Twenty years. Pfew up in smoke. It was never in our hands today. And there was now chance LFC could blow it against a relegated team. It was delusional to think otherwise (especially when Martin Atkinson is the referee). But that’s not the point. That will come (hopefully) later on.
Today we dominated for the first 14 minutes and then found a way to win and we lost various center-halfs. It’s hard to know how to describe this game or it’s relevance. It’s not clear to crowd cared that much or the Everton players. It was also tough to get too involved emotionally in the game. After the season we’ve suffered through and knowing the inevitable result that would come from Anfield I suspect most were already emotionally drained. Nonetheless, we did play well, started quickly out of the blocks and deserved to take the lead. And then deserved to go down a man. As Koz went charging towards the ball I was screaming to hold back but he went Mustafi-like into a challenge he could not win with both feet off the ground. It was not a difficult decision for Oliver. It’s a shame thereafter Oliver could not retain that consistency; how Williams stayed on the pitch after he’s first booking is hard to fathom. Not that it mattered.
Back to that first goal. All Ozil all the time. Today he showed yet further glimpses that that he’s re-discovered his game. He was way more involved in our play and some of his individual flicks and moves were delightful. On a number of occasions, he was able to maneuver the ball in tight circumstances when mere mortals would have lost the ball. He was the conductor of that first goal. Poor Welbeck. It will take a long-time for him to live down that miss. He’ll be experiencing nightmares for along time – as he should. Fortunately, Bellerin was playing today not Bellend and we took the lead.
The second goal was weird. Their entire defense stopped as Welbeck pondered on what to do. Eventually though he passed to Alexis who slotted it away. Not bad while being down to 10 men. Everton had their chances. Unsurprisingly our defense was all over the place; Monreal continue to bomb up field and we had little cover in-front of our defense. BigEars though saved us on a number of occasions – he really did excel today. Holding was also pretty good – aside from when he was in our penalty area trying to hold the ball. Cech continued to stabilize the defense. And it was good to see him run up the pitch (and even better that he did not pull his calf or hamstring) to badger Oliver to lobby him to send off Williams for his second yellow offense.
We lost our second center-half in the second half. BigEars had been so dominant; one of his most impressive performances. Oliver managed to find a way to still give him a yellow as he was carried off even though he won the ball without going through the back of the player. So that’s two center-halfs will be missing at Wembley. Am I glad I won’t be there in person to suffer.
Even with 10 men we continued to create chances while Lukaku continued to miss the numerous ones he had. In fact, Cech barley had an extraordinary save to make. Ozil, Welbeck and Ob1 all had chances to score on the break. Alexis also pulled the strings along with Ozil. Ramsey was, again, way more effective when he plays further up the pitch. Xhaka was solid with some perfect cross-field, pinpoint passes. It was as surprising to see him be the one to make way for our Coq as it was that we had to wait so long to see him appear. Overall, agains, we played quite well and showed more progress in the transition from Bolton/Burnley back to Arsenal. But, really, who gives a shit. Irrespective of next week-end, we failed.
So, what’s the point? We missed out on Champions League football. We’re now consigned to the tinpot Europa Cup where Sp*rs have lived for decades. How pathetic is this? We’ll now have to look forward to Thursday Night football against Sparta Boobies United from the third division of the Macedonia part-time league. An entire generation of Arsenal fans have no idea what this is like. I think someone we know quite well once said “If you eat caviar every day it’s difficult to return to sausages”. One of my first memories was when we won the Faris Cup (the predecessor to the Europa) – our first cup for 17 years back in the early ‘70s. It lead to the double the following year. Unfortunately, this feels more like we’re going in the reverse direction.
Before we get to fully diagnose this year implosion and all the pending critical summer decisions and the pleasure of playing in the YourNoHopeA Cup, we have the small matter of an F. A. Cup final against the Russians. I’m guessing we’ll go into that game without Koz or BigEars. That will put Mustafa (if he’s recovered) alongside Holding and then the decision will be whether we have the BFG or Monreal in the back three. Without Ox and with Gibbs injured (and useless) it’s not clear how we’ll line-up. And let’s hope Alexis and strap himself together.
I’m just grateful I won’t have to be there in the stadium watching Ramsey back-heeling the ball into the path of Hazard as he races through to set up Diego to slide it past Cech. I’ll at least be able to suffer the pain in the comfort of my own surroundings. Of course, the walls will be bear the brunt of the broken bottles and thrown food.
Today was not unexpected. It’s just galling that we missed by just a single point. It brings even more into focus the abject pathetic nature of our Watford, Crystal Palace and West Brom performances. Sure we won the last 7 but by then it was all over. Ahead of the Wembley game I’ll hold off for now on how we finally MAGA and, likewise, (though it overlaps) with a dissection of our squad.
Today marks the end of an era. Let’s hope next week is the cherry on the top of the era rather than yet another step down the slippery slope to mediocrity.