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Once More Unto The Breach, Dear Friends, Once More.

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So here we are. About to bully off for the final chukka. The stage has been swept, the lights lit and the fat lady is preparing to gargle with her honey and lemon throat soother before the ultimate performance. Here we stand at the edge of the unknown about to witness the dénouement of what has surely been the most exciting season finale for many a year. Nothing, of course, can possibly match the Mickey Thomas moment (frankly I fail to see how anything ever will) but for sheer bloody determination to drag themselves back into contention this Arsenal squad has cemented its place in our hearts. They have given us thrills and spills and many a weak willed fan has bellyached but here they are in a three way fight, hoping for third but desperate to cement at least fourth.

Warren (a Liverpool supporting friend of mine) and I were chatting the other day about how massive and important an achievement a top four finish has become. We all remember not that long ago of course when his beloved  side were breezily mentioned in the same breath as Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City as one of the big four. This despite the glaring fact that Arsenal generally finished above them and they were actually in the kind of situation that pundits and our own alleged supporters seem to think we are in. Wazza would love to see ‘pool fighting for a fourth place finish right now, and if they were he happily admitted all and sundry would see it as a major accomplishment. Remember Harry for Engerland? Remember the media furore surrounding the Spuds elevation to a team challenging for a top four placing? We both agreed it was funny how this target of a Champions League place is an enormously big deal, truly the mark of a fantastic manager and a great set of players. Oh, unless of course you happen to be Arsène Wenger and have done it every year for ever spending a mere fraction of that blown by all the others in the race. Warren could see it, you and I can see it but the football world that describes this as a remarkable feat for everyone else seems to see it as a failure for us.

Well yar boo sucks to the lot of them. It was a target, one of many, at the start of the season and it’s the last one left. Curiously it is a target which comes with a consolation prize. Unlike a runners up medal in a cup final the team to miss out today receives the opportunity to slum it in the Europa League, or Fairs Cup or whatever the hell they’re calling it these days. However, as Chris Tarrant has grown so fond of saying in his post Tiswas days, ” we don’t want to give you that!”. Because we cannot go into this game thinking of booby prizes or a season without the celebration of St Totts. Negative thinking will spoil your morning and ruin your enjoyment of the fun and games this afternoon. On that subject I’m intrigued to know how you all will play this one. I’m considering the split screen approach on my desktop pc with Arsenal v Barcodes full screen on one monitor and the Spuds match in a small window on the other. I could then keep half an eye on the Chavs game  on my laptop. Or maybe I should just follow whoever the Chavs and Spuds are playing on Twitter for the day and thus keep up with their scores. The dilemma of the twenty first century armchair fan.

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Reading that back, and thinking of Mickey Thomas and Liverpool,  I realise just how long ago it was that I watched the remarkable scenes at Anfield that fateful year. Along with a group of like minded artistic friends (and a posse of more practical types we’d corralled for the purpose) we were organising a music festival in the small North Somerset town of Midsomer Norton. Yes they named that show after it, before you ask. Anyway on the Friday night with marquees erected and stages half built we had agreed to camp on the festival site as a kind of security detail and also as an outstanding opportunity to get utterly shitfaced in a field. But this particular bank holiday weekend of course was a little different from most. Not just because we were running an all day music and arts extravaganza on the Sunday but because the football season’s finale was, unusually, being  broadcast live on television that very Friday evening. I watched it on a black and white portable , powered by a 12 volt car battery with a metal coat hanger as an aerial. In the middle of a field. Pretty spectacularly stoned and very much the worse for drink. As I said, how times have changed.

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And so to today’s opponents. It’s probably a good plan to at least mention the match as this is a match-day preview. Newcastle have had an up-down time of late. Last year they were managed by the greatest manager who has ever lived as they briefly threatened to disturb the top four status quo. This year they are under the control of a sad hapless character, lying in thirteenth place and hoping to finish above the likes of Norwich and Stoke City. So goes the popular narrative. Actually as with all premier league sides (with the notable exception of Queens Park Rangers) they are a team highly motivated by vociferous partisan support, eager to impress in their last home game of the season and featuring some genuinely talented players. They’ve won two drawn two and lost two of their last six scoring four and conceding about a hundred and twenty goals. Roughly. So I think the best way to describe them right now is unpredictable. They can ship goals like a bow legged man trying to stop a pig in a passageway or they can grind out a result. I suppose we’ll know which Newcastle turned up by about six o’clock tonight.

When I hear Newcastle versus Arsenal only one name leaps immediately to mind. Supermac. Malcolm MacDonald. OK so that’s two names but you get my drift. Back when I was young enough and not driven to cynical despair by the transfer circus of these so called enlightened times, I would become genuinely excited by the arrivals of the likes of Alan Ball and Malcolm MacDonald. 30_malcolm_macdonaldExotic new faces from far away come to swell the ranks of my sticker collection. Malcolm came doon from the land of coal blackened faces, shipyards, Jimmy Nail and Lindisfarne in 1976, which was  officially recorded as the year of the last ever British summer. He loved his time with us and when interviewed for Arsenal TVO was still visibly moved as he recalled the day the doctors informed him his Arsenal playing days were over. However, despite being a Londoner by birth, Supermac writes as if he’s a Geordie so maybe those were crocodile tears I saw welling in the corners of his eyes. Either way he has a timely warning for any complacent Gooners predicting an easy victory to match the six goal thumping Warren’s lot handed out on their recent visit to Tyneside. Writing in something called Chronicle Live he poo-poohs the idea that Newcastle have nothing to play for. In fact he comes up with the kind of stirring guff I might well be inclined to spew when describing our own glorious team. He says “My hope, the hope of every Geordie, is that, freed from pressure and worry, Newcastle go out and play football because, if they do, it will be a terrific match. Arsenal always play that way so we would have a spectacle on our hands.” and when asked if it’s true, as Pardew suggests that it doesn’t matter if Newcastle lose four nil because they now have nothing to play for, Macdonald nearly spits his false teeth into his Vimto crying “I’m not having it. Nothing at stake for United? Just their pride, their reputation. Just the need to repair the damage they have already done.” Well said Malcolm, now sit back down before you do yourself a mischief.

I am probably the only Arsenal supporter hoping that he is right. I don’t want them to play with one eye on the flip flops and the Timothy White’s sun cream. I want them to come out and make a game of it. I want open spaces for Theo to sprint into and if it means we have a few scares at the wrong end then so be it. We can take it. The nervous, nail biting buttock clenching is all part of the fun. Not, you understand, that I’d say no to the four nil of course. I just want the season to end on a fittingly exciting note.

How ever and wherever you are watching, it’s been a hell of a ride and I hope you enjoy this final go round before the roller coaster closes down for the summer. I’ve loved sharing the games here on Positively Arsenal in a properly passionate, supportive and intelligent environment, so thank you, and I hope you all enjoy the close season, whatever this afternoon may bring.

About steww

Arsenal, books, photography, bass guitar, dog walking, mountain biking, being on the radio, writing, talking too much, failing, making mistakes, buggering on regardless.

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133 comments on “Once More Unto The Breach, Dear Friends, Once More.

  1. isnt it funny how all the people in the world who think football is just a game will never feel the mixture of emotions we went through today in such a short space of time.

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  2. DJ Cacofonix: hello PA…
    a special “UP YOURS Mike Cashley” c/o of the good folks @ KY….

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  3. This is such a great picture:
    Arsenal players celebrate after the match

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  4. is that the visitors dressing room at a premier league team’s stadium?

    some 8 aside grounds in my neighborhood have much posher dressing rooms than that..shit even public gyms have better than that. and ashley wanted to pay the players 1m bonus? sort your facilities please..this is the premier league

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  5. photo quiz : who is the missing 18th ?

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  6. @h13
    I believe the missing chap (who is probably in the loo) is AOC.

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  7. nah he is there between arteta and tommy v …

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  8. ahhh found him …how could we miss we must be blind….the BFG took it!

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  9. love sagna stay here forever…he is also in last years photo for pat with his broken foot..LEGEND!

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  10. It’s Kos! Boscielny taking the picture, maybe?

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  11. Kos AND the BFG are missing

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  12. Only ONE Arsene Wenger! Only One Arsene Wenger! In your face doomers.

    Tottenham, Tottenham what’s the score?

    Happy St. Totteringhams Day everybody.
    Next season is looking like Wow.

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  13. “Sometimes as a manager you feel as well that when a group is so dedicated and face so many storms.”

    “We had some big lows with Bradford, with Blackburn and with Bayern at home. You could never see that the players could dismantle or that the group was not united. That’s not easy in the modern game.”

    team builder

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  14. Little worse for wear…..happy though.

    I’m gonna break THE golden rule of PA and makle one of those dreaded smileys 🙂 (sorry to my main man George, and Frank…..). F*ck it, if I can’t do a smiley now, when can I.

    In Arsene we trust.

    ARSENAL.

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  15. “Kos AND the BFG are missing”

    I think they were being interviewed post match and the former was busy picking up his Barclays MoTM award!

    I confess, I was too lily-livered to watch the match live! I was praying hard though. What a fantastic end to the season and fully deserved. Arsene and the boys done good!

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  16. Ahem, certain other sites have gone into full meltdown.

    Retribution will be a bitch.

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  17. Some great comments from Arsene h13. He’s obviously very proud of the boys as he should be. This is why he will be very careful about who he introduces into the group. There is a risk of disrupting that unity with the wrong personality. The departure of the ego clearly had a positive effect on the mentality of the group.

    “on if the team have conquered a mental hurdle…
    In the last three months, I believe we have been remarkably consistent. We won every away game so it’s a good springboard for next season, to transfer that belief into the start of next season. That means we need stability and to strengthen our group if possible. There are many clubs out there with a lot of money so the competition is very hard. [b]There’s not as much talent as money today in football.”[/b]

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  18. “We kept great TOGETHERNESS between Players,Staff,Directors & Supporters and we got rewarded! Proud 2 play 4 Arsenal!Let’s win a tittle now!”

    Mikel Arteta on Twitter – he has been a great captain in these last 10 cup finals.

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  19. Ha ha, Harry! I feel like going smiley mad!

    Passenal you are so right about disrupting the group. This team has been to war, and they are clearly very close. The personalities of any players who come in over the summer will be very important. But Arsene knows…

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  20. Now is the time for gratuitous smileys Alabama!

    I’m so pleased for this squad, and players like Aaron who have taken so much flak. Mostly I am just so chuffed for Arsene right now. After all the shit he puts up with. It’s been a hell of an achievement to turn it around. One that some will seek to downplay already. Sod ’em.

    A great unbeaten run that’s sets the foundations for next season.

    Really made up for him tonight. I bloody love that guy.

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  21. exactly pass. he got them wanting to play for one another. a TEAM with capital letters.

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  22. as for the 18th quiz..i will go with jenks being out the 18th man squad and volunteering to come with the squad anyway. hence the 17 with two missing.

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  23. Yeah we’ve found that precious commodity – team spirit.
    No star players, but they were all stars this season, if you see what I mean. They believe in themselves, they know how to win a football game. For me the turning point in our season was that meeting after the Spuds game when they seemed to realise that it was down to them to win games, not Arsene and not a talisman player. They took individual and collective responsibility and showed they were prepared to work for their success.

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  24. Away games: Sunderland1-0, Bayern 2-0, Swansea 2-0, WBA 2-1, Fulham 1-0, QPR1-0, Newcastle 1-0.
    No real comment to make, but doesn’t it just read so nice?
    14 goals conceded away all season.

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  25. did anyone call… been around all along. lol.

    its what i love most about a flowing AW team…. so glad to be backk in the team in full flow

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  26. Those stats are amazing dc. But still there are people pleading for new goalies, defenders, practically a new team! I’ve even seen people suggest our team is ‘average’. But I think FG is right, there were no ‘stars’ (aka ego’s) but all they needed was time to gel and to start believing in themselves. I’m sure next season now that our new boys have had time to settle in we will see their worth.

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  27. Passenal, I think our first 11 for any given game are fucking awesome
    First IX Shezzy, Gibbs, BFG, Kos, Sanga, Arteta, Rambo, Jack, Santi, Theo, Giroud.
    second XI Flappy, Nacho, TV5, Miguel, Jenks, Coq, Mozart, Eisfeld, Ox, Poldi, Gervenio.
    And the kids coming through!
    And a couple of marquee signings!
    Put your money down for 2013-2014 Champions before the odds go down to even money.

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  28. DC,no way does anyone get in the starting 11 before Rosicky. Least of all Jack

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  29. PG
    I was only trying to make 2 reasonably balanced teams. What do I know? I’m not the genius Arsene Wenger. You are dead right though, Tomas has been freakin awesome since he has recovered his fitness.
    Speaking of which, I realise now I had not left room for Diaby. Hope he is ready to come back by next Christmas.

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  30. Arshavin has left us.
    Gutted

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  31. If all our team stay fit (here’s hoping) I could see them getting about 83 points next season, i.e only 10 more than this season. Score 5 or 6 more and keep out 2 or 3 more. That would be very close to league winning form with no dominant manc club around.
    and that’s without any reinforcements. It’s so fucking ironic Arsene Wenger has been given a war chest and we don’t need to spend it.
    Now that would be a topic that would not go down to well on some blogs.

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  32. Jeeze, he must have cleared out his locker quick.
    Where did the little Russian go to George?
    Really sorry to see his career fade out like it did.

    His game against barca at the Ems will always be a stand out moment.
    AND he saved our asses in the awful Fulham home game this season. That’s one point we needed at the final countdown today.

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  33. Wishing you all a very happy St. Totteringham’s Day!!!!!

    Like

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