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July 2021

What is the Arsenal and what does Arsenal represent.

By Don Don McMahon


This essay on our Arsenal is neither intended to be exhaustive nor definitive. It is my best effort at trying (probably in vain) to paint a faint but pragmatic image of what the Arsenal is for us Gooners. It is a vision of what has been, is and will be.

As a Club it represents an open and tolerant society of members and its history, Footballers, managers, caretakers and fans dedicated to positive and constructive involvement and improvement to the Game we all adore.

As a Football Team it represents principles of fairplay, beautiful Football, restrained ambition, benevolent paternalism,  as well as a familial, unique team spirit based on a democratic and egalitarian model. The team is finely tuned, sometimes overly delicate and certainly injury-prone but valiant, amazingly resilient and capable of regularly beating the best as well as losing to the worst.

As a business it espouses a model of benevolent private ownership structured and managed by caretakers and familial interests. This is based on share values rather than dividends, an emphasis on profitability, sustainable growth and progress, frugality and discipline, and planned reinvestment in facilities such as the Emirates, London Colney and the Medical Centre.

We also do  property development and marketing of our image and goods, albeit barely adequately according to some and certainly able to be increased significantly by all measures.

In its human relations it prefers discretion, unconditional support for its players and staff, an arms-length but responsive relationship with fans and supporters, a firmness about maintaining a positive team attitude and spirit even at the cost of losing some players, a willingness to respect players needs and wishes, despite the consequences that entails.

The Arsenal is NOT racist, xenophobic or sectarian,nor does it endorse or encourage partisanship beyond the accepted limits of civilized behaviour.

We do NOT throw bananas, bagels or baguettes at our players nor do we chant ill-mannered, ghoulish and ignorant ditties, except at our manager or a particularly petrified morsel of deadwood and then only occasionally.

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Apparently this is acceptable because we pay the ¨highest¨ticket prices in the EPL according to the ignorant and ill-informed pundits and media so this awards some followers the dubious ¨privilege¨ of denigrating and demeaning our team and its components before the entire world, thus proving what great supporters they are.

It is managed and coached by a group of men who, together, have more expertise, certifications and experience in top-flight professional football in their greying hair than the entire mob of moaning, groaning, whiners who try and tell them how to run the Club based on these people’s marginal Fantasy Football Manager successes.

The manager is the figurehead and icon of the Arsenal and even has a first name that seems taken from the AFC dictionary. His class, elegance, wit, savoir-faire and overall intelligence represents perfectly what the Arsenal is all about. He is tolerant of others, protective of his charges and noble in his treatment of them, to the point of seeming insanity.

When AFC do transfers and negotiations, they are perhaps at their most discrete and secretive. Unlike clubs, whose bottomless resources permit them to announce their targets far and wide, Arsene, Gazidis, the Board and the scouting team rarely if ever offer any solid or specific hints, heads-up or possibilities.

For whatever reason Wenger likes to surprise the supporters and the media and some negotiations have been so protracted, clouded in mystery and confusion and obfuscated that teams wishing to sell to us, even if we don’t want to buy, have taken to making outrageous claims about our supposed intent.

This allows the yellow media and Wenger haters (often one and the same) to latch onto such claims as gospel. We are always in a lose-lose situation with some of our so-called supporters, almost the entire media and certainly other clubs. This, in fact aids and abets Wenger’s approach to all things financial – mystery is good, uncertainty is positive and transparency is for the other guys.

Our future seems more positive than our recent past, with better financial resources, stricter restraints on our competitors financial shenanigans and rapidly improving youth talents, combined with greater access to top class transfers. As well, our world fanbase is growing exponentially and our business management, while still struggling to keep up, seems to be getting the gist of it.

In summary, our club is like an extraordinary collection of miscreants in an extended family. We have the wayward black sheep (whiny supporters), the spoilt siblings, the noble and patient pater familias, the die-hard travellers (away fans), the distant rich uncle (Stan), the creepy ultra-rich uncle (Alisher, who himself recently claimed to have been misquoted in L’Equipe), the faithful clan member (Ivan) , the child prodigies (Walkcott, Ox, Wilshere) and everything in between. That is both the joy and sorrow of the Arsenal and I wouldn’t have it any other way.


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53 comments to What is the Arsenal and what does Arsenal represent.

  • tissiam

    congratulations my friend for this great essay!!good to see someone else who is optimistic about the future of our great club,UP THE GUNNERS&IN ARSENE WE TRUST!!

  • Matt Clarke

    Yup, values that will outlash and outshine trophies.

  • nicky

    @Don the Don,
    A fair summing up of what our great Club means to the world.
    After only 4 years, Gazidis still has to persuade me of his longterm “faith”,though.

  • IslingtonGooner

    I’ve said all along “we are so great we
    Dont even need trophys”
    Thats why the football-nation have a
    Bee in their bonnet about it…
    While iam here i’de like to say
    dear old HERBERT and many other grest
    Men who gave their life to build this
    IMMORTAL. ARSENAL must be turning
    In their grave….take the scene at Brighton
    For starters….HOW they can turn against
    ARSENE is mind-boggling… evrey club
    In the EPL would love to have our standards
    Problem is they cant afford to…cos they
    Only got MONEY…their soul attraction..
    I would not swap a corner flag
    For all of stamford bridge and the etihad
    If offered…iam a poor man…but you tell me
    Here is 200 mil,never mention Arsenal again
    And i will laugh at your face…

  • Arvind

    That’s a nice article Don. I guess though a large part of it at least about the fans, could be said about multiple clubs. As for the booing, it’s almost fashionable these days..I guess. I’m not a big Rafa fan or anything, but the whole thing is disgraceful…what the fans are doing. He cannot win..under any circumstances. As for AW, he’ll go after this contract or maybe one more at most. After slowly building up a fantastic core of players and leaving the club’s finances in good hands… he’ll move on and we’ll be safe for a long time to least another 10-20 years. By safe .. I do NOT mean… we will win trophies eveyr year..just in case I’m misquoted.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Brilliant you sum up the many virtues of this club which our manager personifies. I just hope the present and future custodians keep to these values in the face of commercial media and fan pressure. I sense change coming in the next year or two, it may initially seem a good change but long term I wonder if we may look back and long for some of the values of arsenal today.

  • arsenal george

    the child prodigies who will probly be sold at a future date, we have become a mid table team, of that i am not proud….wake up

  • Bryan

    Are you kidding me? Are you sure some of the funds that were intended for player acquisition weren’t redirected to your personal bank account? You and your fellow supporters are the very reason why this mediocrity continues unchecked. In my country there is a team who likewise plays the same frustrating games as Arsene et al,(i.e. lie about their intentions, play the “economics” card whenever necessary, talk out of both sides of their mouths, prey on your emotional attachment to the club etc…)then they go to their palacial estates and proceed to fill their respective matresses with your cash. Wake up!!! They don’t care about your vested interests, they don’t see you in a familial way, they don’t have restless nights when the team is struggling and if you believe that they care about winning as much as you do then you are no longer a fan…you my friend are a pawn. So you can dress it up with fancy words and/or take that much travelled road down memory lane but always remember if you put a piece of crap in a bag and label it fresh strawberries, no matter what, when you open that bag it will still be a pile of shit!!!

  • uk

    Don, u forgot about the dust in our trophy cabinet, that’s part of our club you know

  • Adam

    UK, If its medals and trophies you want, give me your address and i will send you all my old medals and trophies as they are all just gathering dust.

  • Adam

    @Don, nice piece and i understand where your coming from, but for me it goes a little deeper. Arsenal for me represents my family and all that’s good about it. without a doubt, throughout all the family disagreements and good times, all of us have had Arsenal in our thoughts and its probably the one thing we all agree on always.

    Brainwashed at birth, and happy about it.

  • bob

    “Brainwashed at birth” and calling this window a success?

  • Al

    Great piece, Don. Buying is not everything.

  • Al

    I remember watching a Barca game sometime this season and all 11 of their players on the pitch were la masia graduates. And this is the best side in the world we are talking about, so it can be done without breaking the bank. I’ll always believe in the Arsenal way of doing things.

  • Al

    Forgot to add their manager and his assistant were la masia graduates too, and probably the physio too:) Before I’m accused of being a barca fan let me just say I cannot fail to see a successful model where there’s one. Or where the structures for one are in place, such as at our club.

  • Pat

    Inspired writing, Don.

  • Gord

    arsenal george -1
    don -1

  • D Sutton

    Historically – and here for you young ‘uns this means pre Wenger and even back beyond George graham ! – Arsenal have always represented the threat from the south. The only threat. Football throughout its professional organised period has been the domain of northerners. And only arsenal ever, ever consistently posed a threat. In the 30s we stood up to Newcastle and Sunderland. Before this when football was rough and rugged we were more so than any northern team by being even more northern than they could imagine!! More recently it has been the money club Evertob, then the shankley men of Liverpool and then the money team of Manchester Utd. We have always been the team that could not be ignored in England – the one you could the but everyone outside London respected nd secretly admired and envied. We are a team of sand and a club of stature. We are old and grounded and fervent – like a religion or a noble obsession.
    We are the only southern team worth is salts.

  • Florian

    Absolutely amazing!

  • Domhuail

    Thanks as usual to those who took the time to savour this article, even if you disagreed with some of its contentions. In response to those who prefer their love of Arsenal a bit tepid:

    1) Arsenal George – a bit too premature to predict mid-table AG and far too pessimistic prediction of wholesale firesales of our youth gems….but I guess it fits in well with LeGrove’s approach to supporting Arsenal.

    2)UK……one simple question……..are we the only big Club that has dust in its trophy-case over the years? Who ever told you that we are entitled to and should be winning trophies regularly? Barca,Real, Bayern, Chelsea, City, PSG and other ¨big¨ Clubs have had longer runs of trophy-less seasons so it is part of ANY and ALL big Clubs’ history….not a tragedy but not a tradition either.

    3)We are a family of sorts, and a tribe as well, and that explains our passionate dialogues, rants and emotional outbursts which signal a healthy family life. Those who attack their fellow supporters, whether verbally or physically, are aberrations and similar to the black sheep in the family……every Club has them, but they are best treated with empathy and tolerance.

  • Adam

    @Bob you have taken what i have written the wrong way. I think, “Brainwashed at birth” refers to my family all being Arsenal fans, Believe me when i say i had no choice. There are about 40 of us in and around London and we all support Arsenal bar one London red (Man u fan but even his boy follows Arsenal and attends Arsenal matches regularly with his Man U supporting father)the traitor.

    I don’t really call this transfer window a success as I have no idea how the season is going to turn out. But i’m not overly negative about it either. I would like to see more competition for places, because, as stated before i don’t think our current first choices are afraid of being dropped so don’t have to worry too much about errors costing them a starting role.

    If im going to be honest Vermaelen has got on my nerves something rotten of late and Sagna is getting there as well, but both are very good players. Fierce competition for places is needed in my opinion, the players are all on decent contracts so don,t need to worry about being out of a job, they need to focus on upping their performances and maintaining a high level of output.

  • bob

    Sorry, Adam. It was a lame joke on my part. Cheers 🙂

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Very nice ,Dom .We are family ,even those odd ones do occassionally mean well , I think !

    “Is that which is holy loved by the gods because it is holy, or is it holy because it is loved by the gods?”

  • Rupert Cook

    Whilst this piece is undoubtedly heartfelt I wonder if these values were something that existed pre Wenger. I don’t remember much beautiful football under GG. And there hasn’t been an awful lot of it in the last two years.

    Also I’m not sure Wenger has shown a lot of elegance in recent years. Kicking water bottles and arguing with fourth officials display a rather childish petulance. I understand his frustrations but he’s hardly been elegance personified. He and Fergie whinge incessantly, although what the latter has to moan about I don’t know.

    And what’s restrained ambition? An excuse for not winning anything? Surely ambition that is restrained is barely ambition at all. Sounds rather like Wenger’s phrase, “we played with the handbrake on.”

    A lot of what you claim is pure supposition driven by a unsullied love of idealism, that is, how you think a football club should be run. I have to applaud much of what you say but where’s the evidence that we have a benevolent private ownership? For benevolence read indifference perhaps.

    In short this is more about you than the club and paints you as a very decent individual.

  • Rupert Cook

    Here’s a great debate on exactly what some think Arsenal football club really is. Enjoy it.

  • nicky

    As probably the oldest Arsenal supporter in the whole wide world (including Wales) I get the impression that the more modern fan expects our trophy cabinet to be perpetually full of silverware, our League position never to be below first and most rival teams often refusing to play us for fear of too heavy losses.
    Let me tell them that unless they are prepared to watch losses conjured out of certain victories and vice versa, key players wanting greener grass, self-sustainability instead of obscene spending and a manager who fails to act on the expert advice of millions of fans, world-wide…….they should direct their support elsewhere.
    You see, those of us who are of a more mature age (to put it mildly) are used to the hypertension, heartspasms,stomach ulcers, PMT and TMP which are the unavoidable symptoms of being a REAL Arsenal fan. What we know and what you young’uns still have to learn is that the Arsenal Way is to test the loyalty of its supporters like no other team in the world in the sure and certain knowledge that in the end the Club will always prevail. But you have to have patience and give your support in the meantime.
    We have done out time and now it’s your turn. Have faith…

  • Kenneth Widmerpool

    Having support Arsenal since 1764, I agree with you Nicky.Good post and well observed.

  • nicky

    GRRRRR! I thought I was the oldest but I only began in 1765!
    But today is our 65th Wedding Anniversary and not many can equal that!

  • Kenneth Widmerpool

    Nicky, your post cracked me up!!!Congrats on 65 years! I still live with my Mum!!

  • Good, well-considered post as usual from the best Arsenal website. Many thanks for what you do.

  • nicky

    @ Kenneth W.,
    My wife asked me what 1764 meant and I told her it was 4 minutes past 6.

  • Gooner S

    Nice post…..

    @Nicky & @Kenneth…Made me laugh

  • Kenneth Widmerpool

    Nicky, LOL! My Mums so old, that she still recall the Arsenal manger Ug Toolmaker,(he won lots of stoneware) back in 6,000 BC. She still asks after the results each week though…

  • Tasos


    6,000 BC?

    I bet Stoke had a good team back then.

  • Kenneth Widmerpool

    Tasos, Ive just asked Mum, she said they used to be called the “Neanderthals” back in them thar days. She recalled them being introduced to an abacus, it was to complex so they gave it back, believing it was evil.There was also some scandal about the Neanderthal/Stoke new signing, “stig of the dump” sleeping with a Dinosaur which was frowned upon back then. Things haven’t changed much…

  • Adam

    Nicky, did you serve in the armed forces, as a recoat? (sorry couldn’t resist).

  • Adam

    If my history is correct the Neanderthals were renowned for their slow weaving game that cut great groves into the ground as they went about business, apparently there was a particular German side that excelled at this early form of mob rules which I believe to be called erosion and deposition tactics. They dominated the game until the arrival of a team called Homo sapiens but they had a little fellow between the sticks called australopithecine which proved to be their missing link, anyway the last contest to take place between these sides was in Portugal which ended in the winners eating the losing side. The evidence was found in a cave by the coast alongside David Beckham’s first pair of boots.

  • Tasos


    I understand that cross breeding between stone-age man and beast was commonplace back then.

    Myth has it this known by locals of middle England as the cross-shaw experiment. Although latterly changed by deed poll to the shaw-cross occurrence.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Think Neanderthals were much misunderstood, and were far more intelligent and sophistocated than initially thought, very insulting to their memory to be mentioned in the same sentence as Stoke!

  • bob

    “combined with greater access to top class transfers”
    English translation, please….?

  • Rupert Cook

    @Dom, Chelsea have only been a big club for about 15 years. Never serious contenders for major trophies throughout their history.

    As I said your piece is a lovely dollop of sentiment but it is merely a dreamer’s version of AFC.

  • nicky

    Do you mean “redcoat” ?

  • Adam

    Yes Nicky, wireless keyboard strikes again. Didn’t even notice. sorry for being cheeky.

  • nicky

    @ Adam,
    For the record
    Black Watch (RHR)

  • Adam

    OK Nicky, RAF 120 Kinloss.

  • Asif

    @Nicky – appreciate your wise words and completely agree with you that as fans we need to persevere too…quick fixes are never a solution. I believe in the club and am sure that the current crop of players (with of course the right augmentations) will definitely bring silverware but then that alone is not the be all and end all of everything. Unfortunately some pseudo-supporters will never understand this!

    And Rupert’s unrestrained love for chelski shows through! No one on UA dare comment against petrodollar clubs…for hurting a Rupert (who have been great for the last 15 yrs…that’s precisely Rupert’s unchanged age for ages)!

  • nicky

    Loved your Station’s pipes and drums.

  • Elvis

    Great post!
    Although I’d say a lot of what you say about values and self sustainability just go over the AAA and spud TROLLS’ heads.

    ” I wantz Moar Trophiez. Spend money, then spend more money. Buy, buy, BUY. Wenger out. ” [/trollface]

  • Domhuail

    Bob………greater access to top class transfers proposes that, as AFC have more cash to spend from better financial management,TV rights and so on, they might be able to aim at competing with the likes of Chelsea,City,PSG ,Real and Barca for international stars. That said, as long as AW is in charge, he’ll NEVER get into a bidding war, so we,ll have tyo wait and see. Personally I prefer his current stealthy and silent stalking method, springing the trap at the end of the transfer window and getting his man or two rather frugally….makes for such fun watching the AAA whiners pull their hair out.

    Thanks Rupert for your compliment….I do hope that when my expiry date arrives they will etch that statement about decency on my tombstone. In answer to your questions:

    a)Wenger kicks waterbottles,and does occasionally berate the officials but SAF and half the managers in the EPL are posterboys for rude, bullying and ignorant behaviour between each other and the opposition players, officials and even fans. When compared to them and the likes of Mourinho…he is in a class by himself.

    b)Restrained ambition should be understood to mean controlled and rational ambition: avoidance of excesses like last place QPR’s Harry just showed with Samba, other Clubs getting into tremendous debt bringing in super-flops at atrocious prices (Liverpool, City, Spuds etc.)and refusing to be blackmailed by mercenary demands from ¨star¨ players whose intent is, at best, opaque.

    c)The evidence for a benevolent private ownership is there for all to see: the current owner NOT taking out any profits (at least so far), letting Wenger get on with it and trusting his judgement, and refusing to deal with a Uzbekistanian snake whose charming PR sorties tend to dig him into a deeper hole evertime he tries them.

    I know you can always find a cloud behind every silver lining but I do respect your love for the Club, which, as you love to remind me is equal to mine, with the difference being I am an idealist. Without hope and belief, we would all be hopeless and faithless (like some of our former players)….not a life I want to live thanks.

  • uk

    I dont want anything mate. Merely pointed out a precious aspect of our club, dom forgot. ‘The holy trophy cabinet dust’. I’m told by akbs, an encounter with this dust releases the mind from every worry, and ambition.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Seniors’ humour since you guys started it !

    During a visit to my doctor, I asked him, “How do you determine whether or not an older person should be put in an old age home?”
    “Well,” he said, “we fill up a bathtub, then we offer a teaspoon, a teacup and a bucket to the person to empty the bathtub.”
    “Oh, I understand,” I said. “A normal person would use the bucket because it is bigger than the spoon or the teacup..”
    “No” he said. “A normal person would pull the plug. Do you want a bed near the window?”

  • Fishpie

    Don, a very emotive expression of love for the club. There is much that you’ve written that evokes the values and the DNA of the club that I adore too, that intangible quality and aura that endures through both the years of glory and the years of failure.

    As much as I love the club however , I believe Arsenal could be a greater club than it is. I have witnessed the club being a greater club than it is now and I will not settle for a diminished Arsenal. And the defining aspect that I think of when I think of us at our best is when we do everything we can to win. For me its less about “winning” and more about “doing everything we can” and when, even if we fail to win, we can still hold our heads high because we know there was nothing left to give.

    Football, like any sport, is inherently competitive. If a team or sportsman enters a competition, yes there is the right way to play and act, the right way to pursue victory but in sport, pursuing victory is the primary purpose. To win. Or to lose trying very very hard. Ideally, proud to have won. Prouder still to have won the right way. But in defeat too to walk away proud. A great club is one that does everything it can to pursue victory, whether it does so successively or not.

    So when a club exhibits all the signs of not trying enough, of not doing everything it can , on and off the pitch, in pursuit of attainable victories and attainable trophies, it is a club that is either not great at all, or has forgotten how to be great or is not living up to the greatness it was known for. It is letting itself down.

    I don’t assume or expect that Arsenal will win things. There are other great clubs, as great as ours, a few greater, that will also have realistic ambitions to win things but if they try harder than we do to fulfill their ambitions, then we don’t deserve to be victorious.

    And that’s where Arsenal has been for a few years now. Not doing everything it could be doing to pursue victory: not doing everything it could be doing to create for instance a defensive unit that is capable of preventing unnecessarily lost points and games; not doing everything it could be doing to ensure the team has the right work ethic and up for it attitude that would also prevent unnecessarily lost points and games; not doing everything it could be doing to ensure there is accountability between the board and the manager; and yes, not utilizing the available player budget either at all or well enough to keep or attain players who would improve the squad.

    It is the timidity, the slipped standards and lack of determination to set and pursue goals that the club has attained before and is still capable of attaining that makes me feel less proud of my club.

    So does that make me a lesser fan than you Don? I still support the team, I still encourage the players to give their all, but I believe I do it more than the people that actually run the club.

    You may say but the club has had periods in the past when it appeared to be settling for less than what it once was and less than what it could be. Well just because it did that then didn’t make it right then.

    All fans have to endure and support their team through hard times for sure but I don’t believe fans have to put up in silence with 8 years of self-created under-performance due to lack of effort and ambition from within the club .

    The club I love at its best is full of driven men, giving everything in the pursuit of victory. People who run the club, manage the team and play on the pitch have to hold this dear or they are not true to the heritage of the club and the great managers and players that went before.

    Personally, as a true fan who wants Arsenal to be the best it can be, I think its my duty to point out to the club when key individuals are not of that mentality and especially if those traits have lasted eight fruitless years.

    Not all who criticize the club do it mindlessly or recklessly. With a positive predisposition towards what the club does, Untold Arsenal is a breath of much needed fresh air in the bloggersphere. I read it to keep a balance. But please, on behalf of those fans who feel that striving for success is a defining Arsenal value deep in its DNA, allow them to voice their justified worries that the club has somehow altered the code.

  • uk

    Couldnt have said it any better. I only disagree with the part wher u said untold was a needed breadth of fresh air. Other than that, absolutely spot on.