Category Archives: Football

Arsenal vs leeds – tom’s match report

We met Gunnersaurus before the match.

We got to meet Gunnersaurus before the game outside of the Armoury. We also said hello to, Arsenal legend, Bob Wilson in the car park before the match. Finally, before going in, we got to see the Rugby League World Cup trophy. The Emirates will be hosted some of the matches later in the year.

Me and my dad with the Rugby League World Cup trophies

The Line-Up

Today Partey and Tierney will probably miss the end of the season with the long term injuries and I will be glad to see them again next season. I did not expect Martinelli to start over Smith Rowe, I thought Marinelli would come on for Emile Smith Rowe in the second half. Also Ben White is out with an injury, but hopefully he is back next week.

Ramsdale

Soares Holding Gabriel Tomiyasu

Ødegaard Elneny Xhaka

Saka  Nketiah  Martinelli

First Half

Before kick-off the Arsenal fans got to sing our new anthem, ‘The Angel’ by Louis Dunford. It was really good and should happen at every match. This is what is sounded like from where we were.

Within the first two minutes, Arsenal got a free kick from Saka being fouled. Odegaard whipped the ball in across the penalty area slightly missing one or two diving heads. Three minutes later, Arsenal super striker Nketiah pounced on a heavy touch by Illian Meslier, the young Leeds goalkeeper from France, and Eddie knocked the ball into the back of the net.

Ten minutes gone and Nketiah could not wait for more as Martinelli crossed the ball in and Eddie scored, slotting the ball into the bottom right corner.

Half an hour in and Luke Ayling, the Leeds United right back, got sent off for a ferocious tackle on Gabriel Martinelli, who had been only just able to actually keep the ball in play. The ref gave a yellow to begin with, but VAR made him check it. It did take some time, including a yellow card for Raphinha for protesting about the initial foul being a yellow card instead, but eventually he gave the red.

Arsenal did have some other fabulous chances to score, including two corners. Just before half time, Arsenal had another free kick, Meslier got a hand to the ball as Marcos Llorente bicycle kicked off the line, towards the corner flag.

At Half Time

At half time, the Arsenal 1971 double winning team came out. Players like Charlie George, George Graham, Frank McLintock and Bob Wilson all came out to applause from the crowd. My Grandad was jealous.

The legends of ’71 came out at half time

Second Half

In the 2nd half, Arsenal still had most of the ball but the Leeds fans were really helping to support their team. Leeds could have been able to catch Arsenal on the counter attack. During the first ten to twenty minutes of the second half Arsenal had six corners, four consecutive, two afterwards.

Sixty-six minutes in, Leeds had their 1st corner, whipped into the back post. Llorente slides downward tucks the ball under Aaron Ramsdale to score. Completely against the run of play. Arsenal were a bit nervy at times after that with Leeds on the attack. Ramsdale had to make some amazing saves to keep Arsenal ahead. Arsenal did have some more attempts though.

Player Ratings

My Man of the Match was Eddie Nketiah because of his cheekiness to sneak up on Meslier to score his first goal and class to score his second.

Ramsdale – 7

Soares 5 Holding – 7 Gabriel – 7 Tomiyasu – 8

Ødegaard – 8 Elneny – 8 Xhaka – 7

Saka – 8  Nketiah – 9  Martinelli – 8

Arsenal are now four points ahead of fifth placed Spurs, with the North London derby on Thursday. We’re also a point behind third place Chelsea, so Arsenal might snatch third place!

Read my other match reports and review here.

Arsenal v Leicester – Tom’s Match Report

Before the game I was lucky to meet Freddie Ljungberg and Robert Pires, two of Arsenal’s legendary ‘Invincibles’.

The Line-Up`

Smith Rowe had been out with Covid last week and was back on the bench, so Martinelli kept his place on the left. Tomiyasu still isn’t fit so Cedric Soares started at right back.

Ramsdale

Soares White Gabriel Tierney

Ødegaard Thomas Xhaka

Saka Lacazette Martinelli

First Half

Arsenal started very brightly, Martinelli looking lively down the left wing and Cedric Soares putting crosses in the box from the right hand side of the pitch. Arsenal had some penalty shouts turned down by the referee and some great chances to score a goal. After Arsenal won a corner from a deflected Tierney cross, Thomas Partey scored a bullet header from a brilliant Martinelli corner. Partey had another chance to score but the ball hit the post.

Leicester built pressure over the rest of the first half but Arsenal stayed on top helped by Ben White, Gabriel Magalhaes and Thomas Partey all playing a part. Aaron Ramsdale also made incredible saves in the Arsenal goal.

Second Half

In the second half, Arsenal continued to be the better team having a few more chances to score a goal. Arsenal then had a brilliant chance to score from a swung in Ødegaard freekick with Ben White heading the ball onto the grass and Partey then using his head to direct the ball onto the goal line. During the freekick, the ball hit Söyüncü’s hand in the penalty area. After a five minute VAR check, referee Anthony Taylor was called to the monitor to check if it was a penalty. Eventually, he gave it and Alexandre Lacazette scored. Lacazette scores the penalty to make it 2 – 0. Arsenal controlled the rest of the match well and Arteta used all of the three substitutes bringing on Smith Rowe, Nketiah and Pepe.

Arsenal are now in fourth place in the Premier League table on fifty-one points with three games in hand over fifth placed Manchester United, on fifty points. Hopefully, Arsenal get to play in the Champions League next season!

Player Ratings

My Man of the Match was Thomas Partey because he was all over the pitch and scored a great goal. Odegaard, Saka and Martinelli were all really good as well.

Ramsdale – 7

Soares – 7 White – 7 Gabriel – 7 Tierney – 7

Ødegaard – 8 Thomas – 9 Xhaka – 8

Saka – 8 Lacazette – 7 Martinelli – 8

Right at the end I got to meet Alan Smith. He is a Sky Sports commentator and used to play for Arsenal.

Accessing Arsenal

Being the parents to a boy with cerebral palsy, we are well versed in making arrangements ahead of visiting any establishment that we’ve not been to before. We try and give our son a rich and varied range of experiences, but we’d not been anywhere with a crowd of 60,000 people with him before, so out first trip to the Emirates Stadium was always going to pose a challenge. On Saturday 19th February, for the game against Brentford, we made the dream of seeing Arsenal play live at the Emirates Stadium a reality.

Tom is 8 years old and uses a Kaye Walker to assist his mobility. He’s been an Arsenal fan all of his life as he comes from a line of Gooners and is a passionate and knowledgeable football supporter in general. For one reason or another we’d previously watched matches together at the homes of Plymouth Argyle, Portsmouth and Havant and Waterlooville, but this trip was on a whole other level.

Booking the tickets

In order to get tickets to watch Arsenal you need to be a member. Adults need to be at least Red Members and children need to be Junior Gunners. We signed him up as a JG and when his membership card finally arrived we called to book some tickets. I spent a lot of time on hold and spoke to a few different people. Everyone I spoke to in the hour long (lots of time on hold/waiting) phone call was very friendly and wanted to help. The trouble was, they all told me slightly different things. The (very) long and the short of it was that he had the wrong kind of Junior Gunners membership. He was meant to have a Purple one. Purple membership is for disabled supporters. It couldn’t just be transferred though, we had to fill in some forms and provide evidence. No problem, just a little time consuming. Sadly though, these took another month+ to be verified, so more games missed. It was only when I chased it up that they then asked me for the information that I’d sent the previous month, so I forwarded them the same email, to the same address. They apologised and everything was approved pretty quickly.

It was at this point that Jacqueline from the disability team got involved. She emailed a few times and asked and answered a whole load of questions. Finally, she called me to book the tickets to make sure everything was exactly how we needed. She was/is great and a real asset to Arsenal Football Club.

Parking

One of the really important things that are offered to disabled members that need it, is the opportunity to park at the stadium. This was crucial in making this whole experience possible because if we had to go on the Tube it would have been considerably more challenging.

I’d read that I had to arrive before 2pm (3pm kick off) because of road closures and the like. As it was the boy’s first game, we wanted to get there early to have a look around and get some food. So we arrived at midday. It turns out we weren’t allowed in until 12:30pm because we’re not diamond members. So we waited. In the car. Looking at the crowd building.

We were waved through at 12:30pm and the man outside the entrance asked to see our tickets, he asked if we were going straight up or leaving the stadium. I explained that we wanted to visit the shop and see the statues so he said he wouldn’t scan the tickets or we wouldn’t be able to get back in. Helpful.

We drove though and found the area we were meant to park. Once we’d sorted ourselves out, we found the nearest member of staff and asked how we get out. He searched our bag, put a tag on it and told us to take a lift upstairs. He was a kind and friendly man, but his advice turned out to not be the most helpful.

Taking the lift up to the ground floor, we found ourselves in a stadium that was not yet open to the public and no way of getting out. I asked how we get out and was repeatedly told that, ‘once you’re in, you’re in.’ Not ideal as that meant we wouldn’t see the stadium from the outside. Wouldn’t see the statues. Wouldn’t see the Armoury. Wouldn’t drink in the pre-game atmosphere.

One member of staff took pity on us and tried to help. He spent a few minutes on a red phone talking to someone (security HQ maybe or possibly Batman) and eventually he came up with a plan. I asked why we couldn’t just go out of the the fire exit, he said, ‘you just can’t, don’t ask why’. We both laughed. Then he found someone with a special pass/key/clearance who opened an airlock for us, which released us outside. It was absolutely pissing it down. I suspect security protocols were broken for our benefit, so that was nice, but it would have been better if there was just a simple way to leave the carpark and the staff in the carpark knew what it was.

The Armoury

We ate a phenomenal pizza at Mamma Mia’s Pizzeria on Hornsey road and then headed to the shop. Busy, tight spaces are always a challenge for us, but once people clock Tom’s walker, they generally give him space. The club shop (the Armoury) an hour before kick off is always going to be busy and challenging, but it’s an important part of part of the match day experience for anyone, let alone an 8 year old at his first game, so it had to be done.

We had two objectives. Tom needed a scarf and some dry socks – it really was very wet outside. The scarf bit was easy, they are all over the shop. Socks were a bit more tricky. We asked a member of staff, he said, ‘they are down that way I think’. The next member of staff said, ‘I don’t think we do them.’ The third guy said, ‘I think they are this way, follow me.’ We found some socks. Guy number 3 rocks – when you need socks.

There was a massive queue, which was well managed. We joined the back of the queue and within a few seconds we were approached by a member of staff who invited us to follow her as, she explained that, we had ‘priority’. She led us a little way up the queue, but we were actually keen to see the merchandise that was on offer through the rest of the shop that you pass in the queue. Consequently, to her surprise, we declined the queue-jump option and lined up with everyone else. She said, ‘ok, but I’m around, so if you need me, let me know.’ A lovely and extremely helpful lady. We eventually got to the till and paid and were given a free copy of Ray Parlour’s book. Happy days.

Entering the ground

This bit was pretty simple. We went to join the line but one of the stewards spotted us quickly and ushered us to the airlock entrance. My printed ticket and iPhone wallet ticket didn’t scan properly on the door scanner, so they checked out our tickets and then just opened the airlock and let us in. Helpful people who looked after us quickly.

Finding our seats

Pretty straightforward. The entrance to Block 7 is just opposite where we get into the stadium. That’s probably why we went in that way. The steward at the top of the steps helped us to locate our seats. The disabled viewing area is up 3 short steps, not ideal, but not a massive problem. I helped Tom up and then went back for his walker. We took a seat and changed Tom’s socks for the new dry ones. The area we were located in was pretty good. Great view of the pitch, a few additional screens because we can’t see the big screens higher up in the stadium and a really good atmosphere because it was at the back of the North Bank lower tier.

Other members that were on the viewing platform with us were in wheelchairs, and it was clear they hadn’t come up the 3 steps that we had navigated. They had clearly come in through Block 8, where the ramp to the platform is located. It would probably make sense for all members that are using the platform (aka Row 29) to come in through Block 8. Not a massive problem, but it would have been just that little bit easier for us. We’ll know for next time.

The game

Brilliant. We were absolutely part of the amazing atmosphere within the North Bank and we loved every minute of it – apart from some dubious refereeing decisions. Tom’s Match Report can be found here. We chose to stay in our seats during half time because neither of us needed the toilet and I wasn’t keen to leave Tom on his own while I queued for the refreshments, so we didn’t get any. No biggy, we came prepared, but maybe we’ll try it next time to get the full experience and see how it goes.

Leaving

We stayed in our seats and waited for the stadium to empty a bit. We knew there was no rush because the cars weren’t going to be released until around 45 minutes after the game finished. After we’d sung that song about Saka and Emile Smith Rowe a bunch of times, we headed downstairs.

As promised, when the roads outside began to clear, the carpark was opened and we were free to join the traffic jam of North London and begin to make our way home.

Overall

Consistently, the numerous staff members that we encountered before and during our time at Arsenal professional, friendly and keen to help. The tricky part was that, while they wanted to help, they didn’t all know the procedures they and us were meant to follow. This led to a few complications and some frustrations, but nothing that took away the magic of standing on the North Bank with my son when Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka scored their goals. The fact that they all wanted to help and do what they thought was best, is certainly all I can really ask. I know our requirements are pretty unique and I don’t expect every member of staff to be fully versed on every possible eventuality. When we found the right people, we were brilliantly looked after.

My hope in writing this blog is that someone at Arsenal sees it and gets an understanding of the match day experience of one of their disabled members. I’d also like it if those in senior management got to hear how wonderful their teams are across many departments are, but particularly Jacqueline the Disability Liaison Officer. She liaised brilliantly.

It’s safe to say Tom had what he described as, ‘the best day of my life’. You can read his Match Report here and see how he got on in this TikTok video.

Arsenal v Brentford – Tom’s Match Report

My dad and me at our first Arsenal matches

My dad’s first Arsenal match was on the 27th October 1990 versus Sunderland and 31 and a half years later, it was my turn. I’ve supported Arsenal all of my life but on 19th February 2022 I got to see them live at the Emirates for the first time, versus Brentford.

The Line-Up

I was happy with formation but it would have been good to have Takehiro Tomiyasu at right back instead of Cedric Soares. Soares did well in the end though.

Ramsdale

Soares White Gabriel Tierney

Thomas Xhaka

Saka Odegaard Smith Rowe

Lacazette

First Half

Arsenal had some good chances and scored an early goal, but sadly VAR said it was offside. This was annoying. We also had a few penalty shouts turned down by the referee and we still don’t know why. 🤷‍♂️

Overall, Arsenal were definitely the better team in the first half and unlucky not to score at least two goals before half time.

Second Half

In the second half, Arsenal scored two goals and had chances to score more. The first goal was scored by Emile Smith Rowe as he cut in from the wing using incredible control. Despite David Raya getting his fingertips to the ball, it nestled into the bottom right hand corner.

The second goal was scored by Bukayo Saka, who started the move off in his own half, feeding the ball forward to Lacazette who then passed to Thomas Partey as Saka carried on his quick sprint down the pitch. After striding forward into the Brentford half, Partey released the ball forward towards Saka who finished off the move with gentle control and ended the run of passes with a fantastic finish in-off the far post.

Arsenal players and fans celebrate Bukayo Saka’s goal to make it 2-0

Another highlight of the exciting second half was Odegaard’s outrageous dummy. Soares played the ball to him on the right side of the field and he pretended to smash it. Instead, he let the ball go underneath his foot and let it roll through to Saka so he started another attack.

In extra time in the second half, Brentford scored within the final few seconds with Christian Norgaard basically passing into the net.

The final score was 2-1 to Arsenal and we’ll be back at the Emirates for the game against Leicester in a few weeks.

Player Ratings

My Man of the Match was Emile Smith Rowe because he was great on the wing and his goal was really good. Although, the ‘keeper should really have saved it.

Ramsdale – 6

Soares – 6 White – 6 Gabriel – 7 Tierney – 7

Thomas – 6 Xhaka – 6

Saka – 8 Odegaard – 8 Smith Rowe – 9

Lacazette – 6

Here is my TikTok of our trip to the Emirates.

And another of the amazing Saka and Emile Smith Rowe song.