Welcome to Talking Heads.
Before and after every first-team fixture our MatchDay Show team - and an Arsenal blogger - have their say on the game.
Arsenal took on West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League on Sunday and our Talking Heads for this game were Dan Roebuck, former Gunner Adrian Clarke and Tim Clark of Arse2Mouse.
Read on for their post-match thoughts and see what they had to say before the game.
DAN ROEBUCK, COMMENTATOR
And breathe, Arsenal fans. It was uncomfortable, it was gut-wrenching and far too nervy at times but they did what they had to do and Arsenal will be in next season's Champions League. Should Marton Fulop ever decide to escape the West Midlands there will be no shortage of friends in north London, but make no mistake this was another gutsy Gunners display. Essentially this game typified the season as a whole. Like Norwich last week, Yossi Benayoun's early opener looked to have provided the perfect start. But, like Norwich last week, trouble was just around the corner. Arsène Wenger will be delighted with his side's resilience, however, and can now rest easy knowing Arsenal had what it took once more. Third place should be celebrated regardless of its lack of silverware given where the team had to come from to get this far. It's one better than last season - now to build on this next year.
And so Arsenal's Champions League future comes down to the final game of the season. We know it didn't have to be this way - four winless games in a row tells its own story - but, in truth, Arsène Wenger's side should be delighted they still have their fate in their own hands. Few would have backed Aston Villa to hold Tottenham but that they did and the ball is firmly back in the Gunners' court. This is not about a pretty performance - it's simply about getting the job done. Arsenal were poor defensively against Norwich and they must avoid a repeat at the back if they are to come away from this game with the required result. The right-back slot has opened up with the loss of Bacary Sagna but the potential return of Theo Walcott should provide a boost. In West Brom they face a side capable of beating anybody on their day and the Baggies will be keen to give Roy Hodgson a proper send-off before his England tenure begins. But Arsenal have what it takes to get the win they need so badly and I expect them to get it.
ADRIAN CLARKE, STUDIO GUEST
It was uncomfortable to watch for long periods, but much to our collective relief Arsenal just about got their noses over the line in the end. It was a pretty crazy game and it’s easy to say that stand-in West Brom keeper Marton Fulop gifted the Gunners two precious goals - and he did so quite spectacularly - but I was still impressed with the team’s resilience and determination not to crumble under pressure in the second half. Off the ball Arsenal have a lot of work to do, and their sloppiness was deservedly punished twice in the opening period, but at least they regrouped this week and focused hard on not conceding another. Andre Santos’ first-half strike was a fabulous moment but the highlight for me was Kieran Gibbs’ brave lunging tackle to deny Billy Jones a certain goal late in the game. It was one of the tackles of the season. This wasn’t a great performance and the neutrals may argue that we got lucky but none of that really matters now, does it? We grabbed that all-important third spot and on balance I think it’s a place the Gunners have earned on merit.
Arsenal got lucky last weekend. The performance against Norwich was well below par and it was puzzling to understand why. Thankfully we have got another bite at the third-place cherry and I fancy us to grasp it this time. West Brom are dangerous opponents with the ability to score goals but their home form has been surprisingly poor. No one has lost more in front of their own fans more often than the Baggies have – except the teams in the bottom three. This has to give the Gunners confidence, and I don’t buy into the theory that Roy Hodgson’s side will up their game to give him one last hurrah either. If anything the England situation might help Arsenal. The players must concentrate like never before, press the opposition well, and then of course take the chances that will inevitably come their way. I’m confident. I believe Arsenal deserve third place, and now they have to go out there, hold their nerve and prove that they are good enough to claim it.
TIM CLARK, ARSE2MOUSE
Well, as predicted, that was a right old nerve rattler. From the moment West Brom equalised to the final whistle I was shaking like the proverbial defecating dog. I don't hugely want to dwell on the performance, beyond saying that Márton Fülöp will always be welcome at the Emirates (if not in goal). I've read a few journalists being sniffy about Arsenal fans celebrating finishing third so energetically. Nuts! For any club, nailing local bragging rights - especially given all that gap guff - would be party time. Throw in guaranteed Champions League football, and all that goes with it in terms of attracting talent, and we should have no shame about breaking out the red-and-white bunting (Does anyone even still own bunting?). The truth is, a few months into the season I did not believe this day would come. But praise Bergkamp it has, and now we can collectively exhale. All the Club needs to do is get the Dutchman signed up, bring a couple more new faces in, then break out the deckchairs and enjoy the summer. Final thought has to go to Pat Rice for giving us more than four decades of unswerving dedication, and also to Mr Benayoun. He might have been here for a lot less, but he'll also forever have plenty of friends in N5.
I spent the small hours of Tuesday night re-watching Fever Pitch on Film 4, as did a lot of you judging by the trending topics on Twitter. Obviously it would be absurd to compare Anfield '89 with Hawthorns '12, but there's no doubt it's another massive away game on the last day of the season. We can consider the fact that we once used to fight for titles rather than qualification for another competition at a later date. For now, what matters is that even though there's no silverware at stake, the prize remains huge because finishing in third spot will give Arsenal the best chance of planning next season's campaign. Plus there's the matter of bragging rights over *them*, and watching the Champions League final without feeling like our future depends on it. Ugh. As for the game, Brunt missing out for WBA is handy, and I'll be slightly more relaxed if Odemwingie and Thomas are also elsewhere. I'd like to think Roy's thoughts will already be on the frothing chalice that is the England job. What I won't say is that this is the sort of game we 'should' win. There have been too many of those from which we've taken nothing. All you can be sure of is we're collectively going to endure 90 minutes of the kind of pressure usually only experienced by submariners being attacked with depth charges. Uh, though hopefully we'll make slightly more noise. In any case: enjoy!
* The views expressed in Talking Heads do not necessarily reflect those of Arsenal Football Club or Arsenal Broadband LtdCopyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 14 May 2012