May 052008

Arsenal 1 (Bendtner 77) Everton 0

Some end of season games are relaxed, fun and full of goals. Others are like yesterday’s game, with Everton plainly coming for the point that would’ve sealed UEFA Cup football for them, and Arsenal lacking incision of any kind, creating the dullest of dull affairs.

Some of the lack of creativity could be attributed to the missing midfield – Cesc, Flamini, Hleb and Rosicky all laughing and joking together on the sidelines, but in truth it seemed that the ones on the field just weren’t that fussed. No-one displayed that laziness more than Eboue, who should surely be trying to impress after getting on the wrong side of even his own fans.

Eventually though, a chance arose, and unlike many days, it was actually taken, Traore’s excellent cross powered home by Bendtner, leaving him just one short of double figures this season, an impressive tally given his position in the pecking order.

And that really is all that can be said about the game, the rest of the news being the names we won’t be seeing in an Arsenal shirt next season. We’ve known about Lehmann for a long time, and he made his farewell appearance as a substitute, earning a well deserved ovation from the fans. He may not have distinguished himself in the media this season, but after his early mistakes he has stayed match sharp and been impressive when called upon. And his sniping should not detract from his past heroics for the club – the unbeaten season, his first in England, that penalty save against Villareal that took us to the Champions League final, his performance and penalty save from Scholes that gave us the FA Cup three years ago, out most recent trophy.

And more, his sheer entertainment value. Sharp cut downs of Kahn, shoving matches with Drogba, sheer dislike of Spurs, you have to love the man. Thanks Jens, you complete nutcase.

Joining him through the exit door, as has been inevitable for some time, is Mathieu Flamini, whose move to Milan was finally confirmed today. It is difficult sometimes to understand why he chose to leave, but you have to remember that unlike us, Flamini is not an Arsenal fan. It is not his dream to represent the Gunners, and he sees this move as a step up. With Milan steeped in European history, you can’t really blame him for that, although you do feel that despite the season he has had, he may not find the grass is greener, a lesson many have had to learn.

There is no doubt that Wenger wanted Flamini to stay, but he respected his contract and the boss has probably felt for some time that he’d be looking for a replacement come the summer – the rest of us have. At least he has a definitive answer in early May.

Unfortunately, it means more losses this summer, the same way it starts every year. I’ll look more closely at that trend tomorrow. Until then.

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