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Huddersfield Town and Fans Show Their Class

The jubilant Huddersfield Town supporters might have been forgiven had they neglected to commemorate Arsene Wenger and his 22 year career at Arsenal on Sunday. After all, the once proud club only just last week confirmed their own safety in the Premier League for next season, having finally made it back to the top flight for the first time since the 1971 season. The  home crowd were festooned in their blue and white, singing at full throat and celebrating as the English spring sunshine bathed the scene in that golden glow that always accompanies the end of another long season.

However, the home supporters and the club showed extraordinary class in the 22nd minute when The whole stadium rose to give a minute long ovation to the man who changed English football forever when he arrived in 1996. The Gunners and the Terriers have always been linked by arguably English football’s first great revolutionary, Herbert Chapman, who first managed Huddersfield and then Arsenal to 3 consecutive league titles over the 1920’s and 1930’s, and that bond was evident at the John Smith’s Stadium on Sunday. The Frenchman acknowledged the crowd at large and turned his attention to the travelling Arsenal supporters to take a bow in appreciation. It was a truly special way to commemorate Arsenal’s greatest living manager, and surely not a scene either side will forget in a hurry.

Gunners Finally Break 2018 Woes Away From Home

It might have taken until the very last day of the season, but Arsenal finally succeeded in earning points away from the cosseting embrace of the Emirates Stadium in 2018. The Gunners had notoriously been the only club left in the English League system not to manage the “feat” since the calendar turned over, but Arsene Wenger was at least able to escape leaving that indelible blight on the end of his storied career at the club. A liberated Huddersfield was perhaps the better and more energetic side for much of the first half, but it was still somehow unsurprising that the only score of the match came in the 38th minute from Pierre-Emerick A-goal-a-game (ahem, Aubameyang) off of a sublime passing move that was pure Wengerball from the Gunners’ attack.

The much needed win does not fully make up for the Gunners’ putrid away form in 2018, which  would have continued to enrage the supporters beyond perhaps any protest in the past. The Announcement, as it has become known in the days since April 20, gave cover to the team and the manager from the worst of the criticisms often levelled in their direction as they continued to show many of the blemishes that led to Wenger’s stepping down in the first place. Wenger deserves every bit of the thanks and adoration he has received since his decision, but fans may look back on the end of his final season in charge and see a team that ultimately failed to give him the proper send off after his fate became clear. 

No Santi In 17/18

If Santi Cazorla is to make another appearance in an Arsenal shirt, it will have to wait until next season after the clock expired on his comeback effort this season. The ever-smiling Spaniard has brought a lift to supporters in the last couple weeks since he was first pictured running the pitch prior to Arsenal’s first leg match-up with Atletico Madrid in the Europa League semifinals. He had since joined his teammates in training in the build up to the final match of the season on Sunday, and many were holding out hope that they might see Cazorla make a cameo appearance at the end of the match in Huddersfield.

It was in mid-October of 2016 when Cazorla first took a tumble in the closing stages of a 6-0 demolition of Bulgarian side Ludogarets. Not much was expected to come out of the reportedly minor Achilles injury he picked up that night, but as time went on, things only got worse for Cazorla. A litany of surgeries, infections, and a now truncated tendon in the back of his leg have robbed the little playmaker of nearly 2 seasons of football. Now 33 and out of contract, a return to the Arsenal team will require a tremendous amount of strength and dedication, as well as a new manager who wants Cazorla in his team. Have we seen the last of Santi Cazorla in an Arsenal shirt? One can only hope not, as he is truly the player that makes this team tick over. 

Wagner, Huddersfield Impress With The Pressure Off

Arsene Wenger may have gotten the victory in his final match in charge at Arsenal Football Club, but the hosts were deeply impressive in their celebratory final match of the season. Manager David Wagner, who has captured the hearts of the Terriers supporters with his determination and personality, told his team before the match that the “shackles are off” and gave them license to go and try and beat a top 6 side in Arsenal. While they ultimately did not succeed, this Huddersfield side put down a marker for next season in which we could see a far more liberated and attack-oriented team at the Kirklees Stadium. The financial windfall of a second season in the richest league in the world will allow Huddersfield to try and build on what Wagner started upon his arrival in 2015 from Borussia Dortmund II.

The German born Wagner comes from a school of exciting, attacking football at the Westfalenstadion, and it appears that he will seek to expand on his philosophy next season. Huddersfield Town showed tremendous graft in their fight for Premier League survival, and in the end outlasted 3 clubs who had become more established as top flight clubs in recent seasons. Unfortunately, Wagner may not get the recognition he deserves for this team’s performance this season, but the people of Huddersfield know that they’ve got a good one on their hands.

The Season For Change

It has been a long time coming in North London, and finally, following Sunday’s match, it has arrived. Change is here at Arsenal, and the Gunners will soon be forced to take their first steps in 22 years without the man who came to define the club in the modern era. Arsene Wenger will likely be in a new job next season, and he may not be the only one heading for the exits at the Emirates Stadium. Most of his staff will not be returning next season, and uncertain futures lay in front of players like Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Danny Welbeck, Laurent Koscielny, Santi Cazorla, Hector Bellerin and perhaps even more still. This team could look, feel and play different next season, under the guidance of a very different style leader. 

Throughout Arsene Wenger’s reign, fans have become quite used to bidding farewell to beloved players, but the Frenchman had always remained the constant. Arsenal Football Club will forever be in his debt for all he has done, but the time has come for him to hand over his precious child to another manager. Arsene Wenger strolled the touchline for more than 1,200 games and oversaw some of the greatest moments in club history. He will be missed by many, but quickly replaced in minds by the World Cup and transfer market dreams. Wenger said this week that he is not one to often look into the past, and both he and the club will soldier on, no longer together but never entirely separate. Was he the “catalyst for change” in the end, as Ivan Gazidis once said? Perhaps not, but his legacy, in North London and England as a whole, is safely secured. Merci Arsene.