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Arsenal 2 Swansea 1: About a Boy

MY five and a half year old, quite sensibly, really couldn’t care which match was to be his first. I, however, was more particular. It couldn’t be in August and September because it could feel like summer and that would be just wrong. Mid February until the end of the season was out too because assuming we’re going to be out of the hunt by then, you can easily end up with that melancholic, half drunk atmosphere which I hate. So sometime between October and early February.

But obviously not any game kicking off at some completely non footballistic time – 12pm on a Sunday for example. Or 12.45 on a Saturday. Or 1.30pm on a Sunday. Or 7.45pm on a Friday.

And high profile opposition were out too – they could wait. A win would be nice but otherwise the construct in my head said there should be no distracting, memorable features about the day. It should be an occasion that he would never forget but almost everyone else in attendance easily would.

So Swansea at home it was.

We began with fish and chips at the Chip Inn on the Holloway Road, exactly as we had on the 14th October 1989. It’s barely changed. On that occasion the wide eyed children attending their first game were my brother and I. 28 years and 14 days later, we were accompanying my eldest to his.

From the fish and chips we crossed over the Holloway Road as we had all those years ago and set off along Drayton Park. Back then we had walked until we got to the pub, turned right up the hill and then left down to the family enclosure. The route, of course, was different this time.

I bought a programme for the first time in years. In the club shop he chose a scarf. In my jacket pocket was his cuddly lamb. Lamby rarely leaves the house nowadays but his presence had been pointedly requested. First day nerves.

We had a pre-game pee because nobody wants to be leaving their seat after 36 minutes. That said, 36 minutes into this game an enforced departure from pitch side would have been a blessed relief.

And then we walked in. I saw a very empty, songless stadium six minutes before kick-off. One look at his face told you he saw something very different.

The first half vomited itself up in front of us. Sometimes a game can go really badly. Sometimes it can be really boring. Rarely is it both. But this was bad and boring. Not that he knew.

I promised we’d improve after the break. We didn’t. Then suddenly we scored twice. We played OK from then on. Not one single player really excelled. And we won. The perfect day for the newcomer.

As for the game, had it been any more unmemorable it would have been in danger of becoming notorious for being so. Really, it had been a classic of its genre. The genre being a scrappy win against a struggling side on a Saturday afternoon in October.

It had been perfect for him and perfect for me too.

68 Responses to “Arsenal 2 Swansea 1: About a Boy”

  1. Raspberry Jones says:


  2. slc gunner says:

    And so it begins for ‘Playa Junior. We all survived the boring boring Arsenal years so I think it’s apt that his first experience was about going back to our roots (ok, the old boring boring Arsenal involved long hopeful balls to Alan Smith whereas the new model entails lots of vinny sideways passing). Hope he has many more years as a fan, and hopefully the games will be more Everton-like than Swansea-like.

  3. Aman says:

    That’s lovely mate

  4. PD says:

    Fantastic post Goodplaya. My little lad is 3 so I’m a couple of years away from bringing him to first game. I do worry about bringing him to an ‘empty, songless stadium’ but you’ve allayed my fears ! Kids see the wonder in everything – hopefully your little fella is now hooked for life !

  5. Andrew Stuart says:

    At least we won! I took my son to his first game against Aston Villa the first year we started playing at the Emirates. Try out Piebury Corner before his next game!

  6. MDP says:

    Happy days! I took both my kids (son 7 and daughter 4) to the Emirates to see the Arsenal Legends last year. A 4-2 win against AC Milan legends with a Kanu hat trick and Pires goal. Shame Henry and Bergkamp dropped out but that seemed like a good starting point. At home my son shows an interest in the score and celebrates the goals but can’t sit still long enough to get through a game on the box. I think a Junior Gunners membership is on the cards for Christmas!

    My kids are fifth generation gooners so I feel somewhat duty bound to indoctrinate them in all things Arsenal. My first game was at the age of 5 against West Brom in 1979. It’s all just blur that time for me, standing on the North east corner at Highbury, Alan Sunderland’s big hair, Pat Jennings in goal, Terry Neil in the dugout, peanuuuts, rooooasted peanuts and the London Met band at half time. I just loved the whole ora around Highbury at the time but I had to wait for the George Graham era for things to get exciting. My dad went to every game back then and paid on the turnstiles so I could pick and choose on a Saturday morning if I wanted to go, which I invarably did.

  7. 80's Gooner says:

    My dad took me to my first game it was the League cup replay against Brighton in1979 when I was 11. We got caught up in traffic on the westway then couldn’t find a parking space so missed the start of the game. I remember walking up the Avenell Road & hearing the roar of the crowd as Arsenal scored their first of 4 goals that evening (2 from Vassen / 2 from Stapleton all headers). We bought a ticket off an irish tout & got good seats in the lower East stand. I could not have asked for a better game. November night, under the lights in the classic old stadium watching Chippy pulling all the strings in midfielld

  8. Elvis says:

    I have four kids. Three hate sport and the other is a basketball fan. I am pleased that I have not afflicted them with a lifetime of misery, albeit occasionally punctuated by a great Arsenal team.

    Here we are, first weekend in November, and totally out of contention for the league title yet again. It’s kinder to send kids up chimneys…

  9. PD says:

    To be fair Elvis, we were totally out of contention for the league on 27th August !!!

  10. MDP says:

    Following a game where we had Coquelin at the centre of our defence and Xhaka as our defensive midfielder I think it’s easy to predict the top 6 as things stand based on those two areas of the pitch. City, United, Chelsea and Spurs all have recognisable defensive midfielders – Fernandinho, Matic, Kante and Dier/Wanayama respectively. Spurs probably have the strongest defence but City and United do a fairly decent job. Chelsea are up for debate at times but the back three was very effective last season. So that’s your top 4 by a country mile. That leaves Liverpool and Arsenal fighting for 5th and 6th at best because of their weakness’s in those areas. With Alexis getting more grumpy by the game and Ozil being Ozil, I hate to think where we’ll be come May. Fix those two areas and things could looks so different. Apologies for visiting old ground but I couldn’t resist after that team selection!

  11. PD says:

    Not only is the football no longer interesting, Arsene himself no longer feels like the man he used to be. His rant yesterday against refs & Sterling was frankly disgraceful, at the level of a scumbag like Mourinho. Come on Arsene, uou’re better than that.

  12. slc gunner says:

    Agree PD. he should just let it go. I don’t know if it was a penalty or not, there was certainly contact, but I didn’t think Sterling did anything that deserved the criticism. He did what others would do in the same position – which is to try to get between the defender and the ball. Nothing more, nothing less. The 3rd goal was offside, but not by a country mile. The comparisons to last year are ridiculous where I didn’t think there was offside on either of the two goals.
    That aside, I thought we did alright even if City were clearly better. I hate Liverpool-like debacles – this was different and I felt we had a go. There was even a plan with pressing high up the pitch aimed at preventing City getting into a rhythm. It worked at times. Ozil was very disappointing again, but I thought the rest of the team did alright. I didn’t have any major complaints about the system, even with Coquelin in the back 3. I can see why Iwobi was included – to add a little bit more when we are defending. But I think it’s time to leave out Ozil and not Lacazette. Ozil is great against the Evertons (of this sesason), but fails to show up against the bigger teams.
    At this stage, a betting man would agree with MDP – 5th/6th seems most likely. Given recent history, I’m not sure if I’m that bothered. I would prefer to see us have a go and win the Europa League – it’s something different.
    Onto Spurs – a chance to restore some pride.

  13. PD says:

    Given there seems to be a few of us of a certain vintage on here I imagine this interview with George Graham will bring a smile to a few faces….it did to me anyway…

  14. Elvis says:

    Enjoyable article. Nostalgia hour. The dissing of George Graham’s reign as Arsenal manager is strange. The club and media doth protest too much methinks. Six trophies in nine years is an impressive return.

    And, for all the great goals we’ve marvelled at under Wenger’s tenure, I do really, really love (and sorely miss) a mean, disciplined, tight defence.

  15. Charlie says:

    Beautiful, best thing I’ve read in a long time

  16. slc gunner says:

    Interesting how we forget about the 94 cup winners cup. We won that night with Morrow and Selley in the starting 11. Incredible achievement given how limited those two were in pure footballing ability. Also his strategy of 5 at the back at Anfield when we needed two goals was very clever. Lulled Liverpool into a false sense of security. He accomplished a lot in his ~10 years.

  17. MDP says:

    A great article! I love that era at Arsenal more than ever right now. That generation of youth players from Adams and Keown to Thomas, Merson and Rocastle were phenomonal and all of them had that missing ingredient that we deperately need now. My wife’s already ordered my copy of 89 ready for Christmas.

    I’m sure many of us grew up hearing the ‘boring boring Arsenal’ thing especially from Spurs fans who put themselves on some kind of fantasy pedestal in terms of football quality that stemmed from something that happened years before they were born and was short lived. It was wonderful shoving Wenger’s early brand of football down their throats in the late 90′s and early 00′s. I think the Graham era got rightly overshadowed but for me it was such an enjoyable period with so much to be admired. It’s fantastic reminiscing now!

  18. PD says:

    I’ve never really been able to enjoy derby games v the Totts. I’ve always found the atmosphere in & around the ground too angry/nervous & also there’s the fact that even though (for most of my life) we’ve been much better than them, you know on the day strange things can happen. The aftermath of the games when we win is obviously amazing but the 90 minutes themselves I struggle with.
    Last season we went to their shithole & for the first time ever I had no hope. I knew they were better than us. Unquestionably. We needed a miracle & we didn’t get one. Unless you count that they only scored 2 despite absolutely murdering us a minor miracle in itself. And now on Saturday I can’t see that anything has changed – except they’re coming to our place this time & I’m still hoping for a miracle. I’m dreading it. I’m trying hard but I can’t see anything other than their young, vibrant team coming to the Emirates & doing a job on us. I desperately hope I’m wrong obviously but….
    Did I mention I’m dreading it ??

  19. MDP says:

    Agree with a lot of that PD. I managed to avoid watching this game home and away last season but will be watching this one. We simply need a win for a multitude of reasons but at a quick glance we haven’t beaten them since 2014. I’d also like to see us put a dent in their title hopes and stretch the gap between them and City. It’s so sad it’s come to this, wanting a win just so they disappear into their caves for a few months…

    They have a manager and a team who know how to exploit our weakness’s so we have to be at our best to avoid a thumping. I was however pleased to see Kos, Mert and Holding in training pics so hope we can put out a stronger defence than against City. I think this game has Mertesacker all over it. He just seems the kind of character we need much like in the cup final back in May.

    Lacazette should be the first name on the team sheet today. I’d probably add Alexis and Ozil to that but they massively worry me. Alexis looks angrier by the game and gives away possession. If Ozil’s having one of those many games he has then Wenger needs to haul him off sooner rather than later. On their day, this trio can tear anyone apart so I think Wenger will probably opt for it. I just have this nagging feeling that Jack, Iwobi and Welbeck (if fit) might be better choices for a North London Derby. It worked to a fashion without Alexis and Ozil against Chelsea. Alexis would be a great sub to bring on in any case.

    Please, please, please have one of your good days Arsenal!

  20. MDP says:

    Wonderful stuff! Just ignore what I said about team selection above. Enjoy your weekends gooners!

  21. PD says:

    Fantastic. Looking forward to seeing Lineker’s not so smug face tonight !

  22. slc gunner says:

    Most enjoyable indeed. The back 3 were immense (Mustafi’s best game for us) and overall, we were good. I don’t think we should get too carried away, but hopefully it’s a stepping stone for a good run. Looking forward to the 2nd string putting their case for promotion to the 1st string on Thursday.

  23. MDP says:

    I’ll take that! Didn’t see the game so have no idea how we played but a clean sheet and a late goal in a difficult away game makes last weekends result even better. I was expecting the draw as full time approached but back into the top 4 and another enjoyable weekend, I’ll take that.

  24. slc gunner says:

    Decent performance, with more defensive stability. Not the best going forward, but Burnley have had good results the other top 6 teams already this season. With Ozil out on Wednesday, I’m looking forward to a potential Wilshere start.

  25. MDP says:

    Sounds like some great appointments behind the scenes at Arsenal with Raul Sanllehi from Barca and Sven Mislintat from Dortmund joining. People of great pedigree and experience so the papers say, making us less reliant on one man seems like there’s actually some sort of plan in place. Feels a bit more positive than at the start of 2017.

    Fingers crossed for a good performance tonight and open the gap between us and Spurs to 4pts.

  26. when i see a nurse or a doc come in to see me with a laptop or tablet, i say ty and leave. i preferr paper records. they cannot be hacked or read by others

  27. slc gunner says:

    We can debate the quality of our 1st 11, but in terms of 2nd string, I think this might be the strongest we have had. When you see the players that started tonight, many have been regulars in the 1st 11 at various times: Jack, Walcott, Welbeck, Giroud, Coquelin, etc.. OK, the opposition was weak, but I think the 2nd string will win some more games.

  28. PD says:

    So with no controversial decisions to speak of what’s Arsene’s rant today to distract from another poor performance ? The ref not acting on time wasting. Really Arsene ? That’s all you got ? Pathetic & really sad to watch.

  29. slc gunner says:

    Defending is a mess right now. We were lucky today. Instead of complaining about time-wasting, Arsene should be complaining about (and resolving) our defensive woes. And for all our supposed attacking talent, 2 goals for all of that possession in 180 minutes is not good enough.

  30. PD says:

    Gentlemen, I went to see the 89 documentary tonight. If you haven’t seen it please go asap. Wonderful stuff. I laughed, I got goosebumps, I cheered, I clapped…and yes, I cried. (pretty sure anyone else who has seen it will know when)
    Hats off to all who made it.

  31. Elvis says:

    89 DVD is on my Christmas wish list. Looking forward to it.

  32. slc gunner says:

    It wasn’t on my list, but it is now. Thanks for reminder.

  33. MDP says:

    It’s on my list and a DVD size present is sat under the Christmas Tree ready and waiting! Can’t wait!

  34. PD says:

    Boring Boring Arsenal.

  35. Elvis says:

    0-0 away to West Ham. A really good result. West Ham are a great side with a top manager.

  36. PD says:

    Happy Christmas to one & all. Thanks again Goodplaya for the posts.
    Let’s hope we get a nice pre-Christmas present tonight. I have a bad feeling about this game …but then again I clearly did before Spurs too so maybe that’s a good sign !

  37. MDP says:

    Happy Christmas one and all!

    Yeah, I liken this to the Spurs game… low expectations, against a team due a a good beating from us. The difference with Spurs is that it will be criminal not to test their very weak defence. Hoping the boys are pumped up for this one, come on Arsenal!

  38. MDP says:

    Poor first half!

  39. PD says:

    Arsene gets away with murder for Christmas !

  40. MDP says:

    Complete and utter madness!

    Five minutes of fun but I’ll never enjoy a game with such school boy defending. Even at 3-2 we didn’t have the ability, composure or leadership to see the game out. A very very lucky point.

    Aside from my frustration I did enjoy seeing Jack playing another 90minutes. I loved his fight, desire and surging runs at the box. Definitely a plus point so hope he signs.

  41. Elvis says:

    Arsenal have turned into Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle, only with the twist of going onto the pitch with the instruction of not producing an effort on target for the first 45 minutes. Why do Arsenal not look interested in playing football until the second half of games?

  42. MDP says:

    The scary thing is, I felt there was some interest and desire there in the first half Elvis, from many of the players but Arsenal just had no shape, no midfield and the defence is a shambles. Koscielny has arguably been our most consistent and best performer since he joined in 2010 but he looks like his Achilles injury is getting the better of him at the moment. I’ve always believed you build teams from the back with a solid spine. We won’t do anything until we get this right. If we’re willing to throw Maitland Niles into a game of such magnitude maybe it’s time to show some faith in Chambers and Holding.

  43. Delve 348 says:

    Like Keegan’s Newcastle, except that Arsenal are nowhere near a title race. Even Arsene Wenger’s staunchest supporters know that they won’t be in one again until The Manager retires.

    Detractors will have noticed through gritted teeth how Manchester City have become unbeatable with Mikel Arteta coaching them. Pep Guardiola knew what he was doing bringing his expertise and class to the Etihad in practically his first move as Boss there.

    There are rumours that Arsenal are lining him up as Wenger’s successor; an appointment that would bring the good times back to North London.

  44. PD says:

    ‘Mikel, you interested In coming to Man City’
    ‘On one condition Pep, I get to veto any time you suggest someone like me as defensive midfielder. I was beyond useless as one. In fact, I get to veto someone like me as captain too. I wasn’t up to much at that either’
    ‘Fair enough. Strange you didn’t ask for change at Arsenal when you knew that’
    ’70k a week Pep. Why would I walk away even when I had nothing left to offer for two I had managed to fool some of them into believing I was a great captain just by being a nice lad. Standards had fallen terribly you know…so no money grabbing barbs at me. Win win. Except for Arsenal obviously. Suckers.’

  45. Elvis says:

    Ha ha, merry Christmas Delve. Glad he is doing well at Man City. I’m sure the rumours are fake news.

  46. PD says:

    Happy New Year all. Doesn’t look like being much to cheer from an Arsenal perspective but what can we do. 4 wins in our next 4 league wins an absolute must before we play the Totts/Man City otherwise we could out of running for top 4 very soon which is terrifying. (not so much not finishing in the top 4 but it looking like a forlorn hope with months still to go)

    If anything sums up Arsenal under Arsene the last number of years it’s scoring an equaliser with a minute to go in injury time & immediately gifting the opposition a sitter straight after. Only Arsenal. (thank you Morata for a night of truly hilarious, astonishingly bad finishing)

  47. slc gunner says:

    if only we could defend simple long balls over the top. Two of Morata’s chances came from long balls which should be dealt with. While the thought of an English core at the back is something to relish, it’s rather fanciful at this stage. Chambers and Holding, the former in particular, were not great last night.
    As for all the moaning about penalties, I agree with the pundits that say it was a penalty. The penalty at West Brom was never a penalty though. I do think that Arsene may be seen in a more favourable light if he would sometimes admit to situations where the correct decision has been made. Not every decision goes against us. Think Spurs and the home game against West Brom. I think on balance that we’have had more go against us this season than for us, but nonetheless, I think he would help his case by focusing on those decisions that were truly bad ones. Maybe this is all part of some strategic manoeuvring on his part, but I don’t think it will work out.
    We must be great to watch for the neutrals!

  48. Elvis says:

    Gentlemen, I have just watched 89, a brilliant Christmas present from my wonderful eldest son (who was just 2 when the match was played).

    Man, what an emotional experience! It is easy to forget what an awesome achievement it was to beat Liverpool 2-0 at Anfield back then.

    Tears welled up when the Back Four were talking. Adams, Bould, Dixon, Winterburn – drilled army style by Sergent Major George Graham till they were sick of it but defending with a tactical discipline that seems totally alien to Arsenal now. As they said, the unit was far greater than the sum of its parts.

    A nostalgic film that rejuvenated my emotional attachment to the club.

    Can George Graham come back as defence coach please?

  49. MDP says:

    I watched 89 last week and it truly is a wonderful film. So pleasing to see George Graham given a chance to emerge from the shadows and take centre stage. A key moment for me was when they outlined how George had let go the big names such as Nicholas, Samson or Woodcock and shown faith in the talented youngsters including Adams, Rocastle Thomas and Merson… He then combined that with some incredible signings such as Dixon, Bould, Winterburn or Smith for relatively small sums of money. George maybe didn’t hit the heights of some but his work at Arsenal was quite remarkable and paved the way for the Wenger era.

    I read a great piece on George Graham a few years ago by Amy Lawrence. I said then that it was time for the club to put George’s controversial exit behind it and rightfully add George Graham to the statues that surround the Emirates.

    Finally, aside from all the other great moments in the film, what an incredible finish that was from Michael Thomas. Maybe our football was a bit negative at times but wow, there was some incredible character and technique. What our current side could learn from those players eh!

  50. Elvis says:

    Indeed. If George had been manager over the last 5 years, he would have sold Ozil, and Sanchez would be out of the team this season for his comparative lack of desire.

    He would have bought players like Jamie Vardy, Dele Ali, Charlie Austin and Riyad Mahrez from small clubs, when nobody had heard of them, for loose change.

    I also think he might have won more in 21 years than Arsene Wenger has, albeit with a more defensive, direct style of football, dependent for goals more on set piece coaching than passing.

    We might never have bought Henry, Vieira and Pires, but we would have none of the lamentable defensive naivety and mental fragility we have become accustomed to.

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