You are responsible for the brightest of lights and the darkest shadows.
When we were first introduced to you, we worried for the future. How could you uphold all that is precious about our club when you have no idea about what it is that makes us so special?
If we could go back in time and tell our past selves that we needn’t have worried – we wouldn’t. It was the worry, the uncertainty, that made your impact resonate so much.
We were treated to football from the gods, we got to witness first-hand how the game is meant to be played. We had the privilege to have in our ranks some of the greatest players in the world at the time.
We were also gifted memories that we would clasp onto when the rough times rolled in.
Yes, the environment changed and it called for a different approach, but you didn’t make it easier with your stubbornness. The good times made the dark seem less fearful, and it gave us all hope.
Hope that we would pull through and get back to what made our glory years so special.
It’s inevitable that every relationship hits a rocky patch, and mistakes started to grate on us a little more each time. As the past shrunk behind us, when we looked forward, we could see less on the horizon.
For every Bergkamp, there was a Bischoff. For every Campbell, there was a Stepanovs. For every Bernabeu win there was an 8-2 vs United. Were your methods outdated? Did your belligerent nature begin to cost us? It’s true to a degree, but it wasn’t just you that is responsible for the slide we’ve been on.
It’s been said by many, that your faith in your players and staff is absolute, and it inspires great things. It makes people want to jump through fire for you, to repay the backing by doing what they do best.
It has also been your greatest weakness. When you’ve been let down repeatedly, you never seem able to say goodbye, to cut the cord. So you keep getting burned. At times, it has left us screaming in the stands, at our TV’s. Players shirking their duties, staff failing to meet the standards they once met. Yet you never let them go.
You expected them to do what you would have done – but not everyone is a gentleman like you Arsene. Not everyone stays true to their word.
Now your seat in the dugout is cold, and it will be filled with someone that isn’t you. We got what we wanted, we wanted change. Criticism can stop and we can take a step back and appreciate what you did for us.
You didn’t just bring us trophies and titans on the pitch.
You gave us bragging rights, you gave us memories, you gave us an identity of purveyors of the beautiful game.
You also held dear the values of the club. Even when pressure seemed too heavy and demanded a drastic change, you never forgot what makes Arsenal, Arsenal.
You were lashed by some of us because you were paid an astronomical wage, but you did everything in your power to justify that. Every minute was spent at London Colney. Dedication is one of your strongest suits.
We are a huge club now, with the opportunity to play at the highest level, thanks to you. We have high expectations, thanks to you. We have a barometer of comparison, thanks to you.
It is no surprise that players and staff have come forward since your announcement to depart, to speak highly of you. Of your managerial nous, but most importantly – what made you beloved by them. Ken Friar, Pat Rice, Pires, Henry, Wright. Former players on social media have all come forward to tell us about the times you helped them become what they are, or in their darkest days how you went above and beyond to make sure they knew they weren’t alone.
Opposition teams have chanted your name in appreciation. Commemorative photos and mementoes have been gifted. The reason is that even though results have slipped, they can see how you changed the footballing landscape, how you pushed the Premier League forward.
We are lower in the league than at any time in your Arsenal career, but it seems far less palatable because of what you gave us before.
You couldn’t let go, but now you’re gone, we know how that must have felt, because after so long together, we felt it too. The bottom line is that we both needed to move on. We’re stronger because of what we’ve done, and we can move on.
We will never forget though.
When we see you at a different club, we know that once you take off their unzippable jacket, you will go home and watch our latest match. The bond between us is unbreakable.
You can take Arsene out of The Arsenal, but you can’t take The Arsenal out of Arsene.
Merci Arsene, and adieu.