Monday, 12 May 2014

Arsenal Finish Their League Campaign On A High

Arsenal played their final league game of the season yesterday when they travelled to already relegated Norwich City. Arsenal came into the game on a run of four wins in a row and wanted to finish their season with 15 points from their last five games and their highest points tally since 2005. Despite Norwich already being as good as relegated they have proved to be a tough team to beat at home this season and weren't going to lie down and play dead.

I expected Arsene Wenger to make quite a few chances to the team with next week's FA Cup final against Hull in mind. There weren't too many changes though as the boss chose to pick a strong side and keep the team's momentum going. The team he picked proved to be far too strong for Norwich and Arsenal ran out 2-0 winners. 

Lukasz Fabianski was picked in goal which denied Wojciech Szczesny the chance to run up the most clean sheets of any keeper in the Premier League this season. With Szczesny not playing I think he might be the keeper to get the nod for the cup final next week which would be the correct decision in my opinion. It's a possibility that Fabianski was played because he will be the one to play in the cup final next week and it was decided to give him a game the week beforehand. 

Fabianski has played in every other round but he's set to leave in the summer and surely Szczesny has to be the man for the cup final. Fabianski had a very good game though and he showed he will be a big loss to the squad when he does leave. He had his problems when he first got into the team, but he probably would be Arsenal's first choice right now if it wasn't for a series of unfortunate injuries at exactly the wrong times for him.

In defence both Kieran Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson came into the team with Nacho Monreal dropping to the bench and Per Mertesacker getting a day off. It meant Bacary Sagna played as a central defender, but I have no doubt that Mertesacker will be back in the team next week. Gibbs got the chance to prove his fitness after his latest injury and it's going to be a very close call between him and Monreal next week.

In midfield Aaron Ramsey and Tomas Rosicky came in for Mathieu Flamini and Santi Cazorla but their additions certainly didn't weaken the team. Ramsey has had a great season and Arsenal's fate in the league might have been a lot different if he hadn't missed over three months due to injury. If he can stay fit for the whole of next season his influence could be what the team need to get even closer to winning the league than they did this season.

I was surprised to see Olivier Giroud starting as I thought he would be rested for next week after playing so many games this season. He is Arsenal's top scorer this season despite the misgivings I have about his goalscoring ability and it's important for the team that he is fit for next week. He went close on a couple of occasions, but again showed he doesn't have the killer instinct associated with a top class striker.

Norwich started well but Arsenal gradually took over and should have been ahead by half time, but a mixture of John Ruddy saves and some poor finishing kept Norwich in the game. With Ramsey and Mesut Ozil running the show in midfield I was confident the goals would come in the second half. 

It didn't take too long for Arsenal to go ahead in the second half and it was no surprise to see Ramsey get the goal. Just seven minutes in Giroud clipped a ball to the far post and Ramsey met it with a sweet volley into the top corner of the net. It was a fantastic finish from a player who's goals from midfield have been a revelation this season.

Only 10 minutes later the game was over as a contest when Jenkinson poked the ball home for his first goal for the club. He was thrilled with his goal and who can blame a player who has been a life long Arsenal fan. With Sagna also leaving this summer he might expect to play a lot more next season, but it does look like Arsenal are hunting for a new right back.

With Arsenal looking good for the win Jack Wilshere came on for Ramsey just after the goal and he will hope to at least make the bench next week. Like Ramsey his season has been interrupted by injury and that was his first appearance in 10 weeks. Arsenal have so many midfield options for next week that the boss will have a tough job picking the right combination.

With 15 minutes to go Giroud and Rosicky were replaced by Yaya Sanogo and Abou Diaby. It was great we too see Diaby back after a 14 month injury absence and on his 28th birthday too. It's impossible to know how his career might have gone if he didn't suffer that horrific injury in 2006 and hopefully he can put all of those injuries behind him now. Sanogo has been the striker to lead the line in the FA Cup this season, but it's difficult to imagine he will get the nod ahead of Giroud next week.

Arsenal went looking for more goals and could have had a few but Ruddy was at his best to deny them. At the other end Fabianski did his best to keep Norwich out and he did very well to keep a clean sheet on the day. The win saw Arsenal finish the season on 79 points in fourth place and qualify for the final qualifying round for next season's Champions League yet again.

They finished 15 points ahead of last season's champions and it's strange to think that tally only brought them fourth place. At the start of the season I would have thought finishing 15 points ahead of Umited would have been enough for any team to win the league. I would also have thought a final tally of 79 points would more than lithely have seen any team finish second in the league.

The season isn't over for Arsenal though with the FA Cup final to come next week and it will be judged as a successful one if they win the cup. The league campaign might be one full of what might have beens, but the thought of playing for a trophy next week is one all Arsenal fans are looking forward to. Let's hope they can continue the vein of form they're in at the moment and lift that trophy at Wembley next Saturday evening.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

No comments:

Post a Comment