Yet another London Derby. Games at Palace are usually exciting events, let’s hope for a winter cracker this lunchtime.
I am always grateful to Crystal Palace for developing the talents of Ian (God 8) Wright. I fondly recall his brace for Palace in the 1990 FA Cup Final against MU. That little chap brought me so much pleasure – thank you GG for signing him.
Thinking of GG, he scored a couple of stunners against Palace (as LBG wrote) but none as good as Giroud’s from 2017.
Which brings us to today. Arsenal are in wonderful form, can it continue? I see no reason why not not. The chaps will be rested (apart from those who played in Lisbon).
So far this season we have seen a constant change of formation and it is almost impossible to predict what is UE’s choice of tactic. How can it be that we play so poorly in the first halves and then improve so radically in the second? Is it really rope-a-dope?
We have to be excited by the quality of the new signings and also the development of our young players. The future looks very bright.
Palace are struggling but have the ability to upset any team at Selhurst Park. In Zaha they have a much-in-demand winger, one we have been linked with over many years. I am not convinced by him, we need consistency and Zaha is a bit too mercurial for me. We have the better rounded and younger Iwobi.
Catwalk Mustafi TGB Swiss Chap
Another Swiss Chap Terrier Nigerian
Will Emery play two upfront? He doesn’t usually. SO, given PEA started in Lisbon, it is likely he will be benched for Mhiki and get another brace in his 30 minutes.
Left back remains a problem. AMN (Cons) got a few minutes in the U-23s but to play him against CP’s biggest threat (Zaha) would be risky. Nacho and Wardrobe are still not ready, so we have to play Lichtsteiner or Xhaka. Xhaka is no LB, he looks lost, so another run out for our ageing Swiss full back, a master of the Dark Arts, I love to watch his opponents infuriated by his “Italian “skillset” but hope Nacho is fit enough to play.
Enough of this rambling …
This is not an easy fixture and should we rack up No.12, I will be very, very happy.
Here we are at the front door of my 71st season and I’m feeling uncertain about my feelings. (After hearing of Kronke taking full control of Arsenal I’m even more apprehensive).
What has happened in my first 70 seasons, well I’ve seen 2,876 league games, thousands of different players, 19 or 20 managers, experienced us winning 8 League Titles, 11 FA Cups, 10 Charity Shields, 1 Cup Winners Cup, I Fairs Cup, 2 League Cups and 2 Doubles. All in all I’ve been around for 33 out of our total 41 trophy seasons.
I’ll attempt to encapsulate my 70 seasons into one post.
Of the players that I have seen, my top team would be –
David Seaman, Goalkeeper (1990-2003), 564 games
Nigel Winterburn, Defence (1987-2000), 584 games
Tony Adams, Defence (1983–2002), 669 games
Lee Dixon, Defence (1988-2002), 619 games
Patrick Vieira, Midfield (1996-2005), 406 games
Freddie Ljungberg, Midfield (1998-2007), 328 games
Robert Pires, Midfield (2000-2006), 284 games
Frank McLintock, Midfield (1964-1973), 403 games
Ian Wright, Striker (1991-1998), 288 games
Denis Bergkamp, Striker (1995-2006), 423 games
Thierry Henry, Striker (1999-2012), 377 games
My bench would be –
Jack Kelsey, Goalkeeper (1949-1962), 352 games
Peter Storey, Defence (1961-1977), 501 games
David O’Leary, Defence (1973-1993), 701 games
Joe Mercer, Midfield (1946-1954), 275 games
Liam Brady, Midfield (1974-1980), 307 games
Robin van Persie, Striker (2004-2012), 278 games
Doug Lishman, Striker (1948-1956), 244 games
My top managers would be –
Arsene Wenger (1996-2018) 13 trophies, average league position 2.95
George Graham (1986-1995) 7 trophies, average league position 5.1
Tom Whittaker (1947-1956) 5 trophies, average league position 5.2
The worst managers would be –
Jack Crayston (1956-1958) Zero trophies, average league position 8.5
George Swindin (1958-1962) Zero trophies, average league position 9.4
Billy Wright (1962-1966) Zero trophies, average league position 10.5
Bertie Mee (1966-76) 3 trophies, average league position 8.3
Terry Neill (1976-1983) 1 trophy, average league position 6.0
Don Howe (1983-86) Zero trophies, average league position 6.7
Their joint ineptitude covered 1,260 league games (33 seasons) they had an average league position of 8.4 and they won just 4 trophies. That’s 432 more games than Arsene Wenger managed – give that some thought?
My top seasons would be –
1947-48 – This was my first season and we won both the League and the Charity Shield.
1969-70 – After 16 seasons in the trophy wilderness we won the Fairs Cup.
1970-71 – We won our first League and Cup double.
1997-98 – We won our second League and Cup double.
2001-02 – We won our third League and Cup double.
2003-04 – The year of the Invincibles
2016-17 – We won our record 13th FA Cup.
It was sad, for me, to see the end of the Arsene Wenger era, as his teams and achievements brought me more joy than all of the other managers I’ve witnessed.
But the memories of his players and style of football are etched in my brain forever,
Who can forget Dennis Bergkamp’s wonderfully incisive passes, Thierry Henry’s runs and goals or our wonderful Invincibles – far too many memories to list.
I hope that Unai Emery brings us some of the same calibre of football that I’ve enjoyed for the last 21 seasons.
I miss being in the crowd on game days, I miss the banter in the pubs, I miss the banter with my family, I guess I miss the overall English Arsenal atmosphere. But I have my memories to fall back on and I look forward to more great times ahead supporting the Arsenal.
On 6 May 1990, the day he was expected at Heathrow to join his team-mates on an end-of-season tour of Singapore, Tony Adams was uninjured when he crashed his car, but after subsequent breath tests he was charged with reckless driving and driving with excess alcohol, but despite the ruling was told he was free to leave the station. A trial would be arranged and he would be required in court at a later date.
After the heights and dramatic finish in the 1988-89 season Arsenal were disappointing in 1989-90 finishing just fourth. However in Graham’s mind Arsenal were edging closer to being ready to compete with the best throughout the coming year. In the weeks leading up to the 1990-91 season he added three new players to a squad he believed needed updating. He spent £4 million and purchased QPR goalkeeper David Seaman, Norwich City defender Andy Linighan and Swedish winger Anders Limpar from Cremonese.
Arsenal, were able to kick off their season in style, away at Wimbledon’s Plough Lane, they sauntered to a 3-0 victory, soon to be followed by a 2-0 win at home to Luton. Concerns were raised with successive draws at home to Tottenham and then away at Everton, but they bounced back emphatically when Chelsea arrived at Highbury only to be sent back to South West London on the wrong end of an assertive 4-1 loss. Two more wins were quickly earned, away to Leeds and at home to Norwich, before the unbeaten Arsenal team travelled to Old Trafford.
Arsenal fans had high hopes and confident that their squad, with their very stubborn defence (just four goals against in their opening eight league fixtures) could come away victorious. They did just that but the game had an intensity that was typical of encounters between Manchester United and Arsenal and as the hour mark approached it spilled over into an all out brawl.
Despite both clubs openly admitting their wrongdoing and fining a selection of the players involved, three days after the game the FA fined both teams £50,000 for their misconduct and for their roles in bringing the game into disrepute and both clubs had points deducted. Manchester United was deducted one point while Arsenal were handed a more severe two-point deduction.
Moving on from their success at Old Trafford Arsenal remained unbeaten with 5 wins and 3 draws including the December 15th draw against Wimbledon. Tony Adams drunken driving trial took place at Southend County Court on 19 December 1990.
He was fined £500, had his driving licence revoked for two years, and was sentenced to nine months at Chelmsford Prison; five months suspended for reckless driving and a concurrent three-month sentence for driving with excess alcohol. He was stunned by the verdict. Not once had he actually considered he could end up going to prison. On 18 February Adams’ absence came to an end as he was released from prison, his initial sentence commuted due in large part to his good behaviour while inside.
In total he missed eight fixtures; draws against Villa and Tottenham, imposing wins against Derby, Sheffield United, Manchester City, Everton, Crystal Palace, and his side’s only loss of the entire league campaign: a tragic 2-1 defeat away at Chelsea.
He made his return to action in front of 7,000 fans at Highbury during a reserve team game against Reading the reception he received from the home fans almost reduced him to tears. After a handful more fitness-finding run-outs he made the team sheet once again, just in time for his team’s trip to Liverpool which ended in a 3 -0 win.
Arsenal’s league title triumph finally came in their penultimate game of the season, on 6 May, when they triumphed 3-1 at home to Manchester United in a match where top scorer Alan Smith scored a hat-trick. Anders Limpar then scored a hat-trick in Arsenal’s final fixture, a 6-1 victory over Coventry City at Highbury.
This was a season that was personified by our obdurate defense who only gave up eighteen goals, the lowest against in our history until our 1998/99 team let in only seventeen.
Division One appearances
Seaman 38, Dixon 38, Bould 38, Winterburn 38, Davis 36+1, Merson 36+1, Smith 35+2, Limpar 32+2, Adams 30, Thomas 27+4, Campbell 15+7, Groves 13+19, O’Leary 13+19, Rocastle 13+3, Hillier 9+7, Linighan 7+3, Jonsson 2, Cole +1, Pates +1.
Division One goals
Smith 22, Merson 13, Limpar 11, Campbell 9, Dixon 5, Davis 3, Groves 3, Rocastle 2, Thomas 2, Adams 1, O’Leary 1, own goals 2.
Also that season…
English sides were readmitted to European competition after serving a five-year ban, following the crowd disturbances at Heysel Stadium during the 1985 European Cup final between Juventus and Liverpool.
And… John Major succeeded Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister in November 1990, bringing to an end her 11 years in office.
Throughout our history Arsenal has seen 19 different managers. I’m going to give a brief outline of my personal top five.
First up is Herbert Chapman (1925-1934)
In the 1925 close season Sir Henry Norris placed the following advertisement in the Athletic News.
“Arsenal Football Club is open to receive applications for the position of Team Manager. He must possess the highest qualifications for the post, both as to ability and personal character. Gentlemen whose sole ability to build up a good side depends on the payment of heavy and exorbitant transfer fees need not apply.”
He became our manager shortly after and remained as such for a short 8.5 seasons before his untimely death from pneumonia on January 6th 1934
He championed major innovations in football including floodlighting, numbered shirts and European competitions. He along with Charles Buchan created the famous WM formation which helped to transform Arsenal into one of the greats of English football.
Under his guidance we won our first major trophy, the 1930 FA Cup.
A bronze bust of Herbert Chapman is on proud display outside of the Emirates Stadium.
Herbert Chapman’s league record –
Games 336, Won 157, Drawn 84, Lost 95,
Goals for 736, Goals against 541,
Goals for per game 2.19, Goals against per game 1.61
Points won 59.3%
Average League Position 6.25
Total # of trophies won – 2 League titles, 1 FA Cup, 3 Charity Shields.
Second we have George Allison (1934-1947)
During WW1 he worked for the War Office and the Admiralty, producing propaganda, and later joined the Royal Fling Corps (later renamed the Royal air Force). After the war he moved into broadcasting, joining the BBC and becoming the first person to commentate on the radio on events such as The Derby and the Grand National, as well as the annual England v.Scotland international, and the 1927 FA Cup Final. By this time, he had already formed a strong association with Arsenal and he became the club’s programme editor, becoming a member of the board of directors soon after the end of the WW1; he was first club secretary and then managing director.
After the sudden death of Herbert Chapman in January 1934, he was appointed Chapman’s full-time successor, in the summer of that year. Arsenal had already won the League Championship twice in a row (1932-33 and 1933-34), and he made it a hat-trick, winning a third successive title in 1934-35.
He famously appeared in a 1939 movie that was set at Highbury, “The Arsenal Stadium Mystery”, where he had a speaking part as himself. Amongst his lines included one uttered at half time: “It’s one-nil to the Arsenal. That’s the way we like It.”, a line which had resonance with the team’s penchant for 1-0 score lines many decades later.
He passed away in 1957 after several years of illness.
George Allison’s league record –
Games 294, Won 137, Drawn 80, Lost 77,
Goals for 552, Goals against 345,
Goals for per game 1.88, Goals against per game 1.17
Points won 60.2%.
Average League Position 4.29
Total # of trophies won – 3 League titles, 1 FA Cup, 2 Charity Shields.
Thirdly we have Tom Whittaker (1947-1956)
In 1919, after serving his country in World War I, he joined Arsenal, under manager Leslie Knighton. He first played as centre-forward then as wing-half, signing as a professional in January 1920 and making his debut in a 1–0 defeat away to West Bromwich Albion.
He toured Australia as part of the FA side in 1925, but during the tour, in a match in Wollongong he broke his knee cap and was forced to retire from playing. Following his injury he joined Arsenal’s coaching staff and also studied to become a physiotherapist. He became Arsenal’s first team trainer under Herbert Chapman in 1927, at the time, he was younger than many of the players. He assisted Chapman in transforming the training and physiotherapy regime at the club, and played a major part in the club’s successes during the 1930s.
After Herbert Chapman passed away in 1934, he continued to serve under his successor, George Allison while also becoming a trainer for the English National Team. With the advent of WW11 he began to work as an ARP warden, before becoming a pilot in the Royal Air Force where he achieved the rank of Squadron Leader. For his service in missions on D-Day, he was awarded an MBE.
When George Allison retired in 1947, he became the club’s new manager; after winning the League in 1947-48 and 1952-53 and the FA Cup in 1949-50, the club’s success waned. He tried, in vain, to attract major stars to the club, one being Stanley Matthews who said later – “I felt there was nothing to be gained by moving south, however I was very happy and politely turned down the offer”. “Such an approach was against the rules at the time and, consequently, I couldn’t tell anyone about it, and I never have until now.”
Sadly Tom passed away from a heart attack in 1956, aged 58.
Tom Whittaker’s league record –
Games 378, Won 171, Drawn 101, Lost 106,
Goals for 677, Goals against 509,
Goals for per game 1.79, Goals against per game 1.35
Points won 58.6%.
Average League Position 5.22
Total # of trophies won – 2 League titles, 1 FA Cup, 2 Charity Shields.
Our Fourth manager is George Graham (1986-1995)
Arsenal, who had not won a trophy since the FA Cup in 1978–79, appointed him as their new manager in May 1986. Arsenal finished fourth in his first season in charge, and then went on to win the 1987 League Cup. His sides featured tight defensive discipline, embodied by Tony Adams, who along with Lee Dixon, Steve Bould and Nigel Winterburn, formed the basis of Arsenal’s famous defence for over a decade. However, his teams were not only about defence as he had more than capable midfielders such as David Rocastle, Michael Thomas and Paul Merson, plus striker Alan Smith, who regularly scored 20 plus goals per season. In (1988–89), Arsenal won their first League title since 1971.
In the final game of the season against Liverpool at Anfield; Arsenal needed to win by two goals to take the title; Alan Smith scored for Arsenal early in the second half to make it 1–0 and with only seconds to go Michael Thomas surging through the Liverpool defence and lifting the ball over Bruce Grobbelaar and into the net.
The 1994 Cup Winners’ Cup was his last trophy at the club; the following February he was sacked after nearly nine years in charge, after it was discovered he had accepted an illegal £425,000 payment from Norwegian agent Rune Hauge following Arsenal’s 1992 acquisition of John Jensen and Pål Lydersen, two of Hauge’s clients. George was eventually banned for a year by the Football Association for his involvement in the scandal, after he admitted he had received an “unsolicited gift” from Hauge.
George Graham’s league record –
Games 364, Won 167, Drawn 108, Lost 89,
Goals for 543, Goals against 327,
Goals for per game 1.49, Goals against per game .90
Points won = 55.6%.
Average League Position 5.11
Total # of trophies won – 2 League titles, 1 FA Cup, 2 League Cups, 1 Cup Winners Cup.
Finally we have our current manager Arsene Wenger (1996 – Present)
Arsene was born in Strasbourg, France and raised in Duttlenheim. He was introduced to football by his father, the manager of the local village team, however his playing career mostly as an amateur, was very modest.
In 1996, Arsene was appointed as the manager of Arsenal and two years later the club completed a league and FA Cup double. He led Arsenal to appearances in the 2000 UEFA Cup Final and 2001 FA Cup Final, and a second league and cup double in 2002. Arsenal retained the FA Cup in 2003 and a year later regained the league title, becoming the first club to go through an entire league season undefeated since Preston North End, 115 years previously. The team later eclipsed Nottingham Forest’s record of 42 league matches unbeaten and went seven more matches before losing in October 2004. Arsenal made their first appearance in a Champions League final in 2006, though they lost to Barcelona. During his tenure, Arsenal has moved to a new training centre and after 93 years at Highbury they relocated to the Emirates Stadium.
In February 1999, Arsene offered Sheffield United a replay of their FA Cup fifth round match immediately after the match had finished, due to the controversial circumstances in which it was won. The decisive goal was scored by Overmars after Kanu failed to return the ball to the opposition when it had been kicked into touch to allow Sheffield United’s Lee Morris to receive treatment for an injury, Arsenal went on to win the replay.
Under Arsene Wenger Arsenal hold the current British record for the most consecutive appearances in the Champions League with 2015-16 being their 20th consecutive, Man U held the previous record with 21 consecutive which stopped in 2013-14
In 2002 he was awarded France’s highest decoration, the Légion d’Honneur and was in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List of 2003. He has also received an honorary OBE for his service to football and was then inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2006. A commissioned bronze bust of Arsene was unveiled as a tribute to him at the club’s annual general meeting on 18 October 2007. An Arsenal fan and astronomer, Ian Griffin, named an asteroid, 33179 Arsènewenger. In January 2011, he was voted “World Coach of the Decade” by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics.
A bronze statue of Arsene Wenger is proudly displayed outside of the Emirates Stadium.
Arsene Wenger’s Premier league record –
Games 718, Won 416, Drawn 178, Lost 124,
Goals for 1348, Goals against 681,
Goals for per game 1.88, Goals against per game .95
Points won = 66.2%,
Average League Position 3.01,
Total # of trophies won – 3 League titles, 6 FA Cup, 6 Charity Shields.
These are the records of my Top 5 Arsenal Mangers. If it were possible who would you choose to manage Arsenal today? (My choice will be a (well known) secret)
This is a short starter for Rant Friday and concerns our ex-players who have become pundits.
Let’s start with a man who has a clear anti-Arsenal agenda, Stewart Robson. I have no idea why such an admired player (pre-injury) has turned into a man who cannot speak without being negative about our boys but whatever it is it must have been painful because he clearly hates his former employers.
Then there are the Sky boys. Smudger Smith was one of my heroes. Known as “The Professor” in the dressing room because he read broadsheet newspapers Smith rarely is complimentary about our boys, choosing instead to tell us how much better the opposition is and then laying into our lads, in particular JW.
Merse. Mercurial on the pitch and a buffoon off it. Is this illiterate the best Sky can come up with?
George Graham. I guess he has reason to be anti-AW but I hoped for better from a man who brought not only trophies but dishonour to the club.
O’Leary. Our appearance record holder and yet persona non grata at THOF. Why?
At least we have Ian Wright, Wright, Wright, TH14 and Lee Dixon fighting our corner.
George was the youngest of seven children, his father died of tuberculosis when he was less than a month old. He displayed considerable promise as a young footballer, and was signed by Aston Villa on his 17th birthday, in 1961, but only made eight appearances for them in three seasons. He was transferred to Chelsea in July 1964 where he scored 35 goals in 72 league games and also and won a League Cup medal in 1965, however his time at the club became uncertain after he clashed with his volatile manager Tommy Docherty.
At the time Arsenal were looking for a replacement for Joe Baker, and paid £75,000 plus Tommy Baldwin in 1966 to bring Graham to Highbury and he immediately became a first team regular and was Arsenal’s top scorer in both 1966–67 and 1967–68. After being a runner-up in both the 1968 and 1969 League Cup finals, he finally won a medal with Arsenal’s victory in the1969–70 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup. He followed it up by being a key member of Arsenal’s Double-winning side of 1970–71. Midway through the 1971-72 season Alan Ball became an Arsenal Player which led George to being transferred to Manchester United in December 1972. He had played in 308 matches for Arsenal, scoring 77 goals.
After retiring as a player he turned to coaching and managed at Crystal Palace, Queens Park Rangers and then Millwall. He guided Millwall from bottom of the old Third Division to the old Second Division and after he left the club in 1986, they went on to win the Second Division gaining promotion to the First Division in 1987–88.
In the mean time Arsenal were going through a torrid period in their history and had only won 4 trophies in the 33 year period from 1953-54 to 1985/86. The European Fairs Cup in 1969/70 and the double in 1970/71, under Bertie Mee then there was an eight year wait until we won The FA Cup under Terry Neill in 1978/79. The club dismissed manager Don Howe in March 1986 following yet 3 more trophy less seasons and finishing an average of seventh in the league.
Arsenal expressed interest in appointing Aberdeen manager Alex Ferguson as their new manager with Graham as his assistant but Ferguson decided to wait until after the World Cup that summer before deciding on his future, and so the Arsenal directors appointed Graham as the new manager on 14 May 1986. Graham cleared out much of the old guard and replaced them with new signings and players promoted from the youth team, while imposing much stricter discipline than his predecessors, both in the dressing room and on the pitch. Arsenal’s form immediately improved, so much so that the club were top of the League at Christmas 1986, the club’s centenary, for the first time in a decade but they eventually finished in fourth position. The following season they went on to win the 1987 League Cup and reached the final again in 1988 where they suffered a shock 3–2 defeat to Luton Town.
His sides displayed tight defensive discipline, embodied by Captain Tony Adams, who along with Lee Dixon, Steve Bould and Nigel Winterburn, formed the basis of the club’s defence for over a decade. To compliment his stingy defence he also had capable midfielders like David Rocastle, Michael Thomas and Paul Merson, plus a prolific striker in Alan Smith.
At the end of his third season in charge (1988-89) Arsenal won their first League title since 1971, when Graham had been an Arsenal player, and they won in a highly dramatic fashion, in the final game of the season against Liverpool at Anfield; Arsenal needed to win by two goals to take the title; Alan Smith scored for Arsenal early in the second half to make it 1–0, but as time ticked down Arsenal struggled to get a second, and with 90 minutes gone on the clock, Arsenal still needed another goal. With only seconds to go, an Alan Smith flick-on found Michael Thomas surging through the Liverpool defence he calmly lifted the ball over Bruce Grobbelaar and into the net, and Arsenal were League Champions. After finishing fourth in 1990, he signed goalkeeper David Seaman and Swedish winger Anders Limpar in the close season; both players proved to be important as Arsenal went on to win Graham’s second title in 1990–91. In the autumn of 1991 season he signed Arsenal’s eventual second all-time top scorer Ian Wright and gained the club’s first entry in the European Cup for 20 years.
After the 1991-92 season he changed the teams tactics; he became more defensive and turned out far less attack-minded sides, which depended mainly on goals from Wright rather than the whole team. Between 1986–87 and 1991–92 Arsenal averaged 66 League goals a season (scoring 81 in 1991–92), but between 1992–93 and 1994–95 only averaged 48; this included just 40 in 1992–93, when Arsenal finished 10th in the inaugural season of the FA Premier League, scoring fewer than any other team in the division and 1-0 to The Arsenal began to echo around the grounds.
In the 1992–93 season Arsenal became the first side to win the FA Cup (in a replay) and League Cup double, beating Sheffield Wednesday on both occasions by a 2–1 score. The next season they continued in the same vein, winning the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, their second European trophy; in the final Arsenal beat favourites and holders Parma 1–0 with a typically tight defensive performance and Alan Smith’s 21st minute goal.
Unfortunately the 1994 Cup Winners’ Cup proved to be George Graham’s last trophy at the club; the following February he was dismissed by Arsenal after nearly nine years in charge. It was discovered he had accepted an illegal £425,000 payment from Norwegian agent Rune Hauge following Arsenal’s 1992 acquisition of John Jensen and Pål Lydersen, two of Hauge’s clients. After admitting he had received an “unsolicited gift” from Hauge the Football Association banned him for a year – due to his involvement in the scandal.
The Arsenal statement
“Arsenal FC has now been informed by the FA Premier League Inquiry of the results of their investigations into alleged irregularities concerning certain transfers and the Board have concluded that Mr Graham did not act in the best interests of the club. The Board have therefore terminated Mr Graham’s contract as manager. The chairman said that it was sad that Mr Graham’s distinguished career with Arsenal FC should have to end in this way and he paid tribute to Mr Graham for the success that he had brought to the club over the past eight and a half years. Stewart Houston will assume the responsibilities of manager.”
It was an unpleasant way to bring his career at Arsenal to an end.