|22 May||4:00 PM||P||Fulham (A)||2||2||Draw|
So, the final Sunday of the season is very nearly upon us, and I think it is fair to say the term "relative disaster" strikes a chord with many, all things considered. I shall be one of a very privileged few hundred people aboard the famous away-day Fulham boat trip, as we set sail from Westminster Pier to the Cottage ahead of one final tussle; the dénouement of a long, tiring, gut-wrenching campaign.
Yes, I am going back for more. Because no matter how much them lot take the piss, thousands do and always will go back for more, depending on where they are and how they can and by whatever means: in the grounds home and away, on television and radio sets the world over, or by just taking a sneaky look on the Beeb for updates while "busy" at work. Or even get there by bloody boat!
A season that had promised so much, arguably more than ever in recent years, has fizzled out in the most depressing of fashions, definitely more than ever in recent years! If anything, we look set to end the season on more than a backward step from last. An earlier exit from Europe, a lower total of league points, less goals, already the same number of goals conceded, and an all-probable return to 4th place finishes and the dreaded Champions League qualifiers in store. You cannot argue about those, can you? To quote a certain Spaniard once in charge of Liverpool... this is fact!
Of course, there have been highlights: wins against Chelsea and both Champions League finalists look to have banished the inferiority complex against the bigger sides, while the emergence of Jack Wilshere and re-introduction of Aaron Ramsey are certainly the big pluses personnel-wise.
Barely over three lines, that took to cover the highs, so there you have it. Now onto the lows...
Not that there is much more to say, really. None more than the painful grievances, one after the other since 27th February, with a calamity or two by Arsène Wenger and his boys almost every week as if desperate to prove all our annoyances correct. What I will say is this yearly cycle of false promises, hope, and expectation, followed by a dramatic crash-landing a parachute-less lead balloon would be proud of, is simply not acceptable any longer.
Ironic it is that we end with Fulham, just as we had last time out in 2009-2010, albeit at home then, with the chimes of optimism and claims of lessons learnt from back then firmly ringing in my ears.
There will be none of that this time whatever the outcome. There will be scepticism, there will be mockery, there will be revisionist realism: the Club are simply not up to scratch at the present time, and this definitely is not the pretty picture the board and manager had had in mind nor promised as they moved us a few yards along from the Home of Football five years back.
How a team playing with so much purpose, so much verve, so much fun, almost, be reduced to a shambolic nervous, impotent wreck following one defeat is definitely cause for deep inquiry, and deeper upset at how things are at Arsenal at the minute. Not only that, but it poses serious questions about our future with the emergence of Manchester City now as a serious club alongside the Champions and Chelsea amongst one or two others.
All a worrying state of affairs. And all a complete laugh and utter travesty in all honesty when the likes of Denilson announce to the world that, I quote: He is "a born winner", "fed up with not winning any trophies", and that "something major is missing at Arsenal". All of which has led the poor thing to absolutely crush our bleeding hearts by announcing his "definite" departure.
Well, take it from me Mr. Neves: you are not a born winner; far from it, you are the most un-Brazilian Brazilian footballer I, and many, have ever had the misfortune of watching, and do not dare make out your departure as a result of being "fed up", but more a case of the man who had discovered your very existence and persisted with you for 153 matches having FINALLY realised that you (and others) are not fit to touch the Arsenal shirt, let alone wear it for so many years. A case of you leaving so we CAN win trophies not vice versa, and definitely a case of good riddance, as you will have heeded from the thousands of enraged Gooners on Twitter I am sure.
But Denilson is just one of seven or eight who need not be seen within a hundred mile radius of N5 for us to move forward. A situation that is, frankly, asking a lot of even the most pragmatic and sensible of tacticians, let alone Wenger, when it comes to shedding almost a third of your squad in one go and replacing them with the sufficient quality and strength.
More of that after Fulham, I am sure. For now, I guess the only thing we can hope for is to end it all with a win, somehow, in the desperate hope that a faltering Bolton do us a big favour in stopping a rampant City from clinching that 3rd spot, also somehow!
Whatever happens as the curtains close come 6pm on Sunday, this will go down as yet another terribly forgettable year in the history of Arsenal Football Club, a near-perfect rendition of the sinking ship. Only metaphorically and not in the literal sense though hopefully, at least for the sakes of those (and me) on board...
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