Happy St. Totteringham’s Day! It wasn’t in spectacular fashion, and it left every Gooner nervous right ‘til the last minute, but Arsenal managed to secure 4th today (with a 1-0 win over Newcastle) despite the best efforts of Gareth Bale and his motley crew of twats.
Securing the 4th spot is as much a relief as it is a cause for celebration, but nevertheless I’m going to enjoy today and I hope the players do too. We’ve taken 26 of a possible 30 points after what could have been a catastrophic loss to Sp*rs on March 3rd, so the raucous celebrations on display by the boys are certainly earned.
Following that costly loss, we managed to turn our season around despite having also having been eliminated from all our Cup competitions by the three B’s: Bradford, Blackburn, and effectively Bayern in the first leg. We gave the second leg a good shot, and despite not advancing with the 2-0 win, we kicked on from there and really put in good work right to the end of the campaign. Sure, there were close calls and lucky breaks, as well games where we failed to impress despite weak opposition – Fulham with ten men and QPR despite the first minute goal spring to mind – however we got the points we needed at the end of the day, and that’s what winners do.
Does this mean I’m accepting of 4th place for us? Of course not. We’re a club with stature and size that should be challenging for the title, not the Wenger Cup. But it has to be said that we earned our spot in the table this year, and that’s worthy of praise considering how well our North London rivals have done.
The other thing that needs to be mentioned is our points total for the year: 73. What does that matter when United won the league sixteen points above us? As Arsene pointed out, it’s an improvement on last year’s points total of 70. That shouldn’t be ignored, as that’s an improvement over last year despite losing our top scorer (and one of the PL’s best players overall).
Arsenal: Poised to Improve
Unlike last year we are actually in a position where we can move forward over the off-season instead of sideways. Last summer we were mired in the protracted saga of RVP, and after finally accepting our fate of losing him, we signed two offensive talents in Giroud and Podolski. A quick glance at the goal scoring chart shows that RVP managed 25 for the eventual champions, while Giroud and Podolski banged in 11 each for a total of 22. This year, we won’t be losing those 22 goals in the off-season; nor will we be losing Theo’s contribution of 14, who we managed to re-sign over the course of the campaign.
Not only improved in numbers, we finally have our starting two central defenders figured out in the pairing of Koscielny and Mertesacker. Unfortunately this has relegated Tom Vermy to the bench, but he can have no complaints as he essentially lost his spot due to a lack of performance. Let’s hope he’s a proper athlete and works hard this off-season to earn his spot back, as opposed to looking for greener pastures. Having the talented Belgian on the bench offers us depth we’re not used to having.
And of course there’s one other big positive from this season: Santi Cazorla. He’s quickly becoming a cult favorite amongst fans, and it’s not surprising why – he has probably been our player of the season with his goal scoring and playmaking. His giant contributions have answered the critics who declared him too small physically to make an impact.
All of this is also combined with the improvements made by Ramsey, the reliability of Rosicky, and the promising performances of Jenkinson and Nacho, should leave Arsenal fans excited about the potential of this club for next year… not to say there isn’t work to be done.
War Looms in Britain
I’m strongly of the opinion that next season in the Premier League is going to be a war. The power vacuum left by the retiring Sir Alex Ferguson will encourage heavy buying from many of the top-table clubs, particularly City and Chelsea who will likely enter 2013-2014 led by dangerous managers boasting a squad with some world-class additions. I’m predicting Pellegrini and Mourinho respectively, while I have also been saying since January that City will buy Edinson Cavani while Chelsea will go in for Radamel Falcao; I’ll stick with that prediction even though the latter is strongly linked with the Monaco project.
The resurgence of Liverpool, another possible push by Sp*rs, and the increasing quality in teams in the middle and bottom parts of the table, mean that next season is going to require the eventual champions to be on their game from start to finish – something Arsenal has struggled with in recent years. Investment will be needed, especially because we cannot rely on the health of Diaby or Wilshere and since we may lose Sagna as well.
But for now let’s enjoy the day and celebrate, as we have the summer months coming up to spend discussing and dissecting everything relating to the next season.