"Well we had those disappointing results at Tottenham and Wigan. Unfortunately that is where we lost the title. We five games to go, we were in a very strong position. I believe if we had won at Tottenham, then we would have been level with Chelsea today. And that of course brings immense regrets. But to be faithful to what we have done during the season it is important that we finish well, first to be in the top three, then be as close as possible to the top teams."
- Arsene Wenger, before the Blackburn game
It doesn't matter whether we win or lose, it's how we play the game.
That's what I've been hearing since I was in primary school. It was a useful lesson when I was twelve and I couldn't believe why other people were so stupid at maths. It was even more useful when I was seventeen, when I had become one of those "other people" who were stupid at maths. If you put your sense of worth in the results, you're never going to be satisfied, but if you put your sense of worth in the effort you put it, you're always going to be happy with the outcome.
So on the penultimate game of the season, maybe it's time to take stock of what we've done this year. We sold Adebayor and Toure, we brought in Vermaelen. We changed to a 4-3-3 and were flying before injuries brought us back into the pack. We did alright against the small clubs, but were stitched up time and again by the big clubs. Ramsey got his leg broken. Campbell came back and restored his reputation. Remarkably, we hung onto the title leaders until April, and then it all fell apart.
Was it a disappointing season? If you followed the season closely and got your hopes up when we went on that late-season winning spree, then yes. If we'd managed to strengthen in January, we would've won the league. If we'd bought a decent 'keeper, we would've won the league. If we'd had the foresight to plan for the inevitable absences of van Persie, Gallas and Song, we would've won the league. If we had any sort of defensive discipline, we would've won the league.
However, how many would've expected us to be 3rd at the end of the season? I didn't. I thought we'd be 4th, after fighting off Aston Villa and Man City all season. I never thought we'd be in contention until April. And really, that's a minor victory in itself. It's something to be glad about. We made some small improvements, and while there's still a lot of work to do before we're title contenders, we're heading in the right direction... hopefully.
Now all we have to do is: sign a fucking 'keeper, hire a defensive coach to oversee our tactical organisation; sign a fucking 'keeper; instil some discipline and hunger in our squad; sign a fucking 'keeper; bolster the squad with a few experienced players; sign a fucking 'keeper; review our medical team and our injury-management protocols; sign a fucking 'keeper.
I think I've said all this in an earlier post. But the problem is that the problems with Arsenal are remarkably clear to all. It just beggars the mind that Wenger doesn't want to acknowledge them. I hope Wenger's "immense regret" at the disappointing close to the season forces him to do some serious soul-searching over the summer, and finally address the issues that are holding us back.
As for the game against Blackburn, who really gives a fuck? I don't. I'd like us to win, but who cares about a dead match? The only thing I care about is what changes Wenger introduces in the summer.
So on the 355th last day of my 20s, I went to work, ate a cheese and herb scroll, sat in a medical centre waiting room for an hour reading Northanger Abbey, came home, had dinner, and started typing on this blog. And I kept thinking thoughts that aren't particularly constructive, and which are turning my brain into a goo of taffy-like consistency.