‘Arsenal will always look back on this season as a wasted opportunity’

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THERE was something a little inevitable about Arsenal beating Manchester United on Sunday, and what a wasted opportunity this season now looks after that result.

The pressure was off and you could sense that around the ground, but still it was so frustrating to see Arsenal beat the leaders having failed to beat so many other sides in the last couple of months.

The season has just been wrecked by that recent run, and even a win over United was not enough to repair the damage. Some people still feel Arsenal have an outside chance, but that really is praying for a miracle and I expect United to avoid defeat on Sunday and effectively sew it up.

Nevertheless, it was a pleasing result and a very satisfying day for Arsene Wenger to see his young midfield playing so well against supposedly the best side in the country.

I said last week that the balance in Arsenal’s midfield has not been right lately, and it was interesting to see Arsene play Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere together.

They looked good and helped Arsenal dominate possession, and for Ramsey to get the winner was a fantastic moment for the player.

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He has had to go though a lot both physically and mentally in the last 14 months, and you can never be sure how well a player will recover. He looks to be fine and back to a good level and that is good for him and good for Arsenal.

It doesn’t mean he can suddenly be the answer to all Arsenal’s problems, but I suppose it does show everybody that this club do have a lot of good young players who are probably only going to get better.

That doesn’t diminish the sense of a missed chance this season, and it is true that United side have not been spectacular, but they have been more consistent than anybody else.

It’s always easy to point out moments in the season where crucial points have been dropped, but this season there were so many of those games for Arsenal and that is why they won’t be champions.

They will want to finish well, and Manchester City are still pushing hard for third place which carries with it the last automatic Champions League qualifying spot. Having a play-off in August can make a big difference in pre-season.

Stoke on Sunday will not be easy though. Everybody has thought that they will slack off and worry about the cup final, but Tony Pulis doesn’t seem to have allowed them to do that.

They are a physical side, and they do intimidate teams, but they can also play a bit as they showed when beating Bolton at Wembley. But Arsenal have that belief back after beating United, and should win again.