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What Does History Remember? 

BY BRIAN CABANISS / @11cannons

"History will not remember who played the best football but who won the trophy."

I have to say, over the last several years as a Gooner, I’ve heard or read reasoning to that effect countless times. It’s nigh on impossible to go more than a week without being reminded by a hack journalist or by a rival supporter of the time passed since the last time the Arsenal lifted a trophy.

In the 2007-2008 Premier League season, from August to February there was one team head and shoulders above the rest in England. We lost our first game to Middlesbrough in December of that season, and would only lose twice more, to Chelsea and United, in the run-in. Half the Premiership XI wore red shirts with white sleeves that season. There were matches where our midfield swarmed opponents in the same manner Barcelona regularly do today.

But in an all too familiar fashion, we suffered some key injuries. Van Persie was having another one of those seasons, crocked on international duty in October for Holland. Rosicky began his long spell out with that mysterious hamstring knack in January. And there was no mystery whatsoever about Eduardo’s broken leg on that fateful day at St. Andrews in late February.

That game began a 4 match spell of consecutive draws and the spirit of our side was broken. We spent the remaining months of that season watching Wenger’s dream of building a young side wither, with pundits and rival supporters taking full advantage, leaping into their criticism of the Arsenal with all the zeal of a Dan Smith/Martin Taylor/Ryan Shawcross studs-first lunge.

It was hard to take, probably the nadir of my sixteen years supporting the Gunners. Daily doses of bile from journalists. Weekly taunts from rival supporters down at the pub. And most disappointingly, nearly constant jibes from within. The opening quote is in fact, from a fellow Gooner. It was as if the glorious footballing performances our side put in for six months were washed away from the memory banks of great swaths of Arsenal support. We would win nothing, and as the glory-hunters from within and without were eager to say, no one would remember. Four years on and it’s still a stick with which to beat us. No one will remember your pretty triangles. I guess the Dutch National team was created in 1988 then?

No, fans of football remember outrageous skill, commitment, and courage. We remember Bergkamp scoring a magnificent hat-trick but not winning the game, and being gutted. How could you be gutted after that performance? He was. We remember an endless clinic of close control on the edge of the box while the man we call God waited for Freddie to get into scoring position to accept the deftest of passes. We remember that goal at Newcastle.

We remember Vieira doing a sombrero to get himself out of trouble seemingly every game. Or fighting with Roy Keane in the tunnel. We remember a man with a monkey head crashing down from the sky on top of a horse-faced opponent like a biblical plague. We remember Ray Parlour bagging a triple. You know him right? It’s only Ray Parlour. Yeah, him.

We remember that botched penalty routine. Speaking of Le Bob, we remember Le Lob. We remember Robin Van Persie lashing in a leaping volley after a 50 yard run, or a Pythagorean finish after cutting in from the touchline with no one in the penalty area in support. We remember Ian Wright when he jumped the gun and "Just Did It." And we remember when he actually “Just Did It” for real a little later in the same game.

We remember when Henry just outdid that. We remember the King scoring an audacious back-heel, passing it to himself, or cutting inside from the left, then finishing right foot, right post [that one’s easy, it happened all the time]. We remember when he kissed the Highbury turf goodbye.

We remember Lehmann making a crucial penalty stop to secure a berth in the Champions League final. We remember Mad Jens making a ruckus in the goalmouth at every corner. We remember David Seaman making that save in the FA Cup. We remember toppling Inter Milan at the San Siro. We remember toppling Milan at the San Siro. We remember toppling Real at the Bernabeu. We pillaged Europe’s cathedrals of football and still haven’t lifted that cup with the really big ears.

We remember Eduardo’s comeback, his beach goal. We remember Ramsey’s comeback, and the goal that sunk United only a few games into his return. And if Diaby ever comes back, damn it we’ll remember that too.

We remember Arsene Who? Then Arsene Knows. We remember how he invited the waiting journalists to repeat the vicious rumor about him, and that they cowered in the presence of his honesty and his dignity. We remember that over a decade later it still gets sung down on him from the terraces of White Hart Lane and Old Trafford. We remember him standing amongst that mob, arms outstretched, sent off for kicking a water bottle. We remember so many more of these kinds of moments. Fans of vanity, bragging rights, and banter remember only trophies.

This isn't about losing to sides we should beat, or giving up a lead in the league. It’s not about getting it wrong in the summer and playing catch-up all season. It’s not about how it’s been ‘x’ years since we last lifted silver. It's about losing sight of why we got into football in the first place. It's about dropping the self-absorbed, relentless pursuit of glory which compromises a greater view in exchange for bragging rights.

Gooners perhaps remember the moments above more poignantly in the absence of companioning silverware. Some might even say that it is, in fact, what it is to be Gooner. But what we as football supporters must continue to remember is that for a few hours every week [at least] we FORGOT about everything else. We owe that one to the Arsenal.

Robert Pires sketch also by Brian, to see a gallery of his artwork, click here.

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Reader Comments (2)

Well said that man...

April 19, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter@harlowgooner

Cheers, Harlow

April 19, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter11cannons
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