Skip to content

Arsenal’s frustrating season and their newfound grit

Apr 27, 2013, 11:04 AM EDT

Arsenal's Walcott celebrates his goal against Chelsea with Wilshire during their English Premier League soccer match at Stamford Bridge in London Reuters

It’s been quite a season for the Arsenal.

Widely recognized for their free-flowing, ooh là là style of play, the trials and tribulations of the 2012-13 season has forced the Gunners to grow into a grittier, more-hardened side.

The media ramped up their witch-hunt for Arsene Wenger this season, seeking to crucify him for everything from player selection to transfer targets to club finances. It all came to a boil before the second-leg of the Champions League quarter-finals at Bayern Munich when the Frenchman showed his towering frustration by sarcastically explaining to the media, “we want to lose tomorrow’s game so you can all be happy.”

It was an uncomfortable moment for all involved and one that could have tipped either way. Fortunately, it tipped in Wenger’s favor when his words ignited an impassioned fortitude  among the players resulting in a 2-0 victory over the Bavarian giants.

It was a moment that should not be undervalued, especially after the demolition that Barcelona suffered at the same venue this past Tuesday. The return leg at Bayern was a hand that Arsenal could easily have folded, opting instead to put out a second-string squad to provide youth products with experience and veterans with a respite before a furious conclusion to the Premier League season.

But Wenger refused, his players responded and the Gunners gave Bayern hell. It will be interesting to see if in next week’s semi-final second leg Barcelona are made of the same ilk.

It’s been an equally trying year for the players.

Arsenal’s center-back situation has been the source of constant drama and question marks as Thomas Vermaelen looks a shell of his former self and Laurent Koscielny continues his high-highs and low-lows. Per Mertersacker has been solid for the Gunners but always looks one step away from crumbling and hardly feels like the rock around which to build a back four.

In the midfield, Jack Wilshire was named to the short-list for PFA’s Young Player of the Year but the Gunners’ puppet-master has struggled with an ankle injury and currently looks a shadow of his former self.

After six months of hinting he wanted out of North London, Theo Walcott put an end to the drama by re-signing yet his on-field inconsistency remains a stress point for Arsenal supporters. When he’s on, he’s the most dangerous winger in English football. But when he’s off, he’s merely a boy who picked up football after a lifetime of athletics.

The list goes on as Gervinho leads the league in shots that go out for throw-ins, Bacary Sagna defends with his body in England and his mind in France, and Lukasz Fabianski and Wojciech Szczesny have both had their moments but neither has stepped up to the forefront of Premier League goal-keeping.

A huge source of this season’s stress arose from the sale of Robin van Persie to United. It wasn’t that Arsenal could have done something to convince him to stay at the Emirates – the striker’s mind was made up. But he absolutely should not have been sold to a club in the Premier League. Even if it meant accepting 5M less for his transfer, the Dutchman should have been sent to Italy or Germany where his heroics may have been seen but not felt.

Selling van Persie to United and watching him score hat-tricks to confirm league titles was like getting dumped by the prom queen and spending the entire summer watching her make-out with your best friend. And what are Arsenal supporters left with? Olivier Giroud. A talented player in his own right but hardly the rebound that will make your ex lover jealous.

Point being, Arsenal have endured immense growth this season, albeit different growth from previous years. They have acquired a much-needed chip on their shoulder, and rightfully so. They back down from fewer challenges and are now more more likely to grind out points for the sake of merely grinding out points. The change in personnel has also compelled the club to become more resourceful in where they find goals.

If Arsenal are to compete for next year’s Premier League title the club has to show a willingness to financially compete with United, City and Chelsea. They also need to tailor the majority of their signings to players who are proven stars rather than high-upside talent. With this kind of ambition, combined with this season’s mental advancements and the high quality of football for which Arsenal is so famous, the Gunners may soon return to the top of English football.

Latest Posts
  1. Reports: Pardew safe at Newcastle for now despite another loss

    Sep 30, 2014, 8:30 AM EDT

    Stoke City v Newcastle United - Premier League Getty Images

    Maybe, just maybe, Newcastle will win against Swansea City this week and take another step toward getting well.

  2. FC Santa Claus earns promotion, team broadcasters go ballistic (video)

    Sep 30, 2014, 7:52 AM EDT

    fcsantaclaus

    FC Santa Claus is bringing soccer matches to the good boys and girls of the Ykkonen.

  3. FIFA votes to eliminate third-party ownership

    Sep 29, 2014, 11:44 PM EDT

    Blatter AP

    Sepp Blatter confirmed FIFA voted strongly to eliminate third-party ownership in all professional settings, with a transitional period of a few years to be instituted immediately.

  4. WATCH: Men In Blazers recap derby weekend, visit with Brandon McCarthy

    Sep 29, 2014, 11:00 PM EDT

    Men in Blazers Brandon McCarthy

    The Men discussed all things Premier League on this week’s episode, including Phil Jagielka, Wayne Rooney, and a Peter Crouch chicken dance.

  5. Miguel Herrera pumps up Mexico’s crop of youngsters

    Sep 29, 2014, 9:36 PM EDT

    Herrera AP

    With plenty of tournament success, the Mexican youth is turning the head of the senior team’s manager.

  6. Alan Pardew expects to have “serious conversations” with Mike Ashley

    Sep 29, 2014, 8:47 PM EDT

    Pardew Getty Images

    Things surrounding Newcastle’s managerial position have become increasingly untenable.

  7. Report: PSG’s under-fire Blanc could face axe without win vs Barcelona

    Sep 29, 2014, 8:01 PM EDT

    Blanc Getty Images

    If PSG fail to make serious noise against top Champions League clubs, Laurent Blanc could be on his way out of Paris.

  8. MLS salaries released, showing Kaka nets MLS-record $7.1 million

    Sep 29, 2014, 7:12 PM EDT

    Kaka Getty Images

    Making $400,000 more than anyone else in the league, Kaka is set to lead Orlando City into MLS with a colossal paycheck.

  9. Cardiff City owner Vincent Tan says he hopes to invest in MLS

    Sep 29, 2014, 6:33 PM EDT

    Tan Getty Images

    With MLS movement at a high, the controversial Malaysian expressed his wishes to enter the US realm

  10. Olivier Giroud signs new Arsenal deal through 2018

    Sep 29, 2014, 5:51 PM EDT

    Giroud Getty Images

    He’s out with a broken tibia, but Giroud still remains vital to Arsenal’s long-term success.

  11. Report: Chivas USA to suspend operations for at least 2 years

    Sep 29, 2014, 5:10 PM EDT

    Chivas logo

    According to an ESPN report, Chivas will take at least a 2-year break to allow for a rebrand to occur and a new stadium to be built.

  12. Stoke City 1-0 Newcastle: Crouch’s header sinks Newcastle, Pardew deeper (video)

    Sep 29, 2014, 4:54 PM EDT

    Crouch Getty Images

    Peter Crouch’s early header put Stoke up early as Alan Pardew’s job security took another hit.

  13. Adnan Januzaj scores unbelievable free kick for Manchester United U-21’s

    Sep 29, 2014, 4:26 PM EDT

    Januzaj Getty Images

    He hasn’t managed to pick out a start for the Red Devils’ senior side, but getting minutes for the U-21’s, he showed off his bright talents.

  14. Christian Benteke set to make Villa return after nearly six-month absence

    Sep 29, 2014, 3:51 PM EDT

    Benteke Getty Images

    After playing over an hour for the U-21 team this weekend, Paul Lambert will have Benteke available for selection against Manchester City.

  15. Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey out injured for a month

    Sep 29, 2014, 2:54 PM EDT

    Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League Getty Images

    Gunners lose star midfielder for a month after hamstring injury.

  16. Watch Live: Stoke City vs. Newcastle United (Lineups and Live Stream)

    Sep 29, 2014, 2:15 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer League Cup AP

    All eyes on Pardew. Watch Stoke host Newcastle, right here.

  17. Premier League preview: Stoke City vs. Newcastle

    Sep 29, 2014, 12:59 PM EDT

    Will Stoke be able to extract revenge after their 5-1 loss to Newcastle on Boxing Day? Getty Images

    Watch Stoke vs. Newcastle live on Monday at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

  18. Manchester United to play overseas friendlies during the regular season?

    Sep 29, 2014, 12:13 PM EDT

    Alexander Buttner, Gareth Bale AP

    Will United head back to the USA, the Middle East or elsewhere if they schedule friendlies during the current season?

  19. Premier League Playback: Can Chelsea stay unbeaten throughout 2014-15?

    Sep 29, 2014, 11:41 AM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    PST’s Lead Writer and Editor takes an in-depth look at the PL during Week 6.

Featured video

Week 6: Premier League recap