Arsenal told they’ve “lost their soul” in damning verdict
This extraordinary comment appeared today in the Daily Mirror’s online site and it raises two questions. One is whether it is fair to say that Arsenal have “lost their soul”, and the other is whether saying it is indeed either “damning” or a “verdict”.
The essence of the argument is that Arsenal had a “soul” at Highbury, but that was taken away by the move to the Emirates.
It is an argument that is sometimes heard – that the old ground was somehow more homely or more exciting, or more attuned to the essence of the club than the new ground, which is subsequently called “soulless”.
Now “soullessness” is generally defined as “lacking character and individuality”. In terms of individuality that is clearly nonsense, since the stadium and its surroundings is unique, just as Highbury was. So what about “character?”
The character of a building usually refers to the overall shape of the building, its materials, craftsmanship, decorative details, interior spaces and features, as well as the various aspects of its site and environment.
In this regard Highbury was a mess. It was built for the move of Arsenal from Plumstead to Highbury, in the summer of 1913 and it was built in a rush – seven weeks was all it took, although obviously, that wasn’t the Highbury that some of us remember visiting. Indeed the ground most certainly wasn’t finished by the time of the first game, and suffered several humiliating defects early on, including a wall falling down. But fortunately for Arsenal, “health and safety” hadn’t been invented then. (For more on this see Woolwich Arsenal gain possession of Highbury).
It was eventually transformed from being primarily a standing ground to an all-seater, with many of the seats being cramped, and constant worries that the stadium was indeed “rocking” as with the final home games in 1998 and 2002 when the whole of the north bank felt like it was moving as everyone jumped up and down.
Now maybe to those looking on that all seemed like fun, but it was cramped, there were concerns about its safety.
Plus of course it only housed 38,000 by then, so when Eric Cantona, who made these particular comments (as others have done before him) he is of course ignoring the feelings of the 22,000 who were able to get tickets after the move, who couldn’t do so before.
This isn’t to say the new stadium was or is perfect, but it does mean more people can come in, and when Arsenal are winning, the sound can be a lot louder than in the Highbury days. Anyone who was at the current stadium for the victory over Wolverhampton last season and who stayed to the end to see the last goal go in, will attest to that. I’ve never heard such noise – and it continued long after the final whistle.
The problem is, of course, that Cantona has undoubtedly never had to fight to get a ticket, never had to sit in the parts of Highbury where the view was far from perfect, never had to give up in queue up at a bar for food or drink at Highbury, never been crunched up because some of the seats at the old ground were just that bit too close together. And indeed I suspect not actually seen many games at either ground.
Now the point is then made in the article that reports the Cantonian commentary, that the decision to move “looked to be to the detriment of the North London giants as it prevented them from dipping seriously into the transfer market for an extended period of time whilst it took them until the 2013/14 season to lift their first trophy of the Emirates era with an FA Cup triumph over Hull City.”
OK so we moved in 2006 and went seven years before winning the FA Cup. But those seven years were nonetheless part of the record-breaking run of consecutive appearances in the Champions League which, although not trophy-winning (remember “fourth is not a trophy” as the gibberers endless said on this site) is still not bad and is indeed something that fourteen other clubs would have paid good money to achieve year after year.
The article also says that “the atmosphere at the [new] stadium has been criticised on a number of occasions, with claims that it does not live up to that of Highbury.”
Which is a bit dopey since Highbury was regularly nicknamed by the media as “The Library”.
“I spoke with some Arsenal fans and they hate these (new) stadiums. These fans lost the soul of their clubs. Fortunately, Old Trafford is still Old Trafford. Anfield is still Anfield.”
And indeed one might add, mindless rambling is still mindless rambling. If there is such a thing as a soul, it is within people not within stadia, so what must have changed was the people. Something to ponder Mr Cantona.
- Are Arsenal really making progress, or are we starting to slip back?
- Luton 3 Arsenal 4: maybe it is time to say positive things
- Luton v Arsenal – the referee, the team, Saka and Cliff Bastin
- Luton Town – how do they play the game. The tackles, fouls and cards.
- Luton Town v Arsenal: Grim football, fewest goals, lowest possession rate