“Sometimes the lights are all shinin’ on me;
Other times I can barely see.
Lately it occurs to me what a long, strange trip it’s been.”
-Grateful Dead, “Truckin'” (1970)
It was an absolutely thrilling day at Champs Bar, with many Gooners from our Facebook group in attendance. People with ADHD had a field day, as multiple screens showed the events unfolding throughout the Premier League. As the final whistle blew to end our match, Sergio Agüero scored the game-winner in the 94th minute to win the Title for Man City. I’m not sure if the loudest cheer was for Arsenal securing third place, or for Man Utd losing first place. But it was delightful nonetheless.
For the second straight match, Yossi Benayoun’s energy created the first goal for the good guys. Man-of-the-match Marton Fulop completely fluffed the ball, giving Benayoun a wide open net, at the 4th minute. West Brom quickly responded with two goals: the first went to Shane long, who was clearly offside; the second was a quality strike from Graham Dorrans.
Arséne Wenger must have been as anxious as Roberto Mancini, who was not having an easy time against QPR either. André Santos rescued a dismal first half by scoring in the 30th minute to bring the score to 2-2. Fulop did make contact with the ball, but it was not enough.
When the half-time whistle blew, I knew at that point we would win the match. I imagine that Wenger (and perhaps Pat Rice) would put the fear of God into the players, and that all we needed was a quality 45-minute second half to steal the game. I was expecting a lob pass from Song to RVP, but instead, we got another blunder from Fulop, who gifted the ball to Laurent Koscielny.
It was an agonizing 40 minutes, as we hoped we would not see a replay of last week’s match against Norwich. Meanwhile, over at WHL, the Sp**s had a 2-0 lead against Fulham, so it was unlikely they would drop points. Carl Jenkinson was looking a bit shaky on defense, and got away with some shirt-tugging. Kieran Gibbs was brought on as a substitute for Gervinho at the 66th minute, and that seemed to help. Give credit to the Gunners, they were able to preserve the 3-2 lead.
All the media attention will focus on Man City’s dramatic finish, but for Arsenal to finish third is really quite an accomplishment, given that we lost Fabregas and Nasri at the last minute, and did not have Wilshere for most of the season. I think a few more fans moved over to the “Arsène Must Go” camp, initiated by the disastrous game against Man Utd last year.
I don’t know about my colleague, but I think Wenger performed a miracle, bringing in a variety of new players who did contribute to our rebound: Carl Jenkinson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, André Santos, Per Mertesacker, Yossi Benayoun and Mikel Arteta. If we can keep RVP, and if Jack Wilshere can actually play again, we will have a very strong starting XI, for example: Podolski-RVP-Walcott, Wilshere-Arteta-Song, Gibbs-Kos-Vermaelen-Sagna, and Szczesny. Bench: Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, Rosicky, Coquelin, Santos, Mertesacker, Fabianski.
If we are not able to keep RVP, we’ll make a bundle of cash from his sale and hopefully AW will find another forward or two. I find it hard to believe that he would keep him for one more year without a new contract and let him go on a Bosman transfer.
What’s next for the Gunners? The Euros! Since Canada didn’t qualify for the tournament, I can choose from any number of teams:
Holland: Robin van Persie
Germany: Per Mertesacker, Lukas Podolski
Poland: Wojciech Szczesny and Lukasz Fabianski
France: Laurent Koscielny
Russia: Andrey Arshavin
Spain: what can I say, I still have a soft spot for Cesc Fàbregas
After the Euros, it’s time once again for the A$ia tour (Malaysia, China, Hong Kong) and Nigeria (Aug 5). It’s really close to the start of next season, so I’m sure Arsène’s not too happy about it. But it’s great that the club is reaching out to their international fans.
Stay tuned for our end-of-season review!