As I’ve been writing for other sites, I’ve been neglecting my own blog, so after I went on a tour of the beautiful Emirates Stadium today, I thought it would be perfect to write about what I saw and learnt. It truly was a great insight, and I heard some interesting stories that I would love to share with you…
I went on the Legends Tour with Perry Groves, who was a great guy, and a passionate Gooner. He made the tour a great experience with his humour, insight, stories and incredible knowledge of every inch of the stadium itself. After clearing up that his views expressed on the tour “were his views, and not the views of Arsenal Football Club”, he proceeded to pull no punches in his criticism of our players, and our rivals. After hilariously calling Spurs “tin-pot”, branding Wayne Rooney “fat” (in reference to his blatant dive that ended our unbeaten run in 2004), and mocking Nicklas Bendtner’s “ridiculous” pony-tail, the tour began…
After having a look at how the other half live, learning about the astonishing prices the boxes cost (one was £52,000 a game!), and after looking down at the pitch from the directors box and from club level, we went on to the meat of the tour, and looked at the home dressing room. Arsene Wenger, is quite frankly, a genius in his design of it. Perry told us that he believes that Wenger will only be truly appreciated for his revolutionising of football management when he leaves, and after today, I agree. After visiting Japan before the stadium was built, Wenger got immersed in their culture and used features from it in the design of the dressing room.
Firstly, the changing facilities have no corners, as to not allow players to hide away. It is designed so that the players can see each other and Wenger can see them, with special acoustics in the ceiling meaning that every player, wherever they are sat, can hear Arsene without him requiring to raise his voice. From Wenger’s time in Japan he learnt that square shapes have negative energy, whereas one’s with rounded edges give out more positives. This is why the away dressing room is one the squarest room’s you will see, as to psychologically advantage the home side. To add to this, the dressing room floor’s are completely non-slip, as to not allow new £35 million signing Alexis Sanchez to slip over on the wet floor and break his back. Unfortunately, this floor was SO expensive, that we unfortunately couldn’t afford to put it in the away dressing room! (Perry’s joke, not mine). In the changing area itself, the traditional order for the players to change is used, where from right to left the players change depending on position (goalkeeper nearest to the showers and strikers on the far side).
Other aspects to the room, such as the apparently rarely used tactic’s board (as Wenger concentrates only on Arsenal), and the treatment room, were fairly basic. The ice bath has apparently never been used willingly by the players; however, Perry revealed that the Arsenal players, on their final stop of the FA Cup trophy parade at the stadium, used the ice bath to chill the champagne for the celebrations! Hilarious if true. Perry also interestingly mentioned here that the players, when they returned from the parade, such as Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain, were stunned by the passion in the fans eyes during the parade. This was the apparent moment they realised how much trophies truly mean to us fans. Hopefully now they will provide some more!
Just before the players leave the dressing room, filled with nerves, they have a room just as you go towards the tunnel in which they mess around with a few footballs and try to calm down just before they come out. This is where there is another interesting story, as the pillar in the centre of this warm-up room wasn’t originally where it is today. Just before the first game at the stadium in 2006, Wenger surveyed the facilities to see if he was happy with it. At that time, the pillar was in the middle of the players dressing room, and Wenger was not at all happy. He ordered it to be removed at any cost, and when it was moved just down the corridor, it cost a mammoth £1.1 million. Everything had to be perfect for Arsene, and rightly so.
In the changing room, the players all have cushions on their seats, and this is not just because they are pampered millionaires. In 2006 when the stadium opened, during the first game, a certain Freddie Ljungberg complained that his legs felt heavy and tired after half-time and complained about the wooden benches they had to sit on. Everyone thought Freddie was just moaning, but in the second game of the season, he pulled his hamstring, leading Wenger to investigate… It was then found that hard surfaces such as the wood caused negative effects on the muscles, and therefore, there are cushions for every player to sit on.
Another great insight from Perry was regarding Arsene Wenger’s half-time team talks. Apparently, Arsene has his own room (his office), where he will stay, out of the players way until about 5 minutes before the second half begins. He believes that it is pointless to talk to the players for 15 whole minutes as they will only remember the last thing you say, so to combat this he squeezes his team talk into a concise 5 minute period, and allows the players to talk tactics to each other or have knocks tended to in the first 10 minutes of the break. A fascinating insight into the Arsenal dressing room, where Arsene rarely gives out the infamous ‘hair-dryer treatment’.
Learning about the technology in the pitch was incredible, and the sustainable water supply used to intensely water the pitch was fascinating to hear about. The tunnel area was great to see as well, and it all looks fantastic too.
As this is getting a bit on the long side, I will leave you with one final interesting thing that I found out: The substitutes have a heated step just below their seats to ensure that their feet don’t get cold sat on the bench… Yep, the player’s are unbelievably pampered, and I haven’t even mentioned the special pools and rub-downs the players get all the time. It’s a hard life for them…
Overall, the stadium was truly beautiful, and it was a fantastic day, so if you get a chance, go and take this tour, because this blog is only a taster of the things you will learn! Oh, and if you go at the moment, the FA Cup and Community Shield are available to have pictures with, which was a very nice surprise!