Just as my own blogging season was in danger of fizzling out, I’ve decided to rouse myself for one last push. Two more blog posts and I might just totter over the line. Why haven’t I sealed this sooner though? I can only think it’s a confidence thing.
Since I last dipped in here we have drawn at Stoke, a result that is far from calamitous at any stage of any season, but coming after a loss and a goalless draw it was a result that hardly kick-started the kind of swashbuckling tone for the rest of the season that I had hoped for. Why have the goals dried up a bit? “Maybe it is linked with belief” said Wenger, which is not really what you want to read, is it? Anyway, here we all are and we are pretty clear what Arsenal need to do to drag themselves over the line.
Of course, you have to assume the worst and expect our rivals to take full points. That makes our task very straightforward, on paper if not on grass – two wins. But depending on results on Wednesday, it could make Norwich on Saturday, and indeed West Brom’s Hodgson valete the following week, far more stressful than you might want.
How we could do with our new signing Lukas Podolski for the last two games. With 18 goals from 28 games this season, plus six assists, we are talking about a man at the top of his game and for Arsenal to sew this one up so soon is admirable business indeed. I don’t think it’s realistic to expect us to dot all the I’s and cross all the T’s of our summer business before the Euros – there’ll a lot of shop windowing going on – but this lays down a marker and continues the recent policy of mixing raw youth (Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jenkinson) with proper experience (Mertesacker, Arteta). There’s also plenty of sense in getting as much of your incoming business done soon so that the club can work hard on trimming the squad down.
Podolski will of course be desperate for Arsenal to make the Champions League – he can join the queue, right behind the shuffling army of accountants – and will be forced to look on agonisingly from afar as we complete the season. There isn’t a lot he can do of course, but it would be nice to think that this ambitious early signal from the club might have an effect on the current players as they strive for the sunlit uplands of third – for those who will be competing for places against him, for those whose futures are undecided and for those committed for the long term but ambitious for more.
And on an unrelated note, good luck to Roy Hodgson. A decent man, he’s well travelled and well respected. And whatever happens, surely it can’t be any worse than South Africa in 2010?
All the best, Roy.