Newcastle 0-1 Arsenal
One-nil to the Arsenal, and the relief is palpable. It was desperately close and not remotely good for the constitution, but we dragged ourselves over the line to fourth and into the final Champions League spot. That’s the 16th time in a row we have qualified for it. Did you know that? I bet you’ve never heard that and won’t read it again anywhere else. But it is worth repeating for posterity. Whatever you think of our annual race for fourth, you can’t deny that it meant something today, especially taking into account who the loser in this local feud was. But it was agonising.
One-nil has a certain resonance at our club, even if Arsenal veered off in other directions for many years since it became a badge of honour in the late 80s. It’s back in vogue though, partly I suspect in a needs-must kind of way. It’s been too close for comfort but even the most avid Arsenal change-merchant cannot fail to be impressed by the way we picked ourselves off the mat in March, when we lost in N17 (thanks to two defensive shockers), tweaked things and ultimately turned things around.
WWWWWDWDWWW. Nine wins and two draws in all, with 26 league points taken from 30. In that time our creativity has appeared stifled but we’ve defended well, fought well and stuck together. It’s not been pretty but it has worked, and it’s not a bad building block for the summer.
Ah, the summer. We all know what we need in order to push on, in order for this angst not to be an annual jamboree, but for now I think that can wait.
Until then we can marvel at the majesty of Laurent Koscielny, who put in an epic shift at the back today, scored the money-goal and is a shoe-in for our Player of the Season Since March award. Can he oust Santi for player of the season? I doubt that but he has been superb in recent months.
And while, yes, we gave the ball away too often for my liking, defended deeper and deeper and looked a bit toothless again, we never stopped hustling to win the ball back when we didn’t have it. There’s something to admire in that.
It’s all about growth for Wenger:
Since February 1, we have taken more points than anybody else in the league. I don’t believe that’s just down to coincidence, just to the fact that the group has grown. This team has grown throughout the season.
Certainly, there’s not much wrong with the team’s togetherness if you look at this photo from Arsenal’s own Stuart MacFarlane (though I do hope they’ve located Per by now).
I think it’s time for me to don my football sombrero, put my feet up and sip a pina colada. The transfer rumour mill can wait for now. The last few months have been interesting – encouraging – but am I sad the season is over? Not really, taken as a whole. Don’t take that the wrong way, because you probably know what I mean.
Bottoms up! Well done the lads. And breathe.