The perfect pass, a mazy dribble, an unbelievable goal: These are all things that can take your breath away during the course of a game. These things however are only a prelude to the real star of the show: the goal celebration. The goal celebration is the refraction after the climax of a goal. After long minutes of playing one-two passes, looking for space, breaking down the defense and finally scoring that elusive goal, the mark of a player is determined by what he does next.
The goal celebration is where legends are born. One could go the arrogant route like Eric Cantona, who famously turned and stared at the world around him after bamboozling Sunderland, or Mario Balotelli, who scored with his shoulder but refused to celebrate citing that the mailman does not celebrate when he delivers mail. Jurgen Klinsman performed a fake dive --is there such a thing?-- after being accused of actually diving to win a penalty. Ronaldo signaled for the Bracelona fans to simmer down after a fantastic header and Arshavin was known to shush the opposition fans. They know they're good, and the celebrations are minimal because the player's aura alone is already a celebration.
You can also go for the group love, scrambling towards your teammate that was responsible for the assist or the whole team in general to express your closeness. Barcelona are famous for this, Arsenal players have been known to man-pile and Hull City once mocked their own manager with a celebration where the goalscorer berated the team while they sat diligently.
But maybe you're an emotional man who doesn't give too much thought to the celebration. You score and the excitement and energy is too much for the brain and manifests itself in a sprint to one of the corner flags as you scream at the odds that were stacked against you. Maybe you kick or punch a corner flag, kiss a TV camera or run to the set of fans closest to you to bask in their worship. Or maybe, you run down with your right arm(s) raised, forever creating an iconic image of yourself. Some might even kiss their wrist, ring fingers and other parts of the hand in dedication to a child, lover or mother instead of the wild emotion.
Arteta Assist v Chelsea (Van Persie Goal) by Mikel-Arteta
Sometimes you get the man who does not celebrate. The one playing against a former team and so, out of respect, he calms his natural instincts to explode and instead walks away from the scene of the crime. Your Aaron Ramseys against Cardiff, the Ronaldos against Manchester United, the Robbie Keanes against every team.
The point is, there are many ways to celebrate a goal and everyone has their favorites. But it must be said that there is only one type of celebration that is the best, the knee slide. It is a combination of everything needed for a great goal celebration: the excitement that fulfills itself in the sprint before the slide. The emotion that is etched on the face of the celebrator as he slides beautifully to his given path. The grace of sliding properly and not landing face first in the grass. All of the Arsenal greats have done it and there's a reason why.
My order of the best three Arsenal knee slide celebrations in order:
3. The Rosicky goal shown above already.
It's magnificent, it's by a beautiful man and it's against Tottenham. Tomas Rosicky starts off with a run towards the corner flag pumping his fists, and at this point one could assume that the fist pump was the celebration. One would be wrong though as the little mozart composes a knee slide that's so beautiful that the grass itself became greener. The fact that he turns 180 degrees while sliding is a thing mortal men could only dream of.
2. Theirry Henry vs Tottenham (THAT celebration)
Royalty. King of kings. Breath-talking goal that led to a celebration so great that it deserved a statue. The celebration that put a whole fanbase in their place. They would have rioted but they dare not approach the king. YET, it is not the number one knee-slide celebration. As amazing as it is, the slide itself is too short, by the time he got to celebrate, Thierry Henry was too short on breath to do a full slide, so with that, some of the flair was lost. I know, I blaspheme but it is right.
1. Cesc Fabregas vs Tottenham
JUST LOOK AT THAT! My goodness, that celebration should come with cigarettes and scatterings of raindrops on a Sunday morning. It's the epitome of a celebration, perfection personified, the highest echelon in knee slide celebrations. It's a combination of four celebrations in one. The run up, covering the face with his shirt before Arshavin would imitate it. The raw emotion of pumping his hands and screaming in defiance of every quip that he was the slowest of the team. And then, my goodness, the knee slide that's NSFW. The slide is so elegant and graceful that he should have transformed into a swan at the end, yet instead, he somehow gets back on his feet to fist pump to the crowd. You would expect the celebration to be done, but no, he adds the cherry on top by celebrating with his teammates. A combo celebration that gave birth to the greatest knee slide in world football.
Of course, I am an open minded man and I invite all of you to post your favorite Arsenal celebrations in the comments, hopefully you are like me, a lover of the knee slide.