Monday, 14 May 2012

I'm glad that's all over

Well, we managed to hang on to third spot, with a large dollop of luck (merci, Marton Fulop). Titles are won through consistency and sheer bloody-mindedness: draw when you should lose, and win when you should draw. We've won when we should have lost (Spurs at home), drawn when we should have won (Norwich at home), and lost when we should have at least drawn (any number of bottom-half teams, home and away). Our season has been a Jekyll and Hyde performance, as if an unstable time-warp had appeared in the middle of the pitch. At times we witnessed a classic Wenger side, all slickness and subtlety, at other times we appeared to have regressed to a mid-90s George Graham team, all clumsiness and absent-mindedness.

The most obvious difference was the speed of play. Unlike Brazil 1970, when we slow down we look clueless. Critics of Wenger and his funny foreign ways forget that his best sides have always played the game at an English pace, just with better control and the ball passed along the ground. When we play like a Ligue 1 side, walking about and gesticulating, we're rubbish. Arteta has been our most valuable player for his ability to raise and maintain the tempo. RvP has rightly got the headlines for his goals, but it has been pace and accurate passing that has given him the space to score.

Though Wenger is playing down the transfer speculation post-Podolski, I suspect we'll see more signings. A new keeper (assuming Fabianski wants to move on) and a defensive midfielder to challenge Song, who has been a bit Billy Big Boots at times (Frimpong and Coquelin are not quite ready). Gervinho will probably get the benefit of the doubt, as Arsenal wide players usually take a season to bed in, but I suspect we've seen the last of both Chamakh and Bendtner (if both go, another striker will be signed). RvP's position now looks inscrutable.

The final day was understandably dominated by Man City's narrow failure to maintain their tradition of fucking it up big time. It would appear that spending a billion can (just) cure Cityitis. Many Arsenal fans were hoping they would screw up just to annoy Samir Nasri. My youngest placed great store in the fact that Barcelona lost the Primera Liga title, so disappointing Fabregas in his decision to move for domestic medals. Surely Nasri (who hasn't been much value to City) would similarly suffer the wrath of the footballing gods? Personally I was quite happy to see them win, because: a) it means Manure end up potless, and b) City are still capable of royally screwing up in the future. That Cityitis is genetic.

As ever, the media coverage of the day threw up a few choice examples of stupidity. On Final Score, dumb blonde Robbie Savage opined that Sergio Aguero's late winner was superior to Michael Thomas's goal in 1989, presumably fogetting that QPR weren't odds-on to win the title, that the game wasn't at Loftus Road, and that Man City hadn't won by two clear goals. What a berk. There is a general tendency, given their history, to treat City's alchemical success in transmuting a huge amount of gold into a much smaller piece of silver as the wonder of the age, but that is going too far.

On MOTD Hansen and Shearer gave the goal of the season to Cisse's second against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Presumably Hansen because a defender wasn't at fault, and Shearer because it was the Magpies' number 9. As anyone who has played the game knows, the most spectacular goal is usually the product of luck (the ball dropping at the right angle for your body shape) and sheer bloody luck (a hopeful wellie catching the ball so sweetly that it arcs into the top corner), not to mention a healthy dose of luck (the keeper being badly positioned). I'm biased, but I thought RvP's volley against Everton should have got the prize. As the behind the net view shows, he had to adjust his body quite radically to make a shot that was precisely calculated to hit the bottom corner, Howard having most of the goal covered. At least he got the Player of the Season award and the Golden Boot.

Overall the season will be touted as an example of why the EPL is the most exciting league in the world, though it's been pretty poor in truth. The excitement is a product of frailty, not quality. Manure have flogged a dead pantomime horse (Giggs and Scholes) just once too often, while City have shown that systemic ill-discipline is no bar to success when the opposition can't take advantage (if either Tevez or Balotelli leaves, they can always re-sign Joey Barton). That Arsenal should prove the best of the rest is amusing given our horrible start. It just shows you how much the campaign to restore Spurs' to their "rightful place" was down to rose-tinted reporting.

Of course it's not quite over. I'd rather see Bayern win on Saturday than Chelsea, simply because the latter's boasting about being the first London club to win the big-eared trophy would be horrible, and even though a German victory will promote Spurs to next year's Champion's League. I can handle that because I suspect they'll struggle both in Europe and domestically.

On balance, I'm glad to see the back of the season. Let the transfer speculation frenzy begin.

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