Arsenal 4-0 Aston Villa: A St. Totteringham's Unlike Any Other

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.

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 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.

Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Aston Villa

Emirates Stadium, London
Sunday, May 15
10:00 a.m. EDT, 15:00 BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Mark Clattenburg
    • Assistants: John Brooks and Andrew Halliday
    • 4th Official: Roger East
  • Reverse Fixture: Aston Villa 0 - 2 Arsenal
  • This Match, Last Year: Arsenal 5 - 0 Aston Villa
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 81 Arsenal wins, 66 Aston Villa wins, 45 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: D-D-W-D-W-D
  • Aston Villa's League Form: L-L-L-L-L-D
Once more unto the breach.

Arsenal close out a bizarre and distressing 2015/16 Premier League season with a home game against an Aston Villa side who were relegated approximately 57 years ago, or so it feels. Manchester United's loss to West Ham on Tuesday means that Arsenal cannot finish worse than fourth (it's a trophy!) while Sunderland's win over Everton on Wednesday means that St. Totteringham's Day is more unlikely than it could have been if Newcastle had something to play for.

Here is the breakdown:

Arsenal will finish second with a win and a Spurs loss. If Spurs draw, Arsenal can finish second if they beat Aston Villa by 13 (it could happen?)

Arsenal will finish third with a draw or a win that isn't by 13 while Spurs get at least a point. They'll also finish third if Manchester City draw or lose to Swansea, regardless of their own result.

Arsenal will finish fourth if they lose and Manchester City win.

I don't have the exact percentages at this time of these potential outcomes. Before the midweek fixtures, it was 88% for third, 9% for second, and 3% for fourth, but I have to figure the odds of finishing second have dropped now that Newcastle have been officially relegated.

All of that said, if Arsenal fail to beat an Aston Villa side that reached the beach ages ago, they really don't deserve to go right into the Champions League group stage, do they? 

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Welbeck (knee,) Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee,) Mertesacker (hamstring)
Doubts: Ozil (hip)

It's devastating news again for Danny Welbeck, as the knee injury he suffered against Manchester City is much worse than it previously looked. He's needed surgery again and is expected to miss another nine months. It's terrible news for a man whose impact has been one of the few bright spots for Arsenal in the 2016 calendar year. If there's any good news, it's that it's not the same knee he injured last season, so there's no correlation between this injury and his last one.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is going to miss the Euros too after he picked up a new injury in training a few weeks back. We know Per Mertesacker's season has been over since he picked up a hamstring injury against Norwich. Mesut Ozil missed last week's trip to the Etihad with a hip injury, which means he can only return as far as the "doubts" column this time around.

A few underused players got a run-out for the reserves earlier this week, which seemed kind of unfair since it was a promotion qualifier. Arsenal used the likes of Santi Cazorla, Francis Coquelin, Joel Campbell, and Calum Chambers to beat Aston Villa, 3-1.

Predicted XI: Cech, Bellerin, Koscielny, Gabriel, Monreal, Elneny, Ramsey, Iwobi, Alexis, Ozil, Giroud.

Aston Villa Squad News

Out: Amavi (knee,) Agbonlahor (match fitness,) Okore (team suspension)
Doubts: Veretout (hip,) Gestede (groin,) Richardson (calf,) Kozak (match fitness)

The only certain injury absence for Aston Villa is Jordan Amavi, whose season has long been over after an ACL injury. Jores Okore last month refused to play for caretaker manager Eric Black and is thus suspended by the team. Meanwhile, Gabriel Agbonlahor finds himself similarly banished to the reserves.

Libor Kozak, whose season has been marred by injuries, underwent minor surgery again last month and is a doubt. There are also doubts over Rudy Gestede (groin,) Kieran Richardson (calf,) and Jordan Veretout (hip.)

Aly Cissokho returns from suspension after he was sent off against Watford for denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity, as Villa blew a 2-1 lead to lose 3-2.

Predicted XI: Bunn, Bacuna, Lescott, Clark, Hutton, Cissokho, Gueye, Westwood, Sanchez, Gestede, Ayew.

Current Form

Arsenal's unbeaten run in the Premier League was extended to nine games with their 2-2 draw at Manchester City last weekend. You'd think a team on a nine game unbeaten run would be higher in the table, but five of those nine were draws. That's 10 dropped points in the past two months. Still, it's Arsenal's longest unbeaten sequence in the league since a 10-match unbeaten run (which included a much better nine wins) last spring.

Arsenal currently sit on 68 points in the league table, their fewest since 2011 when they also finished with 68. They can surpass 2012's total of 70 with a win on Sunday.

On February 6, Aston Villa beat Norwich 2-0. At that point, they were eight points back of safety with 13 games to play. The Villans then proceeded to lose 11 straight: 6-0 to Liverpool, 2-1 to Stoke, 3-1 to Everton, 4-0 to City, 2-0 to Spurs, 1-0 to Swansea, 4-0 to Chelsea, 2-1 to Bournemouth, 1-0 to United, 4-2 to Southampton, and 3-2 to Watford. They were officially relegated with the 1-0 loss at Old Trafford on April 16.

Last week, the losing streak finally came to an end in dour fashion, as they played a 0-0 draw with Newcastle, which has now turned out to have been Newcastle's first foot in their own grave. So, Villa are now winless in 12, which is still only their second-longest winless run of the year after previously going 19 without a win.

Match Facts

Arsenal won the reverse fixture comfortably back in December 2-0 at Villa Park. Olivier Giroud slotted home a penalty on eight minutes and Aaron Ramsey doubled the lead half an hour later. It would seem the from the recap that absolutely nothing else happened in that match, which is good, I suppose. There weren't even any bookings.

Arsenal won all three meetings against Aston Villa last season, winning 3-0 at Villa Park, 5-0 at the Emirates, and 4-0 in the FA Cup Final. At the Emirates, in this corresponding fixture last year, Aston Villa had more than half of the possession, but generated only two shots on target. Arsenal led on eight minutes through Olivier Giroud but did not open the floodgates until near the hour mark. Mesut Ozil doubled Arsenal's lead in the 56th minute, Theo Walcott made it three in the 63rd, Santi Cazorla made it four from the penalty spot in the 75th, and Hector Bellerin opened his account to make it 5-0 in injury time.

The Villans have just three wins in their last 36 matches against Arsenal across all competitions, but there is some cause for Arsenal concern: all three of those wins have come at the Emirates. Aston Villa's last goal against Arsenal came on January 13, 2014, when Christian Benteke pulled a goal back in the 76th minute in what went on to be a 2-1 Arsenal win.

The Referee

The referee is County Durham-based Mark Clattenburg. Clattenburg has a big summer ahead of him: not only will he be going to the Euros tournament in June, but he'll also be working next weekend's FA Cup Final as well as the Champions League Final the week after.

Arsenal do not have a great record with Clattenburg this season; they lost 2-1 at the Hawthorns in November with Clattenburg in the middle (recall that he did give Arsenal a late penalty lifeline, which Santi Cazorla fired over the bar) and 1-0 to Chelsea in January, when Per Mertesacker was correctly sent off on 18 minutes. Arsenal did get a win with Clattenburg as the referee against Everton on March 19, 2-0. Over time, however, Arsenal's record with him is quite decent.

Aston Villa have seen Clattenburg twice this season and, unbelievably, they won both. Aston Villa have won all of three games this season and yet they are 2-0 with Clattenburg. Those wins came against Bournemouth on August 8 and Crystal Palace on January 12, by the way. They suffered their aforementioned 19-match winless run in between.

Around the League
  • Sunday: Chelsea v. Leicester City; Stamford Bridge, London
  • Sunday: Everton v. Norwich City; Goodison Park, Liverpool
  • Sunday: Manchester United v. Bournemouth; Old Trafford, Manchester
  • Sunday: Newcastle United v. Tottenham Hotspur; St. James' Park, Newcastle upon Tyne
  • Sunday: Southampton v. Crystal Palace; St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton
  • Sunday: Stoke City v. West Ham United; Britannia Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent
  • Sunday: Swansea City v. Manchester City; Liberty Park, Swansea
  • Sunday: Watford v. Sunderland; Vicarage Road, Watford
  • Sunday: West Bromwich Albion v. Liverpool; The Hawthorns, West Bromwich
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and a one-act opera written by Hector Berlioz. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat to critique the libretto.

Preview by Numbers: Manchester City v. Arsenal

Etihad Stadium, Manchester
Sunday, May 8
11:00 a.m. EDT, 16:00 BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Anthony Taylor
    • Assistants: Lee Betts and Stuart Burt
    • 4th Official: Mike Jones
  • Reverse Fixture: Arsenal 2 - 1 Manchester City
  • This Match, Last Year: Manchester City 0 - 2 Arsenal
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 96 Arsenal wins, 49 Manchester City wins, 43 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: W-D-D-W-D-W
  • Manchester City's League Form: W-W-W-D-W-L
Of course, congratulations are in order for Leicester City for winning the Premier League this season. The Goonerfreude was running high on Monday as Tottenham imploded, blowing a 2-0 halftime lead to draw 2-2 at Chelsea, while picking up nine yellow cards to boot. It was weird to root for Chelsea, but I have to admit, I let out an audible yelp when Eden Hazard curled the equalizer into the top corner.

It was a good weekend for Arsenal, as Spurs, Manchester City, and Manchester United all dropped points. Arsenal are three back of Tottenham for second and three ahead of City for fourth. If Arsenal can make a statement and get a win at the Etihad against a City team that played Wednesday in Madrid, they'll have at least third place locked up.

Anyway, this is going to be a bit of a weird match preview because I've been on vacation this week. I'm doing the American version of road support, having traveled down to Florida for tonight's New York Red Bulls game in Orlando. Not many road matches get to include a week's vacation at Disney.

The vacation meant that I wrote this preview on Monday, well before Manchester City's match in Madrid on Wednesday. I haven't really even edited it. Typos likely abound; reader beware!

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Mertesacker (hamstring)

There's very little to say about Arsenal's injury situation, which is good since I'm writing this on Monday after all. Per Mertesacker left Arsenal's 1-0 win over Norwich during the second half with a hamstring injury. Usually, you could at least three weeks for a hamstring injury, which means... one, two, three... his season is certainly over.

Elsewhere, everyone appears to be in full training. Santi Cazorla made the bench at the weekend, but remained there as the circumstances didn't really call for him making a cameo: Gabriel came on because of Mertesacker's injury, Danny Welbeck came on and paid instant dividends as Arsenal needed a goal, and Francis Coquelin came on to defend that one-goal lead.

By now, we'd all like for Welbeck to be starting up top in place of Olivier Giroud; at the pub on Saturday, we postulated that perhaps Arsene Wenger is managing Welbeck's playing time since he spent so long out injured.

With so much time between now and match day (now being "when I'm writing this,") I'm not going to predict an XI. Personally, I'd switch in Welbeck and make no other changes, aside from the one necessitated by Mertesacker's injury.

Manchester City Squad News

Out: Silva (hamstring)
Doubts: I don't know, it's "Monday"...

Pffft, I don't even know why I'm writing this section. What I do know is that David Silva is out with a hamstring injury he suffered in the first leg of the Champions League semifinal against Real Madrid. As of the time I'm writing this, City are sweating over the health of Yaya Toure, who might play at the Bernabeu. By the time you're reading this, though, you know what happened. Hello, from the past!

Current Form

There was a sense of incredulousness from those I spoke to on Saturday who had read my preview of the Norwich match about the fact that Arsenal are unbeaten since losing at Camp Nou to Barcelona. That streak is now seven unbeaten, all Premier League fixtures. If you focus only on the league fixture list, Arsenal are unbeaten in eight, since losing to Swansea on March 2.

Problem is, of course, that Arsenal have drawn three of their last five in the league, dropping six points in total to West Ham, Crystal Palace, and Sunderland. Arsenal could have 73 points instead of 67, just from points they've dropped in the last month. They'd still be behind Leicester, since the Foxes haven't actually lost since Danny Welbeck's winner at the Emirates, but they'd at least be safely in Europe next year instead of talking about fourth yet again.

After a win over Sunderland in early February, Manchester City were second in the table, just three points back of Leicester City. They then went over a month without winning a domestic match in regulation. They suffered league losses to Leicester, Tottenham, and Liverpool, while crashing out of the FA Cup by a heavy scoreline to Chelsea. They did beat Liverpool to win the League Cup, but that required penalties. They finally got a domestic win again over Aston Villa on March 5. By that point, they were 10 points behind Leicester.

From that point on, City have been better, but not perfect. They've drawn the likes of Norwich and Newcastle. They lost to Manchester United and last weekend shipped four to Southampton (where have I heard that before? If you've forgotten, I'll refer back to it later...) Thus, the trajectory of City's season has followed Arsenal's somewhat, though with better results in other competitions.

Match Facts

Arsenal are unbeaten in their last five competitive fixtures against Manchester City. That run started with a 1-1 draw at the Emirates two seasons ago and includes three meetings from last season. In the 2014/15 curtain raiser, Arsenal defeated City 3-0 for the Community Shield at Wembley. Regardless of what you may think of the Community Shield, it is still considered a competitive fixture.

Last year, Arsenal came from behind to lead against City at the Emirates, but conceded late and settled for a 2-2 draw. In this fixture last season, the Gunners picked up their first win at the Etihad since 2010, winning a statement match 2-0. Santi Cazorla converted from the penalty spot in the first half and assisted through a set piece on an Olivier Giroud header to double the lead on 67 minutes. Arsenal defended well all game; City had nearly 65% of the possession and took 16 corners to Arsenal's three, but managed only four shots on target.

In the reverse of this fixture, Arsenal picked up a 2-1 win over City just before Christmas. Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud scored in the 33rd minute and first minute of first half stoppage time, respectively, as the Gunners established themselves as title contenders. Yaya Toure pulled a goal back on 82 minutes to make things nervy, but Arsenal truly looked like potential champions at that time. A few weeks later, they were top of the table as well, but the 4-0 loss to Southampton that followed this win certainly introduced questions, questions which were certainly answered as the rest of the winter played out.

The Referee

The referee announcements were made on Tuesday, since Monday was a Bank Holiday. As you know, I wrote this preview on Monday, which means the information I'm providing below was typed on my cellphone:

The referee is Cheshire-based Anthony Taylor.

Around the League

All of the "games in hand" forced by FA Cup progression will be made up this coming midweek, so those matches are included in this list as well:
  • Saturday (early): Norwich City v. Manchester United; Carrow Road, Norwich
  • Saturday: Aston Villa v. Newcastle United; Villa Park, Birmingham
  • Saturday: Bournemouth v. West Bromwich Albion; Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth
  • Saturday: Crystal Palace v. Stoke City; Selhurt Park, London
  • Saturday: Sunderland v. Chelsea; Stadium of Light, Sunderland
  • Saturday: West Ham United v. Swansea City; Boleyn Ground, London
  • Saturday (late): Leicester City v. Everton; King Power Stadium, Leicester
  • Sunday (early): Tottenham Hotspur v. Southampton; White Hart Lane, London
  • Sunday (late): Liverpool v. Watford; Anfield, Liverpool
  • Tuesday (night): West Ham United v. Manchester United; Boleyn Ground, London
  • Wednesday (night): Sunderland v. Everton; Stadium of Light, Sunderland
  • Wednesday (night): Norwich City v. Watford; Carrow Road, Norwich
  • Wednesday (night): Liverpool v. Chelsea; Anfield, Liverpool
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and is running out of clever. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat to buy him some.

Arsenal 1-0 Norwich City: It Got There

We may as well begin with the elephant in the room, yes? In my estimation, the on-field action should always - ALWAYS - be the main focal point of any football match. A club's support is a fine and worthy addition, but they cannot and should not ever be the main attraction. Sadly, that was not the case this weekend.

Look, I get it, the match was another slab of spectacularly dull fare in a season increasingly littered with it. We're closing in on the usual end-of-season landing point (my god, am I ever getting bored with the 4th-place trophy jokes - it's bad enough from our rivals, but it's a dead horse even among our own now), and it's boring and frustrating. Most of the players are woefully out of form. I get it.

But, this past weekend's match was as embarrassed as I've ever been as a Gooner.

This weekend, a small minority of knob-ends tried to make themselves the story, and all it accomplished was making our entire club look like a prize bunch of complete wankers. At least here in the States, NBC couldn't contain their glee at documenting the nursery-school fighting-over-blocks jackassery going on in the stands.

Somewhere, Herbert Chapman is spinning in his grave at RPMs usually reserved for the Daytona 500.

The thing is, if you've been reading this with any regularity, you'll know that I'm one who believes that we're past due for change. I believe that people can get too comfortable in a role, their ways can get calcified, the world around them can speed up and consequently leave them behind. Especially now in this money-sloshed future world, where promoted clubs can buy the sorts of players that used to go to Schalke or Sevilla, what Arsene Wenger does doesn't work anymore. Results have proven it.

However - and this is a London-sized however - all of this petty nonsense accomplishes nothing other than to hurt the team's on-field performance. It's bad enough they're struggling, but this cannot help but be in the back of their minds. At my own humble Sunday-league level, I've found it hard to climb out of the troughs that I've found myself in at times (my team won 7-4 last night, but I told the guys at the bar after it'd have been 7-1 if we'd put a cardboard cutout in goal instead of me - shit happens, you know?). I can't imagine having to do so with a wanky protest going on in the middle of the game.

Despite all that, I was happy for Arsene when his second-half substitution worked as well as it did. Olivier Giroud did not have a great (or even good) match overall, but the boos that rained down when Alex Iwobi was withdrawn instead of him were appalling. Nanoseconds later, it was Giroud's perfectly-cushioned header that Danny Welbeck was able to slam past John Ruddy's dive and into the corner of the net.

Besides that, Petr Cech saved our asses again with two quality saves from Nathan Redmond. Defensively we looked OK, even when Per Mertesacker hobbled off with an injury. Whatever I've said about him in the past (and I still don't think he's good enough), Gabriel did make one excellent saving tackle to preserve the lead.

Other results did go our way, too. Manchester City rested most of their first team and got walloped by Southampton, while their cross-town rivals were held to a draw by Leicester City. All told, I feel a lot better about top four than I did going in, especially with what should be a dead-cert banker against Aston Villa to close the season.

Note, I said SHOULD.

In the meantime, hopefully the protestile dysfunction displayed this weekend will put a stop to this nonsense for now. He's going to be the manager next season, he's probably going to get a contract extension because LOLKROENKE, we may as well get used to it. Nothing's going to change it, least of all your dumbass little A4 cards.

Man of the Match: What an important goal that may turn out to be by Dat Guy Welbz.