If you’ve come here looking for something in which you can really wallow following the weekend’s events at Stamford Bridge, then this is not the article for you.

Though, for those fancying a bit of a giggle, there is a podcast available.

What I want to do instead is to talk to you about what a brilliant weekend I had. I know it doesn’t sound possible, but it’s true. What’s more, rather than it being a brilliant weekend in spite of the Arsenal, it was precisely down to this football club of ours that it was so great. Really.

Why? Read on, it may just make you feel better…

The Twelve Pins

It started with the Saturday lunchtime kick off at Stamford Bridge. Of course it did. I had arranged to meet my friend Ben in the Twelve Pins to watch the game. I used to work with Ben, but that was years back and we don’t see nearly as much of each other as we should. Nevertheless, he is one of those guys who I could not see for two years and still pick up with him as if we’d met yesterday. Though, obviously, I would prefer not to leave it that long.

You’ve all got people like that in your life, right? It seems particularly inexcusable to leave things that long when you are provided the opportunity to meet up on a weekly basis by your shared love of the Arsenal. For what it’s worth, Ben and I had such a good time that we’ve agreed to try and make the pub together on a monthly basis.

We’ll see what happens there…

Anyway, I’ve jumped ahead of myself a touch. Obviously the game, with Mike Dean’s latest dereliction of duty resulting in Gabriel losing his head and being sent for an early bath, was a disappointment. However, a weird thing happened. Maybe it was because I was in a pub with Ben, surrounded by Gooners; rather than sat at home, watching on my own with Jo the indifferent pottering around the flat, but I never lost hope that the team would somehow pull the game out of the fire. Until Santi Cazorla got his marching orders late on anyway.

There was something about the feeling of community I got from being in that pub, once such a regular haunt, that turned what might have been a thoroughly dispiriting experience into a relatively positive one.

It struck me later, as it usually does at times like this, that football isn’t just about winning and losing. I know, it’s easy to say this now, but what was really important was being with your “own people… person”*, and feeling like you were supporting your team. Which, of course, we were although they could never have known that as they tried their best a few miles west.

It wasn’t with any anger that Ben and I stood on the Seven Sisters Road, pints in hand dissecting the game. Just resignation that, once again, Arsenal had fallen victim to the latest Mourinho mugging. Truly, it seems that the years may pass and the players will change, but Mourinho operates on a level that Arsène Wenger could never even begin to comprehend. Even if he wanted to.

For what it’s worth, the FA’s decision to effectively replace Gabriel’s three game suspension with one for Diego Costa is scant consolation indeed. I’m not going to talk about that here as it has been extensively covered on the website. Suffice to say the only thing which will make me truly happy is Arsenal getting a fair crack of the whip at Stamford Bridge next season. We shall see…

The Arsenal shirt I had on my back made me a bit of a magnet for understandably irate Gooners at Victoria station. In fact, I even attracted some commiserations from a, slightly more drunk than I was, Charlton season ticket holder who had been at the Bridge. I was waiting for my younger cousins, James and Josh Gill, with whom I would be returning to north London on Sunday morning for the Arsenal stadium Legends tour.

Our host on the day would be the wonderful Perry Groves.

“Perry has arrived”

It couldn’t be a family event without a bit of slapstick comedy along the way. Due to a lack of attention to train times, we arrived at Holloway Road underground with about four minutes to get to the Armoury for the 10:30 tour start. Josh is only little, so it was that I had to interrupt James impersonation of Mo Farah up Hornsey St, give him the confirmation email (a story in itself) and let him run off with the slightly breathless words, “You go ahead”, whilst I made sure his brother made it to the stadium in one piece.

We got there just as the rest of the group were going in, I heard someone say “Perry has arrived”. Maybe he’d been on our tube.

Bizarrely, being able to immerse myself in all things Arsenal for a couple of hours really pushed the blues, both the mental and physical ones, to one side. Perhaps it was the football equivalent of the hair of the dog, the night after you’ve gone overboard. I don’t know, what I do know is that I listened to Perry talking about our tremendous football club with obvious love, I felt a tremendous sense of pride.

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The Clock

Pride that as a football club, we do try and go about things the right way (by really fleecing rich people). Pride that this football club who, when Arsène Wenger arrived, was almost universally reviled, didn’t own their own training ground and played in a stadium – although wonderful – was two thirds of the size the one we now play in. That Arsenal have done this without resorting to a sugar daddy and managed to stay in the top 4 of the Premier League is not just a major achievement, it’s nothing short of a miracle.

Sorry, but it is. Look at the clubs around us, Chelsea, the Manchester clubs, Liverpool, Spurs. Liverpool and Spurs, in particular, would kill to have been as consistent as Arsenal have down the years and they can’t do it. Why is that?

Anyway, this wasn’t supposed to be a propaganda piece and I don’t want to get into tedious arguments about the right, or wrong, way. For what it’s worth, Perry’s tour wasn’t one to toe the company line and he had much to say about Arsenal’s failure to strengthen beyond Petr Cech, as well as Gabrielgate (he wasn’t sympathetic towards our Brazilian).

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Arsenal stadium sunbathing

My point is simple. As we went from Director’s Lounge, into the brilliant sunshine haloing the Director’s Box and the stadium and from there down into dressing room before, making our way out into the tunnel and then, again, that blinding sunshine, I felt like a kid again. I felt the excitement that I’d first felt as a 14-year-old looking up at the imposing East Stand for the first time, almost exactly 24 years ago. Perhaps it helped that I was with, basically, a couple of kids. James is 18 now and about to go to Cambridge, so won’t be a kid for much longer, but for now…

We goofed around in the post match interview area, interviewing each other, pretending that we were Arsenal players. Well, Josh and I did. James is at the age where perhaps he feels a bit too self conscious to indulge his silliness. The only regrets we had were that not one of us had thought to kit up and therefore we lost the full effect as we filmed our efforts. Though we didn’t get to sit in his seat pitch side, we all took turns sitting in Arsène Wenger’s seat for post match press conferences. I can tell you Josh had a certain managerial aura to him – so remember the name..

Eventually, hungry, we left the ground and headed back to mine. I’m sure the boys were processing, as I was, the gold Premier League trophy that only this club holds, the twelve FA Cups which are only ours to display, the busts of Wenger, Bergkamp and Chapman and the sense of history which seeps through the walls of this ultra modern stadium.

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Josh, James, Perry Groves and me.

We love you Arsenal, we do.

*Fever Pitch reference, just in case that needed explaining. I’m sure it didn’t.

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It's a family affair... third generation Gooner, obsessed with Arsenal since the 80's. I've been writing about that obsession and, ever so occasionally, the team since 2004 in a variety of places, but have found a natural home here. As you will find out if you stick around long enough, I am a huge fan of Santi Cazorla. I'm extremely fond of cheese, Marmite, Pipers Salt n' Vinegar crisps, Pilsner Urquell, vodka tonics and absinthe. I am also hopelessly obsessed with Depeche Mode.