After losing 3-1 on the opening day to Aston Villa it felt like Arsenal’s season had imploded barely before it had even begun. The signings fans had called for hadn’t transpired and it looked as though the Gunners were set for a season of struggle once more, with Wenger under increasing pressure and more and more fans turning against him.
However though, after going on a small revival, beating the likes of Fenerbahçe, Fulham and Tottenham along the way, good news was to come on deadline day, as it was announced we had paid £42.5 million pounds for record signing Mesut Ozil. This was an incredible transfer, one that invigorated the club from top to bottom, fans and players included.
From here, we went on a good run and occupied the top of the league most of the time, from mid-September through to February. In total we amassed 128 days at the summit, exactly double that of Chelsea who had the next best figure at 64 days. This statistic in itself shows the progress the team has made. After the Villa game no one gave us a prayer regarding the title, but we finished on 79 points and were only 7 points off the leaders, Manchester City. If key players such as Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott hadn’t got injured during important parts of the season, then I believe we’d have been there or there about’s regarding the title race. Although the league campaign petered out, after embarrassing defeats to Liverpool and Chelsea (which need to be addressed next season) positives can be taken as we held top spot for so long. With the introduction of a couple of quality players (particularly up-front) a title-challenge should be a realistic aspiration next term.
Despite the above, winning the FA Cup will really suggest whether the team has progressed or not. As we know, it is well documented that we haven’t won a trophy for nine, ten years, however long it may be. Winning the competition would mean the players (many of whom have won nothing in their careers) and the club, would be able to shake a monkey of its back and move on. A trophy will give the fans a big lift and will also give the players that winning mentality that is required to win major trophies on a frequent basis.
If we can bring the trophy home then I’d regard the season as a success. Players such as Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Kieran Gibbs have really excelled this campaign and staying top for such a long time shows that the team as a whole has progressed. If the frequent injury problems can be contained, combined with a couple of world-class signings there is no reason why the club can’t excel further in the future. Hopefully we can do the business on Saturday, and bring the FA Cup back to the Emirates.
Photo via Jon Candy