The Checkatrade Trophy has been good for the youth team as well as the fans, the game against Cheltenham Town meant that I have now seen Arsenal play at 83 of the 92 current grounds; the match ended with a 6-2 defeat with all to play for in the final Group Stage match.
The next day I saw us beat Blackpool 2-1 in the Carabao Cup, as the score line suggests, it was far from easy and then a 15-2 win for the U15s at Hale End followed by an unfortunate 5-4 defeat for the U23s against Chelsea at Boreham Wood.
Liverpool were next for the first team; a real test in the current unbeaten run, I thought we played well and was worthy of our point; I was pleased with the way we responded with a defeat looking ominous.
The New Lawn, the home of Forest Green Rovers was the setting for our final Group Stage match in the Checkatrade Trophy. It’s a totally ‘green’ stadium with vegetarian food for the pre match meal which I have to say was excellent. We needed to win the match to ensure our place in the knockout stages; the U21s never let us down with a throughly deserved 3-1 win!
Sporting was next with a boring 0-0 draw; which was arguably our worst performance of the season!
On the Friday there was a soft opening of a new bar in Holloway Road called ‘The Islington Sports Bar & Grill’ this is to become my new pre match drinking hole! Following a heavy evening, on the Saturday I somehow managed to make an 11am match at the training ground watching us dispatch Fulham U18s 4-0.
My 50th Arsenal match of the season came and went at Hale End with a 3-1 defeat against Norwich U14s. Following this, I made a mad dash home to drop the car off before the first pre match drinks at the new pub before watching a dull 1-1 draw against Wolves!
Two 3-2 defeats for our U16s & U18s, then it was a day out in Bournemouth. This started off badly with the first train out cancelled! We made it with ample time to spare with a couple of hours in our now regular pub. We played OK and just about deserved our 2-1 win.
Next up is a trip to deepest Ukraine…..
Manchester United (1) 2 Arsenal (1) 2
Old Trafford, Sir Matt Busby Way, Stretford, Manchester M16 0RA
Wednesday, 5th December 2018. Kick-off time: 8.00pm
(4-2-3-1) Leno: Bellerín, Mustafi, Holding, Sokratis; Torreira, Guendouzi; Ramsey, Kolašinac, Iwobi; Aubameyang.
Substitutes: Čech, Lichtsteiner, Maitland-Niles, Elneny, Mkhitaryan, Nketiah, Lacazette,
Scorers: Mustafi, Lacazette
Yellow Cards: Mustafi, Bellerín, Torreira
Referee: Andre Marriner
In the space of just three days, we play yet another of our rivals; this time we travel 200 miles up north to meet Manchester United, who despite not being as dominant in the Premiership as they have been in living memory, still remain a deadly opponent, especially when they are playing at Old Trafford. Tonight we will have to be on our guard and make sure that concentration and determination is the order of the day. After our glorious victory against Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday, our spirits will be high, expectations to succeed will reach the highest level. On with the show.
The hallmark of an on-form side is not how they attack, but how they soak up pressure; for the first quarter of an hour here in Stretford, we were certainly pushed into our own half consistently. Eventually, things change, and we managed to get our passing rhythms together and leave our mark on the match. After 25 minutes, Shkodran Mustafi managed to head the ball into the United goal downwards from a Lucas Torreira corner, which goalkeeper David De Gea struggled to hold. Ander Herreira kicked the ball out, but the whole of the ball was already over the line, so Andre Marriner gave the goal (thanks to goal-line technology). Our lead lasted just five minutes; a free-kick outside the 18-yard box was well saved by Bernd Leno, but unfortunately Ander Herrera was on hand to get the ball across for Anthony Martial to score through a collection of Arsenal players in the six-yard box to level matters up. Rob Holding was stretchered off with a nasty injury after 35 mintues and was replaced by Stephan Lichtsteiner, who was immediately called into action when United won a free-kick on the edge of the box. The rest of the half was quite scrappy, and both sides were pleased to hear the half-time whistle.
As we often do in the second half of our matches this season, Arsenal started with a distinct spring in their step. The defence was alert, the midfield keen to capitalise on every United mistake, however small. Our hearts were in our mouths when Lucas Torreira picked up a silly injury from an innocuous incident; fortunately he came back into the action fairly quickly. After Aaron Ramsey and Rob Holding leaving the fray with injuries, we really didn’t need a third player to be injured. After a period of United pressure on our goal, we increased the tempo and the pace became frenetic. Mr. Emery’s last substitution of the night came after 64 minutes when Alex Iwobi made way for Alexandre Lacazette to give us more firepower up front. Bizarrely, we got a second goal after 68 minutes when a horrendous error by Marcis Rojo led to our second goal by Alexandre Lacazette; literally from the restart, a silly mistake by the injured Shkodran Mustafi led to Jesse Lingard grabbing the equaliiser! All in the space of a minute! We came back into the match immediately, with David De Gea making a couple of excellent point-blank saves to stop our strikers scoring the third goal of the night for us. The end of the match was particularly thrilling with both Alexandre Lacazette and Henrikh Mkhitaryan having goals cancelled out, but in the end it didn’t matter, as it finished all square in the end.
We were unlucky not to take all three points tonight, but overall we’ll take a point out of this match. The chaps did well despite some tough pressure from United, and we showed out mettle several times throughout the game. Going to Old Trafford in midweek and coming away with a point is no disgrace; but for the turn of an unfriendly card, we would have been talking about a famous victory here tonight. Remember the wise words of the great Herbert Chapman, all those years ago; “every team goes onto the field with a point and what we have we hold – we already have a point, why should we give it away?” We did okay tonight. Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as these early days are going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Victoria Concordia Crescit.
Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon.