So last Sunday Arsenal completed their season by traveling to Portsmouth and drawing 0-0.
Portsmouth 0-0 Arsenal
A fitting finish for Arsenal, with several good scoring chances wasted, almost all of them by Julio Baptista, who somehow managed to be even worse than usual. No less than three free headers inside of 8 yards missed, as well as a penalty that was so poorly taken that it was easily saved. That's 3 missed penalties this season for The Beast, who apart from 1 night at Anfield has been horrid and will be returning to Spain in the summer. Of course, he'll score 30 goals next season for whatever club he joins.
After he missed his 3 headers and penalty, Arsenal looked as likely to score a goal in the second half playing 4-5-1 with Baptista up front as they would if they played 4-5-1 with my mom up front. As the match went on you just knew that Portsmouth would secure and grab that last UEFA Cup place that they needed 3 points to secure.
And of course they did, after a rebound after a missed shot. What they failed to take into account, however, is that Graham Poll was not only officiating this match, but it was his final match, and he would take any opportunity that presented itself to go out in a blaze of glory. His is a long and storied history, which includes a performance so poor in and Arsenal-Newcastle match in 2001 that Arsenal officially requested to the FA that he never referee matches at Highbury again, and of course his famous awarding of 3 yellow cards to one player in the World Cup last summer, something that by the rules of football is not possible.
So Poll gave the goal, and over the next 60 seconds the TV showed like 4 replays of the goal which took at least 60 seconds. When live TV came back on we got to see Poll then deciding to nullify the goal after consulting with the linesman. I agree with the Portsmouth fans and TV commentators that the goal was not offsides, but at a minimum this is a decision that he should have made in the first 10-15 seconds after the goal- he is miked up to his linesman after all. By waiting a full minute and then doing it he showed his shittiness one final time, and in doing so he basically robbed Portsmouth of UEFA Cup football next year. To be fair, Poll and his crew fucked up 2 Arsenal offsides calls that each ended up with the ball in the back of the Portsmouth net, and the one on Baptista where Hoyte scored was especially awful.
So good job Graham Poll, way to go out in style.
So Arsenal finish 4th on 68 points, the same number that Liverpool finished with, but Liverpool's goal differential was 2 better than Arsenal's.
Very disappointing finish, but it was 1 point more than they gathered last season, so this season's performance, although hugely disappointing on it's face, isn't to shabby when you consider that this team lost Robert Pires, Denis Bergkamp, Ashley Cole, Sol Campbell, and Lauren among others, and that the top 2 strikers, Van Persie and Henry, missed more matches than they played in.
Still, more needs to be done this summer to strengthen the squad. Specifically Arsenal lack pace on the wings, something that they have always had, be it Overmars, Ljungberg, Pires, even Anelka and Henry up front. They lack a player that can run at and run around defenders with furious pace for the first time under Wenger really. Ljungberg has lost a step or three and cannot run around people anymore; Henry can still do it but not as fiercely as he once could, and not on the wing. Theo Walcott has that pace but is still so young and it will be a few seasons before he matured into such a consistent threat. But the players we have out wide now do not fit that mold. Hopefully Arsene will sort something out in the summer.
So that's it. Arsenal free until August, and Graham Poll free forever. Hurrah.