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Posted by Sam Limbert on 05/14/2012

Arsenal added the motto ‘Forward’ to the bottom of the club’s crest for the 125th anniversary season, and for a large slice of the season, that was looking like an embarrassing move. It seemed like we were a club in decline, and one that was definitely moving backwards. No-one could have envisaged that we’d end the season with a higher points total than the previous campaign, and finish a place higher.

It might only be a small step, but we have gone forward as a team and as a club this season. Whilst we should be rightly pleased at how we recovered from the dreadful start, this achievement shouldn’t be looked at as the be all and end all for this group of players. It needs to be the start of something.

We’ve stumbled over the line, but finishing third not only puts us back in the Champions League group stage, it gives us more clout when negotiating new contracts for certain members of the current squad, and helps us in the transfer market to attract players. One of the reasons for the ill-advised trolley dash at the end of last summer was that we weren’t able to guarantee potential signings that they’d be playing in Europe’s top competition because of the Champions League qualifier with Udinese. We won’t have that problem this summer.

The win at West Brom to confirm our place in third was hardly convincing, and arguably doesn’t give us much hope for the future considering some of the elements of the performance. However in the last match of the season, the performance is irrelevant. If there is something significant to play for, so long as you get the right result, no-one really cares.

We undoubtedly got significant slices of luck with some interesting goalkeeping from Marton Fulop. It seems like Manuel Almunia has been embarking on a little tour of Premier League clubs in the last couple of weeks. After giving Wojciech Szczesny some tips ahead of our game with Norwich, he then got Marton Fulop to deliver an Almunia master class.

The first mistake was slightly reminiscent of Almunia’s spectacular error that he made at the same end of the same ground in the previous season. Yossi Benayoun deserves credit for closing Fulop down and putting him under pressure, but Fulop couldn’t have tied the bow on the present any better if he tried. The second mistake wasn’t catastrophic, but Santos’ shot was still saveable. The Brazilian’s effort was well struck, and it was good to see an Arsenal player shoot from outside the box, but Fulop gave it a helping hand.

Fulop then saved his best until last. His punch back towards his own goal was quite impressive, and Laurent Koscielny was well placed to flick the ball in. It was scrappy, but it was vital.

Defensively, once again we were horribly open. The first West Brom goal came about from our high line getting caught out as the offside trap didn’t work. Shane Long did look like he’d started his run a fraction too early, but we took a risk with our high line. Plus, Andre Santos was absolutely nowhere to be seen. Had he been in the left back position, he could have covered round and Long wouldn’t have had a clear run on goal, offside or not. Santos has clear ability on the ball and when going forward, but his positional sense defensively simply isn’t good enough to be a regular Premier League full back. I love his character, and he’s a good squad player, but Kieran Gibbs will have to be our first choice if fit at the start of next season.

Thomas Vermaelen’s radar has gone seriously awry in the last weeks of the season, and he was hopelessly out of position for the second goal. He tried to play offside, whilst the others dropped deep. That really shouldn’t be happening at the end of the season when the centre backs have played with each other enough times.

Some individual players deserve a mention from the match. Wojciech Szczesny had a nightmare against Norwich, but recovered well and apparently played through the pain of an injury to take the field against West Brom. He didn’t have much hope with either of the goals, but made some good saves in the second half to keep us ahead. Despite the knock his confidence could have taken, he still looked to command his area and didn’t look phased, compared to the man between the sticks at the other end.

Kieran Gibbs has also suffered from a dip in form in recent weeks, but his tackle at the end of the match embodied why this group of Arsenal players are different to the more disjointed teams we’ve had in recent seasons. At that stage of the season, players could have been relaxed and been thinking of the beach, but Gibbs put everything on the line with that tackle. He had to time it right and put his body in danger, and he did it. At the end of last season, when we were in a similar position to claim third, I doubt the players would have been willing to make such a risky challenge and be ready to put themselves in danger in that way.

We’ve acknowledged it during the whole season, that generally the team have been down on quality, but the team spirit and commitment to the club has seen them through in some tough situations. Quality can be added if we’re smart in the transfer market, but that spirit can be harder to build up. We’ve already got plenty of it, and should our captain stay, it’ll serve us well next season.

There are many moments that could be picked out as crucial to the season, crucial to finishing one point ahead of Spurs and crucial to avoiding the agony of fretting throughout the Champions League. Vermaelen’s winner against Newcastle, Henry’s winner at Sunderland, van Persie’s winner at Liverpool and Benayoun’s header against Aston Villa all stand out, however I can’t help but look past the North London derby at the Emirates as the match that truly turned our season.

We’d had some good results up to that point, but were on a poor run of form and could have gone 13 points behind Tottenham. Indeed at 2-0, it was looking like that would be the case. However the fans and everyone at the club seemed to truly unite, and from the moment Bacary Sagna powered in the header, there seemed little doubt that we’d go on to win the match and ultimately preserve the footballing equilibrium in North London. We’ve stuttered at the end, but the confidence gained from that match meant that the team still knew they had enough in them to beat West Brom as they were determined to see a St Totteringham’s Day this season. Tottenham have had a good season, and if we were going to finish above them, it was always likely to mean a place in the top three, so having the extra incentive of chasing them down undoubtedly helped this team.

It’s not a cliché or an exaggeration to say this season has been really up and down for Arsenal fans. Has it been a successful season? Realistically, no, as we should be constantly trying to push on as a club, and be looking to win trophies. However no team has a divine right to win trophies or finish in the top three. We were in a seriously sticky situation at the start of the season, and to finish in a higher position in the league, and with more points should be viewed as a success, even if it isn’t a major one.

Arsene Wenger was written off so many times by the press, but he has shown great commitment to Arsenal and to his own style of management, and helped blow away a few of the dark clouds that gathered over his head at times this season. He deserves a rest after the stresses and strains he’s been through this season, but he’ll know more than anyone that his job doesn’t stop while the players are either on the beach or at the Euros. Having worked hard to maintain our place at Europe’s top table, he has a good platform on which to build on for next season. If he does that, we can be looking towards a more major success in 2012/13.

A final word for Pat Rice. The way the players hoisted him up in front of the travelling Gooners on Sunday was recognition of the respect they have for him as an Arsenal legend, as a colleague, and as a man. He’ll be greatly missed, but should always serve as an inspiration to others who work or play at Arsenal. Thanks Pat.

I’m going to rate, and in some cases slate, the Arsenal squad for the past season in some end of season exam blog posts, after a two week break for my own end of year exams! Thanks for all of your comments on this blog during the season. To say it’s been eventful would be an understatement, but we’ve come out of it alive and with a hint of progress. Roll on August!

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Posted by Titansgunner12thman on 05/14/2012

We managed to finish 3rd, and that is an achievement considering the obvious weaknesses of the clubs players. While I'm glad to be in the Champion's League, we clearly have to improve. Podolski is a start, but the defense has to be addressed, with frankness and earnestness, starting with set pieces. I also think the system needs to be rebooted, and maybe (hopefully) Steve Bould will straighten it out. I want to like Vermaelen and Koshelny, but it's clear they didn't mesh well and had several hiccups, solo and in tandem. We must get the center of our defense up to par.
Our midfield has not helped the defense, and if we can add a true defensive mid, we will be in better stead.
Rosicky had by all accounts a good year, but we still need a dynamic playmaker helping RVP deliver goals. The question is will Wilshere be the spark plug we all want him to be? I hope so.
Finally RVP should be applauded for his efforts. Without the captain, we are all crying in our beers today.

Posted by Boniface on 05/15/2012

Arsenal achievement as a team is commendable but as a major English Club power house it took a bashing this season but the boys rescued some face. Szczesny was apparently playing with some pain but 49 goals conceded in a season is a blight on his resume. He needs competition. Squillaci and djourou have to make way for Vertonghen and Ignasi(Arsene has faith in his youth) should come in. Song needs competition(lets see if M'Vila or a classy DM joins).Wilshere is coming back. Diaby has to go(loan or GONE). No one mentions Hazard anymore. We need an AM.Arteta,Rosicky are 30 plus and in their peak. we need a Lampard or Yaya(MIDFIELD TITLE WINNERS). Ramsey is not ready.He hasnt shown 50% of wilshere's desire and hardwork. He is Good but not ready. RVP has to remain where he is King. Podolski is coming. Chamakh and Park are eyeing the exit. We need another RIGHT FOOTED Goalgetter. Gervais has to work on his final balls. Walcott has to reinvent himself. we need a title winning side.

Posted by Boniface83 on 05/15/2012

Steve Bould replaces Rice. Do you think he will involve his defense impetus to the team. Looking at Man city team i agree its amercenary side cause its noy a long term result team its a short term(instant result) team but we cant go for the title if we cant match them with talent not money. what is Milner and Adam Johnson doing on the bench there? Wow. money.if wwe had those two here(or there quality)it could had been different. Chamakh and Park are not winners. They didnt give Arsene a food for thought to challenge for places. RVP needs assurance that a trophy hungry team would be around next year to complement his effort. Thank God for Arteta and Wilshere. We need a jolt seriously. A strong Bench that rivals the boys on the pitch.Podolski is coming. am looking at Kagawa,M'vila and Vertonghen(steal from hotspur again). Arsene really need to start thinking of what has gone amiss the last 8 years.Did Nasri leave for the right reason cause this club lack ambition? This is the Gunners.

Posted by bc on 05/15/2012

Like it or not our best spell this season was with vermaelen at left back. positionally and defensively he is stronger there than.santos or gibbs. with the current crop of players this would be my starting x1 and bench if all were fit.
sagna mertesacker koscielny vermaelen
song arteta
walcott rvp podolski

mannone djourou gibbs diaby rosicky arshavin vela

rest of squad
jenkinson bartley miquel santos
chamberlain bendtner gervinho

shea lansbury eisfeld ryo chamakh afobe henderson yennaris campbell

missing out are
Fabianski almunia squillaci hoyte botelho eastmond denilson park murphy and benayoun who has now left. there are still 2 places left in the 25 man squad which i would give to vertonghen and van der weil. i would also look to replace arshavin vela bendtner and chamakh with mvila dempsey hoilett and huntelaar.

Posted by Dayo on 05/15/2012

Thanks Mr wenger for season thru I want u to know that without hardwoking there won't be success common wake up this team need a change look at united despite that they are better than ours they making effort to buy.wenger enough of ur tricky Word we need quality and trophy

Posted by steven on 05/15/2012

I agree our finish is better than we perhaps would have hoped for a the beginning of the season but does it warrant a blog titled 'Going forward? Amazingly, yes'?? No i don't think it does. Being a football fan is surely about watching your team achieve success and for our club this year was not a success. For me finishing in the top 4 every year is not success. Lets stop and think what achieving a top 4 place every year achieves, champions league football. But what good is this if you never achieve success in the competition? Oh great we get to watch our side crash out of a major tournament every year... Great! Liverpool are slated for the overspending and underachieving but they have won 2 cups since we won our last, lets put it in perspective we haven't tasted success in too long and that is that.

Posted by Gunnersaurus on 05/15/2012

While third is a decent achievement among some pretty decent teams, I think the real disappointment for me is the teams we lost to. We didn't get blown away by the big boys (give or take *that* game) but floundered whenever we visited the minnow pool. That speaks more of a mental issue still pervasive within the club as they're the teams you need to put away week in week out to really challenge for the title.

Posted by Taiwo on 05/15/2012

Great end to a season which seemed like it had capitulated even before it started. I wonder if i'll ever see an arsenal season without drama! Song had a great season; looks like some of Cesc's fairy dust rubbed off on him. Ramsey impressed during the first phase and then tired out..Hope he'll be a little consistent come 2012/2013(if he gets to start)..Chamberlain was a joy to watch( i wonder how Miyaichi 'll get a run in)..Podolski is a good addition and I can only expect us to improve (I wonder about Chamakh and Park).We need world class additions to our ranks for us to have a tilt at the title next season..It feels good to be above spurs but that in itself is no trophy.
I really hope wilshere would come back even better and that our flying dutchman signs a new deal. If we can have good luck with injuries like this season which had RVP and Song fit for most parts, with Bould sorting out the defending plus two quality additions, we could even win the UCL!

Posted by Southernmost US Gunner on 05/15/2012

The match was brutal to watch. Nervy didn't begin to describe my state of mind. When Gibbs dove in to stop that final shot, I almost threw my coffee all over the wall. Still, it's done and dusted. Now, as Titans says above me, we need to get started piecing together next year's club. Gossip pages already have ManCity throwing £25 million and£250,000 a week at RVP. Realistically, we can't match that, but we need to do all we can to try, even if it means scaling down ambitions at other positions. Realistically, we need to bring in M'Villa, which looks likely anyway. I would then say that we need to go ahead and beg, borrow, or steal the money we need to get Kagawa from Dortmund or Christian Eriksen from Ajax. Vertonghen might be worth a look as well. Either way, sales will need to take place (Hasta La Vista Arshavin, Chamakh, Bendtner, and Djourou) to make things more financially palatable. Finally, please GOD, let Jack come back at 100% next year! Arsenal Till I Die!

Posted by blave on 05/15/2012

Well done once again Sam! As usual there is not much else to do but agree with your analysis.

Again I appreciate your voice of reason. No the season may not have been a great sucess but it certainly was not the catastrophe that many make it out to have been and with one comment I couldn't agree more. "No team has a divine right to win trophies or finish in the top three."

As much as I want to see Arsenal winning trophies there aren't many to go around and fewer teams still even dream of winning them. Nothing is guaranteed or automatic.

The important thing is progress. While I feel we need more depth and quality and better defense, I am also realistic and do not expect Arsenal to break the bank. Unlike many fans I don't think breaking the bank is going to guarantee you trophies either.

In all honesty holding onto RVP alone could almost be viewed as progress in light of previous departures.

Thanks again Sam and Happy St Totteringhams Day to all Gunners!

Posted by Patrick on 05/15/2012

I loved the column, however, i didn't find any mention of Arteta who really made the difference for our season. We wouldn't be in this position without him. He deserves a shout out. God column though.

Posted by Sheroo on 05/15/2012

Well said, Sam.

Here's hoping our players don't pick up any major injuries during the Euros (and possibly Olympic games) this summer.


Posted by OMA on 05/15/2012

Finishing third was a massive reflief considering what would have hapened if we placed fourth and chelsea wins the championa league.The ramifications of that would have been dissatrous and also the chances of us keepin VAN PERSIE,who in my opinion is the main reason we acheved this much,would have been near impossible.Now that we have managed to place third and qualify for the group stages,I think Arsene wenger and the arsenal board should rethink about its spending policy this summer,or else we wont win anything come next season. There has been signs of imrovement with the recent acquisition of Podolski to compliment Van Persie in attack, but Arsenal needs much improvement in the creative and defensive midfield to cover the defense.Wilshere ,hopefully should return when the season resumes but questions as to his fitness will be raised. Arteta has been good this summer but he is definately not in the same category as Cesc fabregas,Silva or Modric. We must try to get M'villa.

Posted by david fitch on 05/15/2012

The problems Arsenal have had this season should not be forgotten were of the most part self inflicted plus an awful injury list.If the lessons have been learn't then this summer should not be as stressful as last year and they can sign those player's whose contract's are due for renewal,and sell those who want to leave. While the game was like watching the Marx's brother's the team did pull through in the end and with the new player's that will come build for next season with confidence.

Posted by GunnerMikeinOz on 05/15/2012

Sam, thanks so much for all your blogs—I haven’t missed one of them since you started and, each week, I look forward to reading them almost as much as I look forward to watching our games. I’m sure many Gooners world-wide share this view.

While your command of the language and your vast knowledge about the club is quite remarkable, it is your ability to balance the passion of a true Gooner with the objectivity that is required of a journalist that truly impresses me. I also read other blogs for other teams—both for Soccernet and externally—and this quality in your writing is what puts your blog head-and-shoulders above the rest.

Any fan can piece together his or her thoughts on a game and many reporters can easily analyse the progress of a team, but being able to honestly look at your club and write about its failings while still trying to keep the spirits of your fellow supporters up, is a tough, unenviable task, and you do it exceptionally well. Please keep up the good work.

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. Glad you've enjoyed the blog during the season!

Posted by Milleryogi on 05/15/2012

Well written piece but I think you under played the referring error on the first West Brom goal. Long was well offside; a full two yards which represents what should be an easy decision. Its easy to criticize the Arsenal defense and very often its fair but in instances like Sunday's first goal the quality of the defense is not the issue. The quality of referring in the EPL, however, very much is.


Posted by steven c on 05/15/2012

considering the start,lacking wilshire all season, having no full backs at all for a period and losing arteta for the run-in, third is the best we could hope for.
i have problems with this season however
# 1 is simple and i've written of this to you previously. wenger failed miserably last summer. made no timely replacement moves for nasri fabergas.
2 failures against bad teams. all three relegated teams took points off us. wolves bolton 2 blackburn 3. qpr and wigan each took 3, fulham 5.
against the cream we finished ok.
man u beat us twice, but we beat spurs chelsea citeh and newcastle finishing
w4 d2 l4 against the top teams.
3. wenger confused quantity with quality when he stated we had a large squad. yes, but it included almunia, squillacci, chamakh, park and arshavin as well as a number of raw youngsters.
so this summer. good start with podolski. rvp? hopefully we're rid off almunia, bendtner, chamakh, squillacci, arshavin, vela, denilson (mertesacker?)diaby. a slightly smaller but better squad is what's needed.

Posted by adrian on 05/15/2012

3rd place is really on over achievement given the incosistency shown by the team this season. Progress will only be made if the defence is strengthened and a proper defensive midfielder recruited. RVP may well leave the club this summer. If he goes i hope its done quickly and a replacement striker is recruited in time for pre-season.

Posted by Law on 05/15/2012

I appreciate d writer 4 all his analyses.@left back we need a cover 4 k.gibbs,&push andrea s.forward,dm needed 2 & attacker.GOD BLESS & HELP ARSENAL NEXT SEASON.

Posted by Sejo on 05/15/2012

Sam thats a nyc blog kudos for that frankly speaking luck has been on our side all season long.The season has been entertainin especially to arsenal funs since every game has been unpredictable,we have bn forced to watch every game wit tension,fear of losing,great antisipation and hoping ramsey wont play.......its bn quite a long journey bt thank God its finally over. Sam i think the arsenal we all loved is finally fading off to something else that am unable to classify. I love arsenal since we able to play sweet and entertaining football bt i havent seen that this season. I jst hpe wenger will invest haevily...our defence is okay bt we have a problem in the mid...wen arteta,song n rosisky play we hav been having a stable defence wenger jst needs to find back ups to this positions in case of injuries bt nt pple like ramsey..........all in all i hope ul keep us posted on the transfer window n how arsenal players perform in the euros....chao

Posted by gunner138098 on 05/15/2012

Overjoyed that Arsenal finished 3rd,ahead of Spuds & got automatic CL!i concur that's "success" given the start we had,after which many non believers predicted mid table/bottom finish-even relegation!credit must go to the gaffer & the players(mostly RVP who was simply unbelievable & without whose help the non believers would've been right).but the last few games were very poor & didn't reflect the commitment/hunger since the revival!this shows that we have very little depth in the squad beyond the starting 11,some players are even championship material(squil,ramsey,chamakh,almunia,vela etc).so don't u think we need a reshuffle?however wenger predicts "another season of v.little transfer activity".do u think that's gonna mean:"another trophyless season of disappointment"?

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. We clearly need to sign a few more quality players, so hopefully it won't be a quiet summer. Now we've got the platform to build on after finishing third, it wouldn't go down well with the fans if we wasted it and didn't properly strengthen the squad.

Posted by Welanga on 05/15/2012

Hi Sam,
Truly a better ending than Liverpool with a cup. Beating ManCity, Chelsea and Totenhum and ending 3rd when in October we were 17th is remarkable.

My observation is that we have a good squad considering our injured key players except that our defenders are too hungry for goals hence exposing us at the back. Do you think we need more re-inforcements if so in which departments? And who do you think we should sell,
Charmack, Lazy Ramsey, Danielson,Squilachi, Ashavin, Bendtner,Vera. Amnia or all of them?

I feel all should be sold and raise money to buy two defenders and two holding midfielders.

What do you think?

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. We definitely need to strengthen, and a new signing in most areas of the pitch would add the depth and quality we've lacked at times this season. Of the players you mentioned, apart from Ramsey, I'd be surprised if any of them were at Arsenal next season.

Posted by Dchow on 05/15/2012

Thanks, Sam, you well deserve a break. It has been a wonderful season for Arsenal and your blog has been a delight to all Arsenal fans. We thoroughly enjoy both. Look forward to seeing your end of season review.

Posted by bento king on 05/15/2012

Being appointed as Captain in Arsenal means their days at the emirates are numbered.

all our previous captains left the club after being appointed as captains starting with patrick vieira.

the last captain that stayed on till he retired was tony adams and that was in highbury.

seems to me that captains at the emirates are destined to leave. hope RVP will be the first of many captains that will stay till they retires.

So, RVP, please 'break' the jinx.......and hope that we lift the EPL cup in 2012/13 season.


Posted by Gubonic on 05/15/2012

I've seen conflicting explanations regarding Arsenal's Champions League qualification. If Chelsea beat Bayern Munich in the final, does Arsenal still automatically reach the group stage or would they be forced to play in the qualifying round?
The latter puts the club in the same situation as last summer, not being able to guarantee CL football to transfer targets. Last summer was obviously an epic disaster despite most of the signings working out in the long term. Not sure I can endure that again.

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. As I understand it, regardless of what happens in Munich, we'll go straight into the group stages next season. If Chelsea win, there won't be an English team in the qualifying round. If Chelsea lose, Tottenham will be in the qualifying round.

Posted by Anjorin Charles on 05/15/2012

I rily apprec8 ur sense of analytical skills sam, even though i discovered ur blog l8 i was stil able 2 ff ur writing evry wk. I tink anoda area dt shld b of utmost concern 4 arsene is d area of his tactics arsene is too one- dimensional he is suppose 2 av a plan b 4 d team especially wen playing against teams dt lyks 2 park d bus in 4rnt of dere defence tke 4 instance d game against milan in d cl @ d sansiro, sunderland in d league & f.a cup, @ d stadium of lite, wigan @ home etc. I tink he shld wke up 4rm dis tactical ineptitude & give us sumfin special nxt season. Furthermore i want 2 say 10k u 2 yossi hes a gr8 proffessional & a fantastic plyr as wel i wish him d bst whereeva he goes & i hpe arsenal fans wil rememba him alwyz.

Posted by Ethan on 05/15/2012

Hi Sam,good observation on our improvement.Glad to have you here.Please be here for the next seasons.
Ya,we have lost Cesc and Nasri but gain a place forward in the table and 2 more points.I thank them for their contribution.Nas has made the right move to the champions,making more $ and trophies.I don't think he is the one of the heroes there and I doubt he will be in the club after 2 more seasons.
As for us,ever since AW takes charge,we have never dropped below 4th place.Just that after Viera left,we have never been 2nd place and above.But AW's records are something Mancini or any new Chelsea boss will have a hard time to beat.
Not all credits to him though.The players suffer harsh critics from some of us and stood the test in the end.Salute!
AW mentioned other clubs are stronger and yet 2 clubs are able to get 89 points on top.Distance from them is great and I hope AW shake off the thought that the rich clubs would stop buying.Even Man U, Spurs and Liverpool will be in the market.

Posted by Uba on 05/15/2012

Hola sam,thanx for entertaining us with your blogs all through the season,they truly were interesting!But i have to say we should not applaud mediocrity,qualifying for 3rd place was good,but we had a helping hand from the chasing pack,Wenger needs to put aside sentimdnts and get rid of the under performers in order to move ahead,then strengthen places where we are weak with stand out buys,this is my take, Almunia, djourou, squillaci, diaby, chamakh, Ramsey, bendtner, vela, denilson, arshavin OUT,Vertorghen, mvila, hazard, giroud IN,what do you think sam?

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. I acknowledged in the blog that this season wasn't a successful one, but that it gives us a good platform to build on for next season. There are definitely some players in the squad that could go, including a number of the loanees. I think we'll have a better idea of who we'll sign once we've shipped some of them out and know where we need to fill the gaps.

Posted by mustafa on 05/15/2012

Hi Sam. Good luck in your exams, i cant wait for your end of season analysis.

What exactly is keeping RVP from signing a new contract with the gunnerz? Assurance of a strong squad next season? If so then am not sure we are going to be able to keep him at the emirates, because we all know how stubborn Arsene is in the transfer market. We need to get rid of underachievers and get some quality additions, to persuade him to stay. But if Wenger is quite in the transfer market, i wont feel hurt if Van Persie leaves because the guy deserves trophies, and that will be good for his career (even if he is a mercenary Na$ri). With the current squad, we can only compete for a top four finish. [I HOPE HE WILL STAY]. What is your view on this Sam?

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. It's been reported that RvP is meeting with Wenger and Gazidis tomorrow, so we'll wait and see what happens. I think he'll want to be sure that his ambitions can be fulfilled at Arsenal, and that the club are moving forward. I'm desperate for him to stay.

Posted by Sam, Jakarta on 05/15/2012

Glad Arsenal made it to finish third. Hope will do better next season.

Question: Should RVP leave, how good will our attacking force be compared to last season now that Podolski is in the squad?

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. If RvP leaves, our strike force won't be as strong. Simple.

Posted by StillWaiting on 05/15/2012

After that roller-coaster of a season, I’m keeping my fingers crossed for 3 things during the break: 1. RVP re-signing; 2. our players come through the Euros healthy; and 3. AW finally realising he needs to tweak his approach to our transfers and wage structure if we are to win trophies.

I still believe AW can soon lead us to our next league title and other major trophies, but he really needs to change our transfer and wage policy to keep our best players and attract top quality talent.

Like many Arsenal fans from overseas, I try to support club the best I can by buying merchandise and lending financial support however possible. Most Gooners are worried that either the Board is not giving AW the money to spend or that the funds are available but the manager doesn’t to spend it.

Sam, in your opinion, how can fans - in England and overseas - best get their message across to the Board and/or Mr Wenger that we want and deserve more?

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. Honestly, short of writing to the club, it's quite difficult to. I think that's why some aren't always overly supportive when in the stadium as they think it's the only chance to get Wenger to hear their views.

Posted by John on 05/15/2012

Good piece Sam. I agree we are going in the right direction. I also believe Arsenal can move forward quicker than people expect with the new Financial Fair Play rules. People might become less critical over Wenger's financial prudence. What do you think?

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. If FFP is implemented properly, and it's enforced in the way Wenger expects it to be, then we should be right back up there.

Posted by boniface83 on 05/15/2012

Na$ri's comment of players in Arsenal just content with their wages is a food for thought really.There is this selected few who give their all when they play(the team against Spurs at Emirates) and the team who just jog around the pitch(against Man City in the carling cup quarters).We need to weed out this band of misfits(watch RVP's reaction when Chamakh didnt impose himself at an opening in dat Man city game).We need Desire.Money splash is no guarantee for trophies but we need ethics ala Ferguson and his youths(Welbeck,Cleverly). fight for the side. But Na$ris 'commitment' is the reason why Mancini is eyeing other midfielders.
To you Sam,your write ups are massive. almost poetic. it made a hypertensive season at our club enjoyable.i dont get to watch games all the time but i never miss ur carries the spirit of the games more than the match reports i read afterwards. Hope ur services are tied for more years ala RVP.keep d spirit. does Arsene read your column? hope so.

Posted by Noel on 05/15/2012

always a pleasure reading your match reports. what a great job you've been doing for us gooners/espn soccernet viewers. i hope you'll keep blogging for us next season and many beyond.

good luck on your exams and i look forward to your players' report cards.

Posted by m.wylie on 05/15/2012

Sam, I echo the comments made about this blog, which I have enjoyed reading all season.

This season's summary is simple: without RVP and Spurs' late season swoon, Arsenal would have been stuffed. This is one of the lowest 3rd place point totals in the PL ever. Arsenal losing 10 games ranks amongst their worst campaigns in 15-odd years.

It will be a fateful summer. I can only think of 3, maybe 4 positions amongst the starting XI where we have top-class personnel in place. Every other position can be upgraded. Arsenal does not have unlimited funds. Ushering out players to create a transfer fee kitty & salary headroom is must. But where to spend available money, on whom, and in what positions to get maximum "bang for buck"? Fateful decisions I hope Wenger can sort out. Else Nasri's petty taunt will look like truth - a club that is resigned to be 3rd, no more. And that won't do.

Looking forward to your end-of-season assessment of each player. And good luck with your own exams.

Posted by Louis on 05/15/2012

Good article as usual Sam!

this season has indeed be ups and downs for arsenal. But in retrospect i think it is perhaps the best season for us in the past few years, the team spirit and bond is obviously there, and we can see by the points and position earned that team spirit and passion is far more impt than individual talents.

Just one qn, what do u think of the recent na$ri comment about his lucky shot on a trophy.

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. Honestly, I think Nasri would have been better keeping his mouth shut. We all know there is bad blood between him and our the fans, it would have been best for him to leave it.

Posted by Louis on 05/15/2012

Oh, and all the best for your exams!

Posted by Andy on 05/15/2012

Glad we are in CL. But Arsene, in my opinion needs to acquire the players early in the transfer window in order to get them working together during pre-season. Not waiting until the season starts and dropping points.

Posted by Raza on 05/15/2012

Sam, thank you for writing such a wonderful, critically insightful and objective blog all season; I've been an ardent reader of yours, and its always been a pleasure. Congrats to you, and all my fellow Gooners here, on finishing 3rd; its a terrific achievement all considered :).

Sam, only one question. Much has been made of our current spirit, and much is indeed owed to RVP. If he leaves, and say; Wenger invests all the considerable proceeds in bringing quality replacement + additions (say, Cavani & Kaguwa) to score the goals, will we able to recover from his loss in terms of the team spirit? In short, even if the goals are scored by Podolski & co., is RVP replaceable?

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. Hopefully the situation won't arise, but I think it'd be difficult for the squad to take if RvP did leave. There are enough characters in the squad to deal with it, but it might take a while and that's time we can't afford to lose.

Posted by Nelson on 05/15/2012

i don't know about all you Arsenal players but its high time that we strive to be the number 1 team in the world. Every season we are content to be in the to 4 but till when. Look at our breed of player there are the best wherever they go and we will keep loosing them unless we start winning trophies. Every season we strive build our team but lets put an end to this we are the best team in the world so lets act like we are not to just sit at the back and watch teams like United and City go for the gold.

Posted by Bermuda Gooner on 05/15/2012

I really enjoy your blogs - thanks. Finishing third is a great achievement and I'm delighted given where we were 8 months ago. It would be nice for once to see us have a strong off-season relative to our peers in the transfer market. Wenger deserves huge credit for our consistency in a league dominated by clubs with far more spending power, but I question the club's judgment in allowing last summer to be such a mess - it was not as if Cesc's and Samir's departures were unpredictable, and frankly although we "got away with it" the huge reliance on RVP this season was also an unacceptable risk. He had a great season, but we would have been completely screwed if he had suffered an injury. Given his history that was an unacceptable risk and so it should have been us, rather than NCL, signing a gem in January. Anyway hopefully the early signing of Podolski shows that some lessons have been learnt.

Posted by nwabueze on 05/15/2012

Thank you Sam for a great job. It has been a turbulent season, but all together, satisfactory. Much thanks to AW, all the players, supporters and even our critics.

Posted by jose on 05/15/2012

Thanx sam 4 great job.pple had written us off n the biggging of the season but the team have proven that we can be the champion come next season.Let Arsen go for big names so that we can make it,am a gunner for life.

Posted by youngGun16 on 05/15/2012

Great article Sam, but I have a question though...

With the appointment of Steve Bould, do you think our defending as a unit could greatly improve??? I think solving that problem along with a few new signings could be the difference between challenging for major trophies or not..

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. I think Bould is a good appointment as he can help with the defence, but he's been brought up as a coach in the Wenger philosophy so he can help other areas of the pitch as well.

Posted by Kevin on 05/15/2012

Thanks Sam, been great. I truly wish some of our supporters would understand that we have no hope of competing with the likes of City in the transfer market. There is zero chance Hazard plays for Arsenal next season, and probably about 1 percent that someone like Kagawa would. We simply don't have the spending power. If FFP is not implemented the way it was originally drawn up, then there is not a club in England that will be able to hang on to its best players against City's might. They will have become the RM and Barca of England all rolled into one. I love the signing of Podolski and can hope that both M'Villa and Vert's can add to our defensive improvement, but can we really expect both?

Posted by Sainty on 05/16/2012

Sam, by far the best game articles that I've found on the 'net, thank you for a year of great reads.
This year has been such a drama saga that it is hard to be anything but relived it's over. Third place is a significant achievment, but based on how we got there it is hard to feel any sense of satisfaction with the result.
Before we go into the offseason concerns let me say that kudos must go to Wenger for his signings during the summer. Yes he left it to an ignorant, unprofessional last minute surge, but two of our goals against Bromich were scored by those signings, so good job. This season I feel that we are at a crossroads year, and the deadwood simply must be cleared off the team. Players that are constantly injured cause fatigue related injuries on their exhausted teammates, and this year was the best example of a recurring theme. We are VERY lucky that RVP and Wojeck were iron men, as the complete lack of backup help meant any injuries to them would have made us 15th.

Posted by Hong Kong Gooner on 05/16/2012

Sam, this season, we just about moved forward, but only when compared with last season. Compared with 3 or 5 seasons ago, we are just as poor, and compared with 8 or 10 seasons ago, we are down right dreadful.

All credit to AW and all who put in their efforts, we clinched auto CL on the very last day, supplied by 3 assists of the season! Plain lucky!

Everyone talks about the need to get rid of lots of dead wood in the shop. The list is too long. If AW manages that, that's truly a step forward.

When RVP signs an extension, that's another step forward. If it's true that part of the discussion is about a 3 or 4 year deal, then giving RVP, our 'Really Valuable Player', 4 years is a step forward. Why? Because we would then stand a better chance to attract other high quality players to join, another step forward.

AW's nervy, stressful hold on to PR's arm towards the end of the game is not what he needs. AW has done so much for us, he deserves better. Wouldn't you agree?

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. AW probably does deserve better, but you need luck as well as judgement to suceed in football, and recently either one or the other has been lacking for Arsene.

Posted by James on 05/16/2012

You did an outstanding job this season Sam. Your form was tops all season!

You mentioned in an earlier column that you would be pulling for Bayern Munich. Still the case?

Good luck on finals!

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. Was definitely supporting Bayern!

Posted by Ayo on 05/16/2012

Thanks Sam. Great job.
Its been a very heart-wrenching season and I believe I'm talking for all Arsenal fans, Monsieur Wenger included. For that sake, I believe that the signings on the last day of the transfer window and the early signing of Podolski show that even the most stubborn people have to change or they would be left behind in this fast-paced age in which we live (thank God for 8-2). However, it is also important to note that if we are going to buy (world-class) European players, it would be naive to sign them all before the euros as we stand the chance of losing them to injury during the competition. I believe that Le Prof is experienced and intelligent enough to strike the right balance in order to ensure that our purchases are made at the right price. I would like to predict that the next few seasons would not be as fruitless as a large part of the last decade so all in all, take heart Arsenal fans and lets do all that we can to move the club 'forwards'.
Best of luck.

Posted by Robert on 05/16/2012

Hey Sam, great post as always. What do you make of the press reports today that Arsenal will not allow Van Persie to leave, even if he doesn't sign a new contract? In other words, we'd keep him for a year, and he'd leave for free next summer.

I'm torn over this. On the one hand, I am holding onto the hope that this group of players, keeping RvP and with a few additions, CAN win silverware next season, in which case the gamble would be worth it. But I remember saying the same thing with Fabregas and Nasri -- just one more season, and we'll win something.

Is this smart? Or, if he wants to leave, would it be better to cash in our chips?

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. From what I've read, financially we're not under as much pressure to sell RvP. I think it's still a viable option to keep him for a year as we can still persuade him during the season that we're going forward.

Posted by Kendahl on 05/16/2012

Fantastic blog Sam. Here's to you writing it for many years.

My initial reaction for next season is that we need to hold on to the players we have (RVP), make a few squad additions for depth, and release the dead weight (almunia, denilson, bendtner, arshavin). Largely though, it seems as though our squad is strong and we simply need a season-long run of good form and health to reach the trophies we want. If that consistency could be reached, we could become the top club in Europe.

How do you view the progression and makeup of the team for next year? If the squad would simply gel, aren't we right where we need to be? The pessimism of some of these comments is upsetting to me, especially given the financial idiocy with which come of our rivals are operating. This isn't Manager Mode in Fifa 12.


Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. We definitely need some additions, and I think some will leave, but the core of the squad is good. We don't need a huge overhaul, just some fine tuning.

Posted by Anonymous on 05/17/2012

v.Persie knew come mid season that winning the premier league was impossible - Champions league, Arsenal played their hearts out against Milan. Had he scored the one-on-one against Abbiati, we would definitely have a chance of achieving Champions League glory. Above all this, he showed his affection for Arsenal Football Club. Now he puts his talks on hold, surprisingly. Either, Arsenal shouldn't give him a big head and let him do what he wants or we should start signing super big players to replace him. Simple. I don't think Robin is staying at Arsenal :( (I still love him though). PLEASE STAY BACK Robin, please.

Posted by jogu on 05/17/2012

Thanks, Sam, for your fabulous analysis throughout the season!
Bottom line is, we are in the CL next season and everything starts all over again with the PL and other cups, but we need to win something. See Nasri sticking his finger at us? That should be our team's motivation.Kudos to them for fighting out of a hole.
Looking forward to more from you Sam next season!

Posted by Mike on 05/17/2012

I think the problem is the Center backs took that "Forward" as how to play it seemed at many times this season Arsenal was playing with NO back line with every player trying to be the playmaker and no one staying back and organized defensively. We gave up way too many goals to lower sides (not to mention the 8 at ManU) This team had plenty of talent but lacked a lot of defensive awareness. It was worse early before Per joined the back line and showed again at the end when he was injured. We need to have better backup when the key players are out of the lineup we are a very poor side but there is no reason for that a team should be able to make up for missing key players with better team play. Arsenal where the victims of this very thing you can not say Swansea, QPR, Wigan have better players but they managed to take 3 points.
And We also till need another Attacking midfielder the fact Song the defensive mid had the most assists says a lot about the attacking midfield options

Posted by Mike on 05/17/2012

I just had to add one more comment on RVP with the season he had he deserved to be lifting a trophy (or two) but the team behind him mostly let him down.

If he does leave this summer it will NOT be because he wants more money but because he wants to be winning trophies.
This team showed more then once this season it can do it but also showed all too clearly where the blame for failure lies and it is NOT up front we put plenty of balls in the oppositions net it was keeping them out of our own that was the problem. Bring back George Graham's style of defense when scoring 1 was enough to win and 2 was a comfortable win. With this team 3 on the score sheet at half time is not enough to feel comfortable of getting 3 points.

Posted by TopGooner on 05/18/2012

Thanks Sam, for your effort and great work throughout the season. I really admire the way you can put things in perspective after some of the, not-so-enjoyable moments during the year.

Anyway, I'd like to get your thought on a recent Nasri's comment regarding there are too many players at Arsenal who are content on just showing up week-in week-out to collecting their paychecks. I suppose we should take it with a grain of salt but you can't help wonder how much truth is in that. What do you think?

Also, just last night news broke that RVP contract talks have stalled and he has now left for the Euro camp. Not good news at all...

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. I think Nasri should keep quiet to be honest. I think a lot of players have proved that they aren't just happy to collect their money. Games like Spurs and AC Milan at home showed this.

Posted by daniel nwakuna chrysanthus on 05/18/2012

thanks Sam for the wonderful work you have done for the gunners. We appreciate your good works.
Arsenal needs to come up with new tactics. wish u well next season.

Posted by uuro on 05/18/2012

The way I see it, it will be dismal and a snap of morale for arsenal fans worldwide if RVP leaves the club. How are we going to focus on our daily work with confidence? It may not be the end of the world. It's very important for us to keep this club pushing forward. We do not want to end up like liverpool in their present state and forward.

My main concern is podolski coz he can be like cesc whom his former arsenal team revolved around him. What happened in cologne, germany was his demand the last time. I hoped this can be solved in due's time getting to Wenger's ears. It's important for arsenal team to work together since podolski is a new recruit. Otherwise instead of Foward, it is imaginary Backward below the club crest. It's important for RVP to tie himself to long-term contract despite recent delay. It's really no point having all the money in the world when u are contracted with something bad. What's better than money is the legendary status of himself in front of emirates stadium...

Posted by uuro on 05/18/2012

This is much more spiritually, emotional, popularity and even a money-spinner in itself after can't-be-forgotten legends Tony Adams and Thierry Henry. That is the pride in themselves. Get it, wenger? We arsenal fans simply cannot these legends after all...

Get M'illva to announce the done deal as soon as possible. Another delay, RVP will sign reluctantly. Get RVP and Podolski and others to work together as a hunger team. It's a important word 'HUNGER' to win trophies. Arsene wenger got his own personal e-mail address. But alas I had forgotten his e-mail years ago. Anyone got his contact. Pls post it here. The more constructive personal thoughts to him, the better it is for Arsenal's bottomline to get world-class players and untapped potential players...i have some potential players in mind across the Atlantic Ocean but I won't said it here coz opposition teams may be reading my comment to poach skilled thanks to Chelsea.

Posted by Qasim Hassan on 05/18/2012

Dear Sam,

I have an important question I'd like you to answer if at all possible. At this point, it seems RvP is not committed to club on basis of no contention for the trophies, and board therefore is going to sell him for 25 million pounds. Is that really worth it given the price of Mata (same as this) and Carroll/ other Liverpool flops? Also, who would you buy if RvP does indeed leave? As much as I want to be positive, I feel worried about Arsenal's future. These are scary times for Gooners all around. Thanks for all the great posts throughout the season (you're great at it) , I really appreciate it. Good luck on your exams.

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. Honestly, I don't know who we'd sign if RvP left. Possibly Llorente, but there aren't many who could match Robin.

Posted by soccernotfootball on 05/19/2012

Everybody talks about RVP like he's been playing like this for 2 years in a row and 24 years old. If we can get 25 million pounds for him and get kagawa for 5 mvilla for 15 and splash out 5 plus whatever the transfer kit would have been, lets do it!

Posted by Sam beck (a hammer on 05/20/2012

Arsenal football club are in my opinion almost there I think everybody has just noticed given today's result ( CFCs penalty win in ucl) how good the english premier league is. I a,Massive fan of arsenal and believe that jack welsher is another Keane/Gerard I really admire arsenals ethos I.e youngsters/playing football there is a fundmental mistake that AFC consistently make !!, having watched lots of van persie this year he's undoubtably a world class player that anyone would take so why not as a club take a stand pay him big money which not only does only keep RVP (I appreciate that wilshere, varmelan,the ox , arteta may also want to get a pay rise too) but it sends a huge message to the rest of Europe that AFC pay wages to suit talent and if it went wrong you would have world class players that are in contract that could be sold for big bucks !!!! I am a football fan so I like arsenals way I can see flaws in low wages - lose out on huge talent and be cut adrift from mufc mcfc c

Posted by ryanna on 05/20/2012

i think arsenal need to improve next title or cup to keep star playesr...i really hope rvp will stay with the club for a long time....we really need to find a back up for rvp if he left the club...i am happy that arsenal had signed lukas podolski to fire our front and pair with rvp..i really want arsenal to make a move for jan vertonghen from ajax to boost our back four...and we also need to have one more attacking player like sinji kagawa~..that will be perfect for us...i hope arsenal will start buying more experience players or top players to win title...and pls find a back up for our goalkeeper...

Posted by boniface83 on 05/21/2012

OK Chelsea are European Champions. IT WAS DOWN TO BELIEF AND LONGETIVIY OF A CERTAIN GROUP OF PLAYERS. Did Mata and Cahill made the right decision other Arsenal-courted players would make in the future-"go to a club with ambition,Arsenal has little".We need characters to remain in that team. Arsenal NEED RVP to stay.My suggestion is get the following: Yohan Gourcuff,M'Vila or Belhanda,Kalou,Vertonghen and a goalkeeper like Jaaskelainan. If we can get 3 of these guys we be set. Diaby,Denilson,Djourou,Squillaci,Vela,Park,Chamakh,Almunia,Fabianski(if he wants). I still think Arshavin has to be given a chance in a central role.there is one guy i saw play once-Connor Henderson-I think dat guy has something to offer bigtime just like Wilshere. Chelsea showed money and loyalty goes a longway to succeed.Man City cannot compare.You need homegrown and foreigners to do it.AW's mistake was when he broke continuity in 2006 asViera,Pires left.those men could had played 2 seasons more. Good luck Sam.

Posted by Troy on 05/21/2012

Hey Sam just found an article on that quoted you saying one of your mates wanted to be Jeremie Alladiere so badly. I thought it was funny!

Posted by Chinedu, Aba on 05/24/2012

Hi sam! Its my 1st time to comment on ur blog. Henry left, adebayor stood up, ade left rvp came. If rvp goes sum1(podolski) wil rise. Gunners til satan repents.

Posted by buy proviron on 05/25/2012

Nada en contra del artículo, pero no estoy de acuerdo con un par de puntos a algunos extenct. Soy probablemente una minoría, sin embargo, lol. Gracias por compartirlo en

Posted by canadiangunner on 05/25/2012

We were very lucky this year. Finishing third only because of major stumbles by both Newcastle and Spuds we lacked killer instinct and the squad is nowhere good enough to compete for the title. Wenger needs to spend and to bring in proven class. Team needs a backbone one that has been lacking for 8 years now. Not acceptable and unfortunately we haggle over pennies and have others swoop in. 3-4 big singings needed, if not i for one do not blame RVP for wanting out and also will be more understanding of Nasri's departure. Wenger is too indecisive when it comes to signings and is more concerned with bottom line then winning, this is a sports team we need to win, we need to buy within our means and don't even come close to that in our financial dealings. Very frustrating and if nothing done this summer its time to worry...maybe we should have just stayed at Highbury :(

Posted by notjustu on 05/29/2012

Wonderful Post from you Sam as usual. In my opinion change is imperative, one can't stay stagnant for too long, we've gone from challenging Man Utd. to barely brushing off Newcastle/Tottenham...I still don't have faith in Wenger's transfer policy this season though, as he's supposed to have begun laying off these players;
-Bendtner, Carlos Vela
-Diaby, Arshavin, Ramsey
-Park, Chamak
-Djourou, Squillaci, Metersacker
-Gibbs (unfortunately he lacks that physical threat needed to bully opponents)

These 11 players can fetch us around 40m pounds[- wages], and then we could go for.
-Sneidjer[25m] - perfect man to use to make a statement to other clubs and guide Wilshere
-Vertoghen[17m] - or another of such quality

The question is will AW spend about 40m+ pounds on transfer's in a season. Current answer = NO.

Hence my lack of faith.

By the way Sam. Why don't the fans boy-cot home matches as a way of showing our lingering dissatisfaction

Posted by OMA on 05/31/2012

Finishing third was a massive reflief considering what would have hapened if we placed fourth and chelsea wins the championa league.The ramifications of that would have been dissatrous and also the chances of us keepin VAN PERSIE,who in my opinion is the main reason we acheved this much,would have been near impossible.Now that we have managed to place third and qualify for the group stages,I think Arsene wenger and the arsenal board should rethink about its spending policy this summer,or else we wont win anything come next season. There has been signs of imrovement with the recent acquisition of Podolski to compliment Van Persie in attack, but Arsenal needs much improvement in the creative and defensive midfield to cover the defense.Wilshere ,hopefully should return when the season resumes but questions as to his fitness will be raised. Arteta has been good this summer but he is definately not in the same category as Cesc fabregas,Silva or Modric. We must try to get M'villa.

Posted by Nikkie Ibok on 05/31/2012

More than expected season we had anyway and the grip of luck should ginger Wenger to go out of his dislike for buying to strenghten the squad for trophies next season. 'Arsenal fans will not take any excuse for a trophyless season'. Pls Djourou should be either sold or allowed to go without a prize. I could not appreciate his type of contribution and style of play and the young man should be shown the way out. Dear all and lovers of good football lets stick together, support and standby our great Arsenal.

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David Young Sam Limbert: My retirement as a football player came at the age of 14 due to being rubbish, it's fair to say I was more Kaba Diawara than Thierry Henry, so I turned my focus to writing about the game. I'm a lifelong Arsenal fan and have been lucky enough to watch the team across England and Europe. My favourite Gunner of all time is Dennis Bergkamp, and the 2004 Invincibles is the greatest side I've ever seen in English football. I try to be positive about the Arsenal as it's the hope that keeps us going! Follow me on twitter @SamsMatchReport.

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