In the 52nd minute at St. James’ Park, the inevitable happened. Arsenal scored. Not many would have banked on the rejuvenated Laurent Koscielny to break the deadlock in such a fine fashion, putting his team firmly in the driving seat after a well taken half-volley, but it was no surprise to see another Wenger team heading for the Champions League (with the qualification round in their path) for the umpteenth time in a row (16 to be exact). Once again, The Gunners had got one over their fierce rivals Tottenham Hotspur, who, in spite of Gareth Bale’s efforts, were powerless to buck the trend and snatch North London bragging rights from the red contingent.
When the final whistle blew, Arsenal’s players jubilantly celebrated as if they had won some silverware that has long since eluded them. And who could blame them after spending a large chunk of the season languishing outside the top four? After all, since the loss of their talisman Robin Van Persie, many sceptics had written off Wenger’s troops believing them to have finally capitulated after a lack of investment in the transfer market. But, Tottenham being Tottenham, the prospects of a lillywhite festivity eventually sagged, and now Thursday nights on UK TV are back to haunt Andre Villas-Boas and co.
Having to marshal a team of capable players, glaringly absent of world-beaters, Wenger has fulfilled the minimum expectations of the board and the fans, and his achievement is not to be scoffed at with the battle for a Champions League spot now more arduous than ever. It goes without saying that this current Arsenal side are no match for their predecessors, with Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere the only genuine sprinkles of stardust in a line-up that does little to whet the appetite, now that all the major players have defected for meatier salaries and, more importantly, a stab at the big prizes.
Just over two months previously, when Tottenham emerged victorious in the derby on March 3rd, it seemed that the long awaited sea change had finally arrived. With their Welsh wizard smashing in goals from left right and centre, it looked for a moment that the perpetual also-rans were on their way to the promised land, with their foe seemingly incapable of a riposte. However, after a crushing defeat that left Arsenal seven points adrift and their task looking quite insurmountable, the players galvanised themselves, taking 26 points from a possible 30. And so, the chants of ‘Boring boring Arsenal’ filled the terraces again, with many a neutral disappointed to see Spurs throwing their dreams away in predictable fashion.