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Transfer Rater: Fellaini to Arsenal

Football Whispers

Fellaini to Arsenal? No thanks


Transfer Rater: Wilshere to West Ham

Football Whispers
 By Tom Adams

Arsenal fans are inviting jokes of own failures by laughing at Tottenham

Two days on and it still doesn't seem real: the dreamlike final weekend of the season, which in its sweeping drama proved once again that Tottenham will manage to unearth increasingly amazing ways, performing bizarre acts of contortion, to finish below Arsenal in the Premier League table.

It is one of football's immutable laws, to be ranked alongside Germans winning penalty shootouts at the very top of the list. Tottenham are simply incapable of finishing above their rivals; the football gods will not allow it. But in amid the delight and schadenfreude enveloping the red half of north London, there is a lesson, too, for Arsenal fans about the sport's cyclical nature.

Sunday was a rather bizarre event. Arsenal's highlight of an otherwise intermittently miserable season arrived on the final round of fixtures as they somehow secured their best Premier League finish in 11 years, just weeks after discontent aimed at manager Arsene Wenger and owner Stan Kroenke spilled over into planned protest in a home game against Norwich City.

As the goals flew in for Arsenal at Emirates Stadium in their 4-0 win against Aston Villa, in Newcastle the opposite was being inflicted on Tottenham as they somehow slumped to a 5-1 deficit against a relegated team with 10 men. It was almost as though football was exercising its yin and yang, using divine intervention to restore balance in the universe by ensuring that Arsenal's primacy was to be protected.

It is tempting to reach for metaphysical explanations after an inexplicable chain of events like this. Maybe Tottenham's inferiority complex is so pronounced that even as Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino tried to warn that no good would come of the obsession with finishing above Arsenal, it's because a self-destructive, self-fulfilling prophecy that resulted in Spurs taking only two points from their past four games of the season.

More likely, the mental wounds inflicted by losing the league from 2-0 up away to Chelsea, raw and on display as they conceded twice and resorted to a stunning array of fouls, kicks and one infamous eye-gouge, simply could not be healed. A young team lost their hope and then lost their heads and focus completely.

Arsenal fans cheering
Arsenal fans could only smile on Sunday as their club finished above Tottenham for a 21st straight season.

Whatever the reason for Tottenham's collapse, it gave Arsenal fans a rare excuse to self-combust in laughter and waved them off for the summer by gifting them the most enjoyable moment of the 2015-16 campaign. Any suggestion that supporters celebrating second place were incorrect to do so betrays a lack of understanding of the specific context, and from a broader perspective, the very essence of what makes football what it is.

Taking enjoyment from the travails of rival clubs and players is football's dark matter: a constant force, essential to the very structure of the universe, but lurking murkily in the background. It can sustain you when times are tough, as they have been for Arsenal in a season when Wenger's position and the direction of the club have been scrutinised and pulled apart like never before.

The bad news for Arsenal is that in much the same way as Tottenham's repetitious subordination to their rivals has become a punchline, Arsenal invite jokes of their own by being stuck in their own time loop of disappointment. You all know its familiar contours: fail to challenge for the title, cling on for a Champions League place, finish second in the group stage in the following season and then get knocked out at the last-16.

It's another one of football's immutable laws; a binding force holding Arsenal in place: Never too good. Never too bad. But always above Spurs.

Laughing at Tottenham will sustain a lot of supporters during the summer, but asking Spurs to accept their place in football's grand design quietly invites Arsenal to do likewise.

Local superiority is essential. However, the real challenge for Wenger in what could well be his last season in charge of Arsenal is to try and snap the team out of the feedback loop they have been stuck in for the second half of his reign. Do that, and Arsenal fans won't even have to rely on Tottenham's annual failings to put a smile on their faces.

Tom is one of ESPN FC's Arsenal bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter @tomEurosport


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