Happy St.Totteringham’s Day.
Saying those words, for the eighteenth year in succession, feels magical. And let’s be honest, it really is. 26 points from the final 30 available is nothing short of magical. After the North London defeat on Sunday 3rd March we trailed the old enemy by 7 points, meaning they needed to drop points in three of their last ten games. As pointed out at the time, this was possible (after all, they lost the very next two league games they played), but what it didn’t take into account was our own failings. This led me to believe we’d need them to drop points in at least five of their remaining games – 50% of their fixtures. I just didn’t see it happening.
But here I am, with a smile on my face, happily eating humble pie. Thank you Arsene. Thank you to all the players. Our end of season form, certainly results if not always performances, has been truly amazing. Only United have taken more points than us since January 1st and nobody, not even the champions themselves, have won more points than us since February 1st. It’s been truly remarkable.
It’s been quite a while since I last shared my thoughts, 61 days to be precise, and there are many reasons why. But the main one has been our good run of form. I’m an oddly superstitious character at times and I feared my creative jargon could prove to be a jinx. So I decided to leave my last post as “it’s the hope that kills you”. In my weird little world it seemed logical, like it was our guiding light. Of course the reality is that Arsenal’s form has bugger all to do with what I do and don’t say, but I can’t help but feel our form did involve a little bit of luck.
A combination of injuries and being in last chance saloon saw Arsene stumble across a starting eleven that had balance, which has looked solid and robust. Both Fabianski and then the returning Szczesny looked assured, safe. And why wouldn’t they? The central pairing in front of them, Mertesacker and Koscielny, have been inspirational – quite simply they secured us fourth spot. For some that may seem like an exaggeration, but for me they have been the main figures in many of our final fixtures, and it was therefore somewhat poetic that Laurent should score the decisive goal, in the final game of the season, for the second season in a row. That’s why I have his name and number on the back of my shirt; he leaves everything on the field and I love him for it.
In midfield we also stumbled across a beautiful balance. The injuries of Wilshere and Diaby saw Ramsey deployed in his correct position of central midfield. He’s shone brightly and rightly won the Arsenal.com player of the month award for April. Alongside the ever dependable Mikel Arteta (who surely has to be our captain next season?) we finally had a compact midfield base to perfectly complement our excellent centre halves. And in front of them, Tomas Rosicky. What a player. Fast, tenacious, such spirit and character. Once again his return to fitness and form was perfectly timed for the end of season run in. He’s Arsenal career will always be a case of ‘what if’.
Suddenly we had the spine we’d all been craving. Flanked by Sagna, the interchangeable Gibbs and Monreal, the majestic Santi Cazorla, the consistent in patches Theo Walcott, and led by Giroud, then Podolski, we had both the platform to keep clean sheets, whilst still scoring goals. The team had gelled, as have the desires of Arsene Wenger and Steve Bould it would seem. And once again it all ended in a thing of beauty, a thing that brings unrivalled feelings; St.Totteringham’s Day.
There is a time and a place for picking apart our shortcomings this season. Today is not it. Today is a day to be basking in the glory of remaining North London’s top dogs. It is a day for being optimistic about next season. For the first time in a long time it looks like we could have a stable summer with regards to unwanted departures, with Bacary Sagna the only real question mark. Added to that is the promise of much-needed reinforcements. The commercial deals that were needed for our Emirates Stadium project, but that have hamstrung us so badly in recent years, are no longer an issue. Our new deal with Emirates and the news that Puma will take over as our kit manufacturer (for the largest deal in English football) is very positive. Let’s take a well-earned break, analyse, assess, and re-group, and go again next season – hopefully with some new top top quality faces. But until then my Gooner friends, just enjoy the fact that once again, we can say Happy St.Totteringham’s Day. Thank Bergkamp for that.
Away from The Arsenal, there have been a few other reasons for my silence over recent weeks. A new visa (that allows me to stay in Sydney until 2017), a new apartment, a busy job, and a beautiful Aussie girl have all been keeping me very busy. I can’t believe I’ve now been here 9 months, but like The Arsenal now is not the time for reflective analysis, it is instead a time for happiness and enjoyment because, quite frankly, life is pretty rosy right now.
Until the next time – once a Gooner, always a Gooner; ooh to, ooh to be, ooh to be a Gooner; Victoria Concordia Crescit.