23 reasons why I love Arsenal

Recently I posted 23 reasons why Arsenal upset me. I thought I would balance out the scales a little bit and give you 23 reasons why I love Arsenal. I said this would happen after something more positive had happened in the season; what better way to light the fuse than knocking Man a united out of the FA Cup at Old Trafford with Danny Welbeck scoring the winner and winning in Monaco? Albeit in vein.

Here’s my 23 reasons!

1) History

It is a matter of fact that Arsenal are the third most successful team in English footballing history, behind Manchester United and Liverpool who have a richer history than John D. Rockefeller. Arsenal boast a wealth of excellent achievements in their past; three league and cup doubles, the Invincibles, the players who Arsenal have had play for them, Herbert Chapman, Highbury. Arsenal are a team who have a lot to be proud of in both their history and their traditions.

Arsenal have a trophy-haul which boasts 13 league titles, a joint-record 11 FA Cups, two League Cups, 13 Community Shields, one European Cup Winners’ Cup and one Inter-Cities Fairs Cup (European competition, abolished in 1971 but we still won it, okay?). The Emirates Stadium has a trophy room which isn’t exactly heaving but overall, Arsenal’s trophy room is the third largest in England so overall, we make a good name for ourselves.

2) Arsene Wenger

The Frenchman is all I’ve ever known at Arsenal. Taking over in 1996 when I was four to the cries of “Arsene Who?” He quickly made a name for himself as he won the league and cup double in just his second season. Wenger has had so much longevity that Arsenal have changed stadiums in my lifetime but not managers, this shows not just the longevity of Wenger but the loyalty, which you will read about round about…

.. Now. 

Wenger had offers to go to pastures new with Real Madrid, PSG, France and Barcelona among others. Clubs who had the money and the players that Wenger could use as he pleased and dominate European football along the way, but Wenger had a plan and project at Arsenal which he is determined to finish. Whoever takes over after Wenger has left (or retired) will be envied as he inherits what will be a good squad, no debt and a big stadium. All put into his hands by Mr Wenger.

Another reason why you have to love Wenger is because of his impact not just on Arsenal but English football. Not only did he develop his own style of play and philosophy which became synonymous with his team, but he also changed diets of players and stressed the importance of nutrition by bringing in dieticians managing to get the very best of his players and their bodies. He is given credit for helping to revolutionise training and diets in the highest level in English football.

3) The Invincibles

What a brilliant time this was to be alive. Arsenal went the whole league campaign unbeaten, the first time since Preston had gone the whole league season unbeaten in 1889. The thing which made Arsenal’s achievement even better was the fact that Preston only had to play 22 games, whereas Arsenal had to go 38. Won 26, drew 12, lost 0.

The following season, Arsenal stretched their unbeaten record to 49 games when they ultimately succumbed to a controversial loss against Manchester United at Old Trafford, but history had been made already. Arsenal went unbeaten in the league from May 2003 to October 2004, an amazing achievement in anyones eyes.

Arsene Wenger predicted that Arsenal could go a season unbeaten but was a season too early in his predictions, making himself look foolish at the time. But Le Professeur had the last laugh when his team led by the likes of Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Dennis Bergkamp and Robert Pires went on to become arguably the greatest team ever assembled to play in the top flight. 

4) Firsts

Arsenal are a team of firsts; first team to go a whole 38-game season unbeaten, first English team to beat Borussia Dortmund at the Westfalonstadion, first English team to beat Real Madrid at the Bernabeu, first English team to beat Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena, first English team to beats AC & Inter Milan at the San Siro. Arsenal’s pedigree in not just the league but also the Champions League is of an enviable stature to most clubs in the country.

5) Thierry Henry

This man gets his own spot. My favourite player ever to grace a football pitch, let alone the Premier League or an Arsenal shirt. The Frenchman was a player that opposition fans couldn’t hate because he was simply that good. Pundits, fans, managers and other professionals will also argue that Henry was the greatest player ever to play in the Premier League, and he was ours!

228 goals in 376 games for the club meant he went down in history as not only the clubs top scorer but he was voted the clubs greatest ever player. The fact I got to watch him in my lifetime is something I am immensely happy that I have seen.

He went from promising striker to failed winger to deadliest striker in the world in the matter of five years and under Wenger’s tutelage he became a legend both for Arsenal and English football. Two Premier League titles, three FA Cups, two Community Shields in his spell at the club. Ladies and gentlemen, Thierry Henry.

6) Alexis Sanchez

From the best player of the clubs past, to the best player in the clubs current squad. I haven’t been so excited or happy that we have a player in Arsenal’s team since the aforementioned Henry and Sanchez is a player who demands the best from himself week in, week out.

His attitude is second-to-none, if he loses the ball he will chase back and try to win it back which is the attitude our entire squad needs to take up, which some have in recent weeks/months. 

His endearing mix of power, skill and heart has made the Chilean winger an instant hit with Arsenal fans and with 19 goals in 40 games so far in his first season he is up for the signing of the season award as well as breaking records held by Henry if he carries on in the same vein of form.

7) Faith

I mentioned in my previous 23 reasons why Arsenal upset me post that Wenger put his faith in deadwood and an all too familiar story was brewing that players weren’t quite what was expected of them, but Wenger has produced world class players time and time again through just having faith in them when signing them, or alternatively, when they have come through being a youngster.

Cesc Fabregas, Jack Wilshere and Ashley Cole, to name a few, were players that came through the ranks as youngsters and Wenger backed them. Pires, Henry, Vieira and Robin Van Persie (again, to name a few) were all players who came to Arsenal with wavering reputations that Wenger backed and he bore the fruit of their talents through all of them becoming world-class players.

As a player if everyone is against you, you need to have the backing of someone and Wenger put faith in them even at their worst, which is why he was able to get the best out of the majority of players he has worked with. It can take one person to turn your confidence, and who better than the boss who delegates when you play? 

8) Star Players

A couple of which I have previously mentioned, but Arsenal’s past (and present, sort of) has a plethora of established international players and world class footballers. From players in the past like Liam Brady and Kenny Sansom, to Henry and Bergkamp to the current squad in Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, Arsenal have always boasted world class players in their prime who have made a difference at the club.

9) Emirates Stadium

The Emirates Stadium is the second biggest club stadium in England with a capacity of just over 60,000. The seats are designed to give maximum comfort to everyone inside and there is not a bad seat in the house in terms of view. The design of the stadium and everything behind the scenes has been built with the specific purpose of giving Arsenal the edge over opposition both pre and post-match.

The truth is that The Emirates is just starting to feel like home, after the move in summer of 2006 Arsenal had a good home record and things were starting to fall into place but there was always something missing. Now that Arsenal have settled the debt to the stadium, claimed their first piece of silverware since the move and completed the “Arsenalisation” of the stadium things can really begin to take off. 

We should be proud of the stadium and start to make more effort to make teams fear going there – make noise, don’t leave before 90 minutes and please, please, please.. NO empty seats.

10) The 10 Year Plan

 A sturdy economic plan which would be stuck to and seen out until the clubs debt had been wiped out. In today’s game usually that would mean a Sheikh or Russian billionaire taking over, but not for Arsenal. With his masters degree in economics and the backing of the board, Wenger would draw up the blueprints for our clubs future which would consist of the 10 year plan, not spending over the odds on wages or transfers, consistently bringing in money and maintaining their stature challenging for trophies and being in the Champions League while being a self-sustained modern club, a truly rare spectacle among the top teams.

The trophyless period was unfortunate , but it was also a time of transition. Arsenal had just lost the greatest team in their history due to moving on, old age etc, but under Wenger it has been as predicted, a success. Deals with Puma, Fly Emirates and other smaller commercial benefactors as well as increased ticket and merchandising sales since the move have meant in falling back behind other competitors in terms of on the field success and trophies, they have propelled themselves ahead of their rivals in terms of revenue and self-sustainability. Which was exactly the point.

11) New Finance

Touched upon in the last point, they go hand-in-hand. Arsenal’s new found finance in the last couple of seasons has seen them be able to spend big on Ozil (£42million) and Sanchez (£35million), which Arsenal fans were crying out for, we wanted marquee signings and we got them. 

We had to see the pain of selling big players; Robin Van Persie, Cesc Fabregas, Alex Song, Emmanuel Adebayor and Kolo Toure all left for a minimum of £15million each and that was to see the 10 year plan through. Now Arsenal are reaping the rewards as they are able to spend more freely due to having no debt, and no debt means no worries. 

Arsenal were able to record £301.9million turnover from 2014 alone. Driven by improved broadcasting income, commercial deals and FA Cup success this can be only a foundation for things to come. In 2014 Forbes estimated the club as the fifth most valuable association football club in the world, with the value at over £1.3billion.

12) Champions League

Yes, Arsenal have never won the Champions League. Yes, I still cry about that night in Paris in 2006. But Arsenal have consistently been in the competition, delighting us with epic European nights (and upsetting us) for 17 consecutive seasons, a feat only surpassed by Real Madrid and Manchester United.

We have had the revenue which Champions League football brings, as well as the type of player it attracts when it comes to signings for that entire period – sometimes it’s like we’re spoilt when we complain that we’ve only got in the Champions League. Yes, we’re used to challenging but we consistently are seen as one of the top teams in Europe, a major footballing power and it’s something we take for granted.

We also hold the record for most consecutive clean sheets in the competition with ten, so it’s not as if we’ve only been there making up the numbers this whole time.

13) Never had debt problems

Arsenal have never been a team with major debt problems. So it’s a good basis to becoming a self-sustainable club right? Before the signing of Ozil, Arsenal’s biggest spend on a single player was Andrey Arshavin at £15million, which is a relatively small fee compared to other clubs at the time. The wages were never astronomical so Arsenal were always spending within their limits.

The move to The Emirates did produce a debt of £370million but Arsenal adjusted accordingly, balanced the books and now with the debt wiped off things continue to look up for the Arsenal accounting team.

14) Pre-season hope

Because what is better than false hope, right? It is hope nonetheless after all and without hope you can’t create a dream. Arsenal will always do well in pre-season with fringe players and younger players having a promising campaign, signings made and Wenger’s usual words of optimism. It always gives you a nice little warm fuzzy feeling doesn’t it? Which is usually eradicated by February, but we have the hope nonetheless.

15) “Arsenal goal”

This term was used whenever a team would score a goal with multiple team members getting involved in a team move, or a fast-paced counter-attack. This term was used because of Arsenal’s fast flowing attacking play which is a philosophy brought in by Wenger which has brought the manager and his teams a lot of plaudits.

Goals in recent seasons from Jack Wilshere (vs Norwich) and Olivier Giroud (vs West Ham) have rekindled the type of play which Arsenal were renowned for, I just hope it can continue and lead to more silverware on a regular basis!

16) Good Squad

The fact is this probably the best squad we’ve had since 2007/2008, and it certainly has a lot more depth than that squad did! The fact is that every single member of the Arsenal first team is an established international and all back-up and rotational members are still of good enough calibre to be good replacements. Hector Bellerin and Francis Coquelin have come into the squad as replacements and staked claims to make their spots their own.

For the first time in years Arsenal have multiple good options in every position and that is going to be an excellent advantage going into this summers transfer market with only a couple of players needing to come in.

17) Club Stature

Eluded to earlier. Arsenal are the third most successful club in English footballing history. The only team ever to go 49 league games unbeaten, joint record FA Cup winners with 13 league titles too and a fan base of over 100 million supporters – making them the third lost supported team in the world. Yes, we have faltered since our dominant period but we are still regarded as one of the biggest clubs in the world, something we should be extremely proud of.

We have one of the best records in the top flight, having accumulated the second most wins and the second most points and We would be placed first in an aggregated league of the entire 20th century. 

18) No-one can say we’re glory hunters

After a nine-year trophy drought no-one in their right mind can say we’re glory hunters.

19) Three League and Cup doubles

Arsenal have the joint-most league and cup doubles with Manchester United with three each. We are one of two to achieve it in the 20th century and one of two to achieve it in the 21st century. We are the only team to achieve it in two different centuries. Arsene Wenger is responsible for two of the doubles which Arsenal have won and he won his first in just his second season in charge of the team.

20) Highbury

It was unfortunate that Arsenal had to move away from Highbury but for the clubs future it was the best thing to do, but the history ingrained at the old stadium is one we can be proud to carry over to The Emirates. Parts of Highbury have been reinstalled at The Emirates Stadium as part of the “Arsenalisation” of the stadium – the clock which has been at Arsenal since 1930 was repositioned on the south stand. The marble halls were reinstalled along with the bust of Herbert Chapman.

Arsenal were at the old stadium for 93 years and it would have been lovely in the final season to bring the Champions League as a curtain call but unfortunately it didn’t work out that way, but the history that Highbury holds is no doubt a huge part of Arsenal Football Club.

Highbury has now been developed as a residential development known as Highbury Square with parts of the East and West stands being incorporated due to their listed status.

21) At least we’re not Tottenham

Imagine a club moving from South London onto your doorstep in North London and building a richer history and greater stature than you. Congratulations, you are now Tottenham.

No matter how bad a season goes for Arsenal, you can almost guarantee that a season has gone worse for Tottenham. Tottenham haven’t finished above Arsenal since 1995 and it’s starting to annoy them somewhat, even coming to within a matter of goal difference a couple of times since. Arsenal also hold the cards in terms of results with Arsenal winning 77 ties and Tottenham winning 55. So there you go, we could have it worse.

22) English core

Now I don’t feel that an English core is key, but I do feel that having a core of a particular nationality is vital for communication and harmony in a dressing room. The English core is able to give the media what they want and keep the critics quiet but with Aesenal’s core of English players there really is an excitement that follows the talent on show. 

Gibbs, Chambers, Wilshere, Welbeck, Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain are all extremely talented players and with the oldest being Theo Walcott at just 26 years old, you can’t help but feel that as this squad gets older they will get closer and ultimately Arsenal will profit when their talent and maturity bears fruit.

23) Nurturing young talent

Arsenal, and more specifically now Wenger, have become renowned for finding young, talented players and nurturing them into something world class.

Henry, Fabregas, Van Persie, Vieira, Nicolas Anelka and Marc Overmars, to name a few, have all come to Arsenal and left after getting success at the club and leaving for fees astronomically bigger than those which they were signed for – a trend which has carried on unfortunately but Wenger’s penchant for finding talent in youngsters is second-to-none.

Top five strikers of all-time

So here it is, the final installment in my top five of all-time positions series!

Up first is undoubtedly Portugal’s finest ever player, unless Ronaldo keeps going in his current vein of form but for now, Eusebio is the man on top of the pile. He is one of the most prolific goalscorers in footballing history and was known for his speed, athleticism, technique and deadly finishing.

He appeared for Sporting de Laurenco, Boston, Monterrey, Toronto and Beira-Mar, but his best period came in his 15 years at Benfica, which came in conjunction with the club’s golden period, with Eusebio at the helm. He made 715 career appearances and scored a phenomenal 727 goals. During his career, Eusebio won 11 Portuguese League titles, five Portuguese Cups, two European Cups.

For Portugal, Eusebio made 64 appearances and scored 41 goals. He came to the fore for the Portuguese national team at the 1966 World Cup as he led them to a semi-final loss against England, this came a year after Eusebio was crowned European Football of the Year.

Eusebio in his Benfica days

Eusebio in his Benfica days

 

Up next is a player who is also known as ‘The Phenomenon” and in the late 90’s and early 00’s he was one of the best strikers in the world. Ronaldo is dubbed as one of the most complete strikers in footballing history with his pace, strength and finishing ability – he was one of the most feared players that a defender could come up against.

Ronaldo played for Cruzeiro, PSV, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Real Madrid, AC Milan and Corinthians, he is one of few players to play for both Milan teams and the El Clasico rivals. His time at Real Madrid coincided with the club’s ‘Galacticos’ era and he was one of the key players of the club at the time. Ronaldo made 580 club career appearances and scored 405 goals in a career which was unfortunately hampered by injury and health issues.

During his career, Ronaldo won a Brazilian Cup, a Dutch Cup, a Cup Winners’ Cup, a Spanish Cup, a UEFA cup and two La Liga titles.

Ronaldo had a very successful international career, winning two World Cups and he also is the highest ever goalscorer in World Cup history after he broke Gerd Muller’s record at the 2006 World Cup, scoring his 15th goal in four tournaments. He made 98 appearances for the Brazilian national team, scoring 62 goals.

Indivually, he was named European Player of the Year twice, and he won World Player of the Year three times, a record that can only be matched by former Galactico’s team-mate Zinedine Zidane.

Ronaldo

Ronaldo doing his trademark finger wag celebration

Third up is known as one of the greatest footballers and most prolific shooters of all-time. Ferenc Puskas was known for his pace, technique and undoubted eye for goal. He was part of the great Hungary ‘Magical Magyars’ side and also a part of the all-conquering Real Madrid side of the 1960’s.

He played for Budapest Honved and Real Madrid in his career; a career which bore five Hungarian league titles, five Spanish league titles, an Intercontinental cup and three European Cups. In 529 club appearances, he scored 514 goals.

For his country, he was a prominent member and captain of their ‘Magical Magyars’ side, all in all he scored 84 goals in 85 appearances. The team went unbeaten for 32 consecutive games, winning the 1952 Olympic title. Hungary finished runners-up in the 1954 World Cup and Puskas played the entire final with a hairline fracture which he suffered in the semi-final. He also played four times for Spain after he was made legible for a Spanish passport.

In honour of Puskas, FIFA announced the Puskas award for the player who had scored the most beautiful goal in 2009.

Ferenc Puskas

Ferenc Puskas

 

Penultimately is not exactly a surprising addition to the list as he is widely known as the greatest player of all-time. Pele has been voted footballer of the century and the greatest player of all-time by countless governing bodies, publications and indivduals, and for good reason.

Pele spent the majority of his career at Santos, also having a spell at New York Cosmos. His reported tally of 1281 goals in 1363 games has been recognised as the greatest in history. Pele’s career haul of 40 official titles has made him the most successful player in history alongside former Portugal goalkeeper Vitor Baia.

Internationally, Pele won three World Cups and he is the only player so far to do so, playing a key role in the 1958 and 1970 campaigns especially. He is the record scorer of the Brazilian national team with 77 goals in 92 appearances.

Pele

Pele playing for Santos

I have saved the best for last, and I will no doubt get called biased for this selection but I am allowed to be biased for my favourite all-time player. Thierry Henry shot to fame as a world class footballer after moving to Arsenal in 1999 as a replacement for departing striker Nicolas Anelka. He became renowned for his blistering pace, technique, deadly finishing and set-piece mastery.

During his career, Henry has played for Monaco, Juventus, Arsenal, Barcelona and New York Red Bulls. He still plays for New York Red Bulls and so far has a career tally of 340 in 727 appearances. He has won one Ligue 1 title, one French Cup, two Premier League titles, two FA Cups, two Community Shields, two La Liga titles, one Copa del Rey, one Supercopa de Espana, one Champions League, one UEFA Super Cup, one Club World Cup and one MLS Eastern Conference.

For the French national team, Henry won the 1998 World Cup and 2000 European Cup, he is also the record scorer for the French national team with 51 goals in 123 appearances.

He was a vital part of the ‘Invincibles’ Arsenal team which went 49 games unbeaten, he was runner up of the 2003 and 2004 World Player of the Year but won back-to-back PFA Player of the Year titles. Henry is the only player to win the Football Writer’s Assocation Football of the Year award on three occasions as well as French Footballer of the Year on four occasions. He was also the only player to ever retain the European Golden Boot award, he was also the Premiership’s top scorer in a record for seasons.

Barcelona v Espanyol - La Liga

Thierry Henry playing for Barcelona