Birmingham City 2-1 Arsenal
As defeats go, that one was palatable enough – after all, who’d want to injure themselves just before the cup final? Five defeats all season in the league, and 83 points. In the last eight games, we have been top of the Premier League form guide. Quite frankly, even without taking the cup final into account, I think this season’s been a good’un. We’ve played some glorious football again, and several excellent players have been fast-tracked: Fabregas, Senderos, Flamini and Almunia.
OK, so not the last one. He caused me to age considerably.
In the wake of Christmas, many of us questioned why we hadn’t strengthened in the goalkeeping and centre-back departments, but I think Lehmann and Senderos have shown us why not with fine ends to the season. The bottom line is we had an unconvincing three months that happened to coincide with injuries to Gilberto, Campbell and Edu, and a drop in form from key players like Vieira and Lehmann. This caused – directly or indirectly – a defensive sniffle (that’s the technical term) that gave Lehmann the heebie-jeebies (another technical term) and paired Cygan with Toure, a relationship that was on the rocks before it had really got going.
Back to yesterday: I didn’t watch the game as I wasn’t there, and I didn’t listen to it on the wireless, but I did catch the highlights on Larry Spinnaker’s show, MOTD. From what I could see, it was a classic end-of-term affair, punctuated by three late goals. It’s worth noting that the last goal came as a result of an error from the much-lauded Philippe Senderos. Will that one slip cost him his cup final place?
As for the rest of Saturday’s line-up, we’re really none the wiser. It’s quite possible that neither Henry nor Reyes will be fit to start – the latter has a dead leg and the former has has an Achilles heel, which is turning out to be his Achilles heel, if you know what I’m saying.
“It’s very difficult to assess Thierry,” said Wenger. “He had a slight reaction on Wednesday night and I will see what the position is on Wednesday or Thursday. Reyes got a kick in training so we have to assess him too. Lauren had food poisoning but could have played and Robert Pires was rested.”