10. Arsenal 3-3 Norwich City, Premier League, Emirates Stadium, 5th May 2012
(Arsenal- Benayoun 2, van Persie 72,80;Norwich City- Hoolahan 12, Holt 27, Morison 85)
Purely here for the entertainment factor, Norwich City dented Arsenal’s hopes for sealing 3rd spot, with a gutsy and classy display. Having secured their status as a ‘top-flight’ club, for next season, Norwich made several changes to their side. Arsenal,however, were the ones, who got the ground running, with birthday boy Yossi Benayoun scoring a fine goal in just the 2nd minute. Norwich’s response was swift and clinical. Wojciech Szczesny made a hash of Hoolahan’s shot, and soon Grant Holt made most of some slack defending to send the Canaries into the lead at half-time. They created many more chances on the Arsenal goal, but Robin van Persie equalized for the Gunners, scoring off a fine Alex Song long-ball. 8 minutes later, he scored again, and it seemed the comeback was complete. Norwich weren’t done yet, and they made most of poor defending again, to level the scores in an enthralling ancounter.
9. Liverpool 1-2 Arsenal, Premier League, Anfield, 3rd March 2012
(Liverpool- Koscielny (O.G)23 ;Arsenal- van Persie 31, 90+2′)
On the bounce of the morale-boosting win over Sp*rs, Arsenal travelled to Liverpool, who themselves were in high spirits after winning the Carling Cup on penalties against Cardiff City. Luis Suarez dived, and won a penalty early on. Dirk Kuyt’s tame penalty was easily palmed away by Szczesny. Kuyt missed the rebound too. Liverpool got the breakthrough on 23 minutes, when a Jordan Henderson cross was turned in for an own goal by Laurent Koscielny. Completely against the run of play, van Persie headed in a Sagna cross, after escaping his markers. Liverpool carved out several chances, through the game, with Suarez in menacing mood. Late on, when it looked like a draw was in store, Alex Song played in a delicious long ball to van Persie, who took it on his favourite left foot, and finished past Reina, to deliver 3 vital points to the Gunners.
8. Arsenal 2-1 Newcastle United, Premier League, Emirates Stadium, 12th March 2012
(Arsenal- van Persie 15, Vermaelen 90+5′;Newcastle United- Ben Arfa 14)
With both sides aiming for Champions League qualification, and a bad tempered game earlier in the season, the stage was set for a feisty encounter. Arsenal carved out some early opportunities, but Hatem Ben Arfa opened the scoring for the Magpies, with a well taken goal. Robin van Persie equalized with a typically emphatic finish, less than a minute later. Tempers flared through the game, with van Persie and his compatriot and Newcastle custodian, Tim Krul exchanging the choicest of words, after Krul looked to bide his time in taking goalkicks. It was Arsenal, though, who went home the happier side, after an onrushing Thomas Vermaelen netted the winner in the 95th minute, setting a series of trollfaces around the Emirates.
7. Arsenal 3-2 Aston Villa, FA Cup 4th Round, Emirates Stadium, 29th January 2012
(Arsenal- van Persie (pen)54,(pen)61, Walcott 57;Aston Villa- Dunne 33, Bent 45+1′)
Having lost 3 league games on the bounce, Arsenal fans were looking for redemption in the FA Cup. The Gunners created many chances, but Aston Villa had the lead, thanks to a header from Richard Dunne. Darren Bent doubled the lead, seconds before half-time, netting from a narrow angle, after his initial shot was saved by Fabianski. Going into half-time, with a chorus of boos ringing in their ears, it took an inspirational team talk from Wenger, Henry and van Persie, to invigorate spirit into the team. Dunne, bought down Ramsey in the box, and van Persie scored off the resultant penalty. Walcott then made a darting run, and had his shot blocked by Hutton, but it rebounded off the winger and back into the net. And, soon enough, the turn around was complete when Villa’s other goalscorer, Bent bought down Koscielny in the box. van Persie scored again, to raise the roof in North London.
6. Udinese 1-2 Arsenal, Champions League Qualifying, Stadio Friuli, 24th August 2011
(Udinese-di Natale 39; Arsenal- van Persie 55, Walcott 69)
Probably the most important Arsenal match of the year. Having lost two of their most influential players in the summer, Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona and Samir Nasri to Manchester City, many had predicted a downfall in Arsenal’s fortunes starting with qualification to the group stages of the Champions League. However, the first leg won 1-0 at the Emirates, it was a nervous 2nd leg in Italy. Antonio di Natale headed the Italian side ahead, 6 minutes before half-time to cancel out scores. It took all of Arsenal’s resolve in the second half to seal the tie. First, Robin van Persie scored the all important away goal. Then, Szczesny brilliantly palmed away di Natale’s penalty, before Theo Walcott killed the tie in the 69th.
5. Arsenal 2-1 Borussia Dortmund, Champions League Group Stages, Emirates Stadium, 23rd November 2011
(Arsenal- van Persie 49, 86; Borussia Dortmund- Kagawa 90+2)
The game takes 5th position, purely because of the effort and determination put in by the Gunners on the night. Knowing that a win against the German champions would seal top spot in the group, Arsenal engrossed in a truly exhilarating contest with the young German team. Both chances had plenty of opportunities. On show for Dortmund, on the night were their two most prodigious talents, the Japanese Shinji Kagawa and the German ‘Messi’ Mario Gotze. However, a brilliant ‘Messi’esque run from Alex Song ended up in a header from Robin van Persie. And he headed in the second in the 86th off a Vermaelen flick-on.
4. Arsenal 1-0 Manchester City, Premier League, Emirates Stadium, 8th April 2012
Arsenal dented Manchester City’s title chances, with a clinical display at the Emirates. The game was off to a free flowing start, with Arsenal making many early chances. Arsenal created a host of chances through the game and completely outplayed the Citizens, who were looking to close the gap with leaders Manchester United to just 2 points. After van Persie, Vermaelen, Benayoun, all missed narrowly, it was man of the match Mikel Arteta, who let go from a long way out and completely beat the keeper of the season, Joe Hart, with 4 minutes left on the clock.
3. Arsenal 3-0 AC Milan, Champions League Round of 16 2nd Leg, Emirates Stadium, 6th March 2012
(Arsenal- Koscielny 7, Rosicky 26, van Persie (pen) 43)
Having lost the first leg by a margin of 4 goals, everyone had expected to see Arsenal play for pride in the second leg against Milan. What we got to see was a gutsy display by a makeshift squad against the Italian giants. With Arteta, Ramsey, Benayoun, Diaby, Wilshere, Frimpong and Coquelin all out, it was the energetic midfield of Rosicky, Chamberlain, Song, Walcott, and Gervinho who took the challenge to haughty Milan, who named two goalkeepers on the bench. Laurent Koscielny headed in unmarked, in the 7th minute. Arsenal fashioned more chances against a complacent Milan, and deservedly were 2-0 up, when Rosicky shot past Abbiati, from a narrow angle. And, the tie was well and truely on Mesbah tumbled over Chamberlain, in the box. van Persie stepped up, and dispatched the penalty. Arsenal looked visibly tired as they walked into the dressing room at half-time. Milan, who had named a fresh squad, held on, and closed down the game, to progress 4-3 on aggregate. They, however, paid so dearly, when van Persie’s chip was saved from point blank range by Abbiati.
2. Chelsea 3-5 Arsenal, Premier League, Stamford Bridge, 29th October 2011
(Chelsea- Lampard 14, Terry 45, Mata 80 ;Arsenal- van Persie 36, 85, 90+2, Santos-49, Walcott-55)
The first real test of mettle for Arsene Wenger’s side in the 2011-2012 season, and it was passed with flying colors as the Gunners brushed aside the Blues in their own backyard in a cracker-jack of a match. Having endured a poor start to the season, Arsenal were slowly picking up confidence after consecutive home wins over Sunderland and Stoke. Chelsea offered a major challenge. Frank Lampard headed the West London side ahead after 14 minutes, after the Gunners were guilty of spurning chances in the opening minutes. However, Arsenal stuck to the task, and Gervinho played a one-two with van Persie to level scores. Chelsea regained advantage with Terry bundling home, just before half-time. The second half was a completely different animal. Goal-happy left back Andre Santos marauded the left wing and equalized, 4 minutes into the second half. 6 minutes later, Theo Walcott produced a moment of fine individual skill. He cut inside of Ashley Cole and stumbled. Cole stopped thinking he had conceded a free-kick. Walcott picked himself up, beat two defenders and fired Arsenal into the lead. Mertesacker and Koscielny were particularly impressive that afternoon. Chelsea’s new £23 million man, who was under Arsenal’s radar as well, Juan Mata fired a long-range effort, worthy of atleast a point. But, this was Arsenal’s day. van Persie made most of a Terry slip and rounded Cech in the 85th minute. And in injury time, he rifled past Cech again to secure a famous and important win.
1. Arsenal 5-2 Tottenham Hotspur, Premier League, Emirates Stadium, 26th February 2012
(Arsenal- Sagna 40, van Persie 43, Rosicky 51, Walcott 65, 68;Tottenham- Saha 4, Adebayor (pen) 34)
Arsenal were staring deep into the abyss, 34 minutes into their match against Sp*rs. Having lost the first leg of the Round of 16 tie to Milan, 4-0, and knocked out of the FA Cup, by Sunderland, the Gunners conceded as early as the 4th minute, thanks to some poor defending. Arsenal’s response was good, and they were all over their opposition, but spurned away all their chances, including one that hit the post. Gareth Bale, then took a dive, in the panelty box, and Aebayor of all people, doubled the lead. The response from Arsenal was ruthless. Bacary Sagna headed powerfully in the 40th minute. van Persie then equalized with a peach of a goal, 3 minutes later. And then Sp*rs were taken to the cleaners, with some emphatic football. Tomas Rosicky and Bacary Sagna exchanged passes, before the Czech finished from close range. A much maligned Theo Walcott, then finished twice in the space of 3 minutes, with some neat goals, to send out a loud message to their neighbours. This proved to be the turning point for both teams, as Sp*rs threw away a 10 point lead to a deficit of 5 points, in few weeks time.