Arsenal FC vs Southampton FC

The build-up to this game could not have been worse. The atmosphere at Arsenal has been about as toxic as it’s ever been, on par with Arsene Wenger’s final years certainly.

The players have not been performing. There’s been a distinct lack of style and organisation on the pitch and results have suffered. Recent outrage and controversy surrounding Granit Xhaka and Mesut Ozil have left the club reeling inside and out. Arsenal FC are once again a laughing stock.

The blame has largely fallen on the shoulders of one man, Arsenal’s head coach Unai Emery.

The fanbase are almost unanimous in their belief that Emery is no longer the man to take this famous club forward. Everyone has their own method of voicing their opinion but ultimately the belief is the same: Emery is not the man for the job.

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Heading into this game, this Saturday 3pm kickoff against Southampton FC, many hoped Emery would be out of the picture but alas the Spaniard is still here, still in charge (seemingly). Our North London neighbours didn’t dither with the uncertainty surrounding their manager; Spurs spent the international break facilitating the release of Mauricio Pochettino and hiring of Jose Mourinho. A match made in heaven.

Arsenal, for some inconceivable reason, are sticking to their guns, stating that Emery has the full support of the board and the club. Results must improve though, because it’s clear he’s on borrowed time. After a string of limp and uninspiring performances, the visit of Southampton had become a must win game – dropping points to relegation candidates is no longer acceptable. It never was.

With that in mind I caught the train into London around midday and met my Dad, brother and nephew for a quick lunch. Central London was in full Christmas shopping mode already, which made finding somewhere to sit down and eat a chore – we settled on a nearby Shake Shack. Good burgers, great fries, and an outstanding milkshake left me a happy man. With our bellies full, Dad and I bid farewell to the others and headed north.

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Usually when I go to Arsenal I like to get there early and take in all the sights, browse the shop, go to the pub and all that. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve been before, it’s still part of my matchday ritual. However, Dad isn’t quite as sentimental, so on this occasion we got to our seats with 15 minutes to spare.

Within minutes of the kickoff, we wished we hadn’t bothered going at all.

I’m not going to do a full match analysis. By now you already know what happened and that’s not really what this blog is for.

I will say that right from the start we could tell Emery’s tactics were wrong. He opted to play five at the back but this did nothing to stem the Southampton attacks. Arsenal were outnumbered in midfield and couldn’t deal with the Saints’ press, especially when they insisted on playing out from the back, something this squad are just not capable of doing. When Danny Ings scored after 8 minutes to give the visitors the lead, it felt inevitable. Arsenal simply could not stop surrendering chances.

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Alexandre Lacazette equalised after 18 minutes but despite the fine build-up and finish for the goal, it did nothing to upset the tone Southampton had already set; they continued to press and move effectively through a non-existent Arsenal midfield. The referee didn’t help matters and was generally abysmal in everything he did.

At half time Dad and I discussed changes and I felt one of the centre backs needed to be sacrificed for a substitute, preferably Pepe. Emery must have been listening, as that was exactly the change he made at the break.

Pepe’s introduction initially brought some balance to the side but it was clear to all that the Ivorian’s confidence is dangerously low. He missed what was essentially a one-on-one that could have changed the game entirely, the winger opting to pass instead of shoot, only to see his lame attempt blocked and cleared. Pepe also saw a scuffed attempt ricochet off the bar, after a great run and cross from left back Kieran Tierney. Pepe never recovered from the setback and was largely absent from the action for the rest of the game.

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With just under 20 minutes remaining Southampton were awarded a penalty, and I got to experience my first VAR moment in person. I don’t enjoy VAR when I watch on TV and I am firmly in the “VAR is shit” camp when attending games in person. Bernd Leno made a fantastic save to deny James Ward-Prowse from the spot but the ball fell kindly to the Englishman and he made no mistake with the rebound, 2-1 to Southampton.

Things were turning ugly in the stands, and emotions and anger were poured onto the players and manager from all sections of the stadium. Southampton deserved their lead wholeheartedly and should have increased their advantage more than once. Only wasteful finishing saved Arsenal’s further embarrassment.

Finally relief came, and it was Lacazette on hand again to salvage a point in the dying moments of injury time (an astounding 7 minutes, thanks to VAR and Southampton’s endless time wasting). Gabriel Martinelli, on as a late substitute, crossed from the left to pick out Lacazette in the box and the Frenchman made no mistake poking the ball home for 2-2. He didn’t celebrate though, and the team must have known that rescuing a draw at home to 19th placed Southampton is not nearly good enough.

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More booing from the fans followed the final whistle and despite Laca’s late goal, there was no joy to be found from it. A 2-2 draw is better than a 2-1 loss of course, but given the circumstances and the expectations, this Arsenal performance was about as bad as I’ve ever witnessed. The heat surrounding Emery continues to rise and surely a decision about his future will be made sooner rather than later.

Dad and I filed out of the Emirates with the other supporters and began the journey home. In the week building up to the game I was seriously considering buying the new Arsenal home shirt, as Adidas have done such a great job with our kits this year. I delayed my purchase though, and decided that if the team played well on the day, I would reward myself with buying the shirt after the match was over. If the team played awful, then I wouldn’t give the club more money they didn’t deserve.

So in hindsight, at least I saved myself £60. You can always find a silver lining if you look close enough. Even, apparently, at Arsenal Football Club.

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Arsenal FC vs Huddersfield Town

Terrific Torreira Dispatches Terriers

With ten minutes remaining at the Emirates Stadium, my shoulders were beginning to sag as I slipped further down the back of my seat. The score was only 0-0 but my faith was beginning to wane. Not my faith in Arsenal and their players, but faith in myself.

My friend Mark often jokes that I am a bad luck charm at Arsenal. He has a point to be fair; we have only witnessed a single victory together, when a Santi Cazorla brace dispatched Aston Villa in 2013. Admittedly, my record at the Emirates with Mark has been mixed but on this day it began to grow decidedly negative. With time winding down and Arsenal still struggling for that crucial breakthrough goal, the familiar feeling of despair began to take hold. That cursed feeling.

Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves though. Let’s start at the beginning.

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Mark was my companion for this Saturday journey to see Arsenal take on Huddersfield Town. An Arsenal fan since his early years, with legitimate family links to north London (unlike myself), Mark had only recently been to see them in action, and was lucky enough to be present for that classic north London derby win last weekend.

The Gunners entered the day on an impressive 20 game unbeaten streak, whereas their visitors from Yorkshire were hovering just above the relegation zone. Understandably spirits were high as we boarded our train, London bound.

As we transferred onto the tube and negotiated the changes between Paddington and Arsenal, Mark and I spotted a variety of other fans making their way to their respective games. A group of Oxford United fans decked out in blue and yellow caught Mark’s eye, as he hails from that land, and they reminisced about The U’s before we bid them farewell on their journey to Peterborough. It’s a large part of the enjoyment I get from the football commute, exchanging pleasantries with fans from different clubs. “Good luck today lads, although we’ll need it more than you I expect!”

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As we got closer to our destination we were met by other Gooners, including a father and son who had travelled down from Hull for their first game, and a young American chap taking his son to his first football experience. It’s amazing how something simple like football can bring people together from all over the world.

We soon emerged from Arsenal station and made the short walk to the ground. The wind was bitterly cold and whipped across our exposed ears, leading Mark towards the Armoury, in need of a new hat. We had arrived at the superstore pretty early and were lucky the crowds hadn’t filled up the aisles yet. Mark spent a few minutes picking out a knitted bobble beanie and new scarf, as well as a pair of the brilliant bruised banana socks I had also acquired a few weeks ago at the Wolves fixture. I showed remarkable restraint not to buy anything but the matchday programme.

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By now it was getting close to lunchtime so we set a course for the Holloway Road and Piebury Corner. I thoroughly enjoyed my recent visit there with my Dad and Caleb, and had waxed lyrical to Mark about these wondrous pies. He opted for the Dennis Bergkamp (chicken, ham and leek) with mash and gravy, and felt like fate had played its part, with the naming of his favourite pie after his favourite Arsenal legend. I enjoyed my Sol Campbell (jerk chicken) with roast potatoes so much last time that I opted for the same again and was not disappointed. A trip to Piebury Corner will now be considered mandatory for every future Arsenal game I attend.

The guys at Eighteen86 London were in attendance for the day, and had a stall outside selling issue one of their new fanzine. Creators of some very stylish vintage Arsenal gear, their new mag Poison Lasagna appealed to me immediately so I stopped by and purchased a copy before we left for the ground.

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Mark and I had planned to waste a bit more time around the stadium before heading through the turnstiles but the wind had really picked up, now with added rain. With the skies so grey the decision was made for us, so we ran for shelter and headed inside. We climbed our way up the Clock End steps and settled into our seats for the rest of the afternoon.

It was soon 3pm and the game got underway, Arsenal fielding five at the back with both Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette up front. The firepower was there to put Huddersfield to the sword but the visitors set out to disrupt Arsenal’s rhythm, and constantly broke up the pace of play with little fouls here and there to slow things down.

Sadly the referee fell for it and the flow of the game suffered enormously. The frustration in the stands continued to grow with every cynical trip and refereeing mistake. Yellow cards were given out left and right. Things were made even worse when Arsenal wasted two glorious chances, as Aubameyang shot just wide from close range and Lacazette lost his footing when it appeared much easier to unleash a shot on target.

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The struggles on the pitch began to be felt and reflected by the supporters. What I’m about to say might not be well received by the majority of Arsenal fans but I have to be honest: the atmosphere at the Emirates is regularly underwhelming.

I appreciate that doesn’t come as news to a lot of people, but having been to a variety of games this year across different levels and leagues, it pains me to admit that my team are sorely lacking in the noise and atmosphere department. Opposition fans sing Is this a library for a reason.

At half time, the woman sat beside Mark joyfully boasted she had just seen Jack from Love Island in the tunnel, and sadly that summed it all up.

Mark had only recently witnessed the demolition of Spurs six days prior, and was surprised at the difference between that raucous atmosphere and the lacklustre one that greeted us for the visit of Huddersfield. I suppose it is much easier to get hyped for the visit from your hated local rivals than a northern team with a relatively young Premier League pedigree.

Perhaps my biggest gripe belongs to the tired and monotonous Arsenal, Arrrsenal, Arrrrrrrrrsenal chant. I’ve never been the type to stand on his chair and bellow every single chant the club has ever sung, but I do like to join in when the songs are creative and worthwhile. That song does not belong in that category.

Nevertheless, Unai Emery’s men seemed appreciative of the support they did receive and pushed hard for a goal but could not find the breakthrough. Lacazette cruelly had a goal chalked off after rounding the keeper, for being offside apparently, despite the ball being played off a Huddersfield defender. It only helped incense the crowd even more.

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In the second half Alex Iwobi and Henrikh Mkhitaryan were introduced but didn’t really have the desired impact, with Iwobi failing to impress in particular, his touch letting him down regularly.

The only shining light was the young Uruguayan midfielder Lucas Torreira. The diminutive 22 year-old, riding a streak of man-of-the-match awards, was absolutely everywhere, snapping into tackles, breaking up Huddersfield attacks, always pushing his team forward. Torreira had a pile driver shot just turned wide by Huddersfield goalie Jonas Lossl in the first half that had me out my seat in premature celebration.

He saved his best until last thankfully. With seven minutes remaining on the clock, Torreira pushed further up the pitch, joining the attack as Aubameyang found himself with space in front of goal. The Gabon striker couldn’t unleash a shot but managed to contort his body just enough to send a chipped cross back into the centre of the six yard box.

And who should be there to meet it but Arsenal’s tenacious midfield general Torreira, who leapt like an acrobat to bicycle kick the ball past Lossl and send the home fans into rapture. It’s one of the best goals I’ve ever witnessed in person, and my view was perfectly unobstructed. I could not believe he had the audacity to even attempt such a shot.

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Mark must have squeezed the breath out of me in celebration, as I released a sound with such a guttural joy that my vocal chords were shredded beyond recognition. The euphoria and relief that went around the ground was incredible, and finally the atmosphere came alive, as a chorus of the famous 1-0 to the Arsenal rang out from all of us. You only sing when you’re winning, right?

Despite an astounding seven minutes of injury time, Huddersfield had nothing left in the tank. They had travelled with a strategy of disruption and pressure, and fair play to them, it worked for the majority of the afternoon.

Ultimately though, Arsenal’s quality shone through and even when they weren’t at their best, they had enough in them to get the result. It’s often said that good teams win even when they aren’t at their best, so it’s a very positive sign from the Gunners that they can grind out a result when necessary. Under Emery’s stewardship this group are doing some remarkable things, and the future looks brighter by the day.

And, much to my relief, Arsenal won for me.

Now Mark can quit giving me so much shit about curses.

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Arsenal FC vs Wolverhampton Wanderers

When I began this blog almost a year ago, typing up each matchday adventure I experience, I wasn’t expecting to go this long without a post featuring the team I actually support.

Yet here we are.

The reasons for the delay are plentiful but the largest factor involves cost. Like many fans of the Premier League in the twenty-first century, I do not live close to my chosen team. Therefore, transport to London alone can be very expensive, and Arsenal are notorious for charging the highest ticket prices in English football. Combined, it makes it very difficult to see my team as often as I’d like. The travails of modern football, eh?

My love affair with Arsenal dates back to the 1996/97 season, when I discovered club football through a family friend and quickly converted my entire family. Your typical football initiation story usually involves parents, often the Dad, passing down the love of his team to his sons and daughters. In my case, it was in reverse.

Still on a high from Euro 96 and finally understanding there was more to football than just smashing the ball around with mates on the school playground, a friend of mine introduced me to Arsenal. Or, The Arsenal as he put it. We had a kick-about in the garden, and he wore one of those classic early-90s Arsenal shirts. I was absolutely besotted with it, this resplendent red shirt with the white sleeves, and all the trimmings that made those nineties Adidas kits such classics.

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Just like that, I was hooked. I didn’t know any players, I didn’t know they were from London, I just loved everything about this kit; the imagery of the cannon on the chest, with JVC sprawled across the torso in block white letters. I even liked that the team’s name began with an A, just like mine. I was Arsenal. To this point I only knew about the England national team, so discovering Arsenal was a revelation.

I soon began to learn all I could about my chosen team. When I get interested in something, I absorb information like a sponge, and at seven years-old I owed most of my Arsenal knowledge to a random copy of Gunners Magazine discovered in the village post office. Looking back now, I can see just how timely and fortuitous it was that the magazine was even in stock (it must have been the only football magazine the post office carried).

Before long I began demanding my family change the channel to Sky Sports whenever Arsenal were featured (another blessing, satellite TV), and soon enough my Dad was converted, and then my brother as well. Over the course of that first season (Arsene Wenger’s first year also) we became an Arsenal family and the bond was established, not in the traditional sense obviously, but it worked and has stood the test of time. Dad doesn’t miss a game, and has become more obsessed than I could ever hope to be.

Which leads us to this game, Arsenal versus Wolves, my first trip to see the Gunners in 2018/19, and my first time seeing them under a manager not named Wenger.

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I met Caleb at the train station in the morning and, like me, he’s another Arsenal fan who has followed the team since an early age. Caleb had been to Highbury when he was a nipper but had yet to attend a game at the Emirates, so we had a special day ahead of us. We grabbed some breakfast and a couple of beers for the train and set off, London-bound.

Our journey to north London was swift and before long we emerged from Arsenal station into the welcoming smell of fried onions on Gillespie Road. We moved past the burger vans and met up with my Dad, but the smell of food had made us hungry so lunch was on the agenda.

Minutes later we arrived at our destination, Piebury Corner on the Holloway Road. Football matches and pies have been a match day tradition for almost as long as football has existed, and I had heard great things about Piebury Corner and their range of Arsenal-themed pies. Their match day menu is inspired by legendary Gunners from the club’s past, like Tony Adams (steak and ale), Charlie George (beef and onion), Dennis Bergkamp (chicken, ham and leek), plus a bunch more.

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We ordered our pies and grabbed a beer each before settling down outside to enjoy our lunch. I opted for the Sol Campbell themed pie, a jerk chicken edition with roast potatoes and gravy. Piebury Corner surpassed all expectations and was genuinely one of the best pre-match meals I’ve ever had. There’s no doubt I will be making repeat visits.

As we were tucking into our lunch, enjoying the northern soul pulsing from the DJ decks nearby, Dad kept looking over his shoulder at a tall, smarty dressed gentleman stood a few metres from us. “That’s Alan Smith!” he said, and Dad was right, the Arsenal legend was there signing his new book for fans, right in front of our eyes. It’s not every day you’re having lunch and a legend like Alan Smith walks by. He still looks every inch a footballer, and it was an unexpected highlight of the day to see him. Later in the day, I saw on Instagram that Ian Wright had been at Piebury Corner as well, so we narrowly missed out on two legend sightings.

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We finished our pies and begrudgingly stopped staring at Alan Smith, and finally made our way towards the stadium. As I only get to the Emirates once or twice a season (or not at all last year), a visit to the club shop, The Armoury, is mandatory. We still had time to spare before the 4:30pm kickoff, so we could browse the shop in relative peace, as thankfully the majority of fans had yet to overwhelm the place.

I had a £10 voucher to spend so had already resigned myself to purchasing at least one item. This season the Arsenal squad have been training in a very smart navy and pink fleece top (very Dulwich Hamlet actually), so I had that in the back of my mind as a potential pick-up. Naturally it was on the first rack of clothes I saw upon entry.

“I’ll just hold onto this for awhile and think about it,” Caleb and Dad heard me say to myself, naively.

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We continued to roam the shop but the damage was done, so I headed to the tills to make my purchase. Along the way I found some bruised banana pattern socks hung on the queue barriers and impulsively added them to my haul (how could I resist, they are beautiful).

When I got outside I noticed Dad was missing. Didn’t he leave the shop when I got in the queue? Caleb admitted, “he might be buying something as well…” which astounded me as Dad always has such great willpower when we go to Arsenal. He has never succumbed to the temptations of the club megastore but on this day, 30% off coats proved too much to resist and got the best of him. Well played Arsenal marketing team, you did it.

Armed with our gear we moved on. I bought my customary programme and picked up an issue of the Gooner fanzine as well. The match programme this season has often featured designs from the past but this one had an especially distinctive look, based on the programmes from the wartime years between 1939 and 1945. In honour of Remembrance Day, the retro programme cover even included advice on how to react in the event of an Air Raid Warning. You know, just in case.

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Every trip to the Emirates must include a visit to the legends cast in bronze, dotted around the outskirts of the ground, so we took a lap and paused for photos with Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp.

We still had over an hour to go before the game got underway, so I thought Caleb would appreciate seeing what remained of Highbury, Arsenal’s historic former home. When the stadium was torn down and redeveloped for luxury apartments over twelve years ago, thankfully the stylish Grade II listed East Stand was left untouched (externally at least). Walking past this architectural marvel is the very definition of a trip down memory lane, and I enjoy making that mini pilgrimage to the place that brought me such joy in my youth. As great and modern as the Emirates is, I still miss the cosy confines of Highbury.

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With kickoff in sight we walked back to the stadium, passed through the turnstiles, watched the final minutes of the Chelsea – Everton game on the flatscreens, and ascended the staircases to our section in the Clock End. I usually sit in the Clock End on my visits to Arsenal, as it tends to be the only section tickets are still available to members like me. Emirates Stadium is such a fine venue that wherever you are, you’re guaranteed a good view, and we remarked on our perfect vantage point as we settled into our seats.

With it being Remembrance Day, both teams gathered around the centre circle to observe the Last Post and minute’s silence that followed. They were joined by a hundred ex-servicemen and veterans, spread out along the sideline, dressed in their immaculate uniforms. It was extremely profound to hear 60,000 people silenced, and when the referee blew his whistle to end it, the roar and applause from the fans was deafening. It was a powerful moment.

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The ceremonies concluded and Arsenal got the game underway. Under Unai Emery, the club’s new head coach, the Gunners have made an impressive start to this new era but have been notoriously slow to begin matches. In fact, along with Cardiff, Arsenal haven’t led at half-time in any of their matches so far this season. We were obviously desperate for that to change, as Emery’s men attacked the Clock End and were headed right at us.

Unfortunately Wolves had other ideas. Before the game Caleb and I had spoken to some guys on the platform at Kings Cross, going to the game as neutrals they said. “What do you think the score will be lads? 3-0, right?” I was taken aback at his confidence and got the sense he hadn’t followed Wolves much this year. I knew the Black Country side were, at the very least, supremely well organised, the definitive embodiment of a team you could say. Wolves had hit a rough patch of late, losers of their last three games, but I knew not to underestimate them and expected a tough afternoon for my Gunners.

And so it proved to be, as Arsenal repeatedly had the lion’s share of the ball but couldn’t break down the stubborn Wolves defence.

Disaster struck when the visitors took an unexpected lead after 13 minutes. In all honesty, you could sense it was coming, as multiple Arsenal players made a string of errors over a five minute period that resulted in Wolves capitisaling. A Sead Kolasinac pass in field was inexplicably left by Granit Xhaka for reasons unknown, allowing Wolves to pounce on the loose ball. A quick exchange later allowed Ivan Cavaleiro to tap the ball past a helpless Bernd Leno to give Wolves a 1-0 lead, sending the travelling fans into rapture. It was a terrible lapse in concentration by the Swiss midfielder, another mistake to add to his collection.

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Hoping for an Arsenal response, we were left wanting. Leno made more saves to deny Wolves and Arsenal continued to beat their heads against the golden Wolverhampton wall in front of them. Kolasinac was having an awful time at left back, repeatedly making the wrong choice and often isolated by the Wolves attackers. In his defence he was given no support by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the left wing, playing out of position. Arsenal’s best outfield player of the half was easily Lucas Torreira, as the diminutive Uruguayan midfielder never stopped battling and covered every inch of grass, constantly mopping up his teammate’s mistakes. He really impressed the three of us, and drew applause from the crowd many times.

When the referee blew the whistle for half time, I was disappointed but still confident Arsenal would find a way back into the game. Emery had managed to re-energise his side for the second half so many times this season, surely he would work his magic again.

Unfortunately, the performance didn’t improve as much as we hoped. Alex Iwobi was replaced at half time by French youngster Matteo Guendouzi and it definitely helped shore up the weak links that Wolves had exploited, particularly Kolasinac’s left flank. Arsenal switched to a 4-3-3 and began to look more dangerous, but still lacked that extra something in the final third to really test Wolves. To their credit, the visitors were superb in their defensive effort and pressing, never allowing space to the likes of Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette. Mesut Ozil, captain for the day, was rendered ineffective by Wolves’ system and looked quite jaded as he repeatedly twisted and turned to find gaps that just weren’t there.

With twenty minutes remaining Hector Bellerin had a chance fall to him on his weaker left foot that he could only sweep over the bar. Bellerin then turned provider when his cross found Aubameyang, who missed a glorious chance to equalise from close range, only glancing the outside of the post with a flick that really ought to have done better. I started to fear this was going to end in the worst way, another sad chapter to my “seeing Arsenal in person” scrapbook.

My friend Mark often jokes that I’m cursed when it comes to watching our team, that I bring them nothing but bad luck.

Was he going to be right, again?

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Emery had seen enough and introduced Aaron Ramsey and Henrikh Mkhitaryan with just under a quarter of an hour remaining but Arsenal still couldn’t find a breakthrough, and Wolves remained dangerous on the counter, with Leno making yet another magnificent one-on-one save to keep the score at 1-0.

Finally, relief came with just five minutes remaining, when a Mkhitaryan cross evaded everyone, including Wolves goalkeeper Rui Patricio, and nestled into the net to bring Arsenal level. I think I actually looked to the sky and said thank you. The Emirates crowd around us went nuts, as it appeared the team had rescued a point at the very least.

With injury time upon us we urged Arsenal forward, to push for the winner we desperately craved. Wolves seemed momentarily rattled from the setback of losing their lead but quickly recovered, and began to apply pressure in return. As the home side poured forward, they left themselves susceptible at the back and the Wolves’ sprint relay team almost won them the game.

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Adama Traore, their dynamic super-sub, collected a long ball and burst clear of Rob Holding down the centre of the pitch, only to be denied by a fantastic point-blank save from Leno. Then, in the dying minutes of injury time, 18-year-old substitute Morgan Gibbs-White hit the underside of the crossbar. As the youngster connected with the ball and it hung in the air, the stadium fell silent in anticipation and my heart felt like it was in my mouth. It was a narrow escape as the ball was scrambled to safety.

The referee blew his whistle and I was thankful it ended at 1-1, as Wolves could consider themselves unlucky not to have walked away with a famous victory. I expected the visitors to provide a stern test for the Gunners, and for the neutrals it was probably an entertaining game, but I found the experience exhausting, a tension-filled nightmare (especially those final minutes). Despite that, it was good to see all the new faces in the squad, and Bernd Leno was definitely my man of the match. The German shot stopper single-handedly prevented the afternoon from turning into a complete disaster.

As we departed the stadium and made the slow crawl among the masses to catch the tube, we all agreed it had been an enjoyable day. Football isn’t always about winning, despite what they’d have you believe. I’m set to return to the Emirates again, in early December for the visit of Huddersfield, and I’ll be hoping Emery and his men have a more inspired afternoon next time.

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