There was every reason at halftime to believe this would not be a happy day. Chelsea had laid down an emphatic claim on the title at Goodison Park. The Manchester draws should have emboldened Arsenal to think that somehow, some way they could still pip a fourth place finish. Dele and Christian missing sitters that a pub team could have converted and one wondered if the chances would still come after the break. Whether this was going to be a frustrating final NLD at our special home.
But we’ve learned, haven’t we? How this team is unlike all the others in recent memory that came before them. Two brilliant thrusts in an early second half and first Dele then Harry (no,he did not dive like Sane and Rashford clearly did in earlier games. He got whacked on the shin by Gabriel, and even Gooner Lee Dixon who wondered if it was a foul castigated the defender for a rash challenge) with the penalty and game over. And truth is, given how well Cech played plus those two first half misses it could/should have been 5 or 6. (Alexis dodged a clear penalty on the handball) And Arsenal could have scored one or two themselves, but that is the difference, isn’t it? There was no comparison between the two sides—one headed for the Europa League and probably with a different manager, and the other continuing an upward path with a precise apogee we can only dream of.
As to the individuals, Hugo was called on to perform a few times today and was impeccable. The back four sans Walker and Rose—and it was a back four—were airtight most of the way. Vertonghen had one daft stretch in the first half, but was exceptional the rest of the way. Poch seems to have made a right back change—at least in the absence of Rose—Walker could easily have been the choice v Chelsea and today but instead it was Trippier. A move by Kyle somewhere in the summer seems possible if not likely.
The MOTM was clearly Wanyama—he did everything Mousa Dembele normally does, and more. He attacked, he defended, he plugged gaps, he won balls—it was a masterclass worthy of Keane or Vieira—his long ball to Son that culminated in the Eriksen miss in the first half was a thing of beauty. Dier had a couple of shaky moments, but overall he was aggressive and confident. Son does not appear on scoresheet but was a threat to the Gunners throughout, and particularly strong when under duress. Poch made the right selection today and probably would have last Saturday as well if he had chosen a back four instead of three which exposed Son defensively.
And as for our Big Three, what can we say anymore? They play hard, they play with imagination, they have quality oozing onto the pitch. Eriksen and Dele should have each scored in the first—fittingly, both were involved in the play (begun by Trippier) that wound up in a deflection off Cech to Dele and the initial goal. And Kane worked and worked and worked and eventually he blew the Arsenal house down with Gabriel’s folly.
And now what? Why not win them all? 13 in a row. 89 points. Pressure Chelsea until the very end. One more London derby to go, then United in the Lane finale where all of Jose’s tinkering cannot obscure a talent differential as wide as the one on display today. Then let’s not Leicester do us like Chelsea did for them last year. Maybe Chelsea drops points, maybe not. But I want them to win it, and not for us to hand it to them.
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