It was July 22, 2006, when the Emirates Stadium first opened its shiny new doors to 54,000 Arsenal fans for the very first time, to mark Dennis Bergkamp’s testimonial and see off a club legend whilst ushering in a new era.
Since that new era, there have been ups, downs and plenty of middles in a stadium which was supposed to push Arsenal to the level of the likes of Bayern Munich, Juventus and the rest of the European elite.
Whilst that hasn’t quite happened, the past 15 years have seen some truly memorable moments at ‘the carpet’, whether that be record-breaking signings, iconic victories or simply sensational moments.
Recently, football.london asked Arsenal fans to vote in our Emirates survey for their favourites, and now we can reveal the results.
The best match
There have been plenty of iconic matches in the past 15 years in a ground which has at some points been a fortress for the Gunners. Early on there was the last-minute victory over Manchester United with a last-minute Henry header, and more recently Unai Emery’s north London derby debut in a scintillating 4-2 victory over Spurs.
But, realistically, there was only ever going to be one winner for this one, with 51% of the vote. When Pep, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi and co. came to the Emirates in 2011 not many people gave Arsenal much hope.
But, in a game that encapsulated the style that his Arsenal teams played, a 19-year-old Jack Wilshere led by example, taking the game to that iconic midfield and leading by example as Arsenal went toe-to-toe with the Catalans.
Robin Van Persie equalised from a ridiculous angle after David Villa scored in the first half, before a sweeping passing move from back to front saw cult legend Andrey Arshavin slot past a hapless Victor Valdes and seal a brilliant, iconic victory.
We don’t remember what happened in the second leg, though.
The best individual moment
Again, there have been some memorable moments at the Emirates. Arsene Wenger’s emotional farewell after 22 years of service, the shock £42.5million signing of Mesut Ozil in 2013.
However, similar to the best match, one moment stands above all the rest, with 50% of the vote.
When the king of Highbury came back home, via a loan from New York Red Bulls, not many people were sure what to expect.
A bearded Thierry Henry, perhaps lacking a yard or two of his infamous electric pace, entered into an FA Cup third-round tie against Leeds at 0-0 with 22 minutes left.
With 10 minutes ago, the Frenchman ghosted in behind the defence, cushioned Alex Song’s pass and stroked the ball into the far corner with a finish synonymous with the hundreds of goals he scored at Highbury.
The stadium erupted with pure joy, and Jon Champion put it best; “He may be cast in bronze, but he’s still capable of producing truly golden moments.”
The best player
The Emirates has seen some wonderful football from some truly talented footballers since its opening.
The individual brilliance of Alexis Sanchez, the dazzling feet of Santi Cazorla, or the goal-scoring heroics of Aaron Ramsey.
But whilst that was the top four, one man took the prize, only just with 26% of the vote, and that man was former captain Cesc Fabregas.
Having joined as a 16-year-old from Barcelona, Fabregas stormed his way into the first team and made the early years of the Emirates era his own.
He could grab games by the scruff of the neck and turn them on the head, and perhaps had no finer season in red and white than in 2009-10 when he netted 19 goals in 36 appearances.
His biggest regret was never lifting a trophy as Arsenal captain, but he still provided countless special moments for the Gunners.
The best goal
Of course, in 15 years there’s been some fine goals seen by the Arsenal faithful. Olivier Giroud’s extraordinary scorpion kick, Mesut Ozil’s volley against Newcastle and many more.
The one goal that stood out above the rest however, with 68% of the vote, was Jack Wilshere’s incredible team goal against Norwich City in the 2013/14 season
One of the Premier League’s iconic goals, Wilshere exchanged passes with Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud quicker than the Norwich defence could even comprehend, before slotting calmly past the hapless Canaries keeper.
Another goal that epitomised the way Wenger wanted his teams to play, it was probably the closest to perfect football achieved in the Emirates era.
So, those are the top Emirates moments as voted for by football.london readers. A great collection, and Mikel Arteta will be hoping to add some more in the upcoming 2021/22 campaign.
Be sure to let us know in the comments what your favourite moments have been, and how Arteta can create some new ones this season.
Source by Football London