I have been an overseas Arsenal supporter for over 10 years. When I first began following the team and the EPL, most games were only shown at several New York bars catering to ex-pats. Since that time, the popularity of the league has grown so much that I can now see almost every Arsenal game from the comfort of my own couch. Of course that is still no substitute for seeing the team live.
I have been fortunate enough to attend Arsenal matches on a number of occasions. However, I had not attended a home match since the club left Highbury at the end of the 2005-2006 season. I was therefore very excited on a recent trip to London as I had secured tickets to attend two matches at Emirates Stadium.
The games themselves were not that memorable. The first was the Champions League group match versus Schalke on the evening of Oct. 24. Arsenal were flat and ended up 0-2 losers. The second was a labored 1-0 victory over last place QPR on Saturday afternoon Oct. 27.
What did leave a lasting impression on me was the stadium itself. A walk around the entire periphery is like a trip through the history of Arsenal. Here are just some of the memorable features of Arsenal's Emirates Stadium.
As you approach the Hornsey Road entrance one of the first things to come in to view are two imposing cast iron cannons.
As most Arsenal fans know, the cannons have been associated with the club since its days as Woolwich Arsenal. Back then the borough of Woolwich was known for its military history. Despite moving to North London in 1913, the cannons have remained a permanent part of Arsenal's identity.
Last December, Arsenal unveiled statues of three legendary figures as part of the club's 125th Anniversary. Fans regularly flock to the Emirates to get their photos taken with each one.
The bronze statue of all-time leading goal scorer Thierry Henry is located in the south-east corner of the stadium. Henry is depicted celebrating a famous game winning goal versus rival club Tottenham.
If you want to get a good photo with this statue, definitely get there early or go on non game days.
The Emirates is an impressive site and a walk around the stadium reveals eight large murals on the exterior of the stadium. Each panel depicts four former Arsenal greats linking arms as if in a huddle. Some of the 32 featured players include Ian Wright, David Seaman, Pat Rice, Charlie George and Liam Brady.
A pretty impressive mural sits just behind the bronze statue of Thierry Henry. Dubbed "The Spirit of Highbury," the poster includes every player and manager to have represented Arsenal during the Highbury years of 1913-2006. The images blend together making it look as if it's one giant team photo.
Herbert Chapman is regarded as one of the most influential figures in the history of Arsenal. After becoming the club's manager in 1925, Chapman led the team to its first two league titles and one FA Cup victory. He is credited with building Arsenal in to the dominant force the club became beginning in the 1930's.
The larger than life statue is located underneath the Clock End and can be reached via the Danny Fiszman Bridge.
One of my favorite features of the new Arsenal stadium is the giant concrete letters spelling out Arsenal that greet fans at the South Bridge entrance. The letters cannot be missed and make it very obvious what team calls Emirates Stadium home.
They are also a popular meeting point and a great place to sit while waiting for your friends before a match.
Just beyond the concrete letters that spell out Arsenal is the South Bridge which leads to the Clock End entrance. The bridge was renamed The Danny Fiszman Bridge last year following the death of the former club director. Fiszman was an influential part of Arsenal's move from Highbury to The Emirates and was highly respected within the organization.
The bridge is lined with banners featuring the names of both past and present players. It also offers fans some great photo opportunities as they get closer to the stadium.
The area adjacent to the ticket office and the official team store is known as Armoury Square. Thousands of personalized fan stones are a part of the walkway that surround benches with the names of former legendary Arsenal players
The idea behind Armoury Square is to have a place that pays tribute to both players and fans of the club.
Supporters can purchase various sized stones and have a personal message engraved before the stones are placed in to the ground and walls surrounding Armoury Square.
It's amazing to see the names and home towns of Arsenal fans from all over the world and the memories that they have recorded to be a permanent part of Emirates Stadium.
Just around the corner from Armoury Square is the Arsenal Museum. The museum is open daily and admission is £7 for adults and £4 for anyone under 16.
Inside are numerous pieces of team memorabilia and interactive exhibits celebrating Arsenal's long history. Seeing game worn boots and jerseys from so many different eras is a pretty special experience.
Not far from the Ken Friar Bridge is the bronze statue of former Arsenal captain Tony Adams. The centre back spent 22 years with Arsenal and was a major part of the clubs' legendary defense. The statue shows Adams with arms outstretched celebrating a goal in Arsenal's 1998 title clinching match versus Everton.
As part of Arsenal's 125th Anniversary celebration in 2011, the club asked fans to submit personal stories of what Arsenal means to them. The best ones were chosen to be inscribed on benches surrounding the Armoury Square area.
Some of the stories submitted by fans from all over the world are pretty funny. There are also benches featuring submissions from Olympian Mo Farrah and Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere.
As you walk around the outside of the stadium, the lower walls pay homage to former players. In many cases their statistics are listed next to photos of them. There are also quotes from some of the players reflecting on their time at Arsenal as well as their feelings for the fans.
Some of the players featured include Dennis Bergkamp, Nigel Winterburn, Robert Pires and Ray Parlour.
Once inside the stadium, the site of the bright green pitch is amazing. Apparently I'm not the only one to think so. Arsenal's own Paul Ashcroft was named the Premier League Groundsman of the Year for 2012. His efforts have definitely paid off.
If you haven't yet had the opportunity to visit Emirates Stadium, make it a point to do so. It's an impressive modern facility with respect for the club's history.