European Foothills

Relief is the word for the game vs United. We were pretty awful for about 50 minutes but then grew into the game and deserved at least a point from it. We really should have won it in the end with the chances we had but it’s a point I’m very happy with considering how flat-footedly we began the first half. I’ve read a lot about how both teams were pretty poor, how both teams have a lot to do if they are to catch Chelsea, how both teams looked toothless throughout. For their goal I saw on Twitter that the wide opinion seemed to be “Ospina should have done better there”. I’m not sure I agree. It was from such a close range that he didn’t have the time to react, but again the Scz v Ospina debate rumbles on. For our goal, Aaron Ramsey deserves the MOTM simply for the sumptuous pass to Walcott. A truly great piece of build up to a slightly fortuitous goal. Now had the result gone either way, the performance would have been heralded as progress for either side. For them it would have been a step in the right direction and promise for next season. For us it would have been the perfect Manchester double having performed similarly at the Etihad. Fine margins are what would have led the media to change direction completely which is what is quite frustrating to read. It’s quite hilarious to see how even the most objective media outlets sway hugely dependent on the one off game. One thing I completely accept however is the lack of intensity throughout. The first booking came with just minutes to play, which is indicative of the way this fixture has gone over the years. I’m not saying we should have ‘put in a challenge’ but it’s an indication of the lack of care through the spine. I really do feel that Jack Wilshere is the man to provide that for us next season, as stereotypical as it sounds we need that Englishman in us to come out with the war paint on. While we’re on the subject he once again came on and made a positive impact on the game. He drove us forward really well and was able to put himself about in high energy fashion for the last 20 minutes. We also had some impact from Theo Walcott, finally! He has looked sorry for himself when he’s had some minutes thus far, however he made a real difference and contribution to the outcome of the game. I’m really pleased for him and hope that he can use this to springboard off in the final 2 games. He still had a couple of switch off moments defensively, but I noticed his intent to track back and win the ball back on a number of occasions, which is progress.

The main conclusion from the weekends footballing events to me was that we as the Premier League remain firmly in the foothills of European Club football. There is a monumental gulf between the top 4/5 clubs in Europe and the top 4/5 clubs in England. We are still 2/3 players away from being able to compete at the very top level in Europe. I think that for all the talk of being way off Chelsea is a little misguided. They’ve had consistency as well as a fair share of luck, which is needed throughout the season if you’re to be champions. The finer margins went for them over the course of the season rather than anyone else. It’s a case of best of a bad bunch rather than being a cut above the rest, which bring us back to remaining in the footballing foothills of Europe. We went out at the same stage in the Champions League both in situations that should have seen us progress, but again it’s that gulf that we need to plug. It’s not only to do with signings it’s to do with adaptive tactics, neither Wenger or Mourinho were able to do this in Europe and that’s what will need major addressing over the summer.

So we need the one more point, or two to be safe in 3rd place for automatic qualification. We’ll need to do this on Wednesday evening to ensure a little rest for the players before the cup final as that is the next milestone that’s slowly making its way into our sights. Lord knows Alexis Sanchez needs a breather as well as a few others, I for one hope we try and avoid the hard way of doing things this time around. Three wins would be a lovely way to finish what has felt like an attritional season. Come on you Gunners!!!

Have a great week.

Follow me on Twitter @MiteshLakhani1

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