The season's fixture list came out and I saw that I had a tough opening day schedule
at home to Liverpool. This was to be followed by Leicester before facing the mighty
Manchester United at Old Trafford. The scouts came back with glowing reports,
which led to the purchase of Micheal Clegg, Alan Quinn, Alex Notman and Steve
Simonsen. I also secured Rio Ferdinand for £9 million. I also tabled a bid
for Javier Saviola (River Plate) and Joe Cole (West Ham). I offloaded a few more
players just to make way for my new players including Rohan Ricketts, Jerome Thomas
and Greg Oates. All eyes were on me as Arsenal entertained Liverpool. All my pre-season
training and tactics will be put through the acid test.
39,000 fans turned up for the 1st match of the season. A mistake by Hyypia allowed
Ljungberg acres of space in the 4th minute and he duly opened the account. Liverpool
were down to 10 men on the half hour mark when Ziege made a two-footed challenge
on Ljungberg. The resulting free kick saw Adams jumping higher than the Liverpool
defenders to score Arsenal's second. In the second half, it was a seesaw battle,
which saw 3 more players being booked. Just when Liverpool thought that it was
over, Bergkamp unleashed a magnificent free kick to score.
After the match, Houllier came over and shook hands. I was so proud of my team
that I stood on the pitch and soaked in the cheers for a full 10 minutes before
making my way to the exit. A 2-1 win over Leicester made sure that we were still
at the top of the league when we face arch rivals and defending champions Manchester
United. I knew that a comfortable win here would signal the dawn of a new era.
Old Trafford was packed to the brim for this match. Arsenal went offensive right
from the start as I ordered the players to create havoc with United's defense.
It was more of a midfield tussle in the first half with neither side threatening.
Out of the blue, Yorke unleashed a long-ranged effort in the 19th minute that
caught Seaman flat-footed. GOAL! United started to play more defensively. Just
before the break, Arsenal was awarded a free kick outside the box. Ljungberg's
shot was deflected into the path of Lauren. GOAL! An equaliser! Beckham threatened
Arsenal in the second half with a couple of free kicks but luckily he was off
target today. Vieira, Adams and Keown were booked as United piled on the pressure.
Bergkamp hit the woodwork in the 78th minute, which all but summed up Arsenal's
chances today. Arsenal even had a penalty appeal turned down when Johnsen fouled
Vieira. 4 minutes before the end, a counter attack by Arsenal saw Vieira laying
the ball to Pires who sprinted on the left side of the pitch before sending a
cross to Wiltord in the area. GOAL! Wiltord scores to give Arsenal vital win against
From the way we outclassed the Red Devils. It rekindled the 1998 championship-winning
spirit in the squad.
We were drawn with Monaco, Inter Milan and Herfolge for our Phase 1 Champions'
League group matches. On paper it seemed like a tough group as Monaco and Inter
Milan were no pushovers. I promised the Highbury faithful that Arsenal will qualify
for the second phase. Things were looking great when we defeated Monaco (3-2),
Inter Milan (2-1) and sent Herfolge packing with a 4-0 drubbing.
With a quarter of the league gone, Arsenal sat comfortably on top of the league
with 8 wins and a draw. The solitary hiccup came against Middlesbrough. At this
time, I managed to sign Joe Cole for a whopping club record of £12 million
and Jonathan Greening from Manchester United. This prompted Alex Ferguson to comment
that I was prying his players away from him. A promising defender from Tranmere
by the name of Clint Hill, promised to join when his current contract expires
in June 2001. I had to sell off Ben Chorley and Nelson Vivas. Looks like the future
is going to be red and white.