So that's it. Finally, the desperate hypotheticals can stop. Arsenal are out of it.
So, with the season effectively over, we can start to reflect. Mostly, agonisingly, it's a case of "what might have been". Everybody would have been left with that feeling anyway, having stayed in the race for so long, but Van Persie's comeback lastnight really brought it into focus.
He only played about twenty minutes, but after all those months out, there was no sign of rust. He was superb. Bendtner has now scored nine goals in his last eleven games, and has generally proven himself a decent deputy. But the gulf in class between he and the man he was tasked with replacing is undeniably huge.
So perhaps, having decried hypothetical questions in my opening paragraph, I have to start by posing one. What would have happened if Van Persie stayed fit? Well, it's hard not to surmise that Arsenal would at least be still in the running at this stage, if not top of the pile. RVP was absent for both of the Chelsea games (as was Bendtner) which left us playing a 4-3-3 without any kind of effective spearhead. Likewise at home to Man United. Now, we were brushed aside in all of those games, but they could have taken a completely different course if Robin Van Persie was fit and available.
Coulda, shoulda, woulda! Fuck that. The facts are these. RVP was injured ahead of the January transfer window. Arsene, probably in the knowledge that he was likely to bag Chamakh for free this summer, decided to shamble on with two (relative to RVP) inferior, and almost equally injury-prone strikers, in Eduardo and Bendtner. He churlihly listed Walcott and Vela as options in this area, when he never intended to use them as such. Arsenal ended up going into a run of games with only the diminutive Arshavin doing a very poor (but understandably so, perhaps?) imitation of leading the line.
This is a problem that was hardly the result of bad luck. Van Persie has never had an injury-free season. Adebayor left last summer- how we all crowed at the exorbitant fee City paid. What a cruel irony then that the lack of a replacement is one of the factors that costs us the title.
Just one, though. For the next parts of my season review, I'll focus on the ludicrous goalkeeping situation, and Arsenal's travails in the big games.
I just want to end on this note: bearing in mind Wenger's refusal to sign a striker in January, does the man now prioritise profits over success? Even with his admirable obsession with balancing the books, could he not have signed a player on loan? It would hold back the progress of other players, you say? That's a non-runner for me. We ended up playing without a striker in a lot of games, so a striker was blatantly necessary, from every viewpoint. And not just in hindsight, because people were saying it all along.
AS REGARDS THE GAME LASTNIGHT, TOTTENHAM HAVE BEEN WAITING SINCE LAST CENTURY FOR A LEAGUE WIN AGAINST ARSENAL, WHO HAVE CLEARLY RAN OUT OF STEAM. ARSENAL STARTED THE GAME WITHOUT FIVE FIRST-CHOICE PLAYERS, AND LOST A SIXTH EARLY IN THE GAME TO INJURY. BEFORE VERMAELEN BROKE DOWN, ONE ALREADY HAD THE FEELING IT WAS SPURS' NIGHT. DEBUTANT DANNY ROSE SMASHED IN AN ASTOUNDING VOLLEY, AND BARELY TOUCHED THE BALL AGAIN IN HIS FORTY-FIVE MINUTES ON THE PITCH. AGAIN, ARSENAL LOOKED CLUELESS WHEN FACED WITH TWO NARROW BANKS OF FOUR, UNTIL VAN PERSIE CAME ON AND TURNED THE GAME LATE IN THE DAY. BUT BY THAT POINT, IT WAS TOO LATE, ARSENAL HAVING CONCEDED YET ANOTHER COMICALLY SOFT GOAL AFTER THE RESTART. THE DEFENCE WAS SO STATIC, EVEN THE VISIONLESS JERMAINE DEFOE WAS ABLE TO SPOT GARETH BALE, IN ACRES OF ONSIDE SPACE IN THE BOX. THE FINISH WAS SIMPLE. WHO TO BLAME- SAGNA FOR NOT STEPPING UP? SILVESTRE FOR NOT TRACKING THE RUN? THE CONCLUSION AGAIN CAN ONLY BE THAT THIS ARSENAL TEAM IS QUITE SIMPLY UNABLE TO DEFEND, FROM FRONT TO BACK, AS A UNIT. THIS DESPERATELY NEEDS TO BE ADDRESSED.
DESPITE THE RVP-INSPIRED LATE FLURRY AND BENDTNER'S POACHED GOAL, SPURS WERE WORTH THE THREE POINTS. THEY'VE WAITED SINCE 99 FOR A LEAGUE WIN IN A NORTH LONDON DERBY, AND IN ALL THAT TIME THERE HAS RARELY BEEN AN EASY WIN FOR ARSENAL- A LOT OF DRAWS AT WHITE HART LANE ESPECIALLY, WITH THE PATTERN CONSISTING OF SPURS TAKING A LEAD AND NOT HAVING THE NOUS TO HOLD ON. IN THIS GAME, THEY DID NOT TRY TO OUTPLAY ARSENAL, BUT CERTAINLY OUTSMARTED AND OUTFOUGHT THEM, UNTIL THEY TIRED LATE ON. AT THAT POINT, A WORLD-CLASS KEEPER KEPT THEM IN FRONT. ANOTHER SOUR POINT FOR ARSENAL, WHAT WITH THE CLOWNS WE HAVE TO PUT UP WITH BETWEEN THE STICKS.