So another season comes to an end. My friends (I honestly don’t know why I have so many Manyoo supporting friends) are always quick to remind me that it’s another trophy less year. Gone are the days when I was agitated by such comments – I have learned to appreciate what we have. Like I said before, the investment into the new stadium has made us less competitive in the transfer market (a market heavily influenced by the bottomless oil wealth of the Arabians & Russians) is one step back and two steps forward, or in our case ten years back then maybe a hundred years forward.
This is just a review of the season gone by – not an explanation of our current transition. The season started off with the sale of our captain Robin van Persie to our long standing rivals Man United. Wow that hurt – well at first it hurt. We kind of expected him to leave but not to Manyoo. Again, the consensus in the football circles is that Wenger was unwise in selling his best asset to Manyoo but as always, time and subsequent events suggest that he was not senseless at all. Again, that’s a story for another day (or blog).
LEAGUE – The season started with all this hovering above the Gunners but that did not prevent us having a solid start – a solid defense that conceded only 2 goals in the first five games. A mini slump followed as we lost 3 times in 5 games to Chelsea, Norwich & Manyoo. Another lean set of results followed (12 points in 10 games) as we struggled to get over the sale of our top player and as the new signings brought in to replace him were still finding their feet. This form was too ordinary for what the manager had earlier predicted was a ‘title winning’ side. Four successive wins steadied the ship but once again this was interrupted by our 3rd slump in form of one win in 5 games at the turn of the year. At this point, in fact after the 2nd slump, we were already written off the reckoning for the league. Now, to win the league – a team can only afford one slump in form. Two slumps will get you Champions League qualification; while 3 slumps is the minimum requirement for fourth place. At this point, many wrote us off for fourth (even I had my doubts, though I never stopped believing) Arsenal could not afford another slip up and had to respond with title-winning form just to make 4th spot – another slump & we would have been looking at Europa League. But the boys responded well after all these setbacks, losing one game out of 16 until the end of the season (the Spurs loss as WHL). This incredible run included 10 games unbeaten at the end (with 5 clean sheets in those 10 games) and we made that coveted 4th spot. In the end 73 points was 3 more than last season, but 4th was a place lower.
CUPS – we had a solid start in the group stage with six points from 2 games against Montpellier (A) & Olympiakos (H). But like our league form, what looked good was suddenly disturbed by a home loss (2-0 with 2 late goals) to a good Shalke side, which went on to finish top of the group B. An away draw to Schalke meant we had surrendered finishing top to them, but still had qualification in our hands, which we sealed with a 2-0 home win. The last loss (though we had qualified second) meant that we would be paired with a group winner from another group. That turned out to be many people’s favorites for the competition – Bayern Munich. But you have to beat the best to be the best, and although we managed to beat the Bavarians, once again a good second leg (2-0) was overshadowed by a poor first leg (1-3), and we went out on away goals. The Carling Cup and FA Cup defeats to Bradford (on penalties) , after scoring 13 goals in the first two rounds & Blackburn (5th round) proved to be the lowest points of our season – well aware that we were out of the league race by December, the cups represented our only hope of silverware.
Player of the Season: Santi Cazorla – great signing from Malaga who hit the ground running. His creativity was key to our big margin wins, though he seemed to be crowded out in the big games. He also contributed with 12 goals & 13 assists.
Most Improved Player: Aaron Ramsey. He’s been vilified in the past for poor performances, and even started this season badly. But his improvement in the 2nd half of the season coincided with our improvement.
Signing of the Season – Santi Cazorla (reasons above)
Match of the season – Arsenal 7 Reading 5. Just an incredible game – we were trailing 4-0 at half time. 4-1 after 63 minutes, 4-2 after 88 minutes but managed to get 4-4 and win 7-5 in extra time. The Bayern victory was important, but not as exciting.
Disappointment of the Season – Gervinho: expected him to have a better 2nd season that the 1st, but this did not turn to be the case. If anything, he went a little backward.
Goal of the Season – no outright winner here but Podolski vs Montpellier was a nice combination by two of our new signings. Cazorla v West Ham (A) also worthy of mention
Decision of the Season: Arsene Wenger decision to bench Sczez & Vermaelen from the Bayern game onwards. Team never looked back from there
The season can be summed up by watching most of our league games – we were poor in the first half and brilliant in the second. We had many high scoring games, but we need to improve in our big games. Ultimately, we needed brilliant form just to sneak into fourth and although I celebrated the achievement, it’s not good enough. The next season (Wenger’s last on his contract, the legend that is Alex Ferguson retired, confusion at City & Chelsea and no transfer saga) presents our best opportunity to return to the top table. But that possibility can only become a probability if we show our intention by investing wisely in the summer.
We love you Arsenal, we do!!!