Well, we have finally reached the end of the 2015-16 season, and the majority of Gooners will be mightily relieved this is the case.
This campaign has seen more missed opportunities than an Ade Akinbiyi season, not to take away the fabulous achievements of Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester City. With a squad more than capable of constructing a title challenge, yet in the home straight, Arsenal were staving off challenges from the Manchester clubs for the coveted Top4 spots.
Arsene Wenger’s record of Champions League qualification has extended this season, and the pressure – to some degree – will be off for this final game against rock-bottom Aston Villa – yet there is still something to play for.
For twenty consecutive years, we have finished above our neighbours in North London. This season, to be frank, they deserve to lord it over us as they have simply been better. However, if we grab a win over Villa and spurs lose against Newcastle, we will continue that dominance over our rivals.
Odds suggest that this will not happen. Newcastle were relegated midweek after their own nemesis, Sunderland, disposed of lacklustre Everton 3-0. Toon boss Rafa Benitez will of course maintain that they will play their best, but with no fire in their bellies to avoid the trapdoor, will the Magpies put up any sort of resistance?
Regardless of this battle for supremacy, the last game of the season at home means that the players will perform their lap of honour, and it will also see the farewell of Arsenal stalwarts Mathieu Flamini, Mikel Arteta and Tomas Rosicky.
Arteta and Flamini should be commended for the roles – however miniscule recently – as they have filled whatever requirement has been placed upon them. Whilst their declining physical presence has seen them unable to lift their level on a regular basis, they have at times been heroic in their roles.
Then we have our beloved Little Mozart.
Rosicky has a special bond with Gooners, after joining ten years ago from Dortmund. Injury robbed him of his finest years in an Arsenal shirt, but even in his twilight years, he has been responsible for some amazing moments and his ability to change games with his transitional movement mean our adoration for him is well placed. A special goodbye for a special player will hopefully be given. Whether these players saying farewell to their Arsenal playing careers will take to the field is anyone’s guess.
In terms of who will take to the field, Danny Welbeck was recently ruled out for nine months with knee ligament damage after taking an innocuous knock in the 2-2 draw last week versus City, so Olivier Giroud has another chance to boost his flagging figures with a game against a generous Villa backline.
Mesut Ozil is also expected to make the team after missing last weekend, and fans are mindful he is still two assists away from the overall assist record. He has continued to make chances throughout the season, but a clinical approach is required if he is to grab another record stat.
Jack Wilshere may start his first game as he steps up his recovery, but who his partner may be in the centre is up for discussion. Mohamed Elneny, Coquelin and Ramsey are all candidates, but Ramsey can also play on the right, and that may be where he finds himself. Per Mertesacker is still sidelined so Gabriel will continue in his stead.
Whilst Villa fans and Gooners alike will be discussing the potential rout that the Midlands side may suffer, there is a worrying fact for Arsenal: Aston Villa are bettered only by Chelsea for away wins at The Emirates. Of course, on current form, Villa will look to clog up the midfield, but Arsenal cannot afford to lift their foot from the accelerator.
This is an opportunity for the team to finally put on a good show for the Arsenal faithful, to hopefully catch our rivals – and to give a fitting send-off to three players who have served us well.