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29th Aug 2021

The beginning of Arsenal’s banter era may just have been identified

Wayne Farry

Looking back, it all makes so much sense now

It is rarely easy in life to pinpoint the exact beginnings of an era. Time is on a relentless march, and humans are so caught up in the day-to-day act of existing, that it often requires a buffer in time for us to be able to establish when an idea or state of being came into effect.

Arsenal’s banter era is a great example of this.

This club, one which was so respected and illustrious under the stewardship of Arsene Wenger, has been such a mess for so long that it’s difficult to definitively say when it started.

In a video we created last year on the very subject, FootballJOE thought we had identified the beginnings of the banter era as that day in Birmingham, when top of the league Arsenal saw their in-form striker Eduardo leave the field with a truly brutal broken leg, before captain William Gallas staged a sit-down protest during the game.

In theory, that’s a logical beginning for the banter era, but a Twitter user and writer now appears to have identified when this sorry state of affairs really began.

Brent Maximin, a writer for SB Nation, was – like all of us – marvelling at the state of Arsenal Football Club during and after their 5-0 humiliation at the hands of Manchester City on Saturday, when he posited that Arsenal’s malaise can be tracked back to one game, one which took place exactly a week before that fateful day at St. Andrews.

Arsenal were playing Manchester United at Old Trafford in the FA Cup, and were losing 4-0 after 75 minutes. This, as we all know, is a scoreline and time that generally leads to the winning team taking the piss out of their opposition, and so United obliged.

Receiving the ball on the halfway line, United’s historically underrated former winger Nani decides to juggle the ball on his head for a few steps, before running towards his own goal while doing keepie-uppies.

He retains the ball throughout, and even evades a tackle – with the Old Trafford crowd all the while lapping it up and egging it on – before relinquishing the ball and winning a throw-in.

More than 13 years and countless Arsenal tragedies on, the resonance of this moment remains. Watching the clip, you can sense the delight of United fans and players. Inversely, you can sense the pain of their Arsenal counterparts.

It felt like an embarrassment, an intentional one at that; because it was.

Was it truly the moment that Arsenal’s banter era began? Was it an act of disrespect that an entire institution has been unable to recover from it? No, probably not. But it was funny, and it never hurts to laugh.