Arsène's Arsenal: Forever and for always
It was that placid kind of afternoon where you just want to doze off for another 15 minutes and then go for another round of the same. Little did I know that my life was going to be turned upside down.
For perspective, I'd like to provide some context to what made me whip out my laptop and start typing out into the abyss, waling into the nothingness of the internet. No soul or sense of understanding to associate with what it is that is making me feel this way.
I doubt though, that even those with a heart and made of flesh, with a mind to comprehend and contemplate, and the words to provide comfort and some relief, will be able to put me at ease today.
Arsène WENGER OUT come the end of the season.
Yes. We're now rapidly tumbling towards a world where Arsenal Football Club will no longer be associated with the longest-serving manager in the history of the game.
And it seems like the perfect time for someone to hand me a bottle of scotch and my handgun. No lullaby. No nothing.
A setback like no other
Like I'd mentioned, it was around two in the afternoon - that's when I get up to go to work because I decided to do what I like and cover the only thing in the world right now that makes sense to me but I digress, like I will be prone to, over and over, as you keep reading on. Can't stop my heart from racing into places that seem to be ripping it apart at the moment. So please do bear with me.
I put on some clothes and headed down to catch my Uber to work. Never should've. Never should've headed down in the first place. Never should've gotten up.
My phone buzzed with that exasperating vibration that makes me cringe each time. Thankfully though it was someone I don't mind talking to. It was my little brother from Florida. We share a love for Arsenal Football Club few others can claim to have.
I always appropriate a major chunk of the blame - for him turning into a Gooner - to myself. To be fair, I grew up on a healthy dose of Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira and Bobby Pires and Martin Keown. I grew up watching The Invincibles. What followed wasn't that bad either. Fabregas and RVP, Vermalean alongside Laurent. Nasri.
So the fault lies in both of us and as a result, in our collective choice of our footballing holy grail - Arsenal Football Club.
What I ended up reading on that cursed 5.5" IPS display will now haunt me for the rest of my life.
"How can you imagine Arsenal without Arsène Wenger?", he probed. I had no answer.
The start of something special
A tall lean Frenchman walked onto the hallowed pitch at Highbury and the rest, as they say, is - what now the man himself is set to become - history.
With that furrowed brow and the look of child-like innocence, Wenger took over the club in 1996 and then proceeded to raise it to the highest standards of football, higher than those that had been set anywhere in the world by anyone in the world who came before him. And maybe higher than anyone to come after. What is that word I'm looking for that perfectly elucidates his work... Ah! "Professor".
Wenger went on to win the league title in the very next season and then looked to further build on, what will now be looked back upon with reverence - his legacy.
A League and Cup double in '02/03, clinching the title at United, to add to the one in '97 and Arsenal were now a force to be reckoned with. No more just United and Liverpool; a new powerhouse on the world stage.
What happened in the year that followed will forever be etched in golden letters in the glorious history of the game.
"Played 38, Won 26, Drawn 12, Lost exactly none"
Arsenal's unbelievable achievement in 2004 - going unbeaten in the League in a run that stretched for 49 games in the end - is decidedly never going to be repeated again in the toughest league in the world.
But for those who were actively involved in the scripting of history will all tell you that it was the contribution of the gaffer that led the team to achieve greatness. To achieve that golden Premier League Trophy. Only one in existence.
What is even more mind-boggling is that Wenger had predicted his side to do the same in the season that preceded it - something most members of that particular squad attribute blame to, for the eventual downfall in the campaign owing to the immense burden of achieving the feat.
Manchester United went on to lift the title that season but Arsenal roared back in the next, and how, clinching the title at the home of their eternal rivals Tottenham Hotspur.
"Played 38, Won 26, Drawn 12, Lost exactly none."
Beat that with a stick!
Arsène Wenger's brand of football is undeniable, and so is its success
The effect of the master-tactician on the English game has been profound, more so his effect on the club.
The most successful manager in the oldest tournament in the world - the FA Cup, has steadfastly advocated the need to play beautiful football to win a match rather than employing negative tactics to eke out a victory.
A ploy that has come into use more and more in the modern game and a major reason, owing to his failure to adapt to changing times and methods, why Arsène was always under pressure.
For all his faults, and they have been aplenty - particularly in the past decade or so, Arsène's teams have produced some of the best football to come out of the league's history. Ask Arsenal fans whether there was ever a dull moment in any season for the Gunners and they will reply with a resounding no.
As often as the pitfalls caught them out, their brand of football caught out their opposition and the world of football. Scintillating. Breathtaking. Undeniable.
Even when the season fizzled out or they dropped off the pace in the final sprint to the title, the Gunners were treated to some majestic stuff - both at home and away.
Even with the burden of transitioning the club to a new, expensive stadium, Wenger never let either the quality or the success of his side drop.
Twenty consecutive years in the most elite competition in the game is a record that will never be matched, let alone be surpassed. And the moments that accompanied that record, Henry at the Bernabeu or the San Siro, Fabregas in Turin, Ramsey at Napoli... Uff! Goosebumps!
Every time we questioned him, he would tell us that it isn't about him. It is about the club and the good of it. We never listened. Said he was evading his eventual departure or shying away from facing the harsh realities of the modern game. We're doomed now, aren't we?
It is safe to say that as much as the man is going to miss walking into work, into the club he has for over two glorious decades, the club is going to miss the man a lot more and the integrity with which he has led the side.
You up there! Pulling the strings... Damn good job!
I couldn't have thought of a more perfect union of two elements so destined to be together and create such magical memories that will last us fans a couple or three lifetimes.
Thank you, Boss. For the memories. For the love. For everything. Thank you for giving me Arsenal Football Club.