Dear Arsene, Thank You
Here’s the honest truth – you made me love this sport, and for that I’ll forever be grateful. You made me realize that there is, and always will be, a spot for creativity, regardless of what some coaches at my local youth level thought.
As a young 13 year old, I fell in love with your teams. I was proud to say I loved Arsenal (at any cost). I was proud to point to that crest and ask anyone, name me a team that not only plays better, but makes it look beautiful. When all of my friends loved Manchester United, Liverpool, Juventus or Inter Milan, I was proud to be the one kid in my class who would defend Arsenal. Arsene, this was because of you, and what you brought to the table.
As late-teenager and in my early-twenties, as I discovered more and more Arsenal fans in my city, I recognized one similar story, we all became Arsenal fans at around the same moments – between 1996 and 1998. We all spoke about Bergkamp, and our infatuation of Henry and how excited we were for the opening of Emirates and what that would mean for the club moving forward.
I still remember, defending valiantly, the Arsenal name. When friends would say, well, “yeah, you’re good in the Premier League, but you’ll never win in the Champions League”, I would get defensive. I would run down the accomplishments of your teams. The tactical genius you displayed and ask, pleaded with anyone, to tell me why we couldn’t win.
I’ll never forget that Final. It was tough to watch – and I know it’s your biggest regret. But, you did nothing wrong in that match, and while, I will never forget my friends who cheer for Barcelona come to work the next day to rub it in my face, it doesn’t matter. You got us there.
I’ll never forget the first time I entered Emirates stadium. It was six years ago, and if you were to ask my wife, she mentioned that I had a goofy grin on my face the entire time. I’ll be honest, I remember every moment of that trip and that moment. My timing was off, Arsenal were playing Liverpool in Liverpool, but of course I had to do the stadium tour. I remember putting on the headphones and I remember listening to the parts where you chime in over the earbuds. The thought and consideration you gave to not only the players, but to the fans when building that stadium impressed me, and still impress me, to this day. I’m hesitant to say this is your legacy, but perhaps it is, and if that is the case, then let’s just end the debate (which it isn’t) and name the stadium accordingly.
As I entered in my late 20’s, I started reading more about you, and what I came to appreciate is your absolute genius. It wasn’t only in display in this game that we all love, but you truly are one of the more intelligent minds – even if many Arsenal fans today would disagree with you. You understood, and applied football analytics prior to even the concept becoming part of our vernacular. You examined problems and issues from a myriad of angles prior to acting, giving every consideration thought. Truth be told, much of your overall managerial style has impacted the way I operate on a professional level (and to increasing success), and for that – thank you.
A quick side note, your announcement interrupted an article I was writing about genius and the difficulty in watching Arsenal and yourself, to be honest flounder. The impetus behind writing that: a conversation I had with a fellow ‘old-timer’ in my football league who was an Arsenal fan for a lot, lot longer than I and stated (I’m paraphrasing), that he’s never seen a smarter manager in his life. Your genius was evident. I’m not appreciative of you interrupting several hours of written work though.
Arsene, you made me love Arsenal. For that, I’m forever grateful, as are the millions of Arsenal fans who became fans because of you and your teams – not because of some fancy marketing schemes. It was you and that (not the stadium) will forever be your legacy for me. You will always be Arsenal, and it will be much tougher than I ever envisioned to not seeing you on my television managing the team that I love.