With fourth place secured earlier than usual this season thanks to Everton’s late collapse, Arsenal relaxed a little and did enough to edge ahead of West Brom before getting the deckchairs out for the second half and coasting to the win.
I can’t recall anything of note happening after halftime, but by then the game was won because a seriously poor West Brom outfit never looked like scoring and therefore Giroud’s header after just 11 minutes was ultimately enough. It was a flat way to finish the Emirates fixtures, but kind of poetic really — a good start which tailed off, a bit like our league campaign.
I don’t begrudge the players saving themselves for Wembley to be honest. I’d rather that than have them going flat out to win 4-0 today and picking up a couple of hamstring strains. Nobody will remember this game in a few months, but I think the mental effect of a cup final win/defeat will have a massive bearing on next season, so I’m not too fussed about today.
Thankfully, the last few games have been perfect preparation for us — little pressure from Everton and some easy fixtures which read like a well planned pre-season schedule building up to the big day. West Ham, Hull, Newcastle and West Brom enabled us to get our confidence back after the debacles of Everton and Wigan and so we really should dispose of Hull with ease. They have been playing at 60% since they achieved Premier League safety a few weeks ago and it shows. It’s hard to turn that on again for a big match and I can’t see them troubling us at all, especially without Long and Jelavic.
After today’s match Wenger was banging on about injuries again as everyone fell over themselves to congratulate him on 4th place. That really narked me. First of all, with our resources 4th is the absolute minimum we should be getting, so all this praise is like someone congratulating me for turning up to work.
Secondly, playing the injury card and having everyone lap it up as the only reason we aren’t up there fighting for the title was just too much. He repeated what he’d said earlier in the week, which was something along the lines of ‘We were in the running and then injuries stopped us’. No Arsene. You should be saying ‘We were in the running and then we had to play the good teams’ because that’s the biggest reason we blew any chance of winning the league. Whether we had Walcott, Ozil, Wilshere and Ramsey available was a small factor in the grand scheme of things — after all, those four played away to Man City and look how that turned out!
Injuries don’t help of course, but they are just one of our problems and to use them as a sweeping excuse that ignores Wenger’s other deficiencies is innacurate — classic spin from Arsene as usual. Sadly, plenty of people believe him when he puts it all down to bad luck and therefore his glaring inadequacies escape the spotlight. Well, not on this blog they don’t.
I won’t rehash what I’ve been saying all season, but here’s a quick list of what has held us back (in no particular order):
1) The squad is too small with no strength in depth
2) The squad is unbalanced (not enough strikers, too many central midfielders/playmakers)
3) Not enough pace (only Walcott and Ox — Gnabry and Miyachi aren’t ready yet)
4) Always picking up injuries, most of which are muscular suggesting there’s something wrong with conditioning and/or training and/or recovery
5) Wenger not strengthening in January despite having significant funds available
6) Wenger’s lack of tactical nous, especially in the big games
7) Wenger’s unwillingness to take the opposition’s strengths and weaknesses into account, something he openly admits
8) Wenger only playing one formation and one style, making it easy for clever managers to outwit him (never beaten Mourinho — says it all)
9) Long term injuries to key personnel like Walcott, Wilshere and Ramsey
So there you have it. Here is Wenger’s list:
1) Long term injuries to key personnel like Walcott, Wilshere and Ramsey, caused by bad luck.
Anyway, the Norwich game is now an irrelevance but we need to strike the right balance of saving our legs for Wembley and making sure we stay competitive, because like I said earlier it’s hard to switch back on once you relax. Look at Bayern — wrapped up the Bundesliga ages ago and then weren’t sharp enough to deal with Real Madrid who spanked them. Therefore I don’t expect sweeping changes and a repeat of today would be just fine by me — it’s all about Saturday May 17th now.
Follow oohtobeagooner on Facebook
for more latest Arsenal transfer news, injury news, team news and rumours.