Fandom Week Column: Life is tough as a Gunner

This week, Daily Campus Sports is celebrating both the highs and the lows of invested fandom with a series of personal articles telling the stories of our sports memories. This is Fandom Week.

Arsenal's Jack Wilshere, front, challenges for the ball with Red Star's Mitchell Donald during the Europa League group H soccer match between Red Star and Arsenal on the stadium Rajko Mitic in Belgrade, Serbia, Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017. (Darko Vojinovic/AP)

Following a world soccer team is odd. Usually, you have no actual connection to the team in terms of heritage or geographic ties to the club, but you claim it as your own.

When I was 8 years old, I picked Arsenal as my favorite European soccer team. In 2004, Arsenal were one of the best teams in the world and were coming off an undefeated season in the English Premier League. The team was littered with stars like Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp and Patrick Vieira.

At this point, I was still too young to know what exactly what was going on, but I would watch the “Gunners” every weekend as my love for the team grew.

In 2006, Arsenal would move from Highbury to the new Emirates Stadium. This would start a new period for the club. During this period of transition was when my love for the team truly grew.

The move to the new stadium limited the clubs’ ability to make moves in a transfer market now inhabited by Arab and Russian billionaires, as Arsenal simply could not keep up. As a result of this, Arsenal’s stars would begin to leave the club in search of more success and money. The most hurtful part was that players would often leave for rival clubs like Manchester City and Chelsea, doubling the pain.

Every single summer would be filled with rumors of players wanting to leave and ultimately abandoning the club. Results were also on the decline during this period.

After an eight-year period of winning seven trophies, Arsenal would endure an eight-year trophy drought from 2005-2013. During this spell, the team would suffer various heartbreaking losses, including a loss in the final of the UEFA Champions League.

The signing of Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid and an FA Cup title in 2013 brought Arsenal back to life. In 2014, they signed another world class player, Alexis Sanchez, and defended their FA Cup title. Things continued to look up in 2014 as the team finished in second place in the EPL, their highest finish in nine years.

During this whole period of players leaving, Arsenal were never dreadful; they were actually above average. From 1996-2017, the club would come in at least fourth place in the Premier League, but that was it. Expectedly, fans like myself wanted more.

Last season, the club did not finish in the top-four and missed out on the Champions League for the first time in 20 years.

This season, Arsenal are once again struggling to keep their best players, as Sanchez and Ozil are likely to leave the club next summer.

As a fan, I am nervous for what the future holds. Arsene Wenger, the team's manager since 1996 will likely leave when his contract expires after next season, and there are many questions about who will lead the club into a new era.


Antonio Salazar is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at antonio.salazar@uconn.edu.