03 June 2013

A tribute to my choice for goal of the year: Jack Wilshere vs. Montpelier

The dust has settled on yet another year and Arsenal has, yet again, secured a Champions League appearance and celebrated  another St. Totteringham's Day in the process. It's been brilliant all around. Voters at arsenal.com have selected Lukas Podolski's goal against Montpelier as Arsenal's goal of the season, and rightly so--it was a delicious one-two between he and Giroud, consummated with a brilliant volley that would bring any fan to his or her feet. I want to join the celebration, but....but....

Try to resist the emotion of this moment.
By contrast, Wilshere's goal in that same game might seem a bit accidental, almost an afterthought, as he somehow just managed to dink it in over the Montpelier keeper. It may have lacked for aesthetics compared to Poldi's goal, but it more than makes up for it in the histrionics.

Just look at that picture. Look at the veins bulging out in Jacko's neck. Hear the primal scream that's erupting. He's not celebrating a go-ahead goal or points to secure progress in the Champions League. Nope. Those concerns fall far behind what this goal truly signifies: a resurrection. Before this goal, it had been nearly two years since this lad had even appeared for Arsenal, much less tallied.

Even now, I get a bit choked up as I type. Watching the build-up, Vermaelen collecting it on the corner, executing a nifty turn to create space before sending the cross into Giroud, who heads it down...it's too much. I almost can't stand the emotion, whether it's what I felt in that moment or what I feel now as I struggle  to find words adequate to the moment.

Around this house, my wife and kids know to largely steer clear of the basement during a match. Depending on the circumstance, I might be a brooding madman or a raving lunatic, depending on who's scored. Should the awful happen and we concede, I'm unbearable. You can't even offer me a sandwich or a beer lest I lash out. Should we score, run for the hills because I'll bear-hug the nearest animate object. Even the cats know to stay away in either situation.

However, with Jack's goal, even as I saw it unfold and knew in my heart of hearts that he would send it home, I sat rooted to my seat. I didn't care about progress in the cup or away-goals or anything strategic. I didn't care that it wasn't an aesthetically pure goal, or that it would suffer in comparison to Podolski's follow-up goal. I wouldn't have cared if it was the 10th goal scored in a 10-0 victory or the only goal scored in a 1-10 loss.

Nope. I sat there, anchored to the couch, hands clasped over my chin, mouth, and nose, and just watched. I teared up then, and I'm tearing up now. Ordinarily, I don't care how our lads celebrate. Pre-rehearsed dance routine? Sure. Golf-swing? Fine. Henry-esque knee-slide? Great. Whatever the case, I join in. I've hit my head on the cellar-ceiling as I've jumped for joy. The cats have upended furniture in reaction to my reactions. I've broken lamps and, yes, on one occasion, a coffee-table, as I celebrated.

Not with this one. As soon as Giroud headed down, something in me just knew that it would be Wilshere there to collect it. I couldn't see the man on my screen as I streamed it through my laptop, but somehow, I just knew it would be him. His deft outside-of-the-left flick seemed to call out to me (I'm a lefty) and to say, "I'm back. I've missed you as much as you've missed me." I know that's all in my own mind, and I'm deluding myself, but I don't care. I sat, stock-still, and watched.

I didn't care then and don't care now that we'd go on to the next round in the Champions League. I didn't care then and don't care now that the goal ends up being inconsequential to our strategic needs. All I care about is that this young man, this Gunner, scored a goal to announce his return.

Oh, this boy. This player. This club.