This story first appeared in the January edition of the Arsenal Magazine.
CHRIS HARRISManaging Editor (Digital), Arsenal Media Group
I’ve selected Thierry Henry’s goal against Leeds in January 2012, mainly because it was the ultimate nostalgia trip for fans. If you think back to the time when Arsenal weren’t winning many trophies, there were these fallow years that coincided with the start of the Emirates Stadium era.
The team were consistently finishing in the top four but the crowd were living off these individual moments – like beating Spurs 5-2 a couple of times or Andrey Arshavin’s winner against Barcelona. Looking back, I think Henry’s return was the ultimate of those. If you think of moments that encapsulate your life as a fan, Henry scoring on his comeback was very much one of them. Arse?ne Wenger and Henry had spent much of the winter denying that he was going to come back and when he did come back, maybe some felt that we needed a striker at the peak of his powers. Back he came, in a pretty nondescript FA Cup game against Leeds. Just having him back on the bench, you felt this frisson around the ground that someone special was in our midst.
I remember when he came off the bench midway through the second half, you just felt this wave of joy. It felt like the guy who used to make our dreams come true was back. At that point, you weren’t even thinking about him scoring – it was just special having him back on the pitch. Parents were turning to their kids and saying “this is Thierry Henry”. It just felt as though you’d rediscovered something great that you thought you’d lost. The goal itself was just mind- blowing, really spine-tingling.
We’d seen him do it so many times before, collecting the ball and opening up his body to find the corner. It was trademark Henry, and the fact that he was doing it so long after we thought we’d seen it for the last time just took you back to the glory days, it took you back to Highbury. It took Henry back too – in fact he’s called it the favourite of his 228 Arsenal goals. In the past we’d seen him react quite nonchalantly after scoring goals, but with this one, there was just this outpouring from the player, an outpouring from the manager and an absolute undiluted outpouring from the fans.
I include myself in that as well as any other Arsenal fan working in the press box. Usually we’re professional when Arsenal score but in this moment you just couldn’t avoid the goosebumps, the pure joy of witnessing something that had charmed you and delighted you so many times in the past come back.
For me it was the moment – you had nostalgia, you had delight and everyone in the ground will never forget how that felt.
Chris TowersWRITER FOR MATCH OF THE DAY MAGAZINE
I won’t pick Thierry Henry against Leeds – it’s too easy, surely! Instead, I’ll go for Tomas Rosicky’s goal against Tottenham in January 2014. It was only three years ago, but let’s have a quick bit of context.
The previous season, Arsenal had pipped Tottenham to a Champions League berth on the final day for the second year running. In response, they splashed their Gareth Bale cash assembling a new-look team, optimistic of becoming north London’s dominant force. It didn’t work out that way. Arsenal beat them in all three meetings over the course of the 2013/14 season without conceding a goal.
On this Saturday evening under the lights, Tomas’s chip sealed the second of those victories. Arsenal led at the break through Santi Cazorla’s strike, but in the second half, Tottenham were gaining a footing in the game. On 61 minutes, Roberto Soldado played a pass to Danny Rose, their furthest man back on the halfway line. But the left back dawdled a little too long on the ball with Rosicky, a boundless, bustling ball of energy, tearing down on him. What followed was six touches in six seconds.
The first takes Tomas clear – still 50 yards from goal, a sudden burst of noise swells around the stadium. I’m behind the goal in the North Bank Lower. Everyone is up on their feet, watching as Rosicky scrambles towards us. Time slows down. The second touch takes him back infield – a little too close for comfort to Kyle Walker, steaming back at a desperate rate to challenge. The next three touches come in quick succession – Tomas gets his body in front of Walker, into the box and into a position to shoot.
The fans by now are bouncing on their toes, screaming, urging the shot – and it finally comes with the sixth touch, a dink to lift the ball sublimely over the onrushing Hugo Lloris. The net ripples and Rosicky wheels away. Talk about composure, and cue unbridled joy. Progression was assured.
This may be cheating a little, but there was more to the occasion than that singular brilliant moment that encompassed Rosicky’s blend of industry and skill. The North Bank displayed special banners before kick-off, which are now a fixture for big London derbies. Serge Gnabry showed his promise, and let’s not forget Theo Walcott reminding the visiting fans of the score.
What’s more, it set us off towards that beautiful day at Wembley against Hull, lifting our first trophy in nine years. I dearly love the FA Cup. And I’ll be there at Deepdale hoping to see The Arsenal make more memories.
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