I’d forgotten how poor dead rubbers can be.
Bendtner’s bullet header from a sweet Traore cross was only about the second shot on target all game – and we’d had to endure 77 minutes of it. At least the sun had been shining.
Shorn of a need to win, and of much of the creative heartbeat of the team, Arsenal struggled. We played it round neatly enough, but did the classic sideways pass/over-elaboration thing just when it matters – which along with conceding dippy goals at dippy times is, and remains, Arsenal’s Achilles’ heel.
Talking of the sun shining, the queues were too big at half time to even try getting some water from the usual places (or ‘concessions’, as the club would probably call them, just as it no doubt calls us ‘customers’), so I approached someone with a bag on his back selling coke and hot dogs. You could buy both for £5 (yes, £5, it’s not a typo), but not one or the other – ‘company policy’. What a load of old horse that is.
Anyway, I digress. It was a poor game enlightened only by Bendtner’s goal and a couple of excellent performances – first from Alex Song, and second from Armand Traore.
The former, the butt of a million jokes, was pretty commanding at the back, despite his languid nature, and had a really good game. He’s still not the tall centre-half we need but let’s not take anything away from him. And secondly, the bandy-footed Armand Traore was excellent during his cameo, with a couple of surging runs, one assist and a rasping drive that whistled a foot over the bar.
Jens got his deserved 20 minute run-out to bid us all auf wiedersehen , and had some warm comments for the club and fans post-match too. He was a marvellous keeper for us, better in his 2004 prime than anyone who has come since, but it’s the right time for him to go. He was a bit of a mentalist but a strangely endearing one at that. Good luck Jens.
The rebuilding and strengthening will begin in earnest shortly – and there’s a slot to fill where Flamini lived. He’s on the verge of his big money move to AC Milan. The Sun, rather predictably, suggests Flamini ‘stuns Gunners’ with the news he’s off. The only thing that has stunned me is how patient Wenger has been. Nigel Flamini was excellent this season, a real powerhouse, but Arsenal were never going to pay him silly money and to be frank, why should they? He’s a great player but not an indispensable one.
Final word on Bendtner. He may be overbearingly cocky and he may not have many mates in the dressing room (though three or four went up to him after he scored yesterday – so who knows whether there’s anything in that rumour), but he has improved massively this season and has the uncanny ability to score crucial goals.
A fair few of his nine goals have come with something to play for – with two match-winning goals (Spuds, Everton), and two match-saving goals (Villa, Liverpool) amongst them. That’s six points we might not otherwise have garnered, so fair play to him. He’s a great impact player and must be retained this summer.
Only one more game before the thumbs start twiddling and the transfer rumours head into Bachman-Turner.
Enjoy the bank holiday. Why do banks need extra holidays? To process all those spurious charges they land upon us? To catch up on all those uncashed cheques they mysteriously hold onto for five days before clearing? A bit of additional time to package up sub-prime debt and pass it on? Who knows.
Update: Flamini has signed for Milan. “I’m very happy” he said. Not surprised, he’ll be earning millions.