So the season is over. Aston Villa, Norwich City and Newcastle United are down. Leicester City have made history by winning the league. The final day gave us hat-tricks, bomb-scares, postponements and last ditch saviours. Despite all these surprises though one thing has remained the same: Tottenham Hotspur’s failure to finish above Arsenal.
Way back in 1995 Spurs finished above Arsenal quite convincingly, although neither side had a particularly good season with Tottenham finishing 7th and Arsenal a lowly 12th, and may have thought they were on for a period of domination in North London. Newly appointed manager Gerry Francis had led them on 10 game unbeaten run, including a win over the Gunners, and the famously miserly Arsenal defence were starting to show cracks. Little did they know it would be their red and white rivals that would embark on a sustained period of success over Tottenham with what became known as St. Totteringham’s Day: the date on which it becomes impossible for Spurs to overtake Arsenal in the league.
Whilst it doesn’t usually take until the last day of the season, it has been a reliable date in any Gooner’s calendar for over 20 years now yet, whilst I sit here typing this and feeling very smug and pleased with myself, it almost didn’t come to pass.
Regular readers with remember my recent displeasure at how the season has gone for Arsenal and, in particular, questions directed to manager Arséne Wenger about whether or not he feels he is still fit for the job. Even the most die-hard Gooners will have been impressed our oldest rival for the way they have gone about their season. They have been tough to break down, irresistible when flowing up the pitch, they have made a stamp on the England squad and, in my opinion, should make up the vast majority of the first team in the national campaign at Euro 2016. In short, Spurs really should have nailed second place on Sunday.
Who could have guessed that Olivier Giroud would find his scoring boots at the right time? Who could have thought that an already relegated Newcastle United side would put on their finest performance of the season (with 10 men to boot) away at White Hart Lane? Who could possibly pictured Spurs throwing second place away, and it was theirs to throw away?
Whilst this huge slice of schadenfreude is undoubtedly welcome it feels a little bitter in the throat that we had to rely on Spurs’ failings in order to finish above them. Tottenham have had their best Premier League season in recent memory and it has certainly not been a terrible season for Arsenal. Second place is a success, no doubt, but when you think of how the other teams have performed I can’t help but still feel like we should have done more. Every one of the so-called big four have had huge problems this year: Chelsea and Man United (probably) will not even be playing Champions league next year, Man City have woefully underperformed in the league despite a relatively successful year in Europe and Arsenal themselves have had big injury problems and an apparent tactical hole when plan A doesn’t work.
I am taking nothing away from Leicester City. Their achievement this year is incredible and they fully deserve their success, there is just a rather large part of me that thinks that Arsenal were the team best placed to take advantage of the slip-ups around them. We could, and perhaps should, have won the league this year.
Yes we finished above Spurs again, but is that all we want from a season?