Season Review Part II: Kinda sortaBy: Perry | June 1st, 2012
I know none of you can put this season behind you until we get this season review done and get some player grades out as well. Perry got the review started, time to finish it. So here goes, part two of the review, kind of. Really just my take on the most turbulent Arsenal season in recent memory. In the next few days you will see our player grades for the season and then we can start focusing on what’s most important…speculating on all of the players that Arsene Wenger is not going to buy and keeping up to date on all of our players that are getting injured in the Euro Tourney.
Well, we all know how this season began. We had two of our best players do their best “Mola Ram” impressions and rip our still beating hearts out by leaving for Barcelona and ManCity right before that start of the season. This left us in a rough spot to say the least (a certain 8-2 score line comes to mind). We can argue all day about Arsenal putting themselves in that position. By not seeing the writing on the wall (in regards to both players) and not taking care of their business sooner, they kind of brought it upon themselves…but let’s move forward.
Wenger was forced to fill some gaping holes and make some last minute signings, something he is not exactly known for. Funny how the “last second” signings ended up being better than some of the ones that we saw coming from a mile away! I would say that if we do not bring in Arteta under the wire, we don’t qualify for the Champions League. He was that crucial for us. Gervinho on the other hand…Well, I’ll let Perry talk about Gervinho. Santos and Mertesacker filled in some gaps in the back as well. While neither exactly set the Premiership on fire with their performances, they were both needed and will play important roles in seasons to come.
We saw ups and downs, injuries and recoveries, and the glorious return of an Arsenal Legend. I don’t think anybody had us finishing in 3rd in the Premiership after the departure of Cesc and Nasri and the awful start we had. We split with the champs this season, losing to them 1-0 then returning the favor with a 1-0 win at The Emirates, a game that at the time was a must win for them to stay in the title race (so much for that). We lost both to ManU this past campaign but our 2nd outing was an improved one over the 8-2 thumping we all suffered through. The “best team in Europe” was unable to get a win against us this season in the Premier League. We beat them 5-3 in their own place and then held to a 0-0 draw at our own. Against all odds we will be guaranteed a spot on the UCL group stage. Not too shabby. And once again (albeit later than usual) we were able to celebrate St. Totteringham’s Day! I would imagine Harry’s face looked something like this after watching Drogba bury the final penalty in the Champion’s League Final.
With that said, I am not going to call this season a success. Anything short of silverware is not a success these days. As an Arsenal fan, I am not going to start settling for just qualifying for the Champions League, let’s leave that to the Spurs fans. We need some silverware at The Emirates and I do feel the pieces are starting to come together again. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed that our players in Euro2012 perform well and stay healthy and that Wenger continues to work the phones and bring in some additional talent to get this team back to where it needs to be, collecting Trophies!
Season Highpoints & Lowpoints
Worst (least favorite) game of the season: Let’s start with some negative shall we. It’s easy to point to the ManU 8-2 shellacking as our worst game but I am going to take a different view. If we somehow draw that game or lose 3-2, do we then go out and make major moves in the transfer market right before the deadline? I would guess not, some moves but not as many. The game showed our glaring needs and the boss did his best to address them. For me, our worst game is a tossup between our away loss to Blackburn 4-3 in September or the 4-0 beat down that AC Milan gave us in the first leg of the Champion’s league.
Losses to teams like Blackburn will kill any chances of winning the league. You have to get all the points from games like that so you don’t have to beat the likes of Chelsea and ManCity every time you face them. This past season we lost to Blackburn (A), Fulham (A), Swansea (A), and Wigan (H). I single out the Blackburn game because it was very early in the season and it was a great chance for the team to get back on track. That’s 12 attainable points from lower level teams, three of the four in the bottom half and one being relegated.
Getting crushed 4-0 in the first leg of a Champion’s League is exactly NOT what you want to do. It pretty much eliminated all hope of moving forward in the first leg. The fact that we beat them 3-0 on the return leg is mind boggling. How can we have been so unprepared for that first leg!? The squads weren’t even that different! This was one of the few times that I can remember an Arsenal squad showing up to a Champion’s League game completely unprepared. The second leg showed that the two teams were much more equal than was demonstrated in the first.
Best (favorite) game of the season: For me, this wasn’t a real tough decision. I have to go with the 5-2 win over Spuds in late February. This HUGE win was a turning point for both teams, we just turned in the proper direction. We lose this game, we don’t make it into the Champion’s League.
After 35 minutes it certainly looked like that was the direction this game was heading, finding ourselves down 2-0. A monster header from Sagna and a classy left footed curler from outside the box from RvP saw us get level by halftime. The second half was almost 100% Gunner domination. Rosicky showed great desire to get on the cross that gave us the lead 3-2. Walcott would then decide to show up, adding a cheeky chip for 4-2 then a nice finish a few minutes later to make it 5-2. The Emirates had to be at its loudest decibel level all season.
The win was crucial. The way that we won set us in motion for the rest of the season. Being down 2-0, the team could have caved but they did not. The squad showed the grit and determination that seemed to be lacking at times over the last few seasons. It’s amazing what a win over a bitter rival will do for a team (or a loss for that matter). Arsenal would go on to win six of their next seven in the EPL. Spuds…not so much.
Favorite Moment of the Season: Another easy decision for me. Without a doubt, my favorite moment of the season was Thierry Henry coming off the bench in the FA Cup against Leeds and scoring the game winner late. It was Henry at his purest. Song found him out on the left and played a nice through ball. Henry’s first touch was textbook Thierry, it set him up perfectly to curl the ball with the inside of his foot past the keeper in the far post. A thing of beauty, the only thing better was the look of pure joy on Henry’s face. I was stuck watching the game on my computer at work. I was jumping around like an idiot screaming after Henry scored, all my coworkers looking at me like I had lost my mind. As a huge Henry fan it was by far my highpoint of the season. It’s just a shame it didn’t lead to a better run through the rest of the competition.
Goal of the season: No brainer. RvP’s volley against Everton.
2nd MVP (we all know who our MVP was): Gotta go with the classy Spaniard and say Arteta. His premiership experience and class were on display all season up until his injury. How the team performed without him should show exactly how important he was to the team and how important he is going to be moving forward.
I will have player rankings/grades for the defensive unit to come shortly. In the meantime, I’m curious to hear your high and low points of the season, goal of the season, etc.
Until then, be well my fellow gunners!