Well wasn’t that a fun way to end the season, eh? No? You mean you don’t enjoy chewing your fingernails down to their stubby ends? You don’t like watching the clock tick down so slowly that it appears to have stopped altogether? You can’t stand those last few minutes when we look like we should keep possession but invariably gift it back to our opponents? How strange.
All sarcasm aside, yesterday was painful at times, watching and waiting for our status as entrants into next season’s qualifying stage of the Champions League to be confirmed. I feel like I’ve aged about four or five years based on that second half against Newcastle. But after the first 45 gave us nothing but frustration from a clearly nervous Arsenal side, at least the second half produced a goal – however scrappy from a set piece by Koscienly – and the eventual euphoria that comes as the full time whistle blows.
The visible relief and joy of the players was mirrored in the stands, as the away section of St James’ Park broke out into delightful song of ‘Tottenham, mind the gap, Tottenham, Tottenham mind the gap’ and a delicious rendition of ‘Its happened again, it’s happened again, Tottenham Hotspur, it’s happened again’. For after all, if victory and securing forth place isn’t sweet enough, it was made all the more delectable that it was achieved at the expense of our neighbours. Again.
There is no Schadenfreude in this victory because we know what we would have been faced with had we not qualified. We know what their lot sang when we lost at White Hart Lane to make our season look all but over. We’ve seen the photoshopped images of the ‘Mind the Gap’ signs be trotted out once again. And yesterday we got to revel in the false dawn that erupted at White Hart Lane when they thought Newcastle had equalised, then finding out that the ‘ghost goal’ never was, which was brilliant to see after I got back from the match.
And do you know what also makes me smile? Thinking about all of those bitter ex-Spurs players who decided that actually this didn’t mean that much and that Arsenal were over the top in their celebrations. As if they wouldn’t have been the same should their former team pip Arsenal to that fourth spot. Gary Lineker’s bitterness was music to my ears, saying ‘Arsenal win their trophy for the 16th season in a row’. Oh dear Gary, is somebody a little upset because his team didn’t win? It was also lovely to see people like Jamie Redknapp so disappointed. He who had bizarrely written an article saying that the Spurs squad was better than Arsenal’s, then in the same article saying that the Spurs squad – Bale aside – had let the club down and hadn’t played their part well enough. Yeah, work that one out…
We’ve heard all season about how that lot ‘deserve’ fourth spot. Well now hang on a second, I thought the object of this competition was to accumulate the most points by winning more games than other teams and amassing more points as a result. If that still is the case – and please let me know if it isn’t any more – then I’m pretty sure that Arsenal beat Tottenham by being the better team, winning more games, scoring more goals and also conceding a lot less. So I’m not having any of this ‘deserved to get it’ rubbish unless we’ve got factual evidence to prove it, which Arsenal obviously do.
Yesterday we saw what this Arsenal team is all about. Grit and determination in abundance and sometimes making up for the creative and ‘flair’ Arsenal of years gone by. In the first half we were poor and up against a Newcastle side that had no fear. They had the better of the chances and the majority of the play was spent in Arsenal’s half. Both Cisse and Ben Arfa probably should have scored, but thankfully their collective profligacy allowed us to get in at half time level. We looked ponderous and leggy. The decision to risk Arteta was proven to be a naive one, as the Spaniard didn’t last half an hour, but his replacement Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had a good game I thought. Rambo was frustrating at times and his passing left a lot to be desired of, but his work-rate cannot be questioned, so I’ll not chastise him too much. In defence we looked solid enough but going forward was ‘one of those days’. Poldi, Cazorla and Walcott never really got a hold of the game in that first half, and for the goal aside, didn’t really impact the Newcastle back four as much as we’d have liked them too. But hey, today is not a day for too much analysis on the part of individual players. Today is a day to recognise that the team have done their jobs.
There will be plenty of time to dissect the season over the coming days and weeks and so I’ll save my thoughts on the whole season for now, but it is good to bask in the glow that we have achieved at least the bare minimum this season, so now what we need is a pre-season of strengthening to ensure that we don’t repeat the Groundhogginess of the last two seasons.
Enjoy the gloating Gooners, wherever you are today.