With five PL goals in his last six games and 13 in total now, Alexander Lacazette is on fire! Laca is at the moment third best in terms of minutes between goals in the league (just behind Kane and Salah), and if he continues like this he may well be the most productive finisher at the end of the season. What is obvious is that Laca likes to both battle physically with his opponents and tire them out with his runs and movement. He is much more the wolf type than Auba who is more of a pouncing puma type (and there is nothing wrong with that either). Alex loves playing with his young fellow wolves, Saka, ESR, Ode, Martinelli, etc, and scare the living daylights out of their opponents. Laca, the steppenwolf, is reborn!
He must be a menace to play against and of all our attackers it is Laca who seems to have the best papers to still be in the team next season. Laca gets fouled only less than Saka of all Arsenal players and he is also very efficient with just 1.6 shots per game on average, which makes him joined third with Pepe (Auba has 2.0 and Saka has 2.2). Alex picks his moments more carefully, it seems, but when he is ready to pull the trigger there is a good chance he will score. This is the most remarkable thing of all, as Laca works his socks off constantly and should often be too tired to pull the trigger properly; yet when he does he is incredibly successful, especially in recent weeks.
Of course scoring goals is not the only thing to look at, even though we are desperate for them at the moment. Laca’s assist count is surprisingly low with just two in the PL, but this goes for all our attackers. The only exception is the much maligned Willian who has produced five assists (Auba and Pepe have one each, Ceballos has three and ESR has four). It remains a mystery why there has been so little cohesion between our main attackers, with no clear, outstanding assist-maker in the whole team.
Our attack has been weak with just 43 PL goals in 31 games (1.4 goals per game): eight teams have scored more than us and seven teams have already scored 50 or more goals. However, from Christmas till now Arsenal have scored 31 goals in 17 games which is a much more palatable average of 1.8 PL goals per game (multiply that by 31 and we would also be well above 50 PL goals now: 55 – the very poor start of the season is still costing us now).
So there is real progress and that is just what we should be focusing on: Arteta’s revolution is taking shape right under our eyes. There is so much more potential in our attack, though. It is just inconceivable that we had so few goals from the likes of Auba (9), Willian(0) and Pepe(5) this season; surely at some point they too will start adding goals left, right and centre?! If they do so we really will end very strongly this season and I have a feeling this is about to happen.
Arsenal’s attack is a monster that is desperately struggling to find it’s perfect shape and modus operandi. It looks like Laca has decided to force himself to the fore of this team and as such has become the monster-attacker we all knew he had in him (and sorry for ever doubting you Master Alex)!
Well that was a lot more fun to watch and the boys did us proud.
Eight initial observations from a much needed win:
Arteta surprised us all by leaving both fit full backs on the bench and playing Chambers and Xhaka instead. Both did very well and added a lot of physicality to our defence. With Partey in front of them our defence looked solid all game long. Xhaka had quite a fluid role and as always gave structure to our play with some fine passes and good positioning, even when played in an unfamiliar position.
Ceballos played in a sort of ‘ESR role’ and this suits him much better. Whilst a liability on the ball in front of our defence, played behind and around our attackers the Spaniard is much more effective. His assist for Laca’s opener was perfect and he played well between the lines all game long.
Saka, Laca, Pepe and Martinelli were a four-legged mobile monster that made life impossible for the blades: so much movement and clever passing from all of them. All wanted to play football tonight and once the selfishness of a few had been shaken off the team started to purr, resulting in that fabulous first team goal, finished by Laca. It was obvious that Partey loved playing in this formation and with these sort of players: movement, movement, movement is everything.
Martinelli had a great first game which he crowned with a well deserved goal. It was good to see him back and enjoy himself on the pitch with the other lads. Saka clearly loves to play with him and the young Brazilian is actually a similar type to Laca in terms of attacking style. Pepe is the least comfortable with the ball in tight spaces of all our attackers but he made the all important second goal. He often frustrates me but the longer Pepe is on the pitch the better he gets, as long as there are plenty of good passers and movers around him.
There were some top highlights in this game. I already mentioned the quality first goal involving a number of Arsenal players, and then there was Partey’s slick move in midfield in which in a fraction of a second he switched himself from facing our goal to facing the Blades’ one and then picking the pass of the night for Laca. The ball was so good that Laca could just pick his corner and whip it in brilliantly for our third goal. What a goal!
Mari and Holding had not much to do in defence but what they had to do they did with coolness. Mari especially put some nice balls over the top, and both tried to join the attack whenever they could. Chambers managed to get to the byline a few times and whipped a couple of fine crosses into the box, and we could all see he was enjoying himself.
Laca was of course the MOTM with his two fine goals and general attacking play – that is 50 PL goals for him now! But Saka, The Silk, also played very well in his free role behind the attackers. They both added an extra quality and dimension to our football tonight, and we have to hope that Bukayo is available again on Thursday.
I know that SU are not a good team and that we should have won this game possibly with even more goals, but let’s be honest: how many of us had expected such a strong, confident and fun performance tonight? Arteta mixed it up a bit whilst resting the likes of Bellerin, Soares, Big Gab, Ode, ESR and Auba. With the good, confident performances tonight, Arteta will feel he has a wider squad to pick his first eleven from for the Slavia Prague game on Thursday. So a very successful evening all round.
Our game v Sheffield United falls in the middle of the two Europa League legs and I have not got much of a clue what team Arteta will select and how much priority he will give to it. We need a win of course as we can still finish strongly in the league with a good run from today till the last game of the season, but with a number of key injuries and injury-doubts it may be hard to achieve it, even against the lowly Blades. However, as Eris said yesterday, psychology is important too and we need to get back to winning ways.
The big challenge for Arteta is to put up a team today that is not just good on paper but actually gels well and gets the job done. We need intensity, high tempo and yet calm at the back. Easier said than done. Our biggest problem is getting the attack to work as a unit, as is reflected in the poor tally of goals Arsenal have scored in the league (although improving recently). The chemistry between the very talented bunch of Auba, Laca, Pepe and Willian is very poor; for some reason they just do not work together. With Martin and Emile being injury doubts, I would imagine that at least three of these experienced players will start today. We will need a bit of youthful zest and hunger, and hopefully Saka can bring this. But maybe we need more and is this the time for Arteta to start Martinelli… or even Azeez. Freshen things up a bit with the aim to keep a number of players fresh and on their toes for Thursday’s return game against Slavia Prague.
Anyway, I don’t think there is much more to say about our game tonight, so here is the preferred lineup:
I think we need to spare one of our full backs, so Chambers should start. Partey needs a break and we need him to be fresh and focussed on Thursday, so a start for Elneny (who is much better when started in a game rather than being thrown in at the end) would seem right. Martinelli has been chomping at the bit for a while so should start and yes I would play Azeez in the hole today. Laca loves working with these sort of players but I am happy for Auba to be started as CF instead: either will do. After sixty minutes the likes of Auba and Pepe can come on to finish the game off for us. All to play for – COYRRGs!
Ooh that late goal against us was a kick in the proverbial, and it is once again all doom and gloom in Arsenaldom. The fact that this is a game of two legs does not seem to count any more. We are obviously doomed and should not even turn up for the away leg. All home teams in the Europa League failed to win last night. In fact, the other three lost their matches, so maybe a draw ain’t too bad after all?!
We were tentative but well organised in this game and were able to create a number of half-decent and good chances. The boys hit the woodwork a few times and on another night would have scored a few in the first half and it would all have been a different experience. The beating by Pool was still in the minds and legs of the Gunners and it showed. The boys were weary of the way Slavia Prague had somehow managed to dispose of Leicester and Glasgow Rangers and therefore showed the opposition a bit too much respect.
Yet I liked the way we created opportunities and put pressure on them when they played the ball out from the back. I also liked how Holding and Gabriel tried to put some balls over the top. It was poor initially but they got better as the game went on. It was great the way Auba connected with Pepe for the goal and I also liked the way ESR disposed of his rust as the game went on to finish really strongly. Then there was Saka who was so influential and competitive but just missed a bit of composure with his final ball; something to be expected from a 19 year old who has been out of it for a while.
I saw a focussed and keen Arsenal team throughout most of the game. The final ten minutes were a disappointment and we paid for the lack of professionalism at the entire back. It would be easy to hang one or two players out to dry, but for me it was every player at the back and midfield that should get the blame. I think they can do much better as indeed they have done during the season at times, but right now confidence and automatism between the players are not high/great. I can think of a number of causes but the only way to deal with this is through practice and getting it right again during matches. We are now at the business end of the season so we have to hope that Arteta and the boys will get it right asap.
I would have really liked it if Arsenal had kept a clean sheet but all is not lost. In fact, it may turn out to be the best thing that happened to us. Think back about the last round. The Spuds took a 2-0 home game to Zagreb but then managed to still get eliminated. The psychology of having to defend a cushy lead is not easy to grasp or indeed to prepare for. I could see Arsenal struggling with this too: do we attack or do we sit back, and if we do the former how committed will we be?! A team can struggle with such a proposition and I reckon we don’t have the leadership in the team right now to maturely see out a second leg on that premise.
The 1-1 means that we have to score at least once; that we need to win or draw 2-2 or higher. The mission is clear: play football and play to win. We have a better team than them, so much is clear from the first leg. This is no time for throwing in the towel but for standing up and getting behind the team. In six days time we will see a much better and determined Arsenal, that I will promise you. All to play for. COYGs!
Slavia Prague: the next opponent on our road to the 2nd EL final in 3 years
Arsenal’s bid to reach a second UEFA Europa League final in three seasons continues against a Slavia Praha side who have already eliminated two other British clubs on their way to the quarter-finals. Czech opponents are rare to come by in the later stage of European competitions, but this is far from the first time to visit Prague. In fact, we have played against clubs from the Czech Republic – all in the beautiful capital city of Prague – but mostly (6 games) against their local rival Sparta Praha. We met Slavia Prague once already (literally 2 games in the Champions League in 2007/2008) and we have nice memories from the first game… but let’s not go there so quickly. This post is not primarily about Arsenal, but our next EL opponent, Slavia.
Slavia is one of the most renowned and successful clubs in the history of the Czech Republic. It is located in Prague, and has been playing in the Czech top tier. They are a big-time sports club there as they have decorated teams in hockey, basketball and rugby as well under the same name: Slavia Prague.
Their closest rival and arch nemesis is AC Sparta Praha – the most successful club in the local history – but they were crowned Czech champions last time in 2010, while Slavia came up first 3 times in the last 4 years. So the supporters of our current opponent believe that the trend is about to turn maybe in this very decade.
While Sparta Praha was named in the fond memory of the bravery and fighting spirit of the ancient Greek polis Sparta, Slavia Prague focused the recollection to the people inhabiting the region from 1500 years (Slavs have been populating almost entire Central-Estern Europe – apart from Hungary – for a long time: from Ukraine to Slovenia, from Poland to Bulgaria, from Slovakia to Russia, from Macedonia to the Czech Republic). The club was named SK Slavia Praha in 1893 – 1 year after its founding – and been called different versions of this name except for the 1949-1965 period.
The club’s colours, red and white, were chosen as standing for the heart/blood and sportsmanship (fair play) respectively. Therefore the team plays its home games in a red and white jersey – another red & white team after Benfica and Olympiacos, and hopefully one more in the Gdansk final: Ajax. There is a tilted red star in the logo as well, it represents the traditions and history of club and country as well as new hope, forever strengthening the mind and uplifting the spirit.
Stadium and legends
Slavia plays its home games in their own stadium called Eden Aréna which was renovated between 2006 and 2008. While the supporters still informally refer to the place as Eden (the reference to the garden of eden is applicable in the Czech language too) the stadium has undergone a few name changes in the last decade, eventually called to Sinobo Stadium when CITIC Group, a Chinese – state owned (!) – real estate company saved the club from bankruptcy and became majority shareholders.
The stadium was refurbished for 1B koronas (~€30M) 15 years ago, therefore it is the biggest and most modern stadium in the Czech Republic. It has a capacity of 19.370 seats, and besides Slavia Prague occasionally acts as home venue for the Czech national team (In the 2011-2012 season FC Viktoria Plzen played their home games in the Champions League group stage).
The highest profile game played here was the UEFA Super Cup final in August, 2013 when CL winner Bayern Munich beat EL holder Chelsea on penalties (after 1:1 and 2:2 a.e.t). The Czech national team defeated England for the 2020/2021 UEFA Euro qualifying in October, 2019 – Kane’s 5th min penalty was responded by Brabec (9’) and Ondrášek (85’).
When thinking about the player who scored the most goals of their life people usually guess Romario, Puskás or C. Ronaldo, but that might not be accurate. Legendary Josef “Pepi” Bican was born in Vienna in 1913 and became one of the best football players of 20th century. He played for Slavia between 1937 and 1948 and after his spell in Vítkovice returned to red and white in 1953 for four more years. He scored 447 league goals. He is probably the football’s leading goalscorer of all time. It is said he scored close to 1,500 goals in total during his days, other sources claim above 1800 (yet he still is 2nd when all unofficial goals are accounted). http://www.rsssf.com/players/prolific.html
Another player worth mentioning is Pavel Kuka, icon of 1. FC Kaiserslautern and Slavia Prague. He was also a key player of the Czech national team winning a silver medal at the 1996 European Championship and coming third at the Confederation Cup a year after. He may have not reached such stardom as Bican or Poborsky (played a single year for Slavia), but his name Kuka – which incidentally is the Hungarian name of Dopey, the 7th dwarf – made him an instant favorite among Hungarian football lovers.
For fellow bloggers more knowledgeable in English football, Patrik Berger could be the notable mention as the cheeky attacking midfielder – between starting (4y) and ending (2y) his career at Slavia Prague – was German champion and cup winner with Borussia Dortmund, but is better known for his contributions (including his trademark long range rockets) to Liverpool’s domestic and European success when he was playing his trade there between 1996 and 2003. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3zxic_esVo
Slavia Prague are 13-times Czechoslovakian champions, and won the Czech competition (after the 2 countries have split in 1993) 6 times already, including last year. They won the cup 9 times (4+5).
In Europe Slavia was runner up in the summer of 1930 when Swiss champion Servette organized a major tournament of top European clubs from Spain, Italy, Netherlands, etc. that is considered the ancestor of the European Champions’ Cup (forefather of UEFA’s Champions League). It is unofficial though since 4 countries (Belgium, France, Romania and Yugoslavia) didn’t take part as they participated in the World Cup in Uruguay. The tournament was won by Hungarian club Újpest who scored 14 and conceded only 1 in the entire tournament. Slavia Prague won the Mitropa Cup – a Central-European mini Champions League in 1938 ahead of runner-up Ferencváros. This tournament was officially called the La Coupe de l’Europe Centrale, the first recurring major European football cup and was held between 1927 and 1992. Slavia was runner-up in 1929.
In the mainstream European football the biggest success of Slavia was reaching the semi-final of the UEFA Europa League in 1996 (losing against future runner-up Bourdeaux), and they reached the quarter final 3 times: in 2000 they lost against Leeds, in 2019 they lost to future winner Chelsea and they are facing a huge challenge against us currently. J
In the Champions League Slavia Prague qualified to the group stage twice in their history. In the 2007-2008 season they came third – behind Arsenal and Sevilla – thus continued in the Europa League, and last year they were drawn in a hardcore group against FC Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund and Inter Milan, where they were eliminated (ended up last with 2 points), but their away draws at Barcelona and Milan are quite respectable performances.
This season Slavia started in the CL, but lost the play-off round against Danish champion Midtjylland. They were drawn to group C with Bayer Leverkusen, Hapoel Be’er Sheva and Nice (without Saliba) where they qualified for the knock-out stage by finishing 2nd in the group. They won all 3 home games and the away fixture in France.
In the first elimination round they met Leicester City whom they defeated in the second leg in the King Power Stadium after a 0:0 draw in Prague. Rangers had a similar fate, with the small adjustment of the 1:1 draw in the first leg, but they were also eliminated after a 0:2 home defeat. So basically after a strong home start in the group stage Slavia managed to overcome 2 strong UK teams by winning the 2nd leg away from home. The other notable difference is that they conceded 10 goals in the 6 games of the group phase, but only 1 in the 4 knock-out matches.
Slavia and Arsenal
Arsenal have played eight games against Czech opponents in Europe, winning seven, losing none, scoring 22 goals and conceding just two. The biggest win came against our current opponent Slavia in October, 2007, when Wenger’s men won by 7:0 thanks to braces from Fabregas, Hleb and Walcott (concluding a Bendtner wrap-up goal). Arsenal started the game in 4-4-2 with Almunia in goal, a Sagna-Toure-Gallas-Clichy defense, Eboue, Fabregas, Flamini and Hleb in midfield and Adebayor paired with Walcott in attack. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WhGq8lWqK-g Slavia general manager Stanislav Vlček played for the club in the 7-0 defeat at the Emirates.
The game in Prague ended 0:0, but our memories are rightfully fond. Yet we must respect the opponent. Not only for general sportsmanship reasons, but they have good footballers, even though star players (outgoing record transfer €20M) Tomáš Souček and Vladimír Coufal both joined Arsenal’s London rivals West Ham United from Slavia in 2020.
While Arsenal stands 10th in the PL with the form LDLWWD, Slavia Prague sits on top of the Czech championship with an excellent form of DWWWDW. Our opponent is a compact team with quality players (mostly on the wings and flanks), and they are full of confidence based on the domestic run and the impressive EL history this season, but they have limited experience in playing against teams of Arsenal’s caliber. Currently, both teams prioritize the Europa League; Arsenal because it’s the only way to play in Europe next season (and in the Champions League!), and Slavia because they have a massive 14 points advantage ahead of city rival Sparta Praha, having played only 2 games more. Even if Sparta wins both games in hand the remaining 8-point advantage should be more than comfortable with 9 matches remaining from the season.
Failing to score in their last game (vs Olympiakos), Arsenal ended an impressive record of scoring in 25 consecutive European matches. Hopefully we’ll get back to finding the net on Thursday.
Current players and predicted line-up
Not only Arsenal is injury-ridden, but Slavia Prague lost its star goalkeeper Ondrej Kolar 2 weeks ago (sinus fracture), as well as experienced (and gigantic) center back Simon Deli to coronavirus. Nevertheless they are strong on the wings, 19-year-old Abdallah Sima (already playing for the national team of Senegal) and Nigerian Peter Olayinka will put pressure on our full-backs. Their midfield is also quite capable, but due to injuries and inexperience I expect our boys to score a few goals as 20-year-old David Zima would be the most senior player in the Czech central defence (out of 5 CBs 3 are injured and 1 is ineligible in the EL).
Nevertheless their attacking 4-5 is quite dangerous (age, primary position and season goal contributions in brackets): Jan Kuctha (24, ST, 22), Abdallah Sima (19, LW, 25), €4M incoming record transfer Nicolae Stanciu (27, AM, 19), Lukas Provod (24, LW, 14) and Peter Olayinka (25, RW, 16) are not to be taken lightly.
I predict Slavia starting in 4-1-4-1 formation, with a possible line-up:
TA will provide the predicted Arsenal line-up below, but let me sign off with an interesting fact – and a possibility to screw one of our London rivals:
A maximum of five PL teams are eligible for the Champions League. If a Premier League club (Liverpool) wins the Champions League while another (Arsenal) wins the Europa League and neither finish in top 4 in the PL, the club lying fourth in the table (Chelsea/Spurs) will drop into Europa League.
What a roller-coaster season we are witnessing. One week we are full of hope and the next one we are down in the dumps again. I am blessed to have so many level-headed readers on BK and this keeps me going. Looking at some of the other blogs and social media just gives me the shivers and makes me want to support my team on my own; is it a reaction to the C19 crisis or are Arsenal supporters the same spoiled prats as anywhere else? 😦
Luckily, this is not needed because of the fine blogging community established here over the last nine years. I welcome honest opinion and we really do not have to agree all; something that happens seldom here anyway. But the ability to look at the bigger picture and the ‘primal’ desire to be supportive of the team and manager are vital for healthy, positive blogging. So thank you all for doing this on here.
There is nothing else to say about our dire loss v Pool than that we were pants. Arteta and his boys did not do the shirt proud. I think there are mitigating factors at play, though. The first game after an international period is always a bit of a gamble. Fitness is hard to assess and there is little time to prepare for a game with the first team. The same goes of course for Pool but they are a much more established team than we are; Arsenal, on the other hand, are in transition under Arteta and this was once again obvious on Saturday.
Then there were a number of key, unexpected injuries before and during the game that set us back. An established team can deal with this better I think, but realising quite late into proceedings that both Xhaka and Luiz will not be available was a big blow for the team and our style of play. Both are the key passers from ‘out of the back for us’, and Granit is vital for setting out Arteta’s game strategy. He was really missed. Holding did relatively well imo, but the lack of a protective wall in front of the defence was obvious. Pool had nothing to fear in midfield as Partey was left too isolated and is still looking for form and fitness anyway.
Furthermore, Arteta knew he had to do without two of his strongest ball passers, ESR and Saka; but to then also miss out on Luiz and Xhaka was a big blow. Auba and Pepe are players who do not really fit into Arteta-ball but one of them can normally be accommodated, somehow. They have individual qualities that can make a difference, but ideal for what Mikel wants to do they are not. And then came the injury to KT and all at once our left side missed two important players for such a difficult game, and it simply was too much.
On paper it still looked like a good team but a) Pool are a good team and played well on the night and b) the 11 that started just struggled to play the way Arteta had planned for. Still, I would have liked to have seen more fight from a number of players and I am sure Arteta really was not happy with them. This is also part of a transitional season. The summer will see a lot of goings and some quality comings.
For me, any judgement of the season just has to wait till all games have been played. We had a bad spell before Christmas and just a couple of wins back then would have us close to the European footie places now. I still feel we will get a good run together and end up about 3-5 places higher than where we are now. There is also good hope that we can progress to the next round in the Europa League.
Arteta is juggling between his ideal style/vision of football and the players he has at his disposal. We have a good squad but not all can play the sort of football Arteta has promised the BoD he will bring to Arsenal, that much is clear to all of us. And then, a few too many injuries do really set us back still. So let’s hope for quick recoveries of our key players and a consistent run of good form and games. All to play for. COYGs.
So we are finally above water again and a mouthwatering Saturday evening game v Liverpool is awaiting us.
It is very hard to just live for the ‘football day’ but we should really forget about our position in the table, whether Odegaard will sign a long contract or not, whether Aguero will join us and all that sort of ‘future’ stuff; it is all about enjoying the journey itself and it is always good to play Liverpool and try and beat them. I will put one of my favourite Pirsig quotes up again: “To live only for some future goal is shallow. It’s the sides of the mountain which sustain life, not the top. Here’s where things grow.” Arteta is presenting us with lots of shoots of green and I am loving this season.
We know that Klopp’s boys have been running around like a wounded puma trying to find its appetite and bite again, lately. The Teeth has a formidable team and we have to be very wary of them. At one point they will find their form again and somebody will get it in the neck badly. Let’s hope it will not be us. We know they like to dominate the game and press high but they are missing NvD badly, not only for his defensive capabilities but also for his tempo setting/ leadership qualities. Every good team has a player who makes it play to a certain tune, and Van Dijk is that for Pool. The much misunderstood/valued Xhaka is that for us, and the bad news is that he was unwell on Friday and may be missing today. Granit has played a couple of games with the Swiss national team and looked already knackered before the international break, so it would not surprise me if Arteta simply has to rest him tonight. That would be a blow.
Now a fully fit Partey and Elneny partnership could fill the void but it is always hard to tell how any player will perform after having been away on international duty for almost two weeks. It looks like Pool will lose Wijnaldum at the end of the season and I must say he has been playing well below par in the last few months for club and country. It looks like he will be going to Barcelona for free but I would not mind him at Arsenal at all. Not going to happen though. However, I think if we keep the Pool midfield quiet – and Wijnaldum should be our main focus for silencing – we can do some great damage to them tonight through our counter-attacks and turnovers.
Tierney was awesome for Scotland and our other ‘rising’ full back, Soares, seems to also have played well during the interlull. I am looking forward to our battle of the wing-backs with Pool, which is just as important as the one in central midfield. Both Saka and ESR will be assessed today and I doubt they will play much if at all. So on the wings I expect both Auba and Pepe to play. If they are prepared to put the work in, they should really benefit from the space that Pool will give us behind their high press. I have started to doubt whether Laca and Auba should start in the same team again but tonight it would make sense to play AubaCazette. Auba is simply best when launched into space and a high press is ideal for him. Klopp knows this of course and will be wary but changing his style of play he will not: look at those fake, brilliant teeth, this is one determined man!
Luiz is out and so Arteta needs to decide who to play next to Big Gab. It really is time to give Holdingho another chance. So here is my predicted (and preferred) line-up for tonight:
Let’s start off with a picture of one of our most Famous teams.
Arsenal’s first double in 1970/71 was a triumph for collective efficiency and steely resolution. At one point in the league they were seven points behind Leeds United and of all places to go the Gunners had to travel to White Hart Lane, for the final game of the season on Monday May 3rd, 1971. They knew that they needed either a win or to secure a scoreless draw to bring the title back to Highbury for the first time since 1953. A score draw would not do as Leeds United was waiting hoping for an Arsenal slip-up.
51,192 fans managed to squeeze into White Hart Lane (The Cockerel Coop) with thousands of fans outside hoping to get in – (GN5 included, but sadly to no avail). Spurs were desperate to deny Arsenal the bragging rights in North London. It was a difficult situation to be in for the Gunners as oddly enough if they scored, they still couldn’t dare concede for as I mentioned above, a score draw would have shattered Arsenal’s dreams. A Spurs goal at any stage was most unwelcome.
Tottenham goalkeeper Pat Jennings was in splendid form and made many fine saves throughout as Arsenal tried to break the deadlock. In the end, Arsenal was the team to break that deadlock. In the 88th minute, Ray Kennedy headed in a George Armstrong cross via the underside of the bar.
The goal only meant Tottenham increased their pressure further in hopes of preventing Arsenal winning the title. A Tottenham goal would have been enough for Leeds to win the title, but there was very limited time for them to do it in.
In the end Arsenal prevailed. Bob Wilson prevented any Spurs equaliser from happening and Arsenal sealed the first half of the Double by winning the league in front of Tottenham supporters at White Hart Lane, much to the delight of our ecstatic fans.
One of GN5’s program’s from the Double season with some very famous autographs.
Next up was the FA Cup Final at Wembley on Saturday May 8th, 1971 – it turned out to be a classic encounter with Liverpool in front of a crowd of 100,000 raving supporters.
Arsenal had been drawn away in every round of the Cup and in the semi-final were 2-0 down to Stoke City, before equalising with a very controversial last minute penalty.
This forced a replay at Villa Park four days later, a game Arsenal won 2-0 with goals from George Graham and Ray Kennedy.
Now to the small matter of the most important game in our history – The FA Cup Final
a victory over Liverpool would give us our 1st League and Cup double.
Due to the clash of Liverpool’s red strip with Arsenal’s red and white colours, Arsenal wore their away strip of yellow shirt and blue shorts
Arsenal won 2–1 after extra time, with all three goals coming in the added half hour. Steve Heighway opened the scoring for Liverpool with a low drive past Bob Wilson on his near post. However, Arsenal equalised with a scrambled goal from substitute Eddie Kelly – the first time a substitute had ever scored in an FA Cup final. The goal was initially credited to George Graham, but replays showed that the decisive touch came from Kelly after Graham had struck the shot. Charlie George then scored a dramatic winner late in extra time, when his long range effort flew past Ray Clemence. This prompted George into a famous celebration – lying on his back on the Wembley turf waiting for his team mates to pick him up.
The match was played in a great spirit of sportsmanship by the players and was responded to as such by the fans. When Liverpool’s Lawler was floored with cramp late in extra time, he was helped to recover by two Arsenal players. Arsenal’s victory – and double win after a gruelling 64-match season – was greeted with an ovation by both their own and Liverpool’s fans at the stadium, and Liverpool were also cheered by both sets of fans as they took a lap of honour after the presentation of the trophy and medals.
This picture is reprinted from Gunner N5’s original copy of the Evening Standard.
Finally some more details of the Double winning team.
I did a few commercial bids in my life and one of the typical questions that would be thrown at me at some point was: if the client were to join you unexpectedly in a lift to the top floor and asks ‘why should I pick you?’ What would you say? You have little time to make an impression and this is your only chance before they make a decision….
This is no moment for verbosity; your response needs to fit in a perfect nutshell.
Now just imagine that C19 does not exist; you have entered the lift of the Shard building in London on your own, and just as the doors are closing Mikel Arteta enters. He sees you wearing your favourite Arsenal shirt and is in a jovial mood. He gets close and looks you in the eyes. He says what language would you like me to speak cause I can speak all. You say English is fine with me compadre, whilst getting a bit hot under The Shirt. Okay he says: tell me what you think. I am about to meet the BoD and they want to know answers to three questions on which they will act immediately:
Which one player should we buy for the team, budget is £50m (excluding salary costs)?
Which youngster should we give a five year contract and give at least 20 PL starts next season?
Which two players should we sell to re-coop £25-30m?
And for all three questions… tell me why? You have thirty seconds….
The year is 1930 three years after the pain of losing the 1927 FA Cup Final to Cardiff, Herbert Chapman took Arsenal back to Wembley to make amends, and bring the Club its first major trophy. Ironically the opposition were Huddersfield Town, the club Chapman left to join Arsenal in 1925. He had guided Huddersfield to two league titles in the 1920s and the Yorkshire side bore all the hallmarks of Chapman’s tactical innovations, lining up in a W-M formation with wing-halves and inside-forwards. Arsenal did likewise but, with Chapman now at their helm, they did it better.
The 1930 Cup Final was the first time before a major game that the two teams came out side by side in honour of Arsenal manager Herbert Chapman having managed both clubs. Arsenal came into the game following a 6-6 draw at Leicester City, just five days prior, the highest score draw in English top-flight history, however four goal hero Dave Halliday was omitted from the Cup Final squad.
Tom Wilson led Huddersfield Town onto the pitch while Tom Parker led out Arsenal. The former knew all about winning trophies; the latter Captained a side which had never tasted glory and had survived numerous close shaves en-route to the Final. In the commentary box, that day for only the fifth live radio broadcast was the future Arsenal manager George Allison.
King George V was introduced to the players in front of a crowd of 92,486 at Wembley after recovering from illness. The two clubs were meeting for the first time in a FA Cup Final and they produced a match of high and absorbing quality, observed by the silver Graf Zepplein. The deafening roar from its engines disconcerted both players and spectators. The giant aircraft, at 775 ft. in length, was a symbol of a rising Germany, it dipped its nose in salute to King George V as it passed by.
Arsenal won their first major trophy with a goal in each half; the first was created and scored by Alex James, the second was a product of a long run by Jack Lambert. Huddersfield Town, on the day, were worthy opponents but it transpired that their day had passed and they have never since won another major trophy. But 1930, and more specifically April 26, was when Arsenal began their transformation from also-rans to the richest and most successful club in the World. When Chapman arrived at Highbury in 1925 he said it would take him five years to build a winning team. He was as good as his word.
It is also interesting to note that the two sides dined together after the match, an innovation from Herbert Chapman that never took hold. Given the enmity between modern protaganists, such bonhomie might be well absent in the modern game.
The victorious Arsenal team consisted of Charlie Preedy, Tom Parker, Eddie Hapgood, Alf Baker, Bill Seddon, Bob John, Joe Hulme, David Jack, Jack Lambert, Alex James and Cliff Bastin.
In this picture (see top) the Arsenal team, looking rather dapper, are posing at Wembley after winning the Cup. Herbert Chapman is on the far left, David Jack (who had joined Arsenal from Bolton Wanderers for a record 10,890 pounds – but that’s another story) has his hands in his light-coloured plus fours; Captain Jack Lambert is holding the FA Cup and Alex James is on the far right, Arsenal’s Bill Seddon, who died in January 1993 at the age of 91, was the last surviving player who appeared in the Final;.
Now for a real BLAST from the PAST the game report from 1930.