Here's Lowell on our welcome 1-0 victory over Norwich City at the Emirates on Saturday afternoon.
We did it! We did a goal!!
What an unbelievable relief. Despite the moment being slightly marred by the confusion regarding the goal’s legitimacy, the roar - both of relief and of celebration - was not something I thought I would ever hear for a game as ostensibly insignificant as Norwich at home in September.
The return of the Emirates crowd hadn’t really sunk in until today.
Partly because I was in Dorset for the last one, and so attended without my Dad who (wisely) decided the eight hour round trip for the Chelsea game wasn’t worth it - to be fair to him though, he’s done his time.
But not just because of that, this - weirdly - really felt like it was our first game of the season.
The buzz around the ground, the warmth with which the team were greeted and the atmosphere throughout the game had the feeling of unfounded optimism that only an opening game week would bring - certainly not one of a team that had lost their opening three games without scoring.
A perfect sporting day. Prior to kick off, an - unusual for me - trip to the pub at Highbury Barn kicked off the afternoon nicely.
Teaming with Arsenal fans, seemingly as optimistic as I, the pub was buzzing - and Spurs’ showing resulted in uproarious celebration, the likes of which had deserted Arsenal fans in the opening three matches.
With Patrick Vieira at the helm, the packed Highbury pub witnessed Spurs, not only kicking off and having a player sent off but also capitulating further to a 3-0 defeat at Selhurst Park. What more could you ask for?
Topped only by Vieira himself, when asked what it felt like to beat Tottenham, stating “I don’t know what it feels like to lose to Spurs!”.
It’s no wonder that chants of “VIEIRA WHOAHOAH” rang around both the Highbury Barn Tavern and the Emirates today.
Upon announcement, the lineup - if initially causing confusion as a result of a false team being released, resulting in my cousin calling Arteta “an utter fool”, which on reflection of the actual lineup was retracted - set the stage for what we all hoped to be the real ‘start’ to our season.
With five new signings (including Ødegaard) picked in the XI, along with the returning Gabriel to partner Ben White - both Mikel Arteta and the Arsenal fans were presented with what seemed to be a fresh beginning.
Although this ‘fresh beginning’ began promisingly, our early efforts again looked to be in vain. My Dad said “well to be fair we gave them 35 minutes”. Spot on. Buzz around the ground, great reception for all the players, 0-0 after 35 minutes, realise we aren’t very good and repeat!
The 0-0 scoreline at the HT whistle even compelled some Arsenal fans around us to boo… To be fair, it wasn’t that bad. The second half picked up. There was more tempo (particularly after the introduction of ESR) and more ingenuity in attack.
We were still made to wait uncomfortably long for the goal though, with the breakthrough coming as Aubameyand tucked home from an inch with 20 minutes to go. The way the day was going, an inch seemed to be about the only distance we were going to score from!
This goal came much too early (who could have imagined saying this after a home game against Norwich 15 years ago?) for the nerves, with too much time being left for the routine Arsenal panic.
Never can we just see a game out, there has to be multiple instances of inexplicable panic and confusion before the game comes to a close.
The panic came as both White and Gabriel made last ditch blocks to thwart Pukki, but also as our hunt for a second goal was hindered by indecisiveness - blatantly arising from a lack of confidence - and some inspired saves from Tim Krul.
Despite being a team still devoid of any real attacking plan or intricacy, the win today was one of absolute necessity.
Three points against Norwich which will mean more to Arsenal fans and Mikel Arteta more than we could have ever imagined.
In truth, it could have been two or three had our players been at their best, but the confidence and momentum gained from this win alone is immeasurable - and will come of great relief (quite clearly the theme of Saturday's victory) to Mikel Arteta, who lives to fight another weekend.
Anyway; first win, first goal, off the bottom of the table, and a Spurs defeat. The first (I hope of many) successful weekends I have the privilege of writing about. I sense that there is a team in there somewhere, whether Mikel can find it is yet to be seen but today was, if nothing else, a step in the right direction.
See you next week in Burnley, and as Nicolas Pepe’s ill-advised and later edited Instagram post said: “We are staying up!”.
Learn more about Lowell in his own words.
My name is Lowell Hornby.
I’ve been a devout Gooner for all I can remember. I was taken to my first Arsenal game in 2007 and never looked back.
I’ve never really thought of football being in my life as a conscious choice, more of a genetic deficiency.
The relationship my Dad (who some of you may know: Nick Hornby, author of Fever Pitch) has developed with football inevitably has rubbed off on me.
It feels like it’s a lot more than results; it’s the club, the feeling, the fans, the friends - everything.
In my year off, after an unimaginably painful 18 months of fan-less football, I can’t think of anything I’d rather do than follow my beloved Arsenal up and down the country as I attempt to go to every Premier League game this season.
The pieces I write will document not just the games, but my experiences, the cities, the journeys, the people.
I hope in doing so I can capture, express, articulate and transmit the visceral emotions of myself, fellow Gooners and football fans as a whole.
I live and breathe football, and I hope these pieces and my project this season can convey that in a way that’s enjoyable to experience vicariously.
If you’d like to be following me more casually, and be notified of any pieces of course, my Twitter handle is @weststandlowell and I’ll be tweeting over there. COYG.