Publisher’s note: Untold Arsenal owes an enormous amount to Walter Broeckx, who is himself a referee, and who for many years has not only been a great supporter of our work but who also oversaw the site’s major investigation into the way referees in the Premier League behave. It remains to this date the most authoritative analysis of PL referee activity ever undertaken. and of course is still available on this site at 160 games analysed
By Walter Broeckx
What a difference a few years make….
Somewhere in the autumn of 2019 I made my last trip with some Arsenal Belgium supporters to the Emirates. Then a few months later the covid madness took centre stage and coming to the Emirates was suddenly no longer possible. First no spectators were allowed, then there were all kinds of regulations to travel from one country to another…. So I waited and waited… and waited more than three years to come back.
Last weekend I finally made my way back to London in the company of my brother and both our wives. Thanks to our contributor Andrew we had a great place to stay for a few days. So I went from the last days of Unai Emery’s reign to my first match under Mikel Arteta.
Now more than three years is a very long time. And things have changed a bit since our last trip.
For example, everywhere, when I read about Arsenal or watch matches on TV I heard about the difference in atmosphere inside the stadium.
The first time I witnessed the singing of “ The Angel – North London forever” just before kick-off. In the past we had some pre-match songs (London Calling – the wonder of your smile….) but this song clearly is something else. With more than 55.000 people singing the words it was a moment that gave me goose bumps. What a wonderful moment. Oh yes, I did learn the chorus of course before I came to London.
I wondered how the support would be after that during the match….to only hear the away end erupt in loud cheers when they surprised all of us after some 10 seconds. From my earlier visits I knew that this could have been a moment for the crowd to start some early booing. But before the Arsenal could kick-off again the crowd was on their feet cheering the players on to do the job and set it right.
The only booing I heard was the booing for the ridiculous amount of time-wasting from the Bournemouth goalkeeper from the first minute.
The crowd was behind the players and was singing and shouting in support of the team. Needless to say I was just joining in with the rest.
Alas it didn’t work out in the first half. It was a case of just not having the quality in the last ball when it mattered. Trossard having to leave the pitch was a bit of a bummer for us. But to see Smith-Rowe again on the pitch after his long injury spell was great.
Arsenal pushed and pushed and pushed for the equaliser…. And then out of nothing the goal fell at the other end. A corner and a header and we were 0-2 down.
How would the crowd react to this…..???? Well with the Bournemouth players still celebrating in front of their supporters, I could hear the reaction from the Arsenal supporters…. ARSENAL, ARSENAL, ARSENAL they shouted…. I thought to myself: oh no, not a defeat at my first match in three years….
The crowd stayed behind the players and they didn’t drop their shoulders. They went at Bournemouth again and finally, Partey got our first goal after some five minutes of sustained pressure. Even those who didn’t believe in a good outcome got back on their feet and the stadium kept on shouting the players on and kept them pushing forward.
Then Nelson came for Smith-Rowe who was getting tired and limped a bit. And when Nelson hit his cross towards the far post another half time sub, White, had a shot at goal that was saved at first sight. Being in the Clock End I fell back on my seat after having jumped up to suddenly hear a big roar as the goal line technology had given the goal. What a joy.
We kept going forward to get the win. No way this team would accept not winning this match. But we kept on missing chances and Bournemouth showed themselves masters in wasting time, faking injury after each attack…. What frustrating tactics…. I said to myself let us hope that just like Aston Villa it will blow up in their face.
Six minutes of extra time started with Bournemouth wasting a least another minute by faking another injury. When Zinchenko had his last shot being diverted for a corner we knew this was the moment…all or nothing…..
We all stood at our feet when the corner was swung in by Odegaard, was headed out by a defender to Nelson who controlled it and unleashed a shot with his left foot. When that ball hit the back of the net it was complete chaos in the Emirates. I only saw two idiots leave early during the extra time so the almost full stadium erupted in a noise that still makes my ears ring. I shouted in delight, I danced with my brother and other fans around me and we kept on dancing.
I shouted so hard that when I tried to say something to my neighbour in the stadium I discovered my voice was completely gone. I think this will go down as a case of over-celebrating by the celebration police. Not that I care…
What a comeback…. And what a comeback for us from Arsenal Belgium supporters club. It couldn’t have been a better script. Although I do admit that a rather easy 4-0 win would have been somewhat better for my heart than this win. But such a win will live for a long time in my memory….
The most important thing for me is apart from the three points is that I finally can say that the way the supporters behave is how I wanted it to be, for a long time. If this had happened three or four years ago the moaning would have started from the second minute. The stadium would be silent for long parts. Now it was never really silent at all.
The interaction between the players and the crowd was great to see. The way the players fought for the three points was amazing. It wasn’t the best match of the season, but the players and the supporters never accepted defeat. And because of that we came out on top. It was a combination of both players and supporters that made us believe in ourselves and made the players believe they could turn this around.
What a moment to be in the Emirates…. Hope to be back real soon!
Footnote: if you would like to relive the game – the highlights are here.
- Football is blindly walking into its biggest ever crisis. Part 1
- Why this season is not a one-off for Arsenal, but probably a sign of things to come
- Why, when a player assaults a referee, the ultimate guilty party is the media
- Arsenal and Tottenham both built stadia, and each suffered the consequence. But…
- Being a visionary is not as easy as it looks
8 Replies to “Arsenal Belgium finally make it back to the Emirates; plus video highlights”
Glad your back Walter and also loved your referees analysis many years ago .
Great performance,the lads really grabbed the game by it’s scruff with four unlikely contributors in ESR,nelson,partey and white(goes to show we’ve got leadership aplenty contrary to neville’s idiotic claims).surely it’s one of the we will look back at if we eventually win the league,VAR is another rival though.maybe we can focus on EL where officiating is a lot better incase we eventually succumb due to the english officials incompetence in the tittle race.
I can only imagine the emotions you went through Walter having had to endure your enforced isolation, and what a day to return.
The thing is Walter, what you, I, and so many here on Untold can be proud of is that we loved and SUPPORTED the players, the manager, and the club as much on your last day pre COVID, as we did on Saturday.
Loving the Lads today is easy. Supporting them whilst trailing is easy.
For years it wasn’t so easy. But Untold NEVER waived in their support of the Club. Many many of the regulars, myself included, NEVER waived in their support.
When you love, you love, through good and bad, you do not pick and choose. You support.
Great to have you back Walter. A true supporter.
Completely agree with what you say Nitram. In a way one could say that just as with the referees Untold is always ahead of the rest. The rest finally understood that real support is needed. And now it is given and the players react to it in a great way. Long may it continue.
Here here to that Walter.
You certainly chose the match to attend. Glad you and your wife could celebrate this win with the rest of the Emirates faithful. And you’re spot on about the support. Hope you have some time to contribute with an article now and again. I join all the other UA followers in saying WELCOME BACK!!!
Great to have you back Walter. You still bring Arsenal good luck. What a game to return.
If I had known that Walter and his Mrs were at the Ems , I would have relaxed more , looking forward to a 3-1 scoreline ! But still , welcome back , Walter and the Belgian contingent ! Hope you lot visit more often . You never know , maybe a cup at the end of it all ?
I was overwhelmed by our victory , but did not come on here to cheer us once again. I only read Untold Arsenal on my work computer , and never on my phone or home computer.
Was a bit busy at work and other matters , but still , WOO HOO , HOO ! And well done the lads . Made us all happy .
Up the Gunners !