The Power of the Emirates Stadium, Arsenal’s Fortress
During the Easter period, I visited the Coal City State to witness a successful marriage of a brother from another mother and his lovely angel.
Happy Married Life Obinna and Chinelo Chime. May your marriage be filled with good tidings, fruitfulness, favor, and of course, your heart desires.
The Emirates Stadium hosted its first ever game in the summer of 2006. It was a testimonial match for a master technician and a legend in every sense of the word, Dennis Bergkamp.
In my opinion, the stadium received its first “bad omen” when Ajax’s Klass-Jan Huntelaar scored the first ever goal on the ground. Thierry Henry and Nwankwo Kanu scored for the hosts and for some strange reason, Dennis Bergkamp failed to find the net despite several goal attempts.
Arsenal’s previous home ground, Highbury, was a feared ground in the Premier League and most visiting teams preferred to “park the bus” and hope for the best.
Highbury’s final season was a lovely spectacle but the club was unlucky not to bid the 93-year old stadium any farewell with any piece of silverware.
Arsenal finished the league as runners-up to the eventual winners Chelsea. The Gunners were ousted from the FA Cup by Blackburn Rovers and were knocked out of the Carling Cup courtesy of a Jason Roberts goal right at the death.
However, the Gunners enjoyed a phenomenal Champions League campaign that saw them sweep aside some European super powers before falling in the last hurdle to the emperors of modern-day football, Barcelona.
The Gunners began that fairy-tale campaign paired in the same group with Ajax, Sparta Prague and FC Thun. King Thierry Henry made history when he scored his 186th goal to surpass Ian Wright’s record in the 2-0 victory over Sparta in the Toyota Arena.
Arsenal ran out as group winners and faced a daunting task in the form of Real Madrid but a solo effort by the King was good enough to book a quarterfinal spot against Juventus.
Another legend in the form of Monsieur Patrick Vieira that had served the club for nine magical years, visited Highbury in the Zebra stripes of the Old Lady, Juventus.
Goals from Cesc Fabregas and you-know-who (not Lord Voldemort) propelled Arsenal to a semifinal spot. The Gunners used an Ivorian torpedo to sink the yellow submarines and a final match in Paris beckoned.
Arsenal ended the season in fourth place thanks for Yossi Benayoun’s brilliance (West Ham 2, Tottenham 1) and some “food poisoning”. You-know-who signed out in grand style with the last hat-trick at Highbury.
I’ll spare you the agony of losing the Champions League final that year, but since the inauguration of Emirates six years ago, Arsenal has failed to reach those heights its were renowned for.
A transitional phase has seen the club lose David Dein, Danny Frizman (cancer) and Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith from the Board of Directors. There’s also the never-ending “power tussle” between majority shareholder Stan Kroenke and Alisher Usmanov.
On the pitch, the Gunners have sold its superstars only to replace them with “cheap imitations”.
The fans have been an important piece of the club’s jigsaw puzzle. At some point, only 38,500 of them could come out and sing the songs of the club.
Now, 60,361 fill up the Emirates creating an electrifying atmosphere with each passing game. The Emirates was a great fort for the Gunners after its inception but a Bobby Zamora goal for West Ham burst the ground’s “invincible bubble”.
However, the 12th man stood firm and the Power of the Emirates was showcased yet again in the 2008/09 Champions League season. The Gunners managed an impregnable home form till the semifinal clash against Manchester United that saw them conceded three times.
Before that clash against the Red Devils in the Spring of 2009, Dynamo Kyiv (1-0), FC Porto (4-0), Galatasaray (0-0), AS Roma (1-0) and Villarreal (3-0) couldn’t afford to get a sniff of Arsenal’s goal post.
Had Porto managed to get a good result against Manchester United in the Dragao after securing a brilliant 2-2 draw at Old Trafford, Arsenal would have played Barcelona in another final in just three years.
Each new season brings fresh optimism with it but this 2011/12 campaign has certainly had its highs and all-time lows.
The club went through a horrible Summer, a great Autumn, a shaky Winter and the Spring has been in full bloom.
However, the Emirates has seen its best football this Spring and no one can look no further than the match of the season against Tottenham that sparked a great revival amongst Arsene Wenger, the players and most importantly, the fans.
Arsenal wasn’t in contention for the league as far back as the Autumn, so all eyes were firmly fixed on the Cup competitions.
After narrowly missing out on the 2011 Carling Cup final, the Gunners were ousted from the competition this season in the quarter final phase in the hands of those Oil Moneybags, Manchester City.
The quick-fire losses to AC Milan and Sunderland brought the Wenger Out Brigadiers out of their lairs and the media swarm around Arsenal’s predicament like the vultures they are.
40 minutes into the North London Derby, the Gunners were 13 points behind Tottenham. All hell would have broken loose if the game ended that way but the header from Bacary Sagna changed it all.
Robin van Persie turned on the style with a peach of a goal and nobody expected Tomas Rosicky to score his first goal since the Feudal Age. Theo Walcott was on the end of a barrage of boos in the first half but a brace in second turned every Gooner’s frown upside down.
The Gunners visited Anfield shortly afterwards, and the football world witnessed the Robin van Persie show.
Despite the fact that they were outplayed, outclassed and technically “out” of the Champions League after the failed Italian Job against AC Milan, they believed in themselves and delivered one of the best first 45 minutes I’ve ever witnessed as an Arsenal fan.
For the first time since dinosaurs walked the Earth, a defeat never tasted so good.
Newcastle were the next to visit the Emirates, but the game was won by the team’s effort and Thomas Vermaelen’s determination. A trip to Everton followed and Arsenal’s vice-captain came up with the goods yet again with a strong header that was enough to hand his side all three points.
Aston Villa incurred the wrath of Wenger’s Red Army and Mikel Arteta’s brilliant surface-to-goal missile was the icing on a perfectly baked cake.
There was a small blip suffered in the hands of Queen Park Rangers, but the Gunners hosted Manchester City in a crunch encounter with a huge significance on the destinies of both sides.
The Gunners needed a win to put their Champions League contenders at bay while Manchester City needed a win to stay within touching distance of this season’s potential “Champ20ns”.
The fans played their part in Sunday’s success story but it took another Arteta piledriver to drive a nail in Manchester City’s title coffin.
While Arsenal’s previous No.8 left the club for the greens of the Sheiks, Arsenal’s new No. 8 scored his 8th goal of the season on April 8, celebrating his goal in the 88th minute sending Manchester United 8pts clear at the top.
To make a good Easter a whole lot better, Tottenham lost at home to Norwich while Chelsea shared the spoils with Fulham, unveiling the impressive Newcastle as the fresh contenders for final coveted Champions League spot.
Arsenal’s newly-found confidence with each passing game coupled with the amazing run of results on the pitch has unveiled the true power of the Emirates Stadium.
To my friend and an fervent Gooner, Obitwyce, thanks for your warm hospitality.
Team Goonerdaily will always have your back and you will soar higher than an eagle with VOE Solutions.
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