The Emirates Stadium, Ashburton Grove, whichever name you want to call our magnificent 60,000 stadium there is no denying that in the last two seasons it is finally beginning to feel like home.
Fans in the past used to draw comparisons of the stadium with Highbury, but what they failed to realize was that Highbury was a magnificent stadium in its own way and can never be replaced.
Just like the players at first took time to adjust playing on a much bigger pitch, the fans as well took their time at being seated a bit further away, as compared to the closeness to the pitch at Highbury. Credit must go to Ivan Gazidis in his ‘Arsenalisation’ project to give the stadium an Arsenal identity, and the initiatives taken by the Arsenal Supporters Trust to help generate a louder atmosphere during matches.
Last season people would point out the Barcelona game where the Arsenal fans were at their best and created a magnificent atmosphere from the first to the last minute which ultimately resulted in defeating of the best team in the world. Just like the players, the fans were able to lift themselves on the big occasion and cheer the team home to victory. But it was in a less glamorous occasion when I was most impressed, and where the fans lifted the players immensely was the game against Everton. After we were 1-0 down, due to a clear offside goal, the nature of the goal and its injustice incensed the fans and they pushed the players all the way to the final whistle. We ended up winning the game 2-1 and the fans played an immense part in that victory.
Just like the Arsenal defence at times, this season there have been huge empty gaps everywhere in the stadium as we approached the last ten minutes of close games. Cast your mind back to the first home game of the season against Liverpool. Arsenal were down to ten men and were looking to hang on for at least a point, but going into the last ten minutes it seemed some fans had thought the game of football had become an 80 minute affair. The point I’m trying to make is how far both the team and its fans have come since the start of the season.
On Monday night, even when Newcastle scored, there were no groans or signs of frustration, the fans immediately started singing and they immediately got a reaction from the players, although it wasn’t expected within 14 seconds. The fans also showed how partisan they can be if they want. When Tim Krul was embarrassingly time wasting on every goal kick, the fans did everything they could to bring it to the attention of the referee. The booing, whistling and everything else which was done during the Newcastle goalkeeper’s time wasting led to five minutes of injury time and we all know how the game finished after those five minutes. The fans were immense. Each and every single person stayed until the final minute to support the team, something which could not have been said during many home games at the start of the season.
It is a known fact that Arsenal have the best away fans in the country. The noise the fans make at away games, whether the team is losing or winning, is outstanding. And going by the recent home game performances and results maybe, in the not too distant future, we may refer to our home as a fortress which will send shivers down the backs of visiting teams.
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