Apr 27, 2013, 11:04 AM EDT
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.
Sep 17, 2014, 11:30 PM EDT
A dog home ravaged by fire last week believes Mario Balotelli has made a sizable donation.
Sep 17, 2014, 10:55 PM EDT
Joe Prince-Wright and myself sat down with Jenna Corrado to discuss what City and Chelsea each need to accomplish to secure victory.
Sep 17, 2014, 10:28 PM EDT
Looking for complete transparency, however, Van Gaal has laid down the law: English only.
Sep 17, 2014, 9:20 PM EDT
Marcelo Claure has hinted that news regarding a potential MLS franchise in Miami could soon be on it’s way.
Sep 17, 2014, 8:42 PM EDT
“Remy could have scored, Terry could have scored, Hazard could have scored, but that’s football,” Mourinho said.
Sep 17, 2014, 7:54 PM EDT
Gazzetta dello Sport claims that one CSKA fan who had been stabbed in the stomach.
Sep 17, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT
Gotta love Ajax fans, they’re always loud, positive and pretty darn clever.
Sep 17, 2014, 6:45 PM EDT
Living off the counter-attack, Schalke looked for Draxler every time out the gates.
Sep 17, 2014, 6:03 PM EDT
Toure’s inept displays bring up question marks over his commitment to Man City.
Sep 17, 2014, 5:12 PM EDT
What happened across Europe in the Champions League? Here’s a recap of all eight games.
Sep 17, 2014, 4:59 PM EDT
A solid outing by Chelsea but Jose Mourinho’s side will rue their lack of finishing in the final third.
Sep 17, 2014, 4:46 PM EDT
An impressive display from Roma who will fancy their chances of an upset against Manchester City and Bayern Munich in Group E.
Sep 17, 2014, 4:41 PM EDT
Boateng’s late volley hands Bayern win against stubborn City.
Sep 17, 2014, 4:07 PM EDT
Nothing like breaking your nose in the third minute and playing the full 90. Beast.
Sep 17, 2014, 3:33 PM EDT
Find out what’s going on around Europe as the group stage openers continue.
Sep 17, 2014, 2:59 PM EDT
The former Manchester United legend has had difficulty finding results for the troubled Welsh side.
Sep 17, 2014, 2:25 PM EDT
For live updates from the Allianz Arena, look no further.
Sep 17, 2014, 2:09 PM EDT
After a hot start to their Premier League campaign, Aston Villa has extended Paul Lambert’s contract until June of 2018.
Sep 17, 2014, 1:20 PM EDT
On this day 14 years ago, Barcelona signed Lionel Messi. The rest is history.
Sep 17, 2014, 12:35 PM EDT
European giants clash as Manchester City travels to Germany to take on the mighty Bayern squad.
- Julian Draxler’s stunning performance puts Chelsea, Premier League on high alert 0
- Yaya Toure’s lackluster display stands out as Manchester City struggle 3
- UEFA Champions League roundup: Roma, Porto win big; Chelsea, PSG slip up 0
- Chelsea 1-1 Schalke 04: Huntelaar secures point for the underdogs 0
- Bayern Munich 1-0 Manchester City: Last-gasp win for Bayern in Bavaria 2
- Men In Blazers podcast: A happy PL return, while Spencer Lanning talks ‘football’ 0