Mesut Ozil celebrating a goal
Courtesy of Arsenal FC

Arsene and his men: 10 things to know about 2016 AT&T MLS All-Star opponents Arsenal

California will be teeming with Gooners come this summer.

But what is it about Arsenal Football Club that has seen club win over legions of Gooner supporters around the globe? Here's a short list of only some of those things with which all Arsenal fans identify.


1. It starts on the field

Take this Barclays Premier League season, for example, which has seen North London-based Arsenal bouncing around the top reaches of the table, sometimes in first place, sometimes in fourth. But they're doing it in Gunner fashion ... with style.

And fan favorite Mesut Ozil, a German national team member and 2014 World Cup winner, has a lot to do with it. The latest in a long line of world-class players to don an Arsenal shirt, at the time of publishing he’s already racked up 16 assists this season in Premier League alone, a category in which the club leads the league.

Ozil’s popularity has inspired this song among fans. (Yes, the tune may or may not have appeared previously among West Ham supporters, but before that, it was a thing among various other teams, going back to Celtic, too.)

Anyways, Ozil's he's serving up all these assists to whom, exactly? Most of the time, it’s striker Olivier Giroud, known to some as “French Jesus."

Giroud’s managed 12 goals in league play alone this season.

It's this combination that has Arsenal fans dreaming big for the stretch run in the race for the EPL title, and perhaps even in the UEFA Champions League where they face mighty FC Barcelona in the Round of 16.

2. Cannons, Gunners, and Gooners

Arsenal’s club crest famously features a cannon, which first appeared there in 1888. The back story? In a nutshell, the club, founded in 1886, was originally based in the borough of Woolwich, which had a strong military influence. Even when the club moved to Highbury, London, in 1913, they kept it.

That’s where the team gets its nickname, the “Gunners." Fans, meanwhile, go by a derivative of that—"Gooners."

3. Gunnersaurus

All that explains the name of the team’s official mascot since 1994, Gunnersaurus. He’s an extremely tall green dinosaur with a penchant for pre-match handshakes.

He’s got a cute back story, too. During the 1993-1994 season, the club ran a youth contest asking kids to design a new mascot. The winner? Young fan Peter Lovell, who submitted “Gunnersaurus Rex." Vice Sports recently did this great interview with him about the genesis of Gunnersaurus.

4. Diverse from the early days

Not only is Arsenal friendly to oversize green reptiles, but it has welcomed a diverse cast of players and fans from the early days.

Integration came late to the English top flight, with some teams not debuting their first black players until the 1980s. Arsenal was among the earlier teams to integrate, with Brendan Batson’s 1971 first-team debut.

The club’s location in Highbury, meanwhile, borders on several neighborhoods of varying social class, making the team’s fan base one of the most diverse in the Premier League, too.

5. Media Firsts

Arsenal has made history a few times in popular culture, too. They and Sheffield United became the first English League teams to be broadcast live on the radio for their game on January 22, 1927. Then, on September 16, 1937, a friendly between Arsenal’s first and reserve team became the first soccer match in the world to be televised live.

6. St. Totteringham’s Day

Arsenal fans generally healthily distrust other London teams, like Premier League clubs Chelsea FC and West Ham United, as well as Championship club Fulham. But their absolute fiercest rivalry is with the other Premier League team in North London—Tottenham Hotspur. (Yup, they were the visiting opponents for the 2015 AT&T MLS All-Star Game.)

The matches between the two are known as the North London Derby—but fans have invented a celebration that goes beyond that: St. Totteringham’s Day. Supporters first invented it on independent website Arseweb in 2002; the day falls on the first in which Arsenal have officially gathered enough points to finish ahead of Tottenham in the league table.

7. Wenger for the Win

In a high-pressure league that leaves little room for failure, Arsenal's head coach, Arsene Wenger, stands out for pure longevity—he’s been the club’s gaffer since 1996. It was he who led the team’s so-called “Invicibles," a star-studded lineup that took the team to a league triumph for the 2003-2004 season, without a single defeat.

Off the field, Wenger’s also known for being ridiculously, ridiculously suave and cool. Just check this recent model-esque fashion photo shoot he did for French magazine L’Equipe Sport & Style. He even offered some meaningful words upon the passing of David Bowie. What a guy.

8. Celebrity Fans

Just like the everyday fan base, Arsenal’s celebrity supporters span a pretty wide range of professions and sensibilities. Media tycoon Piers Morgan is famous online for his impassioned Twitter play by plays, while sex symbol Idris Elba is also a longtime home supporter.

So is author Nick Hornby, whose book Fever Pitch became an American movie about baseball, but actually centered around Arsenal fandom.

Stateside, famous Gooners include Mr. Beyonce himself—titan Jay-Z. (For real—he said he was first taken by Thierry Henry.)

That’s all just to name a tiny few, of course.

9. The Gooner Diaspora

Arsenal boasts one of the largest global fan bases worldwide, with an especially healthy and well-connected fan community in the US. Arsenal America, the official US supporters’ umbrella organization, currently lists some 66 regional clubs on its web site, from Ann Arbor, Michigan to Winston-Salem, North Carolina. There are so many American Gooners, in fact, that they recently celebrated Gooner Gras, an unofficial annual gathering of hundreds of fans in New Orleans.

Back in the UK, Arsenal are also one of the few teams to boast a truly internet-infamous supporters’ rock band, the Away Boyz. Their thing is tongue-in-cheek, Arsenal-themed parodies of ska, punk, and pop songs.

10. Trophies

None of this would matter if the team didn’t actually take home some silverware. Luckily, their trophy case is pretty full. In the last 30 years alone, domestically they’ve racked up five Premier League titles, seven FA Community Shield titles and seven FA Cup titles. In fact, they hold a record for most FA Cup wins ever, with 12 total, starting with their first in 1930.

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