So against the odds, Arsenal finished the Premier League season as runners’ up after they beat Aston Villa 4-0 at Emirates stadium today and Tottenham got battered 5-1 up in Newcastle by ten men. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
All they needed was a draw against an already-relegated side to finish above us for the first time in decades but instead, they collapsed and in truth, having kept an eye on their match via Setanta Sports while watching a stream of ours, it could have been a much wider win-margin for the Geordies.
In the last portion of the game Newcastle, despite their numerical disadvantage, counter-attacked Tottenham relentlessly, wasting at least three or four very presentable chances. But I’ll take just the five goals, along with second place and the bragging rights over our neighbours for yet another season. Power shift my Ar*e.
As for our own match, the game at St James’ Park gave Emirates stadium a bit of a pantomime feel as every goal the Magpies put past Sp*rs was cheered wildly by the Arsenal fans, giving their own team a visible boost to their play in the process. Add sunshine and what was, in the end, a comfortable 4-0 win for the Gunners and what we had was a surprisingly uplifting end to an otherwise disappointing season.
But it wasn’t all plain sailing despite Olivier Giroud heading us in front from Nacho Monreal’s cross after just five minutes. We allowed Villa to establish a foothold in the contest and fan irritation at our failure to extend our lead was audibly high. Especially when the visitors looked threatening and news filtered through that Tottenham had halved their two-goal, half-time deficit with half-an-hour still to play in both games.
But 13 minutes later, Newcastle scored again and with our crowd suddenly as loud and vociferous in urging the team on as I’ve heard all season, we grabbed a nerve-calming second goal five minutes after that. Mesut Ozil, as so often this season, was the architect, playing a brilliant one-two on the left before servicing Giroud’s near-post dart with a low cross. The Frenchman made it three goals in his last two games, expertly elevating the ball in finishing first-time, high into the far corner.
It was three and a hat-trick for Giroud just two minutes later when Hector Bellerin’s quite brilliant through-ball/cross was gleefully guided home by the striker. Meanwhile, things got better and better for us and Newcastle at St James’ Park. First Rolando Aarons volleyed home emphatically from a tight angle, before Daryl Janmaat (who I wouldn’t mind us signing as a back-up for Bellerin by the way) raced forward and rolled the ball past Hugo Lloris with effortless ease as the goalkeeper got his angles horribly wrong.
Our fans sang “it’s happened again”, Newcastle’s roared “Rafa Benitez, we want you to stay” and normal order in north London was restored. So as the dust settles, we can reflect on the second successive, final game of our season in which we’ve beaten Aston Villa 4-0 in London after last May’s FA Cup final success, and also the fact we’e ended the league campaign as runners’ up for the first time since the 2004/05 campaign when we were defending champions of course.
If nothing else, that’s tangible progress in Premier League terms and when you consider Manchester City ended the season in fourth (barring a cricket score in the Manchester United game against Bournemouth which will be rescheduled after being abandoned today), United in fifth, Liverpool down in eighth and Chelsea a further two places behind that, I can’t help but feel criticism of the manager and players has again been a little premature and overblown in recent weeks.
But there’s plenty of time to have that debate over the next couple of months because for tonight at least, we can all laugh at Tottenham and at least try to savour the fact we’ve salvaged second from a season that at one stage threatened to see us drop out of the Champions League places altogether.
We’ve taken second and silver. With a little luck and the right signings this summer, hopefully we’ll be taking gold this time next year, by winning the league at what would be a lucky 13th attempt since our last crown.
See you next week.