First, an apology to my loyal army (ahem) of avid readers. My last post was on April 28th and I have had nothing to say since then, despite the end of the season, the European Championships starting and next season’s fixtures coming out.
So let’s deal with those things first, and see if we can’t do some catching up.
Our season pretty much petered out in the end – having been cruelly knocked out of the Champions League, we stuttered against United and Chelsea and won our last 3 meaningless games at the end which left us 2 points behind Chelsea and 4 behind the deserving winners, United. There is no doubt they were the best team in England last season, so I don’t begrudge them their 2nd championship in succession. I just wish we could have had that particular pleasure at some point since the 1930’s! I do, however, begrudge Chelsea finishing 2nd, as we were much better than them for most of it and I feel we deserved that 2nd spot overall.
In the end, we simply lacked the strength in depth that hundreds of millions of pounds buys you. I think that, considering our modest resources (in comparison with the other two – and Liverpool, who finished a further 7 points behind us!), we performed admirably this season and can be very proud of the side.
In particular, I would like to mention Cesc, Clichy and Flamini who were all outstanding. Adebayor did some excellent work too, as did Sagna. Almunia held his own well and even Hleb played well sometimes, I think. The downsides were Gallas’ lack of captaincy at a vital time, RVP’s dreadful injury record (recovering just in time to play for his country in the summer!) and the usual useless lump that is Senderos. Flamini has now left us, preferring to play in the UEFA Cup rather than the Champions League (but at least he’ll be even more rich now) and Jens has finally been packed off back to Germany (also to play for his country this summer!). Only one signing so far this summer (Aaron Ramsey, 17) so hopefully there’s more to come once Euro 2008 is over.
Talking of Euro 2008, I think it started quite slowly but has improved as its gone on (almost the polar opposite of Arsenal last season!) – watching Holland and Spain has been superb and Turkey have been involved in two superb comebacks so far.
Watching France, however, was a painful experience. They have just been knocked out tonight looking (as Motty put it) “leaderless” – despite having both our current captain and our previous one in their ranks! Hmmm, I wonder what that says about our choice of leaders?! Their team seems to consist of some promising youngsters but mainly its just a load of old codgers who used to be good at football – Sagnol, Makelele, Vieira (who didn’t even play a single game!), Henry (who is not the same man who played for Arsenal just over a year ago, I’m sure of it) and Thuram are all way past it – and Florent Malouda and Eric Abidal are just awful.
Players I’ve seen so far that I would like Arsene to sign include Villa (who everyone will want, so he’s out), Podolski (who appears to be able to shoot from outside the penalty area!!!) and the Dutch midfielder, Engelaar who is strong and positive and looks like a Flamini replacement to me. We shall see.
The last issue on my agenda is the fixture list. Now I’m not generally into conspiracy theories but this is getting ridiculous! Every single season, bar none, the teams that are likely to be competing for the title play each other near the end – this cannot be coincidence. It’s happened for the last 6 or 7 years – for years we played United around April time, then Chelsea became the main challenger to United and suddenly they played United around that time! Now next season, Sky obviously can’t decide who is going to be up there, so we’re all playing each other (including Liverpool, because you never know!) within the last 5 weeks of the season! Given that there are 20 teams in the Premier League, it is simply not possible to have this happen (assuming the fixtures are, as the Premier League claim them to be) every single season. Yes, I know that statistically, there is as much chance of this as any other combination but be realistic, Sky are obviously trying to orchestrate things and its working. What a joke.
“Super Massive Grand Slam Decider Sunday”, here we come! Tuh.