There it is people. One of the most painful season I can remember in a long time. Over. Finished. See you later. Consigned to forgettable history.
There are positives though. We finished in third place. That has been our goal since February. We also over turned Spurs. Which again, was a massive achievement considering how far ahead of us they were and how well they were playing. Sure it took a huge collapse from them. So what though? It took an equally huge collapse from United for Manchester City to win the league. Do any of their support base care? Of course not...
Anyway... onto the game. I'm not going to go into too much detail because I can't be bothered today. What's the point. The season is done. We can all see what needs to be done... if the coach and Steve Bould can't... well, it'd just be like every other summer for the past few years.
The main changes to the line up were Andre Santos and Coquelin coming into the line up. Sitting the game out were Kieran Gibbs and Aaron Ramsey. Those changes both made sense. Gibbs has been in pretty poor form and Ramsey hasn't been in good form all season.
The game got off to an absolute flyer, much in the same way it did against Norwich the week prior. Yossi chased an over hit Robin through ball, Fulop came rushing out of the area to clear it, last minute he changed his mind about levelling the ball, let it roll into the area, mistimed his pick up, Yossi nipped in and passed into an empty net! A superb start!
Well, like last week, it didn't last very long to lose the advantage. WBA went on the attack straight away down the other end and forced a good near post save from Fortune. Coquelin lost posession about 3 times in the space of 5 minutes and the whole defence looked nervy. Then it came, a ball straight through the middle, our defence was all over the place, Long was offside by about a yard... Chezzer came out for him, then dropped back into no mans land... Long slipped home. Hapless defending regardless of whether Long was on or offside.
It didn't take long to find ourselves a goal down. This time from a speculative long ball that was pretty poor. Dorrans managed to win the header, pick up the second ball and bang it past Chesney. Shocking positioning from everyone. Pitiful that we'd conceded our 49th goal of the season against a team who have been hopless in front of goal this year.
The team were incredibly nervous, but worse than that, in the main, mostly uinterested. This was Pat Rice's last game in charge and they players had no urgency about them. The passing was off, no one was making runs and WBA were giving us problems. Luckily for us, they were just as shaky at the back. Our chance came when Alex Song broke up play in the final third, Santos was on hand to pick up the ball, make an advance run and smash home past the weak wrist of Fulop. A great finish, but it's not hard to see why our defence is such a shambles when our left back is standing in an attacking midfielders position.
Gervinho was typcially hopeless all of the first half. He's world class at getting into great positions, he's even better at fluffing his end product. Much like Glen Helder was back in the day.
The second half supposedly saw a positive change. Rosicky went off for Theo Walcott. The game certainly needed an injection of something. Shame he gave us nothing.
Santos had a rasping shot that went narrowly over. Down the other end, Jenkinson continued to show that he's not cut out for top flight football at Arsenal when he was turned inside out by the very average Fortune. My heart was in my mouth everytime someone went near Jenkinson... he's a penalty waiting to happen.
Our moment came though. It came from one of the worst pieces of keeping I've seen in a long time. A poor cross was whipped into the box from a Robin corner. The keeper rushed out to punch it clear, he was nudged by Greening, slipped and punched it backwards, Koscielny was on hand to clip the ball into the net. What a relief... could we keep a second half clean sheet though?
We could, but my god, we didn't make it easy. Robin Van Persie ended up clearing a header off the line. Moments later, Andrews was given the freedom of the edge of our area and rifled a shot at our goal that was well turned away by our keeper. There was another ridiculous moment when the ball headed down the left and the only player covering was Yossi. Another example of the total disregard our team have for defending.
The decisive piece of defending in the game came when the ball slipped into our area, West Brom were in on goal and Gibbs flew in with a supreme sliding tackle to block the shot! Absolutely amazing last ditch defending.
I think the irony of the second half of the WBA game was that we're the greatest team in posession when we're chasing a game. If we're defending a lead, we can't hold onto the ball for love nor Champions League football. If you're winning and you need the points. Slow it down. Chezzer comes out and claims a cross, then throws it to the other keeper. Instead of playing posession football in the final third, we're whipping aimless crosses into the box. It really is awful to watch.
Still, we held on. We finished above Spurs by a point and we took that automatic space for the Champions League. Considering how shocking our start, middle and end was... I'll take that.
There were some nice moments yesterday. it was good to say goodbye to Pat Rice on a contextual high. He's been a great servant to the club and he deserved to go out like he did yesterday. There was a moment in the game when Arsene hugged into him when we'd missed a chance. Whatever people think about his performance as an assistant over the last few season, the guy bleeds red and white and he's done many great things for us.
Overall though, yesterday was exactly how we wanted the season to end. We took third place in stuttery fashion. We haven't convinced at all over the last 6 games and we're only where we are because the teams below us were equally bad. Does that matter? No. But it matters that we couldn't take further advantage of their poor form as stretch out a substantial lead over Spurs, Newcastle and Chelsea.
It's perfect. Wenger has to have seen that the squad is about 6 players away from competing for the big trophy next year. He has to see that some of our players are no where near Arsenal standard at the moment and he has to act. He has 2 more seasons at the club in my opinion (on his terms). I don't think he'll stay longer than his contract. He'll want to go out on a high. We are not an injured players return and 2 signings away from making up a disgraceful 19 points.
What was worse this year is our defensive record. 49 goals conceded is so far beyond a joke it makes me want to cry.
31 -37 - 41 - 43 - 49
Those numbers aren't this weeks lottery winners. That's our defensive record over the last 5 years. Each summer Wenger has promised to address how we defend, each of the following seasons we've found ourselves worse off. This year has to be the last time our system and team discipline is ignored. We need to learn how to defend as a unit. We need to have defenders who love keeping clean sheets and we need far more communication at the back. Steve Bould has a mighty job on his hand, but he needs to be strong. No one wins the league conceding such a huge amount of goals.
In the player department yesterday, it was amazing that our best player was once again Yossi Benayoun. We need players like him around our squad. We need players who give a crap every game. He was inventive, he chased down every ball and he was a threat all game. We need workers like him who are gifted technically. Our best player this year outside Robin was Arteta. Again, not world class, but an incredibly hard worker with a technical gift. I think Podolski fits that mould as well. Some serious consideration needs to be given to the whole of our squad.
We can't go into next year with the excuse of not being able to move players on. We need to force them out if they won't go. Players who are young won't want to rot in our reserves next year. What would be the point. If you're not playing, you're killing your chance of getting the best possible contract when you hit your mid-twenties.
Anyway, his comments after the game about 3rd making buying and keeping players easier was positive. Robin's comments didn't look too great... but we'll see. If he goes, he goes. It'll be upsetting, but watching Giroud over the past few games gives me hope that there are other strikers out there who can do a job. Look at Falcao and Cavani... and all the others ripping it up in Europe.
[twitter-follow screen_name='LeGrove' show_count='yes']
Anyway, that's it for today... we can go into the summer with bragging rights over Spurs in tact. Let's pray for a good summer!
P.S. I just wanted to say thanks to everyone who has read the site, followed our Twitter account and got involved in the comments. It's been a rocky old season, but you guys have made it so much more bearable than it would have been. It's a pleasure writing for you and humbling that you still come here to read what we churn out everyday.
We salute you!