Monday, 20 May 2013

Koscielny, Walcott and Ramsey outstanding as Arsenal secure Champions League qualification

Morning Gooners.

Well that's another season over and I'm sure I'm not alone in being glad to see the back of that one. The team achieved the manager's minimum goal of fourth spot and now we're in the Champions League - via a qualifying game - for the 16th successive year.

I wrote back at the start of the season that I thought that his would be the most challenging campaign under Arsene Wenger in terms of achieving a top four position. Once we sold the greedy badger back in August, this squad had a distinctively average look about it. There are some good players in it, but there aren't many game changers and few, if any world class players.

I wouldn't say that this is the manager's greatest ever achievement - clearly that is what the Invincibles achieved. But I would rate it pretty highly. We've achieved a fourth place finished against two sides who have unlimited funds (Manchester City and Chelsea) and Manchester United - one of the richest club's in the world - who had a manager who is the most successful in the Premier League era - and had just signed our best player.

Then there are those lot down the road who have assembled their best squad in years and in Gareth Bale have one of the best footballers in the league. Arguably we shouldn't have been anywhere near the top four. But this is football and there is always a chance - especially when you have a genius who manages our team.

I have to admit to being confident going into yesterday's game. We knew what we needed to do and we went to Tyneside with a plan. The team was unchanged from the one which beat Wigan on Tuesday night. The manager took a gamble on Mikel Arteta and it wasn't a surprise to see the Spaniard leave the field after 28 minutes.

Arsenal created little in the first half. We didn't have a single shot on target. The team looked nervous. But there were some excellent performances being displayed. I thought that Aaron Ramsey and Laurent Koscielny were fantastic and Theo Walcott was dangerous on the right.

It wasn't until the goal went in - man of the match Koscielny getting on the end of a Theo Walcott free kick and hooking the ball home - that our target look set to be achieved. We then had to see out the remaining 38 minutes.

Some resolute defending from the team ensured we achieved our target. It didn't matter that those lot down the road won their game. Destiny was in our hands. And as the final whistle went, everyone in the red half of north London could celebrate St Totteringham's Day finally.

There is plenty of time to discuss what the club needs to do this summer. That can wait for now. I want to bask in the glory of yet another top four finish.

That's it for today. Back with more tomorrow.

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