As the famous anthem goes:
les grandes équipes,
And Arsenal finish season 2023/24 as all conquering champions.
After Manchester United were dispatched 5-0 on aggregate in the quarter-finals we were given a relatively good draw in Benfica for the semis. It was actually much closer than expected. We won the first leg 3-1 at home and Benfica took an early lead in the Estadio da Luz (which means Stadium of Light but it’s a long way from Sunderland). They then proceeded to pass up two great chances and John van Heulen was at his best to deny them the 2nd goal that would’ve put them through on away goals. A late equaliser from Isaac Adam gave us a 4-2 aggregate win. Then, the final.
Manchester City were our opponents, who had lost to their city rivals in the previous seasons final. After a cagey first half, with few chances, I decided to read the riot act to my players at half-time and it had the desired effect as an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain double and Mathias Simoncelli’s 53rd goal of the season sealed a 3-0 win.
The Champions League was added to the FA Cup, which we won the week before with a 4-0 win over Everton, the Premier League and the Community Shield to complete a memorable quadruple.
Simoncelli cleaned up at the player of the year awards, winning:
- FWA Footballer of the Year
- PFA Player of the Year
- PFA Young Player of the Year
- Barclays Team of the Season
- Barclays Top Goalscorer
- Arsenal Fans Player of the Season
- Arsenal Fans Young Player of the Season
And I assume he’s going to win the European Golden Boot as well.
What to do next? Well I’ve enjoyed the save, and the challenge, so I’m going to keep going. My contract is about to expire at Arsenal so I’ll leave the Gunners as there’s not much else to achieve here. I think I’d like to take a smaller team to glory. The dream would be to return to Siena and win Serie A (or even the Champions League?) but right now they have a ‘secure’ manager. I think I may just kick about and see what comes up. Maybe wait for a nice little challenge in Germany as I’ve never managed there before.