Moment of the Season: 2011-12
In the last of this incessant week of polling (get your mind out of the gutter you filthy urchin) I asked you to vote for your moment of 2011-12. Even if 2011-12 ended a little more light on silverware than we would have liked, there were still a plethora of very special moments. (Littered in between the 8-2 and 4-0 shellackings away from home in big games).
Football is built on such moments, the sort that transport you and take you away from the humdrum of every day existence. The true beauty is that you never quite know when they're going to happen either. Such is the case for the moment that you voted for as your moment of 2011-12.
In terms of our fate for the season, the 5-2 win over Spurs in February- which started our claw back of a 13 point deficit on our hilarious neighbours, was probably our most important. In raw mathematics, it qualified us for the Champions League. Both in terms of the renewed momentum it gave us and the wind it simultaneously knocked out of Spurs' sails. Given the fact that we finished one point above them, it was clearly our most crucial. But it only got 37% of the vote in second place.
Similarly the 5-3 win at Stamford Bridge repaired early season wounds and allowed us to begin playing to the ceiling of our capabilities again, as opposed to the unrecognisable relegation fodder we had looked at the start of the season. Plus, it's always nice to see John Terry fall on his face. But this only came 3rd, with 5% of the vote.
In the relentless accountancy, transfer sagas and silverware lust, we all are guilty of forgetting about the romance that the game is capable of. Those one off moments that might not win you a cup or a league title, but that nevertheless make you smile even when you wake up the next morning. They make your next day at work a doddle. They become anecdotal dynamite for your next of kin for years to come.
A Monday night 3rd Round F.A. Cup tie against Championship opposition really has no right to give you that feeling. The 1-0 win that night didn't even bring us anything tangible. Save for two more games in a forlorn pursuit for a trophy we made a poor fist of winning. But that didn't matter when 47% of you clicked Thierry Henry's winning goal against Leeds as your moment of 2011-12. Nor should it have done.
I'd imagine simply by playing in the game, Henry might have got plenty of votes for Moment of the Season just by virtue of having returned at all. Indeed, I'd venture a good many seats were filled that might otherwise not have been due to his home coming. His re signing on a short term loan deal was quite a story. Some of us, thought this story was built on the sands of romance a little too much and not grounded in the concrete of logic enough to work. If anything, that made me enjoy the magic of what unfolded even more.
After 68 minutes of toiling, Marouane Chamakh was removed from the fray with the scores at 0-0. Thierry Henry entered to a roar the likes of which you've never heard. Ten minutes later, Henry ghosted in behind Tom Lees. Song found him with a slicing through pass. Henry controlled and a stadium held its breath. It was enough that he had returned, but he couldn't, could he? We recognised the position, the stance and, as it turned out, the finish all too well. Gracile, balletic, pure Henry. He simply caressed the ball into the corner.
But the calmness with which he stroked home the winner was not replicated in his celebration. A man who made a career out of poker faced goal acclaim sprinted the perimeter of the stadium, like a child in the garden who imagined scoring the last minute winner in the Cup Final. His eyes lit up like tractor beams, his mouth wide open. After the game, he told the ESPN reporter, 'This was my first Arsenal goal as a fan.' Thierry has always had a silver tongue with the media, but nobody could ever doubt the sincerity of that sentence.
At full time he raised his arms to the sky as did the whole stadium. We all recognised the poetry, the correctness of the moment. One of those rare instances in football. life even, when all the stars align, every traffic light is green and all the clouds take a sabbatical. I've always been drawn to a particular Richard Dawkins quote in which he says biological explanation and scientific rigour is more poetic and wondrous than ancient myth. This was the same. It wasn't destiny. It wasn't fate. It was too good to have been prescribed. It was just right. It was certainly the moment of 2011-12. LD.
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