In yesterday’s blog I wrote about how I wanted Arsenal to lay down a marker in anticipation for next season. I referenced the first win of the Invincibles run, which was an end of season 6-1 hammering of Southampton and I said that I hoped that the lads would go out there and deliver a proper ‘f*ck you* performance.
We did indeed get just that in the sun of North London yesterday. Wolves were on the beach, for sure, but Arsenal still had to show there was fight and drive and we got that in abundance. And who better to kick us off for the day than the man who is on his way after 297 appearances for The Arsenal, 23 goals and 29 assists. Granit Xhaka nodding in the first goal to get us on the way felt like a fitting end, then bagging a second just three minutes later was just the tonic the home faithful needed. Less than 15 minutes gone and in truth the game was pretty much over. Wolves don’t score goals, they’ve struggled all season and they weren’t coming back from being two behind. So it just came down to how much of an example did Arsenal want to set.
We weren’t in the mood to be charitable. The passing for the third goal was brilliant and the finish from Saka was sublime. Not even 30 minutes on the clock and I feel like we all knew inside the stadium that a rout was coming. We created a couple more chances in that first half, then went in at the break knowing it was just a case of ‘how many more?’.
Two more, was the answer, although we had one disallowed which I think was harsh, but Trossard’s excellent drop of the shoulder and peach of a cross for Gabriel Jesus to head in was welcome and with still 30 minutes left to play we were making life easy for the home supporters. All that we had to worry about inside the stadium was which song we were going to chant next.
There was time for Kiwior to bag a fifth and his first goal for The Arsenal, which was nice, but the game petered out and Arteta made a few subs that felt like “get out there and run around a bit” subs in bringing on Smith Rowe, Nketiah and Tierney. I suspect that it might have been the last game for at least one, possibly two, of those players.
The final whistle went, the fans chanted and appreciated the players, as the season drew to a close. It wasn’t the one we wanted and had dreamed of, but it was thoroughly enjoyable and Arsenal finish – by some distance – the second best team in the league. We have the second youngest team, we scored the second most goals in the league, we had the second best goal difference and ultimately, we couldn’t compete against the juggernaut that is Man City. A Man City who only ended up finishing five points clear of us in the end, having lost to Brentford yesterday. I know that they took their foot off the gas for the final two games, but those two teams they played in Brighton and Brentford are good sides and if we’d have picked up the points in some of those games like West Ham away, Southampton away, Forest away and Brighton at home, I think we’d have forced them to go right to the end and maybe they’d have slipped up.
Afterwards Arteta talked about how he needs to go away, have a refresh and a reset, coming back ready for next season and I think he’ll be ruminating over that end of season fall that we had. He’ll be acutely aware that if we’re fortunate enough to be in the same position in March and April next season, we’ll need to avoid having the same injury and form problems if we want to make that next step forward, which is arguably the hardest.
But I believe in him and his ability to get us there. He is relentless and he will be picking the brains of his team and thinking hard himself about how he goes about assembling a squad capable of winning the league; it needs to have more depth and I think he’ll know that. I also think he’ll want to get going quickly as soon as possible in getting in some of those depth players. He and his players will now go away for a few weeks, get some time to relax, then I think he’ll be chomping at the bit to get his squad assembled quickly so he can start to set them up for the next season.
For now though, as we reflect on a very impressive season and one in which we scored an extra 27 goals compared to the season before, we won an extra six games, amassing an extra 15 points in the process and climbing three places to second to be runners up in the Premier League, we can see clear progress and can take that positivity in to the summer and pre season.
Up the Arsenal.
I’ll be on the Same Old Arsenal podcast this evening doing a season recap and reflection, before we go in to the summer with some ideas we’ve got around some shows we’re going to do that might give you guys some interesting things to talk about.
Have a good one folks and I’ll catch you all in the morrow.