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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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