This season has been one big roller coaster ride for every living creature on this planet that supports Arsenal.
From being written off by various pundits as –
- being a big club who will or can finish in top 4 this season to,
- being the underdogs in every big-game to,
- being the worse Arsenal side ever, to,
- being considered nearly relegated in a month and what not?
This season, unlike past years, has tested the patience of the new era of Arsenal fans to the limit and unlike the name this season went as The UGLY, The BAD and The GOOD.
With one of the worst starts ever to a season, the Arsenal cannon was out of flare in its first month and it all started with Arsenal hosting Pool where the void of Cesc was too big to fill for Aaron Ramsey and with centre back woes, young Miquel was given a chance. Frimpong showed promise, but couldn’t calm his nerves and was sent off and Ramsey scored an own goal which ignited the “UGLIEST” time to come for Arsenal.
The Cesc saga was one painful time for the Arsenal fans as the mind games by the Barcelona camp had already started to lure the golden boy of the club back to Catalonia. Amidst transfer speculations Nasri was ready to leave the club as per “his ambitions”.
With the departure of Fabregas and Nasri the midfield void was getting bigger game by game, with Wenger being under constant criticism and thousands of fans calling for his head.
The dreaded month of August brought some good news, as it was time for the second leg Champions League play-off at Udinese. The team gained some confidence after one of the saves of the season (penalty) by Szczesny to guarantee Arsenal a Champions League berth.
Next stop was the daunting task of going to Old Trafford. Arsenal went into this game with very low confidence and with a depleted squad and a cracked up midfield. The game turned out to be too fast to catch up with for the youngsters as Arsenal were battered down by their fierce rivals.
This match shows the ugly score for the Gooners but it was nonetheless a blessing in disguise as Arsene Wenger splashed some money on players like Andre Santos, Per Mertsacker, Mikel Arteta and loaned Yossi Benayoun from Chelsea just before the end of the transfer season. These signings termed as “PANIC BUYS” by most of the people would in turn help Arsenal to catapult out of the misery.
Followed were a win against Swansea and a 3-4 defeat at Ewood Park against Blackburn that made Arsenal look like taking one step forward, two steps back.
After the first 7 games –
There were a few more victories before Arsenal went down to cross town rivals Tottenham 1-2 away at White Hart Lane. This match rounded off the Ugly part of the season where Arsenal fans went through one a hell of a difficult phase.
After a heartwarming 5-3 thrashing of Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and a few series of wins, bad luck struck Arsenal once again in mid season. With all of their preferred full backs and defenders injured, it made it a very difficult stay for the young team.
The Gooners enjoyed a brief amount of wins, till a futile attempt to defeat Manchester City in their away fixture broke their small winning streak. With Boxing Day coming up, the New Year party seemed to have taken a toll on the players as Arsenal were off to a miserable start to the year with losses to Fulham, Swansea and Manchester United making the season full of woes.
But the month of January was special for the fans, for the club and in fact for every football admirer. It was return of the “King” Thierry Henry. Anxious fans desperately wanted to see Henry play and score for Arsenal and relieve them of their loosing ways. Henry made a cinematic comeback, by scoring a goal against Leeds in the FA fixture to help them go through. But, eventually, Arsenal went down to Sunderland by 2 goals to get knocked out of the FA Cup .
In the 3-2 defeat against Swansea there was a spat between Titi and an Arsenal fan. The King’s rage was there for everyone to see as he yelled (to the fan) “No matter what, you should support the team!” Not a good way to end the final few days at your homelike club.
The bad part was rounded by a final nail in the coffin by Milan, as they drilled 4 past Arsenal on their home turf to make it near about impossible for the Gunners to march past to the next round.
We love to read this part, don’t we?
Arsenal went into the North London derby with a war of words against their cross-town rivals. Arsenal’s fairy tale comeback started off with the derby by coming down from 2 goals and drilling 5 past Tottenham to make it the “MIRACLE” match of the season. Arsenal then went on to make the record for the highest number of consecutive comeback wins.
Next came the return leg versus Milan, at Emirates; Fans had low expectations as their team had given a dismal performance in the away game. Arsenal went into the match to restore some pride but what happened in the first 45 mins didn’t seem to be a part of the script.
Arsenal hammered 3 past Abbiati in the first half, who then made a smart save to deny Robin Van Persie bringing Arsenal level on aggregate. Although they lost the tie, fans were proud of the effort put in by the players.
A win at the Emirates against the “ultimate Champions” and a few cocky draws against Stoke and Norwich ensured that Arsenal grabbed third place ahead of their cross-town rivals Tottenham.
Positives to take
1: The Fans – The season has tested the Arsenal fans to their limits. The faith was for there for everyone to see as they chanted songs throughout the match in the horrible defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford. The passion shown and the support provided were at times unbelievable and this season can be dedicated to solely to the fans for their character and loyalty.
2: Van the Man – One of the major reasons for finishing high up the table, other than team spirit and character, was leadership of RVP, who at times seemed to carry the team all by himself. Also, it was one of the rare seasons in which he was seen fit for a whole season.
3: Boy Wonder OX – One of the major plus points to be taken from this season is the performance of our beloved OX i.e. Alex-Oxlade-Chamberlain. The Ox, unlike his age, has shown immense heart and maturity and the fact that he is just 18 shows the amount of talent this kid has. Compared to Theo Walcott this kid has shown that he has more variation to his game rather than just speed and the fact that he has featured in 26 games all over the season is down to his maturity. He was also part of the squad that lost 8-2; therefore to perform the way he has this season clearly shows the boy’s mentality.
4: Wilshere and St. Totteringham’s Day – Although Wilshere was sidelined through injury for the complete season, he was the part of their St. Totteringhams’s Day celebrations. Wilshere had set a 3,000 pounds wager with the Spurs fans on twitter in later November regarding the title of “Top Dog” in North London. Although the Gunners had to wait till the final day of the season, silencing their noisy neighbors was truly a sweet feeling. Chelsea then steeling Spur’s CL spot was like adding a cherry to the top.
Goal of the season – Some terrific goals have been scored by Arsenal this season especially Robin Van Persie’s volley against Everton and Liverpool. But TiTi’s goal against Leeds is my pick of the bunch. No goal can be more special than a heroic comeback goal by our very own Thierry Henry. Every time you see the goal scored, the feeling is unexplainable.
Match of the Season – This season has been full of classy matches therefore choosing the match of the season has to be a headache. The amazing 5-3 win at Chelsea, the high-scoring 7-1 defeat of Blackburn, the nail-biting 2-1 away win at Udinese and the 3-0 win against the mighty Milan might be the favorites for some neutrals but for every Gunner the stunning comeback against Tottenham in the 5-2 win has to be the “Game of the Season”.
What lies ahead …?
With the signing of LuKas Podolski “Batman”, the forward line now has a cannon legged shooter in the squad. The possible signings of Olivier Giroud and Yann M’Villa, will increase the depth in the squad. Players will now have to fight for their place in the squad which makes the team even stronger.
With Arsenal playing in 4 competitions, every player gets a chance to play because of the rotation policy, if done. Once RvP pens down his extension, it will be good news all the way. But I fear that it will be a full left footed attacking line up front but Le Prof must have ideas behind all this so let us leave the rest to him. *In WENGER we trust*
This Arsenal side has faced one of the worst times that the club has faced and still finishing third (improvement on the previous season) is a big achievement for a side that was not given heed and was criticized and constantly de-motivated by football pundits.
This season can be termed as one hell of a season for the gunners as someone has rightly said: ‘the rush of adrenaline that Arsenal gave this season is better than any movie you could possibly see.’
Although the next season will be tougher and I believe the young lads will be ready to face the challenge. So let’s hope Arsenal gun down every other contender for the Premier League next season and the flair never dies.
– by Rohit Bhandari