By Tony Attwood
Encouraging win against Manchester City in the final friendly, terrible game for the opener against a bent or incompetent referee, and then a good win away in Europe. What does that say about Arsenal?
Whatever you want, of course. If we lose we can be rubbish, if we win we can be lucky or against weak opposition. Indeed I even saw one comment that suggested that the referee against us in the Villa game could not have been bent since he did not send our keeper off at the time of the Villa penalty.
Here’s the thing: a referee who is bent (and I retain the view that he was either bent or incompetent – all we can say is one or the other) is persuaded only to make one team win. He doesn’t need to rub it in by making it more and more obvious (and thus risk being caught). (Although with this ref we could argue that he was both bent and incompetent since he did make it all too obvious).
The non-sending off could be bent-ness – he had done enough – or incompetence (if you argue that Wojciech Szczęsny should have been sent off) – or both.
But that is also the problem with individual games – or early combinations of games.
If you read the Anniversary notes that most days appear on the top of the home page of this blog you will know that on this day (22 August) we have early parts of the season anniversaries of note among all the normal first and last game commemorations:
- 22 August 1970: Arsenal 4 Manchester United 0. The third game of the season and the start of the Double in earnest.
- 22 August 2009: After beating Everton away 6-1 Arsenal defeat Portsmouth 4-1
What do they tell us? Not too much as in 2009 we lost the next two games letting in six, while in 1970 we went on to win the double.
The 1971 Double is also particularly interesting because of the talk about the thinness of the squad at the moment.
We opened the 1970/1 season with Charlie George getting seriously injured in the first game and not playing again until 6 February. His replacement, Marinello, lasted three matches (two as sub). Then upped stepped Ray Kennedy for his first complete season.
In fact we used 16 players that season, of whom one made one start and one made two. Effectively the Double was won by a 14 man squad.
But to step back a couple of paces, I wrote “the start of the double in earnest” and it is worth noting that in that season the first two games were draws: 2-2 at Everton, 0-0 at West Ham.
But let’s go back not quite so far. The 2009 campaign. The 6-1 defeat of Everton has been covered (as are all things historical to do with Arsenal) on the Arsenal History Society site. We’ve looked at it too on this site.
Anyway, just to make my point, I thought I would transfer to Untold an article that would normally have appeared on the history site. What we are doing there from time to time is running the original commentaries written by our chum in South Africa Gf60 who has kindly let me have copies of all his notes over recent years.
I’ve already published his articles from the first game of the 2009 season (the 6-1 away win to Everton), but here are his comments on the qualifying round match away to Celtic, and then, on this day in 2009, the following league match.
Celtic vs Arsenal Euro Qualifying round 0-2
Many Jock papers are saying “Lucky Arsenal”. Quite where the facts that Celtic were well outplayed and had to resort to questionable tactics particularly on Cesc, went to in these reports is debatable. Maybe Gooners succeeding where sides such as Barcelona and MFU had failed led to a touch of home town news. At least Mowbray and Caldwell in post match interviews recognised a gulf in class.
The stats count :
Goals 2-0. Shots 9-2. Yellows 1-3. Fouls 9-16 really says it all. Lucky goals admittedly but what the stats don’t tell you is how well the defence covered, harried and tackled. Inevitably whenever Celtic had possession there were at least two gooners closing down…and that’s something we haven’t seen for many years. Vermaelen really does look a class act and Alex Song, again, seems to have captured some of Paddy Vieira’s talents. He also was immense. But to my mind Cesc was the MOM. For someone who was supposedly 50/50 to play, he was outstanding and controlled the game. The lumps and bumps he received though suggest that a rest on Saturday may well be in order. AA still seems a bit undercooked but just as I thought he was coming into the game more, he was substituted. “For Diaby?” was the immediate comment, whereupon the paradox that is Diaby twisted, turned and humiliated a couple of Celts before releasing Clichy whose cross resulted in our second.
So far, 8 goals scored, only one from a forward. Time for the sights to be adjusted lads starting against Pompey.
Arsenal vs Portsmouth 4-1
A useless but pleasing bit of information. This is the first time in Arsenal’s history that we’ve scored 10 goals in our first two league games AND won both of them. There was just one occasion when we scored more… 1934-5: a 3-3 draw and an 8-1 win, but a win and a draw don’t equal this current performance. Do I need to add that 1934-5 was a championship year?
Another “blue moon rising” bit of information…Diaby was my MOM. Seemingly impossible but true. Did he really not misplace more than 2 passes and never got caught in possession? And score twice? Maybe I’m just suffering from wine flu and hallucinating. We rather overdid the Merlot last night.
Or I could be suffering from whine flu. What Manuel Fawlty was thinking of when Pompey pulled that goal back and made what should have already been 5-0 into 2-1 is anyone’s guess. In fairness I very much doubt that we’ll see a player ‘hovering’ as high and as well as Kaboul managed this season. But it did get Pompey back into the game.
Indeed if Billy G wasn’t in a ‘fall into a cess pit and come up smelling of roses’ mode at the moment, not only could it have been 2-2 but we could have been down to ten men. Steve Bennett has definitely mellowed…but I still can’t work out how he didn’t give Bill an early bath. Adding insult to Pompey’s injury was Billy’s subsequent goal. After his bummer on Tuesday it was a definite improvement. It takes definite skill to volley the ball onto your head and into the net.
Overall, it was not much of a game. Hopefully Cesc’s injury is not serious and Song was merely rested. Young Gibbs looked very ring rusty and our defence was just a tad too Emmentaler for my liking. Maybe we just took our foot off the accelerator because it was all too easy…8 or 9 looked up for grabs, 4 was what we should have had inside 20 minutes.
The defence/midfield currently lead the forwards by 11 goals to 1. Wish I could say that any of the forwards looked particularly dangerous today. Indeed RvP, bar the beautiful pass to Ramsey for our fourth goal, was as much use as…. Methinks that we’d be far better off if he went right and Nick/Eduardo went into the middle. If it works for Holland, why not us?
And the Eboue did good…esp his first time cross to Diaby for his second.
And what does that all tell us? Not much, except that starts to the season rarely mean much. After all Herbert Chapman lost his first match at Arsenal.
22 August anniversaries; Season starts don’t tell us anything
- 22 August 1925: The second pre-season match of Chapman’s reign before 13,269 .
- 22 August 1953. Gerry Ward becomes youngest ever Arsenal player in the League.
- 22 August 1953: Dennis Evans first league game.
- 22 August 1959: Mel Charles first league match
- 22 August 1970: Arsenal 4 Manchester United 0. The start of the Double in earnest.
- 22 August 1978: League début for Paul Barron
- 22 August 1987: Charlie Nicholas played final game
- 22 August 2004: Arsenal beat Middlesbrough 5-3, one of four games scoring 5+ that season.