Tag Archives: Arsenal

Iconic Moments: Arsenal sign Dennis Bergkamp (June 1995)

On 20th June 1995, Arsenal completed one of their most important signings in their history as they managed to tempt Dennis Bergkamp to the English game for £7.5 million. The Gunners had experienced a tough 1994-1995 season which had seen them finish only 12th in the Premier League and lose the Cup Winners’ Cup final to Real Zaragoza. New manager Bruce Rioch had only just been appointed and this was his first statement of intent in the Highbury hotseat.

Bergkamp had himself experienced a couple of tricky years at Inter Milan in Serie A. He’d scored only 11 goals in 52 league matches and was desperate to leave Milan for a new challenge elsewhere. This looked like a perfect match in heaven, despite Bergkamp being a Tottenham fan growing up and idolising Glenn Hoddle in his early days.

At his unveiling, he said: “It’s very attractive to me because English teams like to attack, and whenever I’ve played against sides here there have always been possibilities to score. I’m also looking forward to playing alongside Ian Wright, a great player.”

Bergkamp did take time to settle and didn’t score in his first seven appearances but once he broke his duck against Southampton in September 1995, his place with Arsenal immortality was sealed. Bergkamp won the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award in 1998, claimed three Premier League titles and four FA Cups before retiring in 2006.

He is now at his first club, Ajax on the coaching staff but Arsenal will always remain in the heart of Dennis Bergkamp. His plethora of great goals and outrageous skills means he has to be considered among one of the greatest foreign players to ever play in the Premier League.


Premier League Files: Hector Bellerin

Premier League Career: Arsenal (2014-PRESENT)

Injury in January 2019 in a 2-0 home victory over London rivals Chelsea curtailed Hector Bellerin’s 2018-2019 season. Still only 24, the Spaniard has more than enough time to make up for the setback he currently has which means he is very unlikely to return to the Arsenal first-team before October 2019. Bellerin is considered as one of the quickest players in the Premier League and is always among the best full-backs when it comes to creating chances and making assists for his teammates.

He started out in the youth academy at Barcelona but Arsenal has been his only senior club on a permanent basis, arriving in 2011. Two years later, he’d signed his first professional contract with the Gunners and his competitive debut came like many other Arsenal youngsters looking to try and make the grade, in the League Cup. In Bellerin’s case, it was a third round tie in September 2013 against West Bromwich Albion. An eight-game loan period during the 2013-2014 season at Championship club Watford was useful and meant he was more than ready for the breakthrough into the Arsenal first-team for the 2014-2015 campaign.

There was luck about his chance. Regular right-backs Mathieu Debuchy and Calum Chambers were both unavailable through injury for the home match against Hull City in October 2014. Arsene Wenger’s hand had been forced but he put Bellerin into the team and he was one of the better players on the day in a disappointing 2-2 draw with the Tigers. With Debuchy a long-term injury absentee, Bellerin went on to make 20 appearances in the Premier League and his first goal was a popular one with his teammates to crown a 5-0 win over Aston Villa in February 2015. The same opponents met Arsenal in the 2015 FA Cup final and Bellerin was selected to start the showpiece event which they won 4-0.

He signed a new long-term contract ahead of the 2015-2016 season and was now one of the regulars in Wenger’s team selections. He was the sole Arsenal player to make the PFA Team of the Year and came in third place in the club’s Player of the Season voting. He missed just two league games, creating 28 chances and eight assists alongside his outstanding defending responsibilities.

The 2016-2017 campaign was less successful, despite featuring 33 times. Bellerin had a difficult night in a 3-3 draw away at Bournemouth, being caught horribly out of position for the Cherries opener scored by Charlie Daniels and also being bamboozled by some of the skills from Ryan Fraser. The season had a happy ending though with victory over Chelsea meaning a second FA Cup for Hector.

He was back on-song in Wenger’s last campaign as Arsenal manager, scoring a capital cracker in the 92nd minute to salvage a 2-2 draw against Chelsea in January 2018. Bellerin played a big role in the Gunners’ run to the UEFA Europa League semi-finals, scoring in the group stages against Bundesliga side 1. FC Köln.

19 league appearances had been achieved before the devastating rupture of the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee against Chelsea. Leaving in pain on a stretcher with 20 minutes left to play, it was clear that this would be a lengthy absence from the game. However, Bellerin has already received praise on his rehab from his new club boss, Unai Emery and is bound to still be a serious player for Arsenal when he returns to full fitness.

Premier League Rewind: 27th-28th August 2011

Results: Aston Villa 0-0 Wolverhampton Wanderers, Wigan Athletic 2-0 Queens Park Rangers, Blackburn Rovers 0-1 Everton, Chelsea 3-1 Norwich City, Swansea City 0-0 Sunderland, Liverpool FC 3-1 Bolton Wanderers, Tottenham Hotspur 1-5 Manchester City, Newcastle United 2-1 Fulham, West Bromwich Albion 0-1 Stoke City, Manchester United 8-2 Arsenal

It was still early days in the 2011-2012 Premier League season but already, the form of the two Manchester clubs was looking fairly formidable as Manchester City and Manchester United destroyed the two north London clubs on a goal-filled Sunday afternoon of action. It set the trend for some incredible scorelines during the campaign between the top sides in the Premier League.

On the Saturday, Chelsea made it back-to-back victories but they were made to work hard for the win against newly-promoted Norwich City. The scoreline was tied at 1-1 with 10 minutes remaining when Norwich goalkeeper John Ruddy conceded a penalty and was sent off. Frank Lampard converted the spot-kick before new signing Juan Mata scored the third goal to wrap the match up in the 11th minute of stoppage-time. It was the perfect start for the Spaniard who would become an important part of Chelsea’s successful season which ended with them winning the UEFA Champions League.

There was a dramatic game at Ewood Park between Blackburn Rovers and Everton. Blackburn were without a point from their opening two matches and were the better side in this match but missed their chances. Early in the second half, Rovers won a penalty but Tim Howard saved the spot-kick from Junior Hoillett. Incredibly, Blackburn were awarded a second penalty in the contest by referee Lee Mason and inexplicably, missed that too. Mauro Formica smashed his effort against the post. Then in stoppage-time, Mason pointed to the spot for a third time, this time for the visitors when Christopher Samba was adjudged to have fouled Marouane Fellaini. Mikel Arteta converted Everton’s penalty award to earn themselves a very fortunate three points. This would be Arteta’s last contribution for the club. He moved to Arsenal on transfer deadline day.

Wolverhampton Wanderers maintained their unbeaten start to the season, achieving a point in an awful match at Villa Park against Aston Villa which saw just five shots on-target across the 90 minutes between the two teams. There were also no goals in south Wales as Sunderland held Swansea City to a 0-0 draw. Swansea were still awaiting their first goal at this level after three matches.

With Saturday’s action out of the way, attention switched to the Sunday matches and whilst Newcastle United beat Fulham and Stoke City recorded a late victory at The Hawthorns, the headlines were dominated by the showdown matches at White Hart Lane and Old Trafford.

First in north London, Manchester City and in particular, Edin Dzeko, were in unstoppable form against Tottenham Hotspur. Dzeko scored four times and new signing Sergio Aguero scored his third goal since his summer arrival from Atletico Madrid. Manchester City won the game 5-1, inflicting the worst defeat on Harry Redknapp since he became Tottenham manager. As they hadn’t played their first match due to the London riots earlier in the month, the Lilywhites were bottom of the table and without a point from their opening two games.

However, that was beyond the problems Arsenal were experiencing. Star players Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas had been sold and despite a morale-boosting win in midweek in the UEFA Champions League qualifiers against Udinese, the Gunners were short on-numbers and quality ahead of their trip to Old Trafford. They experienced a nightmare afternoon as Manchester United went and surpassed City’s total – both when it came to margin of victory and number of goals. Wayne Rooney scored two inch-perfect free-kicks and a penalty whilst Ashley Young endeared himself to his new supporters with long-range strikes. Robin van Persie missed a penalty and Carl Jenkinson was sent off on a demoralising afternoon for Arsenal supporters. It finished 8-2 and was Arsenal’s worst defeat since 1896. The pain on Wenger’s face was all too clear on the final whistle and he responded with a transfer deadline day spurge, signing Arteta, Per Mertesacker and Andre Santos permanently whilst Yossi Benayoun came in on-loan to bolster his ranks.

What else happened in August 2011?

  • Five people are killed across five days of rioting in the UK following the shooting of Mark Duggan in Tottenham. London is badly affected by the riots and parliament is recalled from its holidays to deal with the crisis.
  • Colonel Gadhafi’s government is effectively overthrown in Libya after rebels take control of the capital, Tripoli.
  • NASA confirms that it has captured photographic evidence of possible liquid water on Mars.
  • Mobile internet use has reached 50% in the UK, according to the Office for National Statistics.
  • Usain Bolt sensationally false starts and is disqualified from the men’s 100m final at the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Daegu. His Jamaican teammate Yohan Blake takes gold in his absence.
  • MPs are to consider a House of Commons debate after an e-petition calling for the release of Cabinet documents relating to the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.


Iconic Moments: Fowler destroys the Arsenal back four (August 1994)

Robbie Fowler was already making a name for himself before Arsenal travelled to Anfield in August 1994. It was the first league match to be played at the famous ground since the famous standing terrace; The Spion Kop had been torn down due to the safety regulations demanded by The Taylor Report. The new all-seater Kop stand was still taking shape but the first seats were ready for this showpiece encounter. However, it was the other end of the ground where all the action took place.

In the 26th minute, Fowler powered the home side into the lead after the ball bounced off his strike partner Ian Rush invitingly into his path. Less than three minutes later, he’d doubled his tally for the afternoon. Steve McManaman made a 60-yard run and found Fowler who had made a run to the right-hand side, before drilling a shot beyond an unsighted David Seaman and into the back of the net.

Just part the half-hour, John Barnes clipped a ball over the top of the famous Arsenal back four and Fowler was away, leaving Tony Adams behind. Seaman blocked his first effort but Fowler was instinctive to this and got to the loose ball before the England goalkeeper and Martin Keown to complete his hat-trick from the most improbable of angles. He had just destroyed the Arsenal back four in four minutes and 33 seconds.

It was a Premier League record for the fastest hat-trick that stood for over 20 years and still remains one of the most remarkable moments in the league’s history. This was the day when 19-year-old Robbie Fowler became one of the hottest properties, not just in English but in world football.

Memorable Matches: Chelsea 3-5 Arsenal (October 2011)

Goalscorers: Frank Lampard 14, Robin van Persie 36, 85, 90, John Terry 45, Andre Santos 49, Theo Walcott 55, Juan Mata 80


Chelsea: Petr Cech, Branislav Ivanovic, Jose Bosingwa, Ashley Cole, John Terry, John Obi Mikel (Raul Meireles 76), Ramires (Romelu Lukaku 72), Frank Lampard, Juan Mata, Daniel Sturridge (Florent Malouda 62), Fernando Torres

Arsenal: Wojciech Szczesny, Per Mertesacker, Andre Santos, Laurent Koscielny, Johan Djourou (Carl Jenkinson 76), Mikel Arteta, Alex Song, Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott (Tomas Rosicky 79), Gervinho (Thomas Vermaelen 88), Robin van Persie

Referee: Andre Marriner, Attendance: 41,801

Chelsea and Arsenal have played out some brilliant encounters during the Premier League era and this meeting at Stamford Bridge in October 2011 must definitely rank among the best. It was a crazy match where attacking instincts were rewarded and defensive frailties for both teams were exposed.

Andre Villas-Boas’ side were coming off the back of a damaging 1-0 defeat a week earlier to Queens Park Rangers which saw Jose Bosingwa and Didier Drogba sent off, whilst John Terry had been accused of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand. Despite the off-field distractions, it was the Blues who struck first on 14 minutes. From Juan Mata’s great cross, Frank Lampard made one of his trademark runs into the box and he placed a header past Wojciech Szczesny.

Lampard nearly grabbed an assist soon afterwards when his tremendous ball picked out Daniel Sturridge. Unfortunately for Lampard, Sturridge horribly sliced his effort wide of the post. Arsenal had already missed a couple of great opportunities but finally took one of their chances nine minutes before the interval. Aaron Ramsey’s defence-splitting pass opened up the hosts’ backline and Gervinho squared the ball for his skipper, Robin van Persie to tap home.

Sturridge had a goal disallowed for offside before Chelsea regained their lead before half-time. Arsenal’s weakness all season had been defending from set-pieces and they conceded yet again from this situation. Lampard’s corner was bundled into the back of the net by Terry who escaped some suspect marking from the Gunners. After his testing week, it was a nice way for him to end it in a positive manner.

The fast-paced nature of this match continued after the break as Arsenal turned the game around in the opening 10 minutes of the second half. First, left-back Andre Santos scored before the brilliant Theo Walcott escaped the attentions of Lampard and Branislav Ivanovic and recovering from a slight stumble, he drilled a shot inside Petr Cech’s defences at his near post.

In-between this, Arsenal goalkeeper Szczesny charged out of his goal and hacked down Ashley Cole. The covering defenders meant referee Andre Marriner opted to take the yellow card option after advice from his assistants. A grandstand finish was set-up when Mata levelled the scores at 3-3 with 10 minutes to go with a brilliant strike from distance although Arsene Wenger was furious, feeling Santos had been fouled in the build-up by substitute Romelu Lukaku.

Then, the crucial moment came with five minutes left. Terry slipped, allowing Van Persie to race clear. The Dutchman rounded Cech and put the ball into a gaping goal to score his second of the afternoon. In the 89th minute, he completed a marvellous hat-trick, flashing a shot past Cech after being played in by Mikel Arteta.

This was Arsenal’s first away victory of the season and a memorable victory for the Gunners. Van Persie took his tally to 28 goals in 27 Premier League games in 2011 and he finished as the league’s top goalscorer in what proved to be his last season in an Arsenal jersey.

Premier League Rewind: 13th-14th September 1997

Results: Arsenal 4-1 Bolton Wanderers, Barnsley 0-3 Aston Villa, Coventry City 1-0 Southampton, Crystal Palace 0-3 Chelsea, Derby County 3-1 Everton, Leicester City 3-0 Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool FC 2-1 Sheffield Wednesday, Manchester United 2-1 West Ham United, Newcastle United 1-3 Wimbledon, Blackburn Rovers 3-4 Leeds United

Going into the second month of action in the 1997-1998 season, it was Blackburn Rovers who were setting the early pace. New manager Roy Hodgson had made an immediate impact on his new side and they were scoring plenty of goals, finding the net 15 times in five matches. Blackburn were looking to keep their advantage at the top of the table and respond to Saturday’s action when they met Leeds United in the live televised Sky match.

Before they got the opportunity to play, history was being made at Highbury. Against Bolton Wanderers, Ian Wright finally managed to eclipse Cliff Bastin and become Arsenal’s record all-time goalscorer. Wright’s first goal saw him equal Bastin’s mark of 177 goals but in the excitement of scoring the equaliser, he took his top off and revealed a vest he was wearing ‘178 – Just Done It!’ He was slightly too keen but five minutes later, a more routine tap-in was the goal that saw him break the record. To cap his amazing day, he completed his hat-trick with nine minutes left, taking his tally to six goals in six games. Arsenal won the game 4-1 and remained unbeaten, playing some cavalier football under Arsene Wenger which was a welcome sight for the fans who had got used to tight, cagey games in the George Graham era.

Manchester United hadn’t quite reached full throttle yet but they were getting the results and that meant the reigning champions went top after beating West Ham United 2-1 at Old Trafford. After five consecutive clean sheets, the Red Devils defence finally conceded after 14 minutes thanks to John Hartson. Recently-appointed captain, Roy Keane quickly levelled the scores before Paul Scholes scored the winning goal with 14 minutes left to play.

They would stay top of the table as Blackburn were beaten for the first time in the season after an absorbing first half against Leeds, who went into the match on a run of three successive defeats and just outside the bottom three. Leeds made a great start, taking a 2-0 lead inside six minutes through Rod Wallace and Robert Molenaar. Within 16 minutes, Blackburn were level, thanks to a scorching strike from Kevin Gallacher and a Chris Sutton penalty. Attack seemed to be the best form of defence for both teams and the visitors stormed back into a two-goal lead. Wallace scored his second of the afternoon before David Hopkin finished off another sweeping counter-attack. On 33 minutes, Martin Dahlin got the better of Molenaar and beat Nigel Martyn with a shot that went in off the post. Naturally, the second half didn’t quite have the frantic approach of the first 45 minutes although Leeds finished with 10 men after Harry Kewell was sent off. Nevertheless, they held on for all three points and left Blackburn three points behind Manchester United.

Elsewhere and Newcastle United’s 100% start to the season was ended by a Wimbledon side who had started the weekend bottom of the Premier League. The Dons left Tyneside with all three points after an excellent all-round team performance, triumphing 3-1 with goals from Carl Cort, Chris Perry and Efan Ekoku. Southampton replaced them at the foot of the table after losing 1-0 away at Coventry City. Chelsea moved into third position with a fourth successive victory after cruising to a 3-0 success at Selhurst Park against Crystal Palace. Graeme Le Saux wrapped the scoring up in the 90th minute with his first goal in his second spell with the Blues.

What else happened in September 1997?

  • Over two billion people worldwide watch the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales which takes place at Westminster Abbey.
  • September sees the death of Mother Teresa, aged 87.
  • Both Scotland and Wales voted in favour of a devolved Parliament, meaning the formation of the National Assembly for Wales and the Scottish Parliament.
  • The IOC selects Athens as the host city of the 2004 Summer Olympics.
  • The National Geographic Channel is launched.
  • The Italian regions of Umbria and Marche are struck by an earthquake, causing part of the Basilica of St. Francis at Assisi to collapse.
  • The football teams in Scotland’s top-flight, including Rangers and Celtic, decide to split from the SFL and form the Scottish Premier League from next season.


Premier League Rewind: 19th-21st October 2002

Results: Leeds United 0-1 Liverpool FC, Blackburn Rovers 5-2 Newcastle United, Everton 2-1 Arsenal, Fulham 1-1 Manchester United, Manchester City 0-3 Chelsea, Sunderland 0-1 West Ham United, West Bromwich Albion 1-1 Birmingham City, Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 Bolton Wanderers, Charlton Athletic 1-0 Middlesbrough, Aston Villa 0-1 Southampton

Reigning Premier League champions Arsenal were in sensational form ahead of this round of fixtures in the 2002-2003 season. Undefeated in league matches since December 2001, the Gunners travelled to Goodison Park full of confidence and looking to extend their 30-match unbeaten run.

It seemed like it was going to the formbook when Freddie Ljungberg put the Gunners infront meaning they had now scored in 49 consecutive matches. However, this was an Everton side that was beginning to show some real promise under David Moyes. After Lee Carsley had an effort that hit the post, Tomasz Radzinski drove in an equaliser past David Seaman midway through the first half. The game looked like it was going to end in a draw when 16-year-old Wayne Rooney tried his luck from distance and his shot beat Seaman comprehensively. It was his first Premier League goal and ended Arsenal’s 10-month unbeaten sequence in the Premier League. After the game, a gracious Arsene Wenger said: “Rooney is the biggest England talent I’ve seen since I arrived in England.” He wasn’t wrong either judging by how his career worked out.

Arsenal’s slip up on Merseyside meant Liverpool FC finished the weekend top of the table. The Reds had already hit top spot before Arsenal kicked off because their match concluded on Saturday lunchtime and they grabbed a narrow 1-0 victory away at Elland Road over Leeds United. It was a goal scored in Yorkshire but made by two Senegalese players. El-Hadji Diouf’s fine cross was prodded into the back of the net by Salif Diao. It was his first and only Premier League goal as a Liverpool FC player.

Middlesbrough began the weekend in third place but dropped two places after slipping to a 1-0 defeat at The Valley against Charlton Athletic. Jason Euell’s fourth-minute header saw the Addicks climb out of the drop zone with only their third victory from 10 games this season. The team to benefit from Boro’s defeat were Tottenham Hotspur. Glenn Hoddle’s side recorded their sixth victory from 10 outings as they beat Bolton Wanderers 3-1 at White Hart Lane. Robbie Keane was quickly becoming a favourite with the Spurs faithful. He added another two goals to his tally since his late August move from Leeds United.

Manchester United remained in fourth place but required a second half equaliser from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to earn a hard-fought point in a 1-1 draw at Fulham, who consolidated their position in the top half of the table. However, the Cottagers did slip below west London rivals Chelsea in the table after Claudio Ranieri’s side achieved a convincing 3-0 away victory on their last-ever trip to Maine Road against Manchester City. There were two more goals for Gianfranco Zola who was enjoying the limelight in his final season as a Chelsea player.

Sunderland unveiled a new management team after parting company with Peter Reid just before the last international break. Howard Wilkinson returned to Premier League management for the first time in six years, supported by Steve Cotterill. They got off to a shocking start though, losing 1-0 at home to fellow strugglers West Ham United. The Hammers moved into 14th place after achieving their third win in four matches but with just six points covering the entire bottom half of the table, there was still little to separate the struggling teams in this intriguing Premier League season.

What else happened in October 2002?

  • Over 200 people are killed when multiple bombs are planted in two nightclubs on the Indonesian island of Bali. Over 20 UK nationals are among the dead.
  • Chechen rebels take control of the Nord-Ost theatre in Moscow, holding the audience hostage. Following a Russian attempt to subdue the militants, at least 170 people are killed.
  • Estelle Morris steps down as Secretary of State for Education.
  • Hearsay confirms they are going to go their separate ways. Created by the ITV series Popstars, they cite pressure and public abuse for their reasons.
  • Following allegations about his personal life in the press and from Matthew Wright on his Channel Five programme, This Morning presenter John Leslie is sacked.
  • The Northern Ireland Assembly is suspended following allegations of spying.
  • The BBC Asian Network is broadcast nationally for the first time.


Great Goals: Jose Antonio Reyes – ARSENAL vs. Middlesbrough (August 2004)

Arsenal were looking to equal Nottingham Forest’s all-time top-flight record of going 42 league matches unbeaten when they hosted Middlesbrough in the second match of the 2004-2005 season. However, that record looked to be safe when Boro went into a 3-1 lead early in the second half.

The Gunners showed their championship instincts however and stormed back to win the contest 5-3. The goal which gave them the lead was a special moment for Spanish winger Jose Antonio Reyes. Moments after Robert Pires had equalised, Reyes cut inside Dutch international full-back Michael Reiziger and fired an unstoppable right-footed drive into the far top corner of Mark Schwarzer’s net. It was part of a sequence that saw Reyes score in the first five matches of the season.

He never quite lived up to the £20 million price tag that Arsene Wenger paid for him from Sevilla but he showed moments of quality during his two-and-a-half-years at Highbury and this goal against Middlesbrough to equal a piece of English football history is right near the top of the list.

Shock Results: Nottingham Forest 2-1 Arsenal (December 1996)

Goalscorers: Ian Wright 63, Alf-Inge Haaland 67, 89


Nottingham Forest: Mark Crossley, Colin Cooper, Steve Chettle, Stuart Pearce, Nikola Jerkan (Des Lyttle 85), Chris Allen, Alf-Inge Haaland, Ian Woan, Kevin Campbell, Bryan Roy (Nigel Clough 65), Dean Saunders

Arsenal: John Lukic, Steve Bould, Martin Keown, Andy Linighan, Nigel Winterburn, Remi Garde (Steve Morrow 78), Gavin McGowan (Ray Parlour 69), David Platt, Paul Merson, Dennis Bergkamp (John Hartson 74), Ian Wright (SENT OFF)

Referee: Stephen Lodge, Attendance: 27,384

Nottingham Forest were in dire straits going into the 1996 Christmas period. With just one victory all season, popular manager Frank Clark had left leading up to this fixture against Arsenal after three and a half years at the helm. England defender Stuart Pearce was given the challenge to try and keep the club in the Premier League in a caretaker capacity.

His first match against Arsenal couldn’t be much harder. The Gunners were firmly in the shake-up for the Premier League title and manager Arsene Wenger had only tasted defeat once since becoming the club’s permanent boss in October. He did arrive at The City Ground with David Seaman, Lee Dixon, Tony Adams and Patrick Vieira all absent. However, he could welcome Dennis Bergkamp back after he’d missed the last four matches with a hamstring injury.

On a chilly afternoon by the River Trent, goalscoring chances were few and far between in the first 45 minutes. As anticipated pre-match, the visitors had the best of the moments. Martin Keown had the best opportunity after a nice interchange of passes with Bergkamp. However, he scuffed his shot well wide of the post. There was also a tense exchange between Arsenal teammates Ian Wright and Paul Merson which involved some shoving and set the tone for Wright’s troubled afternoon.

Wenger’s side took the lead on 63 minutes. Mark Crossley dropped a cross from Nigel Winterburn. Keown challenged for the loose ball and it broke to Wright who lashed the ball into the unguarded net. However, Forest responded with an equaliser just four minutes later. Fine work on the left-hand side from Dean Saunders saw his cross find Alf-Inge Haaland, who swept home.

The flashpoint moment came on 70 minutes when referee Stephen Lodge sent Wright off for the first time in his Arsenal career. Having won a free-kick for being body checked by Nikola Jerkan, Wright got involved further. Television replays showed him stamping on the foot of the Croatian. There was definitely an overreaction from Jerkan but after consultation from his linesman closest to the incident, Lodge brandished the red card in Wright’s direction.

Forest sensed a winner was there for the taking. The decisive goal came one minute from full-time. Kevin Campbell and Andy Linighan battled for the ball in the penalty area and the ball ricocheted to the feet of Norwegian Haaland. From 10-yards out, he drilled past John Lukic to set Pearce up for a dream start in his caretaker role.

Nottingham Forest were relegated before the season’s end whilst Arsenal finished in third position but this was a day which showed that in the Premier League, nothing is certain until the final whistle.

Great Goals: Dennis Bergkamp – ARSENAL vs. Tottenham Hotspur (November 1996)

Dennis Bergkamp’s Arsenal career was littered with so many special moments and incredible goals. In the 1997-1998 campaign, the Dutchman’s superb skills saw him help Arsenal to a league and cup double and saw him win the PFA Players’ Player of the Year. One season earlier, he produced a sign of what was to come with a supreme finish in the closing stages of the Highbury North London Derby.

Arsenal had just taken a 2-1 lead through skipper Tony Adams, when Bergkamp finished the game off with this wonderful control. Strike partner Ian Wright seemed to be happy to take the ball into the corner flag to see the game out but he teased Clive Wilson into this trick. He beat the defensive midfielder and crossed the ball to the back post for Bergkamp.

Bergkamp killed the ball with a marvellous first touch which took him inside Stephen Carr. Then, his second touch saw him drive his shot past Ian Walker into the far corner of the net. Arsenal won the game 3-1 and their domination of the North London scene would continue for several years afterwards. Arsene Wenger would only lose one of these games in the next 14 years.

Memorable Matches: Arsenal 3-2 Aston Villa (December 2001)

Goalscorers: Paul Merson 21, Steve Stone 34, Sylvain Wiltord 46, Thierry Henry 72, 90


Arsenal: Stuart Taylor, Lauren, Sol Campbell, Matthew Upson (Martin Keown 45), Ashley Cole, Patrick Vieira, Ray Parlour, Freddie Ljungberg (Sylvain Wiltord 45), Robert Pires, Dennis Bergkamp (Kanu 68), Thierry Henry

Aston Villa: Peter Enckelman, Alan Wright, Olof Mellberg, Jlloyd Samuel, Steve Staunton, Gareth Barry (Darius Vassell 78), George Boateng, Lee Hendrie, Paul Merson, Steve Stone, Dion Dublin

Referee: Alan Wiley, Attendance: 38,074

With Manchester United having already lost six times in the 2001-2002 Premier League campaign by early December, the race for the title was wide open. Arsenal were one of the main contenders whilst Aston Villa had topped the table in late October, although they had slipped off the pace in recent weeks.

The sides met at Highbury and produced a contest which was a game of two halves. In the opening 45 minutes, the Villans put in a clinical, decisive counter-attacking display which meant they went into the dressing rooms 2-0 ahead at half-time. After 21 minutes, they took the lead through a former Arsenal title winner.

Peter Enckelman’s long goal-kick was flicked on by Dion Dublin who had the measure of Sol Campbell. Campbell’s centre-back partner Matthew Upson was caught out of position and Paul Merson held him off before chipping the onrushing Stuart Taylor to give John Gregory’s side a deserved lead.

11 minutes before half-time, their lead had been doubled. Veteran Steve Staunton launched a deep free-kick into the penalty box and it caused plenty of confusion in the Arsenal backline. Lauren and Freddie Ljungberg failed to clear their lines, allowing Alan Wright to drive the ball back into the danger zone. Campbell produced a vital block to deny Lee Hendrie but the ball fell neatly into the path of Steve Stone and the midfielder took the opportunity with panache. Arsene Wenger needed to make some tactical adjustments to change the course of the match.

The struggling Upson was replaced by Martin Keown at half-time and Sylvain Wiltord was introduced for Ljungberg. Just a minute after his half-time introduction, Wiltord had halved Villa’s advantage with virtually his first touch of the contest. From Ray Parlour’s cross, a deflection off a Villa defender allowed the Frenchman to score with a left-footed volley.

Arsenal were now bossing proceedings and as the second half wore on, Villa started to drop deeper and deeper. With 18 minutes left, the equaliser arrived. Jlloyd Samuel was robbed of possession by Patrick Vieira and Vieira picked out Thierry Henry who kept his composure to equalise.

The pressure continued and Wiltord was denied a second goal by an offside flag but as stoppage-time approached, the winning goal finally arrived for the Gunners. Enckelman’s sloppy goal-kick gave the hosts one final opportunity. Robert Pires was stronger in a 50:50 challenge against a tentative George Boateng and he played Henry through. He made no mistake and scored his 21st goal of the season in all competitions to complete the stirring second half comeback.

The result took Arsenal into second place in the table and they eventually ended up winning the title by seven points – losing just one more Premier League match between this game and the end of the campaign. Gregory left Aston Villa six weeks later and they faded away to eighth in the final table.

Premier League Rewind: 1st-8th March 2003

Results: Newcastle United 2-1 Chelsea, Blackburn Rovers 1-0 Manchester City, Fulham 1-0 Sunderland, Middlesbrough 1-1 Everton, Southampton 1-0 West Bromwich Albion, West Ham United 2-0 Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal 2-0 Charlton Athletic, Aston Villa 0-2 Birmingham City, Manchester United 2-1 Leeds United, Middlesbrough 1-0 Newcastle United, Liverpool FC 2-0 Bolton Wanderers

In early March 2003, three teams still had genuine ambitions of the Premier League title. They were reigning champions Arsenal, seven-time winners Manchester United and Sir Bobby Robson’s exciting Newcastle United side. This round of fixtures produced plenty of intrigue if slightly short on goals.

Newcastle played twice in just a few days, as they had to play a rescheduled contest away at The Riverside Stadium against Middlesbrough. First up for the Magpies though was a battle with fourth-placed Chelsea. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink scored a spectacular own goal to put Newcastle into the lead on 31 minutes. Frank Lampard quickly equalised but it wasn’t enough for the visitors. Hugo Viana and Olivier Bernard combined beautifully for the full-back to score a rare goal and seal a 2-1 victory for Robson’s side, which took them level on points with Manchester United and only behind Sir Alex Ferguson’s side on goal difference.

United weren’t playing on the weekend due to their League Cup final commitments against Liverpool FC which meant Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal had the opportunity to hold an eight-point lead for a few days at least. They seized the chance with a 2-0 victory over Charlton Athletic, ending the Addicks’ own five-game winning sequence.

So in the midweek matches, Manchester United and Newcastle were looking to bridge the gap again. The latter missed the opportunity to put the pressure back on Arsenal, losing 1-0 to local rivals Middlesbrough. Geremi scored the only goal of the contest on 62 minutes to hand Newcastle a first league defeat of 2003. Manchester United though defeated Leeds United 2-1 to reduce the gap back to five points. Leeds put in a plucky display but were beaten by Mikael Silvestre’s 79th minute goal, inflicting a fourth defeat in five matches on the Yorkshire club. Terry Venables only took charge of one more match before deciding to part ways with Leeds after a chastening seven months in the managerial hotseat of the financially troubled side.

Chelsea’s defeat on Tyneside meant they relinquished fourth position in the table to Everton who continued to defy the critics. They drew 1-1 at Middlesbrough. Liverpool FC moved back into the top six after beating Bolton Wanderers 2-0 at Anfield, a week after they beat Manchester United by the same scoreline in the League Cup final. El-Hadji Diouf was among the scorers on a rare day where the Senegalese player justified the £11 million transfer fee that had been paid for his services in the summer.

There was a tasty Second City Derby at Villa Park. Aston Villa completely lost their discipline in the second half with their meltdown beginning with Dion Dublin’s red card for a head-butt on Robbie Savage. Joey Gudjonsson also saw red late on for a reckless two-footed challenge and Birmingham recorded a memorable league double over the Villans with goals from Stan Lazaridis and Geoff Horsfield helping the Blues to a 2-0 victory on enemy territory.

In another local affair, West Ham United claimed three much-needed points against Tottenham Hotspur. Les Ferdinand scored against the club that had allowed him to leave for Upton Park only a few weeks earlier as the Hammers won 2-0 to go level with Bolton in the table and only behind the Trotters on goal difference in a relegation battle between the pair that would go all the way to the wire.

What else happened in March 2003?

  • The US and UK begin the invasion of Iraq as Tony Blair and George W. Bush start the plan for regime change in the country. It is the second war in Iraq in 12 years.
  • ITN journalist Terry Lloyd is killed just a few days into covering the war after being caught in crossfire in Basra.
  • A global alert is issued by The World Health Organization after the SARS epidemic spreads to Vietnam and Hong Kong have originated in China.
  • The Prime Minister of Serbia, Zoran Dindic is assassinated.
  • In separate referendums, Malta and Slovenia approve joining the European Union.
  • Australia becomes the first team to win three Cricket World Cups after defeating India in the 2003 final by 125 runs.