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Second half season review of 2012-13

May 26, 2013

Time for my look back at the second half of the season. I did the first half of the season just before Christmas  – here

At the time of posting my Christmas review above, Arsenal had not played Wigan or Newcastle United, So I’ll start from there

December

What would be your ideal venue to play just before a Christmas, Wigan? Thought not. Anyway Arsenal travelled up to the North West andplayed well, you could say within ourselves and won 1-0 with a penalty from Arteta. Arsenal wasted quite a few chances, but that was the norm for the season so far. However, we picked up three points. Job done.

Up next squeezed in between Christmas/New Year came the visit of Alain Pardeux’s, Newcastlė United. Arsenal smashed the Barcodes for 7 (Seven). Always nice to see Pardeux’s suffering. Three times Arsenal took the lead – three times Newcastlė got themselves back into the game. This was a game where Ba scored (2) for Newcastlė and some Gooners were saying “we should have brought him”.  With the teasing finished Arsenal took charge. Theo-Giroud-Giroud-Theo finally hammering the barcodes 7-3.  Mike Ashley gave this guy an eight-year contract.

So Arsenal ended 2012 having been knocked out the League Cup by Bradford, dusting ourselves down and going on to win  our last three league matches of 2012 on the spin.

January

The New Year started with a trip to the South Coast to play Southampton and what a pile of dirge the team served up. Seriously this was the pits. The team applied the handbrake before they even ran out onto the pitch. Southampton deservedly took the lead. Arsenal got a free kick outside the box, Theo stepped up to take it, his shot was deflected, ala Lampard into the net to make it 1-1. That’s how the game finished and Arsenal were well lucky to come away with a point.

Next up was the FACup third round against Swansea. Having lost 0-2 at home to a very good Swansea side in early December, this looked a tough draw. Arsenal played well, though as usual didn’t take their chances and when Michu came on as sub it took him two minutes to put the Swans 1-0 up, which I thought was against the run of play. Arsenal grabbed a fully deserved Edward Woodward when our sub Podolski made it 1-1 and then a Gibbs one-two with Arteta put us 2-1 up with a superb strike. Sadly Areta went missing on the marking front from a corner as a Graham put Swansea back on level terms. Kos had a chance to win it but fired over. Replay at The Emirates.

Man City followed at home in the league. Kos got an early red card for fouling Dzeko. Dzeko himself missed the resulting penalty which was well saved by Szczesny.  A stunner from Milner and a tap in by Dzeko, gave City a 2-0 win. Kompany also saw red with fifthteen mins to go, but Arsenal could not make anything of it, a poor performance and out first real shot was on 90 mins.

Swansea were next up in the FACup replay.  A game where Arsenal totally dominated. Chalk & Cheese compared to Swansea’s league visit in December. Twenty-six attempts on goal of which sixteen were on target. Yet Arsenal could just not score. Then a Santi-Giorud combo set up Jack in the eighty-sixth minute to make it 1-0 and send Arsenal through to the fourth round. Jack was superb.

Next up was “They know who they are” away. Giroud missed an early sitter that may have cost us. Had w e scored then the game may have ended dofferent. Yet straight away Mata capitalised on that miss and scored for Chelsea, though I thought there should have been a foul for Arsenal in the build up to the goal. On sixteen Lampard put Chelsea 2-0 up from a penalty.  Arsenal came out for the second half a different side, Theo scored on sixty-eight to reduce the deficit and I think Arsenal would have been worthy of at least a draw.

The Hammers came to the Emirates and had the cheek to go 1-0 up. Podolski equalised withon four minutes. After the break Arsenal came out and hammered the Hammers. 47 Giroud – 53 Cazorla – 54 Theo – 57 Giroud and in a ten minute spell it went from 1-1 to 5-1. Good night Hammers. Make no mistake Arsenal played some great football here. Sadly the game petered out after that fifth goal as Arsenal put the regulatory hand brake on.

Fourth Round FACup day. Brighton. I traveelled down with the boy. Classic Arsenal of late. Brighton full of fight and vigor playing top side and looking for a cup upset. Arsenal took the lead with a cracker from Giroud on sixteen minutes. Arsenal eased off. Brighton equalise. Giroud bags his second after half-time. Arsenal eased off. Brighton equalise. Arsenal bring on Jack, take command and it took Theo shot with a lucky Frank Lampard to make it 3-2 Arsenal and no time for Arsenal to ease off this time and for Brighton get back in game. Onto fifth round.

Liverpool’s visit to the Emirates was our last game of January. If there are comedy goals from defending, then Liverpool’s first has to be in the top three of all time. At least three-four mistakes lead to Suarez opening the scoring for Liverpool. Total shocker of a goal to give away. Then you know you have a problem when you let Henderson waltz past FOUR defenders to make 2-0 to Liverpool.  Suddenly Arsenal came out of their dream like state and within a seven minute spell, first Giroud and then Theo with a fine strike made it 2-2 and the Emirates was rocking. I thought better finishing and we would have won this game easy after equalising. Though Suarez almost nicked it at the end from a Santos error. As it stands that is two defeats from our last 10 games and those to Chelsea and City.

Welcome Nacho Monreal signed from Malaga.

February

Stoke Rugby Football Club arrived at the Emirates with their track-suited, baseball cap wearing mug of a manager, drove straight onto the pitch and parked their coach in front of goal.  Begovic had a cracking game keeping Arsenal at bay until the seventy-eight minute when Podolski’s free kick saw it take a Frank Lampard to make it 1-0 Arsenal and this is how it finished. Always nice to beat Stoke (who have since got rid of the track-suited, baseball cap wearing mug). Another one of those managers who decided it was a good idea to have a dig at Wenger and look where they all are now.

Sunderland away. Cazorla scored on thirty-five.  Jenkinson picked up a Red for two crazy free kicks.  Sunderland piled on the pressure, but ten man Arsenal kept them out. Good result considering.  That’s 12 games two defeats, which included seven wins.

FACup 5th round day. Blackburn. Surely this is a gimme and progress to 6th round? Yet lower teams do sometimes beat the odds and win. Arsene left out Jack, Santi, Theo, Podolski with the Champions League game against Bayern in mind. Even then we still had a good enough team to dispatch Blackburn. Twenty-six shots, yet could not hit cow’s arse with a banjo. Game summed up when Rosicky’s superb effort hit the bar and yet Olsson’s shot was palmed out into the danger area by Szczesny and Kazim-Richards’s scuffed rebound shot went in off the post.  The natives were not happy. Poor result and very bad day at the office.

After the Blackburn debacle, came another as Bayern Munchen took us to the cleaners and won at canter 3-1. Kross & Mueller scored first for Bayern. Podolski made it 2-1, then just after he came on as sub Giroud should have made it 2-2 (maybe he would have had he been on a for a while). Lahm found Mandzukic who was falling arse-over-tit and yet somehow saw his shot bounce over Szczesny and into the net 3-1 game over. Tie over?. Two comedy goals at the Emirates in five days. Who would give us a chance in Munich?

Back to the league and Aston Villa were the visitors for the last game in February. Once again the shots flew in, yet once again not many on target. This was Santi’s day. Often Arsenal’s best player this season, the little wonder scored two to give Arsenal the points.

March

March started with a visit to arch-enemy. Gareth Bale FC who were enjoying a reasonable season for them. I got the feeling that the media really wanted this to be the season when GBFC finally get one over on the neighbours.  So could GBFC win this match? Rub their neighbours noses in it with victory? Sadly they did and won 2-1. A bit fortunate for my liking, we deserved at least a draw.  Two poor defensive mistakes let GBFC score almost two identical goals. Ramsey could and should have got the Edward Woodward near the near the end.

After the game the Spurs manager AVB said and I quote

“We are on an upward spiral in terms of confidence and they are in a negative spiral in terms of results,” he said. “To [get] out of that negative spiral is extremely difficult.”

Cut that out and put it on the Arsenal dressing room wall. So with ten games to go Spurs opened up a seven point gap on Arsenal. The Spurs fans full of “mind the gap”

spurs-quotes

After the North London derby defeat, Arsenal took themselves to Munich to play the second leg against Bayern. 3-1 down from the first leg, no one gave us a chance and I like many others thought it would be a turkey shoot.  Yet a very good team performance saw Arsenal do a number on Bayern, who seemed unsure how to approach the game with a two goal cushion. Three minutes in and Theo’s mis-hit shot found Giroud, who was gambling for once and Arsenal were 1-0 up. Bayern pressed forward but could not get past a well-drilled Arsenal defence with a rock solid midfield in front of them. Arsenal kept looking for goals but with very few chances had to wait till the eighty-sixth minute when Koscielny scored from a corner to make it 2-0 on the night 3-3 on agg. Arsenal tried to grab that final goal, but it was all to late. The tie ended 3-3 on agg  and Arsenal went out on away goals. However, Arsenal did beat a very good Bayern team that had not lost for ages.  That’s now eight years without a trophy for sure. However this was a much better performance that was to propel Arsenal forward for the remainder of the season.

Back to Wales and Swansea. Arsenal were hardly tested in this match. Swansea already League Cup winners, looked like holiday season had come early for them and they were turning back into ugly ducklings. Though Arsenal had much of the play and early chances for Arsenal saw Oxo hit the bar twice. Swansea’s first shot on target was in the ninetieth minute. Even with most of the play Arsenal had to wait till the seventy-fourth minute when Nacho scored his first goal in an Arsenal shirt to make it 1-0. Then in the  ninetieth minute two of the some Arsenal fans favourite players to slag off, Ramsey and Gervinho combined to make it 2-0 and give us three every important points. A very good victory. The gap was now four points in GBFC’s favour

Reading arrived at the Emirates. No doubt heads still spinning from 7-5 and 5-2 defeats by Arsenal at the Madejski. Nothing more than an expected win would suffice.  Gervinho, Cazorla, Giroud put Arsenal 3-0 up before Robson-Jerome pulled one back.  An Arteta penalty made it 4-1 to Arsenal and another three important points. In total we beat Reading 16-8 after being 4-0 down. Eight games to go, the gap still four points in GBFC’s favour, but Arsenal have game in hand. You can feel the arseholes squeaking down the SSR.

April

First up in April was West Brom away where we clinched a Champions League spot last season. Arsenal looked well comfortable and in no real danger. Two Tomas Rosicky goals on Twenty and fifty, giving us a 2-0 lead. Then once again we almost conspired to give it away, The BFG got sent off, somewhat unlucky for my liking Definite penalty but not sure about sending off? Anyway West Brom scored from the spot, reduced the arrears and gave Arsenal an uncomfortable last 20 mins. However, like at Sunderland where Jenkinson was sent off, Arsenal battled, got a bit of luck and held on. Arsenal and GBFC had now both played 31 games each and the gap was down to one point in GBFC’s favour. You could hear the thoughts of the old and needy down the Lane, thinking “here we go again”

Norwich were next up in the run in. Arsenal had already lost to Norwich 1-0 earlier in the season at Carrow Road in a shocking performance. Houghton the Norwich manager looked to use the same tactics to keep Arsenal out and hit us on the break.  His tactics were working a treat and Norwich even took the lead on fifty-six minutes when a free-kick (that was never a free kick) was floated in for Turner glanced it past Szczesny for 1-0. Arsene brought on Theo and Podolski. Time was ticking away, the natives were getting restless as Arsenal threw everything at Norwich. There was no other option, defeat was out-of-the-question….

Podolski had a rocket shot punched onto the bar by Bunn in the Norwich goal. Arsenal were pouring forward. Arteta’s corner, the ball bounced around, it fell for Giroud who was pulled to the ground by Kamara. Penalty!!!  Surely!! The ref did not give it, but the eagle-eyed Linesman did and waved his flag. The ref went over, the crowd were praying for the right decision. The ref turned and gave the penalty and in turn the Norwich players lost it. Bunn looked well cross and got booked for his troubles.

So with pressure on his shoulders and not a hair out-of-place, Arteta took it and scored 1-1.  The Emirates erupted.. Arsenal swept forward and straight away saw Oxo and Podolski with one-two that saw Oxo cross for Giroud to make it 2-1 to Arsenal. The crowd were now going mental. Arsenal were not finished yet, The ball was played forward to Theo who was offside but the ref allowed play to continue. Theo drove into the area and passed to Podolski who controlled the ball, turned and hit a low shot into the net from the edge of the area, past the sprawling Bunn to make it 3-1. Relief around the ground!!!  Fair play to the lads in this game, they never gave up. Seven games left and Arsenal have gone one point ahead of GBFC. “mind that gap”

This was a big game at the time Arsenal home to Everton. Everton still had outside chance of top four. Important was we did not lose this game. Everton started well first 20 mins and then Arsenal took over. A big game and another bottle job of a referee who should have reduced Everton to tem men and sent off Gibson. Moyes had told his players to “get stuck in”.  Everton played it tight and Giroud should have done better with a few chances. One a from a fine cross from Ramsey and the other near the end when he blasted over.  The game ended 0-0. Arsenal were now two points clear but GBFC had a game in hand.

Arsenal made the short trip across London to Fulham. With a few ex-Spurs men on the pay-roll at Fulham one would not expect any favours. Sadly for Spurs Fulham also had Steve Sidwell and the former Gooner was sent off on 11 mins. Even with a man advantage Arsenal just could not impose themselves on this game and Fulham played as if they had 11 men. Giroud had Arsenal’s first chance on Thirty-four when his low drive across goal hit the post.

Just before half time Theo crossed, Kos helped it on and the BFG diving low headed the ball in the net. Fulham kept coming and Arsenal held out. A very frustrating game that ended with Giroud getting sent off, even though he did look to have slipped on making the tackle. Straight red meant he would miss three of Arsenal’s next four games. Arsenal we now five points clear of GBFC who have two games in hand. A twelve point swing since we lost at the Shit Hole.

Man Utd had been crowned Champions for the 20th time. Arsenal gave them a guard of honour. It’s amazing how much grief this caused. Painful as it was this also meant that ex-Arsenal player RVP would be applauded onto the pitch by fans as well. Not everyone obliged. That over it took Theo Walcott just two mins to find himself offside, carry on playing to the whistle and score to put Arsenal 1-0 up. Arsenal were playing well, dare I say dominating a side that looked to be on their holidays for thirty mins, Suddenly as if turning a light switch off, Arsenal switched off or blew out. Just before half time Sagna had a brain fart and it all went Pete Tong. Sagna chased his loose pass that he had given away to RVP and brought him down RVP for a penalty to United. Typically RVP stepped up and scored 1-1. That’s how the game ended and more by luck than judgment as United had enough chances to kill us off. Three games to go for Arsenal and two points clear of GBFC who now had one game in hand.

May

Another trip across London, this time to play relegated QPR. This could have been Harry “the chancers”Redknapp chance to do his old club a favour. Arsenal once again scored early, in fact Theo’s goal was the fastest of the Premiership season. As usual of late the players thought not only did the ref blow for a goal, but also full-time as the team just did not turn up for the rest of the match. Thankfully though grit and determination, rather than tippy, tappy football played its part and Arsenal hung on for three precious points. Two games left for Arsenal. Still points clear of GBFC who still have a game in hand.

Newly crowned FACup winners Wigan were up next for a game they MUST win to have a chance of staying in the premier league and not becoming the first team to win the FACup and get relegated. Arsenal started well – Wigan looked leggy. A corner for Arsenal was headed in by Podolski 1-0.  Arsenal had chances to extend lead but did not take them. Right on half time Ref Dean gave Wigan a free-kick for a nothing challenge by Arteta. Maloney took it and scored 1-1.  Arsenal were a different side in the second half. Maloney went off injured and then as per West Ham earlier in January Arsenal had a an eight minute spell where Theo, Podolski and then Ramsey scored to make it 4-1 to Arsenal, blowing Wigan away and sending them down to the Championship.  Arsenal were now fourth in table. GBFC fifth. Arsenal one point ahead of their muggy neighbours and after thirty-seven games it would go down to the last day to see who would get that last Champions place. Gareth Bale FC were home to Sunderland, while Arsenal were away to the other North East side Newcastle.

The 3000 strong Arsenal contingent tucked away high in the clouds made themselves heard. Arsenal did what they had to do.  Newcastle made a game of it for about 15 minutes, having a couple of chances, though nothing that seriously worried Arsenal. Arsenal probed but created very little. Still we only needed one goal to win and we’d been doing that quite a bit lately. After half time Arsenal took the lead, when Theo crossed, the BFG headed on and there was Koscielny, just like last season at WBA to score the goal that could cement Arsenal’s sixteenth successive season in the Champions League. Shortly after news went around White Hart Lane, that Newcastle had scored that “imaginary” goal to equalise. The GBFC fans jumped up, they cheered, they celebrated, they mugged themselves. Nothing new there then.

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With a minute to go Gareth Bale scored for GBFC with a trademark screamer. The muggy fans down the lane were dreaming of what could be. While up in the North East Theo is put away by Tiote, beats one, beats two and hits a left foot shot that trickles onto the post Arrrrgggghhhh!!! That could have sealed it four minutes earlier than it did. Gave us Gooners four extra minutes of celebration and GBFC fans four extra minutes of hell.

Referee Webb blows the full-time whistle. Arsenal did it. Ten games to go. Seven points behind. Arsenal in a negative spiral, Spurs on the up. Of course we celebrated.

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We  celebrated not only the relief of getting something out of a season, even if it was only top four, but fending off that lot down the road. Forcing them to another season of Europa Cup, Thursday Night, ITV4 football. Another season without the riches of Champions League football, which is a massive blow to that club that still needs to build a new stadium or re-build the shit-hole.

Fourth wins you nothing and means we have a tricky qualifier to navigate in August with two games you don’t really need at that stage. Hopefully we’ll get an easy team.

Another season with no trophies to show for it. Poor performances in the domestic cups, going out to lower league sides. Going out in the knock stages of the Champions league to the eventual winners Bayern Munich. However, we did make a much better go of the second half of the Premier League season. The team found a way to battle and get results out of matches where maybe we did not deserve them. Some good signs that the team are starting to gel. The new Stadium/kit naming rights sponsorship and soon-to-be kit sponsorship should make this summer the time that we finally add the right players to the squad with a few notable signing. Some of the so-called deadwood’s contracts are up and have left the club. A number of other players are leaving. The new Premier League money will also kick in, meaning Arsenal could get some £100m should things go well. All good for the future.

So all-in-all not a season to go out and shout about it from the roof tops, but a season that ended giving hope for the future for me.  Should the majority of the players we have in first team stay and I have no reason to think any will leave. Sagna, TV5 or Podolski are the doubts. Also hopefully the good players just outside the first team will stay and with new additions in the right areas season 2013-14 is one to look forward to.

So with Season tickets renewed, I will just sit back enjoy a non-footballing summer, wait till I see the new players in their Arsenal kits before I accept they have signed, Not listening to the ITK summer rumour mill. Then late July take in the Emirates Cup and look forward to doing it all over again as I have been for fifty years.

Cheers

@harlowgooner

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