The Season so Far…… by BG
So began Arsenal’s season on the 19th of July with a friendly match against BorehamWood; all of us eager to see the boys in action and working that rust off. To mention, some still recovering from the weariness of the World Cup, which eventually became a excuse of doom for the loan transfer of Podolski to Inter Milan. After a decent reality check on the fitness of the team and its integral structure, the next challenge on the road to the season was the Match against New York Red Bulls; with a losing score line of 1-0.
Time to step up the preparations; up comes along the Emirates Cup. The team brushed aside Benfica and then losing to Monaco; perhaps the residue from the rust still lingering. This was a bench mark for us for the season ahead, which has been one of highs and lows until now.
Raise the curtains, it’s the Community Shield; Game faces on… Come on Arsenal…COYG… The challenge of The Champions Manchester City (extravagantly fuelled with riches with a habit of luring players with extravagant wages but quality ones). The first feeling of the Season getting into gear and the competition; to be the best come May. If it was anything to go by we should be up the table and away from the challengers with the performance and result of that day. 3 Nil to the Arsenal; Cazorla, Ramsey and Giroud doing the trick. But not to be, at this stage its Chelsea on that position in the table; re-sparked by none other than our former captain and nasty new frontman Mr. Costa (Who should have been receiving bans even before than his stamps on Emre Can and Skrtel).
The Season is here, every one buzzing with the energy and determination; hoping our Team will emulate Last Year’s feat of winning the FA Cup (I suppose it’s time we be crowned champions of Europe with a more lenient draw as compared to the recent past seasons). Match Day one with a Home tie against Crystal Palace, a win on paper but seemed tougher than that though (eventually winning 2-1).
Soon followed the Champions League Qualifiers, who we have only ourselves to blame for faltering, near the end (when each one of us felt being crowned champions was inevitable like the 2011/12 season). A tightly contested first leg left little room for error in the return leg at home in a weeks’ time, sandwiched in between the tie at Everton where Giroud rescued the first loss of the season with a late equalizer. Joys around but not the one we all really hoped for. Besiktas were put aside courtesy of a solitary goal from our new recruit Alexis Sanchez (his first most important contribution to Arsenal) on a night when Demba Ba almost ousted us from the competition.
The transfer window curtains coming down almost now, Leicester City showed up and the draw didn’t leave us feeling good; at a time when Chelsea seemed to be all bulked up (with a special thanks to Cesc and Costa). Already having beaten Manchester City this next tie seemed to be all the more interesting to us, with a game where we matched them in every way only to be denied victory with a late conceded goal. The game showed us the quality of Sanchez’s finishing ability in Arsenal colours. We had much to look forward to rather than sulking (given last year’s result against City).
By now the Draw to the Champions’ League Group Stages being made, Dortmund and Arsenal almost being intentionally put together (perhaps an opportunity for Wenger to assess Klopp as a successor when he calls it a day). Anderlecht and Galatasary tagged along in the group; to be fair it was a favourable draw but did put us on the edge for a fair share of time. We begin with a win, and all set for the games and challenges in the group ahead. Aston Villa were put aside at their home with a score line of 3-0 to the Arsenal; after which Ozil went missing, up until the reverse fixture against them, announcing his return with a goal and assist.
The Capital One Cup has been a stage for the Club to showcase the young talents at our disposal (and which was not possible this season); ousted by a resurgent Southampton team with whom at the moment we are competing for Champions League positions. The North London Derby is here – the Ox saving us the blushes with his strike cancelling out Chadli’s. A visit from Galatasary next, who we put aside convincingly with a score line of 4-1.
Chelsea wait with a revitalized enthusiasm claiming to be on the road for a Quadruple (which has now levelled down to a treble), will have to wait a month now to see if that levels down to a double. We were brushed aside 2-0. The draw with Hull didn’t help boost our morale, the draws made us slip further behind. Back to our winning ways we ended November on a high, with two back to back victories against Anderlecht and Sunderland (in the opponent’s goal our hero of our FA cup win last season).
November proved to be again a month of mixed emotions; a convincing victory against Burnley as expected. Then comes along the bizarreness; our team’s defensive frailty at home to Anderlecht, ending up 3-3 (although that’s what helped us secure a round of 16 draw with Monaco). Swansea up next and we were leading 1-0 only to collapse to a 2-1 defeat, Gomis securing the points for the hosts.
An ailing Manchester United visit us under the reign of Louis Van Gal (who seems to look a few years older since the time of his appointment)- the league taking its toll on the steadfast Manager. It is hard to comprehend how we let them walk away with three points let alone a point. The own goal by Gibbs; it brought back memories of the slip during the semi-final of the Champions league. Rooney rounded it off with Giroud restoring some pride with a shot which signalled intent and authority, despite just returning from a long lay-off.
The loss at Dortmund followed only to add insult to injury. The team regrouped and fought out wins against West Brom and Southampton, both with a score line of 1-0 to the Arsenal. Another disappointment struck soon enough with our collapse against Peter Crouch and Stoke, although the fight back almost helped us rescue a point. Galatasary and Newcastle put aside by Arsenal 4-1 each set us up nicely for the festive period fixtures.
A draw against Liverpool; we were lucky to lead and unlucky to concede that late on, this was followed with a victory over QPR. The visit of West Ham brought Alex Song to face off against us (whose goal early on was disallowed in our favour). Arsenal came out wining 2-1 and the festive period did look to be rewarding.
New Year begins with a disastrous result (What was Szczesny up to and Mertesacker too), a defeat to (and the chance to catch hold of) Southampton soon followed. The Saints seem to be feeling more solidity and confidence as the season unfurls. A loss with a score line of 2-0 ended our festive period with a disappointment.
The FA Cup followed and we put side Hull City 2-0, who to be fair didn’t look the same as the finalist we were pitted against. The build-up to the Manchester City game was intensifying but before that Stoke come to visit the Emirates and unlike the earlier fixture, we stamped our authority back on them. Arsenal wining three goals to the good with no reply from Stoke. Debuchy being sent back to the treatment table was the downside of the day (was that push necessary and the “apology” after the damage had been done).
Away to the Champions at the Etihad; the present results and all the punditry directing us towards another Arsenal defeat (after the game everyone seemed to be bemused). This one time Wenger put together all the pieces that fitted like a charm. The resurgence of Cazorla was highlighted in this particular game along with Coquelin. Monreal seems to be playing much more with authority and the defensive unit did its duty well. No real threat from the reigning champions and the result boosted our confidence. Goals from Cazorla and Giroud did the trick coupled with a clean sheet to make it sweeter. After this display we shouldn’t fear any team ever again. Victory against the Champions sure did change a lot of minds and how they look at Arsenal.
The FA Cup weekend saw Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham being put aside; the big names to fall prey at this stage. Arsenal, continue their defence of the Cup with a win over Brighton and Hove Albion (an entertaining and eventful match with Rosicky still being amazing). He is a player with an attacking intent always on, which is admirable, this time it was the no look passes rather than the spinning long balls with the outside of his foot.
Derby Day again and this time all the punditry and recent run of results directing to another Arsenal Victory – only to be stopped by Harry Kane’s double. For some strange reason we are unable to comprehend why were we defending that deep throughout the game. Always inviting Spurs, even after the goal, to come and try and find the net. A reality check; some games just don’t need defending and all that is needed is to outscore the opponents with lethal attack. That should be a tribute of entertainment to the footballing world; one for all the fans and neutrals alike. The defeat resulted in the run of clean sheets coming to an end and Ospina conceding his first league goals (even though he performed great).
This brings us to today and the game against Leicester City has put our focus back on track and we need to push higher. We have so far seen the defensive solidity, injuries as always but not as bad as before. The performances of Hector Bellerin, Francis Coquelin, Nacho Monreal and the resurgence of Cazorla and Ozil; makes it an interesting prospect to the remainder of the season ahead. Calum Chambers is supposedly still waiting to be ascertained (where to best fit into this team) and Ospini seems to have established himself as the current Number 1 (what next for Szczesny). The debut of new signing Gabriel looms over with all of us waiting expectantly; and a return to full strength of the squad surely entices us for the crucial months ahead.