This is a new feature at The Short Fuse, as we attempt to provide you with fresh and new content to pour over and comment throughout the course of the season. One of the unique aspects in English and European football are in the stadiums the Arsenal play. Yes, the pitch size is generally the same size all over, but that's where the similarities end. The stadiums, along with the individual stands themselves, have different sizes, shapes and roofs - if they even have roofs. Some of the stadiums are located on the outskirts of the city, a by-product thanks to a lack of available space at the time of the stadium's initial construction, and some of the stadiums are located in the heart of the city that usually corresponds to the stadium's older age. This means that supporters arrive and depart from stadiums differently, depending on where they're located. All-in-all, the sum of these factors lead to a stadium identity that is unique and contrasting.
With the introduction to this series stated, let's dive right into the first stadium on the Arsenal Magical Mystery Tour: Montpellier's Stade de la Mosson, site of Arsenal's first Champions League group stage match tomorrow night.
Stade de la Mosson was opened by Montpellier HSC in 1972, about six kilometers from Montpellier's city center. Like most stadiums of that time, the stands were constructed using wood and initially only held 16,000. After France won the right to host the 1998 World Cup, Stade de la Mosson was chosen as one of the hosting venues which helped drive a capacity increase of the stadium, along with much-needed replacement of its wooden stands, to 32,939. Three stands containing two tiers each are completely covered by a roof; their biggest stand - the iconic three-tier south stand - is left uncovered to Montpellier's temperate, but wet, winters thanks to its proximity to the warm air that rolls off the south coast of France. A breakdown of capacity:
- North Stand - 6,884
- South Stand - 14,303
- East Stand - 6,192
- West Stand - 5,560
Even though the stadium is built away from the compact city center, there is limited parking for the driving visitor so the vast number of match attendees arrive via Montpellier's tram service at the Mosson station, a nine-minute walk from the stadium. For the tram's first 12 years of its existence, the Mosson station was serviced by only a singular line, but in April 2012, the station saw a second line added which starts one stop before the Mosson station and ends in Perois, a town to the southeast of Montpelier that sits near the Mediterranean Sea.
Most league matches at the Mosson fail to sell out, however this cannot be guaranteed for tomorrow's match since this will be Montpelier's first-time ever hosting a UEFA Champions League match. Like most stadia in France, no matter how many people show up for the match the atmosphere is rather electric, and one could possibly expect to see the glow from a flare radiating from their screens tomorrow night. While this might not be the most up-to-date and amenity-laden stadium Arsenal will travel to this season, they will certainly leave this historic match with the thought that they won't experience too many crowds like what the Montpelier supporters will provide.