The Arsenal and Me – Ian’s Story

It was always going to be Arsenal. My Mum was regular in the Clock End with my grandparents standing a bit further back. My first game was West Ham 4th April 1970 a birthday treat. I was seven and West Ham were the team of the moment with Peters, Moore and Hurst. I am ashamed to say I bought a West Ham rosette much to my Dad’s annoyance, it lasted till we went 2-1 up!

During my childhood visits to Highbury was limited to birthdays and special occasions but when I left school in 1979 Highbury was a regular destination. I headed straight for the North Bank always in the middle, we were there at least an hour before kicking off chanting the players names and enjoying ‘rip roaring’. It became my second home right though until the new stand was built. At one stage I lived close to Highbury, finishing a double shift at a local restaurant before biking to the ground.

I traded in my £56 Terrace season ticket (that was the annual cost!) for a Clock End Season ticket which I kept until my second son was born and I rarely could get the time to go along. My three sons followed in my footsteps and we enjoyed wonderful European nights and weekend games together. My proudest moment …. when my second son stood on his chair aged eight in the West Stand shouting ‘You fat B**stard’ at Ronaldo (the original one). I knew then my work was complete!

Three of us were there for the last game, we got in by the skin of our teeth in the very back row of the North Bank. I stayed to the end and had to be asked to leave … I knew then that it would never be the same. My sons come with me occasionally, League Cup games and European nights mostly, the thought of paying nearly £400 for four tickets to see an A category game means I am unlikely to share those heady derby days again with them.

My boys have all left home now and I have tried to go back, the last game was Napoli. It was a depressing experience, the stadium almost empty 10 minutes before kick-off, so called fans arriving long after the kick off with drinks and hot dogs, the incessant talking through the game with a mass exodus 5 minutes before half time and the end.

No longer are the names chanted… with the incessant music and the distance to the pitch they would never hear you anyway, and if they did, I am not sure many of this team would really care. When did playing Neil Diamond have anything to do with my club?

Maybe I am getting old! I still watch every game, but it is from my armchair rather than shouting to the rafters in the North Bank, despite the wonderful football delivered by Arsene, the last eight years of mediocrity only added to my view that it is time to move on.  I know it is heresy to say so but for me Arsenal have never been a ‘Big ‘club. We had the tradition and the ethos, we played the game well, occasionally we had periods of success, but we knew deep down it would not last. The current expectation of success seems to drain the enjoyment of the players.

I always walk back past Highbury after every game and wonder what if …………


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Vacuum of real Arsenal news filled by tedious transfer speculation

It feels like we are on the cusp of some positive news in the transfer market.

Speculation over the last few days that Arsenal are close to agreeing a deal with Yannick Carrasco has increased over the weekend. There has also been a lot of talk over Celtic left back Kieran Tierney and Sampdoria duo Joachim Anderson and Dennis Praet.

At the moment it is really hard to tell the difference between genuine links to players, and those which have just come journalists trying to make a name for themselves, or bloggers / clickbait websites that are interest in increasing traffic over reporting the truth.

I am writing this at 7:25 in the morning and already NewsNow there are 20 Arsenal related stories in the last 4 hours. 20 are about transfers. 13 different players are mentioned. 11 of the 20 stories come from the same 3 sources.

This is not a single blogger sitting there pumping up a lot of content for $1 per 1,000 hits. It is (alleged) news websites and mainstream newspapers. The likes of the Daily Express, Football.London and the The Sport Review.

Add in the attention seekers on Twitters – those accounts that pretend to be ITK, and those that spend all day copy and pasting NewsNow headlines onto their accounts and the Arsenal news sphere becomes a really crowded place.

It is perhaps best, therefore, to take a step away. Do not check NewsNow every morning, don’t follow those Twitter accounts. Instead read your daily blogs that provide decent content. The likes of Gunnerstown or ArseBlog. Follow journalists who only speak when something is actually happening, rather than deal in speculation. David Ornstein and Amy Lawrence. And do not jump on every rumour like it is real.

Things are happening at Arsenal and from tomorrow we can begin officially signing players from abroad.

Deals are being worked on, they will be completed in the coming weeks. But what those deals are, no one really knows outside of Unai Emery and Raul Sanllehi’s inner circle.

With the lack of real Arsenal news, the official club website has taken it upon itself to run a load of headline stories about the women’s game.

The ladies won the league last season and, with the women’s world cup currently on, it is some really good exposure for the game.

Finally, a reminder that season ticket renewals are due today.


5 Mesut Ozil replacements identified

Nabil Fekir

The talented Frenchman was close to joining Liverpool last summer, only for a deal to fall through at the eleventh hour due to a suspect knee issue. The failed medical came as a surprise to both Fekir and his club, Lyon

This season he has played 48 games for club and country. His knee might be a “ticking time bomb” and it just did not go off last season.

With 12 goals and 9 assists this season, he has backed up his 23 goals and 9 assists from 2018/19. A duel threat of being able to score and assist, he has to be top of the list as a Mesut Ozil replacement.

Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas has reportedly said that Fekir will leave this summer due to his contract expiring at the end of next season.

Only 25-years-old, Arsenal would have to match the five year contract worth around £140,000 a week that Liverpool had agreed last season.

Hakim Ziyech

With a reported £25million release clause, Hakim Ziyech has come to a lot of peoples attention following Ajax’s run to the Champions League semi-final.

With 19 goals and 16 assists last season, the Moroccan international is at his peak.

The concern is those goals and assists have come in a poor Dutch league.

Last season Brighton signed Alireza Jahanbakhsh, who arrived on the South coast with a similar reputation as Ziyech. Jahanbakhsh went from top scorer in the Eredivisie to not netting a single goal in the Premier League.

Donny van de Beek

Perhaps more exciting than Ziyech is his Ajax team mate Donny van de Beek. The Dutchman is 4 years his junior at 22 years old.

With 16 goals and 12 assists last season, he is perhaps more similar to aaron Ramsey or Frank Lampard than Mesut Ozil.

A lot of his goals have come from late runs into the box – something Arsenal miss when Ozil plays. If Unai Emery opts to play two up top next season, van de Beek could be the ideal man to play behind the front two, drifting into the space left by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette when they go out wide.

Alongside Nabir Fekir, van de Beek is probably my favourite.

Bruno Fernandes

24-year-old Bruno Fernandes has been linked with both Manchester United and Manchester City this summer as he attempts to engineer a move to the Premier League.

The Portuguese midfielder has been in sparkling form this season with 31 goals, in the process becoming the highest-scoring Portuguese midfielder in a single season of all time. He also contributed  14 assists.

Like van de Beek, he tends to play a little bit deeper.

At €55 million, Arsenal might decide that he is overpriced and that their are cheaper options of equal talent available.

Luis Alberto

The wild card on the list.

Former Liverpool flop Luis Alberto has transformed himself into a fantastic all round midfielder since joining Lazio.

Last season he hit 12 goals with 19 assists. Whilst he has regressed this season with just 5 goals and 6 assists, he could be perfect if Emery wants a number 10 who can also put in a defensive shift.

Lazio paid just €4 million for him back in 2016.

The way I see it, Arsenal either go big and sign either Nabil Fekir or Donny van de Beek to replace Mesut Ozil – spending £50 million in the process, or they target both Hakim Ziyech and Luis Alberto, recruiting both for a combined £50million.