We have arrived at the breathless finale, and it could go anywhere. Same as last year, then.
The Wigan game was no doubt fantastic for the neutral – ebbing and flowing like the tides – but it was hard work for the partisan until the triple-goal salvo. But here we are again and I have no idea what I think, if I’m honest. It’s desperately close.
What I do believe though – and it’s worth saying before fourth (or fifth, or third) is decided – is that irrespective of where we come this year, we are in as strong a position as we have been for several years to keep our pivotal players. We have been a selling club for a while now and as well as sending out the wrong signals, weakening our squad every summer has clearly also weakened the effect of buying new players, and has led to a lot of treading water. Last year we lost two key players, the year before two, in 2009 we lost two. Only in 2010 did we not shed too much.
If you look at who Wenger brought in last summer – Cazorla, Podolski, Giroud – all three have had very decent first seasons (and in the case of Cazorla, an outstanding first season). But their additions were mitigated by sales. The year before, we bought Mertesacker, Arteta, Jenkinson and Gervinho (plus others of limited impact, though perhaps I am being harsh on Benayoun) but we lost Fabregas and Nasri. Always fighting fires.
Now though, with perhaps fewer vultures circling, more money from TV and from Emirates and potentially also from a better shirt deal, we ought to hold a stronger hand.
Sagna, Vermaelen? Perhaps the former will go, and that would be a shame. But given his form and age, would that be as hard an exit as others have been? Jenkinson has done well.
Vermaelen we need to keep, frankly. You can’t prosper with anything less than three top-draw centre-halves.
Build on what we have, rather than react to departures – which is how it has sometimes felt – and we might end up with the stability and growth we crave. But another drawn-out summer exit saga – no thanks.