Arsenal finished their season on a high, going to Carrow Road and winning 2-0. That was the Gunners’ 24th win of the season, putting them on 79 points total…and securing another fourth place finish for the club.
Despite adding eight points to the 71 earned last season, and grabbing three more wins, Arsenal finish their season exactly in the same position that they finished last year. No wonder Arsène Wenger is a bit frustrated:
Unfortunately it’s the first time in the Premier League that you finish fourth with 79 points and it was very tight. I believe that Liverpool can be frustrated tonight, we can be frustrated, Chelsea can be frustrated because only one team can win it. But at the top the number of points made by all the four teams is top quality.
That’s a surprisingly restrained statement from a man whose side spent much of the first half of the year sitting first in the Premier League table. It sure seemed as though this, this would finally be the year that Arsenal would lift a trophy.
Instead injuries took a toll. Aaron Ramsey fell to a thigh problem on Boxing Day, limping off for over three months. Considering he’d scored thirteen goals in all competitions prior to that match, it was a rather big blow for the side.
But Ramsey wasn’t the only Arsenal player to fall victim to injury. Abou Diaby missed nearly the entire season, playing only the final few minutes at Hull. Jack Wilshere was out for nearly two months, again returning for just a few minutes against Hull. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain missed much of the season.
Overall, it was the amount of injuries preying on the squad that should be what frustrated Wenger. Who knows what sort of trophies Arsenal may have lifted, had they had, say, a healthy Ramsey for the entire season?
Of course, they still have a chance to add a trophy to the dust that’s gathering in the cabinet. Next weekend, Arsenal face Hull at Wembley, battling to lift the FA Cup. Perhaps after that match, we’ll hear what’s really on Wenger’s mind.
Goals from Bakary Sako and Luka Milivojevic spearheaded Crystal Palace’s 2-0 win over West Bromwich Albion in the PL Asia Trophy third place game, and now Liverpool and Leicester City tangle for the title.
The final will be staged at 8:30 a.m. ET, when Liverpool will hope to build on a 2-0 semifinal win paced by Divock Origi and Dominic Solanke goals.
The club, the city, the fans, name it: The relentless 27-year-old has renewed his commitment to AS Roma with a new contract, and understands how players like Francesco Totti and Daniele De Rossi devote their entire careers to i Lupi.
“It’s Rome,” Strootman exclaims, speaking ahead of the club’s second Stateside match of the International Champions Cup.
“You’re not going to leave easy. This is Rome. We all have the ambition to win something here, and to celebrate with the fans. Totti told us when he won the scudetto in 2001, there were parties for three months. If you win something here, it’s going to be really special. About the city you don’t even have to talk, it’s so beautiful you cannot compare it with anything else.”
Yeah, the Eternal City is pretty nice, but it’s most celebrated football club is growing in magnitude, too. Roma’s finished second in Serie A three of the past four seasons, and last season came within four points of its first scudetto since the aforementioned win earlier this century.
Strootman was a massive part of the campaign, returning to the elite form displayed in his first season at the club and in previous campaigns with PSV Eindhoven. He scored six times with seven assists between Serie A and the UEFA Europa League, averaging 2.7 tackles per game, 1.7 interceptions, and 1.4 dribbles per Serie A contest.
That his reclamation of that status came after knee surgeries limited him to 18 matches over the previous two seasons was sweet (if nervy).
“For me it was like such a relief, especially in the beginning you’d play a game and you’d be happy to play,” Strootman said. “If you won everyone was happy with the win, but I was just happy that I didn’t get injured again. The fitness coaches and technical staff did a great job. I played 50 games, we made the Champions League, and I signed a new contract. I was happy to pay them back on the pitch. I feel good.”
Payback is a theme in our talk with Strootman, who speaks glowingly of club chairman James Pallotta, the American businessman who stood by the midfielder during his injury struggles (NOTE: PST profiled Pallotta in depth last summer).
“He brought me here when he started the project, and he’s always supported me even during my injuries,” Strootman said. “He would call me, and was always there for me. I always told him, when I’m fit I want to pay you back with my play on the pitch. He’s like a president should be.”
It’ll be different from Strootman this season, and not just because of the changes to the Roma roster. Gone are Mohamed Salah, Antonio Rudiger, Leandro Paredes, and retiring Francesco Totti. Arriving are Maxime Gonalons, Hector Moreno, and reports of bids for Riyad Mahrez and the impending arrival of Aleksandar Kolarov excite the fan base.
I Lupi are a club which has been on the precipice of greatness for some time. Now with the Champions League group stage and battles with not just Juve and Napoli but surging AC Milan and Inter Milan, Strootman says it’s time to stop talking big and start acting it out.
“The last couple years we talked in the preseason about winning the scudetto, winning cups, but we have to show it on the pitch,” he said. “We still need some time, that’s normal, but we need to show on the pitch that we are hungry. We’re a young team with some experienced players. It’s a good mix. We have to show it from the first competition and game by game.”
Strootman also admitted, as many have, that American soccer continues to grow in renown around the Netherlands and Europe in general.
“I think it’s rising,” he said. “A lot more players from Holland are going over to MLS. I don’t see a lot of the games because they don’t show them in Italy. But when you’re here and see the friendly games against the big teams, the level is going up. MLS is getting higher and higher.”
Roma faces Spurs at Red Bull Arena on Tuesday before a July 30 battle with Juventus at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.