First up, allow me to wish everyone of you a prosperous and fulfilled new year.
Last year was defining in every aspect of the word, it was a terrific 365 days and if we look back on all that went down, you will agree with me that it was pretty difficult reaching this position on the first day of the new year.
2011 gave us our best chance yet to end our trophy drought, it is without doubt Arsene Wenger’s most trying year since he joined the club. As much as it served up our worst start to an EPL season, 2011 saw the emergence of another Arsenal hero!
This post seeks to share my best and worst moments of an amazing year for football.
2011 was a year of “if onlys”, a year of ruing missed chances and wishing we had just a little more luck. Quite a number of moments could easily pass as my worst game of 2011; the 4-3 loss at Blackburn, the 4-4 draw at Newcastle, the 2-0 loss to United in the FA Cup, a game United lined up with 7 defenders!
The summer departure of Fabregas, the 1-1 draw with L’pool at the Emirates, the 3-3 draw at Shite Hart Lane, the 8-2 loss at Old Trafford are also moments I will like to forget very quickly. But none hurts as much as the loss to Birmingham in the Carling Cup final.
That was the height of it, as we practically gifted Birmingham the trophy. That loss brought tears to my eyes and made me believe for some time that we were under some sort of spell.
Away from the doom and gloom; 2011 also served us some of football’s most beautiful moments.
Vermaelen extended his Arsenal contract, a very big boost to the club. Did I mention the emergence of another Arsenal hero?
Yes! RVP came into his own in 2011, banging in 35 goals in 36 league games all around the country; that name sent shivers down the spine of defenders all year long.
At the end he came up short of Alan Shearer’s record by a single goal having played 6 less games than the English legend. 2011, the year of RVP100!
We witnessed some great moments on the pitch too; the 1-0 win against United at the Emirates, the big win in Udinese which put us in the Champions League, and an even bigger win at Marseille which all but ensured qualification into the knockout stages of the same competition.
While the 3-5 win at Stamford Bridge will be remembered for years, as it confirmed our resurgence this season, no game in 2011 gave me as much joy and pride as the 2-1 win against Barcelona.
I rank that game on par with, or probably higher than other magical nights like the historical victories in Madrid, Villareal and Milan.
I saw the Barcelona game in a pub and I really cannot accurately describe how I felt as Arshavin struck the ball past a helpless Valdes. All I know is that I walked out of that pub half naked!
So there you have it, my memories of 2011. You can tell it has been energy sapping for me as I’m sure it has been for you. Why not share your special moments with me? Something I missed out on perhaps.
Here is to hoping 2012 turns out to be a year of far more positives than negatives, the birth of another hero, and finally a trophy to cap!
Have a great start to the new year, play safe and keep it goonerish!
See you in the comments!
It has been quite a summer for Arsenal with the Gunners without doubt being the champions of transfer speculations all through. Can Arsène Wenger and his charges end a run of seasons without a competitive trophy at the seventh attempt?
An answer to that largely depends on the club’s mental approach going into matches and this is in two aspects. Firstly, we must kill games when leading and in the inability to do so, be able to hold onto such advantage till after the final whistle as evident from both legs of last season’s north London derby and home matches against Liverpool, Aston Villa, Newcastle United and West Bromwich-Albion as well as the infamous implosion at Newcastle where we ironically open this season’s campaign.
The other aspect of our mental approach to games is how we fare in the months of February and March, months that have proved the Achilles Heel in the leap towards a trophy in the last four seasons.
Last season’s episode proved the most painful, we suffered defeat to Birmingham City (now of the Championship) in the League Cup final on the last day of February, before enduring a mediocre run of form in March that pretty much ended all other title ambitions on other fronts.
And there’s the additional mental jabs dealt the team now no thanks to speculations surrounding the future of Samir Nasri & Fabregas who has reportedly agreed to a deal to return to his boyhood club. Which means a new era is about to start, one without the club’s best player. But no one man or player is greater than the club.
Meanwhile the latter is once more reportedly close to completing a £22m move to oil rich Manchester City, some reports even suggesting he may do so before the protracted tug for Fàbregas finally ends.
Arsenal’s hopes of ending the trophy drought will now rest on 20 year old Jack Wilshere(albeit not solely) as it was the English international who flourished – when Fàbregas was mostly half fit or out injured last season – with consistent and assured performances. While possessing admirable mental and physical strength, the rest of the team will determine just how much impact Wilshere will have this season.
With Laurent Koscielny apparently being the notable addition to the team last season, the Gunners actually did well until those dreaded months. This term, Ivorian forward Gervinho has joined and impressed so far with his quick feet and good composure.
Other than him, Wenger has (annoyingly) kept to his policy with a roll call of highly rated youngsters such as Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain and Ryo Miyaichi. The transfer window however is still over a fortnight from closing so some much needed experienced players may yet arrive at the Emirates.
While awaiting those, Gooners will be banking on Robin van Persie to pick up from the fiery form of the second half of last season that saw the Dutchman finally show us his potential with a high return on goals per game. Having him fit for a whole season on such form leaves the heights attainable by the team optimistically imagined.
In the event of him being out injured as he is sadly prone to, Theo Walcott gets my nod to spearhead the front ahead of the overly disappointing Marouane Chamakh and the England international has publicly stated his desire to play upfront rather than on the wings.
Last season, he posed a real threat to defences with his raw speed that was, unlike previous seasons, complemented with much technique. This sort of form gives promise of this season being perhaps a breakthrough season for the 21 year old.
Those other than the above players that could contribute to a successful league campaign, and perhaps success in any of the other competitions, are Thomas Vermaelen, Andrei Arshavin, Koscielny and goalkeepers Lukasz Fabianski and Woijcech Sczeszny just as I’m personally looking forward to how Aaron Ramsey fares with Abou Diaby’s injury presenting the Welsh midfielder a chance to impress.
Vermaelen on his part was out virtually all of last season injured and Squillaci failed woefully as partner to Koscielny. Consequently, the efficiency of our physios this season actually comes in just behind the team’s mental maturity as deciding factors on how this season will pan out.
Arsenal’s campaign begins at St. James’ Park in Saturday’s evening kick-off having survived getting postponed due to the violent scenes that besieged streets in London and Birmingham.
That match is then followed in quick sequence by games against title rivals Liverpool and Manchester United, with the Champions League qualifier against Italian side Udinese buttered between those red encounters.
In all honesty, Arsenal are strong contenders for the title and hopefully we avoid burning out at those times aforementioned!
That said, enjoy the season ahead, it’s great to finally be getting underway!
C’mon You Smokin’ Gunners!!!