King Koscielny allows a St Totteringham's Day celebration
Thank God it's over. I haven't enjoyed this season at all really. It's been a slog through a very long and very cold winter. Arsenal were largely poor with the same old errors and same old frustrations. However, by hook or by crook (I don't want to write too lyrically about it at this stage as I'll be writing a season review at some point this week) the players and the Manager turned it around in the last ten games to mean that once again we finished above Tottenham. The added bonus of not playing on Thursday nights is more than a pleasant one. The sight of Arsenal players and fans celebrating (more on that below) and Tottenham players and fans crying (and celebrating goals that never were) is enough to make you smile wide this morning. What we did yesterday does not rank as an "achievement". The day Arsenal fans accept scraping in ahead of Spurs and finishing 17 points behind the Champions as success is the day we turn in to Tottenham ourselves. It is not a trophy, or anything like it. The glow of victory is not there that you get with a trophy, but I'd rather have won yesterday than lost.
The game yesterday was tense, of course. We don't do things the easy way so we were never likely to race in to a 3-0 lead before half-time. But the tension was also affecting the mugs at White Hart Lane. I was surprised to see Arteta playing, but not surprised when he had to be taken off. It was a silly gamble that could have backfired badly. Thankfully it didn't so it doesn't much matter now. What we did see yesterday was a group who wanted to work hard to ensure they'd done everything they could to get the win. If you watch the last couple of minutes of the match again you'll see Tomas Rosicky sprinting all the way across the pitch to close down the opposition. He was then backed up by a racing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain breaking up the Newcastle attack around the edge of our penalty area. The result of just that bit of effort was a ball up to Giroud, whose own pressure caused the mistake that saw Theo Walcott through on goal. It was a shame Theo couldn't seal it there and then as a number of people lost fingernails over the next three minutes.
The goal we did get was gloriously scrappy. Winning 1-0 with such a scrambled goal is delightful as far as I'm concerned. Yes, you'd like to win 5-0 all the time and play the most wonderful football. But when the final reckoning is done you get just as many points for scraping a 1-0. Laurent Koscielny, henceforth known as King Koscielny on this site, got the winner that put us in to the European Cup, just as he did at West Brom last year. His partnership with Per Mertesacker has been crucial in the recent run with just one goal conceded in open play since we lost to Tottenham. They've also both contributed set-piece goals in 1-0 wins at Fulham and Newcastle. King Koscielny's return to the side turned the season around, and Arsenal must hold on to him in the face of apparent interest from the World's best team, Bayern Munich. In his three seasons at Arsenal Koscielny has got better and better. He is now head and shoulders above his colleagues as the best centre-back at the Club. He dominated yesterday in the Arsenal defence and has to be challenging Mertesacker, Arteta and Cazorla in the Arsenal player of the season stakes.
I watched Match Of The Day last night with a happy smile. I soon lost that as soon as Alan Shearer opened his bitter Geordie gob. Shearer told us a few short weeks ago that Arsenal would not finish in the top four. He told us that we weren't good enough and that Tottenham had a better squad than Arsenal. Having been made to look stupid (again) he decided to criticise the Arsenal players for celebrating after the game as we had not won a trophy. The fact is that the players were celebrating finishing ahead of Tottenham with a group of fans who were happy and grateful for that. They were celebrating finishing ahead of Tottenham despite being told by cretinous, overpaid "experts" like Shearer that they were not as good as Spurs. Once again they proved that they were better. Why shouldn't they enjoy it? Lest we forget that Andre Villas-Boas described a "spiral of decline" after his side had clinched their Champions League place (because these things are always decided after 28 games) after beating us a few short months ago. Meanwhile the Tiny Totts supporters are changing tack and claiming that the one point gap (that's "gap") is merely a sign of how far we have fallen. I'd be inclined to agree to a certain extent, but we still finished above them after a terrible season for us, which was also a fantastic season for them (or for Gareth Bale, at least). Now Arsene Wenger must make good on his promises and spend good money on top players. If he does that we can build up to glory again. In the meantime, make sure to smile at every Tottenham fan you meet. Just smile. It winds them up something chronic.