A look back at some of the best moments at the Emirates in recent years, why they were quite so magical, and a look forward to a potential moment which could see Stoke get their just desserts.
Perry Como and the Spice Girls – two more different artists are hard to find, and yet somehow I’ve found a way to link the two – always breaking new ground here at the Daily Cannon!
My last article, titled for a Christmas #1 by the world’s best-selling female group of all time, got me thinking about magic moments, albeit of a slightly different kind to those that Como croons about in another famous UK #1. Explicitly, it got me thinking about the best moments I’ve seen live at the Emirates*, and what has made them so great.
(*I should own up at this point – I have carefully selected moments at the Emirates only, for one reason and one reason alone. That is, if you asked me to choose between Henry’s homecoming goal against Leeds and Ramsey’s extra time winner against Hull, I’m not sure I’d be able to separate the two. I’m sure that many Gooners find that appalling, so I’ve decided to narrow my choice down to purely the Emirates to avoid the issue.
This has however meant that I have been unable to discuss my enjoyment of an away day at Birmingham where I remember chanting “We’ve got Cesc Fabregas; you’ve got Lee Bowyer!” with great smugness for almost a whole half straight, albeit a moment that has lost a little of its lustre with Fabregas’ actions since. It also means Kieran Gibbs’ last ditch tackle on the final day at the Hawthorns doesn’t make the cut, a tackle that was a defender’s version of the top corner worldie.)
If you’re reading this, chances are that you are lucky enough to support Arsenal, a club that gives so many great moments to choose from, and I daresay you would pick out different moments. Certainly I considered quite a number that didn’t make the cut: Walcott’s slalom goal vs Newcastle in the 7-3, Sagna’s power header vs Tottnumb in the first 5-2, Adebayor’s senseless red card in the second 5-2 to name but a few.
For the sake of your sanity and my typing fingers, I’ve kept it down to five, so here are the moments I’ve picked out and what made me select them.
The Respect Moment
Eduardo da Silva vs Arsenal (Champions League)
Tuesday 19th October 2010 – 5-1
This was one of my earliest moments at the Emirates, but one that has remained firmly in my memory as other Arsenal players have come, gone and returned with new clubs. It’s easy to be benevolent when you are 5-0 up, which is where Arsenal found themselves after 82 minutes of the game, but the mutual respect between the player and the fans has made this moment one of my favourites.
Eduardo had spoken before the game of his intention not to celebrate in the end of scoring, and kept to his word as he ran onto a hopeful cut back and powered home a clinical finish. All around me, Arsenal fans stood to applaud a player whose Arsenal career was undoubtedly curtailed as a result of a thuggish tackle by Martin Taylor. Rousing chants of “6-0 to the Arsenal” echoed around the ground – it was one of those instants when you get a real sense of perspective, how football can, at its best, transcend reality
The Underdog Moment
Andrei Arshavin vs FC Barcelona (Champions League)
Wednesday 16th February 2011 – 2-1
This game was almost the exact opposite of the previous in some ways – a game that Arsenal were widely expected to lose, and lose badly. The previous year’s 4-1 reverse at the Nou Camp following an unlikely 2-2 at home had lowered expectations to the point where many expected it to be a question of how many Arsenal would concede.
We went behind in the middle of the first half, and in truth looked unlikely to get a result from the game which would give us a chance in the away leg until some unknown Dutch bloke crashed a shot past Valdes from an unlikely angle in the 78th minute. With Barcelona suddenly at sixes and sevens, an unknown Spanish bloke unleashed an unknown French bloke down the right flank. He set himself, and fed ARSHAVIIIIIIIIIIN who slotted the ball home with just seven minutes remaining.
I must have watched that goal a hundred times that evening when I got in, and it’s one of the few times where listening to Martin Tyler has not made me want to punch something. His reaction so brilliantly encapsulated the way I felt at that exact moment; disbelieving and yet in seventh heaven at the same time. Of course, a rather undeserved 3-1 reverse at the Nou Camp again meant it was ultimately for nothing, but for one evening at least, it made me feel that my team were world beaters. Seeing the goal even now still gives me goose bumps to remember the thrill of that evening.
The Homecoming Moment
Thierry Henry vs Leeds United (FA Cup)
Monday 9th January 2012 – 1-0
This is probably my favourite moment of all time at the Emirates – picture the scene: it’s 0-0 in the FA Cup 3rd Round, 68 minutes on the clock, and Arsenal have been dominating, but toiling to find a breakthrough goal. It’s starting to feel like one of those evenings. The board goes up, and Arsenal’s all-time top scorer takes to the field for his second debut.
Ten minutes later, an unknown Cameroonian bloke plays a through ball into the left side of the penalty area. The king takes a single, perfect touch to get the ball out of his feet, and sidefoots a trademark finish into the far corner.
What made this goal so special for me is that this is probably the only goal where I’ve truly believed that the player cares as much, if not more than the fans. Thierry ran the whole side of the pitch, hands outstretched to share that emotion with the fans, before embracing the manager and beating his chest like a man possessed.
After the game, Henry spoke of it being his first goal “as a fan” – couldn’t you just tell? This is my favourite moment at the Emirates by some distance, and there have been some good ones!
The Schadenfreude Moment
Mikel Arteta vs Manchester City (Premier League)
Sunday 8th April 2012 – 1-0
Schadenfreude (noun) – malicious enjoyment at the downfall of others. That just about sums up how I felt when we played Man City a couple of seasons ago, after they parked the proverbial bus. On another day, Arsenal would have had the breakthrough earlier in a game they dominated, hitting the woodwork twice shots and enjoying 64% possession.
This was a game in which Joe Hart wasted time from the first minute until the 87th, when Mikel Arteta struck. First the Spaniard snuck in to steal the ball from Pizarro, he then took a touch and whipped a long range shot into the bottom corner. Arsenal fans in the lower tier mocked City with their adopted Poznan celebration. It felt like justice on a day where only one side made any attempt to play (and win) a football game
The strike gained Arsenal two points in a season where Chel$ki’s Champions League victory prevented Tottnumb from qualifying for the following season’s competition. They finished the season a solitary point behind us
The Awed Moment
Jack Wilshere vs Norwich City (Premier League)
Saturday 19th October 2013 – 4-1
Last season’s goal of the season makes the cut, if for no other reason than the sheer “did I just see what I thought I saw?!” feeling. In a move Mesut Özil later likened to Playstation football, Cazorla, Wilshere and Giroud all indulged in some one touch flicks that bamboozled the Norwich defence and sent Wilshere beyond the final defender to sidefoot neatly into the bottom corner.
What made this goal so special for me was that the move started very ordinarily, with Wilshere on the edge of his own box. However, as the final couple of flicks were taking place, there was a real sense of something special happening. As Jack ran off in celebration, I turned to my dad, and he just shook his head. It was by far and away the best team goal I have ever seen – a goal that put Rosicky’s similarly beautiful goal against Sunderland in the shade. In both cases though, it was the opposition chasing the shadows.
The Karmic Moment
Aaron Ramsey vs Stoke City (Premier League)
Sunday 22nd September 2013 – 3-1
When Ryan Shawcross broke Aaron Ramsey’s right leg with an out-of-control challenge on 27th February 2010, he ensured three things:
- A red card and ban for himself that would keep him out for 3 games
- A long-term injury for Ramsey that would keep him out of the Arsenal team for 378 days
- An intense rivalry between Arsenal and Stoke City which continues today
So it was then that in September 2013, Ramsey started his fourth game against Stoke since that horrific injury. In the 5th minute, Mesut Özil struck a free kick which Begovic could only parry out to the waiting Ramsey. The Welshman struck it home and the Emirates erupted.
There was something hugely pleasing to score a goal as untidy and frankly Stoke-like against that team of neanderthals, but more so for it to be scored by a player who was vilified in the aftermath of the incident as many sought to label Shawcross a victim. In the season after his injury, I had Ramsey’s name printed on my away shirt – for someone similar in age to the Welsh Messi, it was quite sobering to see the impact a single moment can have on a career. Similarly, it was hugely gratifying to see him come back even stronger, and score that goal. Some call it karma, some call it justice. All I know is: it felt right.
Aaron has started five games against Stoke since his injury, completed the full 90 in three, and scored a stunning volley at the Britannia this season to go with the scrappy goal at the Emirates last season. Although he’s back in training following his recent groin injury, it’s not clear yet whether he’ll be able to play any part in this afternoon’s game. But if he does, you wouldn’t bet against him adding to that tally. Certainly if you believe in the balance of the universe, he’s owed many more magic moments against Stoke yet.