The Championship race would soon be over when we take on second-placed West
Ham at Upton Park. With 10 matches to go, we were 26 points clear of them
and the fixtures had it that we were to face them for the Championship decider.
This would be the earliest Premiership win by any team as it was held on
the 4th of March. 2 months before the Premier League would end. No other
team in history has ever won the title with so many more games to go. Even
if we were to lose tonight, we would have to lose the next 9 matches in
order for West Ham to wrest the title away from us. They would have to win
all their remaining matches too.
32,000 were on hand to see the match. We had another 40,000 at Ashburton
Grove tuning into the large TV screens we have in the stadium. Shops supporting
Arsenal had the crest flying above their heads, as it would also be a local
derby for us. West Ham got the better of us in the opening few minutes.
They had opted to go on an all-out attack. We slowly regained lost grounds
and soon had them defending inside their own half. It wasn't long before
we scored our first. Greening lobbed the ball towards Calaio, who then passed
it on for Cassano. GOAL! Cassano struck a beauty to score Arsenal's first.
But West Ham tightened up their defence and we were held at bay until the
68th minute. A long clearance by Allaway found Calaio just outside the area,
he side-footed the defender before shooting. GOAL! The title is within our
sights! But we were soon letdown by some poor finishing. The match soon
became more exciting in the last 10 minutes. Arsenal fans all over were
chanting songs and congratulatory messages were beginning to pour into the
office. In the 81st minute, Neil Alexander parried the first shot from Aimar
but failed to save the second. GOAL! 5 minutes later, the carving on the
base of the Championship trophy was finished as Cassano dribbled his way
through the West Ham defence before scoring. GOAL! 4-0 to Arsenal and we
were crowned champions for the sixth time in a row![ScreenShot]
The League Cup Final soon followed. Prior to this, Saviola scored his 200th
career goal against Coventry City in the league. That's quite an astonishing
achievement as he has just played in 245 matches. 90,000 people attended
the match at Wembley Stadium. We were the favourites to lift up the League
Cup and Aimar made no mistake to put us in front after 15 minutes. Barrett
doubled the tally in the 21st minute to give us a 2-0 lead. Surprisingly,
Huddersfield played well and had us defending for most of the first half
and the early parts of the second. We even had Barrett being sent off after
committing a cynical foul on Emmanuel Omoyinmi. Saviola made the match safe
for us when he scored a brace in the 76th and 78th minute to give us a 4-0
win over Huddersfield Town in the League Cup Final.
Juventus came visiting for the Champions League Quarter Final match. Unfortunately,
Ljungberg was injured and he won't be playing any part in the match. It
was a seesaw battle in the midfield for most of the match. Matteo Brighi
scored for Juventus in the 12th minute and goals before and after the break
by Calaio and Barrett gave us a 2-1 lead. Juventus was down to 10 men after
Marco Zanchi was sent off but that didn't stop them from snatching a draw
in the 86th minute when David Trezeguet scored. The second leg was a one-sided
affair. Cassano showed us why he was a star in Italy by scoring in the 14th
minute. Two quick goals just before half time by Henry and Joe Cole soon
followed after to give us a 3-0 lead. We had one foot in the Semi Finals
already. Another goal by Van der Vaart just after the break confirmed the
spot and we were cruising to a victory over Juventus. Filippo Inzaghi managed
to reduce the deficit but it was restored by Henry's second goal in the
87th minute. End of the match, Arsenal 5 Juventus 1.[ScreenShot]
In between the Champions League Quarterfinal matches, Arsenal faced Leicester
City at Vicarage Road for the FA Cup Semi Final match. Despite the fact
that Leicester opened scoring in the 9th minute through Tomas Rosenqvist.
Arsenal replied through a hat-trick by Calaio and a goal from Greening to
give us a 4-2 victory and a place in the FA Cup against another London side
The match against PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League Semi Finals was
an easy one. Within 30 minutes Arsenal had scored 3 goals through Saviola
(2) and Henry. PSV finally replied through Arnold Bruggink in the 82nd minute.
Giving them a much needed away goal. The second leg in the Phillips Stadium
was a tight affair. Kevin Bobson reduced the deficit with a goal in the
23rd minute but 2 goals from Calaio in each half gave us a 2-1 win and the
ticket to face Barcelona in the European Cup Final. Surprisingly, Barcelona
beat AC Milan 3-1 at home and 2-1 away. The exact same score line that we
had against PSV.
The Premier League saw us trying to break last season's goal-scoring and
points record. The match against Tottenham Hotspurs ended 4-0 in our favour.
Saviola scoring goal No. 100 and 101. Thus bringing his tally to 28 goals
in the league and winning the Golden Boot Award. On the other hand, I won
the Manager of the month awards for the month of January, February and March.
We secured a marvelous comeback against Crystal Palace when we were 2-0
down with 3 minutes to go. Two quick goals in succession by Barrett and
Greening gave us a 2-2 draw. Craig Flynn scored goal No. 104 that broke
the record against Newcastle United in a 3-1 win. The match also gave us
the points needed as we chalked up 99 points with 2 matches to go. The final
league standings for 2005/06 : Arsenal(103), West Ham United(73), Chelsea(73),
Bristol City(71) and Southampton(69).
In the end, it was a tight race for the runners-up spot. Before the final
game, West Ham, Chelsea and Bristol City were tied with 70 points each.
But 2 late goals conceded by Bristol City in the final match against Tranmere
cost them the chance and they placed fourth overall. A 5-0 win by Chelsea
over Wigan Athletic was not enough for them to overhaul West Ham United.
The 30-point gap was also the largest winning margin by a team, even better
than the 27-point gap we had a few years ago.
Next up, the FA Cup Final match against Fulham. This will be the third all-London
affair in the past 6 years and we have a good record against London sides,
especially Tottenham and Chelsea. 89,000 people were on hand to witness
this event. The Wembley Stadium has become our 'other' home ground for the
past 4 years where the Millenium Stadium was, for my first 2 years in charge.
Both teams appeared charged for the match especially Fulham. They came at
us right from the whistle and the crowd was entertained with fast flowing
football. It didn't took us long to score the first. A great team play by
Arsenal allowed Cole to seek out Saviola in the area. GOAL! Fulham equalised
in the 57th minute when Kinkladze flicked the ball towards Michael Mifsud.
GOAL! 2 minutes later, Arsenal went ahead again. This time around a long
pass by Upson was well controlled by Aimar before he struck. GOAL! Just
when Fulham was getting into the match again, Joe Cole applied the killer
blow in the 77th minute leaving them with a mountain to climb. Final score,
Arsenal 3 Fulham 1. Hooray! We have won the FA Cup for the sixth time in
a row and that's the 13th FA Cup title.[ScreenShot]
We were facing Barcelona again after a one-year hiatus from them in the
European Cup Finals. They hadn't change much from the team that we beat
two seasons ago. 80,000 people gathered at the Stade de France for the match
of the season. It took us just 9 minutes to open the scoring via Henry.
Barcelona had a bad record of losing to us whenever we score an early goal.
I just hope that it would come true again. Kluivert equalised in the 25th
minute of a set-piece corner. Our defence was in tatters each time Barcelona
attacked, luckily Frey produced one of his best performances in an Arsenal
shirt. The second half was just 4 minutes old when Joe Cole scored from
35-yards out. What a goal! 10 minutes later, Kluivert scored again to give
his team a lifeline. Our aim to defend the title was not helped by much
when Alan Quinn got himself sent off for a harsh challenge against Ortega.
We had to play the last 10 minutes with just 10 men. But the sending off
soon became a catalyst as Joe Cole scored his second goal in the 74th minute.
And before Barcelona could equalise, Saviola's goal 3 minutes later saw
Buffon rooted to the spot. In the end, Barcelona did not have what it takes
to overcome 10 men Arsenal, gifting us with the European Cup. We've finally
broken Real Madrid's record of 5 straight wins by winning it 6 times in
Our European record stands at 16 wins and 1 draw. Scoring 56 goals in the
process while conceding 12.