I was born a year before our current manager joined the club, and began supporting Arsenal in the year 2001, after watching the intoxicating FA Cup final between the tough, physical but aesthetically pleasing Arsenal team and those guys from Merseyside led by that terrible analyst, Michael Owen. I was enthralled by the fast pace with which the men in red and white played the game, subtly aided by physicality which looked artistic and never brutish.
In prior years I had fallen in love with a footballer from France with an oblong-shaped head, Thierry Daniel Henry. A guy who up until this day I believe has been the finest centre forward to marry athleticism with off the charts smarts, passion, ruthlessness and a certain ‘je ne sais quoi.’ Seeing him leave defenders in his trail as he calmly side footed the ball into the goal warmed my heart and left me filled with joy no matter how many times I saw it. And then I found out the club he played for, ARSENAL, had a manager whose name was ARSENE. In my young age I thought this was a sign that both parties were made for each other or funnily enough, that Mr. Wenger saw to the creation of the club LOL.
The only major trophy I saw Arsenal lift, with all due respect to the FA Cup, was during the 2003-2004 season, when the Invincibles came to play and tore the country’s footballing teams apart, one by one. I was only 8 years old then and apart from seriously watching our games against Manchester United, because my Dad is a fanatic of theirs and I always supported rivals of teams he liked, I honestly did not follow that season religiously, as I did not fully grasp the magnitude of what was happening.
It wasn’t until 2006, the season THAT Paris final happened, that I in reality became a dyed in the wool Arsenal fan; heart, mind, body and soul. After that heart-wrenching final, on a school night, I bawled my eyes out, as I wondered when or if, my club which had played almost flawlessly in the group and knockout stages and had fallen at the last hurdle would ever get to another grand finale. My Dad, the Manchester United fanatic, who was on our side surprisingly that night, spoke these words to calm me down, words which have rather haunted me for over a decade now, “don’t worry, you have a very good squad, you’ll get to the final again.’’ If I had the ability to look into the future I would have stopped weeping and laughed myself to sleep looking at how that squad was broken apart, but maybe I did have that ability, so I was probably just weeping for the future, now, which has gradually looked bleak, season after season.
I have never been to the hallowed grounds known as Highbury neither have I been to the immense debt riddling edifice known as the Emirates Stadium, but in my own way, I have followed the Arsenal all the way from Ghana, West Africa as religiously as anyone possibly could. I have found myself in trouble because I left school several times, at odd hours to watch Arsenal games at viewing centres where you would sometimes pay to grapple for space. I have gotten into fights, and long drawn out arguments whilst defending Mr. Wenger and the guys who have worn the red and white, even as we became the thumbnail for mediocrity and banter. I fell in love with a majestic football club, led by a man who then, was ahead of the curve in almost every aspect, managing players who today are the prototype for building the perfect premier league team, yet this love slowly dwindles away, and not for want of trying.
Many people, myself included, fell in love with the club because of the way in which we play the beautiful game and the principles of ‘football purity’ the club espoused, but nowadays it is very difficult to even point out what the identity of the team on the field is. There have been several ins and outs at Arsenal over two decades, yet one constant remains, the man whom I believed as a child was founder of the club, Mr. Wenger.
You may have read articles where I was very tough with my words on a reign which has slowly deteriorated into a farce and this is because I loved Arsene Wenger the man and could never separate that from the manager. The way he spoke, the things he said, they just seemed to be the right option at every moment. He could do no wrong in my eyes. Yet, in recent times, all of this love has slowly ebbed away, as it seems he has fallen by the wayside in terms of managing the affairs of the club on the field and in recent times, off it as well, as is clear with contract matters, which I am almost certain he is a part of.
I am now a part of the supporters who believe a change is needed to bring the club back to relevance, positive relevance and not just being the poster child for banter for social media trolls. Some fans still stand on the side that believes Mr. Wenger is not culpable for anything going wrong at the club at the moment, but that is totally unbelievable, as anyone who has followed the club for any length of time knows, the man has his hands in every pot at the club, maybe even in literal pots in the kitchen, LOL, thus is heavily culpable for anything that goes wrong, just as he was hailed as hero and saviour when the team was thriving in the early part of his reign.
I set a goal to write at least twice a week on Gunnerstown last year, but mightily let down my team and editors, who have been very understanding. It was never for a lack of trying though, but I deeply love this club with all my heart and have been heavily saddled with the amount of bad performances we have been coming up with consistently. This affected my writing mightily. I had come up with pieces which channeled my bitterness about the situation we currently find ourselves in as a club, and I was beginning to look like a nagging wife. I slowly am beginning to accept whatever is going on at our club, well not accept, but not let it put me off my game, too much, and hope to attain my goals of writing at least twice weekly for GT this year.
Hopefully the contract wranglings are settled quickly so we know which squad we are setting out to battle with, long term and all behind the scenes administrative changes continue smoothly, to ensure when Mr. Wenger does leave, the club is in a healthy, better place.
I pray things go well for the Arsenal this year and that all fans find that love and passion we may have had in the past.
VICTORIA CONCORDIA CRESCIT.