Saturday, 10 May 2014

Norwich vs Arsenal: Match Preview


So, here we are. Final league game of the season.

Compared to the previous two campaigns, when we had to scrap with Tottenham for fourth, you could say that this season has been progress. After all, fourth is sealed two Gameweeks in advance and we have bettered our points tally by potentially six. That's good, right?

I agree! However, for me, at least, this season hasn't been progress enough. I firmly believe that the team we had was better than Liverpool, injuries or not. Indeed, with some clever tactics, we could have even gone past Chelsea.

I firmly believe that on paper, we are the second best team in England, below City. Add a striker and a defensive midfielder in the coming months, replace the departures with quality, and we may be the best. Why then, did we slip to fourth?

For me, it was the away hammerings. Of course, you could argue that we could have won the league despite that, had we not slipped against Stoke, United, Southampton and Swansea. Mathematically, yes, we could.

However, in a 38 game season, you are bound to make a mistake against lower opposition once in a while. Even though our record this season against mediocre opposition is impressive to say the least, going through flawlessly past all of them is nearly impossible. If you want to be the best, you need to take out the best.

That's where we've failed this season. And last season, and the season before. That lies with Wenger, as he failed to suitably adjust his tactics and motivate his team ahead of these crunch clashes.

Finishing with fourth and the FA Cup is not a successful season. It would be, on comparing with our previous eight seasons, or comparing it to teams like Everton or Spurs or United. Those teams would take Champions League and a trophy anyday.

But we are Arsenal. If you look at the players we had, the instability in other teams, and the bank balance of ours, we should have done better than fourth. This season, hugely because of the FA Cup, has been acceptable, but not a benchmark for other seasons.

Coming back to the game, which shouldn't be of much importance. The league season is practically over, and considering there's a final coming up, we should rest a lot of players. Again, I say 'should', but I know Wenger won't.

I would like Diaby, Rosicky or Sanogo to get a run in. Maybe even Vermaelen or Jenkinson, and Viviano as goalkeeper. If I had my way, I'd go with Viviano - Jenkinson - Koscielny - Vermaelen - Monreal - Kallstrom - Diaby - Rosicky - Cazorla - Podolski - Sanogo.

But screw it. Why fantasize over something that won't happen? I know Szczesny will play, Mertesacker will play, Özil will play. Giroud or Arteta might be rested for Wenger's two French darlings, but that's about it. Let's just live with that.

I'd love for Arsenal to reach 79, for it might raise the bar higher for next season, and keep the confidence flowing ahead of Wembley. But in hindsight, the win obviously will mean nothing.

If anything, this will be the last time I'll see this Arsenal side (one more colourful and characterful than other) play in sync, without pressure, without expectation. It goes without saying that I'll miss watching these group of players together, so I'd better appreciate them before they get disbanded for lesser known, lesser cared-of people. And yeah, that's happening this summer, so live with that too. Sagna's on his way out.

Until then, there are only two games of this Arsenal left, one so close to perfection. One final show, please, Arsenal?

P.S. I've been told that Arsenal's interest in Serge Aurier is genuine. You can take this as a fact. Make of that what you will. Personally, I don't know him, and that's what worries me. I don't know him.

-Santi (Follow me on twitter: @ArsenalBlogz )