So here we are. The goal posts are down in the local park. What used to be a pitch is now just a playing field. Bristol Rovers have won their by now customary promotion and I have one more blog to write before crossing my feet on the desk and lacing my fingers together behind my head. The long football free desert stretches ahead of us, just one day away.
Once again we have something to play for right to the end, a reason to look forward to the day, and a reason to be very, very sad. We may be fortunate and see Tomáš Rosický play today, we may have already seen him kick his last ball in an Arsenal shirt. Just typing that leaves a horrible taste in my mouth. Each time the world of football loses someone who plays with the panache and invention of our number seven the beautiful game loses a little of its beauty.
The sparkle of his game, the impudence and flair have been nothing but a joy to watch and while I appreciate all those bemoaning the time he didn’t play due to a horrid history of injuries I prefer to concentrate upon all of the visionary cross-field passes, the balletic pirouettes and glorious goals; especially those scored against Spurs.
He cannot score against them today but in the extraordinarily unlikely event of them losing against Newcastle wouldn’t be a poetic and beautiful moment were he to score the winner for us against Villa? A famous and fitting finale to the career of a fine player. We can but dream.
This has been a fascinating season and it’s been a privilege to share it with you. I know my match day previews have strayed from the point, disappeared down avenues of self indulgence and often rambled on a little longer than some of you might like, but in truth the words here at the top of the page have never been any more than a conversation starter. It is in the comment section that a blog comes to life, that is where the real gems of wit and wisdom can always be found.
Like you I believed that beating Chelsea in the Charity Shield at Wembley all those months ago heralded the start of a glorious season. I had high hopes for an historic third successive FA Cup win and secretly thought the league might be ours for the taking. We all know what happened. The by now customary injury crisis, Spurs and Leicester having the seasons of their lives and a lack of consistency all bedevilled our league campaign. The fact that we had ‘one of those days’ against Watford in the cup simply showed what an amazing achievement back to back victories in that competition really were. To play so many highly competitive games and avoid having ‘one of those days’ took some doing and as much as it will hurt not to be going back to Wembley again we must applaud the previous victories and not revel in a rare defeat.
Speaking of Wembley I must raise a glass to the Arsenal Ladies FA Cup victory yesterday. A genuinely incredible record of fourteen wins should be shouted from the rooftops and while the competition is still seen as the poor relation to the men’s tournament it is, as far as I’m concerned, a victory for an Arsenal team against Chelsea – what more reason does anyone need to celebrate?
Before we get into the whole guessing game as to summer transfers and the outcome of next season can I beg we focus on this afternoon? Then after today I promise I’ll leave you to your orgy of speculation and ill informed clap trap and I won’t interfere not even to tut from the sidelines. Today Arsenal still have a job to do.
Obviously our side cannot control events at St James’ Park, but we still have to beat a Villa team for whom this is truly a match with no expectations and no pressure. Such a relaxation of the normal tensions can sometimes undo a side, robbing them of the vital will to win, the passion they need to overcome the odds and beat one of the very best teams in the land. Perversely however that same release of tension can free a side up to play an expansive and exciting game, trying the unexpected and, if they’re lucky, getting away with it.
The last time we ended a campaign against Villa was of course at Wembley and we all remember how that went. A repetition today of the controlled, professional passing game with which we overwhelmed them in the cup final would do just nicely – add to that a miracle on Tyneside and I would approach the summer break a very contented blogger indeed.
I think a lot of us will look back on this season like an episode of Bullseye. ‘Let’s have a look at what you could have won’. We seemed to be climbing to the top of the tree with a side more than capable of winning the thing. Chelsea’s implosion – or rather that of their petulant, hapless manager- and Man City’s inconsistency seemed to have left the door at the top ajar. With Man United and Liverpool no longer credible title challengers it became increasingly obvious that someone outside of the usual winners was going to have a very special season. Sadly for us our patched up injury ravaged side went out altered and disjointed just too many times. When they did have a period of settled selection there were inexplicable defeats and matches drawn which might have been won.
But there it is. We don’t come here to bemoan what might have been, we gather together to celebrate the good and to cheer on our heroes. Next season will be different. For me I mean. I can say that as a certainty because I’ll have to choose a new favourite player. With Tomáš gone who will carry the burden of my hopes? Which player will have me sit that little further forward in my seat? Who will send a thrill of expectation down my spine whenever the ball comes near him? There are a few likely candidates and who knows – it might even be someone entirely new to the club. But that can all wait for another day. Let’s finish the job in hand, have a lovely long rest away from football and come back refreshed and invigorated for another season.
I lift my lucky Arsenal mug to you one more time, and, if I may, propose we all raise a glass to our number seven, may he enjoy a long and happy retirement, thanks for the memories and up the Arsenal.