So, a fourth successive trophy-less season has come to an end. It hasn’t all been doom and gloom, there have been some highlights thrown in along the way. The emergence of Gibbs, the improvement of Almunia and Song, reaching the semi-finals of both the Champions League and FA Cup. It’s always disappointing to not win something but today we can try to forget about those and remember the positives.
Yesterday’s game against Stoke was a good way for the team to end the season and the fans’ love-in with Arséne was great to see. We can’t let the minority of detractors try and force him out of the club. Who would replace him?
We started the game with Mannone in goal, Sagna, Toure, Song and Gibbs in defence, Diaby, Fabregas, Denilson, Walcott and Arshavin in midfield and Van Persie up front. The bench was Szczesny (whose name looks a bit like a Count Down conundrum) Vela, Ramsey, Silvestre, Djourou, Bendtner and Eboue.
According to the boss on Friday, Fabianski was fit to play so one must assume he had a reaction over the weekend. Van Persie showed that he is a big player for us with two well taken goals, one a very well hit penalty and the other a good chest down and volley on the turn. Our first goal came courtesy of a Fabregas ball into the six yard box, hit with pace, that James Beattie kindly diverted into his own goal. The second was Van Persie’s brilliantly struck penalty that gave the keeper absolutely no chance. Our third came from a Van Persie free-kick and Diaby rose to stick it away. It’s a shame that we didn’t put in a similar performance against them at their ground earlier in the season… What might have been.
So, a great result to finish the season with optimism, although there was nothing in particular at stake and it’s easier to play well when under no pressure, it was still a good result.
After the game the boss said that extending Van Persie’s and Bendtner’s contracts is a priority. Let’s hope that both sign on as there is still more to come from both, especially Bendtner. Despite the fact that Van Persie can be frustrating at times, he still notched his 20th goal of the season yesterday and could have had a hat-trick but for the crossbar from a well hit free-kick. Next season, Bendtner should benefit from the expected departure of Adebayor.
The result yesterday left us on 72 points for the season, coming from 20 wins and 12 draws. 12 draws isn’t really good enough and maybe if we had had Eduardo available some of those would have been converted into victories. Likewise, 6 defeats is not acceptable if you want to seriously challenge for the title, especially if you are going to draw so many games along with them.
The return of Eduardo and Rosicky (possibly) next season should give us more of a killer instinct in front of goal, though it is clear that we need to strengthen the defensive side of our game. Not just by signing players, we need to work on coaching the team to actually defend as a team. The midfield need to offer more protection to our defence if we are to challenge for anything next season. Arséne said he would be analysing what we need to challenge next year, let’s hope he decides better coaching and two or three defensively minded players.
Alex Song played again at centre-half yesterday and I wonder will it be a position in which he will figure more prominently next season? He has improved dramatically over the past five or six months and is unrecognisable from the player that lazily ambled around the pitch before Christmas.
The boss was also happy with the love-in that took place yesterday:
“It made me feel appreciated and even more regretful that we couldn’t give them what they wanted this season. But I am very respectful of the faith they have in me.It’s very warm and makes me even more determined to pay them back.”
Let’s hope the boss and the team pay us back with consistency and a trophy next season. We’ve got about two months until the start of proper pre-season games, that time will fly by, though at times it may feel like it’s going in slow-motion. No doubt Adebayor and Arshavin’s agent will keep us on our toes while there is no other news happening.
It’s been a long and hard season to be an Arsenal supporter both due to performances on the field and boardroom manoeuvres off the field. But, we’ve made it to the end and it’s time to put the season to bed and look forward to a summer of speculation and waiting to see who comes and goes. I’m both looking forward to it and dreading it.
Will there be any more movement by Kroenke Tonk Stan? Will Usmanov choke on some food?
Let all of the speculation begin. Take it easy.
Will the North Bank have any transfer exclusives to report this summer??