‘They lost it in their heads’ – Season Review

2010/2011 Season Review

The recent debacle against Aston Villa summed up what is wrong with The Arsenal: a lack of clinical finishing in front of goal, too much detail in the final third and most of all, a lack of organisation at the back.

Any Arsenal fan will tell you that our problems lie in the centre of defence, but many fans believe that there are other issues preventing Arsenal reclaiming the form of the ‘Invincibles.’ Firstly Bacary Sagna was voted into the PFA team of the season for his explosive runs down the right hand side and not for his all too frequent pointless crosses. During his usually unsuccessful ventures up the pitch he leaves a gaping hole at the back, and when Arsenal inevitably lose the ball, it gives Squillaci/Koscielny/Djourou a job on their hands; he should remember his place in the team which is in the defence.

Our second problem is the lack of a partner for Van Persie up front; last season Marouane Chamakh was bought to bolster the attack and give Robin something to work with. In his 43 appearances Chamakh has only managed 11 goals and has failed to put his “aerial ability” to much good; this proves that Chamakh doesn’t deserve a place in the starting line-up.

The question at the lips of every Gooner this summer is who should Arsenal sign? Clearly we don’t want another unproven Frenchman whose name is more complex than the offside rule; but that’s what we’ve come to expect in recent years as well as the lack of trophies. Gossip has suggested that Arsenal could be in for numerous stars such as Karim Benzema, Sergio Aguero, Scott Parker and best of all, Chris Samba.

But of course all the attention is on whether Cesc will stay or go, with his now £60million price tag I hope Man City or Barcelona do buy him so they can enjoy the occasional sweet pass when he’s prized away from the treatment table. It seems he has developed a form of arrogance that verges on the complacent – I still can’t forget that casual back-heel which led to Barca’s goal just before half time in the Champions League second leg at the Camp Nou; which pretty much determined our fate in the tie.

Highs and Lows

Prior to the start of the season, the squad bolstered with our shiny new striker Chamakh and defenders Squillaci and Koscielny we expected to be real contenders. However, with the paint hardly dry on the new clock, this typical Arsenal season started in our usually shakily fashion with a nervy draw against Liverpool.  From there the Gunners flirted with the top of the table brushing aside the likes of Blackpool, Blackburn and Bolton.

The first real test came away against Chelsea, and following a disappointing defeat against West Brom the fans weren’t expecting much. We watched a Didier Drogba inspired Chelsea defeat Arsenal 2-0 and were not surprised. We bounced back by narrowly beating Birmingham, dismantling Man City, and thrashing Shakhtar in the Champions League.

The highlight of November was Jack Wilshire’s first goal for the Gunners in a 4-2 victory against Villa; the low points came in the form of two Champions League defeats to Braga and Shakhtar as well as a catastrophe against Spurs; 2-0 up to 3-2 down in 45 minutes. Only Arsenal could throw it away like that, but worse was to come as I’m sure you know.

As Man Utd beckoned the Gunners hit form with three straight victories. When the big game arrived, as usual we bottled it losing 1-0. Despite having the majority of the possession we didn’t make it count, failing to create one clear cut chance. After that we started an unbeaten league run which stretched to the end of April, beginning with an impressive victory over Chelsea who were beginning to slide.

Arsenal started January with an important victory over Birmingham and a stalemate with Man City, followed by two disappointing results against lesser opposition that left the Gunners deflated. Despite the disappointment, we were slowly progressing in all areas and had a Carling Cup Final to look forward to, and Gooners were confident that silverware would be coming to North London in May, if not before.

Barcelona arrived at the Emirates as the Champions League resumed and with 12 minutes to go, Arsenal looked like they were dead and buried as far as Europe was concerned. Then, out of the blue, Van Persie popped up with a belter before Andrei Arshavin supplied the finish to a cracking move, wrapping up a 2-1 win.  As some of us may have thought at the time – this was the highlight of our season.

As Arsenal were preparing for the return leg we suffered a massive blow as RVP was crocked again in the moral sapping non-performance against Birmingham in the Carling Cup Final. That left us needing a miracle to get him fit again. The physios did an incredible job but Robin wasn’t the same player (he did try though, he had a shot and got sent off for it) and so we lost the second leg. 

We were second best across both ties, however, let’s not forget that in the second leg with virtually the last kick of the game, old ‘Barn Door’ (Bentdner) had a one-on-one with Valdes which would have put us through on the away goals, but he fluffed it.  Had RVP still been on the pitch (instead of being sent off for one of the most ridiculous and harsh red cards ever seen) he would have buried that one – and you can quote me on that!

The margin between success and failure is often very very small, sometimes turning on small individual incidents and often the best team doesn’t win. As Arsenal fans we all know this. I’ll maintain that things could have been so very different.  Instead of losing it in their heads they could have won games on the pitch!

From there on the season declined dramatically, as we lost to Man Utd in the FA Cup and only gaining 14 points from 14 games in the league.  We now need to qualify for the Champions League next season.

I am left looking for much of the same dramatic twists next time, but perhaps some silverware to go with it would be nice.

Jeremy Brock

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