Sunday, March 3, 2024

There’s only one Arsene Wenger (statue)

Good morning and happy weekend! With the US tour over I expected a couple of quiet days in the build-up to Monaco’s visit to the Emirates Stadium but Arsenal sprung a minor surprise on Friday as they unveiled a statue of Arsene Wenger.

I don’t know whether or not it will divide some opinion — my personal bubble is entirely in favour and I’m delighted to see it — but I think it was inevitable either way and the timing is right, with five years passed since Arsene’s departure and the team on the up again. It’s also obviously a nice touch that Monaco will be in town this week too, I’m sure that’s no accident.

A three-time Premier League winner and seven-time FA Cup winner, the man who took us from Highbury to the Emirates Stadium and kept us in the Champions League as we lost our best players year on year and the teams around us spent mountains of money. His 22-year tenure is more than twice as long as any other manager in our history (and will surely never be matched) and in that time he turned our national reputation for ‘boring’ football (whether or not that was deserved) into a global reputation for attractive, expressive, technical football.

Hopefully long enough time has passed now for almost everyone, if not everyone, to appreciate all of that and look back on the highest of highs we’ve enjoyed as a club with fondness. The ruptures in the fanbase that emerged in the late 2000s and deepened enormously in the mid-2010s were tiring and damaging but they are a thing of the past and a manager who achieved all Arsene did in north London is immortal and should be immortalised further.

Personally, taking things a few steps further, I wouldn’t be against a host of Arsene statues all around the ground. Holding both trophies at Islington Town Hall after we won the double in 1998, hugging Seaman and Wiltord in celebration at Old Trafford in 2002, raising his arms in celebration at White Hart Lane in 2004. Posing in a hard hat as he made history, becoming the only man to build a stadium entirely on his own. Kicking that bottle at Old Trafford. Being embraced by Pat Rice at Villarreal, falling into Pat Rice’s arms at West Brom. Smirking as he hinted at the Mesut Ozil transfer. Laying on the beach in Brazil at the 2014 World Cup. Shoving Jose Mourinho. Let’s commission them all and dot them around the stadium. Or better yet, around Islington.

I’d settle for a giant mural of Andrew Allen’s Arsene blog back in 2018 too. If only that had been considered when the new art went up on the facade of the stadium. If you haven’t read that before (or can’t remember reading it five years ago) do yourself a favour and stop reading my nonsense, take a look at that instead.

As for the statue itself, I think it looks great. If I had one note: I’d love to see the medal that accidentally swung around and was backwards around his neck as he lifted the trophy in 2004. But I don’t think the statue ever really could have been of any other moment. That title, ending that season unbeaten, was the crowning glory, the day that went down in history and will remain there forever. And I can’t wait to visit it next time I’m in north London.

With the demands for updates on another stadium build flowing in, no, not-Lego Highbury is not complete. But I have made some real progress over the last couple of days. We’re up to the roof of the Clock End and the upper tiers in the other three stands. I just really miss stadiums with gaps between stands.

I guess Arsene isn’t the only one who can build a stadium.

And as I’m sat here, new Arsenal centre-back Amanda Ilestedt has just scored a second goal in as many games for Sweden at the Women’s World Cup. And just as I’ve hit publish, Stina Blackstenius has scored too. Well in! (Ilestedt later added a second and is, incredibly, now the tournament’s joint-top scorer.)

Right, that’s your lot from me. This is my last day of babysitting and you’ll be back in the safe, knowledgable, jet-lagged hands of Blogs tomorrow! Thanks again to him for asking me to fill in for the week, I’ve massively enjoyed thinking about out what to write, actually writing, and reading through the arses. But how he does it every single day, especially in the summer or during international breaks, I’ll never know.

Hope you’ve enjoyed spending the week with me and if you want to find my ramblings during the season, or make sure I see how strongly you disagree with anything I’ve written I’m @LGAmbrose on Twitter and I guess I’ll be there as long as the site remains semi-functional or a true alternative emerges.

Whatever you’re up to, have a fantastic weekend!