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The Saints Shouldn’t Have Gone Marching On & Some Other Thoughts

After this weekend, I’ll be a little lonelier and it’s not because I was dumped. Neither is it because my family abandoned me or because my friends finally decided that they had had enough.

While the above are all possibilities, the answer is simply because the domestic season has ended. I feel the need to bold this phrase as it hasn’t quite hit home yet that I will be without some of my best pals until August and so, maybe bolding it might actually help me cope with the loss, according to my therapist.

Wait. Silly me. How could I have forgotten about the Champions League and Europa League finals? How could I have forgotten that my other pal from Russia is visiting after a four-year absence?! How could I have forgotten that Iniesta plays his last Barca game on Sunday?

As we wait for the World Cup to come rolling round (26 days, to be exact) and Liverpool to concede defeat to Real Madrid, humour me as I quite literally ramble on just about anything and everything from the past 38 weeks of footballing action.

Enjoy my longest piece to date (I think).

Southampton and West Ham should’ve gone down

I didn’t really feel like Stoke, Swansea and West Brom were any more deserving of relegation than Southampton, West Ham, Brighton and Huddersfield. Relegation play-offs a possibility?

The Saints barely escaped the drop by the hair of their teeth. So did the Terriers and to a certain extent, the Seagulls. The Hammers were lucky to survive the drop too, based on the stratospheric number of goals they have conceded this season – 67.

For all the grit and tenacity they’ve displayed this season, new boys Brighton and Huddersfield truly deserved to retain their spots in the league. Everyone expected them to go right back down so staying up was a huge “kiss my a**” moment they would probably rub in the faces of all relegated fans.

The fact that Southampton and West Ham have pretty talented squads, decent monetary backing, excellent facilities and yet, they underperform, really annoys me. These two clubs have proven, in past seasons, that they have what it takes to be challenging for a place in the top half. Contrastingly, the 2017/2018 season saw them fighting tooth and nail to stay alive. I had touted them to do decent this season with ninth and tenth placings respectively but boy, was I way off the mark.

Now, I will contradict myself and say, for all, I think they are worth, Southampton and West Ham should’ve gone down. They had everything going for them, except the football and rubbish signings – Carrillo, Hart, Evra – but I think the two clubs failed to remember that the football and signings (and fans) are what should be fuelling them. Not boardroom drama. Yes, I’m looking at you, West Ham.

Barcelona just couldn’t hang on, could they?

Gone all LaLiga season (37 weeks and counting) undefeated. The penultimate week comes around and the team decides that it would be a swell time to lose 5-4 to Levante and wreck a record in progress.

As a Barcelona fan, I’ll admit, I was miffed. For the life of Ernesto Valverde, Suarez & Co. just could not see out the second last game of the season against 15th-placed Levante. Flipping heck, even a Coutinho hat-trick wasn’t enough to salvage a point.

In a rare start, Yerry Mina watched as Levante bulldozed him (and a suspect Barcelona defence) and smashed home an outrageous five goals. For the Spanish champions to concede 5, not 0.5, goals in a single game against meh opposition is a cause for concern, especially as defensive maverick Gerard Pique ages and Thomas Vermaelen continues to enjoy his never-ending rehab in the Spanish sunshine. I swear the Catalans only signed the Belgian from Arsenal because they saw his tan needed a little work.

“Now we have won LaLiga, we have to look for new incentives. After a long season, we can claim an unbeaten record. Let’s see if we can do it, that would be historic. Staying undefeated all season would be incredible,” Valverde was quoted, pre-game.

Gee, was an unbeaten season not an incentive enough? Oh, winning the Champions League wasn’t an incentive enough as well, was it?

This Barcelona side was capable of so much more than just another LaLiga title and you wonder why I’m a little pissed.

It’s getting a little silly now

Juventus wrapped up their 7th consecutive Serie A title over the weekend. Bayern have now won the Bundesliga for 6 seasons in a row. Paris Saint-Germain locked in their fifth league trophy in 6 years.

The above is a narrative we, as football fans, have all come to acknowledge but not necessarily, accept; a narrative that some leagues barely provide any sort of competition. Well, the competition to be first in the league isn’t even a competition, to begin with. The competition is not for the title but rather it’s a competition to grab those juicy Champions League spots (applicable to 80% of teams in Serie A, Bundesliga and Ligue 1). For some, it’s a competition to stay afloat at the very top (applicable to 15% in said leagues).

What happened to the other 5%? Go figure.

I was really rooting for Napoli to pry the Scudetto out of the Old Lady’s hands. I was praying it would be Dortmund’s season. I was banking on Monaco to take the spotlight off Paris for a second straight season. None of that happened, obviously. I have to say that the Serie A in 2017/2018 was way more competitive than in recent seasons though.

Don’t look at me. I don’t have the solutions or answers on how to balance out the competition in Germany, France and Italy. Impose more financial sanctions? Hire new referees? Introduce salary caps like the NBA?

I honestly don’t know. I’m just a miserable football fan moaning about the “non-competition” because my own team (ARSEnal) could not even secure a CL spot.

Crown Mo Salah and grant De Bruyne mayorship

If Mo Salah is crowned king then De Bruyne deserves to be named mayor and I don’t think there needs to be much of an explanation why. If you need an explanation, you’re not a real fan. Fight me and my not-very-controversial-but-I-try-to-be views at your own peril.

Neymar transfer drama? I’m so over that

Are we being serious here? “Neymar and the Ceaseless Transfer Saga” should be made into a Hollywood film.

I mean, the Brazilian hopped over to Paris from Barcelona very recently and now, there are rumours of him heading to Madrid. Can his agent take a few seconds to chill? At the end of the day, it’s still all about the money and the fame, isn’t it?

Really heartbreaking to see how the beautiful game of the masses has been reduced to a mere game of numbers, exorbitant salaries and to a large degree, disloyalty. The days of a one-club player are long gone. The days of fighting for the club, my club to the very end, amidst relegation battles, low wages, garish tracksuits and blindingly-designed kits, have disappeared along with the noughties.

It’s pretty obvious that Neymar is just going where the money flows and if I’m honest with you, I have lost a lot of respect for him. I found it hard to believe that he moved to Paris because he wanted to “escape Messi’s shadow” or because he wanted to lift the Ballon d’Or one day. You want a Ballon d’Or? Going to a not-very-competitive Ligue 1 isn’t helping your chances.

Neymar moved to PSG for the cash and I’m sticking with this stance till the day I die.

Goodbye to the only manager who moonlights as a model – Arsene Wenger!

Where do I begin? Should I even begin? Perhaps not.

All I can say is THANK YOU! Thanks for the highs. Thanks for the lowest of lows; they’ve shaped me into a resilient and “emotionally-detached” fan. Thanks for the Invincibles. Thanks for Henry. Thanks for Bergkamp. Thanks for the all the heartaches and heartbreaks. Thanks for Wengerball. Thanks for a bunch of FA Cups.

Thanks for defining an era in Arsenal’s history. Thanks for being Wenger because despite all the defeats and dropped points and non-titles, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Well, I still wished you left a little earlier.