After a very good end to 2014 Arsenal travelled to Southampton. Two mistakes from Szczesny handed Saints a 2-0 win and the result could not really be argued. The first Szczesny came out and was lobbed and the second managed to toe poke the ball straight to Tadic who gratefully accepted the chance. One really good chance for Cazorla, a few half chances for Chamberlain and Alexis were all Arsenal mustered. Coquelin started his second full match for Arsenal since being called back from a loan spell with Charlton due to an injury picked up by Ramsey in December. What a difference this guy was about to make to the second half of the season.
The draw for the FA Cup 3rd round brought up a repeat of last season’s final with Hull City travelling to the Emirates. Hull had already visited the Emirates in the league and came away with a credible 2-2 draw. Theo Walcott made his first appearance for a year and only two of the team that beat Hull in the Cup last May started this match. Arsenal won the game deservedly 2-0 a Mertesacker header from a corner and a tidy turn and finish from Alexis.
Next up were our friends from Middle Earth. Ospina kept his place in-goal. Arsenal won with ease. Goals from Koscielny and two from Alexis saw Arsenal run out 3-0 winners. Once again though 3-0 up and the scoring stopped. Debuchy came back in for Chambers, picked up an injured shoulder and would be out for a while. Arsenal travelled to Manchester City with the old “Arsenal don’t do well against the big teams” ringing in their ears. Well this was a different Arsenal performance, more focused on defence as a team and how our opponents play. City threatened in the first half but Ospina did not have a save to make. Arsenal soaked up whatever City threw, minus Yaya and scored twice themselves with a Cazorla penalty and a Giroud header from a Cazorla free kick.. This was a superb win that showed Arsenal could beat the big sides if they set up correctly.
FA Cup fourth round was up next. An away visit to Brighton where Arsenal had beat them 3-2 only two seasons before in the Cup. This time goals from Walcott. Ozil and a cracker from Rosicky helped produce another 3-2 victory and move Arsenal into the fifth round. On 26 January Arsenal signed Gabriel Paulista from Villareal for around £11m which looked a good addition for cover on The BFG and Koscielny. After a poor start to the month away at Southampton.
Arsenal recorded four wins on the spin, finished the month with thirty-nine points from twenty-two games and fifth in the table. January picked up after the defeat away at Southampton and the victory at Manchester City would give the team confidence to push on for the rest of the season.
Arsenal started the month turning over Aston Villa 5-0 at home and this without Alexis. The flick of the season from Ozil set up Giroud to start the rout. Three passes from Edge of Arsenal’s box saw Ozil make it 2-0. Four passes from back to front then saw Walcott curl in Arsenal’s third. A penalty from Cazorla and a nice placed finish from Bellerin ended the scoring. Arsenal had kept three clean sheets and taken nineteen out of a possible twenty-four points.
Next up was the North London derby at Shite Hart Lane. Arsene Wenger’s 700th Premiership match and 45th North London Derby. Arsenal started well and went 1-0 early on through a well taken goal by Ozil set up by Welbeck and Giroud (miss-kick?) . Then Arsenal sat back and Spurs poured forward. Spurs players were certainly getting stuck in and maybe Rose and Mason may well have seen red on another day with Atkinson in another of his poor game modes. With Arsenal having held out till half time you could sense a Spurs goal was coming and Kane came up with the goods for Spurs on fifty-six minutes to equalise. Arsenal could not get their game going at all and yet Koscielny could have put Arsenal ahead with a header he put straight at Lloris. With four minutes left Kane rose to head home to give Spurs a 2-1 win. North London was white The shift in North London was being mentioned again. Spurs were going to finish above Arsenal. Spurs were nailed on for top four. Those living in the shadows of North London will never learn.
Leicester City were Arsenal’s next opponents at the Emirates. Sanchez was back to replace Giroud. Walcott and Rosicky replaced Welbeck and Ramsey. Arsenal won with goals from Koscielny and Walcott both assisted by Ozil. Leicester did well and had their chances and pulled one back in the sixty-first minute. Only a good save by Ospina stopped Leicester maybe getting a well deserved draw. FA Cup firth Round day and Middlesboro were the visitors. Gabriel made his debut for the club. Szczesny back in for Ospina. Cazorla was made Captain. Riding high in the Championship and having defeated Manchester City 2-0 at the £tihad in the previous round, this was billed as a very close match. It never turned out that way a two goals in two minutes from Giroud in the first half settled the match. The first a simply majestic team goal where every player in the Arsenal side touched the ball before Giroud scored. Arsenal dominated and there were to be no heroics from Boro in this game. in truth if it were not for Mejias in-goal for Boro, the scoreline could have been 5-0.
Arsenal travelled over the Thames to Crystal Palace in what looked like a tough match as Pardew had got Palace playing some decent football and winning matches. Jack Wilshere out for three months returned to the squad. Arsenal went 2-0 up through a Cazorla penalty and a well worked goal leading to Giroud scoring and taking his tally for Arsenal to fifty goals. the last fifteen minutes Palace piled on the pressure, got one back and then hit the post, but Arsenal somehow held on and took the three points as Palace though with plenty of pressure and twenty odd shots a goal only three were on target.
The final game of the month was at home in the Champions League against Monaco. What looked like a good draw for Arsenal ended up being a nightmare evening as Arsenal played poorly or maybe were made to play poorly as Monaco won 3-1 and totally deserved their victory. Monaco were also shorn of a few of the main players. Only highlight for Arsenal was a late cracker from Oxlade-Chamberlain that might have given Arsenal a small chance in the second leg. Arsenal finished the month with Forty-Eight points from twenty-six games and third in the table. Arsenal won three of their four league games and progressed to the sixth round of the FA Cup. The table also showed Arsenal five points clear of Tottenham who only two league games earlier were one point clear of Arsenal and the pride of North London.
Gabriel got his first Premier League start at home to Everton. Arsenal’s first goal saw Giroud score from a Ozil corner. A great chance fell to Ozil but a very good tackle from Jagielka saved Everton. A late Tomas Rosicky shot from outside the box that took a slight deflection sealed the result for Arsenal 2-0. Hardly a classic performance but three welcome points. Arsenal then travelled the short distance to West London to take on Queen’s Park Raisins. A largely uninspiring first half came to life in the second with Arsenal playing some good football. This was rewarded with two goals in five minutes with Giroud stabbing home from Gibbs short cross. Alexis made it 2-0 with one of his weaving runs and near post shot. Austin pulled one back for Rangers. The truth is Arsenal should have won by a bigger margin here. However a fourth consecutive league win was welcome.
BBC Sports decided Arsenal’s away match against Manchester United in the FA Cup sixth round would be played at 8pm on a Monday evening. Manchester United had reached the sixth round beating Yeovil, Cambridge and Preston. Arsenal actually played well and went 1-0 up after twenty-five minutes through a well worked team goal finished by Monreal. Sadly Arsenal only held out four minutes as their nemesis Rooney scored for United to equalise. Valencia then assisted Arsenal in the sixty-first minute with a short back pass that Welbeck anticipated, rounded (shoot straight me) de Gea and slide the ball home for 2-1 Arsenal. Cazorla then shot straight at de Gea, though to be fair it was a good save that should have been 3-1. Signing of the season, Di Maria, all £63m of him got himself sent off . A fully deserved victory for Arsenal as they went through into the semi-finals of the FA Cup.
West Ham then popped over from East London to the Emirates and if you want to talk quick passing and a superb goal at the end of a speedy move, look no further than Arsenal’s first goal in this match right on half time. A cracker into the top corner from Giroud, who simply cannot stop scoring right now. Arsenal should have been at least 3-0 up at half time but wasted chances. Arsenal’s second came on eighty-four minutes from a thrown-in which saw Giroud and Ramsey have an exchange of passes before Ramsey slide the home. Another superb move only a couple of minutes ended with Cazorla sliding the ball across the area for Flamini to tap in with his first touch of the ball. 3-0 to Arsenal.
After a run of domestic games it was back to the Champions League and the second leg away against Monaco. Arsenal needed to win by three clear goals to progress into the next round. Maybe even a 3-1 victory and win on penalties, but whatever this was going to be a tough ask. In the end a first half strike from Giroud and late goal from Ramsey just wasn’t enough. Arsenal teased as usual winning 2-0 on the night and going out on the away goal rule, yet again. It was back to the Premier League and a trip up north to play Newcastle United who were not exactly setting the world on fire. Arsenal didn’t really play that well, but two first half goals from Giroud put Arsenal 2-0 up at the break. A quick reply from Newcastle in the second half reduced the arrears and Arsenal held on. Newcastle had plenty of the ball yet only one really good chance to equalize, however, Ospina was up to the task saving from Sissoko.
Arsenal finished the month with sixty points from thirty games and third in the table. Arsenal won four out of four league games, beat Monaco 2-0 away in Champions League and progressed to the sixth round of the FA Cup. Six-out-of-six wins in the month. Four defeats in twenty-games since the beginning of December the team were certainly getting it together and playing taking each opposition into account. Downer was going out yet again at the knock out stage of the Champions League.
Arsenal started the month with a superb victory over Liverpool winning 4-1 at home and continuing their recent revival of form. Three first half goals in eight minutes put Arsenal 3-0 up at the break with a superb solo run and curled shot from Bellerin. A lovely free-kick from Ozil and a hammer shot from Sanchez. Liverpool pulled one back through a Henderson penalty, however, Giroud scored another beauty on ninety minutes to give the scoreline a better look to it after Can had been sent off for Liverpool. Arsenal then travelled up to the North West to take on relegation candidates Burnley. An Aaron Ramsey goal on twelve minutes settled the game after about four chances in the Burnley area went begging. Arsenal once again should have put this game to bed and though Burnley battled well, but Arsenal should have won by more.
FA Cup Semi-Final day. The draw had seen Arsenal pitched against Reading who were languishing down the bottom end of the Championship. Previous matches Arsenal had played at Wembley showed that nothing is guaranteed. Arsenal took the lead through Alexis who was on the end of a superb ball from Ozil, to control and tucked the ball nicely past the keeper. Reading battled and got a reward after sixty-one minutes when McCleary scored to equalise. The game went to extra-tine and in the one-hundredth and sixth minute Alexis won the match as the his low shot squirmed under the keeper to make it 2-1 to Arsenal who moved into their second successive FA Cup final.
Chelsea came to the Emirates for a match Arsenal simply had to win if they had any chance, however, small of winning the title. Jose played this tight, no forwards and defence all the way. The result was a not surprising 0-0 draw as Arsenal could not break down Chelsea’s defence, producing only one shot on target in the whole game. A professional result that pleased Jose and put to bed any hope of Arsenal winning the title.
Arsenal finished the month with sixty-seven points from thirty-three games and still third in the table. Arsenal won two out of three league games and progressed to the FA Cup Final. Arsenal now had only four defeats in twenty-four games since the beginning of December. The FA Cup Final would be between Arsenal and Aston Villa who had beaten Liverpool in their semi-final.
The month started with Arsenal travelling to Hull City on a Monday night. A superb first half performance from Arsenal saw three quick goals put Arsenal 3-0 up by the break. Two goals from Alexis, one a free kick and the other nicely take rounding the keeper and one from Ramsey whose shot took a deflection off a defender. Arsenal then applied the hand brake again. Hull got one back through Quinn but Arsenal saw the game out to go level on points with Manchester City in second and with a game-in-hand.
Seven days later and another Monday night match this time at home to Swansea. Arsenal played some good stuff, had plenty of chances on a night when ex-keeper Fabianski decided to play like a word beater and Swansea defended like Trojans. A late Gomis header sealed the points for Swansea on a disappointing night for Arsenal’s hopes of finishing second.
Arsenal went back to Old Trafford to play Manchester United. A win or avoid defeat meant Arsenal could secure or almost secure third place and no pre-qualification for the Champions League proper for next season. Manchester United did not have nemesis Rooney in their line up. Arsenal didn’t really turn up for the first half and United went in at the break 1-o up through Herrera. Arsenal played better in the second half and a cross from Walcott was turned into his own net by Blackett for Arsenal’s equaliser. That’s how the game ended and Arsenal only need not lose to Sunderland to be sure of securing that third place finish.
Sunderland came to the Emirates fighting to stay in the premiership. Arsenal had plenty of the game, created enough chances to have won two games and yet somehow with some good defending Sunderland got the point they needed with a 0-0 draw. Another disappointing performance from Arsenal having now gone three homes games without scoring a goal. The final league match was at home to West Bromwich Albion and Arsenal took them apart in the first half with four well taken goals and one of them Wilshere’s winning the MOTD goals of the season award. The second half was mainly just going through the motions and that hand break was applied to good use as it was so many times over the. season. However with the game won here and an FA Cup Final only a few days away, it was sort of understandable. Arsenal finished on seventy-five points from thirty-eight games and in third place. Five defeats in the last thirty games. Finishing a full eleven points ahead of the mob down the Seven Sisters Road.
The final game of the season was the FA Cup Final at Wembley against Aston Villa. A comprehensive 4-0 win saw Arsenal take their second successive FA Cup trophy. Albeit the match was one-sided as Arsenal not only stopped Villa playing, but played as well as they have all season, thus ending the season on a high note. Third in the table and a trophy to boot is a slight improvement on last season.
Fewer points gained than previous season, but that may say more about the Premiership overall last season, only this time with third place there will be no Champions League qualifiers to get in the way early next season. Enough enjoyable games from December onwards, start could have been so much better.
I got hold of two tickets for the FA Cup Final, however, as my Son was in the South of France, not due back till around 12 noon on the day of the final. Luke was travelling back by coach and ferry to Harlow – over seventeen hours of travel so I decided the trip to Wembley this year was a step to far. I made sure the tickets went to the best of homes, proper Gooners. I then decided just in case all went well and Luke was not too tired I’d get two tickets for the Emirates screening, being nearer and less aggravation than Wembley, but he was knackered and I’ve had a bad cold and cough, so we watched the game live on TV at home.
This year I was as relaxed as I could be in the lead up for a Cup Final. I fully expected Arsenal to win against Villa. When you looked at the two teams, there was no comparison, Arsenal far better. The fifth match at Wembley for many of these Arsenal players in just over year gave me the feeling that they must all turn up at some stage.
Strangely it was nice for a change not to be at the game and see all the things you miss when watching live.
Arsenal were looking for back-to-back FACup victories (for the second time) and winning would take them clear in the all time winners list of FACup victories (12). Arsene Wenger was looking for his sixth win to equal Aston’s Villa’s George Ramsey. History was in the making .
Szczesny, Bellerin, Mertesacker , Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Cazorla, Ramsey, Ozil (Wilshere), Sanchez (Oxlade-Chamberlin), Walcott, (Giroud 76). Szczesny back in the side. Walcott starting above Giroud no doubt due to his hat trick against West Bromwich. Wilshere and Gabriel drop out from the West Bromwich match, Koscielny and Ramsey back in.
Watching from home you sure got a sense the Wembley crowd being up for this final. Villa fans were in good voice, no doubt due to being their first final for many years. Arsenal fans countering the Villa fans. Then it was on to the pre-match Cup Final hymn and National Anthem. Something Arsenal supporters know very well.
♬♪Abide with me, fast falls the eventide
The darkness deepens, Lord with me abide
When other helpers fail and comforts flee
Help of the helpless, O abide with me ♬♪…..
The team were then introduced to Prince William a Villa supporter.
♬♪ God save our gracious Queen!
Long live our noble Queen!
God save the Queen!
Send her victorious,
Happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us,
God save the Queen. ♬♪
The referee blew his whistle and got the game under way. Ozil header, chance for Theo but he was offside. Villa chucked one into the box for Benteke, however, Szczesny is up to the job. Sanchez-Cazorla who crossed low and Villa conceded corner. Another corner which Koscielny won but could not direct his header. Szczesny again! This time punching clear from Bentekes’s head. That did him good. Cleverley went into the book for foul on Monreal. What a Save!!! Cazorla cross was met by Koscielny and his header is somehow saved by Given. Bellerin did well getting to the byeline, crossed for Ramsey but he could not steer the ball in. Magic from Ozil taking out two players, crossed the ball into the area and it broke kindly for Ramsey who somehow fires over. All Arsenal and should be leading.
Again Cazorla-Ozil who fired a cross into the area and there was Theo, must be 1-0! No! Richardson with a super block keeps the score 0-0. Maybe Theo should have done better? Hutton booked for foul on Sanchez. Villa dead men walking here. Delph is now shown a yellow card as he pulls back Ozil. Monreal broke free down the left, crossed into Area and the ball was met by Sanchez who headed down into the area. In came Theo who took the ball waist height and slammed the ball past Given to give Arsenal the lead. No more than Arsenal deserved.
HALF TIME: Arsenal 1-0 Aston Villa
First half went pretty much as I expected with Arsenal dominant. Villa not really offering much and failing to register a single shot on target.
Second half saw an early chance for Ramsey but his shot was weak and an easy take for Given. Arsenal broke and the ball fell for Sanchez. Monreal made a good run to his left taking out the full back. Sanchez came inside thirty yards from goal and I doubt many knew what was going to happen next. After cutting inside Sanchez quickly looked up, showing intention for what was coming next in his head and fired in a rocket of a shot. The ball went up/down/left/right and flew past Given who didn’t move till the ball was nestling in the net. Given just sat there on the floor with a cheeky smile on his face which summer up the moment of magic he’d just been beaten by. On a day when the BBC were looking for viewers to vote on their best ever goal with five candidates, Sanchez should have been added to the list.
Westwood taking time out from pimping his ride brings down Sanchez and gets a yellow card for his troubles. That’s four Villa yellows. Ramsey slide the ball into Walcott who shoots and somehow Given saved again and
Jesus Sanchez heads in the rebound. It was given offside against Walcott but that was close. Villa were there for the taking. Bellerin now sets up Cazorla who twisted, turned, shot and there was Given again to save. Ozil sent Walcott away, this is Theo’s game and yet even just getting past Okore Walcott could not get a decent shot away and Given was on hand to cover yet again. Arsenal corner won by Ramsey. Cazorla floats the ball over and there is the unmarked Mertesacker to Joe Hart head & shoulders the ball into the net 3-0 Arsenal. Easy! Easy!
Theo collected a pass from Ramsey and should have done better for 4-0 however, his shot curls way past the upright. That was goodnight from Theo as he was replaced by Giroud. Agbonlahor races towards the area and is caught by Coquelin and fouled, yet the referee waves play on. No way was it a penalty, but it was a free-kick. Of course the Commentators and experts had differing views, but that was more a case of a goal for Villa might make the last ten minutes interesting. Grealish is then in a tussle with Bellerin and both go to ground. Penalty they shout! Behave I say! Both players were off the field of play and so was the ball when Grealish touched it. No way a sodding penalty.
Sanchez went off to great applause from the yellow wall and fully deserved. What a player, What a battler. What a great signing. Oxlade-Chamberlain came on to replace him. Chamberlain then found room on the right, hits a low ball into the area and there was Giroud to make it 4-0. Icing on the cake stuff.
FULL TIME : Arsenal 4-0 Aston Villa
Arsenal lift the cup.
Overall this was as I expected an easy game. I do get fed up with the lazy journalistic view that if one side wins easy the other side were poor. For me this was more about Arsenal going at it right from the start. Aston Villa were not allowed to play, Arsenal bossed the game. That’s no slight on Villa, simply a fact of how the game was played. Arsenal have super play makers and if they play then very few teams can cope. However, if Arsenal players, play and take their chances, then in most games Arsenal will win. This is what Arsenal did. They played well, very well, dominated a Cup Final. I get this is not want some people (experts/media/journalists) want, but that’s how it is sometimes. Villa didn’t have a shot on target, that was due to Coquelin, Mertesacker and Koscielny who all gave Szczesny the early evening off. Nacho and Bellerin were superb. Every Arsenal player turned up and played to potential.
Arsenal won a Cup Final without giving their supporters too much tension. No “we always do it the hard way” it was how fans like to win finals. Of course winning 3-2 coming back from 2-0 is superb and more exciting, however, Villa was simply seeing your team play to their ability and winning the game without the need for four or five heart attacks.
So I say “Well played Arsenal, simply superb performance and fully deserved to win the FA Cup two years running. Congratulations to Arsenal Wenger for becoming the FA Cups most successful manager ever. Well apart from George Ramsey who was at Villa for about 100 years and won it when it was jumpers for goalposts. Congratulations to Arsenal FC for becoming the most decorated team in the FA Cups history with twelve wins.
It was also nice to get our biggest ever win in a final.
Arsenal started with a friendly 1-0 defeat away in New York v the Red Bulls where a certain Mr Coquelin was on the subs bench and a certain Mt Henry was playing for our opposition. New signings Alexis Sanchez and Manuel Debuchy did not figure
Next up was the Emirates Cup where Arsenal beat Benfica 5-1 with Sanogo scoring four goals. Callum Chambers made his first appearance and Alexis Sanchez made his first start. The following day Arsenal was robbed of the draw in the match v Monaco with the worse penalty decision not given I’ve seen. Akpom was well inside the area and Atkinson took the word of his linesman and gave a free kick outside the area. This was followed by Arsenal’s third visit to Wembley in the space of three months, where Arsenal ran out easy 3-0 victors over Manchester City. Sanchez, Chambers and Debuchy all got run outs.
The league started with a 2-1 win over Crystal Palace with Alexis Sanchez, Manuel Debuchy and Callum Chambers all making their full debuts for the club. This game was much harder than it looked, Palace took the lead and Arsenal equalised right on HT with Koscielny converting a Sanchez cross. Late in the game Puncheon got sent off and almost immediately Ramsey scored the winner right on full-time. I then took flight to Antalya in Turkey for holidays and followed the Besiktas match on Twitter and a lucky escape for Arsenal as Besiktas played well, so a 0-0 draw was good. Everton could have been away with the fairies by half time. However, Arsenal were much better in the second half and goals from Ramsey/Giroud gave Arsenal 2-2 draw and a deserved point. Besiktas at home was also close, however a goal right on half time by Sanchez proved to be the winner and send Arsenal into the Champions League proper. A League game at Over land and sea (and Leicester) was up next. Once again it was Sanchez who grabbed the goal to give Arsenal a draw against a spirited Leicester side. Giroud was ruled out till January with a broken leg after a late injury picked up in the 2-2 draw away at Everton. Arsenal finished the month with five points from three games and seventh in the table. Not the start many fans would have expected.
A deadline day signing saw Arsene sign Danny Welbeck from Manchester United. This month saw Arsenal win just one match out of five in all competitions. It started with a 2-2 home draw against Manchester City where Augero gave City the lead after a sucker punch break. Wilshere got Arsenal back in it and then Sanchez scored a beauty to put Arsenal ahead. Arsenal fell to not defending a cross when Demichelis headed in with six minutes to go.
Arsenal’s first Champions League group match was away at Dortmund and resulted in a 2-0 defeat. Arsenal were just not at the races, even though possession wise they had more of the ball. The reality is possession does not mean goals and with less possession it would not have been unjust if Dortmund had scored five.
In the league the next match was away at Aston Villa who had started well and sitting in second place behind Chelsea in the table. Arsenal played well for three minutes and scored in the 33rd, 34th and 35th minutes to win 3-0 with goals from Ozil, Welbeck and an OG by Cissokho. A game where neither side had a shot at goal after the 53rd minute. The Capital One Cup saw Southampton who were also having a good start to the season come to the Emirates. David Ospina made his debut for the club. Arsenal started well and Sanchez scored a cracker from a free-kick to put Arsenal ahead. However, goals from Tadic and a cracker from Clyne gave Saints a 2-1 win and saw Arsenal depart the competition early.
The month ended with the North London Derby, Tottenham at the Emirates. Arsene left out Sanchez and Cazorla from the starting line up.. Spurs went 1-0 up through Chadli, though Oxlade-Chamberlain scored the equaliser after seventy-five minutes. Disappointing not to have beaten Spurs having had control of the game for long periods. Arsenal finished the month with ten points from six games and in fourth place.
The month started with a good win at home to Galatasaray in our second Champions League group match. Arsenal running out 4-1 winners. Goals from Sanchez and a Danny Welbeck hat-trick put Arsenal 4-0 up and from then on it was hand brake on. The first league match of the month was away at Chelsea where our opponents run out 2-0 winners with goals from Hazard (pen) and Costa. I have no doubt Chelsea should have been down to ten men when Cahill made a very poor tackle on Sanchez. Had Cahill been sent off I also have no doubt Hazard would have gone off and replaced by a defender.
Hull City were the first team to visit the Emirates in October and it was Sanchez who put Arsenal in the lead. Hull with typical fighting spirit scored within minutes of the Sanchez goal and then again right after half time to go 2-1 up which was a shock for the home crowd. Arsenal had to wait for a ninety-first minute equalise from Welbeck. There was just enough time for a Gibbs chance of a winner but his effort was saved.
Champions League Group stage match three was up next against Anderlecht. A scrappy match where both sides were hardly on top form and the first half was dire. On seventy-one minutes Anderlecht got the goal their play deserved as they came more into the match. . Arsenal looked to be struggling however, on came Podolski. Gibbs scored an equaliser in the eighty-ninth minute and one minute later Podolski slammed home the winner and Arsenal got a victory out of a game they looked like losing. Sunderland away in the league was the months last match and Arsenal ran out 2-0 winners with two goals, one in each half from Sanchez, the second coming right on full-time and was Arsenal’s 1500th in the Premier League. Arsenal ended the month in fifth place on fourteen points from nine games.
Burnley were the first visitors to the Emirates in November and Arsenal run out 3-0 winners, pretty much as expected. Arsenal though were made to wait till the seventieth minute for Sanchez to open the scoring. this was followed two minutes later with Chambers getting his first goal for the club. Sanchez rounded off the win in the ninetieth minute. Champions League group match four against Anderlecht was next at the Emirates. A penalty from Arteta put Arsenal 1-0 up after Welbeck was fouled. Sanchez scored a cracker after his original free-kick shot came back of the wall and with fifteen minutes gone in the second half Oxlade-Chamberlain hit a screamer for 3-0 to Arsenal and the game looked dead and buried. However, at 3-0 it was that Arsenal switch off mentality that came into play as if the manager says that’s enough lads, take it easy, play your football and see if the goals come, don’t force the game anymore. In this case Arsenal paid the price and goals from Borre (2) and right on full-time Mitrovic gave Anderlecht a 3-3 draw. Arsenal simply threw the game away.
The next league match was away at Swansea. Arsenal went 1-0 up through a superb Arsenal move which ended with Welbeck setting up Sanchez to score from six yards. Make no mistake Arsenal were in control but yet again somehow managed to mess things up and let Swansea back into the game. With fifteen minutes left first Sigurdsson and then three minutes later Gomis put Swansea 2-1 up and this is how the game ended. Once again all very frustrating.
Manchester United’s visited the Emirates and how United left with all three points is anyone’s guess. An OG from Gibbs and a second from Arsenal’s nemesis Rooney saw United go 2-0 up. As much as Arsenal pushed forward all they got was a late cracker from Giroud to reduce the arrears. It has to be said United wasted two great chances late on to put the game to bed.
Arsenal then beat Dortmund 2-0 at home in their fifth Champions League group match which assured qualification into the last sixteen of the competition. Sanogo opened the scoring for Arsenal with his first competitive goal after only seventy-five seconds. Sanchez scored the deciding goal after fifty-seven minutes to give Arsenal the victory. Arsenal’s next game and final game of the month was away at West Bromwich Albion where Danny Welbeck scored the winner after sixty minutes. Arsenal ended the month in sixth place on twenty points from fourteen games.
Arsenal started the month with Southampton currently second in the table and playing well. It was also the visitors second visit to the Emirates this season, having won the first. A game where Arsenal played well had enough chances at goal, quite a few on target but had to wait till the last-minute for Sanchez to bag the winner. Next up was the game every Arsenal fan loves – away to Stoke City. No sooner had the game kicked off, when Crouch gave Stoke the lead. Arsenal were shocking in the first half with Stoke scoring two more to go in 3-0 ahead at the break. Arsenal were much better in the second half and pulled back to 3-2 with a penalty from Cazorla and a Ramsey effort. Arsenal looked a comfortable bet at this stage to get something out of the game when Chambers stupidly got himself sent off. I thought the referee seriously helped Stoke here. The game ended 3-2 to Stoke.
Champions League again and the last group match away in Turkey v Galatasaray. Would Arsenal take it easy? Well Arsenal were 2-0 up after eleven minutes through Podolski and Ramsey. After nineteen minutes Ramsey surely scored the goal of the season in all competitions with a cracking effort from distance. Gala pulled one back, but Podolski scored his second to give Arsenal a 4-1 win. This left Arsenal on the same points as Dortmund, but the Germans won the group on goal difference. A few days later Arsenal entertained Newcastle and won 4-1 with goals from Giroud (2) and Cazorla (2). Arsenal then travelled to Liverpool the scene of their 5-1 hammering last season. Coutinho put Liverpool 1-0 up yet almost straight away Debuchy grabbed his first goal for the Arsenal. 1-1 at HT. Giroud then put Arsenal 2-1 up and only a late goal by Skrtel stopped Arsenal from bagging a good win.
Arsenal’s sixth match of the month saw Queen’s Park Raisins come to the Emirates. Sanchez put Arsenal ahead midway towards the end of the first half. Giroud was then sent off for a headbutt. Rosicky made it 2-0 twenty minutes into the second half and Austin pulled one back for raisins, but ten man Arsenal held on. Arsenal then travelled to East London to play West Ham. Arsenal won 2-1 with late first half goals from Cazorla and Welbeck. West Ham pulled a goal back, but Arsenal should have scored more as chances for Sanchez and Oxlade-Chamberlain went begging. Arsenal ended the month in joint fourth with Southampton on thirty-three points from nineteen games.
The first half of the season then was not as good as I would have expected from Arsenal. Going into the New year a full thirteen points behind the leaders Chelsea, eleven points behind second placed Manchester City and somehow Manchester United who were not playing particularly well were also ahead by three points. Injuries once again were played their part.
However, the shape of the team was not right and too many players played out of position. The teams tactics against opposition was at times poor and some games were lost and drawn with ease. Opponents were setting themselves up to counter our style of play and finding it all to easy to stifle us. The team did not look like it could gel at all. New signing and worth every penny of his £30m price tag Sanchez saved Arsenal many times from results being even worse than they were. His all round game simply put a smile on supporters faces and he never gave up and full of running and battling qualities as well as the obvious bags of skill he has. Young Bellerin also looked like a good player for the future.
However, having not played as well as expected the injuries started to get better and the team did look like they were picking up in December. Arsenal ended the year losing only one of their last nine matches, drew one and won seven in all competitions. What with qualification into the knock out rounds of the Champions League sorted there was hope that the second half of the season could be a good one for the team
Part Two and my awards for the season up soon after the Cup Final.
Arsenal went into their last game of he season knowing that should they lose then Manchester United, if they won away at Hull could take third place in the table thus leaving Arsenal with the task of pre-qualifying for the Champions League. However, United would also have to turn round a plus seven goal difference currently in Arsenal’s favour.
Arsenal’s team :
Ospina, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Gabriel, Gibbs, Cazorla, Coquelin (Ramsey), Wilshere (Oxlade-Chamberlain), Ozil, Sanchez, Walcott (Giroud) Arsene brought in Gabriel for Koscielny, Coquelin back for Ramsey and Walcott in for Giroud.
Arsenal with no goals to show from their previous three games at the Emirates including two 0-0 draws and a 0-1 defeat, needed a good performance and a few goals to lift spirits before the FA Cup this coming Sunday.
The game was only four minutes in when Arsenal broke their recent goal scoring duck, when the ball found Walcott and he hit a rocket of a shot past Myhill into the top far corner for 1-0 Arsenal! Arsenal really started this game strongly and playing some lovely football. Lovely football being good, but lovely football also needs end product. With fourteen minutes gone the team that put Chelsea to the sword six days earlier found themselves 2-0 down when the ball bounces round in the area, fell to Walcott who skipped his man and toe poked the ball into the net. Three minutes later more Arsenal pressure results in a third goal when again with the ball bouncing around the area, Gabriel set up Wilshere who simply lashed the ball into the top of the net from twenty yards, unstoppable! 3-0. (to be voted GOTS as Arsenal twitter did their job ). Myhill saved well to stop Theo grabbing his hat trick. Wilshere, The BFG and Sanchez all went close.
Arsenal scored a fourth when Cazorla miss hit his shot across the goal and there was Walcott on the far stick to tap in his third goal in thirty-three minutes. 4-0 game over. This can only mean one thing. Yes! the hand brake comes into play.
I noticed at this stage that Arsenal had score seventy-one goals for the season the sane as Chelsea and it would have been nice to end up with more goals than the champions. However, that damned hand brake put paid to that. Cazorla shot saved. Arsenal concede a goal when Ospina came out for a cross, missed and McAuley made it 4-1. West Bromwich a bit more lively now, but then maybe also a bit of Arsenal having done the job already. Ramsey and Giroud came on for Walcott and Coquelin. Straight away Arsenal liven up. Ramsey shoots and hits the far post. Once again the game simply winds down, well it is end of season.
Wilshere had a very good game, as did Walcott who looked lively. No real injuries which is good with the Cup Final on Saturday.
Arsenal really do need to stop easing off in matches. When winning and looking comfortable the team should go for the juggler. Smashing teams when you have the chances, makes teams scared to play you. Arsenal always look like a side willing to give the opposition a route back into any game and this needs to be stopped.
However, the last day of the season, you win 4-1. A player scores a hat trick, team plays some good football, mainly in the first half. The team finish third, one place higher than last season and no extra games at the start of next season. It’s not all doom and gloom.
Thoughts on the season, well I will give that in a different blog.
The math was simple. Arsenal five points behind Manchester City with a game in hand. Arsenal win both matches and City lose at home to Southampton and Arsenal would come second.
First Arsenal had to navigate Sunderland, the game-in-hand. Sunderland also needed just one point to secure another season in the top flight and leave Hull City and Newcastle fighting out the remaining relegation spot this coming Sunday. So I think we all knew how Sunderland were going to play this game.
Ospina, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny , Gibbs, Cazorla , Ramsey, Wilshere (Walcott), Ozil, (Rosicky), Sanchez, Giroud. Gibbs in for Monreal. Jack in for Coquelin.
The first half was all about Arsenal having the ball, coming forward in waves, Sunderland clearing the ball and Arsenal coming back in waves yet apart from a few chips over the top from Wilshere for Ozil and Giroud Arsenal never really came that close to breaking down a stubborn Sunderland defence. For me it was typical Arsenal and how bloody frustrating it all was. Yes sometimes you have to patient as a fan, but when you have seen this over and over and over again, enough for Paddy to have stood up a thousand times it all becomes the same old, same old. Is it good to watch? Well the football and passing in certain parts of the pitch, maybe yes – if that’s what floats your boat. However, what’s the point of it all if you’re not going to make chances and take them. You may as well take the goals away that Arsenal are attacking and simply watch the lovely passing moves that come to nothing.
The second half was not a great deal better. It starts with Koscielny getting the benefit of the doubt form Referee Taylor for a handball shout from Fletcher’s pass to Defoe, who would have been in on goal. Fletcher then has a shot blocked by Ospina and that was followed by Ospina again saving Arsenal’s blushes with a save from Aanholt. I really cannot see why people dig out Ospina so much. OK! he might not be the worlds best, but right now surely he is doing a good job for the team.
Finally Arsenal made an effort when a good low cross by Bellerin was flicked on by Giroud only to see Pantilimon make a good save and then a couple of minutes later saved again from a Gibbs header. Sanchez had a shot blocked by Coates, then Defoe plays in Fletcher and once again Ospina is the saviour as he pushes wide Fletcher’s chipped shot. Fletcher is then clearly offside but the officials waved play on and you wonder how Fletcher managed to put the ball over the bar. Walcott had a chance but after beating his man he lifted the ball over Pantilimon and agonisingly past the far post.
Arsenal best chance came from a Sunderland player as a cross going nowhere saw Jones heads the ball onto the post with Pantilimon beaten but Sunderland cleared. Rosicky came on for Ozil, did a one-two with Walcott and could only put his shot wide of the far post. Ramsey and Theo both have chances but alas nothing comes of them as Pantilimon saves and the defence cleared. Sunderland were still keeping Arsenal out. Pantilimon saved again from Theo, yet another Keeper coming to the Emirates and choosing a good day to play his best game of the season.
Referee Taylor blows the whistle and it’s 0-0. Arsenal played their third successive match at home, over sixty shots at goal and failed to score. So much attacking play, so many play-makers and yet no goals. It’s all to bleeding obvious and teams are finding it easy to shut us out and our failure to take our chances only helps. I’m not a negative supporter though I was dubbed this on twitter the other night, because I dared to say that our football on the night was poor, average at best. It was about the Sunderland game, maybe even the Swansea game, where we simply look to run out of ideas once we get to within twenty yards of our opponents goal.
How many passes can you make across the area? How many times can you reach the twenty yard line and then come back on yourselves? How many times can you pass the ball across the area and then as soon as you make that pass forward, you simply lose possession of the ball? How many times can you do a one-two on the edge of the box and instead of shooting, pass again? I’m sure many of you were feeling the same frustrations as me on the night. Too many Indians and not enough Chiefs .
OK! having said this, it would seem that after getting a top four place the team shut down somewhat and still have a Cup Final on the horizon. It can also be said that baring a complete meltdown the point against Sunderland will see Arsenal finish third and avoid the need to play those two pre-qualifiers to get into the Champions League proper at the start of next season which is only seventy-eight days away.
Has it been a good season? Well another Cup Final (hopefully victory) and one place higher than last year would be a slight improvement for me. Yes we may have ended with fewer points, but then so have other top sides as the Premiership gets harder each year.
Hopefully we can now end on a high beating West Bromwich Albion in the last league match and defeating Villa in the final. Then it’s down to the club to get the right additions in place to make a better and more sustained challenge on the title and Champions league next season.
Sorry this blog is a bit late. Had a few issues since last week and forgot to post it.
Arsenal went into this game on the back of a very good run. However, City hammered Queen’s Park Raisins 6-0. United won 2-1 at Palace which made it all the more reason that Arsenal beat Swansea to make second place a reasonable target. Arsenal started with the same team for the fifth game running, which is good for some, but when you lose not so good for others.
Ospina, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, (Wilshere ), Cazorla, Ramsey, Ozil, Sanchez, Giroud, (Walcott).
My gut feeling was Swansea would come and play football, they are a footballing side. How wrong can you be? For the first ninety seconds Swansea did not touch the ball and though Arsenal had all the ball the Swansea set-up looked like Harry Monk had taken his tactics from the Jose book of tactics. OK! maybe it’s understandable as they are right on the heels of Southampton and if they catch them a European place could be up for grabs. Needs must.
After the early Arsenal training session Cazorla plays the ball to Sanchez who is wiped out by Shelvey and no booking given. Williams now in Giroud another free-kick, no booking. Arsenal; have racked up about two-hundred passes to Swansea’s five and yet not a clear effort on goal yet. It’s all a bit drab. Fernandez not with a knee in the back of Giroud, they shall not pass is added to Swansea’s tactics. Taylor grabs Sanchez’s shirt, he goes down, Friend waves play on. I’ve seen them given.
Finally a booking for Swansea as Shelvey goes in the black book. The first half was simply one of pass, pass, pass from Arsenal and no threat on goal. A mixture of one pass to many, failure to want to shoot and Swansea defending very well made it quite frankly a bit of a bore fest.
Sanchez has a couple of early half chances in the second half but still no goal. Ramsey into the side netting. Cazorla straight at Fabianski. Everything seems to be going straight to Fabianski. Crosses shots, headers. Monreal, then Ramsey again both at the keeper. Sanchez in… Shoots straight at Fabianski, though to be fair it’s a snap shot, however, the ball runs nicely for Theo – surely 1-0, but no! half-hearted shot straight at Fabianski. Theo really should have scored. Pressure is mounting from Arsenal but whatever they do, the ball is attracted to our ex-keeper who I’m not sure is either having a blinder or Arsenal are making this game easy for him.
The game had this written all over it. Montero crossed to Gomis, header down, Ospina can’t keep the ball out and Cyclops shows the ball crossed the line 1-0 Swansea. Smash & Grab, theft, nicked the goal, stealing (
on Target at Fabianski.
After such a good run it was all a bit of a shock that with all the talent Arsenal have no one could fashion up a few proper decent chances to stick the ball in the net. I’m not going to get all medieval on Arsenal’s arse too much though as if Arsenal beat Sunderland and West Bromwich Albion at home nothing can stop them from finishing in the top three, even if we lose at Old Trafford.
Hopefully that will not happen as this game against Swansea should be a huge kick up the arse for the team and a win at United would seal a top three place and then there will be less pressure with the FA Cup final on the horizon. Hopefully this Swansea team can do us a favour when they play Manchester City this coming Sunday.
In the battle for 2nd, 3rd and 4th in the Premiership Saturday saw Manchester United lose 0-1 at home to West Bromwich Albion, thus keeping Arsenal two points clear of them and with two games in hand. Liverpool beat Queen’s Park Raisins 2-1 with glory boy scoring the winner, which left Arsenal six points clear of Liverpool with two games in hand. Sunday saw Manchester City beat Spurs at Shite Fart Lane 1-0 and move three points clear of Arsenal although Arsenal now had two games in hand over City. Spurs defeat meant that they were left trailing Arsenal by nine points with only three games remaining. This meant Arsenal would have to lose all five remaining matches and Spurs win theirs for Spurs to avoid St Tottering’s Day from occurring. Even if the unthinkable did happen it would need a swing in-goal difference of 28 for Arsenal to mess this up.
Moving onto Monday night and Arsenal faced Hull with the following team :
Ospina, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Cazorla, Ramsey, Ozil, Alexis, Giroud. Subs: Szczesny, Gibbs, Gabriel, Flamini, Wilshere, Rosicky, Walcott.
Arsenal totally dominated the first half save a short spell where Hull managed to swing in a few dangerous crosses. The way Arsenal play opponent’s will always get a few chances, but Arsenal’s defence is better at dealing with opponents today than it was at the start of the season and our shape is so much better.
After some good play passing the ball with confidence to each other and on point Arsenal took the lead when
Tottenham Hull’s Huddlestone lost the ball, Livermore gave away a foul on Sanchez, who took the free and placed his shot past the Hull keeper via the head of Dawson. Could Arsenal’s twentieth successive season above Spurs being decided by ex-Spurs players?
Arsenal kept up the pressure and Cazorla who was having a very good match found a cracking pass to Ramsey with his back to the goal. Ramsey controlled the ball well, turned, hit the ball towards goal and a defection of Brady sent the ball looping over Harper into the net for 2-0 to Arsenal.
N’Doye broke well leaving Bellerin for dead, however, the Arsenal defender is fast and his chasing back on N’Doye made him think and with this in mind N’Doye played a back pass to Ospina, what a wasted chance. two more good Arsenal moves threatened to extend the lead but both Cazorla and Ozil shot straight at Harper. Huddlestone again holds onto the ball to long, Ramsey find a superb pass through to Sanchez, who rounds the keeper and it’s 3-0 Arsenal. That was probably the best half of football Arsenal have played this season.
At half time I wondered if Arsenal would call it job done and I think that’s how the second half panned out. Arsenal came out and played within themselves and if a goal came then so be it, but if not ride the game out. Early good ball from Sanchez was just to far for Giroud and a good bit of control from Ramsey saw him get in a shot. Suddenly Hull attacked Meyler went in hard, but ultimately fair on Koscielny, a good cross in from Elmohamady, and Quinn headed home to reduce the arrears. A couple of minutes later another cross found McShane who headed over.
Then it’s Ozil’s turn to do the flick thing and what a flick to put Sanchez in. Nothing comes of it though. As flicks go this is an 11/10 one, top-of-the-range. Wilshere on for Ramsey goes on one of his runs and after beating at least three players is brought down on the edge of area, but of course this turns into a debate about how Jack picks up his injuries, not how bad the tackle could have been. You want some of Koscielny then you get some back when Meyler gets one in the eye from Koscielny and a Chimney to boot.
Wilshere with another good run, plays it to Giroud-Bellerin who shoots and sees his shot blocked, it drops for Wilshere, who has a go, this is also blocked and finally Sanchez from an acute angle tries his luck but nothing doing. Jack was doing well since he came and another run into the box saw him go down, Penalty? Maybe not. Jack then only has to put the ball into the net and puts his shot on target only to see a clear handball by the Hull defender and yet Phil Mitchell waves play on. Sanchez sticks one wide when it might have been better playing in Theo
FULL TIME: HULL CITY 1 ARSENAL 3
The team played well in this match and yet if I had to pick one player who did not perform to well with the ball then that would be Giroud, however, he took players out of the game, gave other freedom to play and for me is the glue that helps Ozil, Sanchez, Ramsey and Cazorla the room to play and create trouble. This Arsenal side only need fifteen minutes to kill opponents. With Coquelin solid in every match and Cazorla also assisting with his non-stop all action play Arsenal have a good shape and can look to play games out of needed.
Arsenal’s win brings to a close another season where Arsenal finished above Spurs and the now legendary St Tottering’s day had arrived, this time for the 20th season in succession. Think about that, 20 years. Two decades, or as Trigger would say “I wouldn’t go that far” To think if you’re an Arsenal fan celebrating your 20th birthday this year, you’ve never known finishing behind Spurs. It also brought Arsenal Champions League football for the nineteenth year running as they could not finish lower than fourth.
Now Arsenal are joint second in the table with Manchester City only with a game-in-hand. Five points clear of Manchester United with a game in hand. Nine points clear of Liverpool with a game in hand and twelve points clear of Spurs with a game in hand having played thirty-four matches. It takes me back to Saturday 7 February when a certain Mr Kane scored twice to give Spurs a 2-1 victory over Arsenal and above us ion the table. They were once again on the up, Arsenal on way down. The shift had changed again, North London was white, they had come out of the shadows, this was the re-birth of the mighty Tottenham who went to see the Pope with a different outcome. The table does not lie!
Arsenal had played twenty-four matches and yet since that glorious day for Spurs fans the rest is history and a nightmare for them. Arsenal have not lost since that date. Arsenal simply blew Spurs out-of-the-way, game-by-game winning and yet Spurs fans will never learn. Their sponsors should be called Under Arsenal as shown here by @sharpy58
So our next match is another Monday night affair where we yet again play catch-up, but with three at home and only one away to United I do believe second place should be ours. If Arsenal could manage this and win the FACup surely this must be seen as an improvement.