W.B.A. 2-3 Arsenal
We score an early goal, then we let two in, then we score two more before holding on for dear life for the win. And that, ladies and gentlemen, sums up Arsenal’s strengths and weaknesses in one handy cut-out-and-keep sentence.
Ultimately though, despite pretty much three dicky patches, ten league defeats and a defence that shipped 49 goals, we have come third and made our summer all the more enjoyable in the process. When we were two goals down at home to the Totterers, that outcome looked far beyond the wit of this side, so to surge past them and still make third despite taking just 6 points from the last fifteen is pretty remarkable. We stumbled, but we made it, so well done the lads. It’s an achievement – the 15th season in a row we’ve qualified for the European Cup – but above all for me it’s a relief.
Last summer has loomed over us for much of the season and although I have no crystal ball, I think it’s fair to say that whatever happens – and a lot may happen – coming third has at least mitigated against a similarly calamitous and damaging close season.
The post mortem would have been long and dispiriting had we blown third, or come fifth. We’ve avoided that, even though we all know that there’s work to do. And plenty of it.
But this is not the time for that. For now we can bask in what passes these days as Arsenal glory. I’ll get round to an end of season review in due course – there are plenty of players who deserve praise, I think – but I will start by dishing out a few early gongs: A Long Service gong goes to Pat Rice for 44 years loyal work. It was a good send-off, in the end. Thanks Pat for on and off field excellence.
And a What Would We Have Done Without You gong goes to Robin Golden Boot van Persie for 37 priceless goals. That was some season, peppered with world-class goals. I hope he stays but will not begrudge him if he doesn’t.
Should I give a gong to Fulop? It would be deserved but a bit harsh. After all, we know what it’s like watching a goalkeeper suffer. (Actually, we know what it’s like watching two goalkeepers suffer). Well Marton, I will at least doff my cap to you.
And I’m pleased for Wenger. He has polarised fans like never before, but for battling on despite a dismal summer and season’s start, and for being as dignified as ever despite the brickbats, I think he deserves credit. It can’t have been easy.
We all know it’s not been a vintage season. We never challenged for anything made of silver. But something tangible has come from it and – though plenty will disagree – given the circumstances that makes it a decent season in my books. Now to a decent summer.
That’s it, really.