Arsenal : The Official End of Season Review 2000-2001 Review
Before I start on this review proper, I have a confession to make. I am not an Arsenal fan. Now before we start getting hundreds of emails decrying this fact I’d just like to point out that no one on the reviewing team is a fan. As a result I volunteered to tackle this disc (for my sins). Obviously I can’t give an exact review from the point of view of an avid fan, however as Newcastle fan I can at the very least hazard a guess at what the average fan would like to see on a disc.
This disc is a bit of an oddity to be honest. Last season was hardly a classic by Arsenal standards (no silverware) so I’m not sure how big the market is for this disc. The producers have realised this and have included two features here, an end of season review and a Highbury Highs section that covers a lot of Arsenal’s success under Wenger. Please note no mention anywhere of George Graham or the fact that he constructed the defensive team that has helped Arsenal in recent years and indeed still helps the team now.
The first feature is the end of season review, which runs for approximately 90-minutes (appropriate). This covers every Arsenal game in the Premiership season, every game in the Champions League and every game in the F.A. Cup. In addition it also contains segments on Tony Adam’s retirement after next season, David Seaman’s testimonial match and the building of the new Arsenal ground. The final piece in this feature is a tribute to George Armstrong, Niccolo Galli and most tragic of all David Rocastle who succumbed to cancer this year.
The format is a basic month-by-month look at the season starting in August and ending in May this year. Each match is covered chronologically and basically shows the goals scored in each game (by both teams). At the end of each month the table is shown for Premiership and Champions League where appropriate. Also retrospective interviews have been recorded with the manager and players like Seaman, Cole, Adams, Dixon and Henry. These interview pieces are interspersed throughout the season and they comment on the team’s position at that point in time. The aforementioned segments are slotted into the running order according to when they happened, so David Seaman’s testimonial is at the end and the ground redevelopment is at the beginning.
The presentation is above average with good commentary on all the match sequences (all Premiership ones done by Martin Tyler). The other segments are well presented, but the obvious standout piece is on David Rocastle. This was such a sad loss at such a young age. Here we have player interviews (with an emotional Seaman) as well as Wenger.
This is an accomplished feature. It isn’t too long and covers a lot of ground. It doesn’t shrink away from the defeats, but it of course stops short of being at all negative in any way. My only criticism would be that they could have put more thought into the editing of matches. Towards the end I was getting a little bored of seeing goal after goal. What about seeing some contentious issues in games such as dodgy challenges. I just found my attention wandering for the last thirty minutes and that’s a shame.
The second feature, Highbury Highs, has a running time of approximately one hour. This is an amalgamation of Netbusters (Games where Arsenal won by a large margin), Great Escapes (Where they came from behind to win), top 10 goals of last few years, Player Profiles (on five or six players) and Memorable Moments (such as Wright’s 179 and the double in 1998). These segments are jumbled up to keep things ticking over nicely. Again there are retrospective interviews with the players to backup these segments.
I did toy with the idea of putting this in the extras section, but it such a good piece I think it deserves equal status. Again these sections are well presented and Martin Tyler is the commentary man. The highlight has to be Tony Adams’ goal against Everton in 1998, amusing and impressive in equal parts. Oh and they also show the F.A. Cup final highlights for 1998, but my wife watched that bit as it was too traumatic for me to relive.
All in all these features are very good indeed. Production values are fairly high and the footage (courtesy of Sky, Ondigital and a few others) is mostly top notch. The value for money here is good as you get two and a half hours of material and very little is duplicated.
To begin with my fears over presentation were realised early on. There is lots of red all over the menus here, no animations and some fairly dire music/noise. They are easy to navigate however.
For the first time ever a disc deserves a paragraph of it’s own just for chapters. The two features are split into chapters as expected, but they aren’t numbered. Each chapter leads to a named segment. So for instance in the first feature you can view the segment for each individual month in the Premiership campaign. Or you can choose each individual month for the Champions League. Or you can view individual rounds of the F.A. Cup. You can also view each of the other segments. They all have separate lists so you can follow whichever part of the campaign you wish. The second feature works in the same way. This may not sound like much but as a football fan the ability to immediately settle an argument about the scorers in the 3rd round of the F.A. cup is invaluable. One minor niggle is that they don’t provide a chapter list as a complete chronological order for the feature, just split into areas.
The picture is of course 4:3 non-anamorphic, am I the only one that thinks that widescreen is the perfect way to view football? The picture is quite soft but for the most part it is at the mercy of the supplied football footage. The majority of it is from Sky so it is fairly good. Certainly a clean picture, but colour varies markedly between matches. The encoding job is adequate, but fast moving action on grass pitches is a real challenge and as a result there is some digital artefacting in evidence (not too noticeable, but it is there). Overall an average presentation, but football hardly needs an expensive restoration job.
The sound is a perfectly adequate DD2.0 mix. I didn’t discern any decent channel separation so don’t expect a full surround sound stadium experience. Everyone is audible and the crowd sounds lively enough. Nothing spectacular, but workmanlike and it does its job.
To be fair the Highbury Highs feature is really meant as an extra so I shan’t be too harsh. The two features here are text only. The first is full squad statistics. Every player on the squad seems to be covered with a short potted history and any associated stats. The second one is entitled Arsenal Honours. Click on the year, press the enter key and the relevant silverware is displayed. This covers Arsenal’s entire history.
It pains me to say it, but if Newcastle had produced a disc of this quality I’d probably buy it. The features are lively and comprehensive (if a little shallow in places). The first feature in particular is very well thought out. The disc is an average presentation, but the chapter system deserves an extra mark on its own. I have to admit when I first saw the disc I immediately thought it would be a cheap cash-in, and I couldn’t have been more wrong. The question as to whether this is worth a purchase is one only you can answer. If you aren’t an Arsenal fan then why are you even reading this review? If you are then do you have enough fond memories of the season to want to relive them? Basically if you want a blow-by-blow account of the season so you can analyse where it all went pear-shaped then this is the disc for you.
Note – As I am not an Arsenal fan this disc will be gathering dust on my shelf. So instead I am going to generously offer it to the first Arsenal fan who emails me telling me who scored the two goals when Arsenal defeated Newcastle in the 1998 cup final (dammit!). First come first served and this is my offer and isn’t an offical competition associated with DVDTimes.
Note 2 - No more entries please, this competition has been won.