Starting XI: Ospina, Bellerin, Mustafi, Holding, Kolasinac, Xhaka, Ramsey, Iwobi, Mkhitaryan, Aubameyang, Lacazette
Subs: Macey, Maitland-Niles, Mertesacker, Monreal, Willock, Welbeck, Nketiah
So that is that. After 1,235 games in charge, Arsene Wenger’s tenure as Arsenal manager is over.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the Frenchman’s final acquisition, scored the only goal as the Gunners ended their winless run on the road in 2018 with a 1-0 win against Huddersfield.
We finish the season in sixth place and with the closing of an unforgettable chapter in our great club’s prestigious history.
Having seen their team secure their Premier League status at Stamford Bridge in midweek, the Huddersfield supporters were, understandably, in a celebratory mood. The home fans had been treated to free t-shirts for the occasion ensuring the terraces shimmered blue and white in the early summer sunshine.
With the pressure off David Wagner’s players, there was a freedom about the home side’s attacking play that appeared to take the Arsenal players off guard. In the opening 15 minutes, the Terriers might have opened the scoring on four occasions. Ospina got down low to claim a header by Mounie, Kongolo and Schindler had shots blocked at close range and Tom Ince fired over the bar with the goal gaping.
A tame Ramsey curler aside, the only thing the away support had to cheer was the sight of two planes flying overhead with messages of thanks for Arsene Wenger. “MERCI ARSENE, WE’LL MISS YOU TOO” said the first. Moments later the cameras spotted another, this one trailing #ONEARSENEWENGER – ARSENAL LEGEND”.
Quick to highlight the fickleness of the gesture, the home support sang, “You wanted him out, you wanted him out, you two-faced bastards, you wanted him out.” The away end hit back with, “Herbert Chapman, he left ‘cos you’re shit” – a devilish nod to the two clubs’ shared ex-manager.
Not that they needed to, but the home fans were quick to redeem themselves. In the 22nd minute, in a classy pre-planned gesture, they marked Wenger’s 22-years in charge at Arsenal with a standing ovation. It took Arsene a while to realise what was going on, but when he finally twigged he clambered from the bench to soak up the sustained applause.
On the pitch, we gradually grew in confidence and started to create more in the final third. Kolasinac nearly converted a Mustafi flick from a Mkhitaryan corner on 27 minutes and the Armenian had an effort deflected just wide three minutes later.
The home side, who’d initially been so energetic, started to sit deeper. Perhaps their night out in London nightspot Chinawhite on Wednesday night was catching up with them?
On 37 minutes we made our pressure pay. Mkhitaryan and Lazacaztte combined to free Ramsey, who, having burst through defence, flicked a ball across goal for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to bundle home from close range at the back post. (1-0)
It was the Gabon international’s 10th goal for the Gunners since signing from Borussia Dortmund in January – he’s the fastest in the club’s history to reach that milestone, doing so in just 13 games. Whoever comes in as the next coach is lucky to have a player with such an eye for goal.
Huddersfield were quick out of the traps after the break although they were more frantic than controlled with their efforts at goal. Mounie’s air shot as he attempted an overhead kick summed things up nicely.
At the other end, Aubameyang twice failed to make the most of well-worked positions, as did Kolasinac who burst to the byline but couldn’t find anyone with his pull-back.
Ospina, who’d earlier needed treatment having had his foot stood on, made a smart stop to deny Ince’s low drive on the diagonal. Holding was lucky that a clumsy challenge on Moonie went unpunished as Michael Oliver opted to play on.
While Ospina received more treatment, this time after a clash with Schindler, Wenger sent on Welbeck and Monreal for Aubameyang and Kolasinac. You can guess for yourselves which minute he made that decision. Soon after Iwobi departed to be replaced by Maitland-Niles.
Our most promising play came down the left but we lacked ruthlessness in and around the box. Lacazette and Welbeck both squandered glorious chances to put the game to bed. Lossl stood tall to collect the Frenchman’s dinked effort and then denied the England international with his feet.
With only two minutes remaining Mooy thought he’d grabbed an equaliser only to see his effort crash off the bar and over. Wenger paced about his technical area looking very concerned. “Forty-nine, forty-nine undefeated,” sang the travelling fans – a lovely tribute to the Frenchman’s greatest achievement at the club.
Deep into stoppage-time there was one final heart-stopping moment as a backtracking Ospina made a desperate save to protect the Gunners lead. A small scuffle ensued and then the final whistle. The cameras turned to Arsene Wenger, he shook hands with Wagner and headed straight down the tunnel. One-nil to the Arsenal. Weirdly fitting.
A pitch invasion by the home support denied the boss an immediate chance to thank the travelling Gooners one last time, however, after a short break he revisited the Gunners end and was mobbed by those who remained. He looked genuinely happy.
Merci Arsene. You will never be forgotten.