Jens Lehmann made his return for Arsenal today at 42 years old. If you take a step back and put things in perspective, can any of the other top teams in Europe still be in the hunt for silverware if they went through three keepers in the course of one season the way Arsenal has this year?
Making the start today at right back, Emmanuel Eboue scored a tasty goal from a nice feed from Jack Wilshere. The rest of the game was somewhat spotty for the Ivorian, who appeared missing on several occasions when Blackpool was attacking.
Sebastien Squillaci was involved in setting up the final goal of the game by winning a challenge that enabled Abou Diaby to send the ball upfield to Theo Walcott, who crossed it in to Robin van Persie to score the final goal of the game and put the match out of reach.
The Dutchman looked to be in great form and showed no signs of wear and tear as he set up Diaby for the first goal of the game and scored the final goal of the game himself.
At one point during the game, Blackpool looked to be on the verge of tying the game by taking the game out of Arsenal's hands, but it seemed the Gunners finally are learning their lessons from the Newcastle and Spurs meltdowns. Arsenal regained control of the match and was able to stay in the driver's seat for the remainder of the game.
What's next for the North London side? Next Sunday, they face a new and improved Liverpool, who will be a totally different team from what Arsenal faced at the start of the season. Fixture-wise, Arsenal only play one game a week, so Arsene Wenger has no more excuses to use, while Manchester United still have the FA Cup and Champions League to worry about in addition to the EPL.
As brilliant of a career Wenger has had with Arsenal, this season has frustrated many supporters for his arrogance and ignorance of not going to the transfer market in January for additional depth in the defensive midfield and centre back positions. Two positions that were exploited when Arsenal were defeated by Manchester United in the FA Cup and against Barcelona in the Champion's League.
On top of that, Arsenal has painted themselves into a corner this season after disappointing performances to teams like West Brom, Newcastle and Sunderland. The 14 points dropped from these three teams alone has made the EPL such a crazy season—which is great for the casual supporter, but has forced any Gooner to probably have to make a visit to a doctor due to increased blood pressure!
In the grand scheme of things, it is highly commendable that Arsenal was able to compete for four trophies on a payroll that pales in comparison to Chelsea, Man United and Man City.
From a business perspective that is great, but for the supporter who does not directly benefit from the financial performance from Arsenal, the most important priority are the results of matches. Against the minnows, Arsenal do enough to win (for the most part), but against the elite teams, it has become a struggle.
It is becoming clear that the expectations of Arsenal management is not to win trophies, but to do well enough on a tight payroll to finish amongst the top three or four of the EPL and to be able to compete regularly in the Champion's League and reach the knockout rounds. Anything above that is simply a bonus.
Perhaps the finance team at Arsenal have figured out the recipe for having a good enough team that will earn enough money while keeping a relatively thin payroll.
All Arsenal can do now is remain healthy and drop no more points going forward. While United still have a tougher and busier schedule for the next month, their momentum has been improving with each game and the sleeping giant, Wayne Rooney, has finally awaken from what has been the toughest season of his career thus far.
If this year's EPL season has taught us anything, it will be that April 2011 will be a month worth remembering when it is all said and done.
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