A home ground is more than a mere location to play. It is meant to hold significant meaning to supporters who take their seats each week, it is meant to be as much of a home to us as when we all return back to our own domain.
Intrinsically linked through symbology and memory, the home ground is supposed to be partizan not only through the reception visiting teams get when on the pitch, but also before they even set foot inside the building.
At this present moment in time though, our home, The Emirates, holds no bearing on away teams nor their kin. It is also the same for the majority of our own fans.
Speaking personally, I adore The Emirates. Its modern lines are a sign we are keeping up with the relentless pace of the modern game. The icons who stand arm in arm with their legendary brethren on the facade of the ground recall amazing visions and inspire hope and fervour. Inside, there is no gap between the pitch and the stands, which can be a killer for modern stadia.
The Emirates is a great place to play football – but it is not quite home yet.
We were spoiled with Highbury. The amazing night games which packed just over 38,000 fans into it were the stuff of goosebumps and wild celebration. The inside and out represented Arsenal and our values down to an art-deco T. It was perfect. Marble halls and floors, memories and heroes.
No one wanted to see Highbury consigned to the past. If we could have stretched the capacity of the ground, then it surely would have been a better bet than the financial shackles we would have to endure. However, this was never an option that was on the table.
The thing that makes a ground a home is triumph under floodlights, trophies held aloft by your captain, players performing amazing things on the way to glory. Memories make the place. Trophies do too.
Winning the FA Cup’s recently have helped inch us toward adoration, but we are not there yet, by any stretch. Players who have illuminated games with their skill in our shirt have also gone a fair way to securing our love, but Highbury casts a large shadow over our new ground, larger than it should be given the difference in size.
It was necessity that we moved grounds. To compete at the highest level, a higher attendance was absolutely necessary.
Now we must concentrate on forging a past that pushes the future.
We had all of our 13 title wins at Highbury, and ten of our FA Cup wins. We had two European trophies in our trophy cupboards in those Marble Halls. We had the birth of our ethos there too.
Herbert Chapman. Ian Wright. Cliff Bastin. Alex James. George Graham. Arsene Wenger. George Male. Bob Wilson. Liam Brady. George Armstrong. Peter Storey. David O’Leary. The best back 5 ever to grace English football. Dennis Bergkamp. Thierry Henry. The Invincibles.
They are tied to Highbury, they are tied to the best moments which personify Arsenal and being a Gooner.
Until we lift a title at The Emirates, then the link between our ground and us will be weaker than it should. Liverpool will go through the same thing when they depart Anfield, and Chelsea too with Stamford Bridge – the same rule doesn’t apply to tottenham as they have not exactly got much to hark back to….
Statues of titans who wore our shirt outside the ground give The Emirates an edge we all love, and the ring of trophy placards around the stands is a great touch, but until one of them is the silhouette of the Premier League trophy or European Cup, then we will look upon the Emirates as a great place – not THE place.