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Gooner Profiles: Interview with Sash of LTArsenal


Welcome to “Through Their Eyes”, a weekly segment brought to you by You Are My Arsenal. Each week we will interview a Gooner to relive some of the club’s most memorable moments through their own words and personal experiences. We will also cover current events and upcoming fixtures to bring you questions and responds you will not get anywhere else. The aim is to let you see our beloved Arsenal through their eyes.

This week we are joined by the man behind the fantastic twitter page LTArsenal! Sash is a 22-year-old blogger that has gained an impressive following of over 108k followers. LTArsenal keeps fans up to date with anything and everything Arsenal. From pre- and post-match analysis to the latest transfer rumours. This is what Sash had to say….

Q: As I am sure your aware, Football is heavily ingrained in British culture. Weekends often spent in the rain-soaked stadiums, tightly packed pubs or on the sofa with family and friends. As a young person from India, how did you find your way into the Arsenal family and how does Indian football culture compare to its British counterpart?

A: Most of my friends and a majority of people in our country support Manchester United but I was never part of this tribalism. I fell in love with Arsenal’s brand of football – even if we didn’t always win trophies, we played the best football in the division. I really resonated with the club’s culture where there’s always that tinge of class in everything we do.

Football is a sport that is still growing in India – The Indian Super League (ISL) was a step in the right direction – we were able to attract the likes of Pires, Ljungberg, Anelka just to name a few of the global superstars. However, we are nowhere close to being where we want to be and it’s going to take a lot of time for us to develop a sound infrastructure for this to materialize.

This is a country of over 1.3 billion and the passion for the majority has always been cricket.

To explain the contrast with British football culture – when I came to London in the May of 2017, I was wearing an Aaron Ramsey Arsenal top and the immigration officer who happened to be a Tottenham fan sardonically stated that he wouldn’t let me into the country! The passion for football in the UK is something I admire so much, I really felt at home when I was in London where everyone breathes football – be it at a restaurant, the tube, museums and most other places.

Q: Arsenal are undoubtedly a commercial juggernaut. A club with a fanbase worldwide which in recent years has been highlighted by the magnitude of our pre-season tours. What do you think it is about Arsenal that appeals to so many people who have no geographical link to the club?

A: Firstly, I think it is important to understand that people around the world are passionate about football. Then, the English Premier League is arguably the best and most-watched league in the world. The globalization has allowed foreign players to play in England. Many of them have played for Arsenal. As a result, some supported our club because they had players from their home country and that has been passed on from generation to generation. Many others, like myself, fell in love due to the style of football, but above all, I believe you just resonate with the club – it is a feeling that’s hard to put out in words, but having said that, it is best explained by Dennis Bergkamp’s famous quote: “When you start supporting a football club, you don’t support it because of the trophies, or a player, or history, you support it because you found yourself somewhere there; found a place where you belong.”

Q: Something we have seen grow uncontrollably in recent years is fan media. Numerous outlets providing a platform for everyday fans to voice their opinions. This is something that at times has caused unrest between the fans. What is your opinion on these channels and how do you think they have affected the club’s progression?

A: Everybody deserves to have an opinion, it doesn’t matter whether it is a good one or an unpopular one, as long as points are put forth in a constructive manner – so I think fan channels that are conducive to this are great. What I don’t agree with is name-calling and abuse by some, but having said that, I don’t think any of these channels have contributed adversely to the club’s progression. We have declined in recent years due to so many poor decisions made at the top and there is so much more to it beyond a few fans/channels. In many cases, the frustrations are justified.

Q: Arsenal moved to the Emirates back in 2006. The vision was to compete with Europe’s elite super clubs. As we all know this was a promise that has never been delivered. In your opinion what are the reasons Arsenal have steadily declined over the last decade?

A: It is pertinent to understand first of all, that the club is in decline because of a series of poor decisions over a number of years. Such a decline is not possible overnight. But we also need to exercise context. The Emirates stadium loan had severely restricted our financial muscle in the transfer market and it was imperative for us to make Champions League football. So I would say, till about 2015, we did well to make Champions league every year, broke that trophy drought and built towards having a squad 2-3 players away from a sustained title challenge, only this time unlike 2009-2011, we actually had the finances to bridge the gap. The lack of ambition the club showed in the summer of 2015 and the indecisiveness in the negotiations table on several occasions hurt us badly. Ivan Gazidis was never the right man to oversee the footballing side. Much as I admire Arsene Wenger, I believe the club should have parted ways much earlier. The club’s recruitment never had a clear plan. Appointing Unai Emery was the wrong choice. We can measure the decline of Arsenal in many time frames from 2006-2020, but I just picked 2015 keeping in mind that for the previous 9 years we were severely restricted in finances. Having said all of this, I have a really positive feeling about Mikel Arteta.

Q: As football fans, we are often extremely tribal. We wear our colours like religious garments, sing our songs like national anthems and treat rival fans as mortal enemies. But if you had to pick another premier league club that you admire who would it be and why?

A: Interesting question, I would say Southampton. A well-run club, a fantastic academy and have done brilliantly to stay competitive despite losing some of their best players over the years whilst maintaining an attractive brand of football. Also, a huge fan of Ralph Hasenhuttl – I think they’ve got an elite coach who has done an excellent job in improving them over the last year and a half.

Q: After 9 years of being starved of silverware Arsenal finally lifted the FA Cup in 2014 after a close call with Hull. A fantastic achievement to overcome a lengthy drought. Walk me through that day, where did you watch?

A:  This was one of the best days of my life. I remember getting mocked by so many people including my brother who is a Chelsea fan in the lead up to that game because of our trophy drought. That season, Mourinho had called Wenger a specialist in failure to add to all the pressure. I was on a family holiday in Berlin and I remember Hull City going 2-0 up and I was immediately reminded of that dreadful League Cup final against Birmingham. Then Santi Cazorla stepped up and scored that wonderful free kick. This was one of the few games I just couldn’t watch. We stepped out nearby for dinner, my heart was in my mouth and I told my brother not to check the score and that we would do so only at full time after when the game was over. Yes, I missed the major portion of this game, but I really couldn’t handle the stress which is why even today, I remember this final so well. When we came back into the room and checked, I was so happy seeing my favourite ever Arsenal player, Aaron Ramsey’s name on the scoresheet and when I saw 3-2 score-line, it is a feeling that is so hard to describe. Huge weight off our shoulders. These are the kind of moments you support a club for.

Q: You mentioned that you are yet to get the chance to attend an Arsenal match. An experience I wish every Gooner could have. You have religiously followed the team for a long time now. A criticism I often have is fans who leave the matches early. As someone who would consider it a dream to attend the Emirates on matchday, how does it make you feel watching seats empty and just how much would you have to sacrifice to make that dream a reality?

A: I hope to come for a game soon! Narrowly missed out in 2017 when I came to London and was due to come this year for the Leicester(H) game but unfortunately COVID hit. For me, it is an absolute life dream and what I’d give to be in the position of a season ticket holder! Having said that, I empathise with fans who leave early. It is very unfair to judge and impose your beliefs on others. They make a lot of sacrifices financially and in terms of lifestyle to be able to visit games and there have been times there’s a lack of effort or we simply haven’t been competitive enough. It is further exacerbated by the high ticket prices our club charges. Personally, I always stick on, even when we lost 6-0, 6-3 and 5-1, 8-2, etc etc. I want to support the club through every moment. But people are different, it is important to embrace that difference in thought and action and not impose your beliefs on others.

Q: One thing I am sure we can both agree on is that Arsenal fans are some of the passionate in the world. Visible evidence of that passion was on display before the start of this season in the form of the “We Care Do You” Movement. How do you feel that message was received by the club and were you on board at the time?

A: It was great to get involved in the movement. Arsenal is so much more than a business or a commodity, it is a way of life and something that has deep meaning to every single one of us. To see the club poorly run for years, coupled with the arrogance of certain men at the top like Chips Keswick who once famously said ‘Thank you for your interest in our affairs’ – it definitely did not sit down well with me and many others. It was a great message to send and I felt it had the desired impact as Josh Kroenke came across this letter and actually responded to it. However, I don’t think it had a major impact on the business we did that summer, but it is important to hold those at the top accountable. The club is nothing without the fans. We are their biggest asset and there’s a reason why both Wenger and Emery were dismissed – the empty seats definitely did not sit down well with the Kroenkes and it is detrimental to the brand.

Q: Something that has impacted not only the footballing world but the globe as a whole is the Covid19 pandemic. A situation that made many realize that football is not everything. Premier league proceedings were abruptly halted in March with no clear vision of when it may return. Thankfully, news broke that on the 17th of June football would resume to complete the current season behind closed doors. How do you feel the pandemic has affected football (Arsenal in particular)?

A: The pandemic made me realize how important Arsenal is to my life on a personal note. But from the club point of view, it definitely resulted in unforeseen losses, but I also think it showed what the club is about – in these moments we are together. Every employee was paid off, season ticket holders refunded and the majority of the squad taking a pay-cut – we’re the only Premier League side to do so which is testament to what Arsenal is about as a club.

Q: A little bit of fun now! You must pick one member of our current squad to take down to the pub for a few beers. Who are you asking a why?

A: Kieran Tierney – He just sounds like a wonderful bloke and kind of reminds me of myself in some ways in terms of how simple he likes to keep his lifestyle is and the fact that he loves being at home and chilling. I also think he is going to be one of the best left-backs in the world in a few year’ time so I’d like to tell him how much we appreciate that work ethic and mentality.

Q: We love a hypothetical here on through their eyes! Imagine yourself in Mikel Arteta’s shoes for a moment. Your standing in front of the Arsenal board, you are pleading for sufficient funds to build the squad. Realistically how much are you asking for and what would you do with those funds?

A: It is a tricky one. But since we are fantasizing here, I’d first look to get rid of 80% of the squad and then see where we are at. There’s a lot of players who are either replaceable and can be upgraded or are on extremely high wages which is better off being appropriated elsewhere. I think we can have a very successful window if we are run smartly through just player sales, but as long as we play our cards right. Some of the players we should look at in my view: Koulibaly/Upamecano for central defence. Thomas Partey as the ball winning box to box player or base midfielder. Houssem Aouar/Jack Grealish to play as a #8/#10 hybrid and Celtic’ Odsonne Edouard in the event a striker leaves.

Q: With the launch of our new kits for next season fast approaching we should take time to reflect on how lucky we have been to be blessed with some of the best-looking kits the game has seen. Along with a few that were not so easy on the eye. The big question is which is your favourite and which do you just outright hate and why?

A: My favourite ever kit is away kit in 2008/09 when Andrey Arshavin scored 4 at Anfield. It is just so iconic, isn’t it? The kit I outright hate was the blue away kit in 2017/18 – I still blame this kit as being one of the reasons for the start of our poor form on the road.

Q: You have gained a mass following on your fantastic Twitter page LTArsenal. What led you to start the page and walk me through both the beginning and the growth of it.

A: I have always been a passionate blogger. In fact, from the age of 13, I have written an article or two from time to time, but I also never felt confident back then to make everything public, so some of it I just did on a private blog. I started the handle to interact with more Arsenal fans from around the world and share perspectives. I’ve always been someone who keeps a really close eye with the news and activities surrounding the club, the only difference was before starting the account, I couldn’t publish it! The growth has been surprising, but it isn’t something I really look into beyond a point to be very honest. There are some incredible people I’ve interacted and collaborated with and that’s what really makes me happy. Above anything else, I love this football club and it is my life’s biggest passion.

Q: And as always, we will finish on this one! We all hold Arsenal close to our hearts. Something that helps distract us from the stress of everyday life (as funny as that may sound). But if you met somebody that had never followed football and they were searching for a club to support, what would you say to explain why Arsenal is so special to you and what makes us different to any other club?

A: Arsenal is a way of life. The club, unlike many ‘top clubs’, have an element of class and is one of few that is known for an attractive style of football. Whilst this has faded recently, I’m confident Mikel Arteta will bring us back. On a lighter note, another reason is that nothing can affect you in life – this club has enhanced my mentality, as it has for a lot of people. You will be unbreakable. 😉



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