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June 21, 2024

Victoria Concordia Crescit

Why the celebration police have got it wrong about Arsenal

3 min read

Several times this season, Arsenal players and fans have been accused of excessively celebrating victories.

It happened when they won at Molineux in February and at Villa Park the following month, and then last weekend, after the victory over West Ham at the London Stadium, pundit Chris Sutton sniffily remarked that team and supporters were celebrating as if they had won the league.

This is nonsensical on several fronts, not the least of which is that football is a game of passion. It is all about celebrating the wins, and mourning the losses.

Peculiarly, the criticism seems only reserved for Arsenal fans – nobody is complaining about the way Liverpool celebrate after a game or Jurgen Klopp’s fist pumps at the end.

Beyond that though, what is not appreciated is that the celebrations are not to taunt the opposition but are, instead, a way of uniting club and fans again, after years of division and enmity.

That started in the latter years of Arsène Wenger, with deep fissures opening up between those who thought he should stay, and those who felt that his time was up.

Things did not get any better under his successor Unai Emery, whose inability to communicate with the supporters and tactical confusion served only to make the gap between the two groups wider.

When Mikel Arteta, a former player, took over, one of the things that he noticed was how the culture of the club had been allowed to erode in the time he had been away from it.

Culture is an undefinable thing, but in essence, it is how a club operates, the values it embodies, and how it communicates.

It has taken Arteta several years to fix the problem, and it has taken a major overhaul of personnel to do so. Ageing superstars like Mesut Ozil and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have been allowed to leave the club, whilst much of the dead wood has been purged.

A deliberate attempt has been made to bring in younger, hungrier players, whilst the presence of youngsters who have come through the Hale End Academy system like Bukayo Saka, and Emile Smith-Rowe has strengthened the bond with the fan base.

And the return of fans to the stadiums has also helped. Arsenal are one of the club’s most reliant on match day revenue and the fact they can now play in front of a full stadium every other week seems to have helped the team on the pitch.

The Emirates used to be known as a quiet ground – that is no longer the case.

Even if the team does not make Champions League football, this season will probably be judged a success, especially after they lost the first three games of the campaign.

And, whilst progress has been made on the pitch, arguably the bigger advances have been made off it, because many fans, after years of almost indifference, have fallen in love with their team again.

That has to be reason enough for celebration in North London for those of a red and white persuasion.

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