The Final Countdown Begins

twn

The final weekend of the Premier League season is upon us, the drama stretched for another 36 hours to suit the Sunday television schedule. Confidence going into the match is probably at its highest. A decent spell of results, if not always performances, has bred optimism in the fans. It has been an almost reverse to what you would have expected; nervousness before Wigan, bullishness now. It is curious that the last game of the season was viewed more positively than the last home game.

Twice – 1993/94 and 1999/2000 – Arsenal have played at St James Park on the last day of the season, both have ended in defeat, 0 – 2 and 2 – 4 respectively. Neither game had anything riding on them. Arsenal could not finish any higher than 4th or 2nd in either case, nor could they finish any lower. History in this case, is bunk.

It has been a rare occurrence that the final day result has actually meant anything. On the quartet of occasions in his reign when results have mattered, Arsène has been able to motivate the team to produce the right outcome; a win. Confidence can be borne of that experience, as can complacency but this time, it feels a little different. Defeat on Tyneside – when it matters – would have a negative impact on the players going into next season. Having worked hard to be masters of their own destiny, it would be a fairly bruising blow to make a pig’s ear of it and put themselves into the Europa League next year. That is key for tomorrow, their own vested interest. It is more than just finishing as high as you can; each utterance about European football is always in the context of the Champions League, as Arsène himself noted,

What is at stake is a desire to stay at the top. To play top-level European football. There is a difference between the Champions League and Europa League. The Champions League features the best teams. That’s what we want to do. The financial consequences are big but that is not the most important thing for me.

If they fail to qualify for the Champions League, you can bet that the Arsenal players will be looking forward to the challenge of the Europa League and of what difficult sides, what good teams, lie in wait.

Wenger believes the players are in the right frame of mind to produce the win, you would not expect anything less in that sense. Theo Walcott suggested earlier this week that there was an iron fist inside the velvet glove during the half-time break against Wigan. Whatever the rocket delivered, it had the desired effect. Once they had settled into their rhythm, the visitors could not cope with Arsenal’s attack. That response was one of the better performances in a while. At this stage of the season, arguably the performance is nowhere near as important as the result.

For years, a common complaint has been that Arsenal could not grind out results, play badly and win. The minute that they do, the performance suddenly becomes more important. Of course performances matter to some degree. To turn up every week and be shambolic is not likely to produce any sort of consistency in results over weeks or months. It is often overlooked that the current Premier League run is one defeat in fifteen games. Not every performance can obliterated opponents, in the same way that not every result was scraped out; the balance was somewhere in the middle.

The metaphorical handbrake has been applied on several occasions, particularly away from home. It has seemed as if there was a strong desire not to lose, not to concede, has been the overriding philosophy on entering the pitch. Take the sting out of your opponents by not conceding early. Eleven goals in fifteen games is impressive enough but does not shout about the seven clean sheets. When you don’t concede, winning is made a bit easier. The attack does suffer but by comparison, not that much. Last season saw 74 Premier League goals scored, with one game to go, 71 this time around. Goals are shared amongst the team more readily, the over-reliance on one player eschewed. Of course, the season is not linear, individual results can skew goal difference in either direction. Like all headline statistics, they reflect glory and mask problems all in one go.

What they have done is begin to create a feeling of, invincibility is too strong a word, but certainly of resilience, to use Arsène’s favoured descriptor.

Winning tomorrow is all that matters, anything else relies on Tottenham capitulating as in previous seasons. I do not hold out any hope of that, di Canio’s fighting words are as empty as Pardew’s flippancy. Sunderland will go to White Hart Lane hoping to win but concede a goal? They will collapse in the same way that teams have done so to Arsenal on previous occasions. No reliance can be placed upon the failings of others. It will be their own work by which Arsenal stand or fall.

’til Tomorrow.

40 thoughts on “The Final Countdown Begins

  1. At the end 3 maximum points is all we want,whether Tottenham collapse or not,it wouldnt matter,i pray we can build on these few weeks result for next season,if we don’t capitalise on our other rivals managerial changes,i wonder when we would……………………………we can do it,lets do it

  2. “The iron fist inside the velvet glove”
    This IMO was not the catalyst for our win last game. I thought Wigan were the best team for the first 10 minutes of the 2nd half. It was only after that Secz save that we really got going.
    For what it’s worth I don’t think we’ll win tomorrow but neither do I think will the spuds. Therefore the season will be hailed as a “success”. Personally I don’t think it has apart from Cazorlla.

  3. Quite frankly Yogi I don’t give a s**** what way it works out so long as we get that CL spot. Unlike some other posters I DO believe its important not only for the club but also for us the fans.

  4. CL its the greatest thing with the autumn. Footy all week, CL matches. It so so so great to get home from a boring day at work, a wedensday or a tuesday and knowing it does not matter because tonight my team plays CL!

    i dont care who we play in the group stage, i enjoy football, and i enjoy arsenal. I love seeing us play.

    I want CL. Simples.

  5. Anyone saying they dont care about CL are lying. I mean imaging coming home from a boring day at work and having to listen to the pundints on telly jizz over Bale?

    i got sick in my mouth already….

  6. 3 points that’s what matters and the only thing that matters. Yogi you have been brilliant all season and while it has been a strange season for the Arsenal you have been world class.

    I think we will get the necessary points tomorrow.

    @JD

    I disagree as I think Theo’s season has been a succes, we have seen him become a 20 goal scorer not to mention has scored massive goals to help get us in this position.

  7. C, after I posted I thought about that and I agree Theo has showed a marked improvement on his previous seasons at the club.

  8. Hi everyone,

    The Guardian says that only 4 EPL players have both 10+ goals AND 10+ assists: 2 are Santi and Theo – which says something about the flexibility of our forward play. It also shows Theo in a good light, although the impression is he has more often been less influential than Santi.

    I don’t really care but I idly wonder who the other 2 are?

  9. For me, it’s Sp*rs being the other team which is causing such anxiety and dread.

    If we were facing missing out on CL to a resurgent Liverpool, or an over achieving Everton, I would still be massively disappointed but perhaps not devastated. Missing out to the enemy, finishing below them and handing them Cl football in the process however, is a thought too much to stomach.

    I know many on here say they don’t give a shit about finishing above the spuds, that our own success is all that matters, but to a large degree I correlate our success with finishing above our neighbours: a relatively big club with a talented squad but ultimately a smaller, lesser club than The Arsenal in every way. Are lowest league position should now always be a minimum of one above theirs, such has been our hegemonic dominance over the past two decades.

    The last 7 years or so have borne witness to them cranking up the volume and getting nosier and nosier; it’s about time someone called the environmental health and shut them down, or up as the case may be.

    I just really hope that regardless of how tomorrow goes, the powers that be recognise that we are no longer shoo-ins for the top four, and the only way to ensure that we are is to enable Wenger to build a squad capable of actually winning the league. Now, this still may actually result in us coming fourth, as Chelski, Citeh and Utd will all undoubtedly expect to be vying for the top spots, but if we are only single figures behind the team at the top, those in 5th and 6th will be a mere afterthought.

    07/08 We reached 83 points, finished 3rd, 4 points behind the champions and 18 points clear of 5th. That’s almost 6 years ago now.

    Regardless of tomorrow’s outcome, a season of this ilk has to be the target.

    COYG!!!!!1

  10. HTL

    Rooney and Mata.

    Although there are several players who are round about these figures.

    RVP for example has 8 assists, but 25 goals, Podolski 9 and 11 etc.

  11. Matt@11:50- agree completely. Regardless of what happens tomorrow, the powers that be should realise that the team has not challenged for honours for a while now and there is need to beef up the squad with real quality. Otherwise what is the point of fighting tooth and nail to get into the CL and then get knocked out by the first decent team we play?

  12. Theo has 20 goals and 18 assists 😀 Hes the highest scoring Englishman across all competitions this year. Not bad for a guy with “No football brain”.

  13. MGK
    Thanks.
    I’m one who hasn’t been too fussed about finishing above Spuds, per se – but that’s mainly because that’s been a given… I actually loath ManUre much more (they’ve, after all, cheated us of 2 or 3 titles and various other teams too…) and latterly Chels… But anyway right now our season being a (very minor) success or failure and finishing above them are entirely the same thing!
    COYG indeed!!!

  14. HTL

    That’s the worry, on average, over the last 7 years the spuds have emerged as our closest rivals – this will be the third season in 7 years where our final league positions will be decided on the final day of the season. It used to be a given, but of late our rivalry has been of a genuine nature.

    If we start to challenge for the league again, spuds will again become an inconsequential irritant, but while we continue to amass around the 70 point mark, we’ll perennially be under threat from them, and any other decent team who has a season. Newcastle last season, Spuds and Everton (for a while)this …

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not whining about what we’ve managed over the previous 8 years, just stating that this has to be the last season of hoping that 70 points will be enough to see us through another season of debt management.

    God I hope we win tomorrow!!!!

  15. @Poodle

    Not just “no fútbol brain” but only has pace and that’s all.

    If you think about it, Theo has been very influential in our season, when Arsene finally lethim play he was scoring regularly qwhen we needed goals then in the middle of the season when Giroud and Podolski seemed to find their shooting boots he was assisting and then now when we needed results and goals the most to fight back into CL he has stood up and been accounted for.

  16. Yup, what MGK said.

    I DEMAND to have my St Totteringhams Day! It’s a familiar year in, year out tradition.

    As much a part of my calendar as pancake day or Guy Fawke’s.

    My Oxford-dwelling, tee-total half-brother is a STH Spud which is adding a certain frisson of spice to the season’s end.

    He wouldn’t be shy of a sly dig or two and, without encouragement, he already naturally carries and unbearable air of smugness – so it’s unconscionable that they should take our place at Europe’s biggest table.

    Unconscionable I say!

  17. But really, we were in the same situation last year. We HAD to win last match to get into CL. 4th spot was not good enough last year. If we had lost that match Tottenham would have snatched it right infront of us. That was also an away game. to WBA.

    Tottenham won their game and we won our. so we got the CL spot.
    I can see the same happen this year too…
    If we play our best we will be in the CL next year.

  18. @
    One could also say Walcott is doing exactly what he trousers 100k/week for. If 4th place is the basic minimum requirement for the team, I would expect 10 assists and 20 goals as the basic minimum for Walcott.

  19. The more I think about our season as a whole, I wouldn’t and shouldn’t have expected anything less than this. Its been a true up and down season all culminating in a last day were we NEED to win and get the result to make CL but at the same time if the Chavs draw and we score enough we could either have a playoff or overtake then for 3rd on GD.

  20. You’re spot on MGK – the last three seasons one could argue that we have been a team in transition due to the number of high profile departures and late additions to the team – we have been in a state of constant flux, recovering from traumatic summers and entering each season in a state of mild disarray. It has been far from ideal.

    Arguably our squad has been light in key areas so we have also been a hostage to injury and, this season aside, we have not had any luck on that front.

    Next season I think represents a golden opportunity to reverse the decline. The key components of the squad are signed up on new deals. With the exception of Sagna no one is likely to leave and, crucially, no one is agitating and creating unrest. AW can at last unload some non-contributing salaries and, with the new corporate deals in place, can focus on adding to a stable squad.

    The requirements are not open for much debate and the task is clear – it’s time for AW to fill the holes and push us back to being an 80+ team.

    I believe he can do it – but my one fear s hat he may let his frugal nature get the better of him. I think all the signs point to this being the right time for us to be bolder in the transfer market.

    The fans want some ‘magic’ back in the team, some signings to get really excited about but it would be a great lift for the team too.

  21. @Highbury

    Fair enough no doubt but also taking into a count him not playing early in the season and then the overall team struggles I would say success. For me its not just the goals because there was always this sense that he could get goals it when the goals happened, the past couple of matches he has scored a goal often it being our only goal. Those are massive goals under a large amount of pressure due to us fighting to het a shot at CL and now having it firmly in our own hands.

  22. I get that people are frustrated about the dry spell, but seriously in that time we have built a new stadium and reduced the debt to a manageable level. As part of the build we were tied in to long term contracts which were not market rate as the years went by. The club felt the need to manage their finances closely and in so doing a determination was made that Arsenal were not in the market for expensive talent. If you look back at the departures of high profile names all wanted to go, they gave the club no choice and yet many fans still blame the club, as if no other influences were/are at play.

    In that time we have seen the landscape change with mega rich owners taking hobbist attitudes to other teams in the league. Arsenal however even under the ownership of a mega rich man themselves continue to operate as a going concern.

    The shackles are failing starting to come off and still people are complaining about what we are competing for. The club have signed two ‘world class’ sponsorship deals, enabling them to better compete at the top table, yet the patience of some is long since exhausted and no matter what is done now it is just complaint.

    We should all be looking ahead, not back.

  23. Agree totally about Theo – I have never for a second doubted that boy. Delighted that he is proving many ‘so-called’ experts totally wrong.

    I would not be surprised to see him take it to another level next season – though the new RB signing will be vital so that he is freed up to express himself and make attacking forays.

  24. MA

    “The shackles are failing starting to come off and still people are complaining about what we are competing for”

    Who on here today is complaining?

    Most of what you’ve said is not only understood, but is accepted and has been said many times before by most contributing above.

    The point is that this season needs to be officially the end of the “we built The Emirates” chapter, and the beginning of a new, “This is The Emirates” chapter.

    People will look forward when the “two ‘world class’ sponsorship deals” translate to a few ‘world class’ signings /’world class’ investment on the pitch. Regardless of whether we finish 4th of 5th, next season must be the start of something new.

    Personally, I think we’ll win tomorrow and finish 4th, but finishing 5th must not be used as an excuse for not pushing on.

  25. @Jonny

    You and me mate are of the few who have constantly defended Theo. Every year he grows and adds to his overall game and grows more consistent. Next season I completely agree with him taking it up yet another level and truly starting to become unplayable.

    I truly think another year with Podolski and Santi will play huge divendeds as well. Santi for his ability to pick a pass and play the perfect ball for Theo to run onto and Podolski for his ability on the left wing that will keep teams from overloading to either the right orthe left thus freeing up the space. We should also see his assist rate go up as well with Podolski back left making those back post runs that spook often don’t get made by anybody but Podolski.

  26. We have a real good shot at third place if Chelsea loses or win and Chelsea ties and thus a playoff is force. All we can do is take care of our side of the street! WIN BABY WIN! The late Al Davis owner of the Oakland Raiders said. I am sad the season is done. My wife and I watch the games together. My wife is from Brasil and she’s an Arsenal. She says that the EPL plays the best futebol. I’ll have both TV’s on One tuned to the guys and the other Spurs-Black Cats Match. I think Rooney would be a great addition to our club.

  27. Yogi, with the title of your piece i’m surprised you didn’t fit in a reference to the song by Europe as it would have been entirely appropriate.
    Regardless of the results tomorrow, I feel our time is coming, we are a big club and on the brink of something we have been missing for a while. A summer of stability and some additions makes my mouth water for next season.
    Tomorrow I see a somewhat nervy win.

  28. Right, who’s playing tomorrow then?

    I suppose there’s only two real decisions up for debate: who replaces Arteta and whether or not Giroud comes straight back in.

    I for one know that I haven’t got a clue, either what I would do, or what the boss will decide.

    Can Wilshere perform the Arteta holding role?

    I’ve seen some suggest that Santi, Tomas, and Rambo occupy the central berths, but as good as Rosiky is, I’m not sure he’ll want to say goal side of the ball all afternoon – which we need someone to do.

    Really interesting interviews on arsenal player. There’s one of Arteta on A360 (about 15 mins in) talking about how he has had to adapt his game to be the holding player. This interview has given me a new found respect for Mikel – top player and a real asset.

    Th other is with Jack, who makes it pretty clear that he’s disappointed by not being played, which is a good sign, as it suggests he feels up to the task.

    Perhaps he can seize the moment and prove that he can be trusted to sit and protect when needed.

    JW

    http://player.arsenal.com/player/3660-wilshere-on-newcastle

    Arteta

    http://player.arsenal.com/player/3661-arsenal-360

  29. To make it clear, I’m not suggesting that Rosiky doesn’t play (he must), just that a midfield of him, Rambo and Santi could lack a defensive edge.

    Maybe Poldi drops to the bench and Santi starts left, Giroud through the centre? Poldi never plays 90 anyway, so it might make more sense to bring him one with 30mins to go if we need to score.

    Just a thought.

  30. Any of you ladies attend any decent Arsenal messageboards? The one I’ve been using is turning me into a rude, cranky asshole and I think I need to move on.

    Yes, I’m that sad.

  31. @MKG

    Podolski must start because we NEED goals especially coming off his brace this past weekend. We NEED goals and a goal threate and dropping Podolski isn’t the idea situation. Not sure what midfield would be best but I know dropping Podolski isn’t a good idea at all.

  32. If we are looking for more defensive solidarity without Arteta in the lineup there could always be a possibility for Gibbs ahead of Monreal on the left flank to make sure the midfield only really has to worry about covering breaks on one side of the pitch.

    I don’t suspect we will see that, but it is an option.

  33. I think it is more likely that we will see Poldi this front line:

    Theo—-Giroud—–Poldi

    I still think that is our most effective front line.

  34. Great post yogi. Thanks.

    Agree with MGK. Lots of questions about the past and whether or not we could or should have spent more then we did. However there can be no questions about the future. Now is the time.

Comments are closed.