Why the Arsenal side of 2001/2002 was better than The Invincibles!

The Arsenal side of 2003/2004 is quite rightly regarded as one of the greatest in Premier League and English League history – going through a 38 game season without losing a single match is something no other team has managed to do, and despite those with an agenda trying to make out they weren’t one of the best sides ever, there is no doubting that sides place in the history books.

But I would say that the Arsenal team of 2001/2002 was even better.

How is this possible you ask? Consider the following points:

  • Regarding our nearest rivals at the time Manchester United, The Invincibles team we drew 1-1 at home against them and then drew 0-0 away. In 2001/2002 season, we beat them convincingly 3-1 at home and then won 1-0 away (Wiltooooord!)
  • In The Invincible season, we scored 73 goals. In the 2001/2002 season, we managed to score 79.
  • In the 2001/2002 season, we had a peak Dennis Bergkamp, who scored 14 goals (his highest total since the 1997/1997 season). In The Invincibles season, he only scored 5 times.
  • Our attack was more lethal in the 2001/2002 season, with Henry, Bergkamp, Kanu and Wiltord scoring a combined total of 69 goals. In The Invincibles season, that total was 51. We had more attacking options in 2001/2002 that the opposition couldn’t handle.
  • In The Invincibles season, we won the Premier League. In the 2001/2002 season, we won the double.
  • Defensively we were much stronger in the 2001/2002 season as well – we had Tony Adams, Martin Keown, Sol Campbell and Matthew Upson as our central defensive options. In The Invincibles season, we had Sol Campbell, Kolo Toure, Pascal Cygan and an ageing Martin Keown.
  • There is no doubt that in the 2001/2002 season we had a better Ashley Cole, Lauren, Patrick Vieira, Edu, Ray Parlour, Freddie Ljungberg, Dennis Bergkamp, Sylvain Wiltord and Kanu who all statistically did better than they did in The Invincibles season.

And finally to finish, we have to consider the strength of the league at in both of those seasons.

The fact of the matter is the Premier League in the 2001/2002 season was much tougher to win, as shown by the number of points gained by the Top 4 sides in those seasons. The gap between 1st and 2nd was only 7 points, and the difference between 1st and 4th was 16 points.

1st: 87
2nd: 80
3rd: 77
4th: 71

In The Invincibles season however, Arsenal won the league by 11 points and 4th place were were a massive 30 points behind!

1st: 90
2nd: 79
3rd: 75
4th: 60

So what are you thoughts on this topic? Do you agree? Leave your comments in the section below!


Thank You For Everything You’ve Done For Us, Aaron Ramsey

Arsenal played against Brighton yesterday in their last home game of the season but the match and result for me were irrelevant. Our recently form meant that we had already called behind too much and therefore blown the Top 4 before we even kicked a ball, so the main focus is the departure of a man who has given so much to Arsenal.

There will be the obvious talk about how we’ve managed to pay a player like Özil £350,000 a week, who has contributed with 2 assists all season, and with that managed to let a player of Ramsey’s stature leave on a free.

He will be going to Juventus, to play along world class players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala, and I for one will be following his Italian adventure and the Old Lady will be the team I will be supporting in the Champions League next season – I would love it if Aaron Ramsey won the biggest prize in Europe.

Now we’ve got that out of the way, what about Aaron Ramsey’s Arsenal career?

He said it himself yesterday, he arrived a boy and leaves a man. In an emotional post-match interview yesterday with Sky Sports, he was clearly moved by the whole day and it is a big wrench for him to leave – making it blindly obvious if Arsenal offered enough money he’d still be in an Arsenal shirt next year.

He was a player who didn’t want or seek the limelight, but scored important goals big games, and always put in big performances. He scored the winner in our first post-Emirates move FA Cup Final, and did the same a couple of years later by scoring the winner against Chelsea. He scored some memorable goals against Liverpool, Norwich (twice), Chelsea, Hull City, Tottenham… in fact you can some some of his best goals here:

He was a player who was underrated and at times, under appreciated by the fans. He suffered the horrific leg break against that c*nt in a game at Stoke City and he had the mental and physical strength to come back from that a stronger, better player. I remember the whole thing like it was yesterday – and along with the Eduardo leg break against Birmingham City – was the most devastated I’ve been as an Arsenal fan. The club will always have ups and downs in terms of results and trophies, but when a player who has given so much to the club and is one of your own suffers a shocking awful injury like that, they are the moments that really hit you.

Unlike some other players who have left the club in the not so recent past, Aaron Ramsey will be one departure where every Arsenal fan will wish him all the best. He is a special player, a special man and someone who gave blood, sweat and tears for the club.

Thank you for all the memories Aaron, and I hope you go to Juventus and win everything there is to win there.


My Tribute to The Departing Gervinho and Marouane Chamakh

According to Arsene Wenger, Gervinho and Marouane Chamakh are close to leaving Arsenal Football Club.

Gervinho is reportedly close to moving to AS Roma for £6.9 million and Marouane Chamakh is off to Crystal Palace, although it has not been confirmed whether that will be on loan or a permanent basis.

Unfortunately though, Nicklas Bendtner however is still not close to moving on, despite Arsenal putting him up for sale on eBay.

So I guess this is the part of the blog where I reminisce and say a bit about Gervinho and Chamakh.

What can I say about Gervinho? Well, he was quick and a useful player to have on FIFA 13 not only because of his sprint speed of 87 and 89 acceleration, but because on FIFA you can actually control him so you can force him to run into decent positions and not constantly lose the ball.

There have been some mind-boggling signings in Arsene Wenger’s time (Francis Jeffers, Chu-Young Park, Igor Stepanovs and Pascal Cygan to name but a few) and Gervinho is one of them. The bottom line is he’s quick. But he can’t pass, shoot or cross, struggles to control the ball, seems unable to beat a player and worst of all just doesn’t seem to know where his teammates are. When he’s on the pitch, it was like he was playing his own game.

But despite all that, he is a player that most Arsenal fans I suspect don’t dislike. Unlike someone such as Bendtner, he’s not being a pain in the arse and is moving on in a relatively straight forward manner.

In two seasons at the club which included 63 appearances, he managed to score 11 goals. Hardly prolific even for a winger but hey, he slapped Joey Barton so we wish him all the best.

Then to Marouane Chamakh.

Chakakh is someone that on paper, performed similarly to Gervinho. At Arsenal he played 67 games and scored 14 goals. Like Gervinho, I think he was just too lightweight for the Premier League. He did really well for the first few months of his Arsenal career when Robin van Persie was injured and he lead the line but once the Dutchman returned he struggled to get a look in.

Some people say he lacked motivation like Arshavin and he had just given up, and others said he was content in collecting his big pay packet every week. In the end though, like Gervinho he was just not good enough.

One (relatively) recent highlight was his part in the 7-5 victory against Reading in the Capital One Cup. He scored the goal to put us 5-4 up on the night and then sealed the victory with a long distance lob to make the final score 7-5.

So to both Gervinho and Chamakh, all the best.


Good Luck Robin, Thanks For The Memories

Now the dust has settled on van Persie’s move to United, it’s much easier to see the contribution that he made to the club.

He was here 8 years, and that is not something to take lightly. When you consider how long a players career actually is, 8 seasons is a massive chunk of that. And every time RVP wore the shirt he gave 110%. He didn’t sulk or stroll around the pitch like did Adebayor for example.

For me, RVP is in the same category as Cesc or Clichy. They’re not quite the legendary status of Tony Adams, Dennis Bergkamp or Thierry Henry, but up there with some of the best players we’ve ever had like Bobby, Freddie and Ashley Cole.

I’ve never really understood the fan’s obsession about how players behaved behind the scenes. We live in a world with 24 hour news updates and every little detail is reviewed over and over again. How do we know how Maradona or Pele were behind closed doors? They could have been complete arseholes for all we know, it doesn’t take away the fact they were some of the greatest footballers we’ve ever seen.

And that’s my point. I prefer to objectively see what a player does on the pitch, and Robin was a model professional and gave everything for the club while he was here.

Footballer’s come and go all the time. The reason why so many Arsenal fans are hurting is because players are leaving at their peak, and the replacements we bring in aren’t up to the same standard. We’ve lost Clichy, Nasri, Song, Cesc and RVP in the last year and they will go on and win trophies at their new clubs. You can say whatever you like about those players, they are top quality and will be successful in the seasons to come.

If RVP committed himself to the club this summer, the opinion of him with Arsenal fans would have been completely different. But I haven’t changed mine just because he’s gone. He was one of my favourite players because he cared and he was a winner. You could see it every time he scored a goal, you could see it every time he went in for a tackle and in the interviews he gave. He completely immersed himself into Arsenal, and I’d always smile when he talked in his Dutch/Cockney accent.

He scored some simply phenomenal goals over the previous 8 seasons against some of the world’s biggest clubs. He scored some truly memorable goals against Chelsea, Barcelona, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham in his time here and apart from that, he would defend the team, getting into countless scuffles with opposing teams players. There’s no doubting his commitment when he was here.

Who knows what happened off the pitch? We don’t know everything and for all we know he is not the villain in all of this. But coming back to my point, to me that’s irrelevant. Whatever the circumstances of him moving on, we should judge how he performed when he wore the red and white of Arsenal.

And in the previous 8 seasons, it was exemplary.

When he was unveiled at Manchester United, with Alex Ferguson sitting next to him, van Persie stated:

“I would like to start with thanking Arsenal Football Club and Mr Wenger for the last 8 years, because the last 8 years have been part of my history, my life.

“They have always been good to me, so I would like to thank Mr Wenger, the players [and] the fans for all their help, the technical stuff involved with Arsenal because as I said they have always been great to me and I look back on a positive note to the last 8 years.”

After watching the actual press conference, you could see that Robin was completely sincere in everything he said about Arsenal and this was made even more so by the fact Fergie looked uncomfortable at van Persie’s praise for his long-time arch rival.

Did he have to say that? Of course he didn’t. With his stock with Arsenal fans you might argue the speech was pointless? But maybe he does actually care about the club he spent the last 8 years of his life with.

You see all kinds of quotes being banded around which are twisted and used by the newspapers to create an issue when there isn’t. His official statement on his website was dissected at great length but why can’t any of it be true?

Is it completely inconceivable that RVP loves Arsenal? And is it inconceivable that he’s tried to win things with Arsenal but feels like there isn’t enough quality around him to make that happen? What is he expected to think when Adebayor, Nasri, Clichy, Cesc and others go off to pastures new and win things?

Loyalty is important but how about the clubs loyalty to their players? Isn’t there a responsibility for the club and the manager to equip the team with the right players to at least compete?

It is an unwritten fact that 4th spot is good enough for Arsenal. And for the last 7 seasons at least, most Arsenal fans haven’t been happy with the transfer activity during those summers and the loss of our big name players. Some fans will argue “good riddance” as none of these players were good enough to win anything when they were here.

But isn’t this because the squad and team wasn’t good enough? You can’t pinpoint people like Cesc, RVP and Adebayor as not being good enough. We all know the weaknesses in the team but they have never been addressed over the last 7 years. We’ve been close to having a good enough team but for whatever reason – financial constraints or the managers stubbornness to admit the teams failings – we’ve just been that bit short. For a few seasons, we genuinely competed, highlighted with the season Eduardo and Adebayor were electric form until Taylor de-railed our season.

Since then though we’ve been also-rans. It’s the same old story – we are just about good enough to clinch 4th spot, occasionally 3rd.

So having winners like Robin van Persie who want more is hardly the heinous of crimes.

For the last few summers, the main topic of conversation between Gooners was how Arsene wasn’t doing enough or signing the right players to allow Arsenal to compete. Need I remind you of the signings of Squillaci, Gervinho, Chamakh, Park, Bischoff and Silvestre? Suddenly, the question isn’t why aren’t Arsenal doing enough to compete or addressing the key weaknesses, but the focus has turned to these villainous mercenaries such as Samir Nasri, Emmanuel Adebayor and Robin van Persie who are “disrespecting” Arsenal and Arsene Wenger.

Maybe we shouldn’t forget the real problems at Arsenal. You ask why do we always allow our best players to run their contacts down till their last year? It’s because we’re a selling club and it’s the easiest way to sell our top players at top prices, without the outrage from the fans. Arsenal can hide behind this “he wanted to leave” rubbish while pocketing the money time and time again.

A clever system that fools almost everyone.


Thierry Henry: Why He Is The Greatest Ever

There’s 2 things in this world I will never understand; If there is a God, then why does he let bad things happen? And how did Thierry Henry never win the World Player of the Year Award?

My Arsenal bias aside, for me, Thierry Henry is one of the most underrated players ever to play the game and one of the greatest ever as far as I’m concerned.

In terms of pure goalscoring at the top level, Thierry is near on untouchable. He smashed Arsenal’s goalscoring record set by the great Ian Wright, and has won every major international honour going and every league title in every league he’s played in. He’s also won The Champions League, countless FA Cups, Copa del Reys, and even a UEFA Super Cup and Fifa World Club Cup to boot.

Added to that, he’s France’s all time top goalscorer, third in the list of all time Premier League goalscorers (only behind Alan Shearer and Andrew Cole) and the highest scoring foreigner to play in England. He’s also got a shed load of personal awards and accolades, and was voted the greatest foreign player ever to play in the Premier League.

And his goalscoring record for Arsenal is bordering on the unbelievable. His first season in England (the one where players need to “settle” into the league) he notched up 26 goals in all competitions. After that, he scored 22, 32, 32, 39, 30, 33 and 12 in the next 7 campaigns.

On paper then, Henry’s record is flawless.

But it’s not just records where the king excels. His recent comeback to Arsenal has been an emotional roller coaster for Arsenal fans, and something of a fairytale for supporters and the man himself.

Fernando Torres, a man with 18 games and 0 goals (I believe, I can’t be bothered to check) was bought for £50 million only a year ago. Thierry Henry, a man who has been away from England for 6 years has had a total playing time of 96 minutes, and scored 3 goals – 2 of them dramatic match winners.

Have legends like Zidane, Maradona or Pele managed to do this? The simple answer is no.

And besides all that, it is Thierry’s level of consistency at the highest level which makes him the greatest for me. He has played 17 seasons at the top top level – for Monaco, Juventus, Arsenal and Barcelona – and raked up 316 goals in 4 of the best leagues in Europe. This gives him an average of 19 goals per season, which is hugely impressive in itself. Take the goals per season average just for the Arsenal and Barcelona campaigns then the average is even more impressive, giving exactly 25 goals per season. And that includes his injury-ravaged final seasons at both clubs.

You have players like Messi, Maradona, Ronaldo, Pele, Zidane, Platini, Best, etc. who could be considered the greatest ever but have any of them maintained a 17 year consistency like Thierry Henry?

And Henry has lit up so many matches and given the fans so many special moments it’s hard to count how many there have been.

My final argument for Henry being the greatest is that he won the league several times, was part of the team that went unbeaten a whole season and won other honours with Arsenal. Arsenal are a fantastic side with a beautiful history, but it’s not unreasonable to say we are not one of the most, how can I put this, naturally biggest football clubs. We are competing at the top level because of Arsene Wenger but we don’t have the bottomless pit of money other teams such as Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United and others have.

So in that sense, Thierry’s accomplishments are even more outstanding. He didn’t join a massive club when he arrived so to do all he has done is all the more impressive. He didn’t achieve his honours and records with a team such as Barcelona, Real Madrid or Manchester United.

I’m not saying players like Messi, Ronaldinho, Zidane and Ronaldo aren’t great, but it is much easier to achieve honours and accolades with a more prestigious football club with the infrastructure to bring in the worlds best players.

You might think I’m crazy, but Thierry Henry is not just the king of Arsenal, but he is the king of football.

Cue abuse!

Edit: I’ve also just checked and of the all-time greatest goalscorers Thierry Henry has the best goals to goals per game ratio, at 0.68, compared to the next best of Alan Shearer who’s record is 0.59 goals per game.