Well, y’all, it’s been a ride. And as I was never one for clickbaity titles (most of the time), you’ll be able to tell that this post will have nothing to do with the FA Cup title or the pending and forever nuptials between Arsenal and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Instead, it will be about me. The American that you hate for his support of Granit Xhaka.
This will be my last ever post for Pain in the Arsenal, as I’ll be stepping away from the site after seven years in charge, five of which have been spent alongside my friend and co-editor Andy, who will also be stepping down and issuing his own statement.
I’ll just say it’s been an honor and a joy to watch this site grow up into what it is today. I’ve enjoyed reading the comments on every article, even the ones that called me a stupid f***ing American, and seeing how lively the discussions were before and after every match. I grew to recognize your names, your opinions, I knew when something I was writing would tick someone off.
I’ve enjoyed the DMs on Twitter, the sometimes-friendly debates, and the notes from people who took the time to go find my own personal website just to tell me they enjoyed an article. It really means the world to me to know that people actually care enough about this club to hear someone else’s opinion on it. Honestly, I’m still baffled. All I ever did was say Giroud isn’t a lamppost and Joel Campbell could be world-class.
What were you all doing reading my stuff?
Lastly, I’ve enjoyed the copious amounts of writers I’ve seen come through the site and the diverse backgrounds they came from, matching such a wide array of opinions that, whether I agreed with or not, I had to publish. That’s been one of my truest joys.
Now that I’m leaving, I’ll let you in on a little story that I’ve never told anyone about how I came to love Arsenal so much. When I’m done, you’ll see why I never told anyone and you’ll probably also disregard everything I’ve ever written.
For the first 21 years of my life, I was all American football and baseball. I didn’t give a sh*t about soccer or football, didn’t care what you called it (do now, it’s soccer). But in 2011, I played FIFA for the first time.
If you don’t like where the story is going, you’re spot on. It doesn’t get much better.
I didn’t know what team to pick, but I had heard of the Premier League, so I went there and went in alphabetical order… except backward. I started with Wolverhampton. Michael Kightly was my guy for about three weeks before I got bored. So I went the other way in alphabetical order and found Arsenal, with Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey as teenage midfield sensations. As someone who has always valued player development in American sports, I knew I had found my team. I bought a Ramsey jersey, I started watching games, I became obsessed. I read all the books, watched the season’s past, celebrated in 2004 with the Invincibles, and convinced myself that I was born an Arsenal fan.
Then, in 2013, I was offered this new site. Pain in the Arsenal. Not going to lie, I was nervous to take it. I was getting caught up on everything Arsenal, but I wasn’t there yet. I was a newbie to a very, very, very passionate fanbase, masquerading as an expert.
All I knew was I loved the club. I’d lose sleep the night before matches, even if I didn’t fully understand the tactics yet. My weekends would be ruined when we lost, even if I didn’t know why. When I had the joy of meeting Patrick Vieira in 2016, I didn’t know what to say. I have never been star-struck before in my life and I haven’t been since, but at that moment, I had nothing to say. So I said the only thing that my mouth could utter—
“I love Arsenal.”
“Me too,” he said.
That was it.
I kicked myself as I left. I had Vieira’s ear and that was the best I could do? I could have at least asked him to vindicate my support of Granit Xhaka. Nope. “I love Arsenal.” That was it.
It felt right.
I really never thought I’d see the day where I was writing this post. I mean, since starting this site, I’ve moved to New York City, gotten married, had countless other jobs as a bartender, bookseller, treetop adventure course guide, door-to-door salesman, telemarketer, but one thing always stayed the same—Pain in the Arsenal. Every night I’d be queueing up the articles for the next day, without fail.
7,591. That’s how many articles I’ve written for Pain in the Arsenal. Honestly, I thought it’d be bigger.
Before I go, there is one thing I’ve always wanted to do that I want to finally check off the list.
GRANIT XHAKACM, Arsenal
Yeah, that feels pretty good. Better than the first one.
To everyone that made it this far in the post, I’ll ask the same question I asked earlier—why? Why did you read this? But thank you, anyway. Thank you, thank you, thank you for always clicking on our articles, for being a part of this community, for making this worth it. Know that I’ll be banging my head on the wall every time Arsenal takes the pitch, same as always. And you can probably predict by now what my player ratings would have been anyway.
If not, just see above.