Another day,another season.

And with the FA Cup action last night the English football for the season comes to an end. This is not a season that Wenger would like to remember; we started off well but stumbled and then narrowly avoided dropping out of the Big Four. Given our resources in the latter half we were stretched to have this result; the trophy board is bare for the season, and now we look forward to the next one. Hopefully, the team has achieved some measure of chemistry after the exodus of talent, and I expect at least second place from Arsenal next year, plus one Cup. Our youngsters are improving every match they play, and I believe that it would do us good to focus on one trophy next year; whether that’s CL or PL. Chasing triples proved too much for Chelsea and Man U, so I’m not putting out any great hopes next season. We have to win a trophy, attract talent and bolster our squads.

Arsenal’s chief magnetic factor for European talent is our semi-continental style of play and I’m surprised that more upcoming Mediterranean prodigies aren’t knocking at our door. We’ve been linked with Ribery and Malouda, and also the Ajax striker Huntelaar. Arsenal blogs are pontificating everywhere about the changes to be made. My money’s on Ribery to be part of the team as we need someone pacy and good at crossing out on the wing; width is something we lack presently. Strikers are not what we need; a good winger and a stronger defense would help us best at the moment. Quite a few players might leave us at this time; Poom, Flamini, Hleb, Baptista, Reyes, and maybe even Ljungberg.

<RANT> It would do my heart good to see Gallas leave as well; he hasn’t gelled too well with the team. Why he keeps shooting his mouth off at the youngsters is beyond me; he’s not spouting any original words of wisdom there. He knew what Arsenal was like when he agreed for the trade; he knew that we would need time for the youngsters to find their footing. Any time you have changes, you have a period of readjustment. Plus he hasn’t been stellar anyway; he cites the World Cup as being the reason, but you don’t see Henry, Rooney, Ronaldo complaining a lot. France’s loss must have hurt but when you’re as experienced as Gallas is, those arguments lose their cutting edge. Whatever happens, though, you need to keep this stuff within the team. Spouting off to the media just creates more pressure on the young ‘uns which they don’t need. They’re pretty mature soldiers with good heads on their shoulders 😛  <RANT >

And yeah, Chelsea won. Drogba scored. I’d never thought I’d see long ball games from the top two of the EPL but there you have the FA Cup in a nutshell.

Till next season, then. Keep the faith, Gunners.

Are we therd yet?

Yawn…plenty of happenings soccer-wide but none that concern Arsenal much. Oh yeah, Man U are now champions again. Arsenal held the Blues to a 1-1 draw and they were pretty blue about it.  Mourinho asked the fans to hold their chins up and Terry cried ( Cesc denied having anything to do with it). I came pretty close to crying when I saw Arsenal’s second half display. They played weird football with Cesc giving the ball away politely when a Blue asked for it. Our defending was not great shakes technically, but they harried Chelsea enough to keep them from scoring the second. Earlier in the first half, we played a neither-here-nor-there game. Baptista was his usual impotent self and Addy didn’t set the Grove on fire either. Finally, though, Baptista makes it into the box, and is dragged down by a man 75% his size. Bouhlarouz brought him down in the box and earned himself the send-off and you could see Jose’s chin try to stay up in defiance. Gilberto scores the penalty, a sight which seems too common all season, sending Cech the wrong way.

And we lead. With 11 men against 10. We pressured them but couldn’t get the match-sealing goal. And after Jose’s pep talk, they come on in the second half and keep forcing us back. Small wonder then that a beautiful SWP cross flies across and Essien gets a glancing header in. Pure beauty. It doesn’t end there, however. Joe Cole smashes a rocket past Lehmann, getting disallowed for offside. Kalou gets the ball at his feet after some pathetic defending and launches it straight at Lehmann, who palms it over. Lampard tries for the long-range deflection goal but Lehmann easily turns it around the post. Man of the match, Jens Lehmann. Cue a parting shot from Eboue that whistles past Cech and onto the bar, and then the whistle, and the Chelsea league season is over.

Normally a Chelsea draw would be very pleasing, but you’ve to remember that they didn’t have Sheva, Ballack, and the long ball lover Drogba. And they were a man down! Essien was playing his heart out, defense to midfield to offense. He’s the only Blues player I really admire; skill and work rate. Arsenal should have crushed them but didn’t. I guess the priorities made the difference; one side trying to save its title  and the other vying for 3rd place. Not even close. I guess Addy nailed it when he said they would’ve preferred being on the other side of the situation. A season without any silverware, and that’s gotta hurt. The only light I see is that we beat the other Three more than they beat us, and especially Man U both times in the league and at the FA Cup.

We’re dangerous. But we’re dangerous to ourselves as to the other teams, and we’ve tripped over our laces far too many times this season. The deciding fixture is against Portsmouth, while Liverpool play relegated Charlton. Given that we need more points than the Reds, we’re fourth unless we can beat them by a +2 margin over Liverpool. A chance, but a chance nonetheless.

History, History

That’s my poor attempt at “History repeats itself”. Ha-ha. But seriously, if you aren’t pumped at the thought of one of the classics of Champions League match-ups rearing its pretty head again, you’ve been in soccer hibernation. Welcome back. It was the sentimental choice from the start; a blast from the past. Makes you believe in karma, doesn’t it? Sorry, Man U and Chelsea, but true to the plot of one of those old cheesy Bollywood films, reincarnational stuff and all that, we’ve got ourselves a ticking bomb here. Will Milan pound the Reds and make Italy happy? Will Liverpool fans get the opportunity to taunt the Milanese for the next year? What score lines will we see? All in due time, on 25th May…

The matchups were always going to be crazy and were they. ‘Pool trounced Chelsea in the penalties and Milan all but decimated Man U. The Man U defense got an upgrade from back door to revolving door, and Milan’s midfield went in and out at will. Kaka showed why he’s rated as one of the best and sang the starting number for the elegy with a beautiful drive into the lower right corner. Seedorf, the Flying Dutchman, got into the act after a vaudeville by Heinze and why-are-you-passing-to-me Vidic and struck the second in. Gattuso prowled the field and jealously guarded the Milan gate.

Rooney and Ronaldo couldn’t show their skills, completely choked by a veteran defense even in the absence of Maldini. Oddo and Jankolovski made F-16 runs up the sides forcing Giggs and Ronaldo to concentrate on their half. Truth be told, Everton had shown Man U’s defensive frailty in the first half, and it was only their own mistakes that allowed the Devils back into the game. Milan were never going to do that at San Siro, though, and had learnt their lessons at Old Trafford. Dida was tested once by Giggs…he was turning out paper sculptures for the rest of the time.

Liverpool, on the other hand, had nothing great to show from its match, lambasted as tres boring. They showed their scrappy fighting, though, and kept notorious grinders Chelsea from equalising. Reina was superb in goal and sent Liverpool onto the finals. To me though, it’s Milan all the way. Maldini will be back for the final, and if Kaka and Gattuso can pry open the Reds’s defense just a chink, it’s over. The Reds can pull off the win if Carragher and Agger stifle the strikers, and it if stays 0-0 then Liverpool’s penalty skills will surely give them the edge. My two cents worth is Milan though; they’re focused on the Champions, they’re fresh, they’re coming off the high of beating Man U. If they manage to keep their feet on the ground, unlike in 2005, they’ll be able to hold their heads high at the end, unlike in 2005. And they’ll do it.

Unless they want to repeat history.