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Sunday, 4 May 2014

Meet The New Boss, Same As The Old Boss

On checking my programme prior to Sunday’s final home game of the season, I noted the statement that the players would remain on the pitch following the final whistle for their customary lap of appreciation, rather than disappearing off to the dressing room before returning to fulfill this obligatory display of mutual appreciation. I must admit that it did occur to me to question whether this decision had been taken for fear that there might have been none of us left in our seats, if there’d been a delay before the players returned onto the pitch.

I also read Le Prof’s comments in his programme notes about us looking more dangerous at set pieces and these seemed particularly prescient when, despite the opposition’s rugby style roughhousing at corners, Giroud bullied the Baggies defender to get his head onto Cazorla’s corner, deciding this result after a mere 14 mins, in just about the only significant moment of a typically dour end of season affair.

In fact such was the festive mood that the beachballs were out on the terraces early doors, obviously entertaining fourth official Phil Dowd more than events on the pitch. And they might as well have been playing with one of these, considering most of the participants minds already appeared to be more focused on their beach entertainment this summer.

Nevertheless, despite this non-event of a contest and the reports of there being large numbers of seriously miffed Gooners, who’ve yet to be offered a Cup Final ticket in the ballot, there was little, or no evidence of any of the vociferous dissension that’s been increasingly evident on the Interweb all season long. Oh for the scrupulous days of yesteryear, when Arsenal supporters were guaranteed a seat at Wembley by a club that limited season ticket sales to the number of Cup Final tickets.

We enjoyed more entertainment post match, from all the little darlings amongst the sizable herd of the players’ progeny, shepherded onto the pitch by their dads. Aided by a win, on a gloriously warm afternoon and the possibility of ending our silverware drought in a couple of weeks time (not to mention the remarkable feat of retaining our seat at Europe’s top table for a 17th successive season, for all the mockery of Arsène’s 4th place prize!), the staunch show of support as the players strolled around in the sunshine, to the tune of “Bakari Sagna, we want you to stay” all seemed considerably more enthusiastic than many of the more perfunctory and less deserving end of season rituals in recent years of frustrating under-achievement.

Mind you, I’m none too keen on the prevailing mood of all those who seem to have decided that the Gunners need only turn up at Wembley to secure our first trophy in nine long seasons and I pray our players are not infected by this air of complacency come 17th May, as I couldn’t possibly bear the thought of us catching a resulting cold, in a repeat of the League Cup debacle against the Brummies.

In contrast to the Toon fans protesting about Pardew last Monday night, the “Arsène out” brigade were noticeable by their absence this weekend. Unlike Abou Diaby, who returned from the “missing list” for the first time in 14 long months. With his bad luck, I was waiting for the hapless Diaby to hurt himself merely warming up as a sub!

While Wenger’s critics might contend that our club’s cash cow will merely be papering over the cracks with the upturn in our end of season form, the consensus of more optimistic opinion on the other side of this coin seems to suggest that if we can manage the minor miracle of keeping the likes of Diaby fit for more than the odd game, along with other influential players such as Walcott, Wilshere, the Ox and Ramsey, we might only require a couple of shrewd signings and the increased influence of Mezut Özil as our midfield playmaker grows more accustomed the rigours of Premiership football, for us to be able to offer a more genuine title challenge.


My litmus test for our leader’s tenure has always been whether Tottenham fans would be glad to see the back of Wenger. As this season’s finishing line hoves into view, I can’t help but think about quite how ecstatic our old enemy would be, to be enduring such woes at White Hart Lane.

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