Every season it never ceases to amaze me how after so much football (37 games played over the course of
almost 10 months) certain situations are decided on the last day. Sometimes
title winners, sometimes who is to be relegated. Every season by the time the
last day comes round something has yet to be decided.
That always, always fascinates me. This time
around however there was only one real key fate to be decided on the final day
of the Premier League season; that was the inevitable Spud choke at the expense
of The Arse completing ‘Operation Bare Minimum.’
Dear me! How, going into the
final minute of your 38th game are you still chewing your nails down
to the elbow? They are bastards for putting us through that, these players. A
shower of selfish, inconsiderable, but beautiful bastards.
Nevertheless our goal was
achieved and Arsene Wenger’s proud record still stands, and it is a proud
record. This was Arsene’s 17th
season at Arsenal football club. In this time he has churned out the following
2nd 2nd 2nd 1st 2nd 1st
2nd 4th 4th 3rd 4th 3rd
4th 3rd 4th
When if you compare to the 17
previous league finishes in reverse order:
4th 10th 4th 1st 4th 1st
6th 4th 7th 7th 6th 10th
5th 3rd 4th
It is a remarkably consistent
record and whilst we all want to challenge and start chucking out a few more 1st
place finishes admittedly, years down the line when you look back, for all the
torment it feels we’ve been put through it will look an outstanding achievement
in my opinion – providing that we now kick on from this. I’m sure you’ve all seen the facts and
figures floating around the Twittersphere, but in the last five seasons we’ve
had the lowest net spend in the Premier League. Lower than Wigan Athletic. Lower than Reading. Lower than Norwich City, Swansea City and
Fulham. hat’s incredible for two
reasons. Firstly, maintaining Champions League status throughout this
It really shouldn’t be the
case for a club as wealthy as ours.
Despite this there appears to
be a strong positive vibe coming out the club. There is an aura surrounding
many it seems that the position we’re in now is the position we’ve been
building up to for the best part of a decade.
We’ve funded our own stadium – albeit through the sale of some of our
key players. Have paid much of that off
and are now, let’s be honest, rolling in it.
Now is our opportunity.
Now is that
time to really push on and not just talk about how we want to win trophies, but
actually show and prove to us that they aren’t just words. Actions speak louder
and by that, now is that time to
show conviction, get yourselves out in the transfer market, compete, and make
the one or two big signings who’ll help put us on that same pedestal which
Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea currently sit on.
I must admit I’m quite openly
confident/optimistic by this summer. I’ve already made a big call stating that
I believe we’ll see the club break our transfer record not once, but twice. I
genuinely believe that. I have complete and utter faith in our club doing
what’s right this summer based mainly on the resurgence of our current manager.
He’s been a completely different man the previous two months and any
accusations of being stale or past it are way off the mark. The self-confessed
stubbornness has been curbed to the point of which I almost feel that he’s
refreshed and totally redesigned himself. Twitter allows us to interact and
speak with many Arsenal fans on a daily basis and many whom I speak with were
of the opinion that Arsene had just become a bit boring really – as horrible a
description that is to write.
Bland, dull, and obvious;
everything had become a bit too repetitive.
For myself as well at times.
Everyone from the players to the fans speak of how the Bayern Munich
away fixture was the turning point in the season – but I believe that result
had an even greater effect on not just the season, but possibly even the career
of Arsene Wenger. The way in which we
set up that night has been the blueprint for the remainder of the season.
Now we had a whole ten days
to prepare for that fixture after the White Hart Lane defeat and again, I was
rather open about the fact that if we were serious in actually travelling to
Munich and making an attempt to progress then we needed a game plan and not the
gung-ho approach as many had suggested.
Where I stand in situations like these are that if you’re 3-1 down from
the first leg; in order for you to progress it is absolutely imperative that
you do not concede in the second leg. I would have found it incredibly
hard to take had we gone out there and just tried to bombard their goal – to
me, there is no thinking behind that whatsoever and part of me was worried that
that would be the game plan. Or lack of, shall I say.
Well, low and behold, blow
me! We set up in a system of which we all thought we’d never see. Confined,
tight, we played as one. We allowed Bayern to have the ball in the knowledge
that if they came anywhere near our goal – as a unit, as a team – we were going
to defend that goal. Arsene made two huge calls in dropping both Wojciech Szczesny
and Thomas Vermaelen that night, which proved to be the right decision as both
defence and midfield held together like glue.
You could have drawn a perfectly straight horizontal line through our
back four from 1st minute to last – and I bloody loved it. It was so
refreshing to see. The performance of which wasn’t as pretty on the eye as ones
we’ve almost grown accustom too, but one of which where we never once rode our
luck. Tactically we were outstanding on that night, whilst at the other end we
took the few chances we created – Chelsea have made a living out of
performances like that for a decade. Yes we lost the tie, but we won on the
night and that performance and result lifted everyone. There was a slight air
of optimism from then on.
Narrow victory after narrow
victory followed from then on away from home. Five on the bounce which included
wins at Swansea, West Bromwich Albion, Fulham, Queens Park Rangers and Newcastle;
scoring only 7 but more importantly conceding only 1. We were strong, resolute,
we had character but above all we wanted to win.
For whatever reason this crop
were struggling with the possession-based game of short, one touch passes. Whether that was because the personnel had
changed so dramatically in such a short space of time (one summer in fact) I
don’t know? But whatever the reason, it just wasn’t working. Arsene then caved
in and relinquished the set up and way he feels the game should be played. There’s
nothing wrong with that. He assessed the flaws, saw it wasn’t working and made
the necessary changes. He reacted and subsequently I feel he’s now found a new
lease of life.
With three of the top four
all changing managers over the summer, there is no doubt in my mind that Arsene
will now fancy a crack. A real crack at the big time again. He’s an intelligent
man. He knows as much as anyone that now is the time for this Arsenal side to
make amends and challenge. For the first time in what feels like a long time; we
are not in the middle of a transfer embargo. We have no standout player who the
spotlight is shone on from morning to morning.
No speculation, no long-winded, dragged out story about will he/won’t he
sign a contract or return home stories
which have dogged our club for years and that can only be a good thing. You get
the impression that if we were to lose two or three it would be at the clubs discretion
– Arsene’s decision. This summer if Arsene doesn’t want to lose a player then
we won’t lose that player, you can be sure of that.
We all want him to spend and
I believe he will. Who he spends that on, have faith in him. He’s made massive
changes to himself in recent months. He guided us to Champions League
qualification in the final two months of the season through his own evaluation
of not just the players but himself.
Next season, mark my words…
We. Are. Challenging.