My love affair with Arsenal began in the summer of 1998. I was 11 years old and I was experiencing my first World Cup. On a 19" tube TV I witnessed the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. In the 90th minute of a World Cup quarterfinal between the Netherlands and Argentina, Dennis Bergkamp proceeded to caress a 60 yard ball down with his first touch, cut it between a defender's legs, and then elegantly curl a shot with the outside of his right foot in to the top corner of the goal to win the game. I watched my recorded cassette tape of that moment in wonder countless times that summer.
When soccer practice began later that fall I exuberantly described Bergkamp’s masterpiece to my teammates, while my coach (who just so happened to be Dutch) looked on with a smile. The next day he introduced me to the world of Arsenal with a set of recorded games that involved the team with a player I now idolized. Over the next few years he continued to record games for me and my passion for the club began to grow as Arsenal slowly became invincible in my eyes. I was dazzled by the fluidity of Pires and Bergkamp, impressed by the strength and power of Vieira, and amazed by the ease at which Thierry Henry ripped defenses apart week by week.
For the first time in years, Arsenal again has a team full of players with jaw-dropping skill and international caliber. The likes of Mesut Özil, Aaron Ramsey, and Santi Cazorla are capable of bossing games like, dare I say it, the 2003-2004 Arsenal team that went undefeated through an entire league campaign. The goal that Jack Wilshere scored this season against Norwich City after a series of flicks between himself and Olivier Giroud was a piece of art worthy of the Louvre.
For the remainder of the 2013-2014 season – leading up to next summer’s World Cup - I will be keeping Colorado Rapids fans up to date on all things Arsenal. I, for one, hope Arsenal players continue to impress and are represented well in the World Cup, merely for the fact that there is an 11 year-old somewhere who is waiting to be dazzled by Arsenal’s new generation of players, just like I was by Dennis Bergkamp.
Saturday, November 23, 2013: Arsenal vs Southhampton
After an opening day loss in August to Aston Villa, Arsenal has unexpectedly shot to the summit of the Premier League 11 games into the 2013-2014 season. Early predictions had perennial title contenders, Chelsea, and defending champions, Manchester United, as favorites to lead the table, but up to this point Arsenal has been the most impressive team in England.
Aaron Ramsey is beginning to show his potential after recovering from a horrific leg break a few seasons ago, as he currently leads the Gunners with 11 goals and 5 assists in all competitions. Wojciech Szczesny, a goalkeeper under fire much of last season for shaky performances, has also impressed with multiple composed displays and was just recently rewarded with an extended 5 year contract.
Although we haven't seen the best of him yet, Mesut Özil was Arsenal's major addition in the summer transfer window, costing the club a staggering 42 million pounds from Real Madrid! His presence alone has lifted the team up a notch and boosted the mood around the Emirates Stadium this season.
Despite a loss to Manchester United in their last outing, Arsenal seem to show more maturity and confidence in every game. They return from the international break to Premier League action this Saturday when they host Southampton (8:00 am MT, NBC Sports). Southampton surprisingly sit 3rd in the league, have only lost 1 game all season, and are proving to be a handful for any team they face.
No major injuries have been reported from this week's international fixtures, so it looks as if Arsenal will be heading into a busy stretch of the season with a healthy squad. Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski also look set to return to the team as early as this weekend to add some much needed depth to Arsenal's attack.
A win at home this weekend will ensure that the Gunners stay top of the table in England and continue their push to re-claim the league title for the first time in 9 years.