Tag Archives: Paul Merson

How does Theo Walcott rank amongst Arsenal GREATS?



The man of the moment. The phoenix from the flames. Lazarus himself. Theo James Walcott.

He is in a superb being of form. Much has been written about it. Many have apologised. Although Lily Allen has yet to apologise to him on behalf of the entire country. He is back to the form of 2012/13 when he scored 21 goals in 43 games. The same season Gareth Bale had his glorious season for that lot up the road, scoring 26 in 44.

Then it went down hill. 2 years of injury followed by last year where he looked done, shot. Over. RIP Theo Walcott. Sleep with the fishes.

And then we come to this season. He has already hit 7 goals in just 9 games. He has hit 5 league goals in each of the last 3 seasons. He already has 5 this season after the first 5 games. In fact, this is already his 4th highest scoring Premier League campaign. And the clocks have not even gone back yet.


Over 2 years ago, I wrote a blog about Theo Walcott. Would people love Theo Walcott if he had red hair?

Whilst the title was in jest, the comparison between Freddie Ljungberg was clear and obvious. A nice little table I did at the time highlighted how close they are in terms of out put.


Theo Walcott is just 7 goals off the century. 100 goals for Arsenal. He has currently scored 21 goals more than Freddie Ljungberg. He is just 6 short of Paul Merson (who frustratingly fell 1 short of being able to raise his bat to the pavilion).

So just how does Theo Walcott rank amongst the best and brightest of Arsenal goal scorers?


Walcott is currently Arsenal’s 20th highest all time top scorer. Scoring more than the likes of Alan Sunderland (92), Robert Pires (84), Charlie George (49), Ljungberg (72), George Armstrong (68), Liam Brady (59), Charlie Nicholas (54) and Kevin Campbell (59).

But he has played sooooo many games you all moan. Here’s another pretty table:


Out of the 47 players who have scored over 50 goals for The Arsenal, Theo Walcott is 33rd on the list when it comes to games to goals.

The might seem lowly, but it does not take penalties, has rarely played as a striker, and his 1 goal every 3.8 games is still better than other wingers such as Merson (4.3) and Ljungberg (4.6).

So where does Theo Walcott rank?

The answer is a lot better than some would think. He is certainly not one of the worst players to have played in an Arsenal shirt that some make him out to be.

If he continues current form, there is no reason why he should not break into the Top 10 Arsenal goal scorers in the next 18 months. Could he possibly make Top 5? Potentially.

Enjoy Middlesbrough. It’s my first game in nearly a month due to circumstances within my control. Will be good to have a booze up in the usual haunts with my pals.

Have a good weekend.


The Curse of The Arsenal Number 9


Paul Merson

In Arsene Wenger’s first season at the club, Paul Merson played 40 games in all competitions. At the end of the season, Merson was sold to Middlesbrough for £5 million.

There are no reports of a falling out between him and the club, the move was purely money orientated. The club had offered the midfielder a new 2 year deal, but he had rejected it with Middlesbrough offering to double his money (this was the days before tapping up was so newsworthy). Merson was happy to go from the 3rd placed team in the Premier League to a First Division club.

Merson, who had a history of drink, drugs and gambling, clearly needed the money, so left for the North-West. Arsene Wenger’s 1st Number 9 lasted 1 season.

1997/98 – 1998/99

Nicolas Anelka

And so the curse begins properly. Whilst with Paul Merson, there were financial reasons for him to leave after just one season, the saga that surrounded Nicolas Anelka’s time at the club may well be what put the curse on the Number 9 shirt.

Signed as a 17 year old from PSG for just £500,000, Anelka became a key player in Arsenal’s double winning season of 1997/98 – scoring the second goal in the FA Cup Final against Newcastle.

Pace, power, and ice cool infront of goal, he dislodged Ian Wright from the side and showed the kind of ability that had people wondering just how long Wrighty’s goal scoring record would last.

17 league goals in 1998/99 saw Anelka be named PFA Young Player of the Year. And that’s where it all begun to unravel.

Anelka started to make noises about being unhappy in England, that press intrusion had resulted in unhappiness. The press nicknamed him ‘Le Sulk’. It all seemed like an engineered move, led by his brothers, to get Anelka a big money move. It was clear that same people in the Anelka camp saw the 20 year old as a cash cow.

After just two full seasons at Arsenal, he packed his bags for Real Madrid, where he lasted for 1 year before rejoining PSG. Moves to Liverpool, Manchester City, Fenerbache, Bolton, Chelsea, Shanghai Shenhua, Juventus, WBA and Mumbai City followed.

Anelka and his advisor’s pocketed million’s in signing on fees as a result of moving him on every few years, but Anelka never really became the legend which his talent deserved.


Davor Suker

Signed as part of the Anelka to Real Madrid deal. Lasted a year, missed a penalty in the UEFA Cup final. Joined West Ham.

2000/01 – 2002/03

Francis Jeffers

The young Englishman joined Arsenal with a reputation of being the next big thing, having made his debut for Everton at just 16 and scoring 20 goals in 60 games.

He joined Arsenal for £8million at just 20 years old. However a string of injuries and poor form meant he never became the ‘fox in the box’ he was expected to.

He ended up being loaned back to Everton, before joining Charlton. His career then took him to Blackburn Rovers, Sheffield Wednesday, Newcastle United Jets (Australia), Motherwell, Floriana (Malta) and Accrington Stanley.

He ended up scoring just 40 league goals, 18 of which were netted before he joined Arsenal.

2003/04 – 2005/06

Jose Antonio Reyes

Joined in January 2004 for £10.5m (rising to £17m), big things were expected of the talented Spaniard who had made his debut for Sevilla at just 16.

His Arsenal career got off to a rocky start, scoring an own goal in just his second game. But it was a two goal performance which knocked Chelsea out of the FA Cup which will forever live in the memory of Arsenal fans.

For the remainder of the unbeaten season, he showed glimpses of his natural ability. Arsenal fans were excited.

2004 started brilliantly. Hat tricks in friendlies, a virtuoso performance in the Community Shield against Manchester United, where at one point he seemed to dribble past their entire team and 6 goals in his first 6 games. However, things started to go downhill when Arsenal’s 49 game unbeaten run was ended by Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Reyes was continually singled out for rough treatment, with the Neville brothers taking it in turns to bring him down. At one point he nut megged Gary Neville on the half way line, and was immediately hacked down. No yellow card was given.

His struggles continued after the Manchester United match, with reports of him being homesick (rumours were he could barely read and write in Spanish, and could not speak a word of English). There was also the reported ‘bullying’ of Robert Pires and Thierry Henry, the race row started by Luis Aragones and a prank by a Spanish radio show where Reyes admitted he would welcome a move back to Spain and that there were “bad people” at Arsenal.

Reyes eventually left in a loan swap to Madrid for Julio Baptista (who took his number 9), but his career never really his the heights of 2004. He won his last Spain cap at 23.


Julio Baptista

A long term Arsenal target, Julio Baptista chose Real Madrid over Arsenal in 2005. However, after just a single season, he was swapped for Jose Reyes for a year long loan.

Despite scoring 4 goals against Liverpool in the League Cup and a further 2 against Tottenham in the same competition, he only managed 3 in 24 in the league. He looked overweight, slow, and had poor technique. He certainly was not the player that scored 47 goals in 79 games for Sevilla. The loan deal was never made permanent.

2007/08 – 2009/10


So far the Curse of the Number 9 had claimed a few victims for reasons from greed, to homesick, to simply flopping. but the curse decided to do its worse to Eduardo Alves da Silva. It tried to rob him of his career through injury.

Everything was looking bright for Eduardo in the Arsenal Number 9 shirt. Joining in 2007 for £7.5m, his career started slowly with Wenger preferring a strike force of Robin van Persie and Emmanuel Adebayor. A string of League Cup performances, and an injury to van Persie saw Eduardo gain a place in The Arsenal first team over the festive period.

He scored his first 2 Premier League goals on 29th December, and then opened the scoring on New Years Day after just 72 seconds. Throughout January he was on fire, showing an ability as a creator as well as a goal scorer. Had Arsenal finally replaced Thierry Henry?

He sent Arsenal to the top of the league with a sublime effort against Manchester City.

And then the curse kicked in.

In a game against Birmingham on 23rd February 2008, he was a victim of a despicable foul by Martin Taylor. It left Eduardo on the floor, with a broken leg and an open dislocation of his ankle. It left Eduardo’s career in tatters and destroyed Arsenal’s title chances.

He returned to the side nearly a year to the day of the injury, and, despite doing enough to earn a new contract, looked a shadow of the player. His sharpness had gone. In 2010, Arsenal accepted a bid from Shakhtar Donetsk and he left.

The Curse of the Number 9 had taken Eduardo’s Arsenal career from him.




Park Chu-Young

One of the oddest transfers of recent memory. Park Chu-Young was halfway through a 2 day medical with Lille when, overnight, he disappeared from his hotel room, and ended up in London.

Despite rumours of having to return to South Korea for National Service, Arsenal signed the Monaco forward.

Three seasons at Arsenal saw him play 1 league game – an 8 minute substitute appearance against Manchester United. This led to people wondering whether he had only been signed to sell shirts?

This was certainly one of the oddest transfers in Arsenal history.

2012-13 / 2014/15

Lukas Podolski

The mercurial striker joined Arsenal in 2012 following the relegation of his boyhood club Koln. Great things were expected of the man who, whilst At Arsenal, became the youngest European to reach 100 caps. But it never quite clicked for him.

A fans favourite due to his social media presence, he had a hammer of a left foot, scoring 31 goals in 81 appearances for Arsenal.

Despite averaging a goal every 145 minutes, he was never able to break into the Arsenal 1st 11 for an extended run (after his 1st season). Was it the player? Was it the manager? Or was it the Curse of the Number 9?

Whoever is next to take The Arsenal Number 9 shirt is a very brave man.


Highbury Classics Vol 2 – The Arsenal Vs Southampton May 1992


Great game to end an era

It’s not often that you walk away from a 5-1 victory with a feeling of sadness to go with the joy. But for thousands of Arsenal fans a sense of loss dominated a wonderful final game of the 1991-92 season. It was the last ever game of the beloved North Bank terrace which had been a place to stand and watch football for decades. The Taylor Report was soon to dictate law and top flight clubs would have to replace the standing areas with seats. After the game, a few thousand fans stayed behind for a couple of hours to remain in the old terrace for a little bit longer. Fight Sing where ever you may be – we are the North Bank Highbury was the chant heard two hours after the game, as the last fans left the stadium after a solemn sit in.

As for the match itself, there were two main focuses of attention. Firstly a win was necessary so that the old North Bank could go out in style. Secondly, there was a chance that Ian Wright could end up the league’s top goal scorer. At the start of the day he was one goal behind Tottenham’s Gary Lineker and Spurs were playing away at Old Trafford. If Lineker were to get just one goal, then Wright would need a repeat of the hat trick that he’d at scored against the Saints earlier in the season.

At Highbury in May 1992 the first half of Arsenal-Southampton was quiet and goalless, with the main highlight being a disallowed goal from Wright which looked like a harsh decision. The second half however, was symbolic of the final third of the season. Up to February, Arsenal had been inconsistent and had put up a weak defence of the title. Then everything came together with a 7-1 thrashing of a strong Sheffield Wednesday side; six of the goals coming in the space of just 20 minutes. From that point onwards Arsenal would remain unbeaten and put in a late challenge to finish third and gain a European spot. It may have been too late to get back in the title picture but Arsenal’s rampage on the final three months of the season was thrilling. In contradiction to reputation, George Graham’s team were capable of playing free flowing entertaining football, with Limpar, Merson, Wright, Rocastle, Campbell and Smith providing a formidable attacking force. If there was a fault with the 1991-92 team then it was the leaky defence. Overall they conceded 46 league goals, whereas the season before only 18 goals went past one of the meanest defences in English football history.

The walloping of Southampton began when Kevin Campbell scored from a header for his 14th goal of the season. A few minutes later and was back to square one – Glenn Cockerel scored from a Le Tissier cross to put the Saints level. Arsenal reacted quickly and Paul Merson made a run into the box and was brought down to earn a penalty. Lee Dixon would normally have taken the kick, but Wright was after the Golden boot and allowed to step up and score his 27th league goal of the season. Just like Kevin Campbell had done with the opener, Alan Smith also scored a header from a corner to for his 17th goal of the season. 3-1. Smith and Campbell had combined brilliantly as a striking partnership the previous year to help Arsenal win the league title for a tenth time. In 1990-91, Smith would earn the second golden boot of his career, but on this afternoon with the clock ticking down, it looked unlikely that his team mate Wright would achieve the same honour. With 90 minutes gone, Wrighty was still one goal behind Lineker who had managed to score for Spurs at Old

Trafford. Wright’s chances of becoming top goal league scorer in his debut Arsenal season depended on two goals in injury time. It was a farfetched dream, but for the last ever game of the North Bank terrace a miracle happened. David Seaman leaped to catch an incoming cross and fed the ball to the deadly striker. From deep in his own half Wrighty ran on goal, beat a couple of defenders and smashed the ball into the bottom corner of the Saints goal. Seaman said afterwards that he normally would have just let the ball go out for a goal kick, but in the last split second he decided to catch it and keep the ball in play. Wright was level with Lineker, but the icing on the cake hadn’t been spread just yet. A minute later, Alan Smith and Kevin Campbell made a surge into the penalty box. The ball found its way to Wright who scuffed it with his shin to make it 5-1. Of all Wright’s 29 league goals that season, it was by far the luckiest and the worst – but also the most satisfying. The North Bank went truly ballistic. Campbell lifted Wright on his shoulders in a joyous celebration that was as messy as the goal. Not only did Ian Wright win the golden boot, but Arsenal would also be the league’s top scorers. Incredibly, despite being the most lethal and exciting striker in the country, Ian Wright was not picked by Graham Taylor for the England squad that went to Euro 92. In three lacklustre games in Euro 92 England would score just the one goal which was in contrast to the Arsenal attacking force of the 1991-92 campaign. It may not have been a trophy winning season, and in the end we didn’t even achieve a European spot. But the North Bank terrace was more important than any piece of silver wear – and the attacking performances and great goals in the final games of the season were a wonderful send off. Arsenal-Southampton was a perfect conclusion to a beloved era of history. The old North Bank had seen some great moments over the decades and this Highbury classic was up there with some of the best.

Matthew Bazell

Matthew Bazell is the author of Theatre of Silence: The Lost Soul of Football


Old North Bank