Thank you Burnley
It was very French yesterday at the Emirates for our game against Arsenal. Everywhere you turned you saw the two words Merci Arsène as their manager of almost 22 years prepared to bow out with this his last home game in charge.
There were big banners outside the stadium which saw thousands of season ticket holders returning after leaving their seats empty for weeks. They had come to praise the same Wenger who they have spent the last couple of years, at least, trying to bury.
All seats, we were told, would have free t-shirts with those two words emblazoned across the front. I saw people wearing them but I can confirm there wasn’t one on my seat nor on any of the other seats on the row where I was sat.
As far as the game was concerned, it ended in a 5-0 win for Arsenal. That’s our heaviest defeat since the first Premier League season of 2009/10 when we lost by the same scoreline at White Hart Lane against their North London rivals Tottenham and 6-1 at home against Manchester City.
It wasn’t a good ninety minutes for us. Arsenal were good, there’s no doubt about that, but we weren’t at the races. It looked as though we’d packed our suitcases and if the final scoreline was flattering then it was us who were probably flattered by it.
Other than that ninety minutes, plus a few minutes added on at the end of the first half, it was another good day out other than one hold up on the M1 around Luton which was caused by some rubber necking at a North bound accident. It delayed our arrival in St Albans where he’d decided to have lunch, but it proved to be yet another good stop, as usual selected by our researcher Mark.
The only other hiccup on the way down was having to listen to John Kettley on the radio claiming we’d never scored a goal against Arsenal at the Emirates or even at Highbury, and then saying he liked Wenger so much he hoped for a 2-0 home win. It was a warm, sunny day. He should stick to the weather.
Last week there was a discussion on match programmes and the Football League potentially giving their clubs permission not to print them for selected games if they so wished. I, personally, think that would be a sorry day, and I’m sure a few more would given the lengthy queues yesterday just to part with £3.50 to get your hands on one.
We’d decent seats, or, should I say, decent standing areas and we got there just as the players were bringing their warm up to an end. The Burnley team had already been announced with Jeff Hendrick recalled for the injured Chris Wood.
It’s not often I would feel the need to applaud a football manager who had nothing to do with Burnley, but ahead of kick off yesterday I found myself doing it not once, but twice, and both times with no hesitation. Just a few minutes before the teams came out, there was an announcement over the PA from both clubs wishing the very best to Sir Alex Ferguson. The applause all the way round the Emirates, from both home and away supporters, was genuine.
Then came the arrival of the teams, followed by the arrival of Wenger who received a guard of honour from the two teams. Burnley fans, as one, stood to applaud the Arsenal manager. For what it’s worth, I think he’s been a breath of fresh air during his time at Arsenal, he’s helped change our game in England. Probably it might have been better had he left a couple of years ago but he prepares to leave now and leave behind one incredible legacy.
Would his team perform for him on his last day at the Emirates or would they freeze? Would we take advantage of the emotion of the day and grab ourselves yet another away win?
We know the answers now. Arsenal did perform, we didn’t and we can have no complaints whatsoever about the result.
This is where I usually do a bit of reporting on the game but there is little to report that would interest Burnley supporters. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang opened the scoring and soon after we lost Ashley Barnes to a shoulder injury.
It did look as though we might get to half time with only a one goal deficit but in the time added on for the Barnes injury they scored again through Alexandre Lacazette.
There was never going to be any comeback from that and the second half proved to be more difficult. Sead Kolasinac and Alex Iwobi both scored and when Aubameyang got his second there was still over a quarter of an hour to go. They brought on Aaron Ramsey and Danny Welbeck. They were followed by Per Mertesacker who was making his last Emirates appearance before retiring and becoming academy manager.
We weren’t in it. Welbeck smashed a ball against the post and, mercifully, referee Andre Marriner called a halt to it all right on the ninety minutes, just as we were looking for the board.
That’s it. What started at Chelsea has ended at Arsenal. The away games are over for another season and the next one will be somewhere in the Europa League.
Arsenal said merci to their manager. I’d like to say thank you to our team. I could never, ever have imagined when I set off for Stamford Bridge last August that we would win 28 away points. I could never have imagined we could win seven games including a win at Chelsea alongside draws at Tottenham, Liverpool and Manchester United.
It’ s a massive thank you to the manager, his staff and the players. They’ve given us a season that we really could never have even dreamed of and one I know we’ll never forget.
And finally, from me, a big thank you to James, John, Mark and Mikey who I’ve travelled up and down the country with this season. They are not family so I suppose they must be friends given I have them on my friends and family list when ordering tickets. They are friends, good ones too, without whom I wouldn’t be able to get to all these away games. A massive thanks from me. I might not always show my gratitude but it’s there I can assure you.
That’s it. just a home game against Bournemouth and then feet up for the summer with hopefully a bit of cricket. Then it’s off to Europe for this tour that everyone has been singing about.
The teams were;
Arsenal: Petr Cech, Hector Bellerin, Calum Chambers (Per Mertesacker 77), Konstantinos Mavropanos, Sean Kolasinac, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Granit Xhaka, Alex Iwobi, Jack Wilshere (Aaron Ramsey 72), Pierre- Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette (Danny Welbeck 72). Subs not used: David Ospina, Nacho Monreal, Shkodran Mustafi, Ainsley Maitland-Niles.
Burnley: Nick Pope, Matt Lowton, Kevin Long, James Tarkowski, Stephen Ward, Aaron Lennon (Georges-Kévin NKoudou 71), Ashley Westwood, Jack Cork, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson (Nahki Wells 89), Jeff Hendrick, Ashley Barnes (Sam Vokes 22). Subs not used: Tom Heaton, Phil Bardsley, Charlie Taylor, Dean Marney.
Yellow Card: James Tarkowski.
Referee: Andre Marriner (West Midlands).
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