The joy of being an Arsenal fan
For me, a trip to see Arsenal is obviously one of the things I look forward to most. I have been lucky, most have been wins. I have seen Arsenal play against many big teams, Man City, Man Utd, Chelsea, and many others. I have been away quite a few times as well. I was in Old Trafford in 1991 when we were deducted 2 points for the infamous brawl despite the fact that Man Utd started it as anyone can see on Youtube. I have seen Arsenal win and lose European matches. I have seen controversial matches, boring matches, friendlies, sending offs, debuts, missed goals due to distractions, watched from terraces and stands, had terrible positions and great positions, been jostled immensely on the terrace, seen fights among fans, listened to the incredible singing and chanting, and most of all, been caught up in the joy of Arsenal scoring and winning important matches.
Our badge radiates outwards towards the world
We are all fused together
Those of you out there who have never been there need to go for that reason alone, to get caught up in the emotion of being surrounded by strangers who share the love of Arsenal, to experience that sheer untrammelled joy when a whole stadium erupts to celebrate their team. You forget yourself, as you transcend normal consciousness to become part of a union far greater than yourself, as you become one with your team. Go, experience it, you will always remember that feeling. It is not the same as being in a pub with all your friends, great though that experience can be. It is being alone, at the ground, yet surrounded by kindred souls, united by a lifetime bond, and exploding into unparalleled joy, hugging strangers, and being lifted up by that shared communication that fizzes through us all. It is Arsenal and we are there, with all the players, the staff, and even the away supporters, who are thrown backwards into despondency, at the same moment as we have been sent into raptures. Go.
Leeds on Sunday was a crucial match. A must win for the forward march of the Arsenal. We knew it, and the Spuds knew it. They had dropped points against Liverpool, and we had to capitalise. 4 points clear and the Spuds know that even 3 wins will not be enough to guarantee them 4th place. A draw on Thursday gives us a very strong position.
My View on Sunday
Could Leeds not see Martinelli?
And so, I sat in the ground, wondering what a desperate Leeds could do, they had fallen into a relegation dogfight. They had changed styles from the exhilarating attacking of Bielsa to the defensive conservatism of Jesse Marsch. They, strangely, played a narrow line, allowing huge wingspace, considering we were playing with 2 exceptional wingers in Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka. Martinelli was left out wide to gather up every ball that our midfield and defence collected. He was an easy option to pass to and he went on so many runs it was unprecedented in my time of watching football. It was like nobody at Leeds could see him there ready to grab the ball and run at their goal. They relied on numbers surrounding their goals to smother the attacks.
We hear you, Eddie
But that didn’t work, Meslier, gifted a true howler to Eddie Nketiah, who thought he was chasing him down to put him under pressure, instead found that he didn’t know what he was doing, and poked the ball into the net with Meslier looking on in disbelief. As was I. It was as soft a goal as I have seen and if it was Ramsdale, he would have felt the weight of the fans anger. The Leeds fans were behind Meslier and I am sure they couldn’t believe what they were seeing, in what was their most important match of the season, the one in which they drop down into the relegation zone at exactly the wrong time. Oh my god, they must have thought.
I have no idea what went through Aylings mind, down near the corner flag
2 Leeds players imploded
But it was to get worse, Nketiah fired in a second minutes later to make it 2-0. Us Arsenal fans were flying, cheering, singing and felt sure we were watching a demolition as Leeds looked clueless, inept and beaten all ends up. But it got worse again for them. Luke Ayling, seeing Martinelli on another run down at the corner flag, flew in with both feet to upend him. VAR was called in but honestly, even though I was at the other end of the ground in the North Bank, I could see that this was reckless and unnecessary. He was gone and the irritatingly persistent aggressiveness of Raphinho towards the referee should have seen him get red as well. I am amazed he allowed him to pull and drag him like that. They were down to ten, 2 goals down and going nowhere.
But somehow we deflated. We kept pushing forward, making chances, even some quite good ones, but it was like we don’t have that killer instinct, to put our feet on the throat of our opponents and squeeze the life out of them. We should have got 3 or 4 more but we didn’t.
Doing things the hard Arsenal way
In the second half they were a bit better. Marsch must have tried to impress upon them that they are fighting for their lives, their careers, and their reputations. I expected them to come out flying. They didn't, the game meandered, we were better, but not really doing much.
Marsch seemed to want to keep the goals down
And so they got a corner. And we gave away a bit of a soft touch as Diego Llorente was left unmarked to head in what I think is our first goal conceded from a corner in the Premier League this season. 2-1 and a nervy, unsettling end to what had been one of the easiest matches I have seen Arsenal play.
We won when it mattered
But the crowd erupted at the end, jumping, singing, dancing, waiting, applauding, and communing as one with that electric buzz that comes from knowing that this time, we had won when it mattered. We were Arsenal. Leeds have to go home crying, wondering if their glorious resurrection has come to an end. Will they go back down to the championship and struggle to get back out? Honestly I don’t want any of Burnley, Everton or Leeds to go down. I have friends in all three and I know one has to go. We play Everton and we may do Leeds a favour in their last match. But I have no wish for either to go down or to know that we played a decisive part. But that is what we have to do. Beat teams no matter what.
Throw out your arms
And so we did. We got the win. The Spuds are under greater pressure than us. We must at least draw against them and it would be unbelievable to beat them. To be in the ground as we score and at the end, triumph as we have done in our stellar past, and then to be caught up as the atmosphere goes into overdrive, fizzing, buzzing with lightning bolts of happiness flowing through us, making us so glad we are Arsenal and we have prevailed. This is why you should go, be there in the ground, make that connection with all the fans there, and the millions watching worldwide, and the millions that went before and will come after you. You are connected to them all, that part of us that is Arsenal. We are Arsenal.