Season review…

Back to winning ways...

Back to winning ways…

The Premier League finished 9 days ago but with the FA Cup final coming the following Saturday, I thought it was best to leave my thoughts on the 2013/14 campaign (mainly focused on Arsenal) to now. Fortunately, the FA decided to have the landmark fixture after the league season had ended, which makes the day even more special. I felt sorry for Wigan Athletic last year who were victorious at Wembley on the Saturday before having their cup celebrations cut short on the Tuesday when they were relegated. The final should always be kept completely separate from league proceedings as it allows both teams and fans to fully prepare for the grand occasion

Whether I deemed this season to be an overall success or failure for Arsenal pretty much came down to the result of the Wembley showdown. I know that sounds simplistic but ending the 9 year trophy drought was so important for the Gunners moving forward. Not only that but failing to end the season with a piece of silverware would point to a lack of progression. Yes, we finished with a better points total in the league (79) compared to 2012/13 (73), but it was fourth again. That is still an achievement as there are sixteen other clubs in the Premier League including Manchester United, Tottenham and Everton, who would have killed for that position last term.

However, I am very happy to say that we did win on Saturday so the fact we did qualify for the Champions League is merely a nice little extra on top of the FA Cup. That is why we have had a much better season than 18 other Premier League teams (only Manchester City can trump us with the title). Liverpool and Chelsea fans will argue otherwise but the fact is, we won silverware in 2014 and they didn’t. I’d rather finish 4th with a trophy than second/third with absolutely nothing. I’ve had to put up with a lot of stick over the past 9 years about finishing in the Top 4 but empty-handed. Now, the boot is on the other foot.

Before the season, I predicted that Arsenal would ultimately fail to win the league. That was justified on the opening day when we slipped to a 3-1 loss at home to Aston Villa so to finish the campaign with a cup is pretty impressive in my opinion. 4th is slightly disappointing as we were top for 128 days and by January, I started to believe we had a chance but maybe I got carried away considering our start. If someone had told me after that horror-show on August 17th that we would finish 4th and win the FA Cup, I would have laughed in their face. So to actually go on and do that makes 2013/14 an overall success and means that I am one very content Gooner.

Away from Arsenal, I have to say congratulations to Manchester City who won the marathon title race. The Gunners pulled a calf muscle by setting off too early, Chelsea had bursts but lacked a final push and Liverpool fell over in the final sprint. It’s not surprising at all considering the money City have but I did think Mourinho’s men would take the title back in August (thankfully they failed miserably).

Commiserations to Norwich, Cardiff and Fulham FANS for being relegated but I’m glad because utter morons run your clubs. Vincent Tan got his comeuppance for sacking Malky Mackay, the Norwich board stupidly got rid of Chris Hughton with only 5 games left and Fulham took managerial musical chairs to a new level (3 in one season). They all got a taste of karma.

A pat on the back must also go to Tony Pulis. I didn’t like the man at Stoke but he kept Crystal Palace up, which was pretty miraculous considering their shocking displays under Ian Holloway earlier on in the season. The surprise for me is that Pulis has not got them playing ugly football. It’s efficient counter-attacking play, which is not that bad to watch, unlike Chelsea.

As well as my pre-season title prediction, I got a couple of others wrong. I said that Michael Essien would be a player to watch out for, what with Mourinho coming back, but I haven’t heard about his where-abouts for ages (I think he went out on loan in January). I also said that Sunderland would be the team to watch out for but I was wrong as they diced with relegation again. However, their run to the Capital One Cup final plus their end of season form shows that they are a team to be reckoned with if they put their minds to it.

By Glen Shorey

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St. Totteringham’s Day, Champions League football and eyes on the prize

Koscielny pops up again on St. Totteringham's Day...

Koscielny pops up again on St. Totteringham’s Day…

Like Christmas, it comes but once a year. The day when Tottenham Hotspur can no longer mathematically finish above Arsenal came last Monday when the Gunners cruised to a 3-0 victory over Newcastle United at the Emirates Stadium. It’s a point worth making that Arsene Wenger’s men have always finished above Spurs since the Frenchman took charge in 1996 (making it 19 consecutive seasons). I saw an interesting tweet from @Arsenallthings that shows just what an incredible achievement that is: ‘If you bet a Spurs fan £20 in 1995 who would finish higher and played double or quits every season since’. They would now owe £10,485,760.00’.

The comfortable result also put us four points clear of 5th placed Everton with only two games remaining so a Top 4 place was almost certain. After Manchester City won 3-2 at Goodison Park earlier, Arsenal’s place in next year’s Champions League was confirmed (subject to a qualification tie in August). Again, Wenger has never finished out of the UCL in his 18-year tenure but this fact is often overlooked. People can laugh at the ‘fourth place is like a trophy’ comment but I for one like the consistency. I don’t wish to be watching my team on a Thursday like Tottenham or not having them in European competition like Manchester United next season.

Our final home game of the season is tomorrow against West Bromwich Albion and a win is always nice but as Everton have already lost this weekend, the pressure is already off. Hopefully that means we can relax in these final two games, enjoy our football and take some confidence to Wembley on the 17th. At the same time, I’m conscious of fatigue and injuries so I would be more than happy if Wenger rested a few key players. My mind is looking forward to ending the nine-year trophy drought and I am sure the team has the FA Cup in their crosshairs too.

By Glen Shorey