Friday, December 30, 2011

The 5 Best and Worst Arsenal Moments of 2011

Measuring events in terms of a calendar year in football is a little silly. Almost everything that happens in club football is only important in terms of the August to May season. But so many things have happened to Arsenal in the last twelve months, I felt nostalgic. So indulge me.

The Best

1) Arsenal 2 Barcelona 1.

We not only beat the best team in European football last season, we beat probably one of the greatest club teams ever to grace the game. Barcelona again tried to batter us out of the game in the first half but we held our own, possibly with the aid of a few generous refereeing decisions (oh how we could done with these in the away leg). If Robin's goal was an inspired moment of individual brilliance, then Arshavin's was a real team effort, featuring incisive passing from several players prior to a brilliant first time finish. The result created a real sense of hope that we finally had a set of players who were capable of beating the very best, and it's surely the best result Arsenal have achieved at the Emirates in our short history at the new ground.

2) Chelsea 3 Arsenal 5

The first time for a while that we've really battered another top English team away from home. Robin's hat-trick was absolutely masterful, and John Terry falling over was, let's face it, amazing.

3) Robin van Persie's form

Not since Henry in 2005-2006 have we had a striker as good as Robin. He scores all sorts of goals, with both feet, and he creates countless opportunities for other team members. His contract situation is a real worry, but we should really just appreciate having such a brilliant player at the club, no matter how much longer he stays.

4) Arsenal 1 Manchester United 0

Only Arsenal could go on some form of crippling end-of-season collapse, and still beat the eventual league champions. Beating United is always great, and it's the first time we've done it for a while. Also, seeing Ramsey get the winner was particularly poignant - not only was it a sign that he was over his injury and ready to step up to a bigger role in Arsenal's midfield, it was also against the team he rejected in order to join the Arse.

5) The last few days of the Transfer Window.

Ok, so maybe Park has turned out to be a bit of weird signing - but even he could still turn good. Other than that, getting Arteta, Benayoun, Santos and Mertesacker in the space of about three days might well have be the difference between us finishing in the top four or not come May

The Worst

1) Arsenal 1 Birmingham City 2

Surely one of the lowest moments in the recent history of the club. Everything seemed to be lining up for Arsenal's first trophy win since 2005. All the big clubs had fallen at an earlier stage, although that didn't stop us from a rather humiliating 1-0 defeat in the first leg of the semi-final to Ipswich. Worse was to come. After RvP had dragged us back into the game, we besieged the Birmingham goal, but lax finishing and some decent goalkeeping from Ben Foster kept the scores level. Just as it seemed extra-time was inevitable, we lost, in ridiculous fashion. Koz and SZCZ both went for the same ball, there was a mix-up, there was a goal. The only consolation from all this was Birmingham's subsequent relegation.

2) Manchester United 8 Arsenal 2

I really don't want to dwell on this, because it was an absolute massacre. A combination of injuries and our disastrous summer transfer window conspired to us putting out a poor, disorganized side at Old Trafford, who were then ruthlessly taken apart by United. The only highlight was the amazing support of the travelling fans, who managed to ensure that the club came away from the occasion with some semblance of dignity.

3) Arsenal 1 Barcelona 3

So, we all know that Barca are a great team, but, my god, they have a lot dubious decisions go in their favour. In what must rank as one of the most appalling refereeing decisions in the last decade, RvP was sent off for basically nothing. Despite a Sergio Busquets own-goal having given us a life-line, it was only a matter of time once we were down to ten men before Barca ripped us apart. Maybe one day we'll play them with our strongest 11 in the Nou Camp, and we'll get refereeing decisions in our favour. One day.

4) Basically 95% of the Summer Transfer Window.

Arsene has said that he could write a book about what happened this summer, and I believe him. The handling of the Nasri and Fabregas transfers was a disaster, and directly led to our catastrophic start to the season. I've said it before, but the Premier League seriously has to look at why the season starts before the window shuts.

5) 95% of the games we played between late February and early September of this year.

In early February, we had just beaten Barcelona, looked like we might win the Carling Cup, and were definite title contenders. By early September, we looked like we were on an almost irreversible losing streak. Massive kudos should be given to the  players for turning around this situation in the last few months, but you have to go back to the dark days of '95 for a patch of form as bad as that which we suffered for large sections of this year.


So, it's been a distinctly mixed year, with some real highs and some awful lows. Let's hope we can build on the upsurge that happened with our form recently in the new year.  A nice cup run would certainly not go amiss.

Happy new year - let's hope for three points against QPR tomorrow.


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