Our move to the Emirates Stadium has not lived up to its billing.
Promises that Arsenal “should be able to compete at a level like a club such as Bayern Munich” were the anti-climactic utterings that spawned years of discontent and disillusion. A false dawn that ceased only to ensure future failings were exacerbated beyond recognition. Toxicity within the fanbase amplified to previously unseen territory.
FA Cups have been won that brought with them days of genuine elation, but notably above all has been the countless fan favourites who’ve come and gone. Oftentimes to direct rivals, and most commonly, onto successes of their own.
Those wounds don’t heal overnight. If ever.
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Thus here we are, 14 years on from our move to the Emirates on the back of a season even the most disgruntled supporters couldn’t have envisaged: a lowest league finish for 25 years.
Amid all the justified toxicity and dashed dreams of last season, there is now something to cling on to. A platform for change. More than one reason to be optimistic about the future.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is front and centre of that renewed hope.
In January he will have been at the club for three years. To have excelled like he has is nothing short of remarkable.
Strikers of his calibre don’t come about all too often. Players so infectious in their approach and general demeanour it’s impossible not to be infatuated by their mere presence. Arsenal have such a man, and we couldn’t be more grateful.
Following an era where all the stars whose names we’ve chanted from the terraces and across continents did not stay long enough in the prime of their careers, Aubameyang committing his future means more than just keeping hold of a world class talent.
It indicates a change in direction. A belief from within the club that there is a end goal in sight, one that has everyone associated with Arsenal firmly behind. Aubameyang clearly is, too.
We’re not going to see him pull on a Real Madrid shirt and lift titles. We’re not going to see him return to the Emirates in some capacity and endure the scorn of the saddened supporters. He is here. He is our captain, and he’s staying.
Having fallen miserably short of the expectations set in place when the stadium move took place, there haven’t even been any players who’ve graced N7 7AJ who we can call legends. Cesc Fabregas’ seeds of success were sown in the Higbury turf but a few minutes’ walk away.
A large handful of names we won’t mention could have done so, only to jump ship in search of silverware.
Aubameyang is on course to be the only player we can legitimately call a legend of the Emirates era; all the tools are there.
Boasting otherworldly talent to match his incredible sporting appetite, we’ve been blessed to see him break Arsenal records already, score a wealth of outstanding and important goals, and captain us to success in Wembley finals. An absolute joy to watch.
The word legend does get thrown about too often. Arsenal have plenty of them, sure, but there are others who despite being wonderfully gifted or loved among the fanbase, are not deserving of such a title.
Our Gabonese forward is closer than any since our change of home to achieving that.
Guided by Mikel Arteta, someone who has steadied this sinking ship and reset its course, the foundation is there to achieve the goal he has set himself. Success and more trophies are not guaranteed in north London, but there is no evading the fact that if Aubameyang were to have left this summer, targets set prior to the season would’ve been beyond Arsenal’s reach.
Having beautifully dispelled all the preconceived notions of him being a trouble-maker who would disrupt the atmosphere of his new dressing room to now already forging his own legacy, all other distractions can be put to bed.
Not that his mind was anything other than fully focussed, but all the talk surrounding Aubameyang was one of uncertain futures. That’s now gone. It’s about Arsenal and Arsenal only. Captaining this club back to into the upper echelons of English and European football. That’s all that matters.
With the contract signed, we can banish the gut-wrenching scenes of Robin van Persie and Alexis Sanchez leaving. Gone. Bye.
Look instead to the heroes of the Highbury days: Ian Wright, Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry. Those are just some of the true legends of this club. Granted, they sit on a pedestal of their own, but Aubameyang has opted to follow in their footsteps in search of status instead of seeking riches elsewhere.