The last two weeks have been rather unremarkable for us Gooners, exiting three competitions at once as the Football Association continue to flaunt their hypocrisy like a strugglong actress flashes her knickers. This article really emanates with yet another slurry conversation with my mates as I manfully attempted to drown out Arsenal's problems in a sea of stupidly named ales. (Didn't work, but it's worth a go nonetheless!) Given the fact that my social clique almost exclusively comprises Millwall fans, it was a conversation I felt a little left out of. (Fortunately, being relegated to Division Two having been top of the league in December does not appear in my Arsenal hall of shame). I thought I would lubricate the wheels of conversation by proposing my own choices. Starting with my five worse games in living memory in reverse order (suspending your disbelief see).
5) 2001 F.A Cup Final. Arsenal 1 Liverpool 2.
A gloriously sunny day in Cardiff, the women were wearing yellow ribbons, the temperature was in the 90s and my first visit to the Welsh capital. 2000/01 had been a pretty inauspicious season, with United wrapping up the league on Easter Monday and John Carew knocking us out of the Champions League Quarter Finals. The Cup was a shining beacon of hope to rescue a mediocre season by our standards (beating Spurs in the semis was a nice touch too!) What transpired still beggars belief, as Arsenal battered Liverpool, missing a host of glorious chances (sound familiar?). Cole, Henry (twice) and Wiltord all missing one on ones, a Hyypia handball on the line which your writer could see from the back row of the upper tier was missed by the ref. After finally going a goal ahead, Liverpool stole victory with their only two shots of the game. Having lost two consecutive Cup Finals, questions were asked about the winning mentality and Wenger's vision for the future (sound familiar?) Equilibrium was however restored when we fluked it against the Mancs four years later.
4) F.A Cup Semi Final Replay. Arsenal 1 Manchester United 2.
A great spectacle it was, but one of those numbing defeats that scars you. I still have the feeling I will be relaying the sight of Ryan Giggs' insanely hairy chest to a psychiatrist some day. Having fought back from a brilliant Beckham effort with Bergkamp's deflected goal, we suffered the ignomity of wildly celebrating a disallowed goal as Anelka was ajudged offside, a decision which took an age to register with the Gooner ranks. Then, a last minute penalty put Wembley on a plate for DB10, who suffered the heartbreak of missing the Final the year before. It was a most undeserving miss from a player who deserved more than the cruel hand fate dealt him, it was the defining moment in United's treble glory. Of course, we all know about Giggs' solo goal from Vieira's misplaced pass and THAT chant we have been serenaded with ever since. Only of course exorcised when Paddy smashed home the winning penalty in 05.
3) May 1999. Leeds United 1 Arsenal 0.
The much vaunted game in hand. Arsenal trailed United by two points, but victory over Leeds would see them go into the last day of the season two points clear. Once again, chances were wasted (sound familiar?) as a young Woodgate cleared off the line from Kaba Diawara, the black cat owning, mirror smashing, ladder striding striker would also hit the bar. Hasselbaink broke our hearts with a stooping header with five minutes to go.
2) April 2003. Bolton Wanderers 2 Arsenal 2
Another gloriously sunny day, another ridiculously early start as the title charge came into the final furlong. The Gunners strolled into a two goal lead, only for the Orcs to strap up their hobnails, Cygan, Lauren and Ljungberg exited the fray within five minutes of each other, all the victims of bad tackles, none of the offendants booked. Of course, this gave Bolton the impetus as they clawed back the defecit and handed the title to Uinted. Allardyce amazingly blathered about the ref's favouritism towards Arsenal and a hatred was born. The coach journey home was memorable because not one single person said a single word all the way home.
1) Cup Winners Cup Final 1995. Real Zaragoza 2 Arsenal 1.
The absolute season from hell was signed off in the most bizarre and horrendous fashion. With our manager sacked following bung allegations, Paul Merson spending three months in rehab and our only decent player Schwarz wanting out, the ragged bones of a once great Graham team dragged itself into a Cup Winners Cup Final, where they were hot favourites. And a bloody ex Tottenham player scores. In the last minute. From forty five yards. In the one season that Spurs have finished above Arsenal in the last fifteen years. You could not make it up. The roles were almost diametrically inverted from Anfield 89 (where lest we forget a future Liverpool player hit the winner).
Continued on another thread........
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