So why feature a defeat in August in this series?
The answer simply is that this was League Match 2 of the third double season – after a 4-0 away win on the opening day of the season against Middlesbrough as Arsenal went unbeaten, away from home, all season. But we lost at home and there was much gnashing of teeth and proclaiming that Arsenal were “simply not good enough.” It was the negativists and their allies in the media’s regular cry. Arsenal could not win anything. They were not good enough.
Leeds were managed by David O’Leary and he was keen to prove his metal as a manager and show Leeds could challenge. They played defensive; in fact they played like Leeds. Lee Bowyer and Danny Mills were sent off. They played like Leeds.
But it all started well as Wiltord almost scored in the first minute. Then the tackles came flying in. Eirik Bakke, Olivier Dacourt, Bowyer and Mills were all booked early on for evil challenges which would have had rugby league commentators talking about it being a “man’s game”.
Sadly for Arsenal and sadly for football, Leeds prospered after 28 minutes. They got a free kick for no good reason on the edge of the area after Mills tripped himself up. Seaman started to sort out the wall but Harte shot and scored before the wall was ready. Still, we can’t complain too much – Henry used the tactic later – against the Villa, I seem to remember.
Minutes later Wiltord headed in from Cole’s cross and it was 1-1. But it wasn’t enough – Leeds came back, the tackles came back, and on 52 minutes Leeds scored again via Viduka.
Arsene Wenger brought on Dennis Bergkamp and he nearly equalised, as did van Bronckhorst, but it wasn’t to be. Two games: one away win, one home defeat.
In the next eight games we won four and drew four, and in fact it wasn’t until 2002 that we really got ourselves together. But in the opening games it wasn’t looking so certain.
Which shows, you can’t always judge seasons by the opening matches.
Lauren Campbell Adams Cole
Ljungbert Vieira Parlour Pires