In Arsene Wenger's Final Arsenal Match, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang Clinches Win

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistMay 13, 2018

HUDDERSFIELD, ENGLAND - MAY 13: Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger waves to the supporters ahead of the Premier League match between Huddersfield Town and Arsenal at John Smith's Stadium on May 13, 2018 in Huddersfield, England. (Photo by Chris Brunskill Ltd/Getty Images)
Chris Brunskill Ltd/Getty Images

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored the only goal as Arsenal earned their first away points of 2018 by beating Huddersfield Town 1-0 at the John Smith's Stadium in the Premier League on Sunday in Arsene Wenger's final game in charge of the Gunners.


Arsenal End Nightmare Away Form with Long-Overdue Defensive Master Class

Arsenal entered the game on an unwanted run of seven straight away league defeats. The ignominy was compounded by the fat the Gunners were the only side in England's four professional divisions yet to pick up an away point in 2018.

Ironically, Wenger's men snapped their away-day blues with a resolute defensive display. It's taken too long, but a team breached 51 times in 37 league matches before Sunday was finally aggressive in the tackle, commanding in the air and intelligent in denying space.

Arsenal saved their best defensive performance for the last game of the season.
Arsenal saved their best defensive performance for the last game of the season.ADRIAN DENNIS/Getty Images

Arsenal needed to rely on goalkeeper David Ospina more than once, as Huddersfield attacked with pace and width. Tom Ince caused a host of problems on the flanks, while powerful target man Steve Mounie bullied centre-backs Shkodran Mustafi and Rob Holding.

Snapping Arsenal's sickness on their travels is an appropriate parting gift from Wenger, but he must wonder where these levels of resolve and organisation were throughout the season.


Aubameyang the Ideal Building Block for Next Manager

Nobody can deny Wenger's successor will face a daunting to-do list. Fixing a defence short on organisation and talent at every key position will be the obvious priority, followed by redressing the imbalance in a midfield lacking physical traits.

At least Arsenal's next manager will have Aubameyang. The striker has been in red-hot form since joining the Gunners in the January transfer window and is the team's natural focal point.

By netting the winner, the former Borussia Dortmund star achieved a unique double in front of goal in a single campaign, per James Benge of the London Evening Standard:

James Benge @jamesbenge

That Aubameyang goal means he has scored 10+ goals in both the Premier League and Bundesliga this season https://t.co/r1li0plrfJ

Aubameyang's close-range finish in the 38th minute to cap a flowing move involving Alexandre Lacazette, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Aaron Ramsey gave the frontman a notable piece of club history, per Indy Football:

Indy Football @IndyFootball

GOAL! Huddersfield 0-1 Arsenal Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is the fastest Arsenal player ever to reach 10 Premier League goals. Just 13 games. What a signing he's been so far! https://t.co/l17pFm3vyA https://t.co/TewTiW74T5

The forward's fast start to life in England's top flight is the clearest indicator Wenger's last gift to Arsenal is to leave behind a special player capable of being the talisman of the future.



Tributes Galore a Fitting Show of Respect for Legend Wenger

He hasn't always been admired by pundits and fans during the latter years of his time at Arsenal, but Wenger has finally been getting the respect he's owed since announcing his decision to step down in April.

Other clubs chose to mark the occasion of the Frenchman's last game in charge of the Gunners. Serie A side Roma tweeted this appreciation of his longevity:

AS Roma English @ASRomaEN

One year ago this month, there were many tears as #ASRoma fans said an emotional goodbye to @Totti after 25 years playing for his boyhood club. To coach the same team for 22 years is an incredible achievement. Good luck in your final game in charge of @Arsenal, Arsène Wenger. 👏 https://t.co/9TPxyiEs6z

Meanwhile, Championship side Nottingham Forest, Arsenal's conquerors in this season's FA Cup, lauded Arsenal's unbeaten season in 2003/04 and compared Wenger's lasting impression to that of the late, great Brian Clough:

Nottingham Forest FC @NFFC

Legends achieve the unachievable. Legends are invincible. Legends are never forgotten. From all at #NFFC, congratulations on your fantastic career with @Arsenal, Arsène 👏 https://t.co/KnBI25Ga62

The tributes continued when Wenger arrived in Huddersfield. He was greeted by Terriers manager David Wagner, who offered this special presentation:

Huddersfield Town @htafcdotcom

📹 Head Coach David Wagner presented Arsène Wenger with a special gift from #htafc ahead of today’s @premierleague match (AT) https://t.co/AhIjPmbUtU

What followed was the now-customary guard of honour from both sets of plays as Wenger took to the pitch, per James Olley of the London Evening Standard:

James Olley @JamesOlley

Wenger given a guard of honour: https://t.co/FbvIaaHHol

There were even airborne banners with messages of thanks, as BBC Radio 5 live Sport showed:

BBC 5 live Sport @5liveSport

You wait 22 years for a plane with a pro-Wenger message on it... and then two come along at once! ✈ A warm round of applause at #HUDARS from both sets of supporters in the 22nd minute for Arsene Wenger. 👏👏👏 ⚽️📻https://t.co/c2nBQQo3k7 https://t.co/jnYUsfZYS5

The sentiments expressed in the skies on Sunday were a far cry from those calling for Wenger to leave that were seen overhead during Arsenal's win away to Stoke City last season.

Perhaps the most touching moment came when the home fans began a round of applause in the 22nd minute in recognition of Wenger's many years of sterling service.

John Cross of the Daily Mirror was suitably impressed with the Huddersfield's efforts to make this the warmest possible send-off for Wenger:

John Cross @johncrossmirror

The whole stadium stands to applaud in the 22nd minute to mark Arsene Wenger's 22 years in charge. Every side of the ground - what class.

In recent seasons, it's been unsettling to see and hear the criticism Arsenal's longest-serving manager has been subjected to. The best thing about Wenger's long goodbye has been the chance it's afforded for those in and around the game to show respect for a man who won three Premier League titles and a record seven FA Cups.


What's Next?

Arsenal have to accelerate the process to hire Wenger's successor. Former Gunners midfielder and current Manchester City coach Mikel Arteta is one of the stronger candidates, according to Miguel Delaney of The Independent.

As for Huddersfield, the Terries and Wagner can reflect on a stellar debut season in the Premier League. The club has punched above its weight and can now begin planning to consolidate its top-flight status next season.


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