What a nerve-wrecking game. Surely the pressure and expectation of guaranteed qualification to the Champions League group stage has also gotten to Arsène Wenger. Plus, there are the negotiations for the extension of contract for Robin van Persie still to be sorted out and fast.
As the Arsenal was only four minutes away from claiming 3rd spot for their own, the captain skied his chance with only the West Brom ‘keeper in his way. Wenger reacted by hugging his right hand man…who registered no emotion whatsoever at the events that transpired. Salute to the Arsenal legend, Pat Rice –
I could be wrong, but I saw another instance during the match when Wenger hugged Rice during extra time probably due to the strain at watching the team play – Wenger then looked at the TV cameras cautiously, realized something and resumed his stoic self. Pat Rice remained unmoved throughout. What nerves of steel – take an example on how to be a real man from this legend, peeps. And, M. Wenger – Gooners everywhere would not take this as a sign of weakness on your part. If anything, this season has been rather punishing on the French tactician and besides, it’s a joy to see the affinity and trust that Pat Rice enjoyed at the club. What a great sending off gift. Truly befitting a loyal servant of the club.
The match against West Brom was a poor one despite the 3-2 scoreline. And that was probably the reason as to why Wenger reacted like he did – the team displayed nervousness for large patches of the game and never really looked in control of it. Although West Bromwich’s stand-in goalkeeper Márton Fülöp was culpable for at least two of Arsenal’s three goals, the team sporadically failed to effectively test this shaky Hungarian either. In fact, after Laurent Koscielny’s goal, the Brum never let up in their pursuit for goals. Arsenal’s wingers were largely peripheral – Gervinho lacking craft and final product and Theo Walcott, while marginally better than the Ivorian, was also not used to great effect down the right wing. I’m certain that this aspect has to be fixed in the next season – with the team looking so one-dimensional, it’s hard to imagine them fortifying themselves against the resurgent threats of Chelsea, Newcastle and Spuds. You would not discount Liverpool next season as well, so Champions League spots are even harder to achieve.
Plus, the fact that the match against West Brom was hyped up by the media to be a cup final of sorts seem to accentuate the perception that the Arsenal is vulnerable, weak and more than capable of bottling up in the face of adversity. All that said with due respect to WBA who honestly tested my own nerves yesterday with their own stable of talented players like Odemwingie and Shane Long.
Special mention post-match should go to: André Santos who scored the equalizing goal yesterday and who showed the team what taking your chances at goal means; Kieran Gibbs for that Champions League saving tackle (I’d bet that most Arsenal fans are already dying of terminal anxiety at that point of time); Koscielny for his intelligent flick for the third goal; Benayoun for being an invaluable player for the team; Szczęsny for his brilliant save during the match against a WBA attempt at goal from long range.
Still, there’s all summer to reshape the team for the upcoming campaign and…sign more players, hopefully. Van Persie is probably hoping for the club to make more signings before committing himself. It’s not necessarily only going to be in the form of Lukas Podolski (who should grace the pitch at the Emirates with his goal-scoring skills) and another defensive midfielder to provide competition for Alex Song who is obviously talented but is not putting in enough consistency to be part of a world-class setup. And yes, with Champions League football guaranteed, the club would find it a hell lot easier to attract the right players, provided that Man City and other rich clubs do not scupper the deal with inflated prices of their own doing.
Happy St. Totteringham’s Day as well to all who support the Arsenal – it fell on the last day of the season again but the Gunners could now go off and relax a bit but the Spuds have to sweat until next week to see if their other Blue London neighbours bottle up big-time against Bayern Munich. It was especially sweet – the Gunners had begun their campaign in shambles: losing their captain and some key players, THAT 8-2 defeat to the red cunts of Manchester (haha for losing the title in injury time to Citeh) and losing three other matches to Liverpool at home, Blackburn and the Spuds away by the start of October 2011. For the team to finish 3rd in the league may also be attributed to the Spuds and Newcastle screwing up when it matters most but the Arsenal did beat them in the final lap for the coveted 3rd place.
Until then, I hope the Arsenal would really keep van Persie at the club. To be honest, I’m not really sure he would stay – Wenger has been, so far, relatively unsuccessful at keeping top seasonal transfer targets safe from preying clubs – and RVP would surely earn much more money elsewhere but if there’s going to be a substantial change for once at the club, it is retaining this top player.