Have you stopped laughing yet? What a season. What a ridiculous, insane, astonishing, bonkers end to what had been an utterly vomitous season to date.
A month ago, this wasn't possible. St. Totteringham had lost his way, the streak ended at 20 glorious years of our nearest and dearest residing firmly in whatever North London postal code our shadow is in. A month ago, the chicken-on-a-beach ball brigade were The Greatest Young Team in the History of Association Football, sure to sweep aside all before them, their component parts sure to lead England to glory at Euro 2016.
Do me a favor.
John, the man who does the excellent Preview by Numbers feature here at this very shebeen, reminded me at the pub of something I said to him a few years back: "They are, until proven otherwise, Tottenham Hotspur." What I meant by that was, of course, all the baggage that goes along with it. Ask the Washington Capitals or the Chicago Cubs - some sporting enterprises are just cursed. Many are doomed to understudy a bigger and better club for eternity.
As the song goes, "You're Spurs, and you know you are."
Our run-in was littered with the likes of Norwich and this here Aston Villa side, but theirs wasn't exactly the Champions League knockout stages, either. Champions don't drop points at the sharp end of the season against the likes of West Bromwich Albion, the worst Chelsea team of the last 10 years (minimum), and an already-relegated Newcastle United. You could almost believe it if it were, say, the two Manchester clubs and us.
History will probably forget what a close-run thing this was. Spurs had Spursed it up in the beginning, shipping two quick goals before I even got to the pub (I was astonishingly late, even by my standards). I missed Olivier Giroud's first goal, but our match hung finely poised at 1-0 us for ages and ages. At one point, they had gotten it back to 2-1, while we were pulling our usual trick of pointless possession and blown half-chances.Once Aleksander Mitrovic got sent off for a truly horrific leg-breaker of a tackle for Newcastle, I thought the jig was up. We'll concede some jammy goal off a set piece, Harry Bloody Kane will score a hat-trick to lead them to victory, and I'd have to cancel my internet subscription to ensure I stayed off of social media forever.
And then, somewhere, St. Totteringham awoke with a start, kicked off his Liam Brady comforter, put on his lucky Rocky Rocastle socks, got himself an Uber, and turned up just in the nick of time.Up in the northeast, one of their guys somehow conned Anthony Taylor into giving them a penalty for what was honestly one of the most glaringly obvious dives I've seen in some time. Their guy sent Hugo Lloris the wrong way, and that was it. Ballgame up there.
There was still the small matter of our game, though. Giroud had been the focus of the crowd's ire all day, which is, pardon my French, amazingly fucking stupid. I get that we should have bought another striking option in the off-season, but to direct that ire at a player is counter-productive and moronic. As it turns out, the guy's actually pretty OK at this game, and within a few minutes banged in two more to complete his hat trick. 24 goals this season - 16 in the league. Not too many are going to beat those figures, so how about we dial that nonsense down next season, awreet?
At that point, it was basically over on our end. Villa, already relegated sometime back in the Margaret Thatcher administration, gave up the ghost entirely. It'll be a weird league without them (and Newcastle, and Leeds, and Sheffield Wednesday, and Coventry....the 20-year old me would be gobsmacked at it all), but if ever a club needed to die to be reborn, it's them. Anyway, I ambled over to the other room to watch the rest of the other game unfold. What I expected was to chew my fingernails in the hope that the Magpies would hold on.
What I got was the Spursiest thing that ever did Spurs. Their big plan was to, I dunno, play 10 center forwards and hope for the best. Newcastle sat back, soaked up the pressure, and then picked them off on the counter brilliantly. Say what you want about Rafa Benitez, but the guy kinda sorta knows what he's doing. The 4-1 goal happened, and most of the rest of the Pool End joined me to celebrate. That's when we knew it was over, but the 5-1 goal was the cherry on top. I think the Pool Enders sensed it was coming, as I had barely shouted in celebration before 20 people were right there with me.
Think about that. They needed a draw against an already-relegated team, had them down to 10 men when it was still 2-1, and managed to lose 5-1. I don't think there's another team in the country that could pull that off. It's almost...impressive...in a way.
So, with all the bile at the manager, all the vitriol at the players, all the horrendous losses and frustrating draws, all the angst, all the soul-searching, all the what-ifs....with one of our worst seasons in living memory (if not in total points, then ABSOLUTELY in wasted potential), we still finished higher than them. We still finished in second place. The mind...she boggles.
We STILL weren't done, though. Mikel Arteta, our perfectly-coiffured captain of distinction and aplomb, came on as a late sub. The Dubious Goals panel will probably take it away, but his late strike pinged off the crossbar, onto the back of the prone Mark Bunn, and trickled over the line. Whatever the record books say in the end, this classy and devoted servant of Arsenal Football Club got to have one last moment in the sun. Oh, sorry, the room got dusty for a moment there. Think I have something in my eye.
It's ridiculously churlish to ask for anything else in the wake of all of that, but it is a little bit sad that Tomas Rosicky couldn't make the bench, and in turn one last sub appearance. Injuries sadly prevented him from reaching his full potential for us, but you go ahead and try and find someone more devoted to this club, who gave an iota more effort every time he stepped out on the pitch. When rats like Judas van Persie and Samir Nasri left us, he stayed. When sloths like Denilson ambled around the pitch in a Quaalude haze, he ran his balls off...every minute, every match. He won tackles, picked out perfect passes, scored some absolute peaches. Maybe this is overstating it and you can disagree with me if you like, but for my money Tomas Rosicky is a fucking legend and I'm sad to see him go.
Oh, and while we're being sentimental, the clean sheet up and won Petr Cech the Golden Glove award for the season. There's been some astonishing shit chatted about him lately by the know-nothing army, but he's had a brilliant season - often behind a shambles of a defense - so the honor is truly deserved. Well done, good sir.
Two other fun things about that day:
1. The nearest and dearest finished with 70 points - or, two fewer than what got Andre Villas-Boas fired.
2. In the end, they: Failed to beat us in any of our matches, failed to get as far in any cup competition as us, and finished below us.......................again.
That said, this has all been great fun, but I hope that Arsene is aware of the job he has on this offseason. Danny Welbeck is out for 9 months. Mathieu Flamini is joining Arteta and Rosicky into the sunset. We just about got by with Gabriel, but come on. Per Mertesacker shouldn't be anything more than 4th choice at this point.
Even moreso, I keep saying it, but the Premiership is going to be one hell of a battle next season. Leicester will retool and be ready to defend their crown. The nearest and dearest aren't going away, as much as we'd wish this would mentally break them forever (mark my words, sometimes you have to lose to learn how to win - write them off at your own peril). Jurgen Klopp will have a summer transfer window to improve a side that may be UEFA Cup champions by then. Pep Guardiola will have Manchester City's zillions behind him. Jose Mourinho might rock up at Manchester United (though I do think there's a chance that he's been found out forever, which would be lovely). Southampton are quietly building themselves into a hell of a side. West Ham are on the verge of something big, and are moving to that big new stadium, Everton have some pieces, if they get the managerial replacement right. Watford have tons more money than you might think, and some interesting players themselves. Chelsea still have Roman's rubles, though Antonio Conte may need more than a season to put out that dumpster fire. Sunderland will be much harder to beat next season, and our nemesis Tony Pulis is still at West Brom. Stoke may have hit a wall, but you figure with one or two key additions, they could compete with the rest as well.
That's the thing. Leicester didn't win because the league was shit this season - they won because they did enough on enough nights to win a league that is top-to-bottom stronger than ever.
As fun as this was, if we rest on our laurels, next season is going to be one thunderbastard of a wake-up call. Over to you, Arsene.
Man of the Match: Olivier Giroud...but really, all of Newcastle United.