It was probably always going to be too much to ask for West Ham to put on the same display as they did against the Totts and dispatch Liverpool yesterday. West Ham hate that lot almost as much as us so of course they were going to give it a little more than their last home game of the season against the scousers. We’ll ignore one of the most obvious handballs from Wijnaldum, which would have brought the game back to 2-1 though, shall we? The officials on the day certainly did and Liverpool scored at the other end. It pretty much guarantees we won’t get fourth spot because there’s no way a relegated and, frankly piss-poor Middlesbrough, get anything at Anfield next weekend.
It means that whilst the game tomorrow evening against Boro isn’t a complete dead rubber, it probably will all be in vein in the end, as we’ll finish just short and finally lose that top four trophy Arsène has treasured so much.
Last night I had a look at the historical top four points finish totals. I was intrigued as to whether every season was like this and whilst we’re all unhappy with the way the team has capitulated and will finish outside of the top four, if we win our final two games it will be the highest points tally for a team finishing fifth in the Premier League era I believe. If we beat Sunderland and Everton at home we’ll have finished on 75 points. No team has finished on that and not reached the Champions League qualification spots. I’m highlighting this not as a positive, but merely an explanation to show just how competitive this season has been at the top. The top six teams have pretty much dominated this league in terms of picking up points and it shows you exactly what people suggested at the beginning of the season: this is the most competitive league in the world. There have been some seasons historically in which 65 points will have secured top four. The new management blood and injection of money have meant that the top teams are just getting better and better, more and more consistent. From a points perspective Arsenal have stayed where there are, everyone else around us have ‘kicked on’, which in a way is a real worry.
It’s a worry because those teams above us will buy better in the summer. They’ll all get better. But we have been the one side – if United win the Europa League they’ll be exempt from criticism by many of their fans and the press – that have rightly been lambasted for stagnating. So whilst the points tally points towards a little more parity with performance last season, the fact that every other team as progressed just leaves us looking ever more like a club in stasis.
Still, I’m not completely devoid of happiness this morning, because I’m pleased that the team is building momentum for the cup final. Our performance on Saturday – albeit against a beach bound Stoke side – showed that there’s confidence returning to the players and we need them to chalk up two more wins to get our run going in the lead up to the cup final. Screw worrying about the Champions League qualification and money. Let’s focus on the FA Cup and hope the team go in to that game with confidence, hunger and fire in their bellies.
As for next season and probable Europa League football, screw that too, because whoever is manager (probably still Arsène the dictator) should be already planning which development squad players can be assembled for it. It’ll be games we should rest and play younger players and it should be an opportunity for us to focus our efforts in games in the Premier League. It’s worked for Chelski and so that should be our blueprint. First team players playing once a week for most of the season. Let’s do that and see how far we can get.
I know I might be sounding defeatist already, but I prefer to call it realism, because come this time next week when the truth has set in and the season ticket letters start being posted. Some people have suggested that there should be some discount on season tickets, or an option to not pay for the extra cup credits. Personally I think the latter would be a good idea, but I can’t see the club reducing ticket prices in a million years. Why would they? They already have a captive audience. They don’t need to. There’s also the fact that the Champions League isn’t a condition of purchase for tickets. There isn’t something in the Ts and ace that says ‘In the event of us turning a bit sh*t, we’ll reduce your annual season ticket price accordingly’ or anything like that. Just because we’ve been used to dining out on caviar it doesn’t mean when we stop that we’re entitled to receive it from the local food bank.
But the club will know that fan sentiment isn’t great at the moment and they’ll be mindful of that, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see an announcement that they’ll freeze prices for another couple of years or something like that. I wait with eager anticipation for my letter from the club.
Right, enough of this mumbo-jumbo. I’m offski. There’ll no doubt be a presser and team news today, so let’s see who’s available for tomorrow evenings festivities.