Reiss Nelson’s shot hit the net, and the Emirates Stadium exploded — limbs flying, bodies hurled together, grown men weeping and a child on the pitch.
This is a club that has won 13 league titles and 14 FA Cups, that has loved and lost a stadium. And yet as fans belatedly left the ground, still reeling from the drama of the moment, few could recall such a violent outpouring of emotion.
Was there some recency bias? Undoubtedly. But this was a remarkable game — one in which Arsenal fell behind after just nine seconds, only to overcome a two-goal deficit and win it in the 97th minute. It was a result that preserved the team’s five-point lead at the top of the table and their improbable title challenge on course.
Consider that Arsenal are doing this with one of the youngest first-team groups in the Premier League. Only Southampton, in the relegation zone, have a younger team or manager. These are special circumstances indeed.
And this is a special team, too. Not in terms of what they’ve won — not yet, anyway. They’re special because of the intense bond they have forged with their supporters. In the highly commercial, morally complex world of modern football, that is not easily done. Yet this is undeniably a stadium transformed, a club reinvigorated. Mikel Arteta has imposed his fiery temperament upon north London. What was once mocked as the stale successor to the Highbury Library is now the stage for operatic expressions of raw emotion.
Arsenal supporters and players did not expect to be in this position, and it shows. There is delight, there is anxiety, and there is an abundance of joy. The novelty of the title race has yet to wear off, the nerves have yet to settle. A generation of players and fans are living this for the first time, and living every second. It is a red-and-white-knuckle ride.
The Nelson moment feels unmatched, the crest of this wave of building emotion. In terms of last-gasp drama, Arsenal have never seen the like before.
Except they have. In the first month of the season, there was an 86th-minute winner against Fulham. January brought a 90th-minute winner against Manchester United. Just a fortnight ago, there was that 93rd-minute winner against Aston Villa. Jorginho’s shot cannoned off the bar and into the net via the time-wasting Emi Martinez’s face, a moment of such sublime karmic beauty that it seemed impossible to top.
But Arsenal are developing a habit of making the impossible possible. They do not seem to know when they are beaten. For all the criticisms and concerns over their collective inexperience, what’s overlooked is that Arsenal’s relative naivety appears to come coupled with an utter fearlessness.
And the crowd is part of that. In the team’s darkest moments, the fans have lifted them. Cynicism has been replaced by optimism. Optimism is crystallising into belief. Underpinning it all is love: the fans adore this team.
This symbiotic relationship between supporters and team has…
Read More: Arsenal: It’s getting emotional – The Athletic 2023-03-06 11:40:06