We’ve finally come to this day. The final day of the Premier League season for 2011/12. In honesty, the season could not end quick enough because Arsenal has proved to be very frustrating and a break is needed to regroup and rebuild the squad. However, I’m sure from tomorrow onwards, I’m going to miss the team. 2 months without Arsenal is akin to 2 months on the Arctic snow.
Anyway, I’m digressing. Tonight Arsenal face West Brom at the Hawthorns. The permutations has been spoken to death. I don’t even want to think about what happens if we draw. It’s the simplest of simple tonight, win and we don’t need to care about what happened elsewhere. And we can pop open that bottle of champagne to celebrate the night away congratulating each other on a good St Totteringham Day.
To be fair, we are not the only one grabbing the headlines heading into this match. West Brom are getting their share of the limelight, not least because it will be the last game for Roy Hodgson in club management before taking over the English national squad. From there, Hodgson will receive all the attention he can get from the media.
Attention which his West Brom side rarely gets. This despite leading his team to a very commendable mid table finishing. WBA are currently in 10th position and could finish no higher or no lower than 11th, regardless of the outcome after today. That is a very good achievement for a club their size. If to further prove that point, WBA has a marginally better away record than at home. The highlight of that being the win at Liverpool which would have no doubt delighted Hodgson.
Given the propensity of opposing teams to score world class goals against us, I’m glad that WBA captain, Chris Brunt is not playing. He packs a punch with that left foot of his and the home side will surely miss his influence and passing ability. Steven Reid who scored against us in the same fixture last season will also be missing. However Peter Odemwingie and Jerome Thomas are touch and go to start tonight’s game. Both played their part last season in helping WBA to 4 points against us.
As for us, Theo Walcott is in the same situation as our tormentors from last season. The rest of the team is as we expected. Question mark over who will play in the right back role in place of Bacary Sagna. I don’t think Arsene Wenger will want to make too many changes to his side and that should see Francis Coquelin come into that position rather than Carl Jenkinson. Other than that, I don’t expect any other changes to the side that drew in our last home game of the season.
We can’t muck around with this game. Our European hopes could rest on this fixture. Given the way Bayern Munich defended in their German Cup final yesterday, being in fourth place could potentially mean Europa League next season. There should be no complacency type of performance tonight. We must fight and go into the game with every intention of being faster to the second ball and not expecting a free ride. Which is hardly ever going to happen as the home side would be hoping to give Hodgson a good send off and to the home fans as well.
Wenger has been banging the high mental strength qualities for a very long time and it’s for the team to vindicate his judgement. Unless we take a few goals lead in this game and stroll to the end, we have to be strong. We don’t want to see heads dropping even if we go a goal down. It’s time to use this exceptional mental strength to achieve our target for tonight.
It goes without saying that the big chunk of the responsibility to pull us through lies with our captain, Robin Van Persie. For much of the season, he has been our talisman. Granted, there was a drought period in March and April but he looks to be right back where he started now. Chances will be created for him tonight and we can only hope that he delivers once again.
The responsibility is shared with 2 other more senior players in the side in Tomas Rosicky and Yossi Benayoun. Both have a wealth of experience and we can count on for tonight. For the former, one more good performance from him will cap off a remarkable return to form that no one expected of. While for the latter, one more good performance to show his appreciation to the Arsenal supporters knowing full well that this could possibly be his last ever game for us.
We need to be defensive solid if we are to achieve anything tonight. Wojciech Szczesny did not cover himself with glory in the Norwich draw last weekend. Neither did Thomas Vermaelen nor Kieran Gibbs, who constantly found wandering into positions and not picking up the opposition. As it always is, communication is the key. There needs to be leaders in the squad who will take the responsibility and tells their team mate to drop back or push forward. Alex Song, crucial in providing the right mix in that regard.
So, for the last time this season, let’s go out there and put on our best.
Up The Arsenal!!!