Tag Archives: season

Emery’s Second Season

It eventually came down to the finest of margins.

Our last two matches in the Premier League and the Europa League final.

After more than fifty matches throughout the season, it boiled down to how we would perform in 270 minutes.

If we won all three?

It would mean a return to Champions League football at the first time of asking from Emery – and a big shiny European trophy to boot.

We would be competing in the summer for the European Super Cup, we would have banished our European hoodoo and announced our comeback to the big stage in the best possible way.

Instead, we were treated to an insipid 1-1 draw at home to Brighton, followed by a win over Burnley (too little, too late by this point) and then a calamitous performance in Baku where we were sent back to London with our tail between our legs by Chelsea.

From where we sit now, looking back, hindsight really does bring things into focus.

We could be remembering what constituted to be a wonderful season, culminating in a win over our London rivals on a European stage, lifting the Europa League.

We could be looking forward to a return of that famous Champions League anthem and more importantly, the extra clout and transfer budget that comes with inclusion of the European Cup.

Unai Emery would be looked upon as taking us in the right direction, instead of doubts on whether he is the right man for the job.

Never mind a little common sense – we missed out on all of the above because of our own failings!

It would be fantastic if everybody could take the equivalent of a mental cold shower, and look at things from a different perspective.

Yes, it is our own fault that we are in what is now a compromising position thanks to missing out on the Champions League.

However, have we not closed the gap?

Has Emery not made progress on where were when he took over – with largely the same squad that Arsene Wenger had?

 

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Woah there, gib me a shance!! 

 

We missed out on the top four by a solitary point. We missed out on the top3 by two points. Despite us picking up just one win on the home straight, we still only fell short by the finest of margins.

Jurgen Klopp, the buck-toothed, bespectacled coach heralded by all as a genius, finished in eighth spot in his first season.

Granted, he was then awarded a wad of cash to spend to revitalise his squad, but it shows what margins a new coach can bring. Klopp didn’t manage to do much in his first season, other than probably the most important factor – one that isn’t instantly tangible.

The roots of his tactics, his famous press, the demanding fitness ability that all players had to adhere to? That was instilled in that disappointing first season. The window of transition from where they were, to where they can now adapt their formation and tactics dynamically? That takes time.

Emery too, needs the time to ensure his tactics are bedded in. That press we saw in the games we flickered to life? The wins over Chelsea, spurs, United? That is what we can now expect next season, albeit a lot more frequently.

We dropped off constantly last season, our defence struggled to adapt to new instructions, plus last season began with two tough fixtures, which in turn put pressure on subsequent games.

Emery will be under no illusions regarding who he needs in and shipped out in order to strengthen and carry out his formulas into battle. The list will already be drawn up, and pre-season will see us again begin to hit the cardio emphatically in order to maintain the lung-bursting orders from Emery. The very same orders that will see us improve once again.

Our fanbase needs a dose of realism. Emery, nay, all coaches, need a window of time to instil their own virtues. Even the mightiest of oaks still need years to flower.

Yes, our transfer activity may not be as it should be for a club of our standing, but as we are self-sustaining, we can only spend what we make. We cleared around £40m last season?

Well, that’s how much we’ve got to work with.

Fear not though. Emery’s expertise will start to show next season. His excellent pedigree wasn’t obtained in a cereal packet, he earned it and if given time, he can show us how.

We have to support, rather than call into question everything.

At the end of the season, when the dust settles, let’s see where we are.

 

Loan Deals – Future Is Out Of Their Hands…

Youth players have a plethora of pitfalls to navigate around in order to remain on the path to success.

Established clubs do all they can to prepare them for the obstacles they will face, but it is a necessary rite of passage in order to see who has the minerals to really prove their top-flight credentials.

There are some things that these starlets cannot compensate or prepare for though. Some circumstances are completely out of their hands and their future, or at least a large portion of it, is in the hands of someone else.

They are on the verge of a breakthrough, but with established players ahead of them making it difficult to earn the gametime they need to progress, these kids will be faced with the prospect of joining another club, often one of lower stature, for a season.

This opportunity is the last hurdle before they become fully fledged, ensconced within the club they were schooled in. It is also the highest of hurdles, and it all hinges on the manager at the time.

They choose the club that the youth prospect will be farmed out to. They are responsible for setting the parameters of immediate success or failure. You see, if the club is the wrong fit, then their progress can be set back, or even worse, they could be sold.

Opinion will be based on how they fare. We have had countless players who have been given their big opportunity to show everyone, and the people at Arsenal, what they’re made of. Instead, through a mixture of injuries, an untenable situation with the regime at their loan club, or plain bad luck, have seen them sent back early with their fragile confidence broken, or they stay for the duration of their loan and warm the bench, making sporadic performances they could make at Arsenal.

A prime example of a potential career breaker was the loan move of Serge Gnabry to West Brom. The manager at the time was Tony Pulis, not exactly renowned for being the finest exponent of swift, technical football, we all scratched our heads at the destination for our promising German winger.

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Gnabry had made his debut and seemed to be ready to make the final leap from prodigy to first eleven candidate. Wenger opted instead to send him to the Hawthorns, Perhaps Wenger thought he would test the mettle of Gnabry, to see if he could mix it as well as bewitch opponents? Whatever the musings were behind the decision, it backfired spectacularly, with Gnabry learning pretty much nothing from his move – other than Tony Pulis doesn’t get a rough deal – he really DOES only know one style of play.

You see, managers really do have the future of these kids in the balance. Does the destination club play the right way? Does the kid have something specific he needs to learn? Is the managerial situation stable? Does the manager have a forward thinking style? What is the positional competition like for the youngster?

Also, will our appointment of a Loan Overseer of sorts, help with future loanees?

Emi Martinez last season earned practically no experience in his loan move in La Liga, and it wasted an entire year of the keeper’s career.

The recent loan move for Reiss Nelson in particular, there is a focus here that isn’t usually on a loan deal – with  the huge promise that Nelson possesses. A lot hinges on this season, and Nelson is so far delivering on it – but the season is long.

The destination club – Hoffenheim – is a progressive club, playing a blend of football that adapts to the given opponent. It means Nelson will be schooled as well as get the game time he needs, and our club needs in order to goague his progress and capacity. Julian Nagelsmann is a revered coach and will use him wisely, but there could be tougher times ahead, times that mean the bench or worse, the physio’s table, beckons.

We have the likes of Calum Chambers and Krystian Bielik on loan too, with both players Arsenal future’s very much in the balance, off-set by the potential success or failure of their respective moves to Fulham and Charlton respectively.

These fledgling players can fight tooth and nail, bleed for every minute on the pitch, but if the loan club isn’t the right match, then it won’t matter a jot. Their future is not just in their hands.

Just imagine that. Having the fate of a kid in your hands. Rather them than me.

FA Cup Final Preview 2017

Kickoff – 1730hrs GMT

So, the chance to offset Arsenal’s Premier League disappointment is upon us today, as we go to Wembley for the FA Cup Final against Chelsea.

This is Arsenal’s 20th FA Cup Final appearance, which is a record. With an unlikely win here, we would also hold the record for most FA Cup wins, with 13.

I say it is unlikely, because we have navigated through a season without an injury crisis for the first time in years, and now before the biggest game in this campaign – and the last – we are plagued with injured defenders.

Laurent Koscielny foolishly received a red card in our last PL game last weekend against Everton and so the Frenchman is suspended. In the same game, Gabriel busted ligaments in his knee and looks to be out for two months, and we may be without Shkodran Mustafi who is still struggling with concussion. 

Who does that leave for our three man defence? Nacho Monreal and Rob Holding will take two of those slots, but we may have to rely on Per Mertesacker – who has not made a single appearance this season. People who are suddenly doubting the lanky German would do well to remember his pedigree and his talent. What is concerning with the potential utilisation of Mertesacker is the lack of match sharpness he will suffer from. Against the likes of Eden Hazard and Diego Costa, that could be fatal.

Kieran Gibbs is nursing a thigh injury and may miss out, and if he is absent, then the 3-5-2 we have been using may be put on the shelf for this game. It doesn’t end there either. Petr Cech suffered injury in training, so perennial backup Davide Ospina will likely play his last game for the Gunners. If you want an omen, Lukasz Fabianski also bowed out of Arsenal on a high too after playing in our 3-2 Final win over Hull in 2014……

There are rays of optimism to hold onto though. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is fit and should come straight back into the team after his useful showings at right-back in our new formation. Alexis Sanchez is also declared fit, and this could well be the last time we see him in an Arsenal shirt.

If that is the case, then the least he could do is leave us with a breathtaking performance and a cup win!

Another dilemma for Arsene Wenger – who also may be involved in his last Arsenal game – is who gets the striker spot. Danny Welbeck has been getting the nod of late, but Olivier Giroud is far more prolific. The England striker has been pretty dire in front of goal in the last few games, but his workrate, linkup play and pace may get him the shirt ahead of the bearded Gaul. 

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte has no such worries and will have a full squad at his disposal. His only headache will be who to play, and in particular, who of Pedro and Willian will get one of the flanks. Pedro had been preferred for the Premiership, where Willian has played in every round of the Cup. 
We are certainly up against it, that’s for sure. With our defence looking almost unrecognisable, our backup keeper taking the gloves and our opponent looking to complete the Double, our chances are certainly impacted. A Cup Final is certainly a leveller though, as form usually falls by the wayside.

KEY PLAYERS

Rob Holding

Much will fall on this young mans shoulders. His recent form spells out a bright future, but being bereft of Koscielny and possibly Mustafi will leave no margin for error for the inexperienced but talented Englishman. Can he step up and pull a performance out of the bag, and show what he has learned?
Granit Xhaka

The Swiss star has had a mixed bag in his first season. Much of the negativity has spawned from a mis-labelling, as the midfielder is not simply a DM. His long-range passing is probably his biggest strength, and we will need his radar to be on point to spring Alexis and Welbeck away when we are under pressure. 
Alexis

The Chile star is odds on to be at a new club in the summer. He has given nothing less than 100% so far this season though, and his talents could hold the key to unlocking a tight Chelsea defence. 
KEY STATS

Seven of the last eight FA Cup ties between these two teams have resulted in Arsenal wins.

The last time the teams played was a semi-final win for Chelsea in 2009. This is the only time Chelsea have beaten us in the Cup in 70 years.

We are unbeaten at Wembley since 2011. That includes seven games. 

Chelsea have won the last four Cup Finals they have appeared in – all by single goal margins. 

Antonio Conte as manager has had only one Cup Final. This was in 2012 as Juventus boss. He lost the game 2-0 to Napoli. 
Predicted Lineup – Ospina, Bellerin, Holding, Mustafi, Monreal, Xhaka, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Alexis, Welbeck.

Predicted Scoreline – 2-1 to The Arsenal!!

Arsenal Ladies Enter A New Season

The new Women’s Super League season will be kicking off this weekend, and Arsenal Ladies will be hoping to fight for the title they last won in 2012.

For the most successful women’s side in history, being in contention is the base requirement for a season.. Arsenal Ladies manager Pedro Martinez Losa will be under no illusions as to how difficult it will be this season to maintain their lofty expectations.

Not since 2003 has Arsenal Ladies suffered the ignominy of going through a campaign bereft of silverware, but with the rise of Manchester City Women and Chelsea Ladies in recent seasons, the Gunners must elevate themselves higher than before if they are to avoid a potless season.

What hasn’t helped is their exit from the FA Cup at the Quarter-Final stage at the hands of Birmingham City. The Blues triumphed with a 1-0 victory which was earned through an inspired performance from goalkeeper Ann Katrin-Berger. Danielle Van De Donk, Danielle Carter and Kim Little were all thwarted by the Birmingham stopper, and the Gunners were sucker-punched by a 77th minute Marisa Ewers goal – which was enough to dump Losa’s Gunners out of the Cup they had won four times out of the last six seasons.

Without this ever-reliable source of silverware to fall back on, the Gunners will be looking to clinch a first title since 2012, but with Manchester City Women and Chelsea Ladies being heavily backed in the transfer market, Losa and his charges will be fully aware of the need to step up a level after falling short last season.

That saw Arsenal Ladies finish in third place behind the two new powerhouses, and this new campaign looks likely to be just as difficult. 

City have continued to strengthen their side, and with USA star Carli Lloyd on their books, they look to again be the frontrunners for the title. They can also call on the talents of former Gunner Steph Houghton, Lucy Bronze and Toni Duggan. City are well equipped and armed to the teeth.

Chelsea have also added to their already strong squad, with Ramona Bachmann coming in from Wolfsburg and Crystal Dunn arriving from Washington Spirit. With Karen Carney and Eniola Aluko also extending their contracts with the Blues, Chelsea will be in contention at the business end of the season.

What of Arsenal though? 

It promises to be one of two things for the Gunners – a season of transition or one of progression. Losa has been busy in this transfer window, partly due to his hand being forced thanks to two club legends leaving the club.

Firstly, Kelly Smith has retired from football. The England and Arsenal icon has been at the forefront of Womens Football and has helped move the game into the spotlight, but now she has said her goodbye’s, can the Gunners actually fill the void left by such a high-calibre departure?

It didn’t stop there either. Casey Stoney has joined Liverpool Ladies, and the defender will be a big miss at the back for Losa. Experience is vital in defence, and Stoney was unrivalled in that department. With Spaniards Marta Corredera and Vicky Losada also leaving before a ball has been kicked, as well as German Josephine Henning, it was clear Losa must act quickly if any hope of success was to be made tangible.

A huge signing has seen Kim Little return to Arsenal after a spell with Seattle Reign. The Scotland attacker was a talismanic and decisive figure for Arsenal in her first spell at the club, and if she can recreate this form this season, the Arsenal will be in the running. Another new body of note would be the return of Carla Humphrey after spending last season on loan at Doncaster Belles. Humphrey grew in stature and Losa was quick to bring her back into the fold and extend her contract. This looks to be a wise move. Alex Scott looks to have a huge responsibility on her shoulders to marshall this new look defence. 

It may look that Arsenal are a little short in defence, but with an attack that can boast of Jordan Nobbs, Kim Little and Danielle Carter, Losa’s side will be good value for entertainment. Can the Gunners compensate for their lightness at the back with goals? They will need to if they are to overthrow Chelsea and City, as well as see off the emerging threat of Birmingham City and Liverpool Ladies.

This upcoming season of the Womens Super League looks poised to be the greatest one yet. 

Chuba Akpom’s Time to Shine

Originally posted on Goonersphere

Arsenal have a raft of youngsters waiting for their opportunity to shine on the biggest of stages. 

They have fought through every tier of the Arsenal pagoda, until they stand on the precipice of the very zenith. This is where the majority of these starry-eyed kids stumble.

The numerous youth teams act as a conveyor belt of sorts, pushing each product closer and closer to the point where they are quality tested and judged whether they can be added to the Arsenal first team. Chuba Akpom has been standing on the threshold for some time now – and the latest development will see whether he is Arsenal material or destined to carry on his career elsewhere.

Despite being part of the first team squad this season, Chuba has played a miniscule amount of football. The logical conclusion was to send Akpom on loan again, and it has seen Chuba arrive at Brighton and Hove Albion for the rest of the season.

The Seagulls are flying high in the Championship and pushing hard for an automatic promotion slot to the Premier League. Akpom’s arrival will give Gulls Boss Chris Hughton another option in attack to supplement the efficient Glenn Murray. 

Akpom is a deft hand in this Division. He has had extensive loan spells in recent years at Hull City and Nottingham Forest, both of which were perceived as successful for the players development and also for the team as they benefitted from Akpom’s pace and goals.

He should get enough game time to make his presence felt at the club – and also to alert Arsene Wenger that he is ready for a bigger role at Arsenal. In reality though, what does Chuba have to do to force himself into the Gunners ranks?

At this moment in time, Arsenal have Alexis Sanchez, Olivier Giroud, Danny Welbeck and Lucas Perez vying for a striking spot. This means that Akpom would have to oust at least two of these established international strikers to gain a prominent position. 

It also means Chuba needs results in order to complete his forst objective, which is to grab attention. He needs goals, and plenty of them. His talent has never been in question, but in the face of such tall odds – is Akpom’s target to gain a higher profile transfer in the summer?

With so many striking options at Arsenal, it seems highly unlikely that the 21 year old is going to get that first team spot he covets. This does not mean his loan spell is futile though. It actually places more pressure on the spell on the South Coast.

If he impresses as he has done in his previous sojourns from Arsenal, then his agent will be able to hawk him around to ambitious teams looking to add some genuine fire to their squad. Akpom would be able to grab a move to a Premier League side, if he achieves good things with Brighton.

This loan spell could actually set out his career path for the next few seasons. If he impresses, it means he gets that shot at the big time – either with Arsenal or with another top-flight team. If he flatters to deceive, it could put him lower in the pecking order at Arsenal, and if he seeks a move, it will see lesser lights seeking his signature.

That conveyor belt at London Colney I talked of earlier? It means that if there is not progression, it sees the players behind you pushing you off the belt. There is a perpetual queue of youth products waiting to take that test that Chuba Akpom now has to take.

Kelechi Nwakali, Takuma Asano, Jon Toral and Daniel Crowley are all currently on loan at top flight teams around Europe. They will gladly take the ball that is potentially dropped by Akpom, should he fluff his lines at Brighton.

The pressure on these young men is immense, but the reward dwarves this weight on their shoulders. 

Can Chuba Akpom deliver? We will all watch his every move.

Calum Chambers On Loan To Boro

Just as it seemed that our club had filled the gaps in our squad sufficiently to hurdle the inevitable injury woes that befall us every season – a player departs from our ranks.

Calum Chambers has travelled to Middlesbrough for a season-long loan deal, in a quest for minutes on the pitch.

The Teeside club will benefit from the England defender’s presence, their backline is a little light on the ground and Chambers will more than likely slot into the heart of their defence.

What does this say for Chambers Arsenal prospects though? At the start of the season, and after a promising pre-season, Chambers looked in pole position to grab his fair share of starts. Per Mertesacker was ruled out for a lenghty spell through injury, and Brazilian Gabriel then crocked himself in the last friendly game before the season even started.

The England international was primed and ready. The first game of the season arrived, and he was named as centre-back alongside recent purchase Rob Holding. A central defensive pairing of a 20 and 21 year old brings its fair share of positives and negatives, but experience is possible one of the most valuable assets as a defender – and so it proved.

For seventy minutes, Chambers and Holding held Liverpool at bay, but for just twenty minutes, he and his young compatriot were ripped apart and pulled in all directions as we shipped four goals to completely change the landscape of the game.

The lack of experience told. It also showed that Chambers’ lack of minutes has been detrimental. In fits and bursts, Chambers looks to be the real deal, but he now needs the battle scars to ally with his talent.

It can only be gametime that can further Chambers career. If he had stayed at the club for the season, then his development would have been hindered, either through a lack of games or a stop-start campaign where he is simply called upon like a bandage to a wound – filling in only when injuries leave us weak.

This move should be grasped with both hands by Chambers. He has been given another chance by Wenger to plant himself in the future plans of the club with this loan move. By moving to a club who are perceived by many to be staving off the threat of relegation for the duration, Chambers will be under pressure for the majority. If he can come out of this season with his head held high, then the next season will seem like a cakewalk in comparison.

This loan move makes sense, but the warning lights for Chambers future at The Emirates have flashed. He has fallen behind in the pecking order, and needs to step up. This season may just be the most important one for Chambers in his time with Arsenal, even if he won’t be playing for us. 

Go and show us all what you can do Calum. 

Jack On Loan To Bournemouth – Wilshere-ly Be Back?

Every club has their fan favourites.

These players enjoy the adulation a little more than most, and the reason they can bask in the love varies.

Some of these idols bang in the goals with unerring frequency. Others typify the battling qualities that the fans identify with. Others fall into a ‘cult classic’ mould, due to their lenght of time with the club and lack of flair – a la Tony Hibbert.

Then you have players who have represented the club all the way through the youth ranks, and have an obvious love affair with the crest they carry on their chest.

That is Jack Wilshere.

News of his season-long loan departure has strains of positivity, but dominating the thoughts and feedback surrounding his move is one of regret and sadness.

Injury has ever been Wilshere’s nemesis, and his alarming stat of only making 119 Premier League starts in his entire career spells his problem out as clear as crystal.

His loan move to Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth is the chance for Wilshere to finally remind the critics that his talent makes him England’s most talented midfielder. 

It is still difficult to make sense of though. Wilshere, meant to be one of the more talented of our squad, spending a season on loan at minnows Bournemouth? 

Who’d have thought it? The issue though, is memory. 

It is merely memory that fuels the criticism that follows Jack, or lack of it. We have to hark back to 2013-14 for a season relatively unhindered by injury – and Wilshere reinforcing belief that he can be Arsenal and England’s future.

Jack will join up with former Gunner and childhood friend Benik Afobe and it cannot be dismissed how important this factor is. All new surroundings (Jack having been at Arsenal his whole career), setting up home for a year, and the problem of commuting back to Hertfordshire to see his family will cause slight problems, so a friend to aid them in the lonely difficult times may allow Jack to concentrate on matters on the pitch.

 There is the small matter of adapting to a different style and requirements of him. One thing is for sure, if he maintains fitness – something that has been beyond him – then the men who are his positional rivals cannot hope to match his burst of speed, vision and transitional capabilities. 

One major asset of his move to the South Coast team is the manager. Eddie Howe has forged a reputation as a boss who utilises new ideas, and gets his team to play their own football, rather than reacting to opposition tactics. It is daring, but Jack can learn more from Howe. More importantly, he will be used in the correct way.

It seemed as if Wilshere was off to Roma to join fellow loanee Szczesny, but due to bad blood between the sides thanks to transfer negotiations for Roma defender Manolas going awry, Arsenal have opted for the Cherries.

It is a good thing too. Roma have Strootman, De Rossi, Paredes and Nianggolan in central midfield – and the whole point of Wilshere being loaned out is to gain minutes on the pitch.

Jack adores our club, and we adore him. The fact we have had fleeting glimpses of the man with the errant tongue has made this loan deal so bittersweet.

It is obvious it is for his benefit, it is clear that it could make him a better player. We know he needs minutes. 

To just see him in a different jersey will seem alien, but he needs a regular opportunity to test those troublesome limbs. If he had stayed, then he would continue to get sporadic minutes. Santi Cazorla is ahead of him, and there may be a chance to get in the starting lineup through injury, but at Roma, he will be leaving with the promise of more minutes.

Jack must return to cement the potential of legendary status he possesses. If fitness was no issue, then the captains armband would be adorning his arm, but alas, it hasn’t materialised. 

Bournemouth  beckons, and perhaps a last chance to grab a future at Arsenal. 

Good luck  Jack. Gooners everywhere will be following your every move. 

2015/16 Season Review – Part 2. January – May.

Originally posted on Goonersphere

This second part continues the trawl through the thirty eight games we call a Premier League season.

The first part concentrated on August through to December, and this part will be a focus on the second half of our league campaign.

Amongst the numbers, we will hopefully be able to discover what dropped points hurt us the most, which are easily rectifiable – and which mistakes must be erased if next season we are to go one better.

Strap in tight, here we go –

Continue reading 2015/16 Season Review – Part 2. January – May.

2015/16 Season Review – Part One. August – December

Original Goonersphere post.

With perhaps the most surprising title winner of all time lifting the Premiership trophy, the go-to thought amongst experts and Gooners alike is that this season was a missed opportunity of epic proportions.

This is of course a disservice to Leicester City. Losing only three times all season and refusing to buckle under the huge pressure doled out by all who expected the Foxes to crumble, they showed they were worthy Champions.

Two of those three losses were inflicted by Arsenal however. So many questions regarding the events that unfolded through the season. Where was our title challenge lost? Was it really in March that the wheels came off? Or should we have expected our annual blip and made more of our games beforehand?

Fear not. This article will pore over each month and attempt to dredge up the real reason why Arsenal finished as runners-up. Gloves on. Goggles on. Let’s get started –

August

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The season started so optimistically. Winning the Charity Shield by beating bogey side Chelsea convinced nay-sayers that we could make the final leap from also-rans to winners. Not only that, the final piece in the Arsenal team puzzle was acquired in world-class keeper Petr Cech…..

Who, in his first Premiership game against West Ham, was at fault. We lost 2-0, and optimism gave way to the more familiar vibes of morose realism.

The next game saw an away victory – a tight 2-1 win over Crystal Palace which was stilted and painful to watch – but more dropped points were to follow.

The perennial phrase ‘a game of two halves,’ was made for our 0-0 draw versus Liverpool. Denied a clear penalty in the first half, we spent the entire second half on the back foot. Plus points for proving we had defensive nous and steel, but our attacking touch had vanished once more.

We finished the month with a hard fought 1-0 away win against Newcastle United.  Not the best start to a title tilt….

End of Month Position – 5th
Leicester’s Position – 3rd
Points taken – 7/12

September

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September started well. A routine 2-0 win over a Stoke side that was far removed from their previous incarnations meant that we were riding on the coattails of runaway leaders Manchester City. An awful start to our Champions League campaign though – a 2-1 loss to Zagreb – took away any momentum we always painstakingly gather.

An Arsenal void of confidence is a painful, laborious beast, but a golden opportunity was on the horizon. Chelsea were next up, and if we had thought we had started slowly, then the boys in blue from the Kings Road had to go one better and flirt with relegation.

This was our chance to lay to rest some awful performances and results against Jose and his team, and for Wenger to earn a first win over his Portuguese tormentor.

Everyone forgot to change the record however, so we had another defeat, we failed to score, and there was more controversy with Gabriel being sent off for an altercation with the demon that is Diego Costa. The Brazilian had his card rescinded, but the damage was done.

We rolled with the punches though. A thoroughly memorable 5-2 win at the home of Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester was ninety minutes where our attack clicked for the first time. Alexis and co blew them away with our movement and once again, we were on the crest of a wave. Could we do it on a consistent basis?

End of Month Position – 4th
Leicester’s Position – 6th
Points taken – 6/9

October

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October was our most convincing month for league results, by far.

What a way to start as well. Our 3-0 win at The Emirates over United was our most thorough display. The first 45minutes we were rampant, and Van Gaal’s defence had no answer to the blizzard of questions we threw at them. The second half was a defensive masterclass that showed we have more than enough teeth to deal with the slings and barbs of the high end of the table.

Next up was Vicarage Road, and another 3-0 victory. This was markedly different to the previous game, as the Hornets, for 60 minutes, were more than a match, but they crumbled under the pressure we inflicted on them.

A famous 2-0 win over Bayern Munich followed this, and the belief was coursing through our side, not to mention the fanbase.

A 2-1 away win over Everton was the next triumph. Two goals in the first half was enough to see Arsenal at the top of the league – the first time since February 2014.

The only blip on October was the embarrassing 3-0 defeat at the hands of Championship side Sheffield Wednesday in the League Cup. The fans who watched and attended this game are still attending counselling sessions…..

The month ended with a 3-0 win over Swansea at the Liberty Stadium. All three goals were scored in the second half, which showed that patience and not deviating from an effective gameplan were becoming another arrow to what looked like an impressive quiver.

End of Month Position –  2nd (GD separated us from 1st)
Leicester’s Position – 3rd
Points taken – 12/12

November

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If October brought us bountiful pleasure, November was the polar opposite. The 2-0 victory over Bayern? Erased comprehensively with a 5-1 drubbing.

We had three Premier League games this month. First up was a 1-1 draw in the North London derby, a point that on the basis of play, we scarcely deserved. Kieran Gibbs was the unlikely hero as he rescued our point from yet another Ozil delivery.

Next was a 2-1 loss at The Hawthorns. We took the lead – Ozil supplying Giroud which gave him seven assists in seven games – but James Mclean equalised, but worse was to come.

Mikel Arteta, on for the injured Coquelin, diverted a cross into his own net, for a heartbreaking cameo. The second half saw the inevitable pressure poured onto a Baggies backline, and we even had a late penalty to restore balance, but Santi Cazorla slipped as he kicked and the ball was sent into orbit.

To compound the growing ill-feeling, we then went to Carrow Road and drew 1-1. November truly was awful, and with hindsight, it was to prove quite telling….

End of Month Position – 4th
Leicester’s Position – 2nd (only GD separated them from top spot)
Points taken – 2/9

December

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The fixtures came thick and fast in the festive schedule – which was a blessing. When hiccups occur, it is always good that the next opportunity for redemption isn’t far away.

The previous horror show of a month wasn’t quite erased, but our 3-1 over Sunderland at home meant we were at least back to winning ways. It was followed up by a regulatory 2-0 victory over whipping boys Aston Villa.

We were still within touching distance of the top, and dreams had every right to flourish. They downright burst into vivid colour when we defeated fellow title contenders Manchester City 2-1. Two first half goals from Walcott (his goal was one of his few highlights of a poor season) and Giroud, set up a second half where once again our defensive merits were put to the test. Yaya Toure scored a late goal, but our line held firm and the three points reinvigorated our team – and our fans.

Arsenal being Arsenal though, meant we couldn’t enjoy ourselves for too long before we fell on our face. A 4-0 hammering at the hands of Ronald Koeman’s Southampton – thoroughly deserved as well – showed that whilst our squad may be stronger, our mentality was fragile.

We ended the month with a 2-0 win at home over Bournemouth, but the result against the Saints had left scars. We were at the top of the league at the halfway point. A great position to be in for the new year.

End of Year Position –  1st
Leicester’s Position – 2nd – 1point behind.
Points taken – 12/15
Points taken for the season so far –  39/57

The second half of the season to follow in Part 2!

New Season Predictions


Originally posted on Goonersphere.


Last season seems like an age ago.

The domestic football calendar ended with our glorious triumph and utter humiliation of our opponents at Wembley, which was completely at odds with how we started our campaign, which was mired in mediocrity and saw Gooners everywhere give their opinion on stale milk.

Given how the season progressed, how many of us could have predicted the final outcome of affairs? Could any of us say with any authority that they envisioned us reclaiming the silverware which we so valiantly fought for versus Hull? Did any plucky soul venture a guess as to our Jekyll and Hyde Premiership assault?

Whilst Arsenal remain elusive to the minds eye when attempting to predict their fate, other teams, players and managers plod along their well trodden path with such predictability that next season will see them once more trip, fall and proclaim that outside influences are the cause of their failure rather than their own meandering endeavours.

These happenings will continue to happen until change is forced upon them. Next season will be no different.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give to you, my predictions for next season.

Continue reading New Season Predictions