As Yossi Benayoun mopped up Marton Fulop’s (the only Hungarian with a north London accent) first of three costly errors within four minutes, it looked like Arsenal’s bipolar of a season was going to finish with a flourish at West Brom. However, Arsenal being Arsenal, the season-long routine of making your supporters edge closer and closer to that heart attack their spouses had warned them kicked in.
The early goal seemed to inject the Baggies with a bit of enthusiasm and drive to send their departing manager away on a positive note; James Morrison’s (not the shit singer-songwriter) through ball to an offside Shane Long before he slotted it past the stuttering Wojciech Szczesny. Szczesny’s recent form has marred his overall impressive season between the sticks – and with age on his side, he can only improve.
The unimaginable scenario of Spurs finishing higher than Arsenal started to sink in when things were made worse less than five minutes later. Dodgy defending led to a clinical Dorrans’ effort that had the Hawthorns jumping; Arsenal’s defending inabilities showing its ugly head once again with three different players unable to stop Dorrans striking.
Szczesny’s recent form has marred his overall impressive season between the sticks – and with age on his side, he can only improve.
The appointment of Steve Bould as assistant manager to Wenger couldn’t have come soon enough – the defensive wisdom of the Arsenal legend is critically needed if the Gunners are to stop leaking the goals which have cost them dear this season.
Luckily for Arsenal though, West Brom adopted the ‘anything you can do, I can do better’ approach in regards to lacklusture defending when Youssouf Mulumbu took too much time on the ball before giving it away to Santos. The heavy-set Brazillian forced his way forward without encountering much opposition and smashed the ball into the corner; Fulop’s goalkeeping questionable once again as his save only helped the ball nestle nicely inside the post. Going in all-square at the break with their arch-rivals leading against Fulham was never in the plan – Wenger needed to do something.
And Wenger did do something. Theo Walcott, who was a doubt for the clash, was brought on instead of the anonymous Rosicky. Walcott, all too many times described as having no ‘footballing brain’ by Chris Waddle (Chris Waddle, I know…) gave Arsenal a bit of width which had been lacking in the first half. No matter how good a fullback is and how lacking in footballing brain cells Theo Walcott actually is, his pace alone is quite terrifying. His impressive second half surely sees him on the plane to EURO 2012, especially with the England boss watching.
The slightly more decisive Arsenal took the lead after 54 minutes with another horrendous error by Fulop. Van Persie’s corner seemed easy enough for the Hungarian to deal with but instead of calmly collecting the ball he elected to hilariously double-fist punch the ball behind him and straight into the path of Koscielny to tap in. It’s safe to say that after this performance, Marton Fulop will never have to buy a pint in the red half of north London again!
No matter how good a fullback is and how lacking in footballing brain cells Theo Walcott actually is, his pace alone is quite terrifying.
Of course this wasn’t enough for Arsenal as they decided once again to put that final half hour of hell onto their supporters; the Gunners have become a one-team oxymoron within the Premiership this year – consistently inconsistent. WBA continued to fight back but some great defensive stops by Robin van Persie and an incredible last-ditch tackle by Kieran Gibbs somehow sealed the points.
The media will proclaim this season to be exciting for Arsenal supporters but exciting expresses too much of a positive spin on things; the gut-wrenching bashings the team took at the hands of Manchester United and Blackburn are not going to go away quickly. Of course the third place finish is welcomed by all considering our position back in October but for the safety of their own fans, the Gunners need to start leaping over the finish line instead of slowly crawling on all fours.
Still, there’s hope for next season: the third place finish will surely see Robin van Persie sign a new contract or at least see out his time at the club; Oxlade-Chamberlain gets better and better through every appearance and there’s a few new signings on the horizon in Podolski et al. There still remains a double over our back four but with Djourou signing a new contract it looks like no defenders will be purchased with maybe a defensive midfielder to partner Song will be brought in.
But at least it didn’t take a bit of dodgy lasagne to mark St. Totteringham’s Day (even a bit later than usual) to once again prove that North London really is red – let’s do it a bit easier next year please, lads?
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