We all knew this was going to be tough. The muted guard of honor to start the game, featuring Burnley players on one side and Arsenal players on the other, and the reception from the home supporters when Arsene took the pitch was...a little more subdued than I would have expected. It was very loud, sure, but not blow-the-roof-off loud as I would have expected.
Then, the game started.
The crowd was in full voice throughout, chanting for Wenger, for Santi, for Vieira, and for 22 years of indelible memories and amazing accomplishments. Even the Burnley fans got into it, at one point chanting THERE’S ONLY ONE ARSENE WENGER, which earned them a nice round of applause from the home fans, because that was a really cool thing to do.
After the game, all the fun started. First, there were honors for:
- Vic Akers, who is retiring after 31 years at the club. In those 31 years, he started what was then known as Arsenal Ladies, was kit man, and in the last decade or so was basically Arsene’s consigliere. And he always wore shorts.
- Alex Scott, in recognition of her amazing career at Arsenal.
- Per Mertesacker, in similar recognition of his amazing career at Arsenal.
Then, it was time for the main event. And when Arsene came out of the tunnel, the roar was as thunderous as I would have hoped - ONE ARSENE WENGER echoed around the house that Arsene built, and I thought the outpouring of love and gratitude aimed straight at him would just lift him up off the ground and levitate him.
Instead, as he does, he kept his feet on the ground and gave a very nice, if slightly marred by technical problems, speech in which he talked about what the club meant to him and how it should keep meaning that to all of us even in the future. And then he closed by saying “bye-bye”, which I thought was really sweet and it doesn’t matter because everyone was cry-cheering at that point anyway.
Then he took a lap of honour, at one point diverting into the crowd to give a young kid who had a sign saying ARSENE CAN I PLEASE HAVE YOUR TIE his tie, which was awesome.
If you missed the speech, you can watch it below or here (may be geolocked to the US, I’m not sure):
And there’s full coverage of all the trappings of Arsene’s last home game on Arsenal.com.