I think any sane Arsenal fan would agree that this has been a long and, ultimately, very disappointing season. We have played some pretty poor stuff since Christmas and have blown a big chance to win the Premier League. This Arsenal team has let us down. It's been depressing for the most part. But yesterday we finished with a flourish in the last fifteen minutes and laughed (and I mean proper laughed) at what was happening to Tottenham at Newcastle. As much as Arsenal have been berated for their shortcomings, so Tottenham have been lauded for being so brilliant. Apparently they've had a magnificent and wonderful season. Yet after the 38th game has been played Arsenal have once again finished above Tottenham. I believe the youth say "lol".
There is some kind of misconception that the Arsenal supporters were celebrating finishing second yesterday. Similarly that we were enjoying finishing above Tottenham a bit too much. However, if you were in the ground then you would know that what was really going on was people laughing at what was happening to that lot. Somehow they had still found a way of being inferior to Arsenal. Their fans had been giving it large for the last month as everyone accepted that, this year, St Totteringham's Day was cancelled. Maybe we should have learned that we are dealing here with Tottenham Hotspur. This is a Club, a set of players, and a group of fans whose sheer hatred of Arsenal clouds everything they do. Ultimately it is that hatred that sees them continue to fail in their aim of being a better side than us over the course of a full season. One day, of course, it is going to happen for them. Yesterday, it turned out, was not that day. And it was kilt-p***ingly hilarious to experience.
I was lucky enough to be down at the players entrance yesterday to see the Arsenal team arrive. I was disappointed to see that Tomas Rosicky and Mathieu Flamini were not in the squad. At the same time I was delighted to see the immaculate Mikel Arteta lead the players from the coach, bedecked in his Arsenal suit, for the final time. I also had the rare opportunity to witness Stan Kroenke turn up at a football match! There was no sign of his cheque-book.
Arsenal started the game really well and I thought the players looked really up for it in the first 15 minutes or so. We got a nice goal as we finally managed to put a decent cross in the box to play to Olivier Giroud's undoubtedly main strength. After that flying start we went back to the interminable passing and not shooting that has been a blight on the entire season. What was a joy to watch, however, was the return of the Coquelin and Cazorla double-act in the middle of midfield. It is so apparent that their injuries, more than anything else, has cost us the Title this season. We were at the top when they both got hurt and were missing for months. Without them we couldn't halt the slide. It really is what might have been and, maybe, we only genuinely realised what we had once they weren't playing together. They dominated the game yesterday, albeit against a weak Villa side, and it also brought out the best in Alexis Sanchez as more space was opened up for him to play in. It was behind them that the concerns were all too apparent with Gabriel patently not up to it in the Premier League right now.
For a good part of the second-half we didn't play. Villa were on top for a long time but, Ayew aside, carried no real threat - a half-decent side would have damaged Arsenal as they have since Christmas. Ironically it was Newcastle's third goal that seemed to get the Arsenal players going again. The crowd was up and, suddenly, so were Arsenal. We started to create, and miss, opportunities. Again there were times when players refused the chance to try and score, but there were also some wasteful finishes - notably from Elneny. Finally there was a lovely move down our left with Alexis and Ozil combining in great style to set up a nice Giroud finish at the near-post. The players rushed to Rosicky, Flamini and Arteta in the Arsenal dugout. A couple of minutes later and the ground was rocking as Giroud got his hat-trick from a stunning through-ball by Hector Bellerin - the young Spaniard can't cross the ball for toffee, but his passing on the angle is exceptional.
With the party now in full flow, and the win secure, we got the chance to rise in appreciation of the Arsenal Captain as Mikel Arteta came off the bench for his final game in an Arsenal shirt - as it turns out it is the final appearance of his playing career. The (almost) perfect finish was then served up with Arteta hitting the shot that ended up in our fourth goal. He was announced in the stadium as the goalscorer despite the ball going in off the goalkeeper. In the circumstances it would take an absolute a***hole to take the goal off him. That is exactly what seems to have happened but I would urge Arsenal to deliberately ignore the so-called "panel". It was Arteta's final ever kick of the ball as a professional footballer. What a way to finish - a goal on his debut at Blackburn and a goal in his final game at home.
When the final whistle went we got an indication of what Arsenal has come to mean to Arteta. He is a man who has sacrificed his natural game to the benefit of the team since he came to our Club. He has totally understood what it means to be at The Arsenal. For me he was the man of the match in the FA Cup Final win over Hull - his finest performance for Arsenal and one of the finest individual Arsenal Cup Final performances ever. He stood yesterday in the centre of the pitch and was totally overcome with the emotion of the occasion. The Arsenal Captain reduced to tears by his own emotions and the love from the supporters. It was a moment when I reckon most of us might just have been filling up slightly.
What followed in the players lap of the pitch was their own appreciation of the talent of Tomas Rosicky, and the chance to see Santi Cazorla's son showing off the most unbelievable skills. Most of the squad were wearing "Rosicky 7" Arsenal shirts as they gave Little Mozart a guard of honour. Again the fans rose in appreciation of a fine player. Flamini, Rosicky and Arteta have become proper Arsenal men in their time at the Club and I am sorry to see all three of them leave. I just want to say "thanks" to three good players who could never stand accused of not giving it their all in the Arsenal shirt. "Super Tom Rosicky" was sung loudly yesterday and it was fitting that he was awarded a silver cannon for his service.
One last wave
Before the month finishes I will be writing the usual season review and "presenting" the end of season awards. There will also be the squad review pieces and some of the players are in for some real stick from me. I've not written that often over the last two months as it's not been worth writing about. Yesterday most certainly was. It's been a long season but, with a laugh and a cry, we've finished it nicely. Next season we must do better and that means spending some money. I did that earlier today by renewing my season ticket - time for Arsene Wenger to do likewise.