2 August: Šuker arrived from Real Madrid and Anelka goes the other way

2 August 1999

Davor Šuker scored two in his first game, but it took eight games for another summer arrival (a certain Thierry Henry) to score.

In all the summer incoming transfers were Oleg Luzhny for £1.8m, Silvinho for £4m, Suker £3m, and that certain Mr Henry £11m.

Out: Stephen Hughes (loan), Jason Crowe (£600,000), Diawara (£2.5m), Bould (£500,000), Anelka (£25m).

Injured at the start of season were Seaman, Adams, and Overmars although the latter was on the bench for the opening game against Leicester which opened with

Manninger

Dixon Keown Gremandi Winterburn

Parlour Vieira Petit Ljunbert

Kanu Bergkamp

We won 2-1 and Henry came on as a sub. Luzhny and Suker did not appear; Bergkamp scored and the other was an own goal.  Henry however was joint top in the appearance chart by the end of the season with 31 (along with Overmars, Kanu, Silvinho and Vieira) and he was top scorer with 17.  No one else made it into double figures.

Overall it looked promising – we had new players enough to be able to bring people in slowly, rather than rushing them in, and although Henry bemused many of us by always playing on the wing.  (I actually wrote in a report at the time that he looked “as if he might play in row Z of the East and West stands given the chance, rather than down the middle”, but there was hope with two wins and a draw from the first three games.

Unfortunately, Manchester United beat us at home (ending nearly 2 years unbeaten at Highbury)  and further defeats to Liverpool and West Ham meant that although the start was better than the year before, we had suffered three defeats in the first ten league games.

Worse in terms of players, was the realisation that the FA had started what turned out to be a long vengeful campaign against Vieira, which lead many of us to feel that the FA was indeed going to try and get foreign players (or maybe just Arsenal foreign players) out of the league.  After two yellows and a spitting incident Patrick was banned for six games.  Compare and contrast that with Shawcross getting three for his violent assault.

Worse (in terms of defeats) was to come later with a defeat to Tottenham in November and away to Coventry on Boxing Day.

But many felt at the time part of the trouble was that the team was not settled – there were injuries all the time, with Manninger, Luzhny, Grimandi, Adams, Upson, Silvinho and Kanu coming and going.

Henry did finally score in his eighth game (against Southampton – he came on as a sub) and Suker scored a couple in his first game, so there were a few bright sparks, but from the start Man U were ahead.

And there was one other thing we will remember all our lives… beating Chelsea 3-2 after being 2-0 down, with Kanu scoring all three in the last five seconds, (or so it seemed). The final goal involved the ball travelling one way, turning at 180 degrees and coming back into the goal.

(I may not be completely right there in terms of the technical details, but that’s how it felt.)

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