It’s Thursday night in early May. Arsenal need to turn around a 2-0 deficit in their Europa League semifinal tie after Emi Martinez was sent off for taking down an opposing player on a breakaway.
The mood at the Emirates is one of trepidation. With how little the Gunners have been scoring, there is concern among the supporters that Alexandre Lacazette, still leading the line despite not having scored since December of 2019, won’t be able to get it done.
Earlier in the day, the Ornacle (or as most of you know him, David Ornstein) reported that the club had something special in the works for the match but didn’t give any details. There had been whispers in the darker corners of the internet about “club legends” coming back.
But there’s nothing in the matchday program. No announcements. The teams have warmed up and headed back into the locker rooms. Another match at the Emirates.
Suddenly, the lights in the stadium go down. A hush falls over the crowd. The video boards in the corners of the ground flip back on. White letters, black background.
September 22, 1996.
The date burns bright for what seems like an eternity, but nothing else happens. The screens seem frozen on that image.
Most in the crowd are confused. But some know.
Images begin flashing across the screen, so quickly most can’t make them out. That was Ian Wright and Dennis Bergkamp, right? Was that Thierry Henry shaking hands with someone? That was definitely Lee Dixon, Sol Campbell, Martin Keown, and Ashley Cole. Patrick Vieira. The Invincibles celebrating.
By now, everybody in the ground has figured it out. They know what is coming. A face appears on the screens. A man as recognizably Arsenal as the crest itself.
“THERE’S ONLY ONE ARSENE WENGER” echoes from every corner of the Emirates. So loud you can’t hear yourself think. The very foundations of the ground he built seem to shake in anticipation.
Darkness again. The tiny pinpricks of light from 60,000 phones around the stands mirror the stars above on a beautiful North London night.
Spotlights come up on the tunnel.
Arsene Wenger walks out, just as he did hundreds of times before. Suit sharply pressed, red tie perfectly dimpled, silver hair immaculately coiffed. He gives a wave and some brief remarks, but nobody can hear them. The crowd is too loud. The Emirates has never been this loud.
The soul of the club that he, himself, had said was left behind at Highbury is back. He brought it back. Arsene Wenger has done it again. As we knew he would.
This look into the future inspired by the Mirror report that top executives at Arsenal are putting the hard sell on Arsene Wenger to come back to the Emirates for a match.