Huddersfield 0 Arsenal 1
Herbert Chapman was the greatest Arsenal manager before young French upstart Arsene Wenger came along 22 years ago to knock him off his plinth with all his fancy tactics, trophies aplenty, Invincibles, Doubles, and dynamic diets.
Fitting then that Wenger should end his remarkable Arsenal career at the club where Chapman first made his name, winning two league titles before going south to put the Londoners indelibly on football’s world map by winning even more at Highbury.
A footballing innovator, he also got the local tube name changed to Arsenal.
Wenger, with his new training ground and stadium, is very much the modern-day Chapman with a bit of longevity and French flair on top.
With both sets of supporters in party mood in the beautiful Yorkshire sunshine it made for the perfect end of season celebration.
There were guards of honour, standing ovations, touching tributes and the Arsenal players even gave Wenger his first away win and points of any description in 2018.
And it was his record signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who scored the game’s only goal to give Arsenal supporters a chance to break off from chants of ‘49, 49 Undefeated’ to belt out ‘One-Nil to the Arsenal.’
Huddersfield’s pitch invasion to celebrate their unlikely survival mission following a just as unlikely promotion to the top flight meant Wenger just had a time for a quick ‘thumbs up’ to the stands before celebrating his 1,235th Arsenal match in the confines of the dressing room.
“This being the home of Herbert Chapman, Arsenal’s greatest manager, I think it was the perfect place for me to finish,” Wenger said afterward.
“There was even a picture of him smiling, outside our dressing room. Overall, I have to say Huddersfield have been very classy, the club, and their supporters.
“It was emotional for me. After 22 years you do not just fall in love with a club but a country too and that is why it will be hard for me.
“Where do I go from there? That’s the difficulty. When you’ve experienced this intensity for such a long time, I don’t know where I go from here.
“I had many offers. But at the moment, I have not said anything to anybody. I came out of a long process and you cannot just the next morning go somewhere else. It’s impossible. Will I stay in England? I don’t know. Maybe it’s better I go somewhere else.”
Huddersfield gave Wenger a commemorative half and half shirt emblazoned with 1,235 as their parting gift and the manager said his players had done something special for him too, but he preferred to keep that private. Enigmatic to the last!
Huddersfield started well with Steve Mounie heading too close to the keeper early, but his effort still raised the party mood among the Huddersfield faithful to whatever is just up from hysterical.
Tom Ince then had an even better opportunity on his return from injury, but blazed over the bar. It was the sort of chance his godfather Michael Thomas, Arsenal’s title-winning goalscoring hero from Anfield ‘89, would have easily tucked away.
Fitting, perhaps, that Thomas made the trek here to see godson and his former club on a celebratory final day of the season. A wave of Huddersfield attacks followed and Arsenal struggled to mount any resistance, or attempts on goal until Shkodran Mustafi headed inches wide.
Huddersfield were the dominant side but there were flashes of Arsenal’s ability when Alex Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang combined to present Henrikh Mkhitaryan with a shot, which deflected out for a corner.
Mkhitaryan, Lacazette, and Aaron Ramsey combined in classic Wenger style to present Aubameyang with an easy tap in on 38 minutes.
In 13 games he has scored 10 goals with four assists. The club record signing, snapped up from Dortmund in January, will make a nice present for his successor.
Huddersfield were again the dominant team after the break and it took a flying David Ospina save from Ince to prevent an equaliser on the hour.
But, for the only time this year, Wenger’s men weathered the storm and nearly increased their lead.
Huddersfield were happy just to be here and celebrate survival, for Wenger it was great to go with a win and an entire stadium declaring ‘There’s Only One Arsene Wenger.”
HUDDERSFIELD (5-4-1): Lossl 6; Hadergjonaj 7, Jorgensen 6, Schindler 6, Kongolo 6, Lowe 6; Pritchard 8, Mooy 7, Hogg 6 (Whitehead 88, 6), Ince 7 (Depoitre 61, 6); Mounie 5.
ARSENAL (4-3-3): Ospina 7; Bellerin 6, Holding 6, Mustafi 6, Kolasinac 6 (Monreal 68, 5); Iwobi 6 (Maitland-Niles 71, 6), Xhaka 6, Ramsey 5; Mkhitaryan 6, Lacazette 6, Aubameyang 7 (Welbeck 68).
Referee: Michael Oliver 7
Talking point: Youth or experience?
Mikel Arteta is the main name in the frame according to those who follow Arsenal closely and chief executive Ivan Gazanias wants it to be known he will not be afraid to appoint a young, inexperienced manager to succeed Arsene Wenger.
But there is promising inexperience and then there is NEVER having managed before, which is Arteta.
He has been a coach at Manchester City since retiring as a player (and as Arsenal’s captain) in 2016. But can Arsenal really gamble on a first-time boss at such a huge club where the demands are relentless and every decision in the spotlight?
It could be a smokescreen, of course, with Juve’s Max Allegri still mentioned also, but would Arsenal be making the right move replacing one of football’s most experienced coaches with a novice?
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