So third place is once more in Arsenal’s hands, the reluctant Masters Of Their Own Destiny. The combination of results yesterday was barely credible and yet unsurprising with the inability of either Newcastle or Tottenham to take advantage of Arsenal’s draw on Saturday indicative of the lack of mental strength, certainly of the latter.
Throughout the season, the squad has shown the character to comeback when results have gone against them. That mental strength needs to be summoned once more, for one final match to ensure Champions League participation for next season in their own right rather than waiting on the failure of others. And that cannot be relied on for as much as FC Bayern are favourites to beat Chelsea with the pressure on them to win in their own stadium is immense, circumstances which may counter-balance the home advantage.
Quite why there is such reticence on the parts of Arsenal, Newcastle, Tottenham or Chelsea to finish third is baffling. Each has had the opportunities to make the position their own, none more so than Tottenham. Is it a question of quality or are today’s footballers incapable of managing the pressure? Perhaps some of the club’s wage bill would be better spent employing a set of sports psychologists. They do? Oh…
Football is littered with teams labelled as ‘bottlers’. Manchester City in 1972/73 faltered with the signing of Rodney Marsh, Newcastle with Faustino Asprilla’s arrival and any number of Manchester United sides post-1968 and pre-Premier League era. Who knows will Mancini’s City join them? Certainly none of the teams in the hunt for 3rd to 5th are in this category but relatively speaking, failure could be quite damaging. Noises coming from all of the clubs are of Summer clearouts or key players leaving. Not shouting out that you are staying means Mr Star Player that you are leaving. Sign your new contract in blood for added loyalty.
Routinely we are told that this is the Worst Squad In Living Memory. Those making such claims haven’t been alive that long, this is still light years ahead of the mid-1970s, post-Brady pre-Graham 1980s and 1994-95. Finish third – yes that is progress if last season was fourth – and goals conceded will be the problem. Remove the freak occurrence at Old Trafford and they have actually conceded less goals per game than last season, barely creeping over a goal per game.
A point will equal last season’s points total. Even now with one game to go, the squad has equalled the lowest points total of Wenger’s reign. Match Tottenham’s result on Sunday will give them third place such is the vast superiority over Newcastle’s goal difference. Not even goal average could save the Geordies on that occasion.
The solution to all of this is Clint Dempsey. Possibly although this seems to make little sense with attacking midfielders not a high priority surely? Unless the American is deemed to be more desirable in footballing terms than Yossi Benayoun. Quite simply unless sales are made, there will not be space for him. Equally goalscoring is not the issue at the moment with the Worst Squad In Living Memory on course to score more than The Invincibles. All of which underlines the futility of making historical comparisons, the only statistics that matter are this season’s not last. And no judgement can be fully passed until the final whistle next weekend, statistically speaking at least and a lot of these are being thrown around at the moment.
To paraphrase Blur, modern football is rubbish and Arsenal are intent on proving it with the new kit reverting to 1993/94 season’s sleeves. They weren’t very popular at the time either. Beware Arsenal playing the long ball game next season, it would be a historical forewarning of the end of the Wenger era, following the path trodden by Don Howe and George Graham.
A moment of clarity where clarity most often strikes, pinpointed my discontent: the blue colour just ruins it, providing the visual focus as to why this is simply not an Arsenal shirt. Looking at the long-sleeved version, I should imagine that even the Fancy Dans who wear gloves in cold weather will be praying that the tradition of the Arsenal captain wearing the sleeves involves the shorter version; they are quite simply ghastly. Oh, and when you have explain that the obsidian hoops on the sleeve are blue, it is blue unless of course you are disappearing up your own arsenal-hole at a rapid rate of knots. Ask Bono, he’s an expert on that one. One final thought; why is AFC printed on the back in the embroidery style of you gran’s 1970 knitting patterns? What next, Arsenal Rally jackets?
The club’s contract with Nike is often cited as a bone of contention, particularly with other clubs profiting from their largesse. Nike are not stupid; this is clearly a ploy to draw attention away from that by coming up with an abominable design. Quite what Ken Friar makes of this is unknown; he was vocal in the 1970s in criticising clubs who change their kits to incorporate commercial designs, quite rightly believing it would be exploitation of the fans to change the kits on a whim. Which is exactly what clubs do now.
Finally, over at Arsenal On This Day it’s a title celebration once more. And in keeping with this week, it’s last day title drama. This is Arsenal after all and we never knowingly do things the easy way.