Arsenal finish a point above us again for a second successive season. I guess we have to budget around £50M more in wages if we truly want to shift out of that brooding shadow. The shadow of a single solitary point. Dark times.
I said everything about our seasons end in this article - Tottenham Hotspur and the Infinite Sadness. If you missed it, and you're a regular on the blog, please take a look. It covers off the important stuff. I don't want to repeat the same sentiments here again (probably will) although I'll be writing/reviewing the season in more detail over the next few weeks covering off individuals, games, goals and other high/low points.
It was never in our hands. We could never rely on Newcastle. We won our game, that's all that we could have expected although it illustrated how hard we've had to work at times to claim the three points. It can't always come down to a moment of brilliance from Gareth Bale. Then again, he is wearing a Spurs shirt. Not sure some opposing fans have quite worked that out yet. Not sure some of our fans have either.
Had to laugh out loud at the penalty claims, what with them being stone cold claims (three in total, two handballs and one foul) only to see them rejected and Bale picking up a yellow for the first one. It's hard enough fighting against ourselves let alone the clumsy knee-jerking officiating. This is Tottenham though and we all know this is the Tottenham way and deep down we wouldn't know how to handle football without all the drama.
So, not a single penalty awarded to us all season long.
Even when Bale IS fouled it's not given. You'd expect that if he was stamped on by Godzilla he'd be yellow-carded for daring to tickle the underside of the monsters foot. Really think it's time for referees to be taken aside post-match and shown TV footage of their poor decision making. Literally, take the TV and show it to them by smashing it in their faces.
Scoring tap-ins was not the order of the day and it took a stupendous effort from Bale to finally break the deadlock. How many goals of the season has he scored? Too many to mention. It's standard for him these days. Looking forward to even more in the next.
As for our rivals.
Arsenal have had 15 years of CL football but in recent times it seems one season merges into the next without any tangible progress. They just seem to exist in a perpetual cycle of qualification. This time last season, the same thing happened (granted we finished 4th) and now here we are again another 38 games later and all they have to show for it is being knocked out of the CL, again. However, they got the job done, again for another chance to again be knocked out of the CL. They did it again (see a pattern emerging?) by that single solitary point, so congratulations.
Bragging rights, even by a single point are still bragging rights. Let's not devalue the rivalry by suggesting it doesn't matter. It does. There is a rivalry there? They were celebrating finishing above us, right? Right? All half naked in the dressing room and out on the pitch euphoric at the final whistle. That was for our benefit, right? It's not just about CL, is it? Is it?
You can understand (or at the very least attempt to understand from distance) their supporters frustrations if next season they repeat this seasons performance and do the exact same thing they've done every season. Which is what inspired the mid-season calls for 'Wenger Out' and the drop in attendances. They might finally have more money to spend. Or might still not spend it. But that's their problem and not ours.
Worth also noting (for the sake of balance) that even if a side is simply stuck in a perpetual
cycle of CL qualification, you can hardly scoff at it. I'd much rather
be losing to Real Madrid in the quarters than <insert Europa League opposition and round here>. Although I'd much rather win the Europa than win nothing at all (but best you only attempt that after being knocked out of the CL).
Our focus is to fix up our own problems (mostly good ones to have) and capture, contain and consolidate that missing cutting edge and not reference the excuses for not having it when we lose players to injury (which will happen).
I'm already looking forward to 2014.
Andre Villas-Boas, his first season with all the inherited issues, has taken us forward with half a team (sorry, couldn't resist). You can't ask for more than that. Okay, you can. You can ask for a point here and there that would have made the difference, but then every club could argue their case with points they should have won/not lost. You could also ask for more ye olde Spurs swagger and swashbuckle. However, the spine has to be adamantium first otherwise the claws will remain brittle.
CL can help elevate a clubs stature and transfer pulling prospects and the in-club atmosphere is punched up a notch too. It can also birth complacency. No CL is disappointing. It has to be. It has to hurt. Long term, 4th can't be the aim. Six points off City in 2nd place tells you that a club like us (Arsenal included) have to look at the title. What's the point otherwise? Both clubs are not ready but both have to retain the belief in competing for it because again, what's the point of not aiming high? You can't aim to simply be a runner-up to a position outside the top three and then accept that as an invisible trophy. You can't simply aim to finish above your rival, although that would be nice...just for starters.
Seventeen points off the top. That's what we should be focusing on. How else can you even consider coming anywhere near the likes of United in terms or sustaining a title challenge?
Reality might hold us back (those title dreams are still tinged with the harsh truth that we need a lot more in the tank - a lot more). The statue of United and the finances of Chelsea and City will always make it difficult but once again...from one season to the next, you can't quite predict what will happen. 72 points this season wasn't enough. It might still not be enough next season.
Just to clarify, (as I stated in the article linked at the top of this one) if you aim to be a genuine contender, then CL becomes a consequence of those endeavours. With Arsenal currently, CL is the consequence of us not taking advantage. Their spiral isn't downward, it's static. Our own has an ever so slight erraticism to it, and that remains the difference. That single point.
It's a very fine line between what quantifies as success and the illusion of success. Success has to be silverware with accompanying Lilywhite ribbons. That echo of glory won't be heard in 4th place. It's far too faint.
We have not stagnated, we continue to drive forward with intent, refusing to slam on the brakes with the obstacles ahead, preferring to swerve around them or (if Bale is in the driving seat) flip the car over stunt-style and continue down the road, burning up rubber.
All down to the chairman now to back the coach a second time, having had said coach prove he was worth backing in the first place, to make those hedonistic heights a reality.
When does pre-season kick-off?
Love the shirt.