It was my last game of the season last night, because I have a prior engagement on Sunday and so won’t be able to make the glory of achieving a top four finish at the expense of Liverpool, who will have lost a two goal lead to succumb to a 3-2 defeat at the hands of a Calum Chambers hat trick, whilst Lucas Perez rises from the dead to stroke a brace in a 6-0 hammering of Everton. 

Or not.

But the last game of the season is always a weird one for me. Weird because in recent years I’ve been so fed up by this time in the season that it’s all felt a little…well…draining. I’ve just wanted to get it all over with. Which is ironic because by the time we hit July I’m desparate for the football to start up again.

The cup final prospects certainly helped to aid conversation in the pub beforehand this year, even if Mark was his usual cheery self and Steve was doing his level best to stir the fibres of his discontent. But we all seemed in a little more of a jovial mood and perhaps that was partially down to playing an utterly hapless Sunderland side, part due to the warmish yet muggy weather, whilst also planning our Wembley day out. Maybe we’ve all seen this end to the season fizzle out like this so many times that we’re a bit numb to it.

The fact that – mathematically at least – we were still in with a shout of the Champions League spots never really entered much thought as the Estrella’s went down in the Duchess, if I’m completely honest, and even Steve’s half-hearted “they’ll get it, it’s just what Arsenal do, just to piss Mark off” comments never really had anybody believing.

Still, at least the players are showing up and with a Wembley workout on the cards in a couple of weeks, they at least did the job against a stubborn Sunderland side.


We didn’t half huff and puff though, didn’t we? I mean, this was a Sunderland side with all of the drive of a soggy tea towel, and even Jermaine Defoe couldn’t really rouse himself to anything other than a speculative left-peg swing at the ball in the first half. It was all Arsenal. Possession, control of the ball and drive to try to actually do something and whilst for the first part of the game we looked decent enough, after about 30 minutes it felt like it was flittering away in to one of ‘those’ games. You know what I’m talking about. The kind of game where Arsenal come across a side in full stubborn yet somehow Gandalfian “you shall not pass!” mood. And our only response to that is a 75th sub that barely has any impact. 

Surprisingly though, and you begrudgingly need to give Wenger credit with this, he made his subs earlier than the usual allotted time and we started to stretch Sunderland. Iwobi and Welbeck had more pace about them and we looked dangerous. Cue Granit Xhaka proving the crazy behind me wrong – who’d said he should have been dropped three months ago for Elneny – with a sumptuous ball over the top to Özil, who squared to Alexis, who duly saw the ball home for an easy tap in. It’ll be a shame to see him go. I didn’t think he had a particularly great game up until that point, but as soon as the Chilean got his goal he sparked in to life and I thought he looked like a different player. More weaving, more purpose and although he gives the ball away more than a one-legged blind man, he does have those magic moments in him.

Personally, I’d prefer it if he scored in the first minute and then terrorised defenders for the remaining 89, rather than spark to life with 20 to go like yesterday evening, but perhaps I’m just a selfish little boy. 

He’s going to end up as golden boot winner too, isn’t he? Just like that Dutch bloke. Then bugger off. Oh how we could do with him signing a new deal. No chance at this rate though. Certainly given there’ll likely be no Champions League next season and he’s already made some comments that he wants to play that football. But more than that he wants to compete and whilst we can be pleased with the win yesterday, once the final curtain comes down on this season we’ll know the team have done nowhere near enough to compete. 

Let’s not get too depressed with that though, not yet anyway, because there was plenty of other performances to be pleased about going in to the cup final. Like Mustafi, who I thought marshalled the back four well. And Bellerin, who got in behind Sunderland’s defensive line again and again. If The Ox doesn’t make it for the cup final we could certainly do a lot worse than have the Spaniard in at right wing back. This formation is geared to make the most of the wing backs going forward and Bellerin and Monreal look like wing backs who could certainly deliver on a more regular basis. In the second half particularly, he got in behind again and again, and I hope we see more of that against Everton at the weekend.

The midfield dominated too and we have to just keep everything crossed that Mr Welsh Perma-crock Ramsey isn’t banjaxed again for the weekend after next. He and Xhaka look to finally be forging some kind of partnership together, so we could really do with them both staying fit, although him hobbling off wasn’t a good sign. Wenger seemed to suggest that Ramsey was ok afterwards, which is a plus, because he’s starting to look like he can get back to the 2013 vintage. That energy and pace counter balances Xhaka’s composure and vision and I’d certainly like to see that in the cup final. 

In front of them Özil looked majestic again and for a player who is so reliant on his own confidence being high, that’s a godsend before we play Chelski, so to see him create chance after chance is a delight on the eyes. He of all people needs to be at his level best for the final so the fact he could chalk up another assist that will do him the world of good. His run for the first goal and square pass for Alexis’ tap in was one cog in a beautifully constructed move, but I saw other little positive signs last night. Just little things, like the way he controlled the ball a few times, suggested to me that he’s slowly getting back his confidence.

And finally to Ollie G, who I once again think doesn’t suit the pace required for this formation, but who plugged away and got a nice assist at the end. He had a great opportunity squandered in the first half when he checked in field, the ball ran away from him in the second, but if he was a rotational centre forward who was an impact sub we’d have no problem with him whatsoever.

So ultimately the real winners here are Sky, because they get to drag out a final day narrative when in fact, there really won’t be one to talk about. We’ve taken it to the last day and I’m sure some will be happy with that, but too much water has passed under this bridge for us to see this season as anything other than the dogs dinner that it is. 

I’m delighted we’ve got some momentum. The cup final has given me that hope. But that’s all that’s left in this season and whilst the players have suddenly found some form, there needs to be some real questions asked as to why they’ve chosen the same moment again – I.e. When there’s no pressure whatsoever, with which to start playing with the ability that we all know they can.

The manager has to answer those questions in about two and a half weeks time.

Oh, and can somebody pick Lucas up from Harry Potter World? I don’t know if Arsène has realised he’s even missing. More fool him because the guy could be an important part of the cup final team. 

Right, that’s me for another day, so I’ll see you tomorrow. Peace out.