Our opening 3 matches for this season was surprisingly easier than the
last few seasons. Sunderland was sent packing after a 3-1 defeat and that
was to be followed by wins over Everton (4-2) and Manchester City (1-0).
There was no mercy shown for Leicester City who visited Highbury next.
Goals from Ferdinand, Pires, Henry and Joe Cole secured a 4-1 win and
Arsenal went to the top of the table.
The Champions League saw us facing off with Heerenveen, Monaco and Valencia.
It seems like these draws always pit us against teams, which we have played
against for the past few years. On paper, we should be able to qualify
easily from this group and that was proven when we won 4-1 at Heerenveen,
in which we scored 4 in 20 minutes. Wins over Valencia (2-1) and Monaco
(3-0) later saw us cruising into Phase 2.
Chelsea was in dire straits when we entertained them at Highbury. They
weren't in the front pack chasing us but were lying in 10th place. A brace
by Bergkamp in the second half separated both sides. Things didn't look
too good for teams like Tottenham, Leeds, Newcastle and Liverpool when
they found themselves in unfamiliar territory - relegation zone.
A quarter of the season gone and we were at the top of the table looking
down on the other teams, which we had left behind. These included wins
over Leeds (3-1), Liverpool (3-1) and Manchester United (4-2). White Hart
Lane was the venue of another thrashing for Spurs inflicted by us. They
lay at the foot of the table without a win in 9 games. Teenage sensation
Saviola opened the scoring in the 14th minute when he dribbled past the
Spurs defense like knife through butter. On the 32nd minute, Vieira slammed
a 25-yard screamer into the back of the net. GOAL! The second half was
as exciting as the first. Saviola was fouled just outside the area and
Hugo Tavares could only parry Pires's free kick to Saviola. GOAL! Saviola
then turned provider when he laid a pass for Wiltord in the area. GOAL!
Another 4-0 win for Arsenal over our age-old enemy, Tottenham.
Further wins in Europe over Heerenveen (3-0) and Monaco (1-0) was followed
by a 1-1 draw against Valencia. We failed to capitalize on the chances
that were given and have only ourselves to blame for not completing a
100% unbeaten record. The Phase 2 group saw us facing NK Dinamo, Bayern
Munich and mighty Barcelona. The media reported that we were in a group
of death. Both Bayern and Barcelona have done well in their previous groups
and we were up against stiff competition to qualify for the Quarterfinals.
But things didn't turned out that way, Bayern were humiliated 5-0 by Barcelona
in the opening match as we won 2-0 away against NK Dinamo. A week later,
Barcelona was heading for a defeat before Kluivert rescued them with a
dramatic equalizer after Pires had given us a lead in the 6th minute.
My young Reserves team did us proud when they defeated Birmingham City
(2-0), Wolves (1-0) and Queens Park Rangers (4-1) to reach the Semi-Finals
against local neighbours Charlton Athletic. The new boys were able to
settle in and they looked quite comfortable even when faced against more
experienced teams. Furthermore, the regulars showed that they were more
than ready to take over some of the first team spots. But I told them
that they need to gather more experience first before putting them under
With the youngsters doing everything they can at home. I brought the team
to Japan again for the World Club Cup match against the Brazilian team,
Palmeiras. 62,000 spectators thronged the National Stadium at Tokyo to
catch a glimpse of the soccer superstars on display. It was an entertaining
match as Palmeiras started off defensively, giving us ample of room to
maneuver. Woodgate started off the move, which led to Vieira squaring
the ball into the path of Parlour. GOAL! Superb team play by Arsenal!
Palmeiras started to attack a little bit more and a few chances went their
way but Manninger was solid in goal. Then Arsenal struck twice within
7 minutes. The first came when Parlour tapped in Bergkamp's pass after
the Dutchman has done everything to bring the ball into the area. Bergkamp
repeated his move again and this time, he scored with a delightful chip
over Marcos, the Palmeiras goalkeeper. 3-0 at halftime! For the remainder
of the match, I told them to ease up and relax a little. Hooray! Another
title for the trophy cabinet. [ScreenShot]
Chairman Peter Hill-Wood decided to finance a 3-storey Hall of Fame building within Ashburton Grove, which will be completed by the end of