EPL 2006: Arsenal 4 – Wigan 2

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Football
May 8th, 2006 • 9:11 am

This is so great. Arsenal do finish fourth after all, thanks to a great run of three consecutive victories, while Tottenham get punished for their lack of sportsmanship with a weird episode of food poisoning before their final game against West Ham at Upton Park, which they lost 2-1.

So the pressure is off the Gunners for the Champions’ League final itself—as far as qualifying for next year’s competition is concerned, that is. This is great news, and raises hopes that we’ll get a terrific game of glorious attacking football.

In addition, Thierry Henry gets a hat-trick on his final day at Highbury, with three typical goals: a wonderful break with a side-footed finish, a cool finish capitalizing on a Wigan error, and then a flawless penalty with a kiss on the turf for good measure.

It still could have gone either way on this final day. At the start of the game, Tottenham were fourth. After half an hour, they were 1-0 down at Upton Park and the Gunners were leading 1-0, so the Gunners were fourth. Then both Wigan and Tottenham equalized, and it was back to square one. Then Wigan went ahead 2-1, and West Ham missed a penalty, so it was still 1-1 at Upton Park, and it was advantage Tottenham.

And then it was 2-2 at half-time, with Tottenham still in fourth. A couple of Thierry Henry goals later, with West Ham leading 2-1—and it was all over for Tottenham.

Sure, that food poisoning thing is harsh—but in this day and age, it really is quite amazing that this kind of thing can still happen. Don’t they have their own cooks? Can’t they afford to have the required measures in place to ensure that this can never happen, especially at such a crucial time? You can’t really argue that the EPL should have delayed the game as requested by Spurs. It was the final game of the season. All the games are supposed to take place at the same time, so that no one can take advantage of results elsewhere, and there is still some drama in tight situations. And there is the issue of crowd control, etc.

In addition, bad luck happens to all teams all through the season. You don’t reschedule games because of bad luck. The truth is that, if Tottenham were really that much better than the Gunners this season, then they should have clinched the fourth spot some time ago. They didn’t, the Gunners had a great second-half of the season, and they fully deserve to be where they are today, i.e. in next year’s competition (although they still have to go through a qualifying round) and in this year’s final.

This final game at Highbury was never going to be a low-scoring affair, and in some ways reminded me of the final game of the 2002 season, where Arsenal had already clinched the title, but ended up beating Everton 4-3, if I am not mistaken. We did get the Highbury screamer in our audio feed one final time when Wigan scored twice. And we did get the kind of defensive mistakes that will definitely need to be banished in 10 days at the Stade de France. Lehmann was probably guilty on both goals, and will have to perform much better. Campbell did suffer against the pace and bulk of Roberts and Camara. And the Gunners conceded too many free kicks in dangerous situations—indeed the two Wigan goals were the direct result of such free kicks.

So there will still be work to do between now and May 17th. But whatever happens on that day, the 2005–2006 season has been rescued from the dead. Thierry Henry is emerging as a true captain after all, and there is so much promise in all the youngsters…

Of course, a lot still hinges on Henry’s decision, which will be revealed after the Champions’ League final. And if we lose that final, it will be a trophy-less season. But at least there is restored optimism at all levels, and a lot to look forward to ahead of the move to Ashburton Grove.

Comments are closed.

Leave a Reply

Comments are closed.