Sunday, 13 May 2012

It's over

Koscielny on hand to tap home.
Like most supporters I can’t say I’ve particularly enjoyed this season.  We’ve been written off by many , we were mocked by our near neighbours #mindthegap and yet we finished 3rd. I would say this season has been a failure but we have improved our league position from 12 months ago. The damage was done in the summer with the sales of Fabregas and Nasri coming once the Premier League season had actually kicked off. Then the fact we couldn't reinvest until Champions League qualification was sealed via a very difficult clash v Udinese. The thing with yesterday's game was that although the result of the game would decide our fate, it wouldn’t have been the reason behind our failure to seal a top 4 finish. In a way yesterday was typical Arsenal performance that we've come to hate, the usual scrappy defending with the ability to score goals (although credit must go to Martin Fulop). One thing that has improved this season and it was there in abundance yesterday is the resilience of this side, our ability to get points from losing positions emphasises that. We conceded two quick goals yesterday but we managed to get ourselves back in the game and deservedly equalised when Santos smashed home. It was then fitting that one of our stars of the season grabbed the glory though, Laurent Koscielny is easily our most improved player this season and he prodded home to make it 3-2. Of course with Arsenal nothing is easy going and superb blocks from Koscielny and more importantly Gibbs helped ensure we ran out winners and claimed that “all important” 3rd place but it could have be so different.
Rough Patches
It’s always widely assumed that a team will encounter a rough spell at some point during the season but we didn’t have one poor spell or two but three and they were all pretty gruesome. In the previous season we never managed to win four consecutive games in the Premier League but this season our below par efforts centred around five game spells. After five games of the new season we had taken four points from fifteen. Then at the beginning of the New Year we replicated that effort with another four points from fifteen. Finally our end of season form produced six points from fifteen. All in all, three poor spells producing fourteen points from forty five available. Which makes finishing third all the more remarkable. You can only really put that into perspective when other teams around us claim to have had a fantastic season and its real achievement to finish in the top four. I’m under no illusions, there is a lot of work ahead for this side but I hope we learn from our mistakes (wishful thinking I know) and realise that our squad isn’t good enough to compete at the highest level. When fit we have a pretty good starting XI but it is quickly exposed with injuries that we so regularly suffer and we’ve not been able to play our strongest side at any point this season.

Lows of the Season
3rd:   Losing at Blackburn
2nd:  The performance in Milan
1st:   Manchester United

Notable mentions: NLD (A), Swansea (A), Sunderland (FA Cup)
Automatic Qualification
Why is this so important? It’s important because we don’t have to endure a qualifier and the possibility of not mixing it up with Europe’s finest. It’s even more important that the revenue it brings is guaranteed here and now. Our spending towards the end of last summer’s transfer window had more to do with beating Udinese than it did with the horrendous outing we had at Old Trafford. We’ll also be in Pot 1 when the draw comes around, ensuring we should have an “easier” group.  These are all positives and the signing of Podolski indicates that we are in the market to sign top quality players. Wenger’s work starts now and I hope the future of RvP is resolved sooner rather than later. If he is to go, then go early and allow us to rebuild. We can’t underestimate what today has done to stabilise our summer, I just hope van Persie signs a new contract. and he has gone on record to say he’ll sit down with the club later this week, so let’s see how that goes well.
What A Moment!
Despite our failings there have been many highlights, none bigger and better than the North London Derby and Bacary Sagna proving to be the catalyst on a chaotic day. It epitomised the team spirit we now have, as it did with many of our late victories. We had Benayoun’s late header at Villa Park, van Persie’s spectacular volley at Anfield, Henry’s final touch in the Premier League at The Stadium of Light and Vermaelen's late surge up field to seal a last gasp win over Newcastle. That turned four points into twelve and we shouldn’t forget that on days like today. Also up there has to be our performance at Stamford Bridge, we had already lost at Man United and Sp*rs and we travelled more in hope than expectation on that day and I still can’t quite believe we scored five but it did bring back a lot of belief back to this side and that was exactly what this side needed at the time.

Highs of the Season

3rd: Henry's goal v Leeds
2nd: Chelsea (A)
1st: Beating 5pu2s 5-2

Notable mentions: Milan (H), Udinese(A), City (H) and Dortmund (H).

Player of the Season

3rd - Mikel Arteta

Arteta scoring at Ewood Park
He was very much the 11th hour transfer and it could have gone so wrong. Arteta joined with a questionable injury record and many thought he would be a direct replacement for the already departed Fabregas. However, Wenger sprung a surprise and he played him alongside Song and he acted more as an insurance policy to protect the defence. Arteta grew into his new found role and Chelsea away proved to be the pivitol moment in his brief Arsenal career. He began to believe he was good enough to play in a big side, having coasted along in Everton's side for a few years. Arteta's passing has been a pleasure to watch and he has scored some quality goals too. He could be the best panic buy in a long time, certainly beats Kiwomya, Helder and Hartson. As it stands looking ahead to next season he is one of the first names on the team sheet next season and you can't pay him a bigger compliment than that.

2nd - Laurent Koscielny

Blackburn away was a very dark day for us and none more so in playing terms that for Koscielny but since that day he has been colossal. His reading of the game has been first class, it has been his outstanding quality this season. He also does the ugly side of the game by getting stuck in, throwing himself infront of the ball when it matters and he isn't afraid to take a card for the good of the side. Personally I think Koscielny performs better along side Mertesacker but I think it's highly unlikely we will ever have them as our first choice centre back pairing. Finally we have someone to fill the number 6 jersey and if he continues progressing at his current rate he will be the 2nd best centre half in the Premier League, although some will argue he already is. Expect to see a lot more shirts with the Frenchman's name on next season.

1st- Robin van Persie

van Persie audacious penalty at Molineux
"He scores when wants, he scores when waaaants, Robin van Persie, he scores when wants." Despite his lack of team honours he has won the odd few awards this season, none bigger than the PFA Players' player of the Year. Whether he stays or goes his contribution will not be forgotten and if he is to go, we will know that we can't match the players ambition and ultimately the fans too. Arsenal said they'd never allow a repeat of last summer and now we find Walcott and van Persie in the same position as Nasri last year. This is his side and it's built around him. He is our first true captain since Vieira and the side thrives off him. He seems to have shaken off the injury prone tag and if he does stay next season and beyond, then we will need to manage him properly because he's not going to get a good rest. Summing it up, if it wasn't for him we'd not have Champions League football next season and we may not have had the chance of celebrating St Totteringhams Day. Thanks Robin.

Overall, Wenger has worked wonders with the resources and the situation that transpired in the summer . I remember the amusement that we created at the beginning of the season but he believed in his players when we all doubted his sanity. Yet again, he was proved right and that's why Arsene will always know best.

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