Gala Preview: A Familiar Story & From The Vaults: 1998


Arsenal travel to Istanbul for the contractual obligation fixture. Dortmund are going to finish first, Arsenal second. In beating Hoffenheim, Dortmund climbed five places and, I am sure, restored some confidence as well as pride; the needle on the Kloppometer® flick back to ‘Genius‘. If its movement were tracked, it would be flicking the v’s to the world.

Yet despite their woes, Dortmund are the dominant force in this Champions League group. Consider that for a moment whilst you deride their manager. A team that sank to the bottom of the Bundesliga is in control of Arsenal’s European destiny. They might implode, there’s no denying that possibility but Anderlecht will finish third no matter how well or badly they perform.


The Football Association could have spared us all of this. Their baby needs some fresh clothes but the wardrobe is a bit bare. It’s long been suggested that replays be done away, cutting the competitions intrusion into the season. It’s a sensible idea and avoids shifting the rounds to midweek games; we don’t need a glorified League Cup, we already have the real thing.

But for that to happen, there is a trade-off and one which keeps the romance of the cup alive, is to force the top flight clubs and those in the top half of the Championship away from home in the Third Round. The lowest ranked sides at the conclusion of those ties are then guaranteed a home game in the next round. Only at the last sixteen does it become a free draw. Contrived? Of course but better than the numbing familiarity the competition is fast becoming.

Maybe the defence of silverware will be more exciting in January on that matchday?

Hey! Bill!

A beleaguered™ Arsène Wenger spoke to the media yesterday, a haven of tranquillity for him and an audience complicit in passing on the familiar refrain; judge me in May. The inevitable questions were barely audible thanks to the maniacal laughing of the trainspotters. The Arsenal support is their collective patsy but Wenger Knows. He knows. As the spittle flew through the air, I saw the flasks and notepads; Arsène won’t claim to have seen the Class J-1e Hudson 464 without photographic evidence again.

A depleted squad has travelled to Istanbul. Some we knew weren’t travelling – Alexis, Giroud – whilst others are being rested in the hope of preventing further injury – Welbeck – which is a polite way of saying most of the squad are knackered. There isn’t much respite for the likes of Mertesacker or Chambers, for example, as the absence of both Koscielny and Gibbs means the former pair will play. Hector Bellerin is on the left and Mathieu Debuchy’s target of returning for the home game against QPR in a fortnight has been beaten; he returns tonight and barring misfortune, on Saturday as well.

Arsène in fact, named his side with Szczesny returning with Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, Flamini, Podolski, Sanogo and Campbell making up the XI. Whilst there may be six goals in a season from them, there isn’t six in one game; little wonder that Wenger has accepted second place in the group. That means, barring the previously missed good fortune, a trip to one of Europe’s major clubs in the next round and an inevitable exit.

Or may be this is the season we buck the historical trend, take a risk or two and win the first leg at home before shutting up shop in the return. No, I’m not expecting it either, especially with the injury record this season. With players returning, the opportunity will emerge to rotate those who, like Alexis, have played the equivalent of half a season already.

Arsène has little option but to invest in the January window and against his better judgement, will most likely have to pay higher fees than he wants. It is insanity not to. Jack Wilshere is out until close to Easter although still on target with his recovery as opposed to any new injury or “setback” as the manager called it. Mikel Arteta is struggling this season to shake off his calf injuries and that question mark over the midfield requires an answer. Age is against the Spaniard and whilst he might be willing, there are limits to what he can achieve.

But form is the one aspect to be addressed. Arsenal are lurching from one extreme to the other. Going into the match at Stoke, they had the opportunity to extend their winning run to four straight games. The reality is that they will go into Saturday’s fixture against Newcastle with consecutive defeats; the world has turned sideways in a very short space of time.

Will victory tonight change that? In some respects, yes. Winning against expectations is always a boost but how many of tonight’s side will start on Saturday? Three, four? It’s hard to see half not changing and some of the impact will be lost, especially if a specific matchwinner emerges in Istanbul.

I don’t know. I have such low expectations for this evening that defeat would not hurt anywhere near as much as in other matches. Indifference is too strong a word but with qualification already assured, there’s a touch of the pre-season friendly about the match even though it’s nothing of the sort.

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.


From The Vaults

Financially and for the fans, it was a success. On the pitch, the Wembley Experiment was a disaster with Arsenal only winning two of the Champions League ties played in the national stadium. The aura of the old arena was such that several visiting players noted they raised their game because they of the venue.

Defeat in the previous home game to Lens meant that Arsenal travelled to Greece for a meaningless match. They were out of the competition without the safety net of falling into the UEFA Cup. Injury and suspension ravaged the squad. The missing list showed the strength available to the manager normally: Dixon, Parlour, Adams, Bergkamp, Vieira, Petit, Winterburn, Keown, Overmars, Ljungberg

The line-up in the Olympic Stadium was:

Seaman; Grimandi, Upson, Bould, Grondin; Vivas, Mendez, Vernazza, Boa Morte; Wreh, Anelka

They duly won – and in the back of my mind I have it being the first home defeat suffered by Panathinaikos to an English team but don’t hold me to that – with Anelka restoring Arsenal’s lead with his first European goal for the club before Boa Morte rounded it off the 3 – 1 win.

Why choose this match? A night of low expectations in what was a traditionally hostile atmosphere, with a reserve side. Wenger can choose from a higher quality of player tonight but even a team of strangers can achieve something.

’til Tomorrow.



367 thoughts on “Gala Preview: A Familiar Story & From The Vaults: 1998

  1. Wavey says:

    Lovely 4th goal. Great work from Campbell and Sanogo in the build up. Podolski just muscled his way through.

  2. JonJon says:

    different kind of goal..
    right foot placement instead of left foot put a whole in the net…

  3. JonJon says:

    1st half was awesome 2nd half was just..errrmm… conserve energy until last 5 seconds..
    job done
    some cracking goals to watch on highlights

  4. Columbus Arsenal (MA) says:

    Great night for the lads, the youngsters even get a little value experience. Not sure why Arsene had O’Connor (CB) playing RB when he had Chambers out there, but whatever. Our effort visibly dropped in the 2nd half, I imagine some tired legs with a few out there not having a lot of match fitness leading in to the tie. Still, great night for the Arsenal.

  5. karim says:

    Will arsene go back to Monaco?i hope so

  6. Limestonegunner says:

    Liverpool go to Europa which is perfect. They still have extra midweek games.

  7. karim says:

    Will arsene go back to Monaco?i hope so.

  8. aligooner says:

    good win that, but not against any sort of quality so don’t read too much into it

    podolski really needs more chances in the team, because his finishing is still as deadly as ever

    rambo looked a lot more relaxed and got his goals today….including that wonder strike…incredible

    hope some of the other players take a look at those two tonight and realise they better up their game

  9. dukey says:

    that’s 4 good defensive performances in 5 games now.

  10. Columbus Arsenal (MA) says:

    Disappointed for Akpom that he did not get a run out, but I also understand Arsene’s substitutions at the half that pretty much screwed Akpom for a run out. I hope Ramsey’s tight hamstring is much to do about nothing and Flamini to avoid a red.

  11. Wavey says:

    Now that was a result down to players with a point to prove. Podolski awesome in the first half hour and then right at the death. Not sure why he disappeared in the middle bit, but there were a few occasions when Joel had his head down and tried to do it all himself when a free Podolski was a much better option.
    Wenger likes players for their team play and maybe that’s a problem he sees with Campbell in training. He’s a young lad though and did some really good things tonight. He is a complete beast on the ball and does his fair share of tackling.
    Generally the three substitutes were a little underwhelming, but O’Connor and Maitland-Niles were definitely a little out of their depth here. Zelalem looks to have some real potential, but is not aggressive enough in the final third at the moment.

  12. Wavey says:

    Wenger just commenting that the single point against Anderlecht was the real disappointment.

  13. SV says:

    Hmm… Did not expect the Pool to be eliminated. Thought they would get the job done at home.

    We should aim for at least a point when playing them away.

    Are they in the chacing pack for the top four finish?

    Today’s game is a nice training session for some underplayed squad members, but there was no pressure in the game, so I would not read too much into it. Having more players ready to step in will be useful though in the busy Christmas period.

    Hope Ramsey continues scoring in the league.

  14. dukey says:

    I do like the look of Sanogo upfront, he really must be a right pain in the arse to play against as a defender. I do think we play well as a team with him upfront.

  15. Bill says:

    We desperstely need more goals from somewhere. I don’t expect Ramsey to score the way he did last year but a few goals from the midfield would be great.

  16. Limestonegunner says:

    That video of Sanogo was priceless, Yogi! Almost a look of fear mixed in with the awe. Whaaaat!?!?

    I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a ball hit that sweetly. Accelerated into the net.

  17. Limestonegunner says:

    That’s the one that killed us. We’d have topped the group if we could defend a big lead. Bring on Real Madrid!

  18. santori says:

    Here we go, doom mongers shifting the post again.

    Win against Galatasaray in Turkey with a bunch of youngsters and reserve players and we are not suppose to think too much of it.


    Winners today :



    Arsenal youth (at one stage 7 players under 23!)

    Podolski. Clinical. A good headache for Arsene. Like the way he combined with Sanogo through the middle for the 4th.

    Ramsey. Just what we need, the Welsh Jesus back in form for the weekend.

    Flamini. Felipe Melo tall bruising physical presence anyone? Flamini with 100% pass completion!

    Ox. From strength to strength. great drive and control through the middle. Giving us options with jack out injured.

    Cos the whingers are now going to bleat about how tactically inept Wenger is because he did not win by 7 goals since Dortmund drew. We could have been top and we are now second. We will be dumped out for sure like we would never win another trophy last season. Oh I forgot, now the FA cup has lost its value since we won it.:D

  19. Limestonegunner says:

    I hope Ramsey will be ok for Saturday.

  20. Limestonegunner says:

    Santori, we all enjoyed it and it is positive for the squad but it was a dead rubber essentially against the worst team in the group. AW told you the significance of it through the squad he picked. Pleasurable but not especially meaningful fundamentally.

  21. dukey says:

    Bill you son of a gun.

    we just banged in 4 goals and your saying we desperately need goals. I think we would have scored 4 v stoke aswell if the ref never decided he’d had enough of our comeback and sent Chambers off.

  22. santori says:

    Liverpool are rubbish. Media bleating on about them as per usual.

    Spend a lot of money like Spurs. Bought rubbish players.

    You don’t see Wenger trying to waste well earned money.

    Cos you’d need an Ex Spurs player to remind our fans how fortunate we have been without the managerial merry go round and litany of top up coming managers they have had (AVB, Juande Ramos, Ponchentino), and rare CL outings where we have consistently been guaranteed MINIMUM finish of CL spot for two decades and last 16 for 15 seasons.

    Minimum standard is set pretty high.

    All those bleating on about how the fans pay for it should do well to remember we would be no where where we are in wealth had Wenger not been acute in management of assets, brand building and most importantly astute buying low and selling high in market.

    One Cback short. We will do well to remind the gaffer o that one.

    Otherwise we push on through the season. nothing is cast in stone yet. CL is still very much to play for. Others have finished second in group and gone on to win, notably Liverpool.;)

  23. Bill says:


    I think got lost and found your way to the wrong blog. The moaning and whinging about moaners and whingers section is on a different trolley stop.

  24. santori says:

    Its a useful win.

    a) It builds confidence.

    b) We have players on the fringe who are making a good case for themselves.

    c) we are blooding the youth. Not easy to win in Instanbul.

    Every game is important.

  25. santori says:

    aligooner must have made a stop here too then.

    When we win, its because of some mitigating circumstance with the other team.

    When we lose, Wenger is an idiot.

    We lose to Stoke. Moan and whinge. Wenger out.

    We beat Southampton, well they were on a bad run.

    Frankly rubbish. The trolley stops here.

  26. santori says:

    Had we lost this one, they will say well that was an important game not to lose.


    OK trolley moving on.

  27. JonJon says:

    santori arguing with people who arent there..
    limey being a doomy doomster from doomerville
    bill trying to have a conversation with santori and giving up
    dukey pretending to be george…

  28. Wavey says:


    And that’s why this blog is such great fun to chat in. Is Santori off his trolley?

  29. aligooner says:


    why are you singling me out for conflict!!!?

    i suggest you re-read my post and tone down the unnecessary aggression. we just won 4-1 for ramsey’s sake! 😀

    im certainly not part of the Wenger-out brigade; i actually wrote that rambo looked good, podolski needs some more game time (not untrue), that we shouldn’t get too over-excited because it wasn’t a huge test of the strength/frailty of the team (again, i think we’ll all agree), but that overall it was a good win (which it most certainly was).

  30. Jonny says:

    That was all quite enjoyable till Hector arrived with his trolley to tell us why we’re all wrong.

    Pity one of the best players on the park scored two of the goals rather making a fool of the manager who refuses to give him any game time week after week after week…

  31. aligooner says:

    watching the itv highlights waiting for the ‘love a bit of Turkey at Christmas’ jokes to start

    i watched the match earlier but I want to see that ramsey strike again

  32. JonJon says:

    he’ll be dropped again saturday…

  33. buckagh says:

    Yes it was a good win and goals to savor for a long time to come , confidence booster also, does it prove anything one way or the other , no. There is a picture to look at and one CB isn’t the the only piece of the puzzle missingl

  34. aligooner says:

    id like to see:

    podolksi – welbeck – sanchez
    ramsey – ox
    monreal – per – kos/chambers – debuchy

    i think podolski deserves a start for once….giroud can come in if that front 3 doesnt work out.

  35. Limestonegunner says:

    Jonny, looks like we are meeting at the Junction. I owe you a drink and Bob has already insisted I’m buying him one, so the first round is on me! I think we could all meet around 3:30? or 4?

  36. Limestonegunner says:

    It’s always a bit zany on the night shift!

  37. Phil says:

    ” you don’t see Wenger trying to waste well earned money ”
    – Diaby extension.

  38. Phil says:

    Podolski, just reminded some who don’t rate him, what a pure striker he is.
    Still completely amazed how Wenger uses, or doesn’t use him.

  39. Phil says:

    Galatasary were decidedly average, but you can only beat who is in front of you.
    Job done.
    Exposed a couple of youngsters.
    Still don’t really rate Sanogo.
    Maybe the Welsh floodgates have been well and truly opened!

  40. Limestonegunner says:

    Maybe we’ll draw Monaco or Porto. That would be better. Even PSG would be ok. But Bayern, RM, Atletico, or Barca would all be very tough.

  41. Phil says:

    Amazed that C can sit in a meeting but be kept up to speed by ACLF about the game.
    How do you keep a straight face when Lukas scores?
    Or when you cheer, do the others in the meeting think you really like something that’s been said?

  42. Phil says:

    The result of blowing a 3 goal lead had bitten us well and truly on the Arse.

  43. Jonny says:

    3.30 sounds good to me Limes. As a tee-totaller, I rather fancy you should be excused from getting involved in any of the rounds. 🙂

  44. Jonny says:

    Atletico would be tough but I’d rather them than any of the ‘big three’.

  45. behind the 8 ball but gunning for glory says:

    After his left footed wonder strike it is almost unbelievable how some of these people (Lineker et al.) are actually saying good things about Ramsey instead of their normal routine of booing him for not forgiving Shawcross. BBC at least quoted Lineker this way: “Just saw Ramsey’s second goal. OH I SAY.”

  46. MikeSA says:

    Very pleasantly surprised that even with what must have been a fairly disruptive number of changes, the team still did very well.

    I was expecting a very hostile reception at Gala, but it looked fairly tame when watching on TV, perhaps because it was a dead rubber?

    Podolski again showed why he should be being used way more often than he is. I was under the impression statistics were the basis of a lot of our manager’s choices? If so, goal-scoring prowess obviously doesn’t rank highly on the criteria list.

    Hopefully this will provide some basis for changes to the weekend team’s composition, but somehow I feel I’m destined to be disappointed.

    I tend to agree with Bill in that I think we not only need serious upgrades in defense, we also need a clinical striker, especially if Podolski is going to continue being ignored.

    Positive result after the disgrace that was stoke. I hope we can build on that and put on a great display on the weekend, especially since some on here will be going, so I hope they get good value and a great day out.

    And no, I’m not fickle, I still want Wenger out asap.

  47. andy1886 says:

    “” you don’t see Wenger trying to waste well earned money ”
    – Diaby extension.”

    And bigger wage bill than Chelsea of course – or is that because we have a better quality squad? Oh no, forgot, we cannot compete because they can buy better players. Hang on, that just doesn’t add up! 😉

    Doom, doom, doom, doom.

    Great win though and some cracking goals.

  48. Limestonegunner says:

    No way, Jonny, it’s part of fellowship and someone’s got to pick up my second Cranberry and soda!

  49. Limestonegunner says:

    How did our wage bill get bigger than Chelsea’s, btw?!?

    Ozil, Sanchez on big money. Theo 110k, Podolski 90k. After that who is around the 100 mark? Maybe Jack and Aaron are there.

  50. consolsbob says:

    How will we find one another? We have previous at messing this up.

  51. andy1886 says:

    Weird isn’t it Limestone? Either we are overpaying inferior players or our players are in fact better ones but we’re not seeing that on the pitch. Either way Santori’s being rather blinkered when he talks about not wasting money.

    My thought is that Chelsea pay their best players very well, but unlike us don’t pay excessive salaries to good but not great players. I suspect that they wouldn’t be paying Flamini north of £50k per week, or Sanogo the wages we do for example. I’m sure it would be interesting to compare the figures.

  52. Damon says:

    Half three? Seems awfully late to me…


    LSG are you really tee total?

  53. Damon says:


    You’ll easy spot me. Red shirt, red and white scarf

  54. Damon says:

    Should be no Bo ther amongst the black bags!

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