This Is My Arsenal

Today a guest post from Georgaki-Pyrovolitis, and good stuff it is too.  Enjoy.

The Beginning

Norman Newson was always a nuisance.  His first mistake was to snatch my ice cream one pleasant, warm, late spring evening.  He then ran off and climbed a ladder propped up against his house, all the way to the top and sat on the roof next to his dad who was fixing the tiles.  I was impressed that he had the balls to do that.  I must have been about nine years of age and he about two years my senior, the same age as my older brother. He was either brave or totally stupid. I stood there staring up at his silhouette as the warm glow of the sun descended behind the ridge of tall Victorian terraced houses.

“I like spotted dick” he shouted, but these were still my days of innocence and I was not aware of double entendres.

“You do have to come back down, you know” I shouted, “you bastard”, I added under my breath in deference to his father.

Then I heard the distinctive voice of uncle Andreas, as he shouted up in the direction of Newson senior on the roof, “Hey Newson, I will teachin’ yoo ay lesson so you teachin’ yoor son ay lesson” as he waived his clenched fist at the poor fellow on the roof.  Newson senior stopped what he was doing and looked down at uncle Andreas. I remember Mr Newson as a rather decent and gentle man, an ambulance driver. He was apologetic and promised to make amends. He offered to climb all the way down but uncle Andreas, although a hot head, could be reasonable too.

“You stayin’ up there, we talkin’ later. We havin’ no time. We are goin’ to see the Arsenal”

“Get George an ice cream and I will pay you later” said Mr. Newson and he returned to fixing his roof.

And so, uncle Andreas, gathered up two of his four sons, Aggie and Frixus and me and took us to Highbury.  That was my first live game.  I don’t remember who the opposition were but Arsenal must have won.  I was awestruck by the occasion.  I became a Gooner.

A few years later my friends and I were old enough to attend home games at Highbury without uncle Andreas.  Highbury was three miles from Hornsey – just a ten minute bus ride to Finsbury Park station and a ten minute walk from there to the stadium.  We attended most home games and the big one away at White Hart Lane.  We were members of a red and white tribe.

My first favourite player was George “Geordie” Armstrong.  It seems to me that I have always been attracted to quiet, reliable and effective players. Before Geordie Armstrong I had a great respect for Bobby Charlton over the brilliant but unreliable George Best (my first recollections of football were watching Manchester United vs Benfica in 1968 surrounded by my dad and uncles who all tended to be United fans).

Although a regular at Highbury my overall view of the football was that it was rather boring.  A committed Gooner that actually enjoyed watching Liverpool.  I looked forward to “Match of the Day” on BBC on Saturday night and “The Big Match” on ITV on Sunday afternoon.  In my opinion Liverpool played the most attractive football during the 70s and 80s.  Even more than Liverpool, however, I couldn’t wait for the World Cup, because we were guaranteed the champagne football of Brazil.  Now that was football.

The Middle

During my time at university during the early eighties I fell out of the routine of following Arsenal. I was, after all, not in London and was never to return as I followed employment opportunities wherever they happened to be.  I did enjoy the victorious team of 1989 and remember throwing myself into the sofa a few times after Michael Thomas scored the most improbable winner at Anfield.  Anders Limpar was a fantastic player as was Rocky Rocastle.  That team played some really good stuff and I thought George Graham was a great manager.  Yet, I was still not overly attracted to the English game and Arsenal were not distinctively better than any other team at that time.  I couldn’t wait for the international competitions to come around because I expected to be entertained by Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, Italy and Portugal to name a few reliably great footballing nations.

My separation from the English game grew wider as I had moved to the USA in 1990 and remained there for three years. By the time I returned to the UK in 1993 the Premier League was a year old.  I began to take a moderate interest in my Arsenal again. Then Georgeous George accepted a few brown envelopes and ended up getting the sack. Bruce Rioch was a dull interregnum as far as I was concerned and I was getting excited by Ruud Gullit’s cosmopolitan Chelsea side. These fantastic foreign footballers were flooding the Premier League.  I loved it.  It meant that I would get see their sumptuous skills on a weekly basis.  No longer would I have to wait for the World or European Cup competitions.  Then one day my interest was piqued by the news on BBC Radio 4. They had responded to the Evening Standard’s headline “Arsene Who?” and had a telephone interview with the man whilst he was coming to the end of his tenure with Grampus Eight in Japan.  I was intrigued.  What was going on?  Who, indeed, was this man?

Well, what followed, and has continued unabated for 17 years now, is one of the most remarkable periods of footballing history.  One that I feel privileged to have witnessed and all because of one man, Arsene Wenger.

Fundamentally, it is the philosophy of Arsene Wenger and the implications of remaining true to this through thick and thin that has made this period of human history so interesting.  I really do mean human history beyond football.

When governments with one too many corrupt politicians, motivated by their own vested interests shamelessly collude with private equity, greedy bankers and arrogant media moguls and abuse their power and influence, everything suffers, including football. Here in the UK the aristocratic elite that dominates the establishment has had a corrosive effect on our country. Some are famous descendents of the slave owning families that benefited from the British Government’s compensation scheme designed to make the abolition of slavery palatable (http://is.gd/pICM6m). They have destroyed our manufacturing industrial base and have encouraged the finance and service industries to try to fill the void.  It matters nought where money comes from as long as it is invested here.  “Money for nothing and the chicks for free” and we are indeed in dire straits.  Russian oligarchs invest the stolen mineral wealth of the Russian people here.  They seek highly visible, British assets to protect themselves from the Russian authorities who are coming after them for their role in the rigged elections that lead to the re-election of Boris Yeltsin.  This money has been used to ‘dope’ the English Premier League as exemplified by Abramovich in acquiring Chelsea (http://youtu.be/GmCtci6cen8).  The Russian secret service runs amok in London poisoning and shooting Russian dissidents, gangsters and money launderers and we watch in amusement whilst Chelsea buys trophies.

Similarly, Arab dictators of the small gulf states do likewise in their practice of ‘soft diplomacy’.  They associate themselves with visible, culturally significant, iconographic assets that will protect them if there is any fall out in a conflict between Israel and Iran.  So they buy assets like The Shard in London, The Chrysler Building in New York and Manchester City Football Club. With regard to the latter: ‘”English football has been warned it has allowed one of its major clubs to be exploited as a “branding vehicle” by an international regime accused of human rights abuses after a trial in Abu Dhabi, a country ruled by Manchester City’s owner and his brothers, was widely denounced as repressive, involving torture, and “fundamentally unfair”‘ (http://tinyurl.com/mnxvwxs).  Do Manchester City fans care about this?  No.  Most don’t even know where Abu Dhabi is!  Does the ‘red top’ Murdoch Press write about this? Hardly.  Let’s all do a Poznan-in-our-pants.  Do our ‘democratically’ elected representatives care about this?  You know the answer.  Would anybody have objected had Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi or Robert  Mugabe bought an EPL club?  This is another example of the betrayal of the people of this country.  All of this distortion of the beautiful game has happened in the last ten years.  The owners of Chelsea and Manchester City alone have doped the EPL to the tune of £2.5 billion.  That is what it has cost them to ‘scrape past’ Arsenal during a period of financial constraint due to the building of the best stadium in Europe.

Arsene has said on numerous occasions that his philosophy is ultimately about entertaining the fans who pay to watch their team. I can write with complete confidence that the best football I have ever seen, on a very frequent basis, has been from Wenger’s Arsenal.  I will reinforce this by elaborating and stating that some performances safely eclipse Barcelona or Brazil, even during these last ‘trophy-less’ years. However, it is not just the quality of the football that sets Arsenal apart. It is everything that has happened, on and off, the field during this time. In the face of a concerted media onslaught, deriding everything and everybody at the club, and the financial doping of football, Arsene Wenger and the board have remained steadfast.  I would have wilted, conceded and given up completely in the face of such constant and unremitting attack from friends (certain fans?) and foes.

I have posted the following once before and do so again here: we have won trophies these last eight years. We retained our reputation for the most attractive football, we have the best stadium in Europe, we now have financial stability, we have our dignity and class, but most important of all we still have Arsene Wenger.

The Wikipedia entry for Arsene Wenger has a fantastic digest, some of which I reproduce here:

“Arsenal are considered the “great entertainers” of English football; pundit Alan Hansen described the 2004 team as “quite simply the most fluid, devastating team the British Isles has seen.” [Yes, the same Alan Hansen!-GP].

Dein described Wenger as the most important manager in the club’s history: “Arsène’s a miracle worker. He’s revolutionised the club. He’s turned players into world-class players. Since he has been here, we have seen football from another planet.”

Similar sentiments have been expressed by his fellow peers and former players, most notably from Alex Ferguson, Pep Guardiola, Patrick Vieira  and Brian Clough, who described Wenger as a “top, top manager” after surpassing his Nottingham Forest side’s record of 42 matches unbeaten.

Former Watford manager Graham Taylor praised Wenger’s contribution in English football: “It is that change of culture, the change of philosophy which I think was the most important … I believe his biggest contribution to football is getting across the idea that players have to prepare right and look after themselves”.

American baseball general manager Billy Beane considers Wenger to be an “idol” of his and has lauded his transfer strategy”.

For those interested all these quotes are referenced in the Wikipedia entry (http://tinyurl.com/pz9eo64).

As far as I’m concerned we have still remained the team that has played the best football during the past eight years too.  There are a number of reasons to explain the lack of silverware, I’ll not repeat them here they’ve been discussed many times already.  What was important to me was that I had convinced myself that our best 11 could beat any team in Europe.  We were never far away from doing this consistently.  I had seen enough to have hope. I accepted that we could not spend like the world suggested we needed to spend.  I also believed – and still do – that we still don’t need to spend big on ‘four or five’ world class talents to get back to the top.  I have posted on here before that we were on a consistent, upward trend, before signing Mesut Ōzil.  Those who ascribe our current position entirely to this one player merely confirm their arrogance.  They are still trying to justify their lazy and unsympathetic comments towards Arsene Wenger and AFC in general.

I have often wondered why pundits don’t use the same effusive language to describe the quality of the football provided by Man United or Manchester City (Chelsea? Not if Mourinho has his way).  At times they do describe it in glowing terms but never in the way they have for Arsenal. Why is this?  Through my rose-tinted glasses I see Arsenal play with such elegant simplicity, it is poetry in motion.  In my mind’s eye the smiling face of Thomáš Rosickŷ exemplifies this art form.  Arsene selects players like Rosickŷ, that are intelligent and require little tactical coaching.  He gives them the freedom to play ‘their game’.  You have only to read the last interview with Cesc Fabregas where he expresses a nostalgia for the freedom he had at Arsenal, laments the freedom he lost when returning to Guardiola’s Barcelona and gratitude for the freedom he now has again under Tata Martino.  He ascribes his better performances to this freedom (http://is.gd/FqPmBW).  These intelligent, independent, technically brilliant units of productivity that characterise Arsenal teams euthanize the opposition.  In stark contrast Manchester United teams were cold-blooded, ruthless killers – they followed the instructions of their manager to the letter.  They never strayed beyond the remit given to each individual player.  It is my one complaint about Arsenal.  Their desire to dispatch the opposition humanely means that we score fewer goals than we could.  Manchester United are humourless, relentless and cruel, they never show mercy, Arsenal do.

The End

So this is my Arsenal. It’s about beautiful football and when they are on song I hear the happy, simple and beautiful rhythms of Santana.  This is no accident.  The image I have of the Santana  band is a fusion of peoples and cultures playing together to produce heavenly sounds – a fusion of Afro Cuban, jazz, blues and rock.  I think of  “Oye como va” from the Abraxas album: Oye como va, mi ritmo, Bueno pa’ gozar, mulata (Listen to my rhythm, Good for fun, mulata) where a mulata is a woman of mixed race (for me an important symbol).  A tune so simple, but executed with such precision, it is just beautiful.

Then I think of Arsene Wenger’s famous quote  “When you represent a club, it’s about values and qualities, not about passports” (http://is.gd/kBpKgO).  And he let’s his exceptional charges loose on a football pitch where they weave their magic.

Finally, I don’t want to hear talk of a successor for Arsene yet.  I know it is inevitable, but it mustn’t happen for as many years to come as the man can give us.  I’m bewitched:

Yes, you got your spell on me, baby

Turnin’ my heart into stone

I need you so bad

Magic Woman I can’t leave you alone

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92 comments on “This Is My Arsenal

  1. Excuse the typos above! I should really get on with some work *coughs*.

    More stuff from Hockey on video referees:


  2. Good evening Positivistas

    Well, thank you all for your kind complements. The raisin d’être for PA and my views on Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal are one. A driver for writing this piece was to say a big thank you to the founders on this blog. It’s where a piece like this belongs.

    I’m on a business trip and I have been travelling for the last four hours or so. I’m at a hotel waiting for my eavening meal before I retire to enjoy the Clock End on Arsenal TV online….


  3. rantetta,Taylor was actually demoted following the Villa game.


  4. I am right behind the introduction of technology Fins to ensure decision is as correct as it can be if there is a controversy – I watch a lot of rugby and cricket and it works really well although even when you have the technology you still have arguments and the human factor coming in

    What a video replay however erases is the farcical situation in football where 10 million TV viewers know the referee has made a wrong decision within 15 seconds of him blowing his whistle, but the poor bugger himself has no idea

    What I am getting at though is the notion that referees are responsible for implementing technology – they are not in that position any more than they are for deciding on players being booked for removing their shirts, the size of goals or any of the other nonsense that crops up – they are told the rules the same way the players are


  5. You are right about the McManaman assault Ranteta – the lino did see it ( or claimed to have seen it) that is why the FA could do nothing and nor could Halsey, and that is why the FA changed the rules

    You are quite right, having changed the rules it would be good to see a few punishments that fit the crime handed out

    Have to say though our season might have taken a very different direction indeed if the referee had pulled out a red for Flamini’s clumping of Dembele in the NLD rather than yellow


  6. Coll,

    Absolutely agree with you. The point that I completely failed to make was that we all know that FUFA won’t do much. No expects them to do much. My feeling is that if the PGMOB has been established for whatever reason then they might as well try to do something useful. They could spend all that money spent on payouts to keep retired officials schtum on some more kit from Hawkeye™ instead.
    Untold is a fun forum for pursuing or reading about this topic in more detail.


  7. A suggestion from Untold was the the FA here should opt out FIFA altogether, for many reasons. Perhaps not very realistic but it is an entertaining consideration.


  8. PG @ 6:42

    Thanks, PG. It’s just that whilst I read from various posters that Taylor was demoted, I also looked on the PL website and saw that Taylor was 4th official somewhere, not all that long after that “game”. Unfortunately, I don’t know the timing of my discovery, so I’ll have to go along with the “demotion”.

    I seem to have it in my head that phat Phil was demoted following the 4-4 at Newcy. He was soon back though and the whole match was referred to as “Greatest ever Prem match”, inc. amongst others, the BBC.

    My problem is that I see Arsenal having won loads of stuff if it wasn’t for the refs and media. And I find it hard to believe that these and others aren’t constantly plotting further downfalls for The Arsenal.

    Fortunately, my main thing isn’t about Arsenal winning trowfy’s, it’s about watching the finest team play the most beautiful football, and the development of this team’s younger players combined with the nous of our experienced players, and listening to every word Arsene says, and appreciating what an amazing human we have managing our club.

    See what I mean:
    “FA says no retrospective action will be taken against Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney, Everton’s Kevin Mirallas and Cardiff midfielder Gary Medel for incidents in their sides’ matches.”

    WTF? (Miserable facey thingy).

    Please, what’s the history of “banned smiley face”? If anyone can be bothered…


  9. My problem is that I see Arsenal having won loads of stuff if it wasn’t for the refs and media.

    please dont say such things or the real fans of arsenal the ones who care and want to make legitimate questions will accuse you of being a conspiracy theorist…shhhhhh…shhh…we were simply bottlers…..


  10. and no ivan is a boy scout in front of dein but dein turned out to be a traitor cunt who could have helped us behind the scenes if he wanted but opted to stage wars cause of his ego feud with pete…thats what i make of it at least. ivan doesnt look anywhere close the type of character needed for what im thinking.


  11. Have to say though our season might have taken a very different direction indeed if the referee had pulled out a red for Flamini’s clumping of Dembele in the NLD rather than yellow

    we would have invaded the pitch and lynch him…


  12. rantetta,Frank and I don’t like them.Its as simple as that.Childish little things (insert banned little smiley face)


  13. Why the Long face Mr Lambert ?


  14. george i guess you have realised that i fried my brains trying to make that thing we talked about……..in the end i just went ‘meh’…. my sincere apologies…. maybe when we win it will be the appropriate time for the 5-6 a4 pages of wrath and bullet points i have in store…i know am not worth your trust and kindness…sorry …


  15. No Problem Hunter,you have done enough already.


  16. I do hope we won’t be wringing our hands come May because of A Taylor made officiated game.


  17. Posted by James today on ACLF


    Mrs VB: Andre – wake up – its seven already

    AVB: What – have they scored again!!


  18. Don’t stress Dex
    It all evens out

    Some Spuds would say Santi’s dive against West Brom cheated them of a deserved CL place
    ( and FFs don’t anyone tell me it was a straight penalty cos he dived)

    But I say it all evens out – Anthony Taylor has been paid off


  19. thats a clear pen, ani ! slashing at the shins like a rotor blade ? definite pen! lucky he is still walking.


  20. What happened to the spuds was far worse than the 8-2 inflicted upon us a few years ago.
    Spuds were systematically destroyed in detail, not a bit of luck in the goals at all.
    That have Dawson and Vertongen and Holtby for the rest of the season.


  21. Did anyone see Hansen dissecting Liverpool’s defending against set pieces?

    Nah, me neither.


  22. Steven Reid might have gone at Santi like a whirling Dervish

    The problem was the cheating bastard pulled his foot away

    Sadly Santi missed that

    Seriously – I am not having our players diving. They can fuck off if that is the way they play


  23. I am however not ungenerous

    They have one life

    Apart from Jeffers obv


  24. and yes it should all even out so im expecting the following to even out too

    – fletcher’s penalty on arshavin
    – cambell red due to ‘elbow’ to solkjaer
    – rooney dive at game 50
    – rooney dive at game when fletcher did penalty on arshavin
    – rio as last defender kicking sagna on the stomach
    – vidic volleyball at emirates
    – the two penalties dowd discovered at newcastle

    thats for the epl

    and for europe

    – the penalty on hleb from kuyt after going past 6-7 liverpool defence
    – the second yellow on rvp in camp nou
    – the fact we were made to play our fucking final for 75-80 fkn minutes with ten men when giuly scored on the advantage anyway…cunts…


  25. anicoll5 November 25, 2013 at 9:19 pm

    i was only joking man.hahaa i wanted to be the guy in your parenthesis


  26. You little minx lol


  27. H13
    “ivan doesnt look anywhere close the type of character needed for what im thinking.”
    Granted – the things you’re thinking (whatever they are), I’d accept could be more effective, though one couldn’t be certain of the long-term outcome any more than that which I’d like to think Ivan could produce. But I referred to him as a politician (They’re good, innit?) The fact that Ivan got on the board (or wherever the appt. is) is some kind of miracle, no? Bruce Buck? Bet365Stoke? Fit and proper persons? Root and fucking branch?

    Does anyone find it funny that our one dive per 5 years (along with Theo’s public apology for a ‘dive’), isn’t compared with one dive per game by many clubs? (Who did we play recently, where…. **** me, it was Chelsea. Man, they spent a lot of time on the pitch, the poor cramped things. Ashley should’ve had his rifle in the stands to gee his team up.

    Oh how very democratic of you and Frank. “You don’t like them”. Man up, FFS!

    That’s all supposed to be a joke, PG. I write that in case you take it wrongly and ban me, which I’m always worried about. I’ve had sooo much rejection in my life – much of it, fortunate, but I love PA and I wanna stay. (You couldn’t stop me from reading anyway. Nuh nuh).

    West Brom CL? hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. You’re shitting me, right?

    Ah, I’ve just seen your mini-summary, H13. Correct, and there’s more, but what you’ve listed even the dead would remember.

    I do love The Arsenal Way and therefore don’t want our players cheating, be that as it may, I think we have to find a solution somewhere down the middle. ie: somewhere between perfect playes/people – and – blowing up all those ****s!?


  28. Anicoll
    Bobby had water wings too. Jet saying.

    Hunter, you are far too kind to the red scum, you forgot van horsey faces antics.
    Ohh, you were just pointing out their shit antics for the last year or so.

    My favourite moment last year was the reaction of the team and red nose when Nani got red carded (totally legitimately) for a Kung fu challenge against a real mad player, Di Maria I think.
    Something like that never happens with PGMOL refs in charge of games.


  29. Steww and GP
    I will read your posts side by side and judge who is the new Literary King of PA.


  30. rantetta,no one has ever been banned from PA.Once you are in,you are in.


  31. Just got home from London, and had left my iPhone at home.
    Arsenal were very good, Southampton were merely good.
    2-0 was the right score line.
    Right kind of game response to the international break.
    Use of subs was outstanding by AW, I.e. it was exactly what I wanted him to do.
    Defenders and WS1 were top top level.
    I can’t and won’t pick out anyone who had a poor performance, MÖ11 was a bit quite but had moments of brilliance, I guess still looking shocked at the allowed violence in the English game.

    Was in the north bank. Borrowed someone’s season ticket. The atmosphere was brilliant, the section I was in was standing for the whole game, and fucking singing for the whole game too!
    Even the classic ‘there’s only one Arsène Wenger’ .
    Happy 2 days in the Big Smoke. Liver damage may not be permanent.

    I need Stem cells! hurry up scientists, I can’t last forever.


  32. Pg,

    Well in that case….
    Press the colon button first : that one.
    The press right parenthesis button ) this one.
    Hey presto : +) = 🙂


  33. Hmmm
    Interesting that Arsenal’s terrible defending, which is joint second best with the chavs at the moment is actually better than €ity’s.

    Don’t want to upset the meme makers, do we now?

    Arsenal’s goals for tally so far is also in joint second place.
    Not bad going eh?


  34. Your barred .
    All of you


  35. Colon button.
    Left parenthesis.


  36. JvC’s appearances for the red scum are becoming very erratic, aren’t they?
    I mean, it’s not like him to have season long niggling injuries, is it?

    Har de har har.


  37. Next Sunday looks like a great day to watch footie on TV:
    *Spuds at home vs manure, both looking to put recent games behind them, and the red scum are away in Germany mid week. In a must win game so they will be under massive pressure, the LWC ‘s are now turning on mr downward spiral too.
    *Chavs vs Southampton – looks like a low score draw.
    *City vs swans – the Lardrup hype is fading fast.
    *And not forgetting, the cities of culture derby.

    Arsenal have the opportunity to ratchet up the pressure on the rest of the pack next Saturday. I don’t expect that Wenger will cock it up, and if necessary, we might leave Aaron out of this game if it’s too emotional for him, he might forget who’s side he is on!!!


  38. Thanks DC 🙂

    “You’re barred”? Did you mean “Your Bad”?

    Haha, aha haha. See what I done there? Did you? Did you?


  39. anicoll5
    I hope you were only joking when you said it all evens out, I have hated that saying for years logically it cannot be correct and this is real life not a pre-programmed computer game.
    DC, your dead right about the saints game I am in block 11 and the atmosphere is definitely getting better. your also right about their team, every time a samall club comes to ARSENAL on a good run and plays moderately well the media and the like rave about them but they were average and the fact they were still in it until the 86th minute was more to do with the odd bounce falling to them at critical times and our clinical touch evading us rather than their good play. The ref again helps these teams with so many little decisions that breaks play up and makes us start again disrupting our flow, one day I will see a homer at the emirates.
    Good to see the youngsters do well in their CL game against Marseille, it finished 1-1 but we played really well after going down to 10 men after my boy Isaac Hayden got sent off at the end of the first half for retaliation. Again it is good to see the amount of lads that are at this level for their first season doing so well and I honestly believe we are producing a higher quality of player each season.
    Cant wait for tonight hope we get the job done to take the pressure of the Napoli game and in turn reduce the fatigue for the Saturday midday away game at city, which maybe a touch important.


  40. interesting to note from Jeorge birds site five of the team were 16 last night( not on the night obviously) maybe 3/5 years from hitting the first team we are definitely in good shape


  41. again im posting on an old post doh !


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