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By Tony Attwood
The season 1999/2000 started with some high hopes after 1998/9. Arsenal had finished second, just one point behind Man U, who had won the Double, beating Arsenal 2-1 after extra time in the FA Cup semi-final. A return to the 1997/8 style and pomp could be hoped for especially as Arsenal had signed four players and were being talked of in terms of two more, much bigger signings. Indeed one of them turned out to be the biggest of all: Thierry Henry for £11m from Juventus, although he didn’t arrive until August.
Pre-season Arsenal won two easy away games at Boreham Wood and Notts County.
Then we moved on to games with Saint-Étienne and Monaco on 24 and 26 July.
The team for the first game was
Luzhny Grimandi Keown Winterburn
Parlour Vieira Petit Ljungberg
So two new men in the team: Silvinho from Brazil and Luzhny from Kiev. And it would have been great to talk about their immediate impact but we were two down after ten minutes. However exactly the right tactics were employed – Arsenal steadying themselves for a quarter of an hour before Kanu decided it was time he showed us all that he could do twisting and turning so often it was impossible to count how often. The keeper certainly had no idea where he was going as he scored.
Three minutes later he was off again and it was only by throwing himself in front of Kanu that the keeper stopped the ball. It went to Freddie Ljungberg who popped it into the net.
For the second half Nigel Winterburn and Martin Keown went off and Matthew Upson and Christopher Wreh came in. St Etienne however made ten changes. Arsenal responded by giving Pennant, Malz and Vernazza a run out but there were no more goals and it ended 2-2.
Playing Monaco – Mr Wenger’s old club – two days later provided another stern test – but this game is mostly remembered for the injury to Seaman, who collecting a back pass, pulled a muscle and was taken off right at the end. With Alex Manninger also out injured Stuart Taylor went in goal and the match was fairly tame until Vieira passed perfectly to Petit whose shot was saved by Barthez, bounced out to a defender, hit his leg and bounced into the goal.
Two minutes later the old back four hands aloft trick for offside failed to get the linesman to raise his flag and Farnerud ran through to score.
Emmanuel Petit went off seemingly injured, and Stefan Malz came on. Upson, Wreh, Vernazza, Luzhny and Pennant all got time on the pitch in the second half.
Then with one minute left Seaman got his injury and everyone waited, and wondered and rather forgot that the game ended 1-1.
The team for the Monaco game was
Dixon Upson Keown Winterburn
Parlour Vieira Petit Silvinho
Kanu Boa Morte
What happened next?
We found out that Seaman was indeed badly injured, but Manninger recovered and took over in goal for the charity shield and early league games, Seaman not returning until October. Arsenal played Man U in the Charity Shield, and won with goals from Parlour and Kanu.
Arsenal got two wins and a draw from the first three league games and hopes were high, but dented a little by defeats to Man U and Liverpool in matches four and six.
1999/2000 ended with Arsenal second, 18 points behind Man U and with poor runs in the cups. But Henry had appeared and became the top goal scorer getting 26 in all competitions by the end of the season.
We even started to get used to him playing on the wing for half the game – although getting used to that did take a bit of time.
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