Like every professional football correspondent I intend to completely ignore the football I have seen during the match and I will concentrate on my own pre-prepared agenda(s).
Anyway – I will get rid of the football bit first. This really was an end of season stroll around by both teams, the relative league positions before the game saw to that. There were a couple of beachballs bouncing around in the clock end – I don’t know if our fans or the baggies brought them but that spelt-out the character of this match. The Albion rarely even bothered to try and foul us, and if they did we didn’t even retaliate. A few yellow cards came at the end but there was not much at stake for either team to fight over – this game could have been played wearing flip flops.
The game itself was decided by a typical piece of Oliver Giroud finishing (i.e. excellent) from a Santi corner. Giroud has been exceptionally good for us this season – a fine example of Wenger’s shrewd purchasing policies [Giroud’s goals alone have been game-changers no less than 11 times this season, not even counting the contribution of his assists and general hard working hold-up play and defensive presence]. Lukas Podolski also came close yesterday with another chance, It should not be a surprise to us to think that Wenger was deliberately keeping him in reserve for this part of the season. Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla showed glimpses of their exquisiteness in a match that really didn’t need any. Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini will hardly ever get an easier day in the middle of the park, and Per and Kos didn’t have a lot to do and dealt with pretty much everything the Baggies feebly threw at them very comfortably. The biggest laugh of the day was Berahino’s slip and our fans singing “are you Gerrard in disguise?” to him. Diaby and Theo were walking around after the match, with Aaron Ramsey carefully packed away in cotton wool for the final. All told a nice n’ easy day’s work at the office.
So no excitement or drama from the Arsenal at the end of a season? The Spuds and Everton safely disposed of ? Sky, BBC and the press must be rightly disappointed with us: there goes the narrative and story arc they so badly wanted Arsenal to deliver for them. So here we are, comfortably ensconced back into the top 4 and an FA Cup final to look forward to; but isn’t there just a little sense of an anti-climax around ? A sense of the what might have beens’ this season?
Arsene Wenger promised us last summer that we were about 2 years away from competing against our rivals again for the title. This season we were 128 days at the top of the table, we have had a spectacular first half of the season and were right up there in the race until we went to Stamford Bridge. Arsenal don’t do bus parking at away games and there isn’t really a game plan for damage limitation when it sometimes goes a bit Pete Tong, as Arsene says – he designs his team formations for our attacking strengths.
We have seen very positive signs we are still improving: 23 wins so far, 76 or probably 79 points will have been gotten this season, it all amounts to a tangible improvement and when you look at the much tighter closing of the gap between Arsenal and the top of the table compared to recent seasons it should give us succor to know the same group of players can get even closer next season. We haven’t been this good since ’07-’08 and if we look back at some of the points dropped this season which might have been saved by a team with just a little bit more confidence in themselves that they can close games out, we could have been right in it to the very end. Were we to go on and win the FA Cup that will give this team a huge boost in self-belief. 16 clean sheets has been decent too, and if you ignore the away drubbings (I do all the time) then the defense has been reliably solid.
Every expert in the world has concluded that we need a new striker. All I want is Giroud, Walcott and Podolski to be all available for Arsenal next season then let’s pick and choose someone new who will complement these attackers and who can play along with a midfield of Ozil-Diaby-Ramsey. To be honest we do need more goal scoring options, we have scored 40 goals less this season that City or Liverpool and the team that scores the most goals usually wins the league in England.
It’s also a commonly held truth that Arsenal are in possession of more money hoarded away than Smaug the dragon. This is the club’s rainy-day savings, I suspect it has been kept for use when our rivals will be under a huge strain with FFP, so if the right players come into the market this summer, I fully expect Wenger will get whoever he wants – adding to the team we have now which is very damn close to being right up there as it is.
I will trust Arsene Wenger’s judgement only on who and who isn’t an Arsenal quality player.
It was nice to see a lot of the fans stay for the lap of appreciation at the end. Bacary Sanga got a big shout-out to stay, and there was a big cheer for his little boy running onto the pitch and kicking a ball into an empty net, (see what I did there – that’s journalism!). You won’t get that wherever else you go Bacary, just remember that and thanks anyway for your time here.
As always, it was a pleasure to meet up with the fellow Positivista’s before the match. We are becoming quite the handy little firm. Anicoll5, ArsenalAndrew, Billy Boots, Georgaki Pyrovoltis and of course Hunter13. Their real identities will be kept perfectly safe with me.
Today’s post was brought to us by Double Canister.