The way I see it - Arsenal v Manchester United

Last updated : 20 May 2005 By Jason Hogan
After all, when all was said and done, we proved that we are the best of the REAL football clubs in this country, we have secured a place as of right in next seasons Champions League again and have condemned ManUre to the inconvenience of having to play in the qualifying rounds for the third time in four seasons.

There are, no doubt, a lot of Gooners out there that will be saying that our season has been disappointing but I for one refuse to agree. In a time when one certain club has been buying players for £30 million a time and when another has been going round spending £70 million in a month and £200- odd million in a calendar year, the Arsenal, on hugely inferior financial resources, are the ONLY club in this country that can say that they have finished in top two in this country in each of the last eight seasons. That is something that I will never tire of saying.

What makes our achievement this year all the more laudable is the fact that we have often had to rely on a bunch of kids to do the job of grown men. Take Cesc Fabregas. The boy has been nothing short of phenomenal for us and all things considered I think that he has been our player of the year.

There are plenty of examples as to why I think that (when he played alongside Flamini and stood tall in our midfield in last December's game with the PRF for example) but I tell you what did it for me. Think back to the FA Cup replay against Sheffield United at Bramall Lane. As I said at the time, the media and the press turned up in force that night to witness our demise and nothing else. But when the going got tough on that cold, wet and windy night, who was it that stood up to be counted and drove us on for the thick end of two hours? No, it wasn't Vieira, who was also playing that night. It was a mere slip of a 17-year-old lad, going on 18- Fabregas.

In the second half of the season we finally got a decent idea of what the fuss was all about where Phillipe Senderos was concerned. He may have got his chance by way of default due to Campbell and then Cygan getting injured but boy, did he turn out to be huge bonus.

It was something that pleased me personally because after the League Cup tie at Old Trafford last November, I was telling all my mates and anyone else that would listen that this boy would make it good at Arsenal. I will particularly remember his performances against Bolton in the cup when Kevin Davies did his level best to maim him permanently and against Bayern in the second leg at Highbury for many a long year. And here's the best bit- he has virtually ensured that barring a cruel twist of fate, Pascal Cygan will never, if at all, play for Arsenal with any degree of regularity again. If ever there was a reason for an Arsenal fan to be cheerful, you would have to go some to beat that!

Funnily enough, Senderos wasn't the only chap that convinced me that he had a future at Arsenal that night back in November. Mathieu Flamini was also in the team that night. Now, I remember reading some of the comments some Gooners were making about the lad after that game and there were a few that were far from complementary. Well, I've said it before and I will say it again- this boy is a true Arsenal midfield warrior in the making. He may have unsung attributes but I can see parallels between him and our old boy Ray Parlour. Whatever people thought of the Romford Pele the fact is he never let the club down- and I don't think that this lad ever will either.

As for Robin Van Persie, it's fair enough to say that the last third of the season has seen him come a little into his own. I was as furious with lad as Wenger was after his show of crass stupidity down at St Mary's back in February but there's no doubt that the lad has definitely knuckled down to things over the last few months and he getting better and better all the time. Credit must also be given to Jose Antonio Reyes who has come through what has been a very difficult season and is slowly but surely getting back to being the player we saw at the start of the season.

However I get the feeling that Saturday's match might be his last for Arsenal and in that respect he will be in good company because we will also be saying goodbye to Edu on Saturday too, which is a real shame. This boy came to us as a relative unknown and we turned him into a fully fledged Brazilian international but for all that, I have to say I have thoroughly enjoyed watching this boy play in an Arsenal shirt and I personally wish him well wherever he decides to go. He is coming into his prime and maybe just maybe he'll be one ex-Arsenal player that doesn't have a career that goes flat as soon as he walks out of the Marble Halls for the last time.

This brings me nicely on to Ashley Cole. In the wake of this weeks hearing into the "tapping up" fiasco, I will repeat what I have said all along -I think that we should sell him.

You see, if he wanted to leave Arsenal for genuine footballing reasons and THEN make more money for himself in the process then I would have said fair play to him. But whichever way you look at the situation and regardless of whether his agent is influencing his thoughts or not, what is clearly at the root of this whole situation is money and nothing else.

The suggestion is that unless Cole miraculously agrees to sign a new deal, he will see out his contract and leave for a free in two years time but I'm sorry I don't see how that can happen. Firstly because, it appears that a very large can of worms has been opened as result of this hearing, inducing so many claims and counter claims between Cole and the Arsenal hierarchy, even I find it hard to believe that a wedge hasn't been driven between Cole and the club that he allegedly supported as a boy.

Secondly given that Cole is, above everything else, so keen to bolster his own bank balance sooner rather than later, then staying at Arsenal to see out the last two years of his "derisory" existing contract surely would defeat the money driven motives that led to his illicit soirée with the Phoney Russian Franchise in the first place.

All in all, the only winners in all of this are the PRF. They knew damn well that they nothing to lose in taking up that meeting with Cole and even when the story first came out, they knew that the FA or the Premier League wouldn't have the balls to make a real example of them. The FA and the Premier League do not want Abramovich to get his hot shot lawyers to appeal and tie the whole case up in legal knots indefinitely. At the absolute best, the PRF may cop a fine maybe approaching £100,000 for their part in this very public episode but hey, when a club have a benefactor that probably makes twice that amount in an hour- well, it's as good as getting off scot-free.

If Arsenal are going to come out of this whole sorry mess with any dignity they must do it by selling Cole. People that are driven essentially by money are no good to Arsenal Football Club because we are the one club that the press and the media want to see fail EVERY time we play.

The main reason why we have had the success we have had in recent times is because we have had players that have shrugged off all the crude attempts the press and the media make to undermine us go out and give it 120% to win. The moment that anyone starts to make money more important than playing for the Arsenal they are quite frankly no good to us in the long run. That's the position I think Cole is in now.

It's not as if we don't have a young, willing and able replacement. Gael Clichy is more than capable of taking up the role at left back and contrary to what some Gooners have said I believe this boy is better, certainly defensively, than Ashley was when he first broke into the Arsenal side. So there is no reason to suggest that putting him in will be a step backwards for the team.

Anyway, as far as Saturday's final goes, for me things are very simple. I don't give damn whether the neutrals are looking forward to this game and I don't give a damn whether the match proves to be as good or as bad as people may think. In fact, I couldn't care less if World War Three breaks out in Cardiff.

I am only interested in two things on Saturday - VICTORY and REVENGE. We have missed out on so much over the last ten years because of them and we have got a caning from the beaks at the FA because of them. I am sick and tired of those bastards getting the rub of the green against us. It's time for payback- and I want it NOW!