14 May 2017

We'll always have schadenfreude. Rob Holding, I'm looking at you!

Justice itself may not have been served, but something closely resembling it and offering something almost enjoyable was. For as satisfying as it was to thrash the Potters at their own ground on Saturday, the result still leaves us a bit stranded, hoping against hope that Liverpool will lose or draw at home to relegated Middlesbrough. There's a long week to wait before knowing our fate. In the meantime, then, there's some rather shameless schadenfreude to get to, so why dither when there are so many delectable delicacies on offer?

Of course, Chelsea won the Prem. Again. At first blush, it might be difficult to find the schadenfreude in that—until we consider that Jose Mourinho piloted this squad to a tenth-place finish. Yes, there were reinforcements. One doesn't spend £113m on Kante, Batshuayi, Luiz, and Alonso without expecting some improvement. However, that pales in comparison to the £157m Mourinho spent to improve Man U—and that doesn't include the free transfer of Zlatan Ibrahimović, a player who might otherwise command a transfer-fee of £30m, even at his age. Antonio Conte, you've embarrassed Mourinho on several scores. He outspent you, yes, but you out-managed him. A tip of the cap to you, then.

Speaking of embarrassing Mourinho, it's entirely possible that Man U might finish one spot lower than they did in 2015-16, when they finished fifth. In other words, despite Leicester's regression to means, Mourinho's Man U are fated to finish a bit worse than they did £157m+Mourinho ago. Huh.

Let's move on, then. Tottenham, despite their best season in England's top tier, will finish in second place. Much as might wound our pride at this end of North London, one need only look as far away as Boleyn Ground to wonder whether Tottenham can sustain this admittedly admirable form. For what it's worth, West Ham bid adieu to their historic ground in 2016 and finished seventh on 62 points—their best finish in a generation, if not more. They're set to finish a full 20 points lower—a cautionary tale if ever there was one. How much of Tottenham's ascendancy is attributable to bidding adieu to White Hart Lane? Wembley's pitch is only marginally larger in terms of yards, but it's miles larger in terms of environment. For a club that has brayed and bleated about Arsenal as an unwelcome intruder into "their" territory, it will be intriguing to say the leat to see how our erstwhile rivals adapt to their new environs. It's worth noting that Arsène has done quite well at Wembley.

As long as we're talking about doing well at other grounds, might I be so bold as to point that we've won the league title at White Hart Lane twice—

Last but certainly not least, let's revisit the result against Stoke. I'm not talking about the scoreline. Yes, it was wonderful to win. It's always preferable to the alternatives. Instead, I'd like to discuss the manner of the win. Yes, yes, each of our goals was sumptuous and sexy. However, that's not what I'm on about. This little section is all about the ice-cold blood that flows through one Rob Holding's veins. Before we get to him, though, let's indulge a backstory. A Frenchman joins the Arsenal. There are high hopes for how he'll solidify the back-line. Instead, an entirely unnecessary forearm-shiver to the back sends Debuchy into what amounts to early retirement. At the moment of impact, Debuchy and the ball were both well out of bounds. What was truly out of bounds was Arnautovic's shove.

On Saturday, Rob Holding exacted a measure of justice. We're not in the business of revenge, but this little rivalry is fraught with that sort of thing. Aaron Ramsey, were he the one to kiss and tell, might have some feelings to share, Ditto Debuchy. So it came down to a coming-together in the 78th minute, well within the boundaries of fair play. Arnautovic extended the same right fore-arm he used to injure Debuchy—but Holding, playing essentially the same position as the injured Frenchman, cold-cocked him. He landed awkwardly. Far be it from me to wish pain or injury on another, but when no less an anti-Arsenal authority as Mike Dean can only book Holding, well, I have to feel like there's a certain degree of justice here. I wish Mr. Arnautovic just as speedy a recovery as he no doubts wishes the same for Mathieu Debuchy.


Hey, wait! We're not quite done. It's still well within the realm of reason that Liverpool do draw against Boro. I'm sure we'll all eagerly await that one. Elsewhere, Man U have to face a very in-form Ajax in a must-win Europa League final on 24 May. Mourinho's only path to relevance. In other words, this week's serving of schadenfreude could still serve as an hors d'oeuvres. It may just be worth the wait...