That was a very, very nervous experience made all the more intense by the fact that we were expected to win. Some how being the underdog in crucial games makes it just that little more bearable when a loss is inevitably considered before and during the game. But win we did and by doing so we secured the chance to play Champions League football next season which I believe makes it sixteen seasons on the trot, no mean feat when you consider just how desperate and disappointed those around us were at missing out again.
Does that introduction work? Nah, it was nail biting hell, ninety four minutes of torture before the release of the final whistle and the opportunity to laugh at the pained faces of those left wondering “if only” at White Hart Lane. That’s better, that’s more like the introduction that this game deserves.
It was in fact a very professional win, every player followed the game plan, nobody panicked, all of which lead to our just desserts safely being locked away at the home of football.
As I sit hear in the afterglow, looking back at the season I think it has to be said that the single most important decision made was that to drop Vermaelen. This is not meant as a poke at the Belgian, I am convinced he remains a very popular player amongst Arsenal supporters; it’s just that everything points to him being put on the bench as the spark that galvanised the defence.
Do any of you remember the debate that divided us over which centre back paring would be the most successful? Half the people said Vermaelen and Mertesacker and the other half said Vermalen and Koscielny, I was one of those arguing that the later combination would be more mobile. But I think it is fair to say no one argued for Mertesacker and Koscielny.
Well there you go, those two flanked by Gibbs, Nacho and Sagna have proved to be a very solid defensive unit indeed.
Did you notice how much more controlled Sagna was in his attacking play today, no wild crosses and solid as ever in his defensive duties.
I can’t finish the defence without giving Koscielny special attention; he was the standout player of the day and the Man of the Match by some distance. Koz, you have no idea how much happier you have made all of our summers; for you, your performance and your goal we salute you.
The midfield worked well together. Ramsey was immense and will rightly pick up the AA award for the most improved player. He started the season coming on as a sub on the right wing and did very well; he then got his chance to start in the middle and was poor, poor to the point of serious abuse. From there he disappeared back to the bench, reappearing after the spud loss to progress to being undroppable which is where he is today.
Sadly for our Spanish Captain couldn’t lead us to the end of the game but the Ox came on and added fire to the midfield belly. Have you noticed how well he and Walcott work together? Theo is the senior player and is able to tell the Ox exactly what he wants to happen, the upshot is that Theo plays with a greater confidence.
If I have one minor moan it would be that Rosicky was a bit sloppy by his usual high standards. Many will not like me saying this but I think we were a bit fortunate that Wilshere got injured when he did because if we had carried on playing the same way we did against spuds I believe we would not be in this happy position today. Rosicky is an attacking midfielder who interacts well with the most talented player we have at the club and Wilshere is nowhere near that yet.
And on the subject of the most talented player at the club I am sure we are all agreed that the AA award for best player of the season goes to Cazorla, he ran his socks off again and boy what a great buy he turned out to be.
Podolski, not being so brilliant in the air, forces Sagna and Gibbs to send the ball into the box along the ground rather than hoofing it high which is one of my pet hates; his tally of assists this season is very impressive. As to whether he is the answer to our number nine issues I neither know nor care today, I am just pleased with our not quite so BFG.
It was a good day to be an Arsenal supporter, we need to push on from here with some quality summer signings but I will leave you with my favourite image of the day. Remember the end of the game when the Sky cameras went over to White Hart Lane? Well think of despair of their faces and chuckle.
Have a great day.
Written by LB
Following on from LB’s excellent report Rocky would like to offer these player ratings:
Szczesny: little to do but exuded confidence. 7
Sagna: very solid performance. He still seems a fraction slower than before his leg breaks but he defended well against Newcastle. 7
Gibbs: got pulled out of position a bit in the first 20, but played very well thereafter. 7.5
Mertesacker: typically good showing from the BFG. He is one of the best CB’s in the EPL. 8
Koscielny: a perfect performance at the back, augmented by as coring the all-important winning goal. 9 (MOTM)
Arteta: it was clearly a risk starting him, but he played with his usual efficiency before having to retire with injury early doors. 7
Rosicky: not everything came off for TR7 but he was involved in some of our best moves and his work rate was incredible. 7.5
Ramsey: phenomenal effort as we’ve come to expect. Some of his best work is unspectacular and, therefore, is missed by many. An invaluable player on the day. 8
Cazorla: drifted out at times but was a persistent threat to Newcastle and fought very hard for the cause. 8
Walcott: plenty of effort and skill from Theo, who was double- or triple-teamed throughout. It was a relief that his late effort that hit the post after great solo play did not turn out costly. 8
Podolski: Lukas was up for this one and fought hard in both attack and defence. Got a head on the ball to set up Koscielny’s winner. 7.5
Oxlade- Chamberlain: it was a surprise when Oxo slotted in to the holding midfield role vacated boyar teat, but hE did well. 7.5
Giroud: his hold-up play was good and his presence helped see us through to kids debating. 7
Wilshere: not time enough to do anything special. 7