Thursday, 7 November 2013

Dortmund 0-1 Arsenal: A crucial, memorable victory

As the final whistle rung around the Westfalenstadion, I stood up, filled with pride. I could do nothing but clap at this group of XI players, who put a sword to one of Europe's finest and sent them packing.

Clap, to applaud how rock-solid the defence were and how they made Lewandowski and Reus look like spectators. Clap, at Aaron Ramsey, who has come so far after his horrifying leg break and death of his mentor, Gary Speed. Clap, at the spirit of this team, at how we bounced back from the 8-2s and the 3-1s to send a statement to the rest of the world, that we shall keep rising. Clap, at Arsene Wenger, who, after years of doubt and ridicule, can stand up to the critics and tell them, "In your face!"

However, my applause was also towards the Arsenal away support, symbolic of the Gooners around the globe. Gooners who kept their faith in the team through years of dejection, frustration and anger. Gooners who stuck by the team who have won nothing for 8 whole years, a team who were wrote off by many as the team that won't make the top 4 as early as the start of the season. Gooners who kept chanting when we were losing 8-2 at Old Trafford, 4-0 at San Siro, or 3-1 against Bayern Munich and Aston Villa.

Tonight was when I realized what being a Gooner was all about. It's not about trophies, it's not about success. It's not only about applauding Mesut Ozil and it's certainly not about turning your back on the club in the wake of embarrassing cup exits.

Being an Arsenal supporter is a way of life. It's about wearing the jersey with pride and strolling down the streets with it. It's about switching the television on at 3 in the night, trying to catch a glimpse of the team you love. It's about reminiscing the times that we signed Dennis Bergkamp, when we won our first double, when we trashed Inter 5-1, when we won the league at White Hart Lane, the 49 match unbeaten run, Thierry Henry kissing Highbury farewell, managing to snatch Champions League spots under debt, finishing above the Spuds and defying the critics, THAT win against Barcelona, and the heroic comeback attempts against AC Milan and Bayern Munich.

It's about sticking by the club through Carling Cup failures, Champions League heartbreaks, having to stomach painful exits of money hogs and traitors. It's about believing that the night is always darkest before the dawn, and waiting for the glory days to return. It's about not abandoning your team like the ex-Arsenal players did. For me, it's about putting as much emotion as I can while typing every letter in every Arsenal post. However, most of all, it's about finding a place for yourself in that club.
I can't even describe how proud I am to be a Gooner today. We completely deserved the win we got tonight, and it was only fitting that it would be through a typical "1-0 to the Arsenal" scoreline. Critics would argue that we would have lost this match if Mkhitaryan and Lewandowski would've been more clinical. I say, what about Ramsey and Mertesacker narrowly missing the back of the net? What about Giroud's shot being cleared off the line, and what about Koscielny not getting a fair penalty?

After Ramsey scored that goal, I felt that an equalizer was inevitable. I thought that we would crumble against a side that was playing so well and creating so many problems for us. However, I'm simply stunned at how well we defended to keep out the constant attacks by Reus and co. We understood the magnitude of the situation, and stepped up to keep out any threats. Arteta, who was walking on a fine line after receiving a yellow card, helped out defensively and completely threw Flamini out of my mind. Giroud was everywhere, heading out corners and holding up play fabulously.

However, it was the Mertescielny axis that really stood out defensively. After we took the lead, I can't remember Dortmund creating a single chance, and huge credit to Mertesacker and Koscielny for keeping them out, that too with apparent ease. The whole team helped out as a defensive unit and kept Dortmund from scoring.

It's genuinely difficult to select a stand out player in this match. The back four, including Szczesny, were immense on an important night. Arteta recovered well from a shaky start to become an essential cog of our defence. Rosicky was, oh my word, simply electrifying tonight. Ramsey got a goal, Olivier Giroud assisted it (I know!), and Santi Cazorla and Mesut Ozil showed signs that they were returning to their best.

In the end, I simply have to give my hats off to the entire team, who really showed their maturity and broke records on this memorable night. Arsenal is now the second team who managed to keep a clean sheet at the Westfalenstadion for 61 games now, and we're the first English team to beat Borussia Dortmund in their own den. Not to mention that we are the only English team to beat Real Madrid, Inter Milan and Bayern Munich in their own stadiums. Not bad, huh?

We face Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday, a game which I am really looking forward to. I remember that we had played them last year at around this time itself, and had convincingly lost 2-1. It's time to show the scums how much we have evolved and grown since then, and especially show Robin van Persie the kind of team he turned his back on.

Finally, a word to all Arsenal supporters. Let no one snatch this victory from you. Let no deluded Manchester United or Chelsea fan dent this memorable night from us. After 8 long years, our time seems to be finally approaching. Savour it, because who knows how long it is going to last for?

The glory days might be on their way. I can't wait.

-Santi (Follow me on twitter: @ArsenalBlogz )