Yesterday was my first trip to Arsenal’s new Emirates stadium- alternatively known as Ashburton Grove before the corporate sponsorship- to see Blues take on Arsenal in the Premiership. We lost 3-1. It was a good game though- after two goals for Arsenal in the first twenty minutes, I feared a rout. However the Blues rallied, and with new owner Carson Yeung in the stands got a goal back before half-time. In the second half we pressed, bringing on O’Connor for Jerome, and putting Kevin Phillips on as a second striker. Inevitably though, in going forward we were exposed at the back. After a particularly good chance where we could- perhaps should- have scored, Arsenal broke and Arshavin slotted home a third.
The Emirates is a strange stadium- a model of what the future of stadiums is in a way, with wide seats, a good view from all over (although where we were sitting- front row of the upper tier, was particularly good), good amenities. The trouble is it lacks character- Liverpool have The Kop, Blues have The Tilton, but all Arsenal have is a “singing section”. The particular ideosyncrasies and peculiarities of a stadium are what make it, yet the Emirates is perfectly symmetrical to a fault (apart from the tunnel from which the players emerge, as one Arsenal fan told me!) Having said all this it IS nice, and if I could go there every week to watch Arsenal play Premier League big boys and continental giants in the Champions League, I’m sure I’d love it. Its just a very different experience- in every sense- from going to watch The Blues.