Posts Tagged ‘Arsenal’

Arsenal v Villa Classics
FA Cup Final odds PLUS two crackers from 1991

Tim Sherwood is bidding the become only the second English manager since 1995 to lift the FA Cup.

In that year it was Joe Royle’s “Dogs of War” who were cast as underdogs but beat Manchester United who had just begun their era of dominance with a 1-0 win the goal scored by Paul Rideout.

Since then only Harry Redknapp has got his hands on the grand old trophy when his Portsmouth side beat Cardiff 1-0 in 2008.

John Gregory had a chance in 2000 but by his own admission the then Villa boss was too cautious in his approach and was beaten 1-0 by Chelsea with Roberto di Matteo getting the only goal.

Given his character Sherwood is likely to “give it a go” but would settle for a dour 1-0 win as he sets out to make his mark in management, Villa having last won the trophy way back in 1957 when they beat Manchester United 2-1.

William Hill offer a generous looking 6/1 for an Aston Villa win with Arsenal 4/7 with 1-0 to the Villa 20/1.

First goalscorer..?

Christian Benteke – who could end up as a Gunner next season if as seems likely he is sold by Villa this summer – is 8-1 with Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud favourite at 6/1.

(More odds below)

Ahead of their meeting in the FA Cup Final, BOBBY remembers two great games between The Villa and The Arsenal from the same year, 24 years ago;

Arsenal 5-0 Aston Villa, April 3rd 1991, FL Division One

Arsenal were two points ahead of Liverpool at the top of the First Division table and with a game in hand on the Reds as they welcomed struggling Aston Villa to Highbury in April 1991. Villa’s task was daunting – the Gunners had only lost two games all season in all competitions (to United in the League Cup and to Chelsea in the League) although a defeat to Spurs int he FA Cup would soon follow. Action is below (lookout for a cameo between the sticks from Dave Platt) Brian Moore is the commentator.

ARSENAL: David Seaman, Lee Dixon, Steve Bould, Tony Adams, Nigel Winterburn, David Hillier, Paul Davis, Paul Merson, Anders Limpar, Kevin Campbell, Alan Smith – Subs; Perry Groves for Merson, Michael Thomas for Hillier

ASTON VILLA: Nigel Spink, Chris Price, Andy Comyn, Derek Mountfield, Paul McGrath, Kevin Gage, Gordon Cowans, David Platt, Gary Penrice, Ian Ormondroyd, Tony Cascarino – Sub; Mark Blake for Nigel Spink

 

Aston Villa 3-1 Arsenal, August 24th, 1991, FL Division One

THIS was a sweet victory for Ron Atkinson’s team – and it came against the reigning League Champions, who had lost only once during the whole 1990-91 campaign.

Villa had won one and drawn one of their opening two League matches under Ron Atkinson – and were keen to make amends for a midweek home defeat at the hands of Big Ron’s old club, Manchester United – this after having won away against Atkinson’s previous side, Sheffield Wednesday, on the first Saturday of the League season.

Atkinson sprang a surprise before the kick-off against the Gunners by including 18-year-old former West Bromwich Albion defender Ugo Ehiogu for his first full game of his career, and also in the side a fit-again Tony Daley, who had figured in only three games since February.

In front of a near-30,000 crowd, the match was played at a cracking pace in a cup-tie atmosphere.

ASTON VILLA: Nigel Spink, Steve Staunton, Ugo Ehiogu, Shaun Teale, Paul McGrath, Gordon Cowans, Paul Mortimer, Kevin Richardson, Cyrille Regis, Tony Daley – Subs; Chris Price for Staunton, Dwight Yorke for Penrice

ARSENAL: David Seaman, Lee Dixon, Tony Adams, Andy Linighan, David O’Leary, Nigel Winterburn, Paul Davis, Paul Merson, David Rocastle, Anders Limpar, Alan Smith – Subs; Michael Thomas for Rocastle, Perry Groves for O’Leary

THE CUP FINAL ODDS

Arsenal     4/17   Draw   3/1   Aston Villa   6/1

Selected Bets:

Arsenal to come from behind to win: 7/1, Villa 18/1.

Villa to lead at half-time and fail to win: 10/1

Arsenal   3-1  Aston Villa: 12/1

Arsenal   2-2  Aston Villa:  18/1

Arsenal  1-2  Aston Villa: 18/1

Alexis Sanchez to score first goal: 4/1

Agbonlahor to score first goal: 9/1

Match to go to penalties: 11/2

Odds courtesy of William Hill

 

 

 

The Top Five Greatest Ever FA Cup Final Songs

by Karl Hofer.

Sadly (or thankfully, depending on how you look at it) we have no cup final songs to offend our ears this year.

It’s a sign of the decline in importance of the FA Cup in an era where Premier League and Champions League are the be-all and end-all. Not that Arsenal didn’t celebrate with gusto last May, it’s still a tremendous competition, but there was a time when the nation (and chunks of the world) held its collective breath in anticipation of the big day.

Whole towns or cities would be decked out in colourful splendour to support their side, the nations media would interview local fans and business people who would gush with pride when talking about their team, bakers would make special cakes to mark the occasion, previously unknown players would become national celebrities and so on.

And, of course, the team would bring out a single.

They would follow that up with a cringe-worthy appearance on Top of the Pops and sometimes those songs would be cherished by fans for generations to come – and some would not.

So in the week of the cup final BOBBY has put together the top five greatest ever FA Cup final songs for your delectation. And before anyone pipes up with ‘What about ‘Blue is the Colour’, why isn’t that on the list?’ it is because that was recorded for the 1972 League Cup final v Stoke City – and not the 1970 FA Cup final v Leeds as many people believe. So there.

5. Arsenal – ‘Good Old Arsenal’ (1971)

The start of the seventies brought plenty of cheer for Arsenal, who scooped the league and cup Double in 1971 and were widely considered the best team in the land.

To celebrate, they released this catchy hit called ‘Good Old Arsenal’ which was more of a chant along to the tune of Rule Britannia.

It reached number 16 in the charts and there’s some great players and club legends singing along, including Bob Wilson, George Graham, Frank McLintock and Charlie George – and just look at Charlie’s face in this photo taken with Pan’s People, the boy looks delighted to be there!

GoodOldArsenal

The uncomfortable union between pop and football summed up in one photo.

4. West Ham United – ‘I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles’ (1975)

Bellowed from the stands at the Boleyn ground since the 1920s (but sadly for only 12 months more), the West Ham club anthem was given a seventies makeover when John Lyall’s Hammers reached the 1975 FA Cup final, in which they beat their Bobby Moore led London rivals Fulham 2-0.

The hit wasn’t all that successful, however, charting at 31. It did beat the Cockney Rejects punk version to mark their cup final appearance five years later – that only reached 35.

BlowingBubbles

Trevor Brooking of West Ham and Alan Mullery of Fulham on the old Joanna with some nice support before the ’75 Cup final.

3.  Arsenal – ‘The Hot Stuff’ (1998)

Donna Summer’s 1979 hit ‘Hot Stuff’ is regarded as a true classic. So the Arsenal took that successful platform and built on it (badly) by slipping in mentions of players in their squad.

That’s what Arsenal did to mark their march for the Double in 1998 and it made number nine on the countdown. Featuring lines like “You’re telling us we’re boring, We’ll just keep on scoring now, Hot Stuff” it reaffirmed the belief that football and music rarely mix well…

ArsenalHotStuff

Even Ian Wright struggles to look cool in that garb!

2.  Liverpool – ‘The Anfield Rap’ (1988)

This memorable collaboration between Liverpool midfielder Craig Johnston and rapper Derek B – and also featuring the rap skills of John Barnes – was a parody of a number of hip hop tracks of the time and peaked in the charts at number three.

Liverpool had a dressing-room full of real characters at the time, and they all seemed to revel in recording this track which featured some great lines such as: “Steve McMahon sure can rap, it’s about time he had an England cap.”

Anfield Rap

John Barnes’ other rap success

1. Tottenham – ‘Ossie’s Dream’ (1981)

The Cockney Lennon & McCartney – or Chas & Dave as they’re also known – teamed up with their beloved team four times between 1981 and 1991.

Their (pre-Falklands) effort in ’81 was written in honour of the Argentine midfielder who, despite his all-trembly knees, was “gonna play a blinder, in the Cup for Totting-ham”.

Of course mocking foreigner’s accents is neither big nor clever. But in 1981 is wasn’t just accepted, most prime time TV seemed to revole around it!

Keep an eye out for a very young Chris Hughton in the footage below sporting an afro that’s almost as impressive as Micky Hazard’s!

@KGHof

Arsenal v Chelsea
Latest Odds PLUS Fantastic Four: Classic Past encounters

Selected Match Odds

ARSENAL   29/20   DRAW   9/4   CHELSEA  19/10

First Goalscorer: Sanchez 5/1, Welbeck 11/2, Hazard 6/1, Drogba 7/1, Fabregas 11/1

Correct Score: Ars 1-0 Che: 7/1, Ars 1-1 Che: 6/1, Ars 1-2 Che: 10/1

BOBBY’S BET OF THE DAY: Anytime Drawcast – Alexis Sanchez to score anytime & match ends in a draw at 10/1

odds courtesy of William Hill.

 

FANTASTIC FOUR – CLASSIC ARSENAL v CHELSEA PAST ENCOUNTERS

Arsenal 2-4 Chelsea – March 1964

There was turmoil at The Bridge when Tommy Docherty took charge of Chelsea after Ted Drake was dismissed following a series of mid-table finishes and a woeful start to the 61-62 campaign, but he was unable to turn things around and at the end of the season Chelsea were relegated. But they bounced straight back with a side built around Peter Bonetti, Ron Harris, Terry Venables, and their young captain Bobby Tambling.

Their first season back with the big guns was magnificent for such a young team – the standout result being a 4-2 win at Highbury.

The Arsenal team was built around the attacking talents of George Eastham, Joe Baker and George Armstrong, and they still held faint hopes of maintaining a title challenge. But they were found wanting as Bobby Tambling scored all four Chelsea goals on a mudbath, capitalising on three mistakes by Ian Ure, the other a delightful lob.

Chelsea finished in fifth, three places ahead of Arsenal. Docherty’s side were anointed as one of the teams of the decade and went on to capture the League Cup a year later. Arsenal on the other hand descended into a dark period under Billy Wright, not only losing their way but also their white sleeves in the process.

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Bobby Tambling scored all four Chelsea goals in the mud of Highbury

 

Arsenal 5-2 Chelsea – April 1979

Stapleton netted a brace to help relegate the Blues

Stapleton netted a brace to help relegate the Blues

Both teams began the 70’s in fine style; Arsenal won the league and Cup Double in 1971, only to drift. Chelsea followed up their 1970 FA Cup win with the Cup Winners’ Cup a year later – and then decided to expand Stamford Bridge with a massive East Stand. Up went the stand, and down went Chelsea.

One of their stars of the 1960s Eddie McCreadie led Chelsea back up with a team built around Ray Wilkins. Boardroom unrest meant McCreadie was replaced by another star of the previous decade, Ken Shellito, before Danny Blanchflower was tasked with keeping the Blues in the top flight.

But in 1978-79, Chelsea won only five league games all season, the knockout blow being landed with a spectacular flourish by Arsenal. David O’Leary, Frank Stapleton (2), Alan Sunderland and David Price sent Chelsea down – with the west Londoners’ only relief coming from terrace favourites Clive Walker and Tommy Langley.

 

Chelsea 2-1 Arsenal – February 1991

Dixon scored the winner

Dixon scored the winner

Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal went unbeaten in their title triumph of 2003/04 of course. But that achievement could have been old news had Chelsea not beaten George Graham’s Gunners in February of 1991, 23 years earlier, which proved to be their only league defeat of the season as they clinched the title by seven points.

In a tight match, Chelsea seized control in the second half thanks to Graham Stuart’s header into an almost unguarded net after Winterburn’s mistake, and late on the Arsenal defence was in tatters as Kerry Dixon tapped in after being set up by Damien Matthew to send The Shed into raptures.

Alan Smith’s smart finish pulled one back, but it came so late the away fans could barely muster a cheer. Invincibility would have to wait…

 

Chelsea 2-3 Arsenal – October 1999

Nwankwo Kanu is a curious character, the embodiment of unfulfilled possibilities some would say. Despite his frustrating, languid style and unspectacular goal scoring record he is a cult figure to Arsenal fans everywhere – thanks largely to this game.

Chelsea seemed to have the game all sewn up shortly after half time when Dan Petrescu added to Tore Andre Flo’s 39th minute strike. But Arsenal’s lanky Nigerian striker had other ideas, scoring an exquisite 15 minute hat-trick. His first two goals were all about his control and delicate touch, but it’s his 90th-minute winner that will really live long in the memory.

It looked like the chance had gone after he’d chased down Albert Ferrer’s stray clearance, but dribbling past a stranded Ed de Goey, Kanu whipped the ball over an array of Chelsea defenders into the far top corner from an impossible angle, sending Sky Sports commentator Martin Tyler into a fits, screeching the famous line: “Can you believe it?!”

KanuHT

Kanu believe it?!? Chelsea couldn’t…

@KGHof

Sportsmanship v Gamesmanship
Kanu Causes a Storm in his First Game in English Football

by Richard DJJ Bowdery.

KanuArseSheffU

Kanu’s first outing for Arsenal was a memorable one

When is a replay not a replay? When it’s the result of a sporting gesture. But before the gesture came controversy which gave TV’s football pundits a field day. And for fans in pubs and clubs across the country it was the number one topic of conversation.

It was 13 February 1999. Arsenal were hosting Sheffield United in the FA Cup fifth round. The game was one apiece when a United player went down injured. Goalkeeper Alan Kelly kicked the ball out of play so his teammate could receive attention.

Ray Parlour took the resulting throw-in aiming the ball towards an opposing player, as is customary in these situations. However, Arsenal’s Kanu intercepted the throw, raced towards goal and squared the ball to Marc Overmars who scored the Gunner’s winner. Sheffield United’s players and bench were in uproar but to no avail. The referee, applying the letter of the law, gave the goal. It was legal but wasn’t in the spirit of the game.

_sheffieldunited1999Afc

Sheffield United’s players surround the referee after Kanu set up Overmars for Arsenal’s winner

Whatever the rights and wrongs, Arsenal ran out 2-1 winners and were heading towards the Cup quarter-finals.

In Kanu’s defence, it was his first game in English football. He was later reported as saying that he had ‘misunderstood’ the situation.

With the debate still raging, Arsène Wenger, to his credit, contacted Sheffield United manager Steve Bruce and offered to replay the game. His offer was gratefully accepted by the South Yorkshire side and, with no objection raised by the FA, the match was replayed at Highbury.

For Sheffield United the outcome was still the same. They lost by the same margin and their Cup run was over for a second time.

Did Wenger set a precedent for the rest of football? Perhaps. But as money exercises an ever tighter grip on our national sport, making it more cut-throat than ever, I wouldn’t bet on it!

Though, one thing can be said with certainty: his decision has gone down in FA Cup folklore.

@RichardBowdery

 

Greavsie Leaves ’em Faint!
PLUS: Three Classic North London Derbies Remembered

by Karl Hofer.

FROM THE ARCHIVES…

Few derbies deliver the goods like the North London derby has a tendency to do. Over the years we’ve had some classic, high-scoring affairs with breath-taking goals aplenty.

Here BOBBY has searched back through the archives to deliver you three of the best;

Tottenham 3-1 Arsenal, FA Cup Semi-Final, April 14th 1991

The first FA Cup semi-final played at Wembley is one never to be forgotten by Spurs fans. In a season fraught with poor league form on the pitch and financial difficulties off it, Tottenham managed to turn the form book on its head to record a famous victory in the derby.

Paul Gascoigne had single handily dragged Spurs through the competition with some virtuoso performances and it was fitting that he should open the scoring with a scintillating free-kick; the finest in the history of the FA Cup according to boss Terry Venables (you can see it below).

Tottenham had saved their best form for the FA Cup that year and this match against the eventual league champions was no different. A mixture of slack defending and poor goalkeeping led to Gary Lineker scoring Spurs’ other two goals either side of an Alan Smith header for the Gunners, as Spurs denied their rivals the double.

Spurs went on to lift the Cup, although Gascoigne’s second famous kick of the competition, at Forest’s Gary Charles, landed the England star on a stretcher and denied him the opportunity of climbing the Wembley steps.

Tottenham 1-2 Arsenal, League Cup semi-final replay, March 4th 1987

It took 270 minutes of League Cup semi-final football before, against the odds, Arsenal emerged triumphant in a season when Spurs – third in the league and beaten by Coventry in the FA Cup final – came quite close to winning everything but actually won nothing.

Tottenham won the first leg at Highbury 1-0 and looked Wembley bound when they led the second leg by the same scoreline at the half – when, as legend has it, ticket details for the final were announced to home fans. But two goals in 15 minutes from Viv Anderson and Niall Quinn brought the scores level on aggregate and, with extra time unable to separate the sides and no provision for a penalty shootout, the tie went to a replay three days later.

The venue for the third encounter was decided on a toss of a coin, and that was almost a draw, too: Spurs manager David Pleat said that when the coin fell to the ground it got stuck, almost upright, in the mud, but the referee adjudged it was leaning Spurs’ way so the decider would be at White Hart Lane.

Clive Allen put Spurs a goal up for the third successive game, but the game turned after the introduction of unlikely hero Ian Allinson for the adored but injured Charlie Nicholas. In the 82nd minute Allinson struck a shot that zipped through the legs of Richard Gough and past Ray Clemence to level things, and then in stoppage-time another Allinson shot deflected into the path of David Rocastle, who promptly swept Arsenal into the final to the jubilation of the away end. Uniquely, Arsenal beat Spurs three times at White Hart Lane that season.

Allinson’s gallant intervention was repaid in strange style by George Graham; he wasn’t in the squad for the victory over Liverpool in the final and in fact never started another game for Arsenal before being released at the end of the season.

rocastle_tottenham_1987

Rocastle fires Arsenal through to Wembley

Arsenal 4-4 Tottenham, Division One, 15th October 1963

67,857 crammed into Highbury stadium for the derby in 1963, filling it to capacity – and they weren’t to be disappointed.

An incredible first half saw Jimmy Greaves open the scoring as Spurs stormed into a 4-2 lead at the interval with further goals from Bobby Smith (2) and Dave Mackay – George Eastham twice pulling the Gunners within two in response.

With only five minutes remaining Tottenham still held the two goal lead acquired in the first half but Arsenal pulled one back on 85 through Joe Baker and then equalised with a Geoff Strong header from a corner with only twenty seconds of injury time remaining. For the third time in five years the North London derby had ended 4-4.

In the end the point was sufficient to take Tottenham to the top of the First Division, but after that finish it was Arsenal who felt like the victors on the night.

Soccer - League Division One - Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur - Highbury

Jimmy Greaves walks away after helping to tend to a fan who fainted before kick-off at the packed Arsenal v Tottenham match at Highbury in 1963.

@KGHof

Battle of the Bluffers
First Time in 25 Years Arsenal v United Has No Title Ramifications

by Roy Dalley.

Roy Keane’s dog will be well advised to steer clear when his master settles in front of the telly on Saturday night. Listen carefully and you might well hear the growls as Welbeck accepts manhugs, handslaps, best wishes and perhaps even a kiss on the cheek from his old Manchester United team-mates before the late kick-off at Arsenal.

It wasn’t always this lovey-dovey in the tunnel before and after this particular fixture, as Keane would bluntly testify. Once upon a time it was the prelude to Premier League titles, FA fines and suspensions, effing and blinding, pushing and shoving and the odd toss the pizza competition.

Vieira gets down with Roy Keane.

Vieira gets down with Roy Keane.

Last month was the 10th anniversary of a game so fondly recalled it has been awarded not one but two sobriquets: Pizzagate and Battle of the Buffet. It’s not just supporters who are still going on about it, the protagonists from both sides are also queuing up to reminisce to the media.

There’s now little doubt Fabregas was responsible for adding a few more autumnal colours to Sir Alex Ferguson’s features when a food fight broke out in the tunnel at Old Trafford. The flying pizza was the highlight in the aftermath of a defeat that brought to an end Arsenal’s unbeaten record of 49 matches (that, of course, had encompassed the entire previous season).

Wenger also ended up with egg on his face, at least metaphorically speaking, when he was fined £15,000 for calling Van Nistelrooy a cheat, and Reyes soon trooped back to Spain calling it the toughest game he’s ever known.

What makes the event even more remarkable is the fact Keane wasn’t even at Old Trafford that afternoon. He was nursing a stomach injury that was only compounded when news came through, as he recalled in his book: “I was gutted I missed the game, and all the fighting that went on in the tunnel afterwards.”

Quite.

Now though the rivalry means something very different; little more than a side note concerning who will make up the numbers in the Champions League places for next season. Indeed it’s now more a Battle of the Bluffers; Arsenal’s Wenger has already put on his best Gallic shrug and conceded the title, while United’s van Gaal wore a poker face while bravely insisting they can still overcome Chelsea at the top of the League.

To be fair to the Deluded Dutchman he made that declaration before last week’s international break, during which De Gea, Carrick and Blind all added their names to United’s injury list. Certainly Welbeck will greet his former colleagues with a huge smile, feeling very confident of extending his goalscoring run of form for new club and country.

He could also lend more weight to the thought United seriously blundered when they allowed the blossoming England striker to take his talents to Arsenal at the end of the last transfer window.

“Not at the required level,” was van Gaal’s cold assessment.

Words that could reverberate if United return to Manchester on Saturday night 16 points behind Chelsea…

@RoyDalley

 

Every Ass Loves to Hear Himself Bray Except…
Tony Adams Makes His Arsenal Debut

by Richard DJJ Bowdery.

Opposition fans tried to unsettle him during matches with braying noises – probably inspired by a Daily Mirror article – yet he refused to be put off his stride.

They called him a lowly donkey but, at nearly 19 hands, he was a thoroughbred at the heart of Arsenal’s defence.

But his career also contained deep troughs that almost destroyed him. Yet, just like his battling performances on the pitch, he fought his way back from the brink of alcoholic addiction.

Today he is considered one of the greatest players to have graced English football, for both club and country.

Two of his managers even used Greek mythology and academic references to describe his talent. George Graham said he was “my colossus.” Whilst Arsène Wenger described him as a “professor of defence.”

To cap it all, in 2011 a statue of this Gooner hero was unveiled in front of the Emirates Stadium.

But this was in the future for 17 year-old Tony Alexander Adams, who made his debut for Arsenal in a 2-1 defeat at home to Sunderland on 5 November 1983.

From this inauspicious start Adams grew too dominate the Arsenal back four; a defensive unit that included Steve Bould, his partner at centre-back, alongside full-backs Lee Dixon and Nigel Winterburn. How Wenger must long for a similar partnership in today’s Arsenal eleven.

Then aged 21 Adams was handed the club captaincy which he held to his retirement.

His captaincy coincided with perhaps the most dramatic end of season game in living memory.

In May 1989, Arsenal travelled to Anfield needing to win by two clear goals to snatch the title from under the nose of their hosts. Their second goal, scored by Thomas in the dying minutes of the game, saw them achieve what many said was impossible and crowned League champions.

AdamsDouble

Adams celebrates winning the double with Arsenal

Almost as memorable was Adams goal and celebration after he had raced from the back to bury the ball in the Everton net on 3 May 1998; capping Arsenal’s first League championship under the new management of Frenchman ‘Professor’ Arsene Wenger.

But these were just two highlights in a career that included 10 major trophies spread over 19 years (14 as captain), and 669 appearances.

Adams made his international debut against Spain in 1987, making him the first player to represent England who was born after the 1966 World Cup win.

He represented England at World Cup tournaments and European Championships as well, by the time Euro 96 came round he was the country’s captain.

In all Adams appeared 66 times for England. But for injury, he could have won significantly more caps.

AdamsEng

Adams was a natural leader for club and country

Since retiring as a professional footballer in the summer of 2002 – his last league game in Arsenal colours was against Everton at Highbury in May of that year – he tried his hand at coaching: firstly at Wycombe Wanderers, then Feyenoord, Portsmouth, and Gabala FC in the Azerbaijan Premier League.

But perhaps his greatest contribution to the world of football and beyond was his Sporting Chance Clinic, a charitable foundation he set-up in 2000.

Based in Hampshire, the clinic provides support, counselling and treatment for sports people with a drink, drug or gambling addiction.

Adams own battle with the ‘demon booze’ was the catalyst behind the organisation which, over the last fourteen years, has helped many others battling their own demons.

During his playing days, his style of play was often associated with that of the legendary Bobby Moore. Sadly, like Morro he was never invited to use his knowledge and experience to better the game.

But then again he doesn’t need to bray about his achievements. Just like Bobby Moore, he can simply show people his trophy cabinet. Nuff said!

@RichardBowdery

Chelsea v Arsenal Preview
PLUS: Fantastic Four – Classic Encounters From The Past

Wenger Has Done Well to Reach the 18th, But Will Arsenal Miss The Cut Yet Again..?

by Karl Hofer.

Chelsea  v  Arsenal, Stamford Bridge, Sunday October 5th  2014 – Live on Sky Sports, kickoff: 2.05pm

As Autumn sets in and Arsene Wenger celebrates his 18th year at the helm of Arsenal we’re all set for the first real test of the Gunners mettle in terms of challenging for the title this season. Wenger’s team was still in the mix at the top of the table before totally unraveling in a six-nil hammering at Stamford Bridge back in March. The question now must be: how far have they come since then..?

Whilst Chelsea seem to have addressed the weak points of their game from last season by bringing in a serious goal-scoring threat in Diego Costa and a midfielder who can unlock doors in former Gooner Cesc Fabregas, questions remain over Arsenal’s soft centre in defence and midfield.

In the summer Arsenal brought in former Barca play-maker Alexis Sanchez at great expense to add to a pool of creative talent that includes Ozil, Wilshere and Cazorla to name but three.  They did add young defender Calum Chambers, also at great expense, but bid farewell to Barca-bound Thomas Vermaelen, thereby swapping experience for potential.

No doubt they are both fine players, but you can’t help think that perhaps a pursuit of a defensive midfielder – like Real Madrid’s Sami Khedira for example – might have been a far more prudent way to spend the transfer kitty at the Emirates.

Wenger

Wenger has been celebrating more milestones than trophies of late

Remember; that humbling defeat back in March wasn’t the first time that Arsenal were overwhelmed by one of the big boys, similar things happened at the Etihad and at Anfield, and Arsenal’s inability to stem the tide was in evidence again in match week one of the Champions League when they escaped Dortmund with a rather flattering two-nil defeat that could have been a lot worse.

Wenger’s insistence on sending his full-backs deep into opposition territory with gay abandon, regardless of who they are playing and where they are playing, has bit him on his derrière too many times now. His persistence in doing so is not a case of him sticking to his footballing principles, it is downright pigheadedness and it is costing the team dearly.

Arsenals’ only recognised defensive midfielder is Mathieu Flamini who was brought back into the fold after being released on a free transfer by AC Milan and was recently caught napping in the North London derby for Tottenham’s opening goal.

He may not be the greatest protector of a back-four, but he’s essentially all Arsenal have for that role. That was proved beyond a shadow of doubt when Wenger chose to start Arteta instead of him last time out against Chelsea. Flamini was, somewhat inexplicably, keeping the bench warm whilst Nemanja Matic and David Luiz (in an all too rare outing in midfield) totally dominated proceedings. Chelsea’s midfield effectively tore Arsenal a new one in Wenger’s 1,000 game in charge, winning the game in the first 17 minutes as the Blues roared into a 3-0 lead with Matic in particular looking imperious.

It will be interesting to see how Wenger approaches the game on the back of that heavy defeat. Flamini must surely be in the starting line up this time but he cannot protect Arsenal’s defence all on his own, it will need to be a collective effort if they are to stand a chance of taking anything from the game.

It is well documented that Wenger has yet to taste success against Mourinho in any of their past encounters and it’s hard to see that changing this weekend as his side still look ill equipped to handle the more physical teams and Chelsea in particular.

Mourinho’s signing of Matic looks more and more like the soundest bit of business of the last 12 months. He is exactly the player Arsenal and United so desperately need, yet they both went for big name attackers like Sanchez and Di Maria instead – and whilst they have probably sold thousands more shirts as a result it is Mourinho and Chelsea who look best placed to cash-in in the hunt for silverware.

It’s not as if Wenger doesn’t know the value of having a powerful midfielder in his ranks, the first half of his Arsenal career was notable for the midfield presence of Patrick Vieira and Emmanuel Petit –  both key components of ‘The Invincibles’. Surely it’s no coincidence that the first 9 years of Wenger’s time at Arsenal brought unheralded success, whilst the last 9 years have yielded only a solitary FA Cup triumph.

Will it signal the autumn of Wenger’s tenure at the Emirates if Arsenal fail to be competitive in yet another key fixture..? Perhaps, certainly an increasing number of supporters are voicing their discontent with his seemingly stubborn ways and another one-sided defeat will add fuel to those flames.

Wenger can go a long way towards appeasing those doubters if he can demonstrate an ability to learn from past mistakes and put together a game plan that brings Arsenal something from this derby.

One piece of good news for Wenger is that Chelsea’s perennial tormentor of all things Arsenal, Didier Drogba, will miss out through injury. However, in Diego Costa the Blues have a striker who is capable of giving Arsenal’s defenders a whole new set of nightmares with the kind of physical play that’s been their undoing in the past.

Selected Odds

CHELSEA  4/6   DRAW   14/5   ARSENAL   4/1

First Goalscorer: Costa 10/3, Hazard 6/1, Fabregas 7/1, Welbeck 15/2, Sanchez 8/1

Correct Score: Che 1-0 Ars: 13/2, Che 6-0 Ars: 150/1, Che 1-1 Ars: 7/1, Che 1-2 Ars: 14/1

BOBBY’S BET OF THE DAY: Reverse Wincast – Welbeck to score anytime & Chelsea to win at 11/1

odds courtesy of William Hill.

 

FANTASTIC FOUR – CLASSIC CHELSEA v ARSENAL PAST ENCOUNTERS

Arsenal 2-4 Chelsea – March 1964

There was turmoil at The Bridge when Tommy Docherty took charge of Chelsea after Ted Drake was dismissed following a series of mid-table finishes and a woeful start to the 61-62 campaign, but he was unable to turn things around and at the end of the season Chelsea were relegated. But they bounced straight back with a side built around Peter Bonetti, Ron Harris, Terry Venables, and their young captain Bobby Tambling.

Their first season back with the big guns was magnificent for such a young team – the standout result being a 4-2 win at Highbury.

The Arsenal team was built around the attacking talents of George Eastham, Joe Baker and George Armstrong, and they still held faint hopes of maintaining a title challenge. But they were found wanting as Bobby Tambling scored all four Chelsea goals on a mudbath, capitalising on three mistakes by Ian Ure, the other a delightful lob.

Chelsea finished in fifth, three places ahead of Arsenal. Docherty’s side were anointed as one of the teams of the decade and went on to capture the League Cup a year later. Arsenal on the other hand descended into a dark period under Billy Wright, not only losing their way but also their white sleeves in the process.

Highbury1964

Bobby Tambling scored all four for Chelsea at a very muddy Highbury

 

Arsenal 5-2 Chelsea – April 1979

stapleton

Stapleton netted twice to help relegate the Blues

Both teams began the 70’s in fine style; Arsenal won the league and Cup Double in 1971, only to drift. Chelsea followed up their 1970 FA Cup win with the Cup Winners’ Cup a year later – and then decided to expand Stamford Bridge with a massive East Stand. Up went the stand, and down went Chelsea.

One of their stars of the 1960s Eddie McCreadie led Chelsea back up with a team built around Ray Wilkins. Boardroom unrest meant McCreadie was replaced by another star of the previous decade, Ken Shellito, before Danny Blanchflower was tasked with keeping the Blues in the top flight.

But in 1978-79, Chelsea won only five league games all season, the knockout blow being landed with a spectacular flourish by Arsenal. David O’Leary, Frank Stapleton (2), Alan Sunderland and David Price sent Chelsea down – with the west Londoners’ only relief coming from terrace favourites Clive Walker and Tommy Langley.

 

Chelsea 2-1 Arsenal – February 1991

KDixon

Dixon scored the winner

Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal went unbeaten in their title triumph of 2003/04 of course. But that achievement could have been old news had Chelsea not beaten George Graham’s Gunners in February of 1991, 23 years earlier, which proved to be their only league defeat of the season as they clinched the title by seven points.

In a tight match, Chelsea seized control in the second half thanks to Graham Stuart’s header into an almost unguarded net after Winterburn’s mistake, and late on the Arsenal defence was in tatters as Kerry Dixon tapped in after being set up by Damien Matthew to send The Shed into raptures.

Alan Smith’s smart finish pulled one back, but it came so late the away fans could barely muster a cheer. Invincibility would have to wait…

 

Chelsea 2-3 Arsenal – October 1999

Nwankwo Kanu is a curious character, the embodiment of unfulfilled possibilities some would say. Despite his frustrating, languid style and unspectacular goal scoring record he is a cult figure to Arsenal fans everywhere – thanks largely to this game.

Chelsea seemed to have the game all sewn up shortly after half time when Dan Petrescu added to Tore Andre Flo’s 39th minute strike. But Arsenal’s lanky Nigerian striker had other ideas, scoring an exquisite 15 minute hat-trick. His first two goals were all about his control and delicate touch, but it’s his 90th-minute winner that will really live long in the memory.

It looked like the chance had gone after he’d chased down Albert Ferrer’s stray clearance, but dribbling past a stranded Ed de Goey, Kanu whipped the ball over an array of Chelsea defenders into the far top corner from an impossible angle, sending Sky Sports commentator Martin Tyler into a fits, screeching the famous line: “Can you believe it?!”

KanuHT

@KGHof

A Safe Pair of Hands
The player who quick-stepped his way to the top of English football

by Richard DJJ Bowdery.

SeamanBrumIt is alleged that this footballer entered the world hands first. If it had been feet first he might have become a better dancer. As it was he became one of English football’s great goalkeepers. Just ask ex-Liverpool stopper David James who was kept out of the England side by this man.

On 5 October 1984 a 21 year old David Andrew Seaman began his meteoric rise from the lower reaches of league football to the very pinnacle of the game.

By the time he hung up his gloves he had played 564 times for Arsenal and won 75 full England caps. He is also credited with keeping a record 130 clean sheets in the Premier League. Not bad for the boy born in Rotherham on 19 September 1963.

However, his start in the top flight didn’t meet with everyone’s approval. More of that later…

Seaman started his football career with Leeds as an apprentice. Though he never made an appearance for the Yorkshire club, fourth division Peterborough saw something in the young keeper and took him to their London Road ground where he stayed for just over two years.

His spell at Posh brought him to the attention of a number of clubs playing higher up the Football League and on 5 October he was sold to second division Birmingham City.

SeamanQPRCity were a club desperate to reclaim their First Division berth and in young Seaman they saw a keeper who could help them realize that ambition.

With Seaman in the side they were promoted at the end of the 84/85 season.

The next stop on his travels was west London club Queens Park Rangers where he stayed for four years.

Then in 1990 Arsenal came calling.

At the time John Lukic was between the sticks but George Graham had other plans. He is reported as saying: “I still think John Lukic is one of the top three keepers in the country. I just think David Seaman is the best.”

The Gooners took a lot more convincing. On hearing that their idol in goal could be replaced they would chant “We all agree… Lukic is better than Seaman!” during games.

Seaman soon won them over and proved George Graham right when he signed for the Gunners for £1.3m, then a record fee for a goalkeeper.

arsenal-david-seaman-1-proset-1991-1992-football-trading-card-20425-pOn the England front he went from hero to zero in the space of six years.

During Euro 96 his penalty saves against Scotland and Spain – cometh the hour cometh the man – helped propel England to the semi-finals where they lost to the other ‘auld enemy, Germany. Seaman was a hero to every English fan.

Fast forward to the 2002 World Cup finals where Seaman’s blunder, when he was caught out by a Ronaldinho free kick from 40 odd yards, left England exiting the tournament at the hands of Brazil.

There is a defining incident in many player’s careers and for Seaman, this was his.

But that one bizarre moment shouldn’t overshadow his tremendous contribution to English football, though it did see him leave Arsenal on a free for Manchester City a year later.

He finally hung up his gloves in January 2004 after a career spanning over 1,000 games for club and country. And he can be justly proud of all that he achieved.

One question still remains. Did a BBC producer on Strictly Come Dancing recall Seaman being left flat-footed against Brazil and think ‘Aha, another contestant’?

 

@richardbowdery
richardbowdery@live.com

 

Arsenal v Spurs Preview
PLUS: Three Classic North London Derby Matches Remembered

Arsenal  v  Tottenham Hotspur, Premier League, Saturday September 27th, 5.30pm

Pochettino faces a tactical test against Arsene Wenger.

Pochettino faces a tactical test against Arsene Wenger.

by Karl Hofer.

It may be early days, but Spurs are going to have to roll their sleeves up and halt a run of derby-day disappointments if they want to divert their season away from an inexorable slide.

Arsenal overcame their bitter rivals on both occasions in the league last season, winning 1-0 both times to condemn former managers Andre Villa-Boas and Tim Sherwood to a loss each in the most important match on their fixture list.

A win would catapult Spurs ahead of Wenger’s men, but ominously the last time they claimed the spoils at Arsenal was in 2010 when they came from behind to win 3-2, which was their first away-day victory in the North London derby in 17 years.

For his part Pochettino is playing down the importance of the game to the Lillywhites season, saying: “We are in a good way. When I arrived here, I knew the situation – I knew that maybe there would be some ups and downs at the start of a new period. It’s always different when you arrive at a new club with different players and you need time to get to know each other. I’m not worrying about the situation. I believe at the moment we need to have more points to reflect the table. It’s the beginning of the season, it’s not how we start it’s how we finish.”

That may be true, but if Spurs were able to upset the odds it could prove to be the catalyst to their season.

To do so they will surely have to draw Arsenal on to them and counter behind their advanced full-backs, the way Dortmund did so effectively in the Champions League last week, proving that last years flaws still remain for Arsene Wenger and Arsenal.

But inviting players like former Barcelona star Alexis Sanchez and the inspired Jack Wilshere to attack you has its obvious dangers, and the Spurs defence will need to perform better than it has thus far if they are to have a sporting chance.

Pochettino won’t be too worried about the club’s recent record on derby day, he’ll be keen to make some history all of his own. However the Argentine will hope his charges have learnt valuable lessons from what must have been a morale-sapping defeat to bottom of the table West Brom on Sunday, whilst confidence must be high with the Gunners after impressively sweeping aside what was a high-flying Aston Villa side 0-3.

 

SELECTED ODDS

ARSENAL:  3/4   DRAW:  27/10   TOTTENHAM:  10/3

Half-Time/Full-Time;

Draw/Arsenal: 7/2   Tottenham/Draw: 13/1   Arsenal/Draw: 13/1

Correct Score;

Arsenal 1-0 Tottenham: 7/1,  Arsenal 2-1 Tottenham: 7/1,  Arsenal 3-0 Tottenham: 14/1

Arsenal 0-0 Tottenham: 10/1, Arsenal 1-1 Tottenham: 13/2, Arsenal 2-2 Tottenham: 12/1

Arsenal 0-1 Tottenham: 14/1, Arsenal 1-2 Tottenham: 14/1, Arsenal 2-3 Tottenham: 35/1

First Goalscorer;

Sanchez  5/1,  Welbeck  5/1, Ramsey  6/1, Adebayor  13/2, Eriksen  10/1, Lamela  11/1

BOBBY’S BET OF THE DAY: Arsenal to come from behind to win: 8/1

(Odds courtesy of PaddyPower)

 

FROM THE ARCHIVES…

Few derbies deliver the goods like the North London derby has a tendency to do. Over the years we’ve had some classic, high-scoring affairs with breath-taking goals aplenty.

Here BOBBY has searched back through the archives to deliver you three of the best;

Tottenham 3-1 Arsenal, FA Cup Semi-Final, April 14th 1991

The first FA Cup semi-final played at Wembley is one never to be forgotten by Spurs fans. In a season fraught with poor league form on the pitch and financial difficulties off it, Tottenham managed to turn the form book on its head to record a famous victory in the derby.

Paul Gascoigne had single handily dragged Spurs through the competition with some virtuoso performances and it was fitting that he should open the scoring with a scintillating free-kick; the finest in the history of the FA Cup according to boss Terry Venables (you can see it below).

Tottenham had saved their best form for the FA Cup that year and this match against the eventual league champions was no different. A mixture of slack defending and poor goalkeeping led to Gary Lineker scoring Spurs’ other two goals either side of an Alan Smith header for the Gunners, as Spurs denied their rivals the double.

Spurs went on to lift the Cup, although Gascoigne’s second famous kick of the competition, at Forest’s Gary Charles, landed the England star on a stretcher and denied him the opportunity of climbing the Wembley steps.

 

Tottenham 1-2 Arsenal, League Cup semi-final replay, March 4th 1987

It took 270 minutes of League Cup semi-final football before, against the odds, Arsenal emerged triumphant in a season when Spurs – third in the league and beaten by Coventry in the FA Cup final – came quite close to winning everything but actually won nothing.

Tottenham won the first leg at Highbury 1-0 and looked Wembley bound when they led the second leg by the same scoreline at the half – when, as legend has it, ticket details for the final were announced to home fans. But two goals in 15 minutes from Viv Anderson and Niall Quinn brought the scores level on aggregate and, with extra time unable to separate the sides and no provision for a penalty shootout, the tie went to a replay three days later.

The venue for the third encounter was decided on a toss of a coin, and that was almost a draw, too: Spurs manager David Pleat said that when the coin fell to the ground it got stuck, almost upright, in the mud, but the referee adjudged it was leaning Spurs’ way so the decider would be at White Hart Lane.

Clive Allen put Spurs a goal up for the third successive game, but the game turned after the introduction of unlikely hero Ian Allinson for the adored but injured Charlie Nicholas. In the 82nd minute Allinson struck a shot that zipped through the legs of Richard Gough and past Ray Clemence to level things, and then in stoppage-time another Allinson shot deflected into the path of David Rocastle, who promptly swept Arsenal into the final to the jubilation of the away end. Uniquely, Arsenal beat Spurs three times at White Hart Lane that season.

Allinson’s gallant intervention was repaid in strange style by George Graham; he wasn’t in the squad for the victory over Liverpool in the final and in fact never started another game for Arsenal before being released at the end of the season.

rocastle_tottenham_1987

Rocastle sends Arsenal through to Wembley

Arsenal 4-4 Tottenham, Division One, 15th October 1963

 67,857 crammed into Highbury stadium for the derby in 1963, filling it to capacity – and they weren’t to be disappointed.

An incredible first half saw Jimmy Greaves open the scoring as Spurs stormed into a 4-2 lead at the interval with further goals from Bobby Smith (2) and Dave Mackay – George Eastham twice pulling the Gunners within two in response.

With only five minutes remaining Tottenham still held the two goal lead acquired in the first half but Arsenal pulled one back on 85 through Joe Baker and then equalised with a Geoff Strong header from a corner with only twenty seconds of injury time remaining. For the third time in five years the North London derby had ended 4-4.

In the end the point was sufficient to take Tottenham to the top of the First Division, but after that finish it was Arsenal who felt like the victors on the night.

Soccer - League Division One - Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur - Highbury

Jimmy Greaves walks away after helping to tend to a fan who fainted before kick-off at the Arsenal v Tottenham match at Highbury in 1963.

 @KGHof