A casual stroll in spring sunshine at Ashburton Grove finished off our home season with a comfortable one nil win thanks to an Olly power house header within a quarter of an hour of the start.
As seems almost traditional nowadays the last home game of the season was chosen as an opportunity for a bit of fan protest, this time at the 3% ticket price increase coming into effect for the 2014-15 season.
It seems the majority of the ire comes from the fact the extra commercial revenue from new deals and TV income more than covers the extra income from this 3% increase and the inevitable effect of pricing fans out of attending games.
Due to the Abu Dhabi FC’s defeat of Everton the previous day the Arsenal were assured of a 4th place finish before kick-off so yours truly could enjoy a stress free game with pretty much nothing of note resting on the result.
For the West Brom supporters a point was needed to guarantee safety but as an Arsenal fan I was more than glad to not allow them any such comfort and demanded a win.
This win looked more than likely when after some early probing the Arsenal were awarded a corner.
As Santi went over to the corner by the away support a chorus of boo-ing started – really? Booing Santi is just mean and petty, like abusing a puppy; he’s so harmless and smiling. However we shouldn’t expect any such foresight from away supporters who appeared more intent on bouncing inflatable beach balls for the full ninety minutes than anything else. There also were a lot of Spanish flags in the away end, perhaps because the Baggies think they have hit the big time with a continental manager. Ha, delusional I say.
The floated corner was met by Olly charging towards the near post and thumping the header in to give us the lead, his henry-esque knee slide in front of the away supporter’s just rebuke for the pointless booing a few seconds before.
It was also gratifying to see us have some set piece threat for a change as in seasons gone by opposition would relax whenever we were awarded a free kick/corner due to the fact we would generally waste them. This was usually because the Cutch Dunt would want to take them and his conversion rate was woeful (by the way enjoy no European football next season Mr Van Judas, assuming you don’t jump ship when things get slightly difficult again).
By this time my neighbour in the North bank lower had finally finished meticulously applying sun block to his head, shoulders and ears (!) and just about registered the fact we had scored.
Team selection wise I should say the omission of Ramsey was a little worrying, but hopefully a precaution in nursing him back from injury and the sighting of the little seen Abou Diaby was one of those “X files” moments. My thoughts on Diaby are well known but it’s been said he has now waived his wages whilst injured although I’ve seen nothing concrete to refute this and prove it is not merely urban legend.
Whilst the crowd atmosphere was generally soporific it didn’t take long for the first FA Cup final chants (“She wore”, “Que sera, sera” etc…) to start up, quickly followed by those urging Sagna to stay.
On the pitch Özzy was showing his class by threading lots of through balls into space and ghosting into positions near the West Brom penalty area, Poldi was also showing himself to be a handful with some vigorous running.
He is a fan favourite and it would be foolish to let him leave as he is now playing the full ninety more times than not.
His effort seems more than adequate with his tracking back and he did take on the West Brom full back in a few foot races he competed well in. I also enjoyed it when he powered in a cross after one such run and had it blocked by the stomach of said full back, who then hobbled afterwards. Good, I hope that hurt!
The away team themselves seemed to be experimenting with a novel formation that required the outfield players to move up and down the pitch in a square block whilst pursuing the ball, a little like junior school kids would when playing 20 a side in the school playground.
If I’m trying to be fair, and I don’t know why I should be, I would say their midfield was quite energetic and their wing play had its moments up till the final third.
The first half ended and we then got the chance to see the legend that is Bobby at half time soak up the adoration from the Arsenal faithful.
During the second half the chants for Sagna to stay increased in frequency and as it became clear West Brom lacked much quality there seemed little urgency in the crowd to push the team on for more goals even though chances were created.
Poldi had a shot come off the post and Özzy ran on to a bouncing ball that fell to him via an Olly ricochet, as he chased the ball running towards me I could tell the ball came to him on the up part of the bounce, which was more difficult to control than meeting the ball as it hits the floor or is at the peak of the bounce.
The game petered out with two final incidents of note, one of sheer comedy and one of skulduggery.
The skulduggery was courtesy of Dorrans strong arming Olly at the half way line while the play was in the West Brom penalty area. When I saw the arms raised I feared a red may be awarded but luckily it was just a yellow each for both protagonists.
The comedy highlight was when Foster, who had looked very shaky with his clearances all game, punted a long ball for a West Brom midfielder to run onto, the said midfielder started the chase and then promptly fell flat on his face. The delay in him getting up, whilst he wished for the turf to swallow him up, allowed the
“Are you Gerrard, are you Gerrard, are you Gerrard in disguise?”
singing to start; the style of his fall was like that of a shot cowboy in a Sam Peckinpah movie and much hilarity ensued.
All that remained was for the final whistle to go and the lap of appreciation to start, this year thankfully not preceded by chants of spend some effing money.
Barring a slice of outrageously good fortune in obtaining Cup final tickets this will be my last match report of the season; I hope you enjoyed them and it’s been a pleasure conversing in the comments and I look forward to seeing you all next season.
By ChärybdÏß1966 (on Twitter @charybdis1966)