2009 – 10
A slight improvement on last season as we finished 3rd and qualified for the Champions League without having to go through the qualifying round. We improved by 3 points on the season previous where we finished with 72., we also scored many more goals, it went up from 68 to 83. Disappointingly though we lost a total of 9 times, the season before it was only 6 times. 4 of these losses came before November and against 3 of the teams who would be fighting for the top 4 and title, United, City and Chelsea. The loss against City was when Adebayor ran the length of the field to celebrate in front of our fans, he also raked his studs down Robin Van Persie’s face during the game.
Transfer wise for the season we resigned Sol Campbell in January and Thomas Vermaelen came in from Ajax. He made an instant impression away at Everton in our first game and was the best player on the field. We won 6-1 and I was thrown out of the ground after we went 1-0 up. We had arrived in Liverpool early and been drinking all morning. I was slightly worse for wear and got picked out for singing at the Everton fans, was thrown out and went to watch the rest of the game down the road in an Everton pub. The weird thing was some Everton fans had left the game early because we were winning so easily and they recognised me as the guy who got thrown out earlier on!
They were fine though, I got talking to a scouse guy at the bar, he happened to be a Liverpool fan and enjoyed the result just as much as me I think!
We sold Adebayor and Kolo Toure to Man City for a combined £41million, the infamous Bischoff left on a free along with a couple of other youngsters leaving as well. A total of 18 youngsters went out on loan, it was the height of our “youth experiment” and we had so many kids who had been at the club for so long but were never going to be good enough. One of them was a certain Jack Wilshere who went to Bolton for the season, we also saw Szczesny go to Brentford for the season but apart from these two, there were no other players of note and in fact all but one of them have left the club.
Picking up from those losses to United and City then, we went on an unbeaten 7 game run, drawing once and after 11 games, had scored a total of 36 goals which included results 6-2 against Blackburn and the 6-1 I mentioned above against Everton. We then lost 2 in a row against Sunderland away and Chelsea at home. This put us down to 4th and we were fighting to stay there for the rest of the season.
We didn’t lose again until the end of January when we played United at home and lost 3-1, the week after we went to Chelsea and lost 2-0. Our results against the other top teams in the league had taken a turn for the worse and suddenly we couldn’t pick up a point against the teams we were meant to be fighting with for the top positions.
We won only once in our last 5 games against Fulham, losing 3 times including against Spurs at WHL and drew once against City at home.
It wasn’t a good league season once again and once again we seemed to go backwards with results against the top clubs being the most disappointing.
Would the cups be our saving grace for silverware? Well sadly no, they wouldn’t. Stoke put us out of the FA Cup in the 4th round when we played them at The Brittania stadium. The kids were put out against Man City in the 5th round of the Carling Cup in Manchester after we beat WBA and Liverpool in the early rounds.
In the Champions league we again got through our group stage and finished top. Teams in our group were Olympiakos, Standard Liege and AZ Alkmaar. We were drawn against Porto in the next round and comfortably beat them 5-0 at home to make the aggregate 6-2 and saw us through. We were then drawn against Barcelona who many around Europe were talking about as being one of the best ever sides produced for the way they played football and everything they were winning. It was being billed as a clash of the two teams who played football and I remember looking forward to seeing such a good game between two sides who wanted to get the ball down and play football. How we survived the first half of the first leg I will never quite understand, they absolutely battered us but we went in at 0-0. Within seconds of the restart they went ahead and then scored again with both goals being scored by Ibrahimovic. We got one back through Theo and Cesc won a penalty after being fouled by Puyol which saw him sent off. Cesc took the penalty himself and made an injury in his leg worse by hitting the ball so hard, he actually broke his leg!
The second leg away in the Nou Camp was a bit different. We went 1-0 up through Nick Bendtner would you believe it! We then witnessed a Messi masterclass with him scoring 4 to see them comfortably through. Being out there in the Nou Camp and witness that Messi performance was something else. I was happy to go 1-0 up but ultimately you have to put your hands up and say we went out to a better side.
Season 5 and still nothing won then. Some of the highest ticket prices in Europe and we didn’t seem to be advancing or improving. We were selling players who really we should have been keeping and building on to make a better side. It was frustrating also as we didn’t know what the situation was with money. Did we have any to spend and buy new players? Did we need to sell these players to break even? We will never know the full story but I for one believe that we did not have enough money to go out and spend loads on big name top players. We were shopping at the end of the market and needed to sell to be able to buy. The Emirates had clearly put us back financially but the move from Highbury was sold to fans as putting us among the elite of Europe and giving us money to compete finally. I think fans wanted this immediately but there were always going to be tough seasons where we wouldn’t be able to spend a lot of money. It was clear Wengers experiment with youth was not working and so we couldn’t see how it was going to improve. What would next season bring?
Cheers for reading