|30 Apr||3:00 PM||P||Manchester United (H)||1||0||Win|
Well, it just was meant to be, wasn't it? A victory against Manchester United is welcome in any form at any time. But this is just way too teasing, isn't it? Bittersweet takes a whole new meaning here.
And the thing is, this was a win every bit as deserved as our form had been disastrous over the past two months.
With my brother sat next to me watching pensively on as the United pressure came to the boil in the dying moments, I told him that those Arsenal boys have done themselves and their great Club and supporters proud for once, and that each and every one of them would be exempt from blame had United equalised, given the situation (barring an obvious individual cock-up, of course).
Fight, bite, grit, strength and confidence on the ball against the champions-elect in what was essentially a dead rubber of a contest. Okay, is there ever such a thing as an Arsenal-United, Wenger-Fergie dead-rubber? But you get my drift.
Just where, WHERE, was all of that against Sunderland, Blackburn, West Brom, Bolton for God's sake? Where? Someone tell me where! A malingering thought as the clock ticked down on a solid, richly resourceful win, and a thought that is bound to continue as the curtains are drawn on yet another failed effort of a season.
Even the likes of subs Andrey Arshavin and Emmanuel Eboué looked interested and with half a brain on them for once, the Russian making not one, nor two, but three tackles in obstructing potential United counterattacks! A tad late, Andrey, a tad late! Set pieces, no problem. The fleet-of-foot assassin in Hernandez, no problem! It all clicked in such a manner that must have had Arsène Wenger, as it had thousands other in the ground, wondering, just what could have been this season. It is as I say, in a word, teasing!
Even Cesc Fàbregas' last minute pre-match withdrawal, the latest in the wheel of misfortune, failed to dampen the spirit or, crucially, to lessen the performance. Since when has Cesc been available for a clash against Manchester United, I ask myself, anyway? Time to get used to being without him forever more one feels anyway. And who needs him, when, at this rate, you have a masterfully talented cheeky schemer in the shape of one Aaron Ramsey, who, with Jack Wilshere alongside, and with Alex Song sitting deep, turned in arguably the best midfield performance of 2011?! It was only fitting that the young Wales skipper hit the winner early in the second half; an accurate finish following a sweeping move led by the ever-passionate Robin van Persie.
Not so much a backs-to-the-wall effort here on in following Ramsey's deserved opener, but we were tested alright! And it is the manner in which each and every one of them stood tall (barring sub Sébastien Squillaci's customary slip letting Wayne Rooney release Nani through on goal), that just adds to the whole chagrin that is this most unfulfilling of football seasons in 2010-2011.
Expectedly, the gaffer has come out with all his usual shiz: the pride, the team spirit, the "giving everything", you know the lot. Inevitably though, you could just smell the regret and sorrow in his voice as he reflected on what could have been. Those players will no doubt be hurting too, a good few of them looking themselves in the mirror and asking themselves, just why not do it when it truly matters?!
Not least with the talk now on the supposedly wide open title race once again...for Chelsea! With three points separating the top two and with identical goal difference, the spectacle at Old Trafford next Sunday promises to be one of the most significant title deciders in years. Not that I care that much, a sentiment shared by many of you, I suspect, although I must admit, I'd personally much rather United hold their nerve and clinch it now that we are out of the picture. Arguments for and against who Gooners would rather succeed out of those two bains of our very existence, but this is neither the time nor the place for it.
For now, we can celebrate victory, a very hollow one mind, in the knowledge that whoever it is that triumphs on May 22nd, it won't, sadly, be Arsenal.
Oh well, I suppose there's always next year. Or so goes the joke anyway...
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