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It was about 2pm on a glorious sun kissed afternoon at the Emirates when it came. The Arsenal big flag had been up and down the North Bank as the teams ran out and then, as they huddled, over the PA came Louis Dunford’s ‘The Angel’. As the chorus began, the whole crowd joined in.

North London Forever
Whatever the weather
These streets are our own
And my heart will leave you never
My blood will forever
Run through the stone

This song had gone viral amongst the Arsenal fanbase in the last few weeks and many, including your correspondent, would love to see it as our anthem. It’s about Islington rather than Arsenal. But You’ll Never Walk Alone doesn’t mention Liverpool FC and Sunshine on Leith doesn’t mention Hibs. Dunford is a local lad and an Arsenal fan and it’s nice to have something come up via the fans rather from the top down (like that dreadful dirge The Wonder of You in the early Emirates years). When I shared this a few days ago, it brought back evocative memories from our ex pat Gooners like bt8 and North Bank Ned.

The other emotional thing yesterday was the celebration of the 70/71 double winning team, a year on from their 50thanniversary but delayed because of Covid. In attendance were Bob Wilson. Charlie George, Eddie Kelly, Sammy Nelson, George Graham, Pat Rice and Captain Fantastic, Frank McLintock. You will recall that this blog went big on the 50th anniversary last year (well most of us are old enough to have been there) and our interview with Bob and Pat is still available on the top bar. Sadly the club messed up the presentation of the players. It was short, perfunctory and, to be frank, not well handled by Arsenal. Ah well!

So, to the football. As the teams lined up the surprising thing was not that Super Tomiyasu had replaced Nuno in the team but that he was playing at left back, obviously to counter the dangerous Raphina. The team started like a train, perhaps buoyed up by the very vocal support. We poured down the left flank again and again and pressed hard. After 9 minutes Luke Ayling (of whom more anon) played a shallow back pass to the Leeds goalkeeper, Meslier. He should have put it into row Z, but took a touch, miscontrolled, and Eddie was on him like a cheetah on a gazelle, tackling the ball into the net. I thought this was a key point in the game, making both the goalie and the Leeds team very nervous. 

Martinelli was giving Luke Ayling a torrid afternoon. He was played in to the left bye-line where he slalomed past several Leeds players before delivering a cutback to Eddie who swept the ball in with his left foot. Great run, great finish, great goal. Two nil up in 11 minutes. 

A few minutes later Gabi again received the ball on the left, this time a strongly hit pass that he did well to keep in by the corner flag. The former Arsenal player, Ayling dashed in and jumped two footed at Gabi who was probably lucky not to be badly hurt. The ref came over and gave a yellow card, a brain dead decision that was shortly changed to a red by VAR via a ref review. Off he went and rightly so. Leeds have the highest number of yellow and red cards in the whole Prem, a new record. “you dirty Northern bastards” sang the crowd. Dirty Leeds indeed. 

So, a quarter of the game gone, 2-0 up and Leeds down to ten men. Surely this would be the day we knocked in five or six and improved our goal difference? Er, no! We made chance after chance but butchered them all. Eddie could have had his hat-trick. Ødegaard and Martinelli should have added the third in the second half. All were missed and then with 25 minutes to go, Leeds won their first corner of the match. Despite the fact that we have been one of the best teams in the league at defending corners, the ball fell to an unmarked Llorente on the back post where, with Leeds first shot, he pummelled it past Ramsdale. 

Well it all got a bit nervy after that. Leeds didn’t make clear chances, but won another corner. Meslier was urged forward into the box. The ball was cleared and fell to Pepe on the half way line, with an open goal at his mercy and only Dan James near him. Instead of pushing the ball forwards and making it a foot race, he tried to check inside James who dispossessed him. 

There was one final free kick for Leeds at the half way line. Pumped into the box with the Leeds goalkeeper again sent forward, it bobbled around and there was a half chance  for Leeds before Ramsdale grabbed it, gratefully. And that was pretty much that. We needed to win, we had won and are now 4 points clear of Spurs with three games to go and the NLD on Thursday. Win then and a Champions League place is ours and St Totteringham can begin singing.

At this end of the season it’s the results that matter, not the form. But I thought Eddie and Gabi were outstanding, as was Tomi (my how we have missed him) and Elneny (new contract please) and Xhaka ran midfield, with the much vaunted Phillips reduced to defending instead of creating. 

As we filed out, the chorus of The Angel was played again. We all joined in. 

An emotional day indeed.

42 Drinks to “North London Forever”

  1. 1
    Noosa Gooner says:

    The wait for the NLD will seem long and nervy but bring it on.
    Dirty Leeds – hope they get relegated.

  2. 2
    Bathgooner says:

    Excellent report C100. That’s the game I saw. Such a schizophrenic game. Total dominance for 65 minutes with some of the sweetest movement and chance creation that we’ve produced in years. How did we lose control of that game? Leeds have had one of the most flattering 1-2 defeats in the history of football.

    Three points: tick. We sit four points ahead of the Marshdwellers. Thursday will see one of the most meaningful NLDs in many years and as a result of this victory we go into it in a great position. A win will guarantee us CL football next season (so that won’t happen – we don’t take the easy path) and a draw will keep the Marshdwellers at arms length (and require a win against either Newcastle or Everton to gain a CL place). A defeat just must not happen.

  3. 3
    North Bank Ned says:

    Excellent report, C100. The nervy bit felt longer than 25 minutes, but otherwise, we saw the same game. To your point, it’s the results, not the form, that matters at the sharp end of the season.

    Tomi had Raphinha so deep in his pocket that Leeds had to sub him after 60 minutes.

    Glad to hear that The Angel got both an airing and a rousing sing-along with its chorus. Long may that continue.

  4. 4
    TTG says:

    Wonderful report C100.
    I was in an area with virtually no reception. When Ifirst knew what was going on we were 2-0 up and Arlington was off. As you suggest I was expecting 7 or 8 goals with Eddie getting many of them .
    I subsequently saw most of the game . To say we made hard work of it is asuoreme understatement but we did it and ultimately the three points were vitally important.
    Whatever happens on Thursday we will still be ahead of the Totts on Friday and we could have destroyed their season if all goes well.
    I’d like to mention three players I noticed . Tomi is absolute class, a terrific addition, Elneny who has done a terrific job and is very useful to the club and appears to be a great club man and Nketiah. He is clearly worth retaining as one of our two strikers next year . I hope he wants to continue . If he does he might save us £40 million.
    I hope to be at the Everton game which I hope is a tension free celebration

  5. 5
    bt8 says:

    An excellent match report as per your normal high standard, c100. The Angel is a great song, and I’m very glad to hear it seems to be catching on. Three games to go, let’s win ‘em all.

  6. 6
    bt8 says:

    I wouldn’t even mind draw-win-loss if it means we’re in the CL and Leeds are relegated!

  7. 7
    bt8 says:

    I’m baffled by how we can lose three in a row to Palace, Brighton and Southampton and then turn around and go on a four game winning streak. Explanations, anyone?

  8. 8
    Countryman100 says:

    Palace were excellent and well coached by Paddy. Brighton beat us and Spurs away as well as several others. Southampton were poor but we were worse.

  9. 9
    TTG says:

    Arlington is an autocorrect mistake
    He is not an Arsenal reject who can’t tackle. Ayling is .His club is also ayling

  10. 10
    bt8 says:

    Palace is the only one of the three losses I saw, but I agree Palace were excellent. The Southampton loss sounds like it could or at least should have been avoidable. How we steadied ourselves at Chelsea and thereafter remains something of a mystery to me, especially how we adapted without Tierney and Partey. Tavares got a lot of criticism in that period and yet we won critical games with him in the team. Elneny has received deserved plaudits for an excellent job of filling in for Partey. Nketiah has been our breath of fresh air.

  11. 11
    bt8 says:

    And credit to Xhaka who has been a solid and effective presence in midfield. Tough to say, but he has.

  12. 12
    Countryman100 says:

    Xhaka has clearly thrived alongside Elneny. Which game was it when he played at LB? That was an error and badly unbalanced our midfield.

  13. 13
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Excellent report Countryman. Cheers!

  14. 14
    Countryman100 says:

    Thanks Dino!

  15. 15
    TTG says:

    Xhaka played at LB against Brighton. That was a big mistake . Those three losses were very depressing but typify the topsy-turvy nature of our season .We lost at Everton and ManUre when they were in terrible slumps and then beat West Ham , who were in excellent form comfortably .
    I think Arteta has had a fine season but should have trusted Eddie earlier. He persevered far too long with Lacazette who is over the hill. If we win on Thursday I suspect it will be Eddie who makes the difference .
    Credit to Elneny who has proved a decent stand-in for Partey and is a safer option than Lokonga who is yet to blossom .Credit also to Xhaka for stepping up in big games to make a difference . We need a huge game from him on Thursday . I think we will go with a White / Holding / Gabriel/ Tomayisu defence on Thursday unless we match up with them . I think we need the extra player in midfield .

  16. 16
    OsakaMatt says:

    Thanks C100, Eddie’s opportunism turned the game as you say.
    Good decision to move Tomi over as it nullified their only real threat
    but also meant Gabi didn’t need to cover back so much and could go
    at Ayling, who he then just humiliated.

  17. 17
    OsakaMatt says:

    Though I think we will need to consider
    moving Tomi back for the NLD.

  18. 18
    Trev says:

    Super stuff, C100 !

    Great report and yes, yes to the anthem and the Elneny contract – what a transformation.

  19. 19
    Bathgooner says:

    I’m still bloody angry at the cock-up the club management made of the tribute to the ’71 Double Winning Legends.

    The half dozen or so still fit enough to attend were clearly watching the match from a box in the Clock End, were expected to make their way down to the pitch and probably were expected to get round to the players’ tunnel to be introduced and interviewed by the MC.

    Given that one of the youngest, Pat Rice, was limping 20 years ago, while he was still coaching, reduced mobility of the entire group should have been predictable. Could they not have been accommodated in the Directors’ Box? Could the introductions and interviews not have taken place in the balcony of their box (after all there are plenty of mobile cameras on site)?

    As it was, the old chaps only made it round to the south-west corner (passing the Leeds fans), only Frank was introduced (the others were barely seen on camera), he was then given a rushed interview and then they were sent packing back to their box as the teams came out before Frank’s interview was finished.

    A poor show. I hope their lunch was good.

    The fans who remember their exploits should have been given a proper opportunity to show our appreciation of these icons of the club. There won’t be many more opportunities.

    Pull your socks up, Arsenal!

  20. 20
    Trev says:

    Hear, hear Bath.

    A brilliant group of players who gave Arsenal their first ever League and Cup Double and subsequently years of coaching and ambassadorial service. They deserve better treatment than that.

  21. 21
    North Bank Ned says:

    Well said, Bath and Trev.

  22. 22
    North Bank Ned says:

    The run-in for the teams contesting 3rd, 4th and 5th is:

    Chelsea (67 points, GD 39) — Leeds (A), Leicester (H), Watford (H)
    Arsenal (66 points, GD 14) — Tottenham (A), Newcastle (A), Everton (H)
    Tottenham (62 points, GD 20) — Arsenal (H), Burnley (H), Norwich (A)

    Prizes will go to those who don’t slip up.

    Winning on Thursday would make life much more straightforward.

  23. 23
    Countryman100 says:

    Excellent piece from Henry Winter (behind a paywall) on the North London Derby https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/at-last-a-north-london-derby-that-really-matters-this-weeks-encounter-is-seismic-8thdzvl5r

  24. 24
    OsakaMatt says:

    Hopefully Burnley will still need the points when they play spuds and Everton won’t by the time they get to us. Anyway, win the NLD and it won’t matter.

  25. 25
    North Bank Ned says:

    OM@24: It wouldn’t harm our cause for Leeds to take three points they desperately need off Chelsea.

  26. 26
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Wonderful report Countryman! Somewhat of a strange match but not entirely unexpected from a team that’s young enough to need to learn the tricky balance of match management through experiences like these.

    Eddie’s pressing has really become much more intelligent and along with Gabi and Ødegaard they are choosing the right moments and right intensity to press from the front. Mikel had earned a reputation in city to improve the technical and tactical aspects of young forwards and if he can mould Eddie (who always looked to be a bit lighter in the technical department) into a quality Arsenal striker it would be a significant gain for both the player and the club.

    Gabi too has become cleverer with choosing the moments and not hurtling through the entire match in hyper speed. His assist for the goal was such a brilliant piece of attacking football.

    Tomiyasu is an invaluable asset. I remember many of the English football journalists making fun of that deal but it has been one of the best signings in recent Arsenal history. Two-footed, versatile, tactically sophisticated and matured, loves to defend and defends with a positional maturity that very few attains at this age, composed and focused throughout the match.

    Now to one of the most consequential NLDs in recent history. I think if we turn up at our best we will win. It would mean so much to secure the CL spot at their place with two games to go to continue on the positive mood afterwards …

  27. 27
    Countryman100 says:

    West Ham now reportedly in for Eddie.

  28. 28
    Esso says:

    Cheers C100!

    One for Jesse Marsch!

  29. 29
    Bathgooner says:

    C100 @27, saw that. No surprise. If he chooses them over an Arsenal contract, he doesn’t have the mindset to be a top striker. It’s clearly his choice, whatever his agent whispers in his ear.

  30. 30
    ecg says:

    City sign Haaland. Edu out!

  31. 31
    North Bank Ned says:

    ecg@30: It is whomever at Dortmund agreed to a 60 million euro release clause who probably should be out.

  32. 32
    North Bank Ned says:

    There is going to be a game of transfer chicken for Eddie. He is unlikely to get an offer from a club habitually playing CL football, so he will want to hang on for as long as he can to see if Edu signs the vaunted two strikers this summer. If Edu can’t, Eddie will be tempted to sign the new contract he’s been offered. If he does, Eddie will likely be off for regular football. Equally, Edu and Arteta won’t want him to go until they know whether they have landed two strikers that would be an upgrade on him. If Edu can only sign one striker, that would just muddy the situation further, but one side or the other has to blink first.

  33. 33
    Bathgooner says:

    Ned @31, the release clause is the reason he is currently at Dortmund not at Bayern who were also keen to sign him two years ago. I am informed that he and his agent demanded a release clause on his last move. Bayern refused, Dortmund agreed so he went to Dortmund. It has been suggested that a release clause was one of the issues about the current move and that Citeh have almost certainly had to agree one. He is not only a top striker, he’s also a smart young man who knows how to play the system.

  34. 34
    TTG says:

    I’m coming late to the part(e)y as I’m away in Norfolk but I wanted to endorse what Bath said. I missed the presentation but these men are legends and very elderly legends now . Think what Pat Rice for example , has given to the club . We really do need to get those moments right- for the players AND the fans . Younger supporters should be told who these men are and what they have done for our club

  35. 35
    North Bank Ned says:

    Bath@33: Thank you for that background on Haarland’s release clause. If City has also agreed to one, it would be fascinating to know what it is and if there are any conditions attached (eg, it can only be triggered by certain clubs or after a given number of seasons). I’ve seen 150 million euros mentioned, which doesn’t sound unreasonable compared to Haarland’s current market value.

    TTG@34. Couldn’t agree more, especially as history is part of the culture that Arteta wants to instil. Sunday’s presentation was clearly poorly handled.

  36. 36
    scruzgooner says:

    just to say thanks for the last few posts, including this fine one from c100. it’s been a busy time and i’ve been around less than i’d like. well done everyone for writing and wrapping up a season like this in fine style.

    just read that we might be in for gnabry (depending on mane to bayern) this summer. i’d be hesitant, if only because we have players he’d want to be playing ahead of who have proved themselves in the PL…and he has not. but if esr, gabigol, saka, and serge were the four we could play left and right (say, serge as a pepe replacement) during our quest for a quadruple next year and onwards, then i could see trying to sign him. i just don’t want him to come in and, as mr. wenger used to say, “kill” the trajectories of saka, esr, and gabigol.

  37. 37
    OsakaMatt says:

    @25 yeah, that would be very handy Ned though I can’t see it happening and I wouldn’t mind Leeds going down. I also wouldn’t mind Bamford as a back up striker if they did go down and Eddie leaves, whereas I’m struggling to think of anyone I’d want from Burnley or Everton.

    @36 gnabry does seem like overkill out wide scruz, unless MA is thinking Gabi’s future is in the centre.

  38. 38
    North Bank Ned says:

    Is there UEFA documentation anywhere about how the Swiss system will be implemented for the group stages of the new CL format from 2024?

  39. 39
  40. 40
    Countryman100 says:

    Very interesting article in The Athletic (paywall) today about Tim Lewis “the power behind the Kroenke’s throne.”

  41. 41
    North Bank Ned says:

    OM@39: That is all I could find, too. There will be a lot of devils in the detail of how the draw for the first round of matches in the new ‘Swiss system’ league stage is made (random? seeded? brackets?) and in the rules for the pairings in the subsequent rounds. Pairing rules under a Swiss system tournament are necessarily complicated, and there are so many variants used by different sports. Ensuring each club gets four home and four away games will be similar to allocating players white and black equally in a chess tournament so there is precedent there, but UEFA’s choice of variant will reflect how it wants the league stage to play out — games between equally matched sides throughout the rounds, or to keep the big clubs apart until the later rounds? How much say will the broadcasters have in that? I hope UEFA is fully transparent about whatever rules it adopts.

  42. 42
    scruzgooner says: