The Gunners signed off with a sumptuous first-half of mesmerising football against the Baggies, thereby guaranteeing that they’ll be wearing their flip-flops for a few weeks longer this summer, not having to don their boots and psyche themselves up so soon, for such an influential Champions League qualifier.
Having grown accustomed to negotiating this life-or-death crapshoot, after scraping over the line into the top four in recent seasons, it will be interesting to see whether a 3rd-placed finish has a positive impact on our next campaign.
Prior to bringing the Premier League curtain down with the sort of beautiful football that had the crowd appreciatively billing and cooing, the previous three home games without a single Arsenal goal amounted to the driest spell on home turf since 2011. If the season had petered out with a similarly lamentable display, instead of this sparkling first-half performance, I’m not sure many Gooners would’ve lingered on after the final whistle, for the now obligatory “lap of appreciation”.
Yet it would’ve made for a certain symmetrical conclusion, with us finishing off this season with the same pitiful rash of dropped points against lesser opposition that we endured at the commencement of this campaign. After securing our passage into Champions League proper for an astonishing 17th successive season, with a slender 1-0 win over Beksitas back in August, this was followed by our worst start to a domestic season since 1982.
At times it felt as if it was only the instant, energising impact of our very own Duracell Rabbit, Alexis Sanchez, was singlehandedly keeping the club afloat. The consensus of opinion suggests it was the manner of our victory up at Man City that was the cornerstone of our remarkable turnaround in 2015, where a more mature and uncharacteristically conservative triumph indicated that the Gunners might’ve finally appreciated the failings of our more traditional gung-ho tactics.
Truth be told, as is more often the case with the beautiful game, it was a mere stroke of good fortune that proved to be “the magic bullet”. Arsène was left with such a dearth of defensive midfield options that he had little choice but to recall Coquelin back from his loan spell at Charlton.
Almost overnight, Le Coq went from being a mere benchwarmer at the Valley, to suddenly becoming our Makelele-like midfield lynchpin, the absence of which has long been pointed to as the primary cause of us being the Premiership’s “nearly men” for far too long.
Yet as Franny firmly established himself as the most essential player on Wenger’s teamsheet, it was our premature exit from the European stage that was undoubtedly this season’s most devastating low-point.
Such is Arsenal’s habit of carelessly finished second in the Champions League group stage and being expected fallers at the first knockout hurdle against a Galáctico outfit, it felt as if fate had finally favoured us with a “leg up” towards the big-eared prize, when we drew moneybags Monaco out of the hat.
Sadly the Gunners were guilty of throwing Lady Luck’s consideration straight back in her face, with our devastatingly naïve capitulationagainst this mediocre French mob.
This particular defeat highlighted the most obvious deficiencies in our squad. Coquelin’s form might’ve temporarily quelled the eternal clamour for a midfield behemoth, but when Wenger hooked Giroud, to save our French centre-forward from further embarrassment, compared to all our competitors who have a choice of four strikers, we possess a positively laughable lack of attacking options.
However it’s Arsène’s infuriating efforts to solve our goal-minding issue on the cheap that must rank as le Gaffer’s most obvious blind spot, with his seemingly endless string of half-decent shot-stoppers.
Surely it must eventually dawn upon even our old dog that he needs to go out and spend whatever it takes to buy us one of the best in the business?
Nevertheless, it seems a tad churlish of me to be chucking my toys out of the pram, when most footie fans would give their eye-teeth for a top three finish, never mind wearing our yellow ribbons to a Cup Final encore in the very merry month of May.
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