Pain in the Arsenal: It’s been a blast

Well, I never thought I’d be writing this, my 5,529th piece. When I started writing for Pain in the Arsenal, I was 20 years old. I was just graduating from university, embarking on a scary new career, and stumbled across an Arsenal fan blog. ‘What’s the worst that could happen?’ I asked. A little over five years later, and now 26, I am writing my final post.

So, indulge me for one final time, but as someone who has worked tirelessly to grow a reputable and insightful blog for many years, I feel it is right to provide a peek behind the curtain into my own life, my own work, and the collective work of all at Pain in the Arsenal, while also reminiscing on our wonderful time here.

I started as a contributor. My first article was titled, ‘Why Arsenal should sign Petr Cech’. Having just re-read it, it is not nearly as cringeworthy as I thought it might be. But it does help to illuminate how far I have come as a writer and how much this site has grown over the years.

From arguing over whether Arsenal should sign Cech to debating Arsene Wenger’s place at the club; from fighting for Mikel Arteta when Unai Emery arrived to championing the Spaniard only 18 months later anyway; from delivering the things we learned from matches, presenting a rather amateur but hugely enjoyable podcast, and providing hapless predictions for starting XIs to complaining about agents, Granit Xhaka, and whether Shkodran Mustafi has finally learned how to pass quickly, it has been my pleasure and privilege to write for and ultimately manage this site alongside Josh Sippie.

Of course, for all of the content we have provided over the years, for all of the work that we have put in, and for the ups and downs that Arsenal have provided us with, ultimately, what really makes this site special is you, the readers. The commenters, the tweeters, the shouters on the internet, the questioners, the instigators, the critics, the haters. We would not be writing about Arsenal football club if you were not reading about Arsenal football club, and the site would not have grown if it was not for you. So, for that, I thank you.

We have, it should be said, not always agreed. Your insults have routinely made me laugh. My apparent hatred of Granit Xhaka and Mesut Ozil has been routinely ridiculed, as has my longstanding belief in Jack Wilshere and Alexandre Lacazette. I have been abused on social media, chastised in the comments, and called almost every name under the sun. But for all of the negative comments, there has also been blossomed debate, discussion, encouragement, even, sometimes, agreement.

It is this community of polite and courteous discussion that I like to champion. Disagreement is natural, but disrespect is uncalled for. Mostly, Pain in the Arsenal has been a respectful place to discuss the wonders and weirdness of Arsenal football club. That I have not left due to the small stick I receive is a testament to the community on the website and the honest and respectful discussions I have on social media.

To close, I will touch on my favourite piece that I wrote. It centred on Arsene Wenger. As a young football fan growing up during the Invincible era, for all of the glory that Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira and Sol Campbell and Dennis Bergkamp were adorned in, for me, it was always Wenger who stood as the emblem of Arsenal football. Two years ago, I wrote the following about how Wenger was the inspiration for my love of football:

“I have never had the pleasure of meeting Wenger. There are few things in my life that I would rather do. But I wouldn’t actually have much to say to him. I wouldn’t question his later years, though many questions still preside. I wouldn’t ask him for stories. I wouldn’t search for details on players, past and present. I wouldn’t want him to regale of happier times at Highbury, of the Invincibles, of the double-winning teams, of the FA Cups, of the beauty of his football, of the brilliance of him and his players, of the unbridled, uncontainable, irreplaceable joy that his work gave to so many.

No, I wouldn’t do any of that. I would simply say ‘thank you’. Because Arsene Wenger is the man who made me fall in love with football, and that is all I would need to say. Merci, Arsene Wenger.”

And just as Arsene Wenger was the man who made me fall in love, Pain in the Arsenal has been the first stepping stone of my football writing career. What is next I am not sure, both for the site and myself. But for now, let’s be happy for what was. All in all, it was a blast and I enjoyed every second. Thank you.

PS. Please don’t roast me in the comments!