May 12th, 2005 • 12:27 am
How is that for a season finale?
It is true that there was nothing at stake in this game. Everton had already secured fourth spot and Champions’ League qualification. And Manchester United’s home defeat against Chelsea on Tuesday had confirmed beyond any mathematical doubt that Arsenal would finish runners up.
But still… There were emotional stakes, at least for the Gunners. It was the last home game of the season at Highbury and the last with the modern red-and-white jersey. (The Gunners will be wearing the club’s original cranberry jersey for the final year at Highbury.) It was also the last home game for Edu, who’s confirmed that he’ll be leaving on a free transfer at the end of the season. And there was a possibility that it might be Dennis Bergkamp’s final home game in his already glorious Arsenal career…
Is this what explains the astounding score line? Everton are obviously grateful to Arsenal for having put an end to Liverpool’s Champions’ League aspirations (legally speaking, anyway) with their 3-1 victory last Sunday, but I am quite sure that David Moyes’ players still have enough pride to motivate them to try and end the season on a high, regardless of who the opposition is.
David Moyes himself wasn’t entirely blameless either, having chosen to rest some key players such as Nigel Martyn and Tim Cahill… Won’t they have enough time to rest during the summer break?
In any case, this game was quite obviously the latest installment of the Dennis Bergkamp Show series. He had a hand in pretty much everything, providing three direct assists and grabbing a goal for himself. In his bid to convince the club that he deserves a contract for one more year, he couldn’t have hoped for a better scenario for the evening. As Wenger said, “if it was left to a referendum“, there would be little question over Bergkamp’s future.
As for Edu, the scenario was almost as remarkable. He had a good game as a mid-field anchor — and then the referee was kind enough to give the Gunners a penalty for a rather dubious handball. Even though Thierry Henry usually takes them, the players convened and quickly decided to give it to Edu instead. (Unless Crystal Palace’s Andy Johnson scores 5 goals in his final game, Henry has already won the Golden Boot for this year — and it’s not like he is in any danger of not being able to beat Ian Wright’s record of total goals scored for the club in the few games.) The Everton keeper almost managed to save the penalty, but not quite — and Edu got a fully deserved round of congratulations and applause from his team mates and the fans. It’s still sad to see him go, but you can understand his desire to play more football and spend less time on the bench.
So, will this game be enough to convince the club to keep Bergkamp for another year? It’s highly likely — although you obviously have to agree with Wenger’s reasoning as well, no matter how cold and insensitive it may sound. Another good performance by the Dutchman in the more crucial FA Cup final next week will probably seal the deal.