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Arsene Wenger had won the double with a team that included Anelka, Marc Overmars and Emmanuel Petit. But by the summer of 2000, all three had gone.
These days, as we contemplate the eternal Cesc saga with Barca it is easy to forget this recent past history. £30m for the latter two, to Barca, following the £25m or so for Anelka led to commentaries on other team blogs about Arsenal being a selling club. And we were – although at a sensational profit each time.
But the name Barcelona did not chime with such distaste in those days. Besides which there was no Anti-Wenger movement, no Anti-Arsenal Arsenal blogs, bickering away at everything that the manager did. Most of us had faith that the man who had given us European football and a double knew what he was up to.
But there were departures. At the same time as the Barca moves, Nigel Winterburn left to join West Ham – but at least there we had cover in Silvinho and Cole. Silvinho had played 31 times last season, and Cole had made his debut.
To replace the departing players Wenger brought in Lauren for £7.2m, Pires (an astonishing bargain at £6m), Wiltord (see below) and Edu. With Edu there was never a set fee revealed – but then nothing much was ever revealed about him. The story is (and who really knows if it is true) that he had a Spanish (or was it Portuguese) passport and thus dual nationality making him an EU citizen and thus able to play for Arsenal. But when he turned up at Heathrow (so it is said) it was discovered the EU passport was a fake, and had been handed to him by his agent as a way of getting the deal with Arsenal through.
Who knows? All we knew was that we had Edu to play where Petit had played, and he was not here.
The final signing was Wiltord for £13m. So most of the money for the two departing double winners was used. We had lost two stars, but in return and without really spending anything we had got
Not at all a bad set of deals. There was no replacement for Edu – rather the manager turned again to Grimandi to cover.
Things then looked fairly decent, and if you just look at the record book for the games it doesn’t seem too bad a scenario. We had one defeat in the first thirteen games, and four draws. The rest were won, including two games where we scored five (against Charlton and Man City), and we beat Liverpool and Man U during this run.
In each of the first two games Patrick Vieira was sent off – and so took a long suspension. There was also talk of him leaving English football, although of course he didn’t. Tony Adams was injured and the insanity of international call ups arose with Lauren playing for Cameroon in an Olympic team.
The opening team of the season had been
Dixon Keown Adams Silvinho
Parlour Grimandi Vieira Ljunberg
By mid November however we were on our third goalkeeper (first Lukic and then Manninger coming in). At right back we used Luzhny, Lauren and Vivas. At left back Cole came in for a few games.
Keown was consistently there but Adams was replace by Luzhny for around half the games played. In midfield Pires and Wiltord started on the bench but got starts as the injuries mounted, and Bergkamp flitted in and out of the team. No two games ever saw the same team out and November became a nightmare as we lost to Everton and Leeds, drew with Derby and beat only Middlesbrough.
December was a mixture including beating Newcastle 5-0 and Leicester 6-1 while losing 4-0 to Liverpool. On New Years Day we even lost to Charlton. It wasn’t looking so clever.
The story of this season, including the cup matches, continues in the next article.
The Wenger Index….