Post Highbury Blues – The Emirates Stadium Mare

The more things change the more they stay the same; an ever popular phrase often associated with Citizens of countries fed up with the usual rhetoric of political parties in Government and in recent times synonymous with disgruntled Arsenal Fans after a loss or a draw.

On 8th June 2006, Club legend Henry scored the last goal at Highbury courtesy an 81st minute spot kick. After 93 memorable years it was time to bid adieu to the stadium that had given us the double winning teams, Arsene Wenger, Tony Adams, Liam Brady, George Graham, Dennis Bergkamp and the Invincibles.

Like the biblical story of the promise land, the pilgrimage from Highbury to the Emirates was expected to be a dream arcade flowing with milk and honey – a footballing abode of modern standards with the perfect allure of attracting the very best talents to North London whiles competing with other elite clubs for trophies. However, every dream has a price and the beginning of everything is always the hardest thus the move to the Emirates was expected to follow a similar trajectory. All of sudden, priority was placed on maintaining a healthy balance sheet rather than achieving success on the pitch. Incessant fan unrests culminating from hikes in ticket prices, the perpetual sale of star players to repay stadium debts and the trophy pendulum swinging in favour of rivals cast a gloom shadow over the Emirates. Nostalgia has since become every Arsenal fan’s best friend. By affirming their credence in the man that literally moulded Arsenal into a global giant – Arsène Wenger, Fans were told to keep the faith, believe in the project and respect the ideals of the club. Clichés such as “In Arsene We Trust”, “One Arsene Wenger” and #ArseneKnows became ever synonymous with the Arsenal faithful.

“We should be able to compete at a level like a club such as Bayern Munich,” …. “We are moving into a new phase where, if we make our decisions well, we can compete with any club in the world. Ex Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis on Arsenal in 2013.

Finally, some good news and respite it seemed. We could compete with the Big Boys and get back to winning trophies. The record smashing signing of Mesut Özil and the acquisition of Alexis Sanchez later on would pay dividends albeit minimal with back to back F.A Cup wins. The desire for an experienced goal keeper led to the signing of legendary stopper Petr Cech. A move lauded by his former Chelsea team mate and captain John Terry as “buying an extra 12-15 points a season”. They say beware of your enemy’s praise as this was no exception because the intended target hasn’t materialized. In fact, the club has retrogressed from their usual top 4 “trophy” achievement which guaranteed Champions League football to the lower tier of the much maligned Europa League competition. “In Arsene We Trust” metamorphosed to #WengerOut. The fan base has grossly divided and the sudden emergence of AFTV to scrutinize every game played has further deepened the cracks. Wenger’s famous 1998 quote “If you eat caviar every day it’s difficult to return to sausages” had come back to haunt him. The allure for major trophies (caviar) had become intense, triggering massive fan unrest and empty seats at the Emirates hence Arsene Wenger left in the summer to a mixed legacy.  

With Stan Kroenke finally gaining full control of the Club, his task was to mend a divided fan base and fill the role of the biblical Joshua by delivering the much anticipated arcade flowing with milk and honey. It is 2019 and the usual transfer dilly-dallying at Arsenal seems sempiternal. New manager Unai Emery has had a mixed spell so far in his first season. For now, the question remains; Will Arsenal fans ever get to see their beloved team rub shoulders financially and competitively with the elite in England and Europe as promised prior to moving to the Emirates Stadium? Only time and money will tell. But hey time is money right!!!

Terence Wood
Terence Wood is an ardent Arsenal fan, football writer and an occasional pundit. He has a penchant for the spectacular in a world full of possibilities.

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