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2012-2013 Arsenal Season Review – A Season of Trials and Tribulations!

Another season has past us by. One that promised so much at the start, waned throughout the course of the season with a mix of the close shaves, insipid displays, some ridiculous scorelines to eventually a strong finish. Here is a complete season review of Arsenal in 2012/2013.

There were indications that Arsenal’s star striker, Robin van Persie could depart from the club, having scored 37 goals in all competitions, but having finished trophyless. Arsenal had signed Lukas Podolski from Cologne for £11 million even before the 2011/2012 season ended. Steve Bould was promoted to assistant manager, replacing Pat Rice. French striker Olivier Giroud was signed from French champions Montpellier for £12.8 million. Days later, van Persie dropped a bombshell announcing on his personal website that he wouldnt be signing a new deal with Arsenal. Carlos Vela would move to Real Soceidad permanently for £6 million, before Laurent Koscielny agreed a long term deal. Spain star Santi Cazorla was signed from Malaga for £11.4 million. After speculation linking him to Barcelona, Manchester City and closely to Juventus,it was eventually the despicable Manchester United, who snapped up the traitor van Persie for £24 million. Thomas Vermaelen was handed the captain’s armband. To everyone’s surprise, Arsenal made their second major sale, when Alex Song joined Barcelona, rather their bench, for £15 million.

The season started at home to Sunderland. New signings Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla both started for the Gunners, and despite their midweek exertions, both had pretty decent outings. Cazorla impressed with a couple of shots from long range. Another new boy Olivier Giroud made his debut as well, when he came on as a sub later on, and was the culprit of a glaring miss, having been put through beautifully by Cazorla.

More admirably, Arsenal not only stood up to, but deserved to win their second league match, away at Stoke, traditionally one of the hardest places to visit in the Premier League. Mikel Arteta, Abou Diaby and Santi Cazorla were proving to be an efficient midfield, as a second goalless draw was the final result.

The Gunners’next destination was Anfield, a venue where they had narrowly escaped with 3 points last season, thanks to, er, the Dutch cunt assisted by, hmm..Alex Song. However, Arsenal put on a much more balanced and well planned display against the Reds. Abou Diaby was proving to be dictating the play in midfield as per his whims, putting in a Man of the Match Display.

Arsenal’s first goal came with all the 3 new signings playing a major role in the goal. Olivier Giroud pulled the attentions of Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger towards himself, giving Lukas Podolski plenty of space to net home a Santi Cazorla through ball. Minutes later, Podolski would turn provider for Arsenal’s second goal, scored by Cazorla, as his former Villarreal teammate Pepe Reine fumbled.

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Newcomers Southampton were next up for Arsenal in the league, and the Saints were given a hiding by a blitzkrieg of a performance in the first half. A Kieran Gibbs cross was diverted in by Jos Hooived into his own net, before Lukas Podolski smashed in a free kick. This was the first of 3 goals scored in 6 minutes. Arsenal conceded their first goal of the season, but ran out comfortable 6-1 winners.

Arsenal’s winning start continued in France, as they opened their Champions League campaign at France’s champions, Montpellier. Their former start striker Olivier Giroud started, and he assisted Podolski’s equalizer after Younes Belhanda had given the hosts the lead from the spot. Arsenal won 2-1, but were given many nervous moments.

Arsenal’s first major test of the season would come in their next game, away to the defending champions Manchester City, and boy, did they rise to it. The Gunners put in a brilliant passing performance, to completely dominate the Sky Blues in their own backyard. However, they conceded a cheap goal to Jolean Lescott. Arsenal outpassed their opponents all game, and finally got their equalizer when Laurent Koscielny smashed home in the 82nd minute. After this game, Arsenal were tipped by many to go on and be main title contenders.

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Arsenal’s new found defensive stability was one that was being discussed all over. Carl Jenkinson seemed to be 10 times the player he was the previous season, and the centre-back partnership of Per Mertesacker and Thomas Vermaelen was being hailed as one of the best in the league. Kieran Gibbs, too was putting in some impressive display. Lot of credit was given to new assistant manager Steve Bould, one quarter of Arsenal’s famous Back Four.

Olivier Giroud opened his Arsenal account as a youthful Gunners side thrashed Coventry City 6-1 at the Emirates in the Capitol One Cup. And just as Arsenal were looking like dark horses for the title race, came the first blow of the season, at home to Chelsea.

Abou Diaby, impressive so far, hobbled off quickly, as Fernando Torres gave Arsenal the lead, owing to some calamitous Arsenal defending. Arsenal managed to rally and got their equalizer through Gervinho, who seemed to be in fine goal scoring nick. However, Chelsea would win 2-1, thanks to a Juan Mata free kick early in the second half, which whizzed past everyone into the net.

The Gunners had to pick themselves up quickly, and they did so when Greek champions Olympiakos paid a visit to the Emirates. 1-1 at half-time, it took a goal from Lukas Podolski and a late goal from Aaron Ramsey to seal a 3-1 win.

Arsenal sported their traditional yellow kits for the next league game, away at West Ham. Mohomad Diame scored an impressive goal for the Hammers. Giroud scored his first league goal for the club moments before half-time. He would turn provider for Arsenal’s second, scored by Theo Walcott, before 3 points were sealed by a magnificent strike from Santi Cazorla.

The first international break of the season out of the way, Arsenal travelled to Norwich, where they were outplayed and outfought by a hard working Norwich side, eventually losing 1-0 to a Grant Holt goal. That was just the start of what was going to be a tumultous week.

A toothless Arsenal were beaten at home by Schalke, through goals from Klaas Jan Huntelaar and Ibrahim Afellay. The Gunners had mistered only 2 shots on target combined in their losses to Norwich and Schalke, both coming from youngster Serge Gnabry, who came as a substitute in both games.

This called for a fiery Annual General Meeting, as the board, including Peter Hill Wood, Ivan Gazidis were questioned sternly by Arsenal shareholders. Questions were raised as to why sufficient funds were not being used on buying new players, and why the squad was suffering from inconsistency. Arsene Wenger apologized for the recent losses, as well as admitting his lack of comfort at the situation.

Things slighltly improved on the results front as Arsenal barely managed to beat QPR at home 1-0 thanks to a Mikel Arteta goal, that might have narrowly been offside. It was also the return to action for Jack Wilshere, after a 15 month layoff, and he seemed sharper and chirpier than ever. It was also the return to the first team for Bacary Sagna, after 4 months out of action.

However, what happened in the next Arsenal game, no one could even fathom in their wildest dreams. Away to Reading for the next round of the Capitol One Cup, Arsene Wenger named a young side, with the exceptions of Koscielny, Arshavin, Walcott, Djourou and a certain Marrouane Chamakh. Who’s this bloke anyways?

This was a game, remember, I sat and streamed the night before my all important MBA entrance exams. How crazy I must be. On the other hand, I would have cursed myself to death had I missed the game.

Reading got off to the best possible starts, scoring 3 goals in the opening 20 minutes, through Jason Roberts, an unfortunate own goal from Koscielny and Mikele Leigertwood. The lead became 4-0 through a Noel Hunt header, with young goalkeeper Damian Martinez having a disastrous day in the office. With cries of “We want our Arsenal back.” echoing from the Arsenal end, Walcott managed to pull one back just before half-time, latching on to an Arshavin through ball. Arsenal rallied in the second half, and with goals hard to come by, the manager decided to bring on young German attacking midfielder Thomas Eisfeld and Olivier Giroud. I vividly remember myself going to the loo to take a quick leak, and when I returned to the match, it was 4-2. Giroud had scored through a beautifully guided header. Just when it seemed Arsenal had run out of steam, Laurent Koscielny made up for his own goal, with a towering header in the 89th minute. With nearly 5 minutes of extra time having been played, despite the referee announced only 4 minutes, Arsenal got a free-kick in Reading’s half. It bounced off the back of Chamakh’s head into the path of Walcott, whose shot crossed the line, with a Reading defender scrambling clear. Carl Jenkinson netted in the rebound just to make doubly sure. Incredbly, Arsenal had come back from 4 goals down to draw 4-4. 30 minutes of extra time beckoned. The match took a completely different turn when Marrouane Chamakh scored his first goal in a century when he shot from distance. There were more twists, however, as Russia international Pavel Pogrebnyak made it 5-5 on the night with a close range header. His countryman, however, had other ideas. Andrei Arshavin ran the length of the field to set up an easy tap-in for Theo Walcott, and an ridiculous game was sealed with a Chamakh lob over Federici. 7-5 to the Arsenal!

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However, there was little time to digest the bewilderment, as Arsenal’s next opponents would be perennial Premier League rivals Manchester United. The animosity between the two clubs and the tensions between both sets of supporters had increased after the transfer of the Dutch cunt.

It turned out to be a toothless performance from Arsenal, though, probably with the ghosts of last season’s 8-2 mauling still fresh in their minds. United got off to the best starts possible, when a calamitous defensive mishap from Vermaelen fell right into the path of You Know Who, and he finished it off with simplicity. There was a huge hoolabaloo created at half time over the Dutch cunt handing over his shirt to Andre Santos, an  incident which then became the butt of many jokes on Twitter. Patrice Evra, of all people on the pitch, headed in to make it 2-0, before Santi Cazorla’s brilliant late solo effort only proved to be a consolation.

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Arsenal travelled to Gelsenkirchen, Germany for their next Champions League group game against Schalke, and briskly took a 2-0 lead, through goals from Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud. However, Arsenal gave up their 2 goal advantage, to take home only a point, after goals from Klass Jan Huntelaar and Jefersson Farfan.

And the Gunner’s defensive woes clearly came to the forefront, in their next league game, home to Fulham. Two brisk goals from Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski gave Arsenal a 2-0 lead, with just 23 minutes gone on the clock. However, the duo of Dimitar Berbatov and Bryan Ruiz put on a fine show, to peg back the Gunners to 2-2 at half-time, through goals from the former and Alex Kacaniklic. Before you know it, Arteta fouled Ruiz in the box, and Berbatov converted the ensuing penalty. Fulham were 3-2 up on 67 minutes. Arsenal rallied, and after his earlier shot struck the post, Giroud scored with his head, off the resulting cross, just 3 minutes later. Arsenal had a great chance to win the game, when Andrei Arshavin’s attempted cross struck the arm of a Fulham defender. Mark Schwarzer was equal to Arteta’s penalty. Justice was served.

The Gunners emerged a different animal in their next game, a home time to their North London rivals, Tottenham. The visitors took the lead with just 10 minutes gone, when Emmanuel Greedybayor toe-poked the ball past Szczesny. And the Togolese undid his goal, with a stupid lunge on Santi Cazorla, which saw him being sent off. It didn’t take Arsenal long to equalize, as Per Mertesacker’s towering header almost broke the back of the net. It was the German’s first goal in Arsenal’s colors, and his celebration told his delight. By half-time, it was 3-1 as Podolski’s shot bundled into the net, and Giroud swivelled to score past his compatriot, Hugo Lloris. Sp*rs made a match of it, as they tried to rally their way back into the game, with Gareth Bale their main source of creativity. However, Santi Cazorla’s goal made it 4-1 on 60 minutes, and despite Bale’s solo effort on 71 minutes, reduced the deficit, it was Walcott’s goal in extra time, that handed Arsenal a 5-2 win, a replica of last season’s score when the two sides met.

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Montpellier visited the Emirates next, and Arsenal needed a win to seal their passage into the next round. Olivier Giroud was at his battling best against his former employers, as he first teed up Wilshere, and then set up a trademark Podolski goal, a left footed cannon into the roof of the net. Arsenal sealed progression with a 2-0 win.

Some positive news came Arsenal’s way, as they agreed to £150 million deal with Emirates airlines, extending its shirt sponsorship till 2019, and stadium sponsorship upto 2028. This deal promised to bring in £30 million every season as part of the deal.

Arsenal’s patchy form again waned, as they managed only draws in away games at Aston Villa and Everton, and by now Theo Walcott was sporting his moustache, as part of the Movember celebrations. By now, Arsenal were looking increasingly weary, and it got even worse, as they lost a home league game to Swansea. Having barely troubled the Welsh outfit, it took a moment of magic from Michu, Swansea’s find of the season, to open the scoring. The second goal was the result of a poor back pass from Jenkinson, falling into the path of the Spaniard. There seemed to be no end to the poor run of form, as a weakened Arsenal side were beaten 2-1 in Greece by Olympiakos.

Arsenal managed to arrest the slide, with a 2-0 win over West Brom, both goals coming from Mikel Arteta’s penalties; Santi Cazorla making the headlines for his dive to win the first penalty, against Steven Reid.

Bad became worse, as Arsenal experienced their lowest moment of the season. With only League Two Bradford to get past to progress in the Capitol One Cup, which was increasingly looking like the best trophy chance the club had for the season, Arsene Wenger named his strongest side available, contrary to his belief of fielding youngsters in the League Cup. A side of Szczesny, Gibbs, Vermaelen, Mertesacker, Sagna, Podolski, Wilshere, Cazorla, Ramsey, Coquelin and Gervinho took to the pitch on a frosty night at the Valley Parade. The Bantams took the lead in only the 16th minute, through Garry Thompson, and made Arsenal look extremely ordinary on the night. The finishing in particular, was extraordinarily poor. Gervinho missed the easiest of tapins, and found his feet inside the net rather than the ball. It was not until the 87th minute, that Arsenal managed to get a goal, as Vermaelen headed in a Cazorla cross. Bradford had battled hard all night, and took the game to penalties, winning 3-2, with Matt Duke, Bradford’s goalkeeper, putting in a heroic performance.

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Cracks were papered, with a 5-2 win over Reading at the Madejski, Santi Cazorla scoring a hat-trick. Days after the cup exit to Bradford, Arsenal were handed a mammoth Round of 16 tie in the Champions League against German giants Bayern Munich, who by that time, were flying in the league.

The young British core, with the exception agreed to new long term deals with Arsenal. Carl Jenkinson, Aaron Ramsey Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain all signed new deals that would keep them at the club for a period of 4-6 years. Edgy stuff followed, as Arsenal edged Wigan 1-0 at the DW Stadium, Arteta scoring the decisive penalty.

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Arsenal managed to end the year on a high, with an enthralling encounter against Newcastle. 1-1 at half-time, both sides battled it out to 3-3, before Newcastle, who had lost to Manchester United 4-3 at Old Trafford, just days earlier, started to tire. Arsenal took full advantage of this, winning the game 7-3, Walcott completing his hat-trick and Giroud scoring a brace.

By now, it was January, and a host of names were linked with Arsenal. None more so than Klaas Jan Huntelaar, who according to many reports had agreed to join the Gunners. Days later, he agreed a contract extension at Schalke. Dani Alves, Marrouane Fellaini, Edin Dzeko, Luiz Gustavo, Yann M’Vila and even Stewart Downing were ridiculously linked to be joining the club.

And just when it seemed, Arsenal would take off, they came up with a putrid performance against Southampton, lucky to escape with a draw from the South Coast. Drawn away to Swansea in the Cup, Arsenal dug deep against the Swans. After a mediocre first half, the game burst to life in the second half, as Michu proved to be the thorn again in Arsenal’s flesh, giving the lead in the 58th minute, moments after coming on as a sub. Arsenal displayed plenty of resolve, and equalized on 81 minutes through Podolski, and even took the lead through a fine Gibbs goal on 83 minutes. However all the good work was undone as Danny Graham was allowed to make it 2-2 on 87 minutes.

Manchester City emerged out of the Emirates with 3 rather comfortable points, after Laurent Koscielny was sent off on 8 minutes, for embracing Edin Dzeko. James Milner and Dzeko would score in City’s 2-0 win. It was the first of a hectic period of football for the Gunners. Jack Wilshere put in a man-of-the-match performance and scored a late winner against Swansea in the FA Cup replay, as Arsenal, progressed 1-0.

This was followed by an evenly contested game at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea quickly got into their groove, taking a 2-0 lead, through Juan Mata and a Frank Lampard penalty. And even though Theo Walcott pulled one back in the 58th minute, Chelsea held on for a 2-1 win. It was the winger’s first goal after he had just signed a long term contract with the club.

The loss was overcome within days, as West Ham visited the Emirates. Jack Collison and Lukas Podolski scored for either side, as they went into the break, level at 1-1. It took a 10 minute blitz from the Gunners to win the game 5-1, with Giroud scoring twice, to add on to Walcott’s and Cazorla’s goals. Brighton were the next opponents in the FA Cup, and were beaten 3-2 at the Falmer Stadium, Olivier Giroud scoring another brace.

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Liverpool provided an exciting contest for Arsenal, taking the lead through Luis Suarez in the 5th minute. Despite all of Arsenal’s efforts Liverpool remained in the lead, and Jordan Henderson made it 2-0 on 60 minutes. Arsenal fought back and were level within 7 minutes, through goals from Giroud and Walcott.

And surprisingly enough, the transfer window ended with the signing of Spanish international left back Nacho Monreal from financially challenged Malaga for £8.5 million. He made his debut against Stoke, at the Emirates, as a deflected Podolski free-kick handed all 3 points to the Gunners, to signal the end of the hectic 6 games in 19 days period.

Arsenal were made to slog it out in their next game, an away league fixture at Sunderland. Having taken the lead through a rasping effort from Santi Cazorla, the Gunners clicked the self destruct button, as Carl Jenkinson was sent off. Sunderland created a horde of chances, but were thwarted thanks to a gigantic performance at centre-back by Bacary Sagna, a resolute Aaron Ramsey at right-back and a unnerving Wojciech Szczesny in goal.

It all however came crashing down, days later, as Blackburn Rovers dumped the Gunners from the FA Cup with a shocking 1-0 win at the Emirates. Colin Kazim Richards scored the only goal of the game completely against the run of play in the 72nd minute. And this was the build up to the massive Bayern Munich game.

The Bavarians by now had already wrapped up the Bundesliga title, taking an almost unbeatable lead at the top, to second placed Borussia Dortmund. They were racking up some incredible offensive and defensive stats in the league, with Manuel Neuer unbeaten in 7 games. And they showed normal German efficiency taking a 2-0 lead, through Toni Kroos and Thomas Mueller within 21 minutes. Former Bayern striker Lukas Podolski managed to break Neuer’s record, with a chancy header, to make it 2-1, but Mario Mandzukic scored in the 77th minute to seal a 3-1 win for the German side. They already had one foot in the next round.

It was time to salvage some points and pride in the league. Santi Cazorla obliged with an early goal against Aston Villa, but Andreas Weimann equalized on 68 minutes, off a Szcsesny howler. Cazorla however was on hand again to score an important winner in the 85th minute.

And in typical Arsenal fashion, the Gunners lost their next match, an all important North London derby to Sp*rs. Playing a very high defensive line, Arsenal conceded two quickfire goals to Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale in the space of 3 minutes to go 2-0 down at half-time. A Per Mertesacker goal in the 50th minute halved the deficit, but Sp*rs held on for a 2-1 win.

This, however, proved to be the last loss of the season. A much maligned Arsenal travelled to Germany to take on the favorites for the Champions League, Bayern Munich, looking to overturn a 3-1 first leg deficit. Thomas Vermaelen, Wojciech Szczesny were dropped, while Jack Wilshere, Lukas Podolski and Bacary Sagna were ruled out due to injury. Lukasz Fabianski, Laurent Koscielny and Carl Jenkinson started, and so did Aaron Ramsey and Tomas Rosicky in midfield.

Before you knew it, Arsenal were in the lead, as Walcott found himself in some space in behind the Bayern defenders to set up Olivier Giroud for the simplest of tap-ins. Bayern were lacklustre, but that would just take away the credit from Arsenal, who put in a brave and magnificent performance. Fabianski, playing after almost a year, put in a mammoth display, while Koscielny showed why he is nicknamed the ‘Beast’ by Arsenal fans. Attack after attack by Bayern were being flayed, as the Gunners fought to stay alive in the tournament. Just like the 3-0 Milan game last season, this was proving to be another of those fine European performances by the club. With just minutes to go, Bayern were stunned by an 86th minute Koscielny header. 2-0 to Arsenal. However, with 3 goals required to progress, the German side held on to the 3-3 aggregate scoreline to qualify on away goals.

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For the second season running, Arsenal had come within inches of qualification, and had missed out due to bad first leg performances. This, however, proved to be the turning point in the club’s fortunes in the league.

Swansea have proved to be tough opponents for Arsenal in recent times, and the newly crowned League Cup winners were the next opponents in the league. A closely contested first half was followed by an Arsenal dominated second half. It paid dividends as Nacho Monreal scored his first goal for the club in the 74th minute, before Gervinho scored his first goal in a century, after running clear of the entire Swans’ defence. Gervinho would keep up his good form, as he scored once and assisted twice to help Arsenal to a 4-1 win over Reading in the next game.

The winning run would continue at another traditionally tough league ground, the Hawthorns. Tomas Rosicky scored either side of half-time to give Arsenal a 2-0 lead. However, Per Mertesacker’s sending off and the eventual penalty scored by James Morrison gave Arsenal some nervous moments to deal with. Despite the Baggies coming close several times, Arsenal held on for another massive 3 points.

Norwich were the visitors to the Emirates next, and took the lead in the 56th minute, through Michael Turner, again completely against the run of play. It took a late 7 minute salvo from Arsenal to win 3-1, starting with an Arteta penalty in the 85th minute, a Giroud tap-in in the 88th minute and a Podolski screamer in the 92nd minute.

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Everton put in a rugged display to emerge with a point from the Emirates, before Arsenal had to deal with some scary situations as they eked out a 1-0 win against 10 man Fulham, at Craven Cottage. They were reduced to 10 men themselves, as Olivier Giroud was sent off.

The newly crowned Champions came visiting next, as the Dutch Cunt was named to start for Manchester United. Arsenal gave the customary guard of honor, as boos rang around the Emirates. Arsenal got off to the best possible start, Theo Walcott giving the Gunners the lead in only the 2nd minute. Arsenal were looking good to extend that lead until United rallied back, with some chances of their own. Sagna gave the ball away to the traitor, and fouled him in the box. Judas converted it to level scores. It remained so till the end of the game, as both sides failed to carve out any clear match winning opportunities in the second half.

More points were garnered in one of the most boring games of football you would see, as a 1st minute Walcott goal proved to be the winning goal in a 1-0 win at QPR. The race for Champions League spots would go down right to the wire, as Chelsea, Arsenal and Sp*rs were within touching distance of each other, with only two teams being able to finish in the top 4.

After a 10 day rest, Arsenal welcomed the newly crowned FA Cup champions Wigan Athletic. Wigan, had just beaten Manchester City 3 days earlier at Wembley, through a late Ben Watson header, their first major piece of silverware. They came into the game, needing nothing but a win to beat the drop.

And they got off to the worst possible start, as Lukas Podolski’s glancing header found its way into the back of the net on 11 minutes. Wigan, to their credit, fought back, and deservingly got a goal on the stroke of half-time, when Shaun Maloney’s freekick whizzed right past Szczesny. Arsenal managed to produce another of the goalscoring salvo’s. This time, scoring 3 goals in 8 minutes, starting with Walcott’s poke past Roubles, Podolski’s expert finish and Ramsey’s slayer in the 71st minute. It was time to bid goodbye to life in the Premier League for Roberto Martinez, and his men, after 8 years of close shaves.

Arsenal traveled to Newcastle for the last game of the season, knowing that a win would seal a place in next season’s Champions League. A draw would mean nervously relying on Sunderland to hold Sp*rs to a draw. After a rather dull first half, Laurent Koscielny gave Arsenal the lead in the 52nd minute, almost a replica of his goal against West Brom on the last day of last season, scored at about the same number of minutes on the clock. Newcastle tried to make a match of it, but nervous Arsenal held on even as news poured in from White Hart Lane of a Bale winner in the 88th minute. As the final whistle blew, it bought with it a palpable sense of relief of finishing in the top 4, and qualifying for Europe’s elite club football tournament, 16 times in a row.

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It also bought down the curtains on what has been a hard season for Arsenal players, fans and the manager alike. Having to deal with the loss of two more superstars at the start of the season, and cup exits at the hands of lower league opposition to some incredible games of football, like 7-5 and 7-3 wins over Reading and Newcastle respectively, a heartbreaking Champions League exit against Bayern to eventually finishing the season strongly to seal a top 4 finish.

Impressively, Arsenal’s defence improved, conceding 37 goals to finish as the league’s 2nd best defence, behind Manchester City, who conceded 34, compared to last season’s 49, the worst concession haul under Wenger’s tenure. Arsenal’s attacking quarter of Giroud, Podolski, Walcott and Cazorla have racked up impressive stats themselves.

Theo Walcott – 21 goals, 17 assists

Olivier Giroud – 17 goals, 12 assists

Lukas Podolski – 16 goals, 11 assists

Santi Cazorla – 12 goals, 15 assists

The improvement of young players like Carl Jenkinson, Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs, boys who have Arsenal in their heart has been good to watch, while the resurgence of much maligned Aaron Ramsey to be a vital cog in Arsenal’s midfield engine too has been good to watch.

While Thomas Vermaelen didn’t have much luck as captain, he will know he has his work cut out, with Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker forging a brilliant partnership in the centre of defence. I believe, that this squad, is probably just 2 or 3 players away from building a potentially title challenging squad. It has the right balance, the right talent, the right mix of youth and experience, the right combination of homegrown talent and continental magic.

About time to end the 8 year trophyless jinx. Bring on next season, already!

Summary

Premier League – 4th spot

FA Cup – Fifth Round

Capitol One Cup – Quarter-Finals

Champions League – Round of 16

Top Scorer – Theo Walcott (21 goals in all competitions)

Jai Arsenal! 🙂

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————– While you are about it, follow Blazing Cannons on twitter. @blazingcannons

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Go ahead you lazy bum, that’s all I ask of you!

 
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Posted by on May 27, 2013 in Season Reviews

 

2011-2012 Season Review – A Crazy Crazy Season

It has been one heck of a season. With the title decided on the last day, as well as us finishing 3rd, with all its drama, emotions, goals, controversies, this season never ceased to entertain week in, week out. Here is a complete season review of Arsenal in 2011/2012.

Much of the pre season was surrounded with the departure of Cesc Fabregas. The Spanish midfielder had spent 8 season with the Gunners, and was being chased for quite a long time by his previous club and boyhood idols Barcelona. Other names linked with Fabregas in the past were Real Madrid and AC Milan. Arsenal finally gave into both player and club, when a deal of around £35 million was agreed for Fabregas. It was kind of a sad moment for all Gunners, for Fabregas typified Arsenal with his playing style, his passion and his finesse. He had been a fine player for us. By this time, Arsene Wenger had already made 3 purchases in young right-back Carl Jenkinson from Charlton for £1 million, Ivorian winger Gervinho from Lille for £10 million, and Southampton winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for £12million. Gael Clichy too departed, when Manchester City offered £7 million for his services. Arsenal also sold Ivorian Emmanuel Eboue to Galatasaray. Another long drawn out saga was that of Samir Nasri’s, who had been linked to Manchester City for the entirety of the pre season, but Arsenal refused to budge on the player, even though contract negotiations had spectacularly broken down.

The ones that got away!

Arsenal’s first match of the season was Newcastle away at St.James Park, which ended in a goalless draw, but had its fair share of controversies. Late on, Gervinho went down too easily off a Barton trip. This infuriated Barton, who hauled the Ivorian by his shirt, and a scuffle started, in which Gervinho landed a slap on Barton, and was sent off for it. (Totally worth it!). Arsenal then hosted Udinese in the Champions League qualifying game first leg, which they won narrowly 1-0, thanks to an early Walcott goal.

Totally worth it!

To everyone’s surprise, Samir Nasri was name on Arsenal’s starting line up for the next game, a league clash with Liverpool at the Emirates. Also on the team was young Emmanuel Frimpong. Arsenal looked enterprising all afternoon, and Nasri looked Arsenal’s best player on the pitch. But a moment of madness from Frimpong when he lunged on Lucas, saw him receive a red card. Dalglish sensed the frailty of the Gunners, who had earlier lost Koscielny to injury, to be replaced by another youngster Miquel. Suarez and Meireles were thrown on, and an unfortunate own goal and a Suarez strike sealed 3 points for the Reds. Arsenal’s woeful start was somewhat cushioned, when passage to the Champions League group stage was sealed with a 2-1 win in Udinese, which also saw Szczesny make a fine penalty stop off Antonio di Natale.

It just didn’t seem to get any easier for Arsenal, as a daunting trip to Old Trafford awaited. The defending champions were on a high, and the Gunners were reeling from departures, injuries and suspensions. By this time, Samir Nasri was sold to Manchester City for £25 million. Arsenal were without Vermaelen, Wilshere, Gibbs, Sagna, Song, Frimpong and Diaby for the clash, but that was no reason for what was to follow. A decent start was followed by absolute madness, as Manchester United demolished the Gunners 8-2 in a display of breathtaking attacking football. Wayne Rooney helped himself to a hattrick, while Ashley Young scored twice; Wellbeck, Nani and Park each scoring once. Though the team was embarrassed thoroughly, the fans did themselves proud by staying back at the stadium, and chanting for quite some time. They were quickly rewarded by the club and their ticket money was refunded.

This called for a need for change, as disgruntled Arsenal supporters demanded new signings, and Arsene Wenger duly obliged. On deadline day, Arsenal signed 5 players. Germany and Werder Bremen defender Per Mertesacker, with nearly 75 caps was signed for £6.9 million. Andre Santos, Brazil and Fenerbahce left back arrived for £7.2 million, Park Chu-Young, South Korean captain came from Monaco for £3 million, Yossi Benayoun was signed on loan from Chelsea and Mikel Arteta was signed from Everton for £10 million, a deal completed seconds before the transfer window slammed shut. Arsenal had taken their first few steps in restructuring the team for the season.

The international break provided some relief for Gunners, and they returned with a 1-0 home win over Swansea. Andrei Arshavin scored a rather fortunate goal, when he was gifted the ball by Swans’ keeper Michel Vorm. Arsenal would start their Champions League campaign as well, away at German champions Borussia Dortmund. The Germans looked dangerous on numerous ocassions, but Arsenal had the lead on 42 minutes, thanks to a van Persie strike. The German’s got their reward late on when Ivan Perisic scored a fine goal. The Gunners next faced a trip to Ewood Park. It was a strange but exciting game, in the rain. Gervinho opened the scoring, only for Yakubu to equalize intelligently. By half-time, Mikel Arteta had made it 2-1, but moments of madness in the second half followed. An Alex Song own goal equalized the scored, and Yakubu’s close range finish made it 3-2 to the hosts. Laurent Koscielny then scored another own goal, and Chamakh’s late header was only consolation.

Arsenal had some respite a week later, when a 3-1 win over Shrewsbury in the Carling Cup and a 3-0 win over a poor Bolton was sealed, van Persie scoring his 99th and 100th goals for the club. Days later, Olympiacos were seen of rather nervously, 2-1, at home, with Chamberlain looking rather impressive. The first North London derby of the season was up next, Sp*rs waiting at White Hart Lane. In what was a treat for the neutrals, Rafael van der Vaart opened the scoring for the home side, when he looked to have handled the ball, before shooting past Szczesny. Arsenal got reward for their neat play, when Ramsey stabbed home the equalizer from close range. A 73rd minute long range strike from Kyle Walker sealed the win for the home side, as Arsenal were left reeling at 17th in the table.

What followed was a resurgence of sort. Sunderland were the visitors at the Emirates next, and the Gunners had the lead just 28 seconds into the match, van Persie scoring from close range. Former Arsenal midfielder Sebastien Larsson equalized from a free-kick, and it took a magical van Persie free kick to secure 3 points. Marseille were beaten at their intimidating home, the Stade Velodrome, through a late Aaron Ramsey strike, in injury time. Stoke City were the next opposition in the league, and with scores level at 1-1, van Persie was bought on, and he scored 2 vital goals, as 3 more vital points were secured. Park Chu-Young scored a delightful winner in a 2-1 beating of Bolton in the Carling Cup.

The next match was a real sign that things had been turned around completely. I remember watching this game vividly, or rather the second half of it. The first half, I was stuck watching Everton lose out narrowly to Manchester United, who by the way, had been trounced 6-1 at home to Manchester City, just a week earlier, as my Manchester United friend wouldn’t let me watch the Chelsea vs Arsenal game on his laptop. Anyways, scored were 2-2 when I started watching. Theo Walcott scored a fine goal, when he stumbled, and left the entire Chelsea defence in it’s wake to shoot past Cech. Some fine defending followed, before Laurent Koscielny scored a wonder goal from long range. Alas, for Chelsea and John Terry, who customarily slipped, allowing van Persie to run clear and round Cech to put Arsenal up 4-3. Minutes later, the emphatic win was sealed with another van Persie strike.

A goalless home draw with Marseille in the Champions League was followed by an easy 3-0 win over West Bromwich Albion. Norwich City were beaten, rather laboriously 2-1 at Carrow Road, van Persie scoring 2 more. Another van Persie brace saw Dortmund getting knocked out of the Champions League, and Arsenal sealing passage to the knockout stages.

A minor blip came next, a 1-1 draw at home with Fulham, Thomas Vermaelen scoring at both ends. Arsenal dominated heavy spending Manchester City for large periods in the game, before losing to a solitary goal from Sergio Aguero. There was also a tussle between Samir Nasri and Emmanuel Frimpong, which boiled up after the match. Wigan were beaten easily 4-0 at the DW Stadium. Arsenal lost Lukasz Fabianski and Andre Santos to injury in the dead rubber clash with Olympiacos, which was lost 3-1.

The visit of Everton marked the 125th anniversary of the club, and there was a carnival atmosphere at the Emirates, and it took a beautiful volley from Robin van Persie to seal a famous Arsenal result, 1-0. Arsenal narrowly lost the next league game, away to Manchester City, in an exciting end to end contest. 3 days later, with scores level at 1-1, Yossi Benayoun scored a 87th minute header as the Gunners emerged with 3 points. An insipid 1-1 draw at home to Wolves, was followed by a narrow 1-0 win against QPR, at home.

Arsenal had a rather poor January. On the second day of the new year, Fulham rallied late on to win, despite an earlier Laurent Koscielny strike, against 10 man Arsenal. However, the gloom around was lifted temporarily when Arsenal signed club legend Thierry Henry on a short term loan. The Frenchman, who had scored 226 goals in his first stint with the club arrived from New York Red Bulls, and made his second debut in the FA Cup clash with Leeds, and he duly obliged with a 78th minute winning strike.

Return of the King!

Woes in the league would continue though, as Arsenal lost 3-2 in Wales to Swansealona. 5 months on from the disaster of Old Trafford, Arsenal welcomed Manchester United to the Emirates. Some early play from Arsenal was soon overshadowed by a mature performance from the Red Devils, and they took the lead on the stroke of half-time, when Antonio Valencia headed in a Giggs cross. Arsenal rallied, and got their equalizer, when the impressive Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain set up van Persie, who curled his effort past Lindegaard. What followed must best be forgotten. Arsene Wenger bought off Chamberlain, and replaced him with out of sorts Andrei Arshavin. And, United scored the winner 10 minutes from time.

3 league defeats and a draw to Bolton had left Arsenal in 7th place, but progress in the FA Cup was sealed, when Aston Villa were beaten 3-2, despite being 2-0 in the lead, going in at half time. Arsenal duly trounced a beleaguered Blackburn 7-1, van Persie scoring a delightful hattrick. A week later, Arsenal travelled to Sunderland, where the Black Cats took the lead, when McClean pounced on Mertesacker’s injury. Aaron Ramsey scored the equalizer, and Arshavin redeemed himself to a certain extent, when he crossed for a late Henry winner, in the Frenchman’s last game in the Premier League. Despite this morale boosting win, Arsenal were no match for the prowess of Italian giants AC Milan. On a San Siro pitch, tailor made to suit their needs, Arsenal struggled, and a Zlatan Ibrahimovic masterclass inspired the Rossoneri to an astounding 4-0 win. Days later, more dark clouds hovered over the club, ironically, again at the Stadium of Light, as Sunderland dumped Arsenal 2-0 from the FA Cup.

8 days later, the story was completely different. Sp*rs, who were flying high, and were 10 points ahead of the Gunners in the league, visited the Emirates, and were in the lead just 4 minutes into the game, when poor defensive positioning, saw Adebayor set up Saha, whose shot deflected in off Thomas Vermaelen. Arsenal’s response was urgent but not accurate, as a few chances went begging. By 34 minutes, Tottenham fans were in dreamland, after Bale’s diving skills were utilized to their full extent, for Adebayor to slot home a penalty. Arsenal’s response, this time was swift and unerring. Bacary Sagna scored a thumping header to reduce the deficit, and a brilliant van Persie goal equalized scores. Sandro and Rafael van der Vaart came on in the second half, but Arsenal turned it around when Tomas Rosicky and Bacary Sagna were involved in some fine build up play, which saw the Czech international stabbing home from close range. Theo Walcott, who looked out of confidence and form, over the past few weeks, redeemed himself with a brace, as Arsenal sealed an emphatic 5-2 win over their biggest rivals. London was still red.

Arsenal traveled to Liverpool next. The Merseysiders won a penalty when Luis Suarez made most of a Szczesny tackle, to win his side a penalty. Dirk Kuyt’s penalty was saved, and so was his rebound. But, the Reds always looked dangerous and had the lead, when Jordan Henderson’s cross was turned in by Koscielny. Completely against the run of play, van Persie headed in the equalizer. An enthralling match followed, with Liverpool looking the most likely to score. However, it was not to be as Alex Song’s fantastic long ball, and van Persie’s fine volleyed finish saw Arsenal escaping from Anfield with 3 points.

Another Dutch masterclass!

Arsenal welcomed AC Milan to the Emirates, this time on a proper football pitch. Many had already written off the Gunners’ chances, even before the game had started, as a 4-0 lead seemed insurmountable. Or so it seemed. A much weaker Arsenal side had the lead, when Laurent Koscielny headed in a Chamberlain corner. Arsenal were attacking in full flow and defending their hearts out, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain looking bright in midfield. It was 2-0 when Tomas Rosicky’s low shot went past Abbiati. The Emirates went up in raptures, and the world in disbelief when Robin van Persie’s penalty made it 3-0 at half time. However, that was that. Despite the best efforts of the Gunners, Milan held on, aided slightly by the referee, to progress 4-3 on aggregate. But, they had made us proud with a gutsy performance.

By now, Arsenal were out of all competitions, and all that was left to play for was 3rd place in the Premier League. One of the contenders for that was Newcastle, who were the next opponents in the league, at home. Hatem ben Arfa opened the scoring for the visiting side, on 14 minutes, only for van Persie to equalize 30 seconds later. Despite the best efforts of the Gunners, and an exciting midfield tussle between Alex Song and Cheik Tiote, there was no breakthrough. van Persie had some skirmishes with his compatriot Tim Krul, and the Gunner had the last laugh when Thomas Vermaelen bombed forward to slot home the winner in the 95th minute.

Vermaelen would go on to score another winner in the very next game, a narrow 1-0 win over Everton. Arsenal, by now were the in-form side in the league, and trounced Aston Villa 3-0 at the Emirates. However, the run of 7 wins abruptly came to a halt when they lost 2-1 to a determined QPR at Loftus Road. This disappointment was soon put behind, in the next game. Title chasing Manchester City arrived at the Emirates, knowing that a loss would mean they would be 8 points behind champions Manchester United. Mario Balotelli escaped punishment, for his tackle on Alex Song early on. After that it was all Arsenal. City didn’t get a single shot on target the entire game, but Arsenal, too weren’t able to make the breakthrough. It finally arrived in the 86th minute, when Mikel Arteta unleashed a thunderbolt past Joe Hart. Balotelli was sent off late on.

Arsenal kept up with a 3-0 win at Wolves, but were to lose their very next game at home to a miserly Wigan 2-1. Chelsea arrived next at the Emirates, ahead of their 2nd leg clash with Barcelona at the Nou Camp in the Champions League semi-finals. Both sides took a cautious approach to the game, which ended in a boring goalless draw. Arsenal travelled to Stoke next up, who took the lead through a towering Peter Crouch header, but van Persie equalized off a smart Rosicky cross. Despite dominating, Arsenal had to contend with only a point. The Gunners played out a start-stop entertaining fixture with Norwich City, next. Yossi Benayoun scored in as early as the 2nd minute, but poor defending allowed Norwich to take the lead on 27 minutes. Arsenal attacked and attacked, but with no end product, though they finally got their reward on 72 minutes, when van Persie took in a Song cross in his stride, to bring the scores level. And he looked to have gotten 3 points when he scored again 10 minutes to later, to fire the team into a 3-2 lead. But, more poor defending, allowed Norwich to equalize.

Tottenham and Newcastle had dropped points elsewhere, which meant that Arsenal still had it in their hands when they travelled to West Brom on the final day of the season, needing a win to seal 3rd spot. They have never done it the easy way, and they din’t, this time as well. Despite Martin Fulop gifting Yossi Benayoun the opener, West Brom were 2-1 up after 15 minutes. Andre Santos scored in the 31st minute to level matters, thanks again to Martin Fulop, who really should have done better with the shot. Fulop’s nightmarish afternoon got worse, when he mishandled the ball off a corner, allowing Koscielny to pounce and score the winner in the 54th minute. Some nervy defending and a last ditch block late on saw 3rd place secured.

The club also bid farewell to a long serving individual, at the club, Pat Rice, who had devoted 44 years of his life to the Gunners.

It is been a tumultuous season, with so many highs and so many lows. The 8-2 mauling will hurt forever, but the joy of thrashing Chelsea, Tottenham and Milan will always be some happy moments to remember this season by.

All we can say, as Gooners, like Nick Hornby, is “There’s always next season!”.

Summary:

Premier League – 3rd place

FA Cup – 5th Round

Carling Cup – Quarter-Finals

Champions League – Round of 16

Top Scorer – Robin van Persie (37 goals in all competitions)

 
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Posted by on June 6, 2012 in Season Reviews

 

2010-2011 Season Review – Heartbreakingly Close

Well, here’s my last season review. The 2010-2011 season, another topsy-turvy season, full of memories, both good, bad and the ugly.

Arsene Wenger was, again, characteristically quiet in the transfer market. The only signings were the prolific Moroccan striker Marrouane Chamakh on a free transfer and French defenders Laurent Koscielny from Lorient and Sebastien Squillaci from Sevilla for a combined fee of £12 million. Koscielny had seen a meteoric rise through French football, having played for Guingamp in Ligue 3 and Tours FC in Ligue 2, very recently.

Arsenal’s 3 most experienced defenders had left the club. William Gallas made a switch down North London with rivals Cunty Spuds, Sol Campbell moved to Newcastle and Mikael Silvestre joined German side Werder Bremen. Phillipe Senderos too made a cross-London switch to Fulham. Striker Eduardo left for Shakhthar Donetsk to play more frequent first-team football. Highly talented, but struck with a fatal injury in 2008, Eduardo was never able to reach his previous heights nor regain his old touch.

Arsenal’s first game was Liverpool at Anfield in the league, and not a Champions League qualifier, as they had finished 3rd the previous season. Chamakh and Koscielny both debuted for Arsenal and so did Joe Cole, all three of them making the headlines, the next day. While Cole got sent off for a tackle on Koscielny, Koscielny himself was on the receiving end of the ref’s marching orders. The 10 men battled and took the lead through David N’gog, and Arsenal’s patience finally paid off as Chamakh’s diverted shot was bundled home by Pepe Reina.

It’s a howler!! 

Arsenal’s intentions were clearly there to be seen as they thrashed newcomers Blackpool 6-0, Theo Walcott claiming a hat-trick. Chamakh was impressive in the opening games, creating space for midfielders to spray in balls, with his hold-up play. He scored against Blackpool as well as against Bolton in a 4-1 win.

Baptism of fire for the new boys!

Braga, like Blackpool too were hit for a 6 as a rampant Arsenal started their Champions League campaign in ruthless fashion. Fabregas and Carlos Vela both bagged a brace apiece, while Chamakh and Arshavin added to the goals.

After Blackpool, it’s Braga’s turn! 

The winning start was halted at the Stadium of Light, against Sunderland. Fabregas had scored the luckiest of goals as his shot deflected off Anton Ferdinand to lob over Mignolet. Arsenal should have won this game, but Tomas Rosicky blazed his penalty over. Darren Bent made the Gunners pay with a 95th minute equaliser.

And the following Tuesday, Cunty Spuds hosted Arsenal in the League Cup. Henri Lansbury had scored the opener in the 15th minute. Spuds fought back hard to equalise in the 49th minute, but Arsenal took stranglehold of the game as Samir Nasri converted two penalties in extra-time, and Andrey Arshavin rounded off the scoring in the 105th minute, for yet another win at Shit Fart Lane.

The local boys Lansbury, Gibbs and Wilshere! 

Days later, Arsenal were bought back down to earth by West Bromwich Albion. West Brom were clinical, while Arsenal were wasteful, as they took a 3-0 lead by 73 minutes. Two goals by Samir Nasri weren”t enough to prevent a 2-3 home loss. A 2-0 loss at Stamford Bridge, against Chelsea followed, with Alex scoring a scorcher. (Why does everyone reserve their best against us?)

Birmingham were beaten 2-1 at the Emirates, with goals from Chamakh and Nasri, and big-spending Manchester City were beaten in their own backyard 3-0, despite playing a makeshift defence of Squillaci and Johann Djourou, against the likes of Carlos Tevez and David Silva. Nasri and Fabregas were brilliant throughout. Shakhthar were thrashed 5-1 at the Emirates, as the Gunners made it 14 goals in just 3 Champions League games.

Newcastle were eliminated 4-0 in the League Cup, Walcott helping himself to two more. Arsenal battled hard against West Ham, before Alex Song popped up with a 88th minute winner.

1-0 to the Arsenal!!And that’s how we like it!! 

But Arsenal’s form graph had more curves than Jennifer Lopez. They lost 2-1 in Ukraine to Shakhthar Donetsk, old boy Eduardo scoring the winner, but not celebrating. And Newcastle piled misery, escaping with a 1-0 win, the was-to-be £35 million man Andy Carroll scoring the winner.

Chamakh built on his impressive form, scoring 2 against Wolves at the Molineux, one in the first minute, and the next in the very last. And more away points were secured at the Goodison in a 2-1 win.It was around this time the blasted cable operator decided to remove ESPN-Star Sports and replace it with the greatest Ranji Trophy matches between Baroda and Mumbai, with the introduction of Neo Cricket and Neo Sports. Boy, the only spectators for these games were the batting team, the TV umpires and the ground staff. What a goofball.

I was so desperate for watching the North London derby, I dialled up half the people in my contacts to find out who was getting ESPN or anyone who would be streaming the game. Finally, Prajwal Pai responded positively. After lots of waiting, I finally got to his house to discover his cable operator, too, had just removed the channels.This was turning into a nightmare. We followed the game via BBC live text. Soon, Arsenal were 2-0 up by 28 minutes and in total control. I could never imagine what was to transpire in the second half. Gareth Bale scored one in the 50th minute, before Rafael van der Vaart equalised in the 67th minute through a penalty. And we decided to stream the last 5 minutes. The first thing we saw was Younes Kaboul heading Cunty Spuds into the lead in the 86th minute. We had lost a home North London derby after ages.

Despite rare occurances, this should be made illegal!

If that was not enough, Arsenal were beaten 2-0 in Portugal by Braga, the same team that we had decimated 6-0 few days earlier, which meant a win was necessary to book progress to the next round. On this form, I would have expected Arsenal to capitulate at Villa Park, but a brilliant and much-sought win was secured. Arsenal won 4-2 and Arshavin scored a peach.

Villa dispatched! 

Jack Wilshere was brilliant all season for Arsenal Though short and lightly built, he was a wonderful schemer and acute in midfield. It was just like watching Andres Iniesta in action. How Arsenal needed a pass master. And what’s more, he was just 19. He was not one to be daunted to make or take a tackle. A legend in the making, and something that Arsenal were looking for a long time.

3 important points were chalked up Fulham were beaten  2-1 at home, which was won all thanks to the brilliance of Samir Nasri. He scored the first, dancing past Fulham’s defence. Diomansy Kamara equalised, but a flash of genius from Nasri in the 75th minute won the game. He dinked the ball past a crowded defence to slot home the winner. Partizan Belgrade, too, were beaten 3-1, as van Persie announced his return from injury by scoring a penalty.

Samir puts his dancing boots on! 

Arsenal travelled to Old Trafford for their next fixture, and third-choice goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny was called into action. The game was quite a rash affair, and Park Ji-Sung scored the only goal of the game in the 41st minute. Szczesny was called into action quite a number of times and the Pole made a good account of himself. Arsenal were now 2 points behind Manure, having played a game more.

The form graph saw an upward curve as Arsenal hosted Chelsea. The cable operator, thankfully, decided to  put ESPN for some time, and I got to watch this game. Arsenal were all over Chelsea, just like the home fans were over Cashley Cole. The Gunners dominated and were 3-0 up in 54 minutes; Song, Fabregas and Walcott helping themselves to goals. The game ended 3-1, and it seemed Arsenal were there or thereabouts in the title race.

Destroyers-in-chief! 

Sebastien Squillaci seemed to be putting himself in a long line of legendary Arsenal defenders such as Ian Ure, Gus Caesar, Igor Stepanovs, Nelson Vivas and Pascal ‘Zinedine’ Cygan as his own goal against Wigan Athletic would prove. Arsenal’s bogey team, Birmingham were beaten 3-0, with a great free-kick from Robin van Persie. I despised Birmingham City. They played crappy football and one of them injured one of us so badly, it almost ruined a promising career.  Not only did they derail us that campaign, they played a big part in this season as well.

January bought in some much needed Cup respite, as well as uneeded Cup replays. Leeds United were held to a draw by a 90th minute Fabregas penalty. It would have been a shock result, had Leeds held on, exactly a year after Leeds had ousted Manure at the same stage. Ipswich Town beat Arsenal 1-0 in a terrible game in the League Cup semi-final.

In the league, Robin van Persie was just starting a phenomenal year by warming up against West Ham, where he scored a brace and Wigan, where he hit a hat-trick. He also scored at Elland Road, in a 3-1 win, to secure passage to the next round, while Ipswich too were duly rounded 3-0 at the Emirates. Arsenal were in contention for all 4 trophies, at this stage, or were they?

Robin scores a hat-trick! 

Fabregas scored another face-saving penalty against Huddersfield Town in the FA Cup, to help the Gunners avoid another replay in an already piling fixture list, while Koscielny headed in a priceless 75th minute header against Everton to secure 3 points for the Gunners.

Another one of those penalties! 

The game of the season, the game of the century. Call it what you may, for me it was the most dreadful match any Gunner could have endured. Arsenal were rampant in the first half, and raced to a 4-0 lead in the 26th minute, van Persie scoring 2. It looked like Arsenal could run a cricket score here. Then, everything started going haywire. Abou Diaby and Joey Barton got involced in a scuffle, for which the former was sent off for lashing out at latter. The latter then scored a penalty some time later. It was 4-1. Surely, 3 goals were too much to ask for a team who had sold off their prized asset. Two minutes later, Kevin Nolan scored, and Leon Best’s goal made it 4-3 with 15 minutes to go. Just when it seemed Arsenal would see off all this Newcastle pressure, some bloke called Cheik Tiote fired in the ball from planet Pluto, and BAM, it was 4-4 in no time. Arsenal had missed a glorious opportunity to go 2 points behind leaders Manure. (Seriously, why do they reserve their best for Arsenal?)

That goal! 😦

The game of the season was actually played 11 days later at the Emirates. Arsenal had again drawn Barcelona, this time in the knockout stage. Barcelona were reigning supreme in the world of football. None of the games they played, they had less than 70% possession. In Lionel Messi, they had the world’s best player, in Xavi and Iniesta, two gnome-sized superhumans, and in David Villa, one of the most lethal strikers in Europe. In defence, they boasted the likes of Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique, who were the World-Cup winning defence, and a steady goalkeeper in Victor Valdes. All in all, they had the team that Planet Earth would put out, would there be an intergalactic football tournament. Moreover, they were bristling with confidence. They had won 16 games on the bounce in La Liga, and 4 days before the Arsenal tie, they had shockingly drawn Sporting Gijon.

And Arsenal?Well, they were the only team on the planet that would throw away leads of 4-0 and end up drawing the match. They were without their best defender Thomas Vermaelen. But there was more to it. Arsenal had guts. They were never fazed by better opposition, like the 05-06 European run would show, where a second string side beat the likes of Real Madrid, Juventus and Villarreal. Were Barcelona next in line?

They may be good, they may be great; but they can never beat our strongest, 11 on 11!

I had been waiting for the game in excitement ever since the draw was made. It was a very tense affair from the start as both teams were trying to get the better of the other. Both had very similar styles of play, trying to keep maximum possession of the ball. One certain man who stood out, was Arsenal’s own gnome-sized midfielder, the immensely talented Jack Wilshere. Up against a formidable midfield of Iniesta, Xavi and Sergio Busquets, Arsenal’s trio of Nasri, Fabregas and Wilshere were holding their own in an enthralling combat. Both teams created a flurry of chances. Arsenal’s fantastic start in the opening minutes was soon countered by Barca’s ability to keep the ball. Messi sent Villa through and he obliged with the opening goal of the match. I am sure all Gooners around the world were thinking ‘Here we go again’. But there was no stopping Arsenal. They kept probing Barca’s defence, even as Messi was guilty of closing out the tie. When it seemed it would end 1-0, Robin van Persie found himself facing Valdes in the narrowest of angles, and he let in a shot past him, that Valdes would have rued missing. The stadium erupted as the scoreboard read Arsenal 1 Barcelona 1. And 7 minutes later, Nasri was through on the right flank. He waited as van Persie and Arshavin entered play. Nasri sent the ball through to Arshavin, who precisely slotted home the goal of his life. Arsenal had just done the impossible, beating FC Barcelona fair and square. Absolute pandemonium erupted around the Emirates. Dani Alves had a chance later on, but somehow was kept out. As the final whistle blew, there was unparalleled joy. I was jumping around the living room. That was one unforgettable game of football.

Yes, that was cheeky Robin 

It’s that Russian again!!! 

Barca f*cked! 

From the heights of beating Barcelona in the biggest stage of all, Arsenal travelled down London, to Brisbane Road, to play lower league Leyton Orient in the 4th Round of the FA Cup. Tomas Rosicky’s strike seemed to have settled matters, before Orient equalized in the dying moments of the game, to force another replay. Beating Barcelona one moment and drawing Leyton Orient the next. Being an Arsenal fan is not for the faint-hearted.

Having gone 6 seasons without a trophy, the Carling Cup final against Birmingham at Wembley seemed the perfect setting to win silverware. Arsenal were without Fabregas and Walcott, who had been injured in a 1-0 win over Stoke Rugby team 3 days prior. I was with great expectation, to see Arsenal finally get their hands of the cup. Nikola Zigic, a giant of a striker headed Birmingham into the lead. But, Arsenal’s pressure finally told as Robin van Persie equalized, injuring him in the process, though he continued to play. Ben Foster became the  goalkeeper for ‘Team Earth’ for a day as he kept out all of Arsenal’s shots, from Nasri, Arshavin, van Persie and Bendtner. In the 89th minute, calamity. Szczesny seemed to be taking control of the ball, as Koscielny waited for him to retrieve it. But, for some reason, he didn’t. The ball rolled to Obafemi Martins, in front of an empty net. He obliged and tapped home the winner. It was too late for the Gunners to muster a response and Birmingham had snatched the cup from Arsenal. I just couldn’t speak after the game, I was so distraught. As Wilshere and Co. climbed the steps to take their runners-up medals, I just wondered what would have been.

More cup-final heatbreak! 😦

Days later, Arsenal responded with a 5-0 thrashing of Leyton Orient. Bendtner got a hat-trick. But the biggest test was to hold on to a 2-1 lead against Barcelona at the Nou Camp. Arsenal defended resolutely throughout the first half, but all hard work was undone as Lionel Messi made most of a Fabregas mistake to slot past Almunia. The score was 2-2 on aggregate, but the Catalans would go though on away goals. Barca were rampant in the first half, creating chance after chance. Arsenal could hardly get the ball past the halfway line. But, Samir Nasri’s corner was deflected in by Sergio Busquets for an own goal, and it seemed Arsenal would wriggle through somehow. It was completely against the run of play and undeserved. But no Gunner cared. But, from there, it all spiraled down. One of the most horrendous decisions by a ref, saw Robin van Persie being sent off. He was in an offside position when the referee blew, and kicked the ball 0.95 seconds after the whistle. Plus, the noise of over 90,000 fans in the stadium. The referee sent him off. It seemed like Barca had the ref’s favoring them again. There was no stopping them after that. Xavi scored soon after that and Messi converted a spot-kick to send Barca through. Jack Wilshere sent Niklas Bendtner through, in the dying moments, and had he scored, Arsenal would have gone through. But, I am pretty sure, every Arsenal fan in the world knew he wouldn’t. He didn’t. It ended Barcelona 3-1 Arsenal.

The worst decision in the history of the sport! 😦

It’s over, at the Nou Camp, again! 😦

4 days later, Arsenal faced another mountain to climb. Manchester United away in the 6th round of the FA Cup. Arsenal enjoyed lion’s share of the possession, but Fabio’s goal in the 28th and Rooney’s in the 49th meant Arsenal were knocked out of their third competition in 2 weeks. The season was deteriorating and fast.

More misery in the cup! 😦

And again, the Premier League was the last frontier of possible silverware. West Brom, who had already beaten the Gunners were 2-0 up at the Hawthorns, and an exit from a 4th competition in the space of 25 days seemed imminent. Andrey Arshavin rose to the occasion and let in a brilliant goal, before van Persie wriggled the ball past the goal-line. Blackburn held the Gunners to a goalless draw at the Emirates, to leave Arsenal 7 points off the pace, with a game in hand.

Jens Lehmann was the answer to Arsenal’s goalkeeping injury woes, as he made a return against Blackpool in the league. Arsenal won 3-1 to keep the gap the same, with a game against United still to come. The game in hand was against Liverpool, who visited the Emirates next. There was talk about Liverpool letting the Gunners win, as that was the only way they could prevent United from reaching the 19th title, and breaking Liverpool’s record of 18. Jamie Carragher suffered an injury, and it resulted in treatment on the pitch for nearly 8 minutes. I was on a return journey from Bangalore and was depending on my friends’ text updates for live scores. When the 90th minute came, with the game still goalless, I knew it was all over. But then, I got the news that van Persie had converted a 98th minute penalty to hand Arsenal the lead in a must-win game. I didn’t bother touching my cell for the next 10 minutes or so. I was so confident that there was no coming back for Liverpool after this. The next thing I saw on my cell was Arsenal 1-1 Liverpool. Dirk Kuyt had scored a penalty in the 102nd minute. It struck me, Arsenal had no luck.

Kuyt strikes home Manure’s 19th title!

An exciting North London derby was up next. Both teams were treating it like a dead rubber and a fun tie. But, it was end-to-end stuff, with the game ending 3-3. Tottenham could have added to Arsenal’s misery, but Szczesny’s safe pair of hands denied them the chance. Instead, it went to Bolton Wanderers. Tamir Cohen’s 90th minute header effectively ended the title challenge. Arsenal were now 9 points off the pace, with 4 games to go.

That’s that..

Aaron Ramsey scored the only goal against Manchester United, as Arsenal closed the gap for Chelsea to 3 points, giving them hope, if not us, to win the league. Alas, for Liverpool, Manchester United went on to win their 19th title as Arsenal’s fans endured 2 more defeats; away to Stoke and home to Aston Villa.

Finally something to smile about 

Only a 89th minute Walcott goal avoided a 3rd straight end of the season run of losses against Fulham. Arsenal slipped to 4th, below Manchester City.

From being genuine contenders in 4 competitions at one stage, to the agony of getting knocked out of all in quick succession was a bitter pill to follow.

But, our time will come. It has to. I believe in the Arsenal. C’Mon you Gooners!!

Jai Arsenal 🙂

Summary:

Premier League – 4th place

FA Cup – 6th Round

Carling Cup – Runners-Up

Champions League – Round of 16

Top Scorer – Robin van Persie (22 goals in all competitions)

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2011 in Season Reviews

 

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2009-2010 Season Review – More Unfinished Business

A long pre-season over, a fresh new challenge awaited the Gunners, as they embarked upon another roller coaster ride, in what was to be the 2009-2010 season. Coming close on many fronts over the last few seasons had left everyone frustrated and here was a chance for Arsenal to redeem themselves.

Surprisingly, the only major signing was the Belgian centre-back Thomas Vermaelen. Emmanuel Adebayor had left for wads of cash. He was to later change his name to Emoneyuel Greedybayor. Kolo Toure left after examplary service to the club. Both had the same destination, Moneybags City.

The campaign started away to Everton. Arsenal had to endure a tough opening match of the season. Or was it?The Gunners completely dismantled the Toffees 6-1. The rout was started by Denilson in the 26th minute with a long-range screamer. And by half-time, 2 more goals were added as debutant defender Thomas Vermaelen headed in one and his defensive partner William Gallas also netted. And in the second half, Arsenal’s dream start continued as Fabregas netted a brace, celebrating the second by displaying a jersey with the name of his friend, and late Espanyol defender Daniel Jarque. Eduardo completed the rout before Louis Saha scored a consolation.

Big Belgian, Little Belgian!! 

Arsenal seemed to be on a goal-scoring spree as they qualified fir the Champions League group stages yet again, when they beat Scottish team Celtic 5-1 on aggregate, and Portsmouth 4-1 in the league.

However, that was that, as Arsenal faced a daunting trip to Eastlands to face both the Manchester clubs in the league. Old Trafford was the first stop, and Arsenal seemed to be on top of their rivals for most of the match, despite an early chance for Wayne Rooney. The young side created a flurry of chances, before Darren Fletcher bough down Andrei Arshavin for ‘what-should-have-been’ a penalty. But the referee didn’t oblige. Moments later, Arshavin found the ball in a perfect shooting position and let in a scorcher to hand the Gunners a 1-0 lead going into half-time. The second half started in the same frantic manner as the first had started. Wayne Rooney converted a penalty in the 59th and minutes later, Arsenal undid all their hard work as Abou Diaby headed in a disastrous own goal. A late deserved equaliser by Robin van Persie was denied by the referee.

Arshavin scores a belter!!

Manchester City were aiming to be the new force in the Premier League, with new investments coming in from the Abu Dhabi group. They had already priced away Emmanuel Adebayor and Kolo Toure from the Emirates for a combined fee of £41 million. And other high-profile signings included strikers Carlos Tevez and Roque Santa Cruz, midfielder Gareth Barry and defender Jolean Lescott, all of whom were attracted by nothing but riches. The game, in itself was an enthralling affair, with van Persie’s fine strike levelling the scores at 1-1 in the 63rd minute. Moments later, Bellamy made it 2-1 to City before Emmanuel Adebayor made himself Arsenal’s public enemy No.1. He scored in the 80th minute and ran the length of the entire pitch and overcelebrated in front of the Arsenal faithful. He was also involved in a moment with van Persie, when he stamped the latter on purpose. However, it went unnoticed and Arsenal were beaten 4-2.

Days later, Arsenal found themselves 2-0 down in Belgium in less than 6 minutes and it seemed like Arsenal were disintegrating too early. However, Niklas Bendtner equalised on the stroke of half-time, and a 78th minute equaliser by Vermaelen in his homeland was soon added on to, by a 81st minute winner from Eduardo to complete a 3-2 turnaround.

The comeback is complete!! 

Vermaelen was proving to be somewhat of a hidden centre-forward as he crashed in 2 goals against Wigan in a 4-0 triumph, the second a belter from outside the box.Blackburn were given a sound 6-2 thrashing, in a game featuring another Vermaelen screamer, after being 2-1 down at one stage.

A centre forward in disguise!

Arsenal dropped 2 points away to West Ham with a late Allesandro Diamanti penalty and days later a youthful team eliminated Liverpool from the League Cup, young Spaniard Francisco Merida, scoring a wonderful goal.

The first North London derby turned out to be a mismatch, as Arsenal beat Cunty Spuds 3-0. Fabregas embarrassed the Spurs defence, in the 43rd minute, who were kicking off after van Persie had scored the first. He took the ball of them and ran half the pitch, beating everyone in his wake to score the 2nd goal of the evening.

Spuds drubbed again!! 

Meanwhile, Eduardo was in scintillating form as he forced two own goals at Wolves in a 4-1 win. However, the run ended there as the next two league games ended in defeats, first a 1-0 loss at Sunderland, and then a home loss to a marauding Didier Drogba-inspired Chelsea. More humiliation was heaped upon as a young team were beaten 3-0 by Manchester City in the League Cup.

Arshavin re-announced himself at Anfield, months after his 4-goal display, as he scored a brilliant goal in a 2-1 win. Dirk Kuyt had scored the first for Liverpool, before Glen Johnson deflected one into his own net for Arsenal’s equalizer. It saw a reverse in Arsenal’s league fortunes, as they picked up vital wins against Hull City, Aston Villa and Portsmouth. 2 late goals from Ramsey and Eduardo saw off West Ham in the FA Cup.

Gerrard-‘What have we ever done to you, you mean mean Russian?’ 

Arsenal hosted Everton in what was one of the few matches around the country that weekend, due to heavy snowfall. Most matches had been cancelled, and it seemed even this would have been. However, brilliant work from the groundsmen ensured the match would go ahead as scheduled. And it seemed Everton would make most of Arsenal’s defensive frailties when Steven Piennar handed them the lead in the 81st minute. But, Tomas Rosicky’s late goal secured a point. Bolton were then beaten 2-0 and 4-2 in successive games.

Arsenal welcomed back experienced defender Sol Campbell on a short deal to the Emirates. He had made 195 appearances in his first spell from 2001 to 2006, winning two league titles and the FA Cup thrice. He moved on to Portsmouth where he won another FA Cup winner’s medal in 2008. He made an unsuccessful move to lower league Notts County, breaking his contract after just 1 match. He returned to Arsenal’s training base to keep fit and was offered a short term deal. He made his debut in a 3-1 loss to Stoke City, which saw the Gunners exit the FA Cup.

31st January 2010 is a date I don’t remember fondly. It was the day before the new semester began in college, and I was in the hostel to watch Arsenal host Manchester United in the league. Giving me company were around 30 glory hunters. I am sure not even 5 of them could name Manure’s starting lineup. United were 1 point ahead of the Gunners coming into this one. Every Manure goal was cheered loudly by these chums, who didn’t know shit about the sport. Anyways, Arsenal disappointingly lost 3-1.

Even this goal was to no avail, in the worst match ever!

Arsenal were haunted again by an Ivorian demon called Didier Drogba, going down 2-0 at Stamford Bridge. By now, Arsenal had fallen well behind in the title race, 9 points adrift of their Chelsea neighbors.Abou Diaby bought back some cheer as he scored the only goal in the 71st minute in a game against Liverpool.

Sol Campbell scored his last goal in the Champions League in that fateful night in Paris against Barcelona. He scored again in the Champions League Knockout stage game against FC Porto of Portugal, with the scoreline reading a 2-1 loss to Arsenal. 10 days later Arsenal travelled to Stoke, only to face a team that had been trained to play in the Rugby league. Ryan Shawcross’ wild lunge broke young Aaron Ramsey’s tibula and fibia (in short, the leg). It was another horrific injury Arsenal had suffered. I can still remember that moment, when Ramsey lie there in dire pain, calling out for the physio for help. It was another Eduardo moment, and the Gunners covered their face with their hands, not able to comprehend the injury. But, it was not to be a Birmingham as Arsenal proved their mettle with two goals in stoppage time from Fabregas and Vermaelen to secure a 3-1 win.

Ramsey’s horrific injury..

The team celebrate a resurgent win!! 

In the home game against Burnley, posters in support of Aaron Ramsey adorned the stadium, with the Gunners emerging 3-1 winners. 3 days later, Arsenal turned on the style in Europe. Down 2-1 from the first leg, Arsenal saw themselves leading 2-0 after just 25 minutes, with both goals being scored by the heavily-criticized Dane Niklas Bendtner. The 63rd minute saw the lead being extended to 3 goals, as Samir Nasri beat a host of defenders, and proving he can step up to the role of Cesc Fabregas, to score a peach. Emmanuel Eboue scored in the 66th, before Bendtner completed his hat-trick with a stoppage time penalty.

Bendtner and Nasri, brilliant against Porto!! 

A trip to the KC Stadium proved to be fruitful, as Bendtner turned out to be the match-winner to secure a 2-1 win with a really late strike. This still kept Arsenal in the title hunt. Arsenal were 2nd, level on points with leaders Chelsea at 64 points, and a point ahead of United, having played a game more.

Bendtner’s 90th minute goal!! 

After beating West Ham 2-0 at home, Arsenal failed to go just 1 point behind leaders Chelsea after being denied a win at St. Andrews, thanks to a late Kevin Phillips equaliser. And, Arsenal were still going strong in Europe and had been drawn to a formidable Barcelona team. While Barcelona were near full-strength, Arsenal were still without first-choice striker Robin van Persie. A half-fit Fabregas led Arsenal into the match.

Barcelona were completely dominant in the first half, and only a resolute Manuel Almunia kept them at bay, as he pulled off a flurry of saves. To Arsenal’s misfortune, they suffered two more injuries as Gallas and Arshavin were substituted before half-time, with the lesser-experienced and lesser-talented Denilson and Eboue. Barca made most of it, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored the first a minute after the second half started. He rocked Arsenal again 13 minutes later to double the advantage. It seemed all was over for Arsenal that season in Europe. Just then, Theo Walcott fired in Arsenal’s first in the 69th minute to provide a glimmer of hope. As Barca huffed and puffed to hold on to the precious lead, Carles Puyol bought down fellow Catalan Cesc Fabregas in the box and was sent off. Fabregas converted and made it 2-2, but by now he was limping in pain, and played the last 10 minutes without complaining. The match ended 2-2, leaving the Gunners a mountain to climb at the Nou Camp.

El Capitan wins and scores the equaliser! Legend!

Back in the league, Wolves provided stiff opposition, only for Bendtner to pop up with a valuable winner in the 94th minute, the very dying embers of the game. This win kept them 3 points behind the leaders Chelsea, with 5 games to go.

Bendtner to the rescue again!!

Camp Nou was the setting of the beginning of the end. A Messi masterclass. In the 18th minute, Walcott sent Bendtner through. The Dane missed, but scored off the rebound. I remember that goal. I was so mad at Bendtner, I would have killed him if he were next to me. But, he redeemed himself seconds later. Arsenal were 1-0 up at the Nou Camp. That joy was shortlived as 3 minutes later, Barca were level through that superhuman Lionel Messi. By half-time, it was all but over as Messi scored two more to hand the Catalans a 3-1 lead. The second half was more a regulation, and Messi rounded off with his 4th of the night in the 88th minute. A weak Arsenal had been thoroughly beaten.

A Messi masterclass! 😦

Arsenal’s last shot at silverware was the league, and nothing short of 15 points in the next 5 games would give the chance for Arsenal to life silverware. First stop, Shit Fart Lane, in a forgettable North London derby. It was the day when some cunt called Danny Rose decided to be Ronaldinho for a second. His blazing shot from planet Saturn was unstoppable. Soon enough, in the 47th minute, Spurs doubled their advantage through Welsh winger Gareth Bale. Robin van Persie made a comeback after a long injury layoff in the 68th minute, but was denied a goal on several ocassions by Gomes, who decided he would be Oliver Kahn for 25 minutes. Bendtner’s 85th minute goal was just a consolation, as Arsenal created a 6 points gap between them and the leaders.

Some pride was restored at the DW Stadium, as Arsenal took an unassailable 2-0 lead against Wigan. Or it was, I thought. Wigan heaped heartbreak over the Gunners, with 3 goals in the final 10 minutes, to snatch a 3-2 win. In this game, Charles N’Zogbia decided he had Roberto Carlos’ left foot. The title race was over for Arsenal.

Dejection! 😦

Another loss awaited at Ewood Park, before a final day home win over Fulham meant a 3rd place finish and no trophies to show for.

Chokers?Goners?’Throw away your chances’ team?Well, all of it were terms branded by the media over Arsenal, as the club completed their 5th season without a major trophy.

Well, my love for Arsenal?It was the same old, boundless.

Jai Arsenal 🙂

Summary:

Premier League – 3rd place

FA Cup – 4th Round

Carling Cup – 5th Round

Champions League – Quarter Finals

Top Scorer – Cesc Fabregas (19 goals in all competitions)

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2011 in Season Reviews

 

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2008-2009 Season Review – Season of Frustration

Yet another season. More hopes. More pressure. Season 2008-2009 beckoned for a very youthful Gunners side, which had seen much chop and change over the summer.The Invincibles of 5 years back was now reduced to only Kolo Toure and Gael Clichy, as Jens Lehmann and Gilberto Silva left Arsenal.

Jens Lehmann was somewhat of a cult hero at Arsenal. For all his antics, he was a brilliant custodian. He was immaculate in the 2003-2004 season, and anyone remember the 2005 FA Cup Final, where he single handedly won the trophy! But of course, he had his occasional hiccups, none bigger than the 2006 Champions League Final, where he got sent off, as Arsenal crashed to a 2-1 defeat. Gilberto was the lynchpin of the midfield ever since the departure of Patrick Vieira. He was ever-reliable with his penalties and his tackles, and often scored crucial goals for the Gunners.

Mathieu Flamini and Alexander Hleb descended into footballing wilderness as they moved to AC Milan and Barcelona, supposedly to win silverware, but ended up heating benches on cold nights across Italy and Spain.

Meanwhile, Arsenal dived into the market as the compulsory French recruitment policy was fulfilled with the arrival of Marseille starlet Samir Nasri for £12 million. And there were some local cheer, as North London born and bred Jack Wilshere signed a proffesional contract. More young blood arrived in the form of Wales midfielder Aaron Ramsey, who rejected the advances of Manchester United, and Mexican striker Carlos Vela.

Arsenal started their league campaign as they ripped apart newcomers West Brom 1-0, with debutant Nasri scoring after 4 minutes, before themselves being on the receiving end of a 1-0 drubbing at Fulham. FC Twente were dispatched 6-0 on aggregate as Arsenal entered another season of the Champions League group stages.

Newcastle and Blackburn, beaten 3-0 and 4-0; Arsenal made the long trip to eastern Europe to face Dynamo Kiev;in a game which saw the Kiev left back (I forgot his name, ended with -ev for sure! ) trying to chop down Walcott’s legs. William Gallas scored a late equaliser to secure a 1-1 draw.

An astonishingly young Arsenal side took to the field against Sheffield United in the Carling Cup. The average age of the 18 man squad was just 18.5 years, and they showed no stage fear as they hit Sheffield for a 6. Wilshere and Ramsey were a class act in midfield, as Carlos Vela helped himself to a hattrick.

Kids, who? 

The Gunners were bought back down to ground few days later, as they crashed to Hull City 2-1 at the Emirates. Geovanni scored from God knows where, in a really drab evening of football.

Emmanuel Adebayor and Robin van Persie looked the perfect strike partnership for Arsenal, as they were consistently among the goals that season, and they took a share of the spoils as Porto were dumped 4-0 at the Emirates. And the European juggernaut rolled on as Fenerbahce were thrashed 5-2 in Turkey under hostile conditions.

An amazing night in Turkey! 

The game of the season came few days later as Arsenal faced Tottenham in a pulsating derby. Cunty Spuds took the lead as a traitor David Bentley scored a scorcher. But Arsenal hit back, as the centre backs Mikael Silvestre and Gallas helped themselves to a couple of goals. Adebayor scored off a delightful Nasri chip, before Daren Bent made it 3-2. It seemed Arsenal had sealed the points with van Persie’s goal. But Spuds hit back in amazing fashion, in the dying moments. First, Jenas cut in to shoot a curler, before Luka Modric repeated the same trick;only to hit the post in the path of Aaron Lennon, who gleefully tucked the ball home.

“We are the cunty Spuds, we are the cunty spuds!”

More frustration awaited the Gunners, as they went to Stoke, hoping to face a football team, before they were face to face with a proffessional rugby side. Rugby emerged the winner as Stoke won 2-1 and Arsenal emerged out of the Britannia, and headed straight to the local hospital.

The Premier League champions awaited next at the Emirates for Arsenal. And Samir Nasri announced his arrival on the English scene, as he scored two brilliant goals to hand Arsenal a 2-0 lead. I remember watching the game with one of my best buddies Samarth Kodial, a Manchut in every sense of the word. Rafael scored minutes from time, but Arsenal held their nerve and mine as they clinched the game 2-1.

Nasri does the double over United!! 

And when it seemed the United game was a sign of things to come, Aston Villa emerged 2-0 victors day later at the Emirates.It could have been worse, but for a penalty save by Manuel Almunia. Worse came days later as a Robinho-inspired Manchester City brushed aside the Gunners 3-0 at Eastlands.

The troubled times saw a shift of captaincy as Arsene Wenger decided to strip William Gallas of captaincy and midfield maestro Cesc Fabregas was appointed the skipper. And in other news, Niklas Bendtner revealed his metrosexual side, as he flashed his pink boots to score in a win over Dynamo Kiev.Soon, a van Persie brace was to bring more joy to Arsenal as they beat Chelsea 2-1 at Stamford Bridge.

van Persie does the double over Chelsea!! 

Bendtner’s flash of pink!!

The Wenger kids were ousted of the Carling Cup, on a cold December night in Lancashire, 2-0 to Burnley, before Emmanuel Eboue was booed off against Wigan, after he gave away the ball countless times, in a 1-0 win. Days later, ex-Gunner Jeremie Aliadiere came back to haunt his former emplyers as he scored the equaliser in a 1-1 draw against Middlesbrough. Liverpool dealt more body blows to Arsenal, escaping with a 1-1 draw, as well as injuring Cesc Fabregas and playing a role in Adebayor’s red card.

With Gallas, Clichy, Rosicky, Fabregas, Walcott, van Persie and Adebayor all facing lengthy spells at the physio’s clinic that season for Arsenal, making you wonder if Arsene would give assistant manager Pat Rice some game time.

Speaking of injuries, Zat Knight dealt an injury time blow to Arsenal’s dwindling title hopes, to level the game at 2-2 at Villa Park. Aston Villa gave Arsenal a long and hard chase for fourth place that season.Twin 1-0 wins over Portsmouth and Bolton kept and a 3-1 revenge win over Hull kept Arsenal afloat.

The big story weeks later would be the signing of Russia’s EURO 2008 star Andrey Arshavin from Zenit St. Petersburg for £15 million. Another big story was the return of Eduardo da Silva, Arsenal’s Brazilian born Croatian striker, against Cardiff City in a FA Cup 4th round replay. He scored twice as the Welsh side were beaten 4-0. And in the Premier League, frustration was mounting as Arsenal were held to 5 draws on the bounce against Everton, West Ham, Tottenham, Sunderland and Fulham, the last 4 being goalless.

Europe provided some respite for Arsenal, as they were handed a tricky tie against AS Roma. The first leg was nervously navigated through 1-0, with a van Persie penalty. And an audacious goal by Eduardo against Burnley meant progress in the FA Cup as well.

Eduardo scores a cracker!! 

However the sternest test of Arsenal’s campaign awaited in the Italian capital, Rome, more precisely the hostile atmosphere of the Stadio Olimpico. Roma, were efficient in attack all night, scoring in the 9th minute through Juan and keeping the pressure throughout, only for a certain Manuel Almunia to thwart all attempts. After extra-time the game went to penalties. Eduardo started the spot-kick saga, and his penalty was saved. Soon, Mirko Vucinic had his pathetic shot saved by Almunia. It was 4-4 after regulation spot-kicks and it went to sudden death. Tension around the stadium was unbearable. And finally came the moment. Max Tonneto aimed for the top corner of the goal, but had his shot land up in row Z, and Arsenal were through in stuttering fashion.

A magnificent night in Rome! 

The gutsy display in Rome was soon converted to a 4-0 thumping of Blackburn Rovers. Arshavin seemed to have scored the first in the 2nd, but it was credited as an Andre Ooijer own goal. But, the diminutive Russian was not to be denied that evening, as he scored an incredible solo goal from the narrowest of angles.

From Russia, with love! 

Hull City provided tougher opposition in the 6th round of the FA Cup, but were beaten 2-1 by a late Gallas header in an ill-tempered game. A poor Newcastle were beaten 3-1 and so were Manchester City 2-0. It set up well for a Champions League quarter final clash with Spanish side Villarreal. 3 years earlier, the El Madrigal had been a scene of joy for the Gunners as a last minute Riquelme penalty was saved and Arsenal went through to face Barcelona in the Champions League final, which they eventually lost.

Villarreal went on the offensive from the word go, eventually taking the lead through a long range effort from Marcos Senna. However, Arsenal went into the second leg with an away goal, as Adebayor scored a brilliant equaliser, completely against the run of play.

Itzzz Addebbbaayyyoorr!!! 

The return of the ‘Yellow Submarines’ saw the return of one of Arsenal’s greatest midfielders ever, Robert Pires. However the pleasantries stopped there. Arsenal were unstoppable that night. Walcott opened the scoring with a delicious flick. And Adebayor doubled the lead, as he scored past Diego Lopez, even inspiring a little hop from Mr. Arsene Wenger. van Persie’s penalty sealed a win and a semi-final showdown with Manchester United.

Wenger performing ‘The Hop’! 

3 days later, Arsenal made the short trip to Wembley, to face London rivals Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-final. Early Arsenal pressure told as Theo Walcott fired the North Londoners into the lead. But, Didier Drogba ghosted upon Arsenal yet again, as he pounced upon a howler from goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski to score with an open net ahead of him.

The game of the season came 3 days later, on a pulsating night in Liverpool, at Anfield. The game was described as a ‘modern classic’. While Liverpool desperately needed 3 points to keep pushing Manchester United for the title, Arsenal weren’t in much desperation for points but a win would effectively seal 4th place. Both teams created a flurry of chances, before Andrei Arshavin opened the scoring in the 36th minute and the Gunners went into half-time with a 1-0 lead. The second half was a completely different animal from the first. Liverpool hit back with two quick goals through Fernando Torres and Yossi Benayoun. Carragher’s poor pass was tracked down by Arshavin and he let in a peach. And moments later, he completed his hat-trick at Anfield after Nasri put him through. The game got more exciting as Torres brilliantly turned to make it 3-3. It seemed all over for Liverpool’s title challenge, as Walcott made most of a weary defence to unleash the beast in Arshavin as he lashed in for his 4th goal of the night in the 90th minute. Liverpool found the last bit of energy to grab an equaliser, but their title tilt was nearly over.

4 of the best from Arshavin! 

Games were coming thick and fast for Arsenal, and after a 3-0 win over Middlesbrough, they made a daunting trip to Old Trafford. The game was one of the dullest I watched, as both teams failed to show up. But, United scored the winner in the 18th minute through John O’Shea. Optimism was high around the Emirates for Arsenal fans, for the second leg. However, soon Park Ji-Sung capitalised on a slip by young Kieran Gibbs in the 8th minute to hand United the lead. You had to feel for the boy. United showed their class, 3 minutes later, as Ronaldo unleashed a rocket of a free-kick. And passage to the final was sealed by Ronaldo again, in the 61st minute, taking advantage of flak defending. Robin van Persie’s penalty was a mere consolation as Arsenal lost 3-1, making it their second semi-final loss of the season.

A disappointing exit..

Chelsea heaped misery as they ran out 4-1 winners over a beleaguered Arsenal team. Days later, another trip to Old Trafford, saw United picking up a point and the title. And the campaign was rounded off with a 4-1 dead-rubber win over Stoke.

Nearly there, but not quite. That was the story of another trophyless season for Arsenal. Despite the mounting injury list, Arsenal managed a 21 game unbeaten run in the Premier League and a run to the semi-finals of the FA Cup and Champions League.

That made enough case for optimism for Gooner fans world around.

Jai Arsenal 🙂

Summary:

Premier League – 4th place

FA Cup – Semi-Finals

Carling Cup – Quarter Finals

Champions League – Semi-Finals

Top Scorer – Robin van Persie (20 goals in all competitions)

 
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Posted by on December 7, 2011 in Season Reviews

 

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2007-2008 Season Review – So close, yet so far again

23 June. I still remember the date. I had just returned home, and was logging on to BBC, to check the latest headlines, and was met with the worst headline, Gooners around the world could hear.The headline said, Arsenal star Thierry Henry joins Barcelona. It was a really sad moment for all Gooners, as Arsenal’s French talisman had left for Catalonia after 8 years stellar service for the club, scoring 226 goals and providing 92 assists. He was not only a spectacular goal-poacher, but his vast array of skills had made him the finest Premier League players of his time. More on him later.

Another player who left Arsenal, was the Swede Freddie Ljungberg, to West Ham, whose transfer was less talked about after the Henry saga. Ljungberg also had been a fine player, and had adorned the Arsenal crest on his chest for 9 years, scoring 73 goals.

LEGENDS

Anyways, now that the long protracted transfer saga of Thierry Henry had done, Arsenal had the 2007-2008 season to look forward to. Arsenal had come inches close to winning the Carling Cup, the previous campaign, and surely the young guns had loads to look forward to.

Arsene Wenger was,. characteristically quiet in the transfer market. His only major signings were Croatian striker, Eduardo da Silva; and the French duo of Bacary Sagna and Lassana Diarra. Eduardo had a big reputation in Croatia, where the Brazilian-born player had netted 73 goals in 104 appearances for Dinamo Zagreb. William Gallas was made Arsenal captain.

Post-Henry Arsenal had started their campaign against Fulham, at home. The game, as I remember was increasingly frustrating as Arsenal created bucketloads of chances, but trailed Fulham 1-0 for most part of the game, after David Healy’s goal. Hleb found himself free in the box, in the 93rd minute, and he scored, to hand Arsenal a winning start.

Arsenal had safely negotiated through the Champions League qualifiers against Czech outfit Sparta Prague, and only a 81st minute screamer from Cesc Fabregas gave the Gunners all points against Manchester City, after Schmeichel junior had saved a Robin van Persie spot kick. Arsenal then went on a rampage of wins, beating Portsmouth 3-1 at home. Next up, the North London Derby at Shit Fart Lane. A certain young Welshman, Gareth Bale, had scored an exquisite free kick to hand Spurs the lead and false hopes of getting the better of their more accomplished neighbors. Dimitar Gergatov, yes, that’s his stupid Bulgarian name; had the chance of his life, when he went clear, only for a brilliant Kolo Toure, with a last ditch tackle. Arsenal missed many chances, hitting the bar and skying their efforts or being saved by an in-form Paul Robinson. Emmanuel Adebayor equalised through a header, while Gergatov then had another attempt cleared off the line by Gael Clichy.  And minutes later, Fabregas got the ball from half a kilometre out, I guess; and let in a dynamite. Absolute dynamite.  The action was getting frantic, as Darren Bent missed a sitter, which Harry Redknapp’s missus would have scored.  And, in the 90th, the Gunners sealed all points as Adebayor scored a peach, to leave Shit Fart lane as silent as, yes, a fart.

Absolute Dynamite

Oozing with confidence, Arsenal brushed aside Derby County 5-0, and then beat Juande Ramos’ Seville 3-0, Newcastle 2-0 in the League Cup, West Ham and Steaua Bucharest; both away 1-0, thanks to solitary van Persie strikes, and finally Sunderland and Bolton 2-0 and 3-2 respectively.

That’s a netbuster

Fabregas was in brilliant form, contributing with 7 goals from midfield, and Arsenal were sitting pretty at the top, come October. And they were taking plaudits in Europe, after thrashing Slavia Prague 7-0 at the Emirates Stadium. The commentator’s exact words after Fabregas scored the 6th goal was “This is perfect football!! Arsenal are playing the heavenly game!!”

The scoreboard paints the picture

The brilliant run continued, as Fabregas scored a 80th minute equaliser at Anfield. Manchester United were next in the Premier League, and again I was watching the game with Suraj Sathyanarayan. Wayne Rooney scored again at the Emirates, just before half time. And Fabregas had equalised for Arsenal, before Ronaldo looked to have scored the winner in the 82nd minute. Arsenal made a barrage of attacks, before William Gallas’ chance goal, in the 94th minute or something, made it 2-2. I can still remember Fabregas screaming into Ferdinand’s ears after the equaliser!!

Gallas pokes the ball home

Arsenal’s incredible run of 28 games unbeaten in all competitions was finally halted in Spain, as Seville beat Arsenal 3-1. While Fabregas was clearly running the show, there was another unsung hero in the team, who goes by the name Matheiu Flamini. He was immense all season, and provided the perfect foil for Fabregas to go ahead and perform his playmaker role to perfection. After his near error-free season, Flamini inexplicably decided to leave for AC Milan.

Flamini and Fabregas

Another player to step up to the plate, was Emmanuel Adebayor. The Togolese striker, was turning out out be a goal machine. He contributed 30 goals in all competitions that season, and scored many spectacular ones in the process. He was later to change his surname from Adebayor to Greedybayor.

He was pretty good too

Arsenal managed to hold on to top spot,even though they could only muster a point out of their travels to the North East, to face Newcastle and Middlesbrough. However, the Gunners bounced back as William Gallas’ solitary strike was enough to see of a largely dissapointing Chelsea.

Cech is bewildered as Gallas scores

A very young Arsenal side made the trip to Blackburn in the Carling Cup, with the oldest player being Eduardo, aged 24. The young guns, down to 10 men, emerged 3-2 winners on a chilly night, in extra time, thanks to the goal from their oldest player. And more plaudits were heaped upon the young team, as they won the North London derby, 3 days before Christmas 2-1, after Nicklas Bendtner’s goal, 2 fucking seconds after he came on as a sub!!

Bendtner beats Spuds and gravity to score!

1-0 down at half-time at Goodison, Eduardo turned the game on it’s head as his craft delivered two brilliant goals, before 3 points were sealed with a 4-1 triumph.

Spuds finally got a win over their North London rivals after nearly 9 years, as they beat a disjointed Arsenal 5-1 in the League Cup semifinals. Arsenal were really poor that night (You have to be, if you are losing to Spurs) and also there was an on-pitch scuffle between Adebayor and Bendtner, which was quickly quelled, but it was a worrying sign that the Gunners were self-destructing after a magnificent campaign, so far.

Soon, that was put aside, as Arsenal beat Newcastle 3-0 twice in 4 days, and then a brilliant Eduardo goal sealed points at Eastlands, before Arsenal took full advantage of their game in hand, as a late Adebayor goal against Blackburn put the North Londoners 5 points clear of nearest rivals Manchester United. I watched the last 10 minutes of the game, and the tension around the Emirates was palpable. When Adebayor scored, I had this feeling that the Premier League was coming to North London. How wrong was I?

A week later, Arsenal failed to turn up at Old Trafford. Injuries seemed to have mounted, as a significantly weak Arsenal side succumbed to a 4-0 loss, and down to 10 men as the ever-stupid Eboue was sent off for a cynical challenge. The season changing game a week later, after a goalless draw against Kaka’s AC Milan, at St. Andrews. In the 8th minute of the game, a certain fucking cunt, named Martin Taylor, who himself was an untalented twat, made a horrendous challenge on Arsenal’s immensely talented Brazilian-Croat, which broke the latters leg.It was an unreal moment. Watching on TV, I certainly didn’t know the extension of the injury. All I knew, was that,it was something horribly gone wrong,if Adebayor’s. Hleb’s and Fabregas’ expressions were anything to go by. Eduardo was stretchered off and that was that. Birmingham capitalized on Arsenal’s mental frailty, as a James McFadden free-kick put them ahead, before a Walcott brace pulled back the Gunners level in the second half. As it seemed that Arsenal would leave the Midlands with 3 vital points, came the decisive moment of Arsenal’s season. Gael Clichy made an inexplicable mistake as he allowed Stuart Parnaby to run into the penalty box, when he failed to clear the ball. He caught him on the run, and it was a penalty, duly crashed home by McFadden, the last kick of the game. William Gallas sat on the half-way circle, as a protest. It all seemed too rosy till now, but in fact it was all spiralling downwards.

Eduardo’s horrific injury

AC Milan was conquered at the San Siro, as Arsenal became the first English to beat Milan in their formidable backyard. A brilliant performance by the Gunners, against one of the best teams in the world, was rewarded in the 84th minute, as Fabregas’ brilliant long range effort, proving to be the icebreaker. Theo Walcott’s darting run was then tapped in by Emmanuel Adebayor, as Arsenal enjoyed a famous win under the lights in Italy.Joy was unparalleled and relief was long-coming.

Milan conquered

But, that signalled a downfall, as Arsenal could secure only 3 points in their next 4 games in the Premier League. A 94th minute equaliser from Bendtner, and a 86th minute one from Toure, rescued 2 points for Arsenal against Villa and Boro, at home, and then they were beaten 2-1 at Stamford Bridge. The moment, where I lost all hope was against Bolton at the Reebok. Arsenal simply had to win this one to stay in the hunt, and 2-0 down at Half-time, to a brace from Matthew Taylor, and down to 10 men, after Diaby got sent off, was hardly the script. I switched off the TV in disgust, and went to sleep. But, I regret that decision, to this day. Arsenal sparked a second half comeback mission. Gallas got one back, before van Persie equalised in deteriorating conditions at The Reebok, under the rain. And,an unprecedented winner came in the 90th minute, as the 10 men brilliantly battled, with all odds stacked up against them. Arsenal were still in the title race.

Fab celebrates an amazing turnaround

Arsenal then had to face Liverpool thrice in a week, and it started off with a 1-1 draw at the Emirates in the first leg of the Champions League quarters. Arsenal had a clear penalty shout, when Dirk Kuyt bought down Alexander Hleb, but the referee waved play-on. It was a clear indicator as to how even luck had deserted us in the decisive moments of the season. Arsenal struggled to a 1-1 draw on the weekend in the Premier League, and the gap widened at the top of the table.Arsenal’s dreams were on the line at Anfield. In a pulsating game. Arsenal took the lead as Diaby poked one past Reina in the 13th. Sami Hyppia soon equalised, and a brilliant Fernando Torres goal in the 69th put the Reds ahead. All seemed over, before Theo Walcott came on. A corner was cleared, and Walcott made a pacy waltz through the Reds’ defence, running the length of the pitch, to give a perfect pass to Adebayor to drive home. It was 2-2, and Arsenal were in the drivers’ seat now, on away goals. Alas, it was not to be. After being denied a penalty a week earlier,Arsenal conceded one in the 86th. Ryan Babel dived for a nomination for the Oscars, after minimal contact from Toure. Steven Gerrard scored, and Babel sealed the win when Arsenal put everything forward, in search for an equaliser. Arsenal’s luck had run out, as their European dreams were ended by poor refereeing, on a hard night in Anfield.

How could this not be a penalty?

It’s all over in Europe

And the watershed moment, came at Old Trafford, few days later. Arsenal, by now were 6 points behind United, and only a win here would keep them on United’s back. A loss would signal an end to Premier League hopes, as a 9 point deficit would be impossible to overcome, with only 4 games to go. I was in delirium when Adebayor’s chance effort handed Arsenal the lead, but 6 minues later Gallas was adjudged to have handled the ball in the penalty area. Ronaldo stepped up and scored. Arsenal’s fate was sealed, as an Owen Hargreaves free kick meant 3 points to United. I vividly remember that moment. As United were lining it up, I knew this was it. It is one of the worst feelings in the world, for a football fan. Lehmann didn’t even move to save it, and was beaten completely. Just weeks earlier, we had beaten AC Milan at the San Siro, and were 5 points ahead in the Premier League. And now, we were out of both competitions, and we had no one to blame.

And in the league

12 points were derived from 4 dead-rubber Premier League games. There was a sense of failure in all Arsenal players in all of the games, even though they won. There were no animated celebrations, even after a 6-2 thumping of Derby. It had been a long hard season, and a much-deserved trophy had eluded them throughout.

Living through a teams ups and downs is part of a football fans’ life. The 2007-2008 season was an epic season for me, and for Gunners’ fans across the globe.The team had lit our lives and provided many heart-stopping moments, both joyous and sad. However, my unflinching loyalties towards them were only strengthened.

Jai Arsenal 🙂

Summary:

Premier League – 3rd place

FA Cup – 5th Round

Carling Cup – Semi Finals

Champions League – Quarter Finals

Top Scorer – Emmanuel Adebayor (30 goals in all competitions)

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2011 in Season Reviews

 

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2006-2007 Season Review – Dawn of a new era

New stadium. New outlook. And a new whole beginning for Arsenal Football Club, as they entered the 2006-2007 season, as they made the switch down the road from their spiritual home, Highbury, their home for 93 years; to the new state-of-the-art 60,000 seater modern arena Ashburton Grove aka The Emirates Stadium.

Arsenal had narrowly missed out on being the first London club to lift the Champions League trophy by 13 men from Barcelona. Well, as if 13 weren’t enough, the Catalans had relentlessly pursued Arsenal’s demigod striker Thierry Henry, over a period of 2 seasons; and Arsenal’s incapability to beat Barcelona in the final had just heightened speculation over the transfer. However,finally came in the news that Thierry Henry had decided to stay at Arsenal as he signed a contract extension.

Meanwhile, Arsenal were in the thick of transfer activity, as Robert Pires, left for Villarreal; where he got what he wanted, a 2 year deal. And finally, Villarreal came to Arsenal’s rescue as they signed the legendary Pascal Cygan for a whopping £2 million. Jose Antonio Reyes, who had seen a decline in form, joined Real Madrid, in a straight loan swap with Julio Baptista. Sol Campbell, left on a free to Portsmouth after 195 appearances for Arsenal. And the summers longest transfer saga saw Cashley Cole, who under Arsenal had transformed to being the world’s best left-back, move to Roman Abrahamovich FC, for the sake of wads of money; in a deal that saw William Gallas joining the Gunners.

Arsenal’s first game at the Emirates was a testimonial game. A game, which was a tribute to one of the most talented footballers the Premier League has seen, i.e Dennis Bergkamp. Bergkamp had joined the Gunners for £7.5 million from Inter Milan, where he had an uninspiring time, and had turned out to be one of the greatest foreign players to grace the English game. More on that, in another blog post.

There’s only one Dennis Bergkamp!

Anyways, Arsenal had won their first fixture 2-1, courtesy to goals from Henry and Kanu, in a match graced by legends of both his former clubs, Ajax and Arsenal, such as Cruyff, van Basten, Seaman, Dixon, Wright, Vieira etc.

Thanks to their last-minute grab of 4th place from cunty Spurs, Arsenal had the opportunity to play in the Champions League, and faced Dinamo Zagreb in the Qualifying Round. Arsenal ran out 3-1 winners in the away tie, in a game where new signing Tomas Rosicky, who had joined from Borussia Dortmund, made his debut. The first competitive game for Arsenal at their new stadium was a league game against Aston Villa. I still remember, waiting in eagerness for the fixture, to catch a glimpse of the stadium.

Arsenal seemed to be playing like an away side that afternoon, and clearly needed time to get adapted to new surroundings, even though the crowd were quite vocal that afternoon. Olof Mellberg, of all people, had the honor of scoring the first goal at the Emirates.  Arsenal threw on 17 year old youngster Theo Walcott, in search of the equaliser, which eventually was scored by Gilberto.

It’s GILBEERTTOO!!!

Passage to the group stages of the Champions League was secured with a 2-1 win over Dinamo, in the first floodlit and European game at the Emirates. Arsenal were still stuttering in the league 2 weeks later, as a loss away to Manchester City and a home draw to Middlesbrough saw them pick up just 2 points from 3 games. A hard-fought 2-1 win in Hamburg, where Rosicky scored a screamer, was the perfect lift Arsenal needed ahead of a visit to Old Trafford.

It’s ROOSSISSSKKKYYY!!!

An uphill task was in store, as Arsenal were without talisman Thierry Henry for the game. Undaunted, Arsenal took the game to United. I remember watching the game with a couple of United upstarts, Suraj Sathyanarayan and Jaidev. In an almost uneventful first half, Arsenal should’ve taken the lead when Gilberto slipped and his penalty was saved by Kusczak.  Anyways, as both teams pressed for a winner in the second half, United almost had the lead, when Ronaldo’s fierce shot was smashed right bang into the face of Jens Lehmann. Ouch!!That must’ve hurt. And, finally in the 86th minute, Arsenal got their deserved winner when Fabregas played a killer pass to Emmanuel Adebayor, who poked his long leg to slot the ball past the keeper!  I remember the glum faces of my fellow game-watchers, and it gives immense pleasure to a Gooner to watch sulking Manure fans.

Lehmann takes one on the face!!

It’s AADDEEEBBAAAYYOOORR!!!

“Hey Fab, did you see the look on Fergusmoan??”

Off the bounce of the inspiring victory against Fergusmoan’s men, Arsenal picked up victories against Sheffield United;which incidentally was their first league win at the Emirates; Porto, Charlton; where van Persie showed his ‘Robin’ instincts with an airbourne screamer; and Watford.

“It’s Superman!!It’s Batman!! No, you idiots!!It’s Robin!!

A disappointing loss in Moscow was followed by a class display at Reading, in a 4-0 win. However, league form dipped, and Arsenal fell 10 points off the pace after drawing 1-1 at Everton and losing to West Ham, to a solitary goal by Marlon Harewood, which sparked a sideline battle between Arsene Wenger and Alan Pardew.

Wenger and Pardew go for it!!

Arsenal’s topsy-turvy form continued as another late Adebayor strike, this time at Goodison, ensured passage to the next round of the Carling Cup, while a 3-0 beating of Liverpool, pushed us to the third spot. Liverpool failed to turn up in the game, which was won by the defensive pairing of Gallas and Toure.

Further 1-1 frustration against Newcastle at home, was compounded by losses, away to Bolton and Fulham. Reebok was one of the worst grounds in the Premier League, to play in the evening. The lighting was so dull, and the crowd was crap. Even Glossop FC have a more vocal home support. And moreover, Bolton was aided by Mike Dean, who simply refused to acknowledge Bolton’s physicality. There were loads of elbows, high tackles, dives from Bolton, and Arsenal had to suffer at the ends of a partial referee. To add to it, ‘The Incredible Sulk’ Nicolas Anelka, who had left behind a promising career at Arsenal, to virtually become an European nomad, scored and celebrated with his stupid butterfly celebration.

The first North London derby at the Emirates was a perfect way to peg back some form, as Gilberto’s twin penalties propelled Arsenal to a 3-0 win over a dismal Spurs side. (When were they good anyways? ) And a trip down London, was nearly fruitful, when Mathieu Flamini had scored in the 79th to hand Arsenal the lead, only for Michael Essien’s shot from planet Mars, to steal it away in stoppage time.

The kings of North London!!

A 6-2 thumping of Blackburn and a 2-1 win away at Watford kept Arsenal at 3rd spot, before Cristian Nade’s goal (this time from planet Jupiter )at Sheffield United, in a 1-0 loss, meant Arsenal dropped to 5th.

Then came a resurgent run from the Gunners. Post a 4-0 win over Charlton in the league, Arsenal faced a domestic cup double header against Liverpool, both at Anfield. The FA Cup tie was first up, and thanks to the stupid broadcasters preferred showing Manure play Aston Villa (everyone knew the result beforehand); I had to wait till next morning to know the result.  But, at the end of it, the wait was worth it. Tomas Rosicky’s brace, both goals top-notch, secured a 3-1 win.

Get in there, my son!!And stay stuck!!

3 days later, a young very Gunners side, comprising of 6 teenagers, inflicted further humiliation on Liverpool, as they ran out 6-3 winners. Again, I missed this game, thanks to the cable operator, who refused to put the channel.  ‘The Beast’ Julio Baptista, scored 4, and interestingly, could have scored 5, had he not missed a penalty!  Jeremie Aliadiere, was brilliant that evening, and in the mix in all the goals!!

Aliadere, Baptista, and the great Anfield job!! 

The scoreboard tells the story!!

Aliadiere was kind of a strange footballer. He had spent a good part of the 8 years playing for the reserves, since joining when he was a 16 year old. When he did play, he was very unpredictable. At times, he would play like a seasoned centre-forward, like in the game against Liverpool; or would cut a lonely figure, totally out of place. He soon would leave for Middlesbrough, and I haven’t followed his career since.

The amazing run of form continued with a 2-0 win at Ewood Park, Henry scoring a brilliant goal, after sprinting half the length of the ground. Manchester United, up next, at the Emirates; and the Red Devils were supremely sitting at the top of the table; 6 points clear of second placed Chelsea, and 15 ahead of Arsenal. Wayne Rooney gave United the lead, and they looked to be coasting for victory, before van Persie equalised with a shot to the far-post from a narrow angle. Pandemonium erupted in the stands, as Arsenal pressed for a winner. And, they did get it as Henry rose above the United defence, to head home a perfect Eboue cross.

It’s Robin again!!

Henry and Wenger!!

Arsenal’s cup fixtures were piling up as they had drawn the Bolton Wrestling team in the FA Cup, and Spuds in the Carling semi’s. Arsenal snatched draws in both, Toure scoring in the 83rd against Bolton; and Baptista making up for his earlier own goal, to snatch a brace, at Shit Fart Lane.  Both second legs ended positively for Arsenal, who needed extra time in both games to progress.

Meanwhile, Arsenal required a late Henry equaliser at The Riverside. Who would have thought it would be his last in an Arsenal shirt?  Wigan proved to be frustrating opposition, as they scored a screamer through Dutch international Denny Landzaat, and wasted nearly the rest of the match wasting time, thanks to their keeper Chris Kirkland. Arsenal showed desperation, and were rewarded with two late goals, to steal a 2-1 win under Kirkland’s nose.

February 25, 2007. Millennium Stadium. Chelsea vs Arsenal. League Cup Final. Let me correct you. It was Chelsea’s team of handsomely paid (and paid for) stars vs Arsenal’s Youth team. The Gunners had started with 5 teenagers, including a 17 year old Theo Walcott, destined for great things. Add to that, Fabregas, Aliadiere and Senderos, Arsenal were literally playing a very very young team. Chelshit, on the other hand, had the ‘£30 million flop in the box’ Andriy Shevchenko and German captain Michael Ballack, their summer signings. Plus, vastly experienced internationals such as Lampard, Carvalho,Terry, Drogba, Makelele, Cech and Essien. There was certainly no stage fright, as the Gunners got on to a rocking start, finding their passing feet in the early minutes. Soon, Abou Diaby played a through-ball to Theo Walcott, and BAM!! The youngster from the South Coast announced his arrival on the big stage as he placed the ball into the top corner to fire Arsenal into the lead. However, the billionaires soon equalised through Drogba. Overall, Arsenal were brilliant throughout the game and looked to be most likely to score, in comparison to their accomplished opposition. And soon, inexperience told as Drogba snatched a 2nd goal in the 84th minute, to leave the Gunners heartbroken.  I was as proud of Arsenal that evening, as proud can one be, after a gallant display of guts and talent from Arsenal.

Walcott fires past Cech!!

“We were crap before Russian moneybags (chorus)!!”

Next few games were tough for Arsenal, as they were knocked out of the FA Cup to a 87th minute winner from Benni McCarthy. A week later, they were out of the Champions League as well, as Alex, who would later join Chavski, scored a 83rd minute equaliser at the Emirates, to earn PSV Eindhoven a 2-1 aggregate victory. More last minute heartbreak at Merseyside followed as Everton dealt a 91st minute blow, with Andy Johnson the culprit. And Liverpool completed Merseyside formalities with a 4-1 crushing at Anfield, Peter Crouch scoring a perfect strikers hat-trick.  West Ham heaped frustration as they scraped a 1-0 win at the Emirates. Rob Green was made of concrete, that particular afternoon, as he emerged with a clean sheet, despite 29 shots on target from Arsenal.

Pride and a 4th place finish was all Arsenal had to play for, and they rounded the job, with 3 wins and 4 draws in the last 7 games of the season, comprising of more late drama; this time at Shit Hart Lane, as Jermaine Jenas equalised in the 95th minute. Gulp!  Also, Arsenal denied Chelsea a hat-trick of Premier League titles, as they held the Blues to a 1-1 draw, and sending the trophy to Old Trafford, after 4 years.

Thus ended Arsenal’s eventful first season at the Emirates. It was a season where Arsenal’s young guns heralded the dawn of a new era in the club’s history, by providing some memorable moments. All that eluded was a trophy.

Jai Arsenal 🙂

Summary:

Premier League – 4th place

FA Cup – 5th Round

Carling Cup – Runners Up

Champions League – Round of 16

Top Scorer – Robin van Persie (13 goals in all competitions)

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2011 in Season Reviews

 

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