Recap: After 3 defeats in the opening 3 games and 0 goals scored, Arsenal’s 2021/22 season could not have got off to a worse start. Zac continues to follow the team up and down the country in the hope his team gets back on track.
Episode 2 – Back on Track
After the nadir of City, Norwich feels like a defining game. Win, and we might be back on track. Lose, and we might be in the mud.
The Coronet is the choice of pre-match destination this time. Cheap off-brand Jägers do a great job at easing any nerves.
It’s a scrappy game, but Premier League debutants Takehiro Tomiyasu and Aaron Ramsdale are excellent, and the three points are in the bag.
We head south to Elephant & Castle and a night of chaos ensues at The Rockingham Arms.
Two Arsenal fans, a Chelsea fan from Rutland and a Liverpool fan from Bedfordshire allow shots to be fired from corner to corner. We all stumble home as Saturday night gives way to Sunday morning. That’s more like it.
Every North London Derby matters. This one feels like it could define the season’s momentum for the two clubs. The other, well they’ve made a good start, but they never win in Islington.
Unusually, I choose not to settle in a battler cruiser before the game, instead pacing up and down the Holloway Road and sitting outside the concourse with an old pal before the game to calm my nerves.
Losing against them is not an option.
I needn’t have worried. The Arsenal come roaring out of the blocks to go 3-0 up midway through the first half. Dominance has been asserted once again.
Although I head home a good two hours after the final whistle, the platform at Finsbury Park is bouncing. The carriages have a carnival atmosphere. North London, like it always has been and always will be is RED.
After the derby win, tickets for a Saturday trip to Brighton – actually Falmer – are rarer than the sight of a stocked trophy cabinet at White Hart Lane.
Miraculously, I manage to secure one after searching high and low whilst on holiday in Denmark.
The 11 o’clock train from London Bridge is rammed, full of booze, chants and camaraderie. It feels like The Arsenal have returned.
It’s bucketing it down as we exit Brighton station, but fierce rain on the south coast does nothing to dampen our spirits. Or our vocal chords. The Bright Hemp is heaving, full of Gooners in top voice.
Around 3pm or so, we all get escorted out for a mysterious reason that has yet to become clear. The rain is worse than earlier as we descend from Falmer Station towards the AMEX. It’s lashing it down.
The only thing worse than that rain? Arsenal’s performance. We were extremely fortunate to get away with a 0-0 draw.
A shoutout to Felix, who I met on the train down to Brighton. Absolute top Gooner who I’ve gone to share many games with since. Thank God I had a spare can of lager, otherwise you might have snubbed me!
Leeds (H) – Carabao
A half-day at work, at very short notice, is granted to me by my boss at the time.
The clocks are soon turning back so of course it’s bloody freezing again. Everyone in The Tollington is shuffling their feet like an excited group of penguins. It’s the only solution to this intense cold.
Leeds are loud, but poor on the pitch, and we duly sweep them aside by 3 goals to 1. Eddie does Eddie things by managing to chip Ilan Meslier before almost surrendering an open goal as he falls over his own feet.
We don’t do things easily at The Arsenal.
Not much happened before this one, aside from a few cans on the painstakingly slow SWR service to Vauxhall, as my boss forgot to reschedule a meeting.
We take an early lead through Alexandre Lacazette but let Palace back in by far too indecisive on and off the ball.
James McArthur somehow escapes a red card for a tackle on Bukayo Saka that would start an all-out brawl in an ice hockey arena. Palace lead 2-1, it looks like it’s over.
A Friday night kick-off is good fun, but only if you finish work early enough.
Dangerously close to missing kick-off after having to commute from home in suburbia, I resort to taking the train to Arsenal station for the first and only time this season. That’s when fans know they really have no time!
The journey is made all the more amusing by us laughing about Villa’s predicament under the soon to be sacked Dean Smith, which their fans overhear.
We expect some heated exchanges.
Only they join in, lamenting in only the way a match-going fan can about the ups and downs of the drug that is The Beautiful Game.
A 3-1 win, which The Arsenal dominate, ensures a happy start to the weekend. Jacob Ramsey deserves an honourable mention for scoring one of the finest consolation goals you will see. That was a cracker.
Watford (H) – ???
Newcastle (H) – Hangover and post-match rave in Hackney
Xmas trip to Chile