The excitement surrounding the final day drama hinges on that great illusion that everything comes down to one game.
Indeed, when much is at stake coming into the final game, the idea that a whole league season will be determined by one game does not seem all that unlikely. Relegation dogfights, title races, and of late, European positions when stretched as far as the final day bring that all encapsulating feeling that one game will determine everything.
Of course, that is not the entire truth. As Arsene wenger alluded to before his side thrashed Wigan Athletic in both team’s penultimate game of the season, the permutations were already decided elsewhere. So, while Arsenal’s win ultimately meant that Wigan were relegated, it is not entirely true to say that Arsenal relegated Wigan. Wigan did so by themselves by how their season panned out – as did the seasons had by the likes of Sunderland, Aston Villa and Newcastle to mention but a few.
“We do not send them down if we beat them — it is the whole season that sends you down.”
Arsene Wenger before the game vs Wigan Athletic (from ESPN)
As such, final day drama is ultimately not one game. It is a series of games. It is not what happens on the final day that sets it apart from the rest, but a compilation of all other games in the league.
Thus, when Laurent Koscielny scored that goal against Newcastle, Peter Drury’s assertion that it was a goal potentially worth millions has to be put in context. Yes, with the potential of Champions League football and the revenue it brings, that would be true.
Except that, if Newcastle equalised, and Gareth Bale goes on to score a screamer (as he did) at White Hart Lane, then you have very many goals worth millions of which Koscielny’s is not one of them. If Arsenal go on to score another, and the game at Goodison Park remains tied at 1-1, then the millions to Arsenal significantly increase. And every goal that Chelsea scores become potentially worth millions.
For it is not the one that follows the 999,999 that makes the million, it is the cumulative ones before it that make up the million. Indeed, Koscielny’s goal is only worth millions because the match defining goals of other games since August contributed to the millions.
It is thus, a whole wider context. That the context of the final day is only at stake because the contexts of other games suggest so. Thus, the context of the whole season is ultimately defined by various other contexts, and not just one context.
That however is not to say that the final day game does not matter. It is but just a microcosm of the importance of it. In reality, every single game is in itself of great importance. That is the truism of league football.
Thus, Sergio Aguero’s last minute winner against QPR is just as important as that 6-1 mauling of Manchester United at Old Trafford. Similarly, Robin Van Persie’s hat-trick against Aston Villa to clinch the Premiership does not pale in significance to his same hat-trick against Southampton earlier on in the season.
It is however because of the weaving tapestry that a league season provides that the final day permutations deliver such death defying emotions. Indeed, with so much at stake, it is the added pressure on the players that produces a gruesome match. And as the tale of the final day keeps on unfolding, it is the heart wrenching, pulsating and nerve wrecking narratives that produce emotionally draining relief or disbelief at the end of it all — considering which narrative one preferred at the onset.
This however is why we ultimately love football. This roller-coater of emotions keeps us distracted from our sorry lives for but a mere ninety minutes. And it is only at the end of it all that the sad realisation sinks in. That all this is over for the next three months. Yet, in reality, it is all over for the next 12 months – it is only three months before the whole ride starts all over again.
And before those three months are over, the memories of the past 10 months remain ingrained in the brain. The highs and lows, the neighs and yeahs, the oohs and aahs will be saved for another year. The final day drama has come, and gone. All it did was to exemplify the drama of the whole season altogether.