemed to ever have a bad game for Arsenal.

mobile

Campbell – immense in every sense of the word.

Gallas – couldn’t decide between Adams or Koscielny, so went for Gallas. J

Lauren – Dicko and Bacary in his prime were in with a shout but Ralphie wins because he was photogenic and did this.

Lauren2

 

Ljungberg – for his virtually goal a game run-in to the 2001/2 season. Stepped up when Bobby got injured.

Vieira – You just knew from the moment you saw him he was going to be an Arsenal great.

Fabregas – I can barely type his name without chundering but oozed class from every pore when wearing red and white (well for most of the time, anyway).

Pires – took a season to settle but once lift-off was achieved – Wow. Loved playing and scoring against the spuds. What more can an Arsenal fan want?!

Wright – imagine how many goals Wrighty could have scored if he’d been playing in the Arsenal team of 2001 – 2004?

Bergkamp – grace and elegance personified but with a devilish streak which made him a winner.

bergkamp

 

What do you think?

chas


Blast No. 16 – Arsenal Players with the most club appearances. No. 2

May 30, 2014

On May 2nd the four players with the most club appearances for Arsenal were profiled, between them they played in an incredible 2.631 games.

David O’Leary 1973-1993 made 722 appearances.

Tony Adams 1983-2002 made 669 appearances.

George Armstrong 1961-1977 made 621 appearances.

Lee Dixon 1988-2002 made 619 appearances.

 Now we will take a look at the next four players with the highest amount of appearances, they are the only players to have played in between 500 and 599 games.

First up we have Nigel Winterburn 1987-2000 he made 584 appearances.

Nigel Winterburn
Winterburn began his Arsenal career at right-back, an emergency measure employed by Graham after he’d been unsuccessful in finding a worthwhile replacement for Viv Anderson. Though heavily left-footed, Winterburn settled into the right back role as best he could and became quickly involved in two controversial incidents of his first season. First, he was seen to openly goad Brian McClair after the Manchester United striker had missed a late penalty in an FA Cup tie at Highbury.The second incident came in the League Cup final later that same season. Despite having fallen behind in the early stages, Arsenal, the holders, dominated the match and were leading Luton Town 2–1 at Wembley with less than quarter of an hour to go when David Rocastle was felled in the penalty area. Michael Thomas had been Arsenal’s designated penalty taker all season but for reasons unexplained, it was Winterburn – who’d never taken a penalty for Arsenal before – who collected the ball up to take the kick.

He put the kick low and strong to the right hand corner as he viewed it, but Luton goalkeeper Andy Dibble guessed correctly and pushed the ball round the post. A newly-inspired Luton then scored twice in the final ten minutes and won the final 3–2. Despite the missed penalty, it was Gus Caesar (deputising for David O’Leary who missed the final due to injury) rather than Winterburn who was made to bear the brunt of the criticism, as he had made the error which gifted Luton their equaliser at 2–2.

Sansom left Arsenal in the summer and Winterburn settled into his more familiar left back role as a result, staying in it for more than a decade. He and fellow full back Lee Dixon flanked two superb central defenders in captain Tony Adams and veteran David O’Leary, joined during the 1989 season by Steve Bould. Often the manager would play all five of them as Arsenal took holders Liverpool to a last-game showdown at Anfield for the First Division title, which would have been Arsenal’s first title since the Double year of 1971. Arsenal’s situation meant they needed to win by at least two clear goals to clinch the championship. Winterburn’s free kick set up a first for Alan Smith shortly after half time, but the second looked as though it would elude them until Thomas scored in injury time. This victory was the culmination of the film Fever Pitch.

Arsenal ended 1990 trophy less, but went on to win the league title again the next year, with only one loss. Two years later, Winterburn was in the Arsenal team which won both cup competitions and thus completed his domestic set of medals. Arsenal defeated Sheffield Wednesday 2–1 in both the League Cup and FA Cup finals, the latter in a replay.

Arsène Wenger arrived at Arsenal at the end of 1996 and instilled new self-awareness and dietary habits into the Arsenal squad, allowing the ageing defence (Adams was the youngest at 30 years of age; Martin Keown had also arrived to account for O’Leary’s retirement after the 1993 FA Cup success) to thrive in the latter years of their careers and prolong their football careers. Arsenal won the “double” of Premiership and FA Cup in 1998.

Secondly we have David Seaman MBE – 1990-2003 he appeared in 564 games.

david seaman

Arsenal manager George Graham signed David Seaman from Queens Park Rangers in 1990 for a fee of £1.3 million; at the time a British record for a goalkeeper. Arsenal sold goalkeeper John Lukic, who was highly popular amongst Arsenal fans, to Leeds United.

Seaman’s time at Arsenal coincided with one of the most successful periods in the club’s history. The 1990–91 season saw him concede only 18 goals when playing in every match of the 38-game season as Arsenal regained the league title.

Arsenal won both the FA Cup and the League Cup in 1993 and supplemented this a year later with the European Cup Winners’ Cup.

In 1995, George Graham was sacked, and Arsenal came close to becoming the first club to retain the Cup Winners’ Cup, with Seaman earning a reputation as a penalty-saving specialist after saving Attilio Lombardo’s shot in Arsenal’s semi-final shoot-out against U.C. Sampdoria. However, in the final Arsenal lost in extra time to Real Zaragoza, with a spectacular last-minute goal from Nayim from 45 yards out catching Seaman off his line. There were only seconds left of extra time when Seaman conceded.

In August 1996, Arsène Wenger became the new manager of Arsenal. Wenger rated Seaman highly and in 1998, Seaman helped the team to the Premier League and FA Cup double. In 1998–99, Seaman played all 38 league matches, conceding only 17 league goals as Arsenal came within one point of retaining the Premier League and lost in the FA Cup semi-finals to Manchester United. The following season Seaman managed to reach the 2000 UEFA Cup Final, which Arsenal drew 0–0 with Galatasaray, but lost on penalties.

In 2002, Seaman won the Premier League and the FA Cup again to complete his second career double, although Arsenal’s other goalkeepers Stuart Taylor (10 appearances) and Richard Wright (12 appearances) also won championship medals, due mainly to Seaman’s absence through injuries. A highlight of this season was when Seaman dramatically saved a Gareth Barry penalty as Arsenal won 2-1 at Aston Villa.

Despite his international career ending so flatly and accusations his mobility had faded with age, the 2002–03 season—Seaman’s last at Arsenal—ended on a high note. In the FA Cup, he made a spectacular save against Sheffield United’s Paul Peschisolido in the semi-finals, in what former Manchester United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel, a pundit for the BBC on the day, dubbed “the best save I’ve ever seen”. Arsenal were defending a 1–0 lead, when with less than ten minutes to go, Peschisolido had a header towards an apparently open goal from six yards out with Seaman seemingly stranded at the near post. However, the goalkeeper leapt sideways and backwards, somehow managing to stretch his right arm behind him and scoop the ball back and away from both his goal and the opposing players ready to pounce on a rebound. The match was all the more remarkable in that it was Seaman’s 1,000th professional career game. Seaman went on to captain the team during the 2003 FA Cup Final in the absence of injured Patrick Vieira and keep another clean sheet at the Millennium Stadium as they defeated Southampton 1–0. His final act with Arsenal was to lift the FA Cup, which was his eighth major trophy with his team.

David became an MBE in 1977 – unfortunately GN5 could not find an image of the presentation.

Thirdly we have Pat Rice MBE – 1964-1980 he made 528 appearances.

pat rice

Born in Belfast, he grew up in London, and after working at a greengrocer on Gillespie Road he joined the Gunners as an apprentice in 1964. He turned professional in 1966 and worked his way up through the club’s youth and reserve teams. He made his first-team debut in the League Cup against Burnley on 5 December 1967.

Playing at right back, Rice was initially a bit-part player, making only 16 appearances in his first three seasons at Arsenal, and missed out on Arsenal’s 1969–70 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup win over RSC Anderlecht. Peter Storey was Arsenal’s first choice right back, but after he was moved into central midfield at the start of the 1970–71, Rice took his place and was a near-ever present in the side that season, as Arsenal won the League and FA Cup Double.

He remained first-choice right back for the rest of the 1970s, playing in the 1972 FA Cup Final as well; he was an ever-present for three seasons — 1971–72, 1975–76, 1976–77. Of the Double-winning side, he was the one who remained at the club the longest, and became club captain in 1977. As captain, he had the honour of lifting the FA Cup after Arsenal beat Manchester United in 1979, as well as losing two finals in 1978 and 1980. He is one of only 3 Arsenal players to have played in five FA Cup Finals (1970–71, 1971–72, 1977–78, 1978–79, 1979–80), the other two being David Seaman and Ray Parlour. He also led Arsenal to the 1980 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup Final, which Arsenal lost on penalties to Valencia. He finally left Arsenal in 1980 at the age of 31, by which time he had played 528 games in total for the club.

Pat rejoined Arsenal in 1984 as youth team coach, a post he held for the next 12 years, winning the FA Youth Cup twice in 1987–88 and 1993–94. In September 1996, he was briefly caretaker manager of the club after the resignation of Stewart Houston, who himself was caretaker after the sacking of Bruce Rioch. He managed the side for three FA Premier League matches (all of which Arsenal won) and a 3–2 defeat in the UEFA Cup at home to Borussia Mönchengladbach.

Upon the arrival of Arsène Wenger at the end of the month, Rice became his assistant, and played a key role in helping the club to their success in the 1990s and 2000s, including the Doubles of 1997–98 and 2001–02, and Arsenal’s unbeaten League season of 2003–04. He holds the distinction (along with Bob Wilson) of having taken part, as player or coach, in all three of Arsenal’s Doubles.

On 5 May 2012, it was announced that Rice would be stepping down after an accumulative 44 years with club, since joining as an apprentice, with the home game against Norwich being his final home game as Arsenal No.2. Wenger stated, ‘Pat is a true Arsenal legend and has committed almost his whole life to Arsenal Football Club, which shows huge loyalty and devotion to this club…I will always be indebted to him for his expert insight into Arsenal and football as a whole. On the training pitches and on matchdays, Pat has always been a passionate, loyal and insightful colleague, who we will all miss.’

Rice was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2013 New Year Honours for services to sport.

Pat Rice & The Queen (1)

Last but not least we have Peter Storey 1961-1977 who played in 501 games.

peter storey v2 

Storey signed as an apprentice at Arsenal after leaving school in 1961.  He signed professional forms in September 1962 and spent the 1962–63 season playing for the Arsenal third team in the Metropolitan League. He made his senior debut on 30 October 1965, taking Billy McCullough’s place at left-back in a 3–1 defeat to Leicester City at Filbert Street. He retained his first team place and went on to play all of the remaining 29 games, though the season would prove to be a poor one for the “Gunners” as manager Billy Wright was sacked after dropping top-scorer Joe Baker and disillusioning the dressing room. In 1965-66 Arsenal finished in 14th place, just four points above the relegation zone, and was knocked out of the FA Cup at the Third Round following a 3–0 defeat to Blackburn Rovers, who would end the season bottom of the First Division.

Storey quickly made a name for himself as a rough player early in the 1966–67 season as he injured Manchester City winger Mike Summerbee. He was warned by new manager Bertie Mee not to get sent off after Storey got involved in a brawl during an FA Cup win over Gillingham. The team improved under Mee’s strict leadership, and finished the season in seventh place, cutting goals conceded to 47 from the previous season’s tally of 75. Storey started 34 league games, missing eight matches due to injury and illness. He scored his first professional goal on 22 April 1967, in a 1–1 draw with Nottingham Forest at Highbury.

Bob McNab established himself at left-back in the 1967–68 season, and so Storey was moved over to right-back. Despite being a full-back he was sometimes given the job of marking a dangerous and creative opposition player closely, and though he was never ordered to use rough play he was on these occasions told “you know what to do, Peter”. He was sent off for the first time in his career, along with Frank McLintock, in a 1–0 defeat to Burnley at Turf Moor in December 1967; despite his tough tackling he was actually dismissed for bad language. Arsenal finished the season in ninth place, but advanced past Coventry City, Reading, Blackburn Rovers, Burnley and Huddersfield Town to face Leeds United in the final of the League Cup at Wembley. Leeds won the game through a Terry Cooper volley on 20 minute.

Their league position meant in 1968–69 that Arsenal qualified for the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in the 1969–70 season, and they advanced past Glentoran (Northern Ireland), Sporting (Portugal), Rouen (France), FCM Bacău (Romania) and Ajax (Netherlands) to reach the final against Belgian club Anderlecht. Anderlecht won 3–1 at the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium after their possession football controlled the entire game until substitute Ray Kennedy scored a crucial header in the 82nd minute. Arsenal turned around the tie with a 3–0 home victory to claim the club’s first trophy in 17 years. Despite their European exploits the team still struggled in England, and finished the league in 12th spot.

Arsenal won the 1970-71 title on the final day of the season with a 1–0 win over Spurs at White Hart Lane, though Storey missed the final two league games of the season after damaging ligaments in his ankle. They secured the double after winning the FA Cup, though their progress in the competition was slow, as they beat Yeovil Town, Portsmouth (in a replay) – Storey scored a penalty in both the original tie and the replay, Manchester City, Leicester City (in a replay), and then Stoke City (in a replay). Storey gave a man-of-the-match performance in the original semi-final tie against Stoke at Hillsborough, scoring two goals to rescue a 2–0 half-time deficit; with the first goal he beat Gordon Banks with a volley on the edge of the penalty area, and with the second he sent Banks the wrong way with an injury-time penalty kick.[27] The replay at Villa Park was less dramatic, and Arsenal won the tie with a comfortable 2–0 result. In the final he was assigned to mark Liverpool’s Steve Heighway, and kept the Liverpool winger quiet until Storey was substituted for Eddie Kelly after 64 minutes. Both Heighway and Kelly scored in extra-time, but the winning goal came from “Gunners” striker Charlie George.

He played his final game for Arsenal on 29 January 1977, replacing Malcolm Macdonald as a substitute in a 3–1 victory over Coventry City in the FA Cup.

In his auto biography he wrote:

In time, I became immensely proud of what Arsenal achieved in 1970–71, constantly defying the odds and coming from behind. Only special teams do the Double. One word summed us up — remorseless. We never knew when we were beaten; our powers of recovery during 90 minutes, and sometimes beyond, were immense.”

GunnerN5


Goalkeepers – Day 3

June 6, 2013

9. Pat Jennings 1977 – 1985

Pat was our keeper for 8 years and played 327 games.

Pat was born in in Newry, County Down, after playing for Shamrock Rovers under-18 side at the age of 11, he concentrated on Gaelic football until the age of sixteen, when he made his soccer comeback with his hometown side Newry Town. After impressing with Newry he moved to English Third Division side Watford.

He was signed by Tottenham Hotspur for £27,000 in 1964. Pat spent thirteen years with Tottenham where he played in 472 league games, and 591 in all competitions. He won the FA Cup in 1967, the League Cup in 1971 and 1973, and the UEFA Cup in 1972.

He played an unsuspecting role in Arsenal’s League and Cup double in 1971 as he was in goal for Tottenham when Ray Kennedy’s header flew past him as Arsenal famously wrapped up the title at White Hart Lane.

jenningsIn August 1977, he was transferred to Arsenal, the fact that Arsenal enjoyed some of his finest years was largely thanks to a miscalculation by Spurs manager Keith Burkinshaw who incorrectly suspected that Pat was approaching the end of his career when he let him leave for Highbury. He found himself out of favour at Arsenal in 1982 as Scottish keeper George Wood assumed the No 1 spot, but he bounced back and regained his starting place until his retirement from club football in 1985. His long career ended in style with an appearance, at the age of 40, at the 1986 World Cup Finals in Mexico. It was a fitting finale for one of our greatest goalkeepers. In total, Jennings participated in the qualifying stages of six World Cups between 1966 and 1986.

After his retirement, he returned to Tottenham Hotspur, playing in their reserve side to maintain his match sharpness for Northern Ireland’s 1986 World Cup campaign. He was also briefly on Everton’s books, having been signed as goalkeeping cover for the 1986 FA Cup Final against Liverpool, Neville Southall having been injured playing for Wales.

In 1973 the Football Writers association named him as its footballer of the year Three years later he won PFA’s version of the award – he was the first goalkeeper to receive this accolade, he also received an MBE and an OBE.

In 2003 Pat was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in recognition of the skills he demonstrated in English football

10. John Lukic 1983 -1990

John played for 7 years and appeared in 298 games.

John was born in Chesterfield, he signed for Leeds United as a schoolboy. He made his debut for them in 1979 and went on to play 165 games. After making a transfer request, he moved to Arsenal in July 1983 for £75,000, as a long-term replacement for Pat Jennings.

gun__1322669536_lukic_johnBy the middle of the 1984-85 season he was the club’s No. 1, and won the League Cup in 1987 and the Division One title in 1989. He was ever present in Arsenal’s first team throughout seasons 1987-88, 1988-89 and 1989-90. He played in the final game of the 1989 season where Arsenal won the title in the last minute of the game against Liverpool, with John starting the move which led to Michael Thomas’ famous goal.

In the summer of 1990 Arsenal manager George Graham signed David Seaman from Queens Park Rangers – Seaman had ironically been his understudy at Leeds. This outraged many Arsenal fans at the time, especially as John was a fan favourite. On his departure, Graham commented “I still think John Lukic is one of the best keepers in the country; I just think David Seaman is the best”

Having played 277 times for the Gunners, he rejoined Leeds for £1million, playing a further 265 times and winning a second League title in 1991-92 and a runners up medal in the League Cup in 1995-96

His career took another twist when he rejoined Arsenal in 1996 as understudy to Seaman and four years later was on the bench for Arsenal’s UEFA Cup final defeat to Galatasaray. John became the oldest player to feature in a Champions League match when, in October 2000, he played against Lazio at the age of 39 years and 311 days.

In 2000, after a series of injuries to the club’s other ‘keepers, he made a brief return to the first team, playing four times. The last of these four games, against Derby County, was a month shy of his 40th birthday – he is also one of several players to have played in the top flight of English football in four separate decades.

11. David Seaman 1990 – 2003

David played for 13 years and appeared in 564 games.

David was born in Rotherham, South Yorkshire; he began his career at Leeds United, the club he supported as a boy. However (much to his disappointment), he was not wanted by then-manager Eddie Gray, who had been his favourite player. David went to Division 4 club Peterborough United for a £4,000 fee in August 1982, where he began to make a name for himself.

Just over two years later, in October 1984, Second Division club Birmingham City paid £100,000 for his services. They ended up winning promotion at the end of that season, but were relegated again at the end of the following season. Seaman was not to follow them back to Division Two, however as in August 1986, David moved to Queens Park Rangers for £225,000. He earned his first England cap, which came under Bobby Robson in a friendly against Saudi Arabia in November 1988. Whilst at Q.P.R.,he was coached by Arsenal1971 double-winner Bob Wilson, who was to work with him for more than a decade.

Arsenal manager George Graham paid Leeds United £1.3 million for him which, at the time was a British record for a goalkeeper with John Lukic leaving to rejoin Leeds. Seaman became the cornerstone of an Arsenal back five which kept 23 clean sheets and conceded just 18 goals en route to the 1990/91 League title. His qualities were manifold – he had sharp reflexes, excellent positional sense, great judgement from crosses and bags of courage.

seaman1504_176880aOne of his most memorable moments came in April 2003 when Arsenal was defending a 1-0 lead in the FA Cup Semi-Final against Sheffield United at Old Trafford. In the closing minutes he was stranded when Paul Peschisolido headed towards goal but somehow he threw himself across goal and reached back to claw the ball away from under the crossbar. What made the save even more remarkable was that it was made in his 1,000th professional game. A month later, as Arsenal’s captain, he lifted the FA Cup at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium following a 1-0 win against Southampton. After 564 appearances and eight major trophies, it was his final act as an Arsenal player and a fitting climax to his Arsenal career.

He retired from the game on 13 January 2004, following a recurring shoulder injury.

He was appointed an MBE in 1997 for services to the sport.

12. Jens Lehmann 2003-2011.

Jens played for 11 years and appeared in 200 games.

Jens was born in Essen, Germany.

The German international signed for Arsenal from Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund in July 2003. During his first spell with Arsenal he played in every match of the Club’s unbeaten league campaign in 2003/04, when he was awarded the Premier League Golden Glove Award for his integral part in the ‘Invincibles’ season. He also won the Premier League title in 2003/04, the Community Shield in 2004 and an FA Cup winner’s medal in 2005, when he famously saved from Paul Scholes in the victorious penalty shoot-out

However, his style of play, often coming out of his goal to intercept passes occasionally led to mistakes, as it did in the title-winning match against Spurs when he pushed Tottenham striker Robbie Keane as they both waited for a Tottenham corner, he also made a mistake that led to the equalising goal in Arsenal’s Champions League defeat at home to Chelsea the same season.

Before joining Arsenal he was a Bundesliga title winner with Borussia Dortmund in 2002, and UEFA Cup winner with Schalke in 1997. He also had a brief spell with AC Milan in 1998.

He was a regular fixture for the Germany national team making 61 appearances before retiring from international football in 2008, Jens was a member of the Germany World Cup squads in 1998, 2002 and 2006, in addition to their squads for the European Championship Finals in 2000, 2004 and 2008.

soc_g_jens_576He was voted UEFA Club Goalkeeper of the Year for the 1996–97 and 2005–06 seasons, and he has been selected for three World Cup squads and also holds the UEFA Champions League record for the most consecutive clean sheets – not having conceded a goal in 10 matches while playing for Arsenal.

After leaving Arsenal he joined German club Stuttgart, where he spent two years before announcing his retirement from football at the end of last season. He rejoined Arsenal on a short-term basis in March 2011 during the time when, Wojciech Szczesny, Lukasz Fabianski and Vito Mannone were out through injury. He only made one appearance during his three-month spell back, helping Arsenal to victory at Blackpool.

Jens set a national team record of not conceding a goal for 681 minutes in a friendly against Switzerland on 26 March 2008


Arsenal’s Hairy Upper Lip

November 22, 2011

As many will know, we are in the middle of Movember. Yup, in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, the US, Canada, Finland, the Netherlands, Spain, South Africa and Ireland, chaps are being encouraged to let the above-the-lip stuff grow unchecked for a month.

And this has exactly what to do with the greatest football club in the world (that’s us, in case there’s any misunderstanding)? Well, it made me wonder about who the best moustachioed Arsenal players have been in my years in harness. My criteria are entirely arbitrary, frankly I don’t really understand them myself, but both the quality of the moustache and the quality of the player are somehow taken into account.  Full-on beardies are excluded.  Here’s my countdown:

10. Chris Whyte: An Islington-born centre-back in the sides of the early to mid 80s.  His patchy hair was more noted than his upper lip furniture, but he nonetheless was a proud exponent of the mou.  Whyte was an adequate defender but who also enjoyably filled in as striker for a while (easy to enjoy because we were hopelessly rubbish at the time, so playing a centre-back up front was good for a laugh).  But he left the club disconsolate when not offered a new contract, and spent two years playing US indoor footy before enjoying a renaissance with West Brom and then Leeds, culminating in being an ever present and playing alongside Cantona, McAllister and Strachan in the title-winning 1992 side.

9. Alan Sunderland: A man who sported the finest example of the white man’s afro, complemented by an unrepentant moustache. Sunderland deserves a higher profile in our history books, he was a potent striker, most famous for scoring the winning goal in 1979′s “five-minute final” against Man U – we were coasting at 2-0 before Gordon McQueen and Sammy McIlroy pulled it back to 2-2 in the closing minutes. Liam Brady then burst forward, released Graham Rix on the left, who floated over a high looping cross that Gary Bailey in the United goal flapped at, only to see Sunderland sweep it home at the back post. A mammoth moment. And it secured the only trophy we picked up between 1971 and 1987.

8. Viv Anderson: Many refuse to acknowledge Anderson on account of his enthusiastic departure for United (he was Ferguson’s first signing), but he was a great recruit from recent European Champs, Nottingham Forest.  With Sansom on the left flank, for a while we provided the England team with both their full-backs (Anderson having been the first black player to play for England).  I also remember being on the North Bank when a goal from big Viv contributed to a glorious 3-1 win over the mighty Liverpool.  Classic Phil Lynott-styke tache

7. Robert Pires: I still love Pires, he was such a fantastically creative player to watch.  The insanely good goal against Southampton stands out, but there were so many.  And with Henry, Bergkamp and Ljungberg, he was part of possibly the best attacking line Arsenal have ever had.  And the ludicrously Gallic Three Musketeers moustache that sometimes adorned his upper lip was the perfect accoutrement to the man.

6. Kevin Richardson: A man with no known nickname, a solid, dependable, no-nonsense, ego-free, moustachioed Geordie.  A real pro, George Graham loved him, and Richardson was a member of the side that won at Anfield THAT night in 1989.  His tache?  Well, it was a tache, nothing out of the ordinary, nothing extravagant, just your regular Joe moustache.  He looked like he would’ve been at ease in Edwardian England.

5. Kevin Campbell: Superkev – we loved him, but let’s be honest, for all his bustle and bulk, he wasn’t very good.  He was sometimes pretty effective, and I remember fondly the two goals he scored in the stunning six we racked up against Sheffield Wednesday in the last 18 minutes of a 1992 match, the score finishing 7-1 to the good guys.  A pretty straight forward tache, looked a bit dodgy in his early years but he grew into it.

4. Ian Allinson: “Ian who?” I hear younger fans ask.  Well, Allinson might have had all the charisma of a beige carpet, but he had a glory moment in the epic three-part League Cup semi-final against Spurs in 1987, when in he came on as a sub and scored the equaliser, before Rocky got the winner and we went to Wembley and won the Cup against then-mighty Liverpool.  That win proved to be the launch pad for our renaissance and led to our title wins in 1989 and 1991.  His terrible tache was in keeping with his Austin Allegro persona.

3. Kenny Sansom: Solid mou from the ever dependable left-back. Was he worth the bizarre swap for Clive Allen, sold twice in one summer?  You bet your Gillette Shaving Gel he was.  (Oops, apols for the betting reference, not really suitable when talking about Mr S.)  Time hasn’t been kind to Sansom (though his porky deterioration is as nothing compared to what’s happened to Dean Holdsworth – has anyone seen the state of him these days? Not good).  We’ve been lucky with left-backs down the years, but Sansom ranks right up there.

2. John Jensen: The cult hero’s cult hero, bad tache, bad curly hair, bad player. Yes, I say to you, yes.  This is a man who would have been judged to look uncool in 1970s East Germany.  He was not burdened with style.  When we signed a player who scored in the European Championships Final, we might have thought we could count on the new guy for a few each season.  It didn’t work out that way, and the fans (when they had a sense of humour) adopted “We’ll be there when Jensen scores!” as a song.  And once he did score, at Loftus Road.  We still lost.

1. David Seaman: Surely the only possible winner, top tache, culminating in the fantastic bad-taste combo with Spunky’s ponytail. Oh and the best keeper we’ve ever had.  OK, he might have suffered a bit with the aerial stuff (Nayim from the halfway line, Ronaldhino etc), but the £1m we spent on bringing him from QPR was a superb investment.  Had to leave his native Yorkshire because he can smile.

So there you have it – my Gooner Tache list.  Feel free to dispute it, suggest others I’ve missed etc.

But also think about contributing to the Movember cause: if you know someone doing the business, sponsor them, and if not, you can always donate on http://uk.movember.com/ The charitable causes relate to research and awareness raising in respect of prostate and testicular cancer.  Many of us will have experienced cancer affecting family members, and these are indisputably worthy causes.

Written by 26may1989


Arsenal’s Best Signing Ever

June 27, 2011

Who is the best player ever to have been signed by Arsenal?

Last summer I wrote a post about ‘Arsenal’s Best Transfer News Ever’. The point of that piece was to determine which piece of transfer news was the most exciting when it was announced, regardless of how that player went on to perform for the club.

So, for example, Clive Allen was on that list even though he never played a game in anger for Arsenal and so was Davor Suker, who was never more than a bit part player.

This time I want to know which signing (as opposed to home grown player) has been the best piece of business we have ever done.

You may want to weigh up factors such as what they cost, what their impact was on the team, what legacy, if any, they left behind, their achievements versus the expectations we had when they arrived and so on.

I’m not including anyone who has come through the Arsenal ranks from apprentice up, or has been recruited at too young an age to be considered a mature signing (so there’s no room for Cesc Fabregas).

For starters, here are what I consider to be some of the main contenders:

Cliff Bastin

Cliff was spotted by Herbert Chapman playing for Exeter away at Watford. Chapman had gone along to keep tabs on a promising Watford player but was so impressed by Cliff that he snapped him up at the end of the 1928/29 season. It was an inspired piece of business and was crucial to the Chapman revolution that led Arsenal to dominate English football in the 1930s. Bastin’s scoring record for the Gunners was not outdone until Ian Wright surpassed it in 1997.

Ronnie Rooke

Arsenal’s dominance in the Chapman era was ended not by any other team, but by the Second World War. When football began again afterwards we returned as a severely weakened side and narrowly avoided relegation in 1947. But the following year we bounced back to reclaim our crown – and the vital ingredient was a tough, experienced centre forward called Ronnie Rooke. He was nearly 35 when we signed him from Second Division Fulham and he had never played in the top flight – so he was a real gamble. However, his 21 goals in 1946/47 helped stave off relegation and he followed that with 33 more the next season as we marched to the title.

Frank McClintock

Our Double-winning hard man was brought up in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, which explains a lot. He was signed in 1964 after seven successful years at Leicester. Starting off in midfield before moving to the CB role (and the captaincy) he was a rock throughout the relatively fallow years of the late 1960s and, of course, led Arsenal to the Double in 1971.

Alan Smith

Another Leicester stalwart, signed in 1987. “Smudger” was an awkward-looking, ungainly centre forward, but there was no-one better at holding up the ball and bringing others into play – skills that, along with his eye for a goal, proved to be vital in our title-winning seasons of 1989 and 1991.

David Seaman

After winning the league in ’89 most of us were happy with John Lukic between the sticks, but George Graham decided that he wanted the best and went out and got Safe Hands from QPR in 1990. It’s no exaggeration to say that Seaman was an essential ingredient in every subsequent success achieved by the club during his time with us.

Ian Wright

Although he would not win a champions medal until 1998 and the arrival of Arsene Wenger, Wrighty was a mainstay of the Arsenal team in the later George Graham era, when we stopped winning championships and started winning cups and when our flamboyant attacking midfield was replaced by pragmatic journeymen. Arguably, without Wright’s goals during that period, we might really have struggled.

Dennis Bergkamp

I’ll admit to being biased here. Dennis is my all-time favourite Arsenal player – but what a signing he was in terms of ambition and imagination. Bruce Rioch was the boss when Dennis arrived in 1995 but his signing is widely attributed to David Dein. The English league did not have much in the way of foreign superstars at that time (Eric Cantona apart) and Dennis showed the way forward for many of the great foreign players that followed. His touch, vision, passing and reading of the game was a damning indictment of the type of players being produced by English clubs in the Route One era.

Sol Campbell

Sol’s signing from the N17 knuckle-draggers was the sensation of the close season in 2001. The fabled Adams-Keown-Bould back three was near the end of its days and a significant reinforcement was needed. You don’t get more significant than Big Sol, who went on to become an immense figure in our defence, even if he did go a bit loopy at the end.

Patrick Vieira

Signed in 1996 from Milan, Paddy took the EPL by storm and is arguably still the greatest midfielder to have strut his stuff since the Premiership was formed. Arsenal captain, Arsenal legend, fearless, tireless, gifted… what more is there to say?

Thierry Henry

After Arsene Wenger’s first Double in 1998, we were all gutted when young goal machine Nicolas Anelka was persuaded by his greedy agents (his brothers, no less) to walk out on us the following year. But we need not have worried. Arsene went one better, bringing in Thierry Henry fresh from France’s 1990 World Cup triumph. He was a winger with va-va-voom, but Arsene converted him into the deadliest striker the Premier League has ever known.

That’s it.

My choice would be Dennis, because he completely transformed Arsenal and helped transform English football. He also stayed with us until the end of his career and is clearly still a devoted Gooner.

What do you think?

RockyLives


Arsène Wenger manages the Dream Team

June 24, 2011

Written by Gooner in Exile

Arsenal.com are currently running an all time dream team vote. The problem with this it is often only the young who vote and recent memory can skew the result.

We have a wide church here with regard to ages so how about we all pick our all time eleven, manager, coach, physio and you can even throw in a few squad players.

One stipulation you must have seen them play or manage whilst you’ve been alive. On second thoughts this could put the younger members of the forum at a disadvantage so perhaps we can allow two wild cards for positions where you believe a player from before your time may have added some.

I’ll start us off:

Seaman

Lauren   Adams  O’Leary  Winterburn

Pires    Vieira  Talbot    Limpar

Bergkamp
Wright

Subs
Henry
Rocastle
Ljungberg
Merson
Campbell
Caesar

Coach : Don Howe
Physio : Gary Lewin

Manager : Arsène Wenger

That was tough and I’ve only been watching them for 29 years, good luck to our older supporters.

So just to say I know that’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea but hey it’s my fantasy you all get to have yours too.

Admittedly some have been chosen for how they did things on the pitch, they may not all be the best in their positions but in the case of a few:

Wright……his pure enthusiasm for the game, affinity with the fans and love of scoring goals and also because of that goal against Big Nev, the whole of Highbury singing Ian Wright Wright Wright for a good ten minutes after he scored it.

Limpar…..I was there when he beat Hooper from the halfway line and it was probably the best goal I ever witnessed at Highbury.

Caesar…..you have to have an anti hero to have a hero, he was always good for a laugh (unfortunately for him we weren’t laughing with him).

So there is the challenge pick away. Don’t ask me to justify my selections I made them in five minutes and will probably change them every ten.