4th place and you f**ked it up, 4th place and you f**ked it up!
As 93 years of history came to a close N5 was full of singing, jubilation, reflection and goading. May 7th drew the curtain on Arsenals tenure at Highbury and simultaneously drew a curtain on the scums champions leagues hopes for another season.
The double whammy of getting 4th at the expense of spurs was not lost on the thousands that packed the stadium and surrounding pubs as beer and champagne showered down on the redcurrant clad revellers. Such was the situation that the performance did not really matter, it was all about two results. As it was Arsenal put in a display full of verve and enthusiasm with the best player in the world signing off from his favourite piece of turf with a hat-trick. Surely after the scenes TH14 will be at the grove next season.
The first ten minutes was a roller coaster. Pires put Arsenal 1-0 up with a tap in after a cross from Cesc and flick by Gilberto. Instantaneously West Ham went 1-0 up and the pub (The Arsenal Tavern) erupted however as Arsenal fans we should really know better by now and Wigan struck back with a goal that we have seen far too often. A ball was whipped in and I don’t care who but some guy in blue put it in un-marked. We were still in 4th but only on goal difference.
Then the unthinkable happened and Wigan took the lead. Again a sloppy goal as Jens, out of position, was caught by a superbly struck free kick that found the bottom corner from 35 yards. Suddenly we were in 5th and Spurs were losing. Then to make matters worse a goaded Defoe struck with a strike that may have got him his place on the standby list above Bent. But we should all have known that this day was always going to involve a certain frenchman, Pires played an early pass into Thierry Henry's path and facing the goalkeeper there was only going to be one outcome. 2-2.
There was no evidence of the dodgy lasagne in Spurs’ play, but we hoped and prayed West Ham would give them the runs in the second half. Into the second half and Arsenal piled on the pressure. We were somewhat lucky to get the third but it was well taken. An under hit back pass from Thompson fell to Henry who rounded Pollitt and ran the ball into the goal. 3-2 we were in 4th. The game carried on under a blanket of nervous tension. The constant threat of a goal for spurs loomed over me, if not the rest of the pub who seemed more than happy to temp fate at any turn. I could just see Spurs scoring a jammy goal.
Then Andreas Somethingsson came on, his first part to play was pulling back Freddie in the 6 yard box. It was so blatant that a penalty was always being awarded. I may have given him a yellow, but as it was he played less than 60 seconds, didn’t touch the ball, gave away a penalty and was sent off. TH14 stepped up to secure his hat-trick….it was never in doubt. A clean strike into the bottom corner. As Highbury celebrated a 4th news came through that Spurs had conceded a 2nd, and what a goal it was by the way. The previously pessimistic fans, my self included, could let themselves go mental. The pub was in delirium. I met more people in the two minutes after the goal than I had in the last month. Hugging, kissing, meaningless screams and eyes wide open with teeth showing.
Fans spilled out onto the streets mass chanting took over. The police employed surprisingly sensible tactics of letting everyone drink on the street. We were happy, not angry and there was no danger. A bunch of friends and I stood opposite the pub more than happy to pour alcohol over ourselves and anyone else who fancied it. Any inanimate object was held up in celebration, one guy was holding a crutch.
The players played their part. Stand out performers were Henry, Reyes and Bobby with the defence not needing to exert themselves.
Highbury was splendid. The Art Deco exterior standing proudly in the shadow of the new stadium. It was a sad day. Highbury is one of the last proper football grounds in the Premiership, revered by opposition fans and players alike. It will take a lot to replace it, but we are not replacing it. This is the evolution of the club into the upper financial echelons of European football. Mr Tyagi informed me that Arsenal have spent the 4th least, net, in the Prem since AW arrived. With the new stadium we can and will go from strength to strength. I just pray Henry and AW stay to see through this incredible football project.
A league campaign that started so poorly and was well below par until February ended with renewed hope and optimism. Our worst season for 10 years was still better than Spurs’ best season for 10 years. There is only one team in North London, and unlike our last move we ain’t going far.
Lehmann - Caught out for the Thompson free kick wasn't his usual self but he is allowed an off game. 5
Eboue - Another good performance from the up and down fullback. 7
Toure - Done his best to deal with the pace of Roberts and Camara. 7
Campbell - Not as good as his Manchester City performance, Lucky not to concede a penalty. 6
Cole - Looked almost back to his best, I hope he his committed long term to us. 8
Hleb - Another consistent performance. 7
Fabregas - Arsenal are not the same without this kid. 8
Gilberto - Steady. 7
Pires - His midfield goals will be missed. 7
Reyes - Worked hard, couldn't add to his midweek goals. 7
Henry - Do I have to say anything? 9 MOM
Ljungberg - Won the Penalty. 7
Van Persie - Look sharp. 7
Bergkamp - Shame he couldn't grab a goal. 6