This game was originally meant to be one of several derby games I would visit this month. Unfortunately, bad weather and fixture changes has put pay to a couple of the other London derbies I was looking forward to.
Having been born in East London and taken an interest in football in the early 90s I could have been an Arsenal fan. I can remember seeing a local team on Wanstead Flats wearing gunner’s jerseys and asking my dad ‘if it was the real Arsenal?’. They were dismissed quickly, however, largely due to their reputation for boring football and commitment to the offside trap. I was too young to analyse if this reputation was deserved or not.
Competition: EFL Cup
Refreshments: £8 (burger and Pepsi)
Star man: Danny Welbeck
Who are ya, Arsenal?
Arsenal are famous in my corner of London as the club that moved in on Tottenham’s turf. The club was formed by munitions workers as Dial Square in Woolwich in 1886. They soon became Royal Arsenal, Woolwich Arsenal and The Arsenal before ending up as just Arsenal. In 1913 the club moved from Woolwich to North London, placing them in direct competition with Tottenham Hotspur.
After the end of WWI The Football League decided to expand their first division and voted for Arsenal to join the league rather than their new local rivals Spurs. The Gunners had finished fifth in division two in the last pre-war season, whereas Spurs had finished bottom of division one. The practice for previous expansions had been to keep the relegated clubs in the league. Arsenal have never dropped out of the top flight since.
The Gunners are one of the most successful English clubs having won the league title 13 times. The first was in 1931 and the most recent was in 2004, when they famously went a whole season unbeaten. Arsenal also hold the record for the most FA Cup wins (13) and have won the trophy three times in the last four seasons. They have been less successful in Europe, however, with the UEFA Cup Winners Cup in 1994 being their only continental silverware. They were also runners up in the Champions League in 2006.
This seems like a great chance to recommend the book Turf Wars by Steve Tongue that tells the history of all the London clubs in a much more accurate and interesting way than I ever could.
- Arsenal were the first London club to turn professional 1891, and they also became the first southern member of The Football League in 1893.
- Arsenal’s red home kit comes from a kit donated by Nottingham Forest to two of their former players who had helped set Arsenal up as Dial Square. The shade of red was changed in the 1930s.
- Arsenal took part in the first English league game broadcast on radio and the first game ever shown on TV. The Gunners played Sheffield United in 1927 on the radio and staged an exhibition against their own reserve side in 1937 that was screened on TV.
- Arsenal’s current Chairman is called Sir Chips! Coincidentally this is also the name of my next dog.
This encounter was a League Cup Quarter Final. Arsenal had knocked out Norwich at home in the last round and West Ham had overcome a two goal deficit to beat Spurs 3-2 at Wembley. David Moyes had overseen a recent improvement in form for the Hammers. They’d beaten Chelsea and Stoke and drawn with Arsenal in recent league games.
Arsenal had won their last league game against Newcastle, but they’d only won one of the previous four games, drawing twice and losing once. The Gunners traditionally give fringe and younger players an opportunity in the League Cup and hadn’t made the semi-final stage since 2011.
The Arsenal experience
Train: The Emirates Stadium can be easily reached from Arsenal, Holloway Road and Finsbury Park tube stations on the Piccadilly and Victoria Lines.
Car: There is little to no parking available around the stadium, and the streets nearby are often restricted to residents only. I’d recommend parking further out and getting the tube to the stadium.
In terms of journey time alone the Emirates is probably my closest Football League ground. It was a quick trip down the Victoria Line to Finsbury Park, a stroll across the platform onto the Piccadilly Line and two stops to Holloway Road. I saw plenty of fans of both sides on the journey, and everyone seemed relaxed and in good spirits.
On arrival at Holloway Road I made my way down Hornsey Road past several cafes, small restaurants and merchandise stands that all had an Arsenal theme. The stadium is well signed and I quickly found my entrance at the Clock End. There was even a welcoming sign for visiting fans. After several friendly security searches I was in.
I was directed to the upper tier to take my seat, and a helpful steward opened a door into an empty stairwell. There wasn’t a single fellow Hammer in sight as I climbed the stairs to the higher section. A small but surprisingly tasty burger was my prize for arriving at the summit of the stairs. There were a away fans loitering around the concourse area, but it was still quiet considering there were 7,000 West Ham supporters making the journey.
I found my seat in the second row of the upper tier with a good view of the pitch. The Emirates is a bowl stadium that looks like a smaller version of Wembley. You feel a lot closer to the action than you do at Wembley, however, and there is the added bonus of padded seats. The seats are large, despite the padding and it’s a bit of a pain to get up and down when fellow fans shuffle past to take their seats. It was considerably easier to stay standing for the duration.
Standing was the order of the day anyway much to the annoyance of one unlucky steward who had the unenviable task of asking the supporters in my section to sit down once the game started. Unsurprisingly, she was ignored and she soon gave up. The atmosphere at the away end was good, despite a disappointing game. Sadly, much of the upper tier in the home section was empty meaning there wasn’t a lot of noise coming from the home fans.
Arsenal progress to the semi-finals
West Ham started the game sluggishly and never really got going in the first half. They allowed their hosts to have the majority of possession to try and catch them on the break. Unfortunately, when they did break Hernandez struggled to hold the ball up and Ayew was outpaced a couple of times by Arsenal’s defenders.
The home side didn’t have too many chances, despite having most of the ball. It was after the half hour point that they had their first clear chance. Kolasinac crossed to Walcott who had plenty of space in the box, but he couldn’t hit the target and headed the ball wide.
Welbeck struck the decisive blow just before the break as he got on the end of a Coquelin cross, overpowered the defender and bundled the ball over the line. It was tough to take for West Ham as they had defended fairly well but went into half-time a goal behind.
The second half started as the first finished with Arsenal monopolising possession and West Ham unsuccessfully trying to hit them on the break. The balance of the game only really shifted when the visitors began to make changes. Carroll and Sakho were introduced and West Ham began to try and attack more.
Even with more attacking options on the pitch The Irons still didn’t force Ospina into any saves. As the game wore on it began to break up as several Arsenal players clearly decided their work was done, went down injured and asked to be brought off. The game finished 1-0 with the home side progressing into the next round. Overall they deserved the win and had the better chances.
Final thoughts and ratings
My second trip to The Emirates Stadium was similar to my first. Sat in the away end for a League Cup tie. Again the home side were victorious. The stewards in the away end were very helpful and friendly. Overall the Emirates is a great stadium and one of the better larger stadiums i’ve been to in England. There are good views all round, and the padded seats are a welcome addition. It was a shame there weren’t more home fans there to compliment the 7,000 away supporters who made the short trip.
Ticket availability – tickets would have been easy to come buy in the home section, but for the West Ham away end I got mine via the last 10% sale. 8/10
Website/social media – My ticketing journey was all done via the West Ham website, but Arsenal seem to have a decent digital presence, with the exception of ‘that’ Youtube channel. 7/10
Travel – easy to get to by tube and the crowds at Finsbury Park on the way back weren’t too bad. There were long queues outside Arsenal Station though. 7/10
Ground – a very impressive stadium that looks great inside and out. 9/10
Food and drink – the food and drink was a little expensive, but the burger was better than many i’ve had at Premier League grounds. 7/10
Programme – didn’t see any programmes being sold near the away section or on my way to the ground. 5/10
Atmosphere – atmosphere was great in the away end, but seemed very quiet around the rest of the stadium. It was livelier on the walk back to the tube. 6/10
Football quality – plenty of good players on show in this game, but it wasn’t a great contest. 6/10
Cost – my ticket was only £20 which wasn’t too bad for the players that were on display. Food and drink was on the pricey side. 7/10
Matchday experience extras –the welcoming and friendly stewards should get a mention and they didn’t persist in asking people to sit down for too long. 7/10