Arsenal certainly made it difficult for themselves and made for a stressful ending to the season after coming from behind to win 3-2 against a tough West Brom side. The win meant automatic qualification into next seasons Champions League is secure with rivals Spurs taking up the fourth and final spot.
But much thanks must be handed to WBA goalkeeper Marton Fulop who inexplicably gave the Gunners a couple of goals after some of his horrible mistakes kept Arsenal in the game.
The Hungarian could well have been Arsenal’s player of the day after his slip in the opening minutes of the game gave Yossi Benayoun a goodbye present after the Israeli nipped in front of the stumbling keeper to slot home into an empty net. But things took a turn for the worst for the North London side when WBA managed two goals in quick succession to turn the match on its head, the first of which was a country mile offside.
But this did not deter a resilient Arsenal side that pushed and pushed for a way back in, and thanks to a powerful strike from Andre Santos and a second half goal from Koscielny (assisted wonderfully by Marton Fulop) the Gunners retained third position.
Wenger is happy with the outcome of the season after some nervy moments throughout kept it very interesting for the Frenchman. He said in his post-match formalities (as reported on arsenal.com):
I think if you look at the season as a whole, we lost only two of the last 16 games and created a fantastic run. In the end we finished with 70 points, which is respectable, and we qualify for the Champions League for the 15th consecutive year. Of course we are very proud of that, especially this season having started where we started. We had problems getting over the line and you could see that again today.
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[on another comeback] When we were 1-0 up we were nervous. When we were 2-1 down we got back to our game again and in the end we just hung on. We defended crosses with resilience but as long as we did not manage a fourth goal [I was nervous]. I am still thinking of suing the referee for the five minutes of added time because my heart suffered immensely!
[on the Tottenham game] Yes [I was aware of what was going on]. They were 2-0 up and basically I did not want to finish fourth. If Chelsea win the Champions League then you are not in it and you are also not [definitely] in it because you play a qualifier.
[on thoughts of a third-placed finish in September] In September certainly not. We were 17th in the league then and in the first seven games we had lost four. When you have played seven games and lost four you think there are 31 games to go and it is very difficult to imagine that you will finish third. But we had an exceptional run after our exit in the Champions League.
[on the defence] Szczesny has played injured in the last five weeks with a shoulder problem. He gets injected on the day of a game and plays, you cannot maintain your level like that forever. We just decided to do it because there was not long to go. If it was in the middle of the season we would have rested him.
[on Gibbs’ late saving challenge] I feel he came on very well. He suffered on that flank in the second half but when he came on he won headers and won tackles to get us out of difficult situations. He deserves huge credit for that tackle.
[on overhauling Tottenham] I don’t know [if it is one of my best seasons], I leave that to you. I am very proud of this season because we were not only tested on the football front – which as a Club we are used to – but on our mental solidity, unity and solidarity within. We were deeply tested, we did not show any weakness, kept united and in the end came back. It is a good lesson for everybody. At some stages everybody was wondering what we were doing.
[on qualifying for Champions League] I would not say it is a failure. We have qualifying for the 15th season in a row now. There are only three clubs that have done that so it is not as easy as it looks.
[On keeping hold of Van Persie] It is easier to attract players and to keep them.
[on signing Podolski] I was asked many times the question whether or not we relied too much on the goalscoring of Van Persie. He has scored 30 goals and we have tried to add somebody else who can score as well. Yes [we plan to speak with him before the Euros].
[On Van Persie’s post-match celebrations] You can make of that what you want. If a player does not come out and celebrate you say he is a already gone and if he goes and celebrates with the fans that means he is saying goodbye. I believe it is positive.
[on a fitting send-off for Pat Rice] First of all we are from the same generation you would call the ‘Old Guard’. I am very happy to give him that present today. I would have been sad for him to leave the Club today and not be in the Champions League. It is very emotional for him and for me as well because I arrived here and he was always my assistant. Pat has many qualities of the ‘Old Guard’; that means he is a fighter, he doesn’t talk too much – but when he talks, he talks! He is mentally strong.
[on the dramatic title race] It is unbelievable. Maybe QPR knew they were safe, I don’t know. Maybe they relaxed a little bit and thought they were over the line. But it is Manchester City and they can score goals. That can happen.
The comeback kings of the season Arsenal can enjoy the celebrations now after an up and down season that has seen them overturn a huge number of games from loosing positions and resurrect themselves from 17th position in September. They can take a whole lot of positives from the season that has seen captain and talisman score club-record-equalling 30 goal haul in the league, a new look Gunners side inject an exciting mix of speed, finesse, strength and skill leading to automatic Champions League qualification.
But many Gooners will still be concerned with the future of Van Persie that is set to be determined next week. Don’t fret, with the Gunners playing Champions League football next season, the acquisition of Lukas Podolski and the return of Wilshere Arsenal’s future looks very healthy which is exactly what RVP want’s to see before signing a new contract. His wife has admitted their family is very happy and settled in London, so he should be a Gunner for the remainder of his career.
Be sure to check back this week as we keep our readers up to date on the latest transfer negotiations between Van Persie and the Gunners.
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