With the Premier League and its cup cousins coming to a close in the next month, it’s time to assess the damage and delight from Arsenal’s season. In one of the most confusing seasons yet, many fans disagree whether this season can be deemed success or failure. In the next two posts I take a look at the best and worst of the Gunners' games, beginning with the latter.
|Arsenal celebrate. Debuchy does it his way.|
5. Arsenal 3-3 Anderlecht – November 4, 2014
Having got their CL campaign back on track, Arsenal looked in a good position to win their Champions League group for the first time in a while. At 3-0 up on 58’ against arguably the least fancied team in the group, Arsenal were in dreamland, but when Anderlecht’s first goal came, something felt wrong. Although the subsequent two goals caused a shock 3-3 result and the dropping of two vital points for the Gunners, the inability to see the game out came as little surprise to fans fatigued by such apparent mental fragility. The result didn’t prove too costly, but was the source of much mirth for rival clubs.
4. Stoke 3-2 Arsenal – December 6, 2014
|Arsenal's ultimate away game.|
Two weeks after a dismal 2-0 defeat at the hands of a dominant Dortmund side, Arsenal travelled to bogey-ground, The Britannia. Arsenal’s form at the home of ‘The Potters’ is poor, and it would be of little surprise to see that the Venn diagram of Arsenal fans who enjoy pottery has yielded a thinner and thinner overlap in recent years. Stoke’s first goal came as stereotypical as you like, as the ironically named ‘Crouch’ bundled home in the first minute. In a cruel twist of circumstance, the second goal came from a player very much in Wenger’s mould, Bojan, a La Masia academy player and diminutive chap. Jon Walters made it 3-0 at half-time.
But it’s the hope that will destroy you, and Arsenal quickly brought it back to 3-2 with twenty minutes remaining, only for Chambers to get himself sent off and Stoke to hold out. Arsenal missed the chance to go fourth, remained 13 points from Chelsea, and Wenger was heckled onto the train by angry fans.
3. Chelsea 2-0 Arsenal - October 5, 2014
Arsenal returned to the scene of a loss so humiliating, that the subsequent 2-0 defeat felt almost like a point. Chelsea kept Arsenal at arm’s length in a routine win, albeit one spiced up by the appearance of former Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas. Wenger pushed Mourinho, Arsenal suffered their first league loss of the season, and the critics once again had evidence that Arsenal were a long way from a) winning the title, and b) winning big games.
2. Arsenal 1-2 Manchester United – November 22, 2014
2014, FA Cup win aside, was not a great calendar year for Arsenal was it? Coming off the back of the 3-3 Anderlecht draw and a 2-1 defeat to Swansea, a win here would have alleviated much pressure. United’s defence looked shaky, existing in the form of McNair, Smalling and Blackett, and Arsenal had a near full strength team at their disposal. Arsenal dominated proceedings early on, but Wilshere missed Arsenal’s best chance to capitalise. The goal was gaping to such an extent that it was practically yelling at Wilshere to boot it in. Wilshere’s horrid injury in the second half sadly set the tone for a painful 45 minutes, as a Gibbs own-goal followed by a Rooney counter-attack seemed to conclude proceedings. Giroud’s consolation goal only confirmed that Arsenal play when the pressure is gone, although the sheer beauty of it made it more of a consolation GOLLLLLLLLL (ahem). The result left Arsenal 15 points off the top, having missed a big chance to end their poor run against United, and in eighth position (the back of the track in MarioKart Super Circuit incidentally).
1. Arsenal 1-3 Monaco, February 25, 2015.
OH THE PAIN.
This one hurt, in so many ways.
Having drawn Barcelona, AC Milan, and Bayern Munich twice in the last four seasons, it was all too glorious that Arsenal drew Monaco this time around. Fans can hardly have been blamed for assuming progression after the plucky efforts against bigger opposition in previous years, but Monaco had qualms with such thoughts. Big qualms. Arsenal came into the fixture with a strong first team, as Sanchez, Giroud, Ozil, Coquelin, Cazorla and Koscielny made sure Arsenal were favourites. I’m sure goals scored against the team you support often seem laden with extra meaning whoever you support, but the subtext of the first two goals was alarmingly poignant. Initially, Geoffrey Kondogbia, a player oft mentioned as a potential solution to Arsenal’s paucity, exposed such characteristics to nab an away goal. Then, former Tottenham hero Dimitar Berbatov booted the second goal in.
Peak Arsenal? Not yet.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain looked to have salvaged legitimate hope with an absolute barnstormer late on, but Arsenal stayed too true to their attacking principles, looking to level the tie. Instead Monaco broke away, and Ferreira Carrasco slotted a third, and crucial goal, past the flailing Ospina. It was Twitter-chaos. Arsenal’s 2-0 win in Monaco weeks later was, unfortunately, the most predictable result of all time.
Fear not Arsenal fans! The five most fantastic results of the Gunners' season are up next!