Category Archives: JW Diaries

JW Diaries: A long trip to Baku takes its toll

It seems a lifetime ago that we had to overcome another inept refereeing performance against a confident Watford team who were resolute and outplayed us for large spells; a couple of inspired substitutions saw us win late on 2-0.

It’s good to see our triple training sessions paying off.

After another Sunday off due to a reoccurring cold, late Tuesday I checked in to Heathrow terminal 4 for an overnight flight to Baku, Azerbaijan.

Meeting fellow Gooners at the airport pub, around 35 of us were on the 5 1/2 hour flight which saw us land around 6.30am.

After dropping bags at the hotel, we completed the sightseeing before a liquid lunch and checking in at 1pm.

Following a couple of hours sleep, we hit a local bar at Fountain Square followed by a fantastic Azerbaijan meal with wine that came to about £20 a head!

After another bar, I left early at 10pm to catch up on my sleep, only to be woken at 6am by my room mate crashing home worse for wear.

Matchday saw us at The Red Lion along with 50% of the English gooner contingent, then moving on to a bar near the stadium well before kick-off.

I thought we played well with the team we put out and deserved our win. We were let straight out after the match, celebrating our win until gone 4am.

On the Friday we were all planning on doing a sightseeing trip which I ended up blowing out! I spent most of the day in my room only venturing out for a brief walk and some food.

By 8pm I was back in the pub with around 20 other Gooners where once again we took over the bar as well as the laptop playing the music we wanted until the very early hours of Saturday – I was reliably informed that I got in at 6am!

As we had an evening flight, we met up once again at the usual bar until they got us taxis to the airport. The good thing about going to the same place is that we convinced the owner that if we get to the Final, this will be an Arsenal fans only bar.

If we do get to the Europa League Final, Baku is the perfect location for it.

Arriving home at 11pm, I was up at 6.30am for a trip to Fulham which, due to being tired, I was extremely close to blowing out. I’m so glad I didn’t; a wonderful 2nd half performance with well worked goals made up for my fatigue.

After I went straight home and for the first time in recent memory no alcohol passed my lips on a first team match day.

With the international break yet again upon us, there will no senior matches to be had during the week. There will be a few youth team games to fill my time, but with Lisbon only a few weeks away, I’m certainly glad of the rest.

Jw

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5 hours from Blackburn all for a 0-0

Following the legends match at the Emirates where I was part of the prawn sandwich brigade, next match was an U21 match away to Coventry City in the Checkatrade Trophy.

This was a good test as it was against Coventry’s first team. We won 3-0 with over 200 Gooners in attendance made it a satisfying evening.

Next stop was a trip to St James’s Park, Newcastle; always a decent place to watch football with the city centre stadium with walking distance of plenty of pubs. For a reason that still makes no sense to me, we were booked on the 6:12am train from Kings Cross meaning that my alarm was set for 3:30am!

What with my other half being away on Saturday night and 10 hours of drinking, this trip was only going one way and it did……

The match was uninspiring but a 2-1 win, but it meant that for the first time in an age, we won two away on the bounce!

Following a heavy head on Sunday, Monday saw me venturing up to Blackburn for an U23 match. There was a bad accident on the M6 which meant diversions and missing the first 13 minutes. On the way home, I counted 18 different sets of road works, therefore arriving home over 5 hours after our departure; the match itself finished 0-0, not a great day all round!

The only thing I took back with me from Blackburn was a stinking cold which was to stop me going to a few youth & academy matches.

Following this seasons Europa League debut with a easy win against Ukrainian side Vorsla Poltava, I saw our U23s thrash Liverpool 4-0 at Borehamwood.

Next up was a 2-0 home win against Everton where the highlight was keeping our first clean sheet of the season followed by a home Carabao Cup versus Brentford, a team we’ve not played in a competitive match since the 1940’s which we won 3-1.

Next up is the last match of a run of 4 home matches against Watford followed by a trip to Baku, Azerbaijan. Lots of sun and cheap alcohol, what could possibly go wrong?

JW

JW Diaries: Booking the Europeans Tour

Outside of games being played, for me the most exciting football related events are the early draws of any cup competitions we are in.

Last week we had two in as many days. Leading up to these, I start to take an interest in the previous round matches for possible opponents.

As I’ve seen an Arsenal team play at 81 of the current 92 grounds, studying the winners of the 2nd Round meant that Oxford United was the only away ground which was new to me.

Whilst I’ve seen our Women’s, Reserve and Youth teams play at Brentford, believe it or not, I’m not old enough to have seen the first team play there! Sadly it was a home draw as I’d like to have visited Griffin Park before it closes down. At least it’s a home draw against lower league opposition.

Fridays Europa League draw was everything Thursday’s wasn’t; a new country to visit, Two new cities & Three new grounds.

After the draw, my priority was to book the Lisbon trip first as I know this was the one the masses will go to. After waiting over 3 hours after the draw, I managed to get hold of the fixtures about 45 minutes before Arsenal published them and therefore got a decent deal.

By the time I booked the Azerbaijan flight, I was running late to get to the Emirates to watch our U23 match against our Middlesex/Buckinghamshire nomadic rivals.

The match itself was a 2-1 Win, we should have won 6 or 7 nil but poor finishing and decent goalkeeping kept it at 2-0 including a missed penalty, before they scored a consolation goal in the final seconds.

They had a segregated section and sold about half of their 500 ticket allocation, their scummy fans proved yet again why they are hated by most of Southern England and many teams in the North;  singing a vile song  about celebrating Sol Campbell once he has departed, sums up those horrible w**kers.

Saturday saw a trip to Chelsea’s Cobham Training Ground which resulted in the U18s losing our first match of the season 3-1. It was good to see Per Mertesacker watching his U16 team play who also lost.

After a Two drive back to North London, with my other half out, I spent most of my time in front of a computer looking at hotels and flights for the Europa League.

I was up at 5:30am on Sunday for the trip to South Wales, once showered I looked on social media to be told that my 08:30 train was cancelled!

After contacting my crowd, we decided that rather that catch the 09:33 train which would be packed, we would get an 8am train to Bristol. To cut a long story short after waiting at Reading for over an hour, we joined the 09:33 at Swindon, arriving in Cardiff after a 4 hour journey just before midday.

We still managed a couple of pints in the City Centre, then off to the match.

I sit in the West Stand Upper Tier at the Emirates which is great for getting an overview of formations but I cannot see either ‘bench’ therefore at away matches I tend to often glance at our bench to see what is going on.

A couple of things I did notice was that Unai Emery had a proper ‘in your face’ go at Warnock following one of many vicious assaults on our players and also following the 3 substitutions, two of our substituted players went down the line giving a ‘high five’ to all the players and staff, whilst one slumped into his seat and sulked, no prizes for which player I’m referring to!

Despite the opponents tactics and inept refereeing, the result was a fair one, our midfield and forwards played well together, whilst the defence still has lots of work needed.

Back in the pub, it’s always satisfying when your team win whatever the performance, then we had the icing on the cake watching a fine Watford win.

As it’s International week, there’s no football to be had, I will be at the Emirates on Saturday for the Legends match against Real Madrid, there’s still tickets available for what promises to be a great day out.

JW