In what is essentially a follow-up to Gary’s worst 10 moments, I decided to liven things up with my BEST 10 moments. Keep in mind I can only talk about those I’ve seen with my own eyes, so I’ll only cover the period from 2005 onwards. I’ll list them in chronological order. Hope you’ll enjoy the ride!
FA Cup final: Arsenal 0-0 Manchester United (5-4 on pens)
Two moments still stand out for me: Arsenal had a dire attacking performance due to being injury-stricken (no Gilberto and Henry, while Wiltord left the Gunners a year earlier) and backs-to-the-wall defending with some brilliant Lehmann saves.
We had to rely on Bergkamp leading the line alone (I think it was his last official game for the Club), a young Robin van Persie and Jose Antonio Reyes who failed to adapt. So Arsene did the very unusual thing for him and set out not to concede. In a cup final against Manchester United with the likes of Ronaldo, Keane and Giggs all still on top form.
And it worked. Lehmann bailed us out of trouble time and again, before finally saving a penalty from Scholes in the shoot-out. Viera cooly converted his spot-kick (his last game for the Club too) and won our only trophy for the next 9 years.
2006 Champions League run
Yes, I know we lost it in the end and I still fear we missed our best chance of winning the trophy on that night in Paris, but hear me out. As a fan who has just started supporting the Club witnessing Arsenal overpower European giants time and again by relying on a rock-solid defense and a brilliant keeper was nothing short of awe-inspiring. Lehmann set a record that season, a record which hasn’t been bested still, of stringing together 10 clean sheets. Ha came close to 1000 minutes without conceding a goal before being sent off in the final.
Nonetheless it was a joy to watch. Our Invincible squad was still mostly intact (Viera and Edu) exempting, but we were hit hard by injuries and got to the final playing a back four of Eboue, Senderos, Toure and Flamini, with Henry also swinging in and out the squad. And yet we made it to the final, beating Real Madrid, Juventus and Villarreal (thank you, Jens!) in the process. It was the first time Arsenal reached semi-finals and the final itself.
Arsenal 2-1 Barcelona (2011)
I watched that game while on winter vacation in Thailand. The TV was old, but it worked properly and showed the thing I couldn’t have missed: the last sixteen tie against Barcelona. Our squad was still pretty shambolic at that stage: only Fabregas, Nasri, van Persie and, to a lesser extent, Arshavin and Rosicky were up to scratch against the mighty Catalans. Oh, and let’s not forget about Jack Wilshere. Walcott was injured (I think), Arshavin and Rosicky started the game on the bench.
The first half was all Barca. They pressed, played their tika-taka and went in front through David Villa. However in the second half Arsenal mounted an unlikely comeback. Van Persie struck on the 78th minute from an unbelievably tight angle, while Arshavin (who entered the fray ten minutes prior to our equaliser) took his chance from a swift counter attack. 2-1, and an Arsenal side with Eboue, Senderos and Koscielny (in his debut season) came out on top against the overwhelming favourites.
Arsenal 1-0 Leeds United (2012)
Just a 3rd round FA Cup game on the face of it. But I’m sure you all understand why I brought this game up: it marked the return of the King.
That’s right, Thierry Henry made his grand entrance that night. After Gervinho went to play at the African Cup of Nations, we needed cover in attack. Thierry Henry was training with the team during that period, as he always did ahead of a new season in MLS. The season wasn’t bound to begin for a few more months, so Arsene asked Red Bulls’ permission to loan Thierry. They did not object.
And so Thierry Henry was introduced to the proceedings in the 68th minute, after we couldn’t break Leeds down. It took him only ten minutes to score, something he did in his usual fashion: by cutting in from the left and slotting the ball into the far corner. I will say no more, just leave you with this video:
Bayern Munich 0-2 Arsenal (2013)
We made an utter mess in our home game at the Emirates (sounds familiar?) and went into the game as complete underdogs, needing to either win 3-1 to take the game into extra time or win by three goals. At the Allianz Arena. It was a monumental task for three reasons:
- Bayern were having a bloody good campaign both domestically and in Europe. They haven’t conceded twice in one game for God knows how long
- No one in Europe managed to beat Bayern at their turf by two goals
- Our campaign was on a negative spiral (I believe that’s the phrase, Andre?) We have just lost to Tottenham, 4th was slipping out of our reach. On top of all that, our first-choice keeper (Szczesny) and our captain (Vermaelen) were abysmal. Both were dropped for that game (Szczesny was suspended, truth be told)
Our plan was to score a quick goal and then shut shop. We did just that. Giroud scored from a Walcott pass in the 3rd minute, Fabianski produced a brilliant performance between the sticks and then Koscielny headed home in the 86th minute. Bayern were scared out of their wits at that point and kept the ball at the corner flag for the remainder of the game.
Topping the table in 2013-2014
No one expected us to do that. Yes, we signed Mesut Ozil (Ya Gunners Ya), but still the form we demonstrated was out of this world good. Ramsey was phenomenal, Ozil was phenomenal, our back 5 (Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs and Szczesny) were phenomenal.
We won 17, drew 4 and lost only 3 games (the first loss came in the first game). We deservedly were at the top till early February, at one stage 5 points clear of 2nd-placed City (or was it Chelsea?). Unfortunately, injuries to Ozil, Giroud and Ramsey sent our season to kingdom come, however, a nice surprise was awaiting the fans at the end.
Winning the FA Cup in 2014
We had a very tough run and the toughest games were the ones everyone thought were a bit easier: Wigan and Hull. Before that we had to take down Tottenham, Liverpool (with rampaging Suarez and Sturridge) and Everton in brilliant form.
Then we almost lost it against Wigan (thank you, Per Mertesacker!), before mounting an almighty comeback against Hull in the final. Two goals down inside 8 minutes, Gibbs header off the line and then Cazorla’s free-kick. Koscielny equalised from a corner deep into the second half, before we finally broke down a stubborn Hull side with a little help from Ollie Giroud and man-of-the-season Aaron Ramsey. Watching a happy (and completely soaked in champagne) Arsene lift the cup still brings a smile to my face.
Signing Alexis Sanchez (2014)
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, not Mesut Ozil. Why? The answer is simple: while I knew Ozil was a great player, I haven’t really seen much of him prior to his switch. Don’t get me wrong, I couldn’t calm down for a week when we snatched Ozil on deadline day, but Sanchez represented something more.
The Chilean’s capture confirmed Ozil was not a lucky bounce. It showed we really are capable of signing world-class players from the biggest clubs in Europe. Furthermore, I was watching Alexis Sanchez play all June for Chile and dreamed of us getting him. What a player, I thought. If only we could sign him…
And then we did sign him. Even before Germany were crowned champions. Sanchez went on to have a massive campaign, almost instantly becoming a favourite among the fans for his sheer passion, hunger and desire to succeed. What a man.
Manchester United 1-2 Arsenal (2015)
That fateful night we lifted the curse of Old Trafford. We lifted it in the best way possible: by dominating a toothless United side throughout. Monreal scored a typical Arsenal goal after Oxlade danced through Red Devils defense. Rooney’s header cancelled our goal goal out, however.
Then Welbeck stepped up. Pouncing on an underhit backpass from Valencia, he rounded off De Gea and slotted the ball into the empty net, before celebrating with gusto. The irony of a player who Van Gaal named “not up to scratch” knocking out your team still makes me sneer.
FA Cup success in 2015
We had once again made it to the final, though our route was easier than last time around. However, I’ll remember that win for the emphatic performance in the final itself.
We dominated the entire game, with Aston Villa failing to record a single shot on target. Meanwhile, we scored four goals, Sanchez screamer standing out among them. One success in the cup can be coincidence, two consecutive trophies are not: Arsenal is back.
Wrapping it up
That’s it, ladies and gentlemen. Hope you enjoyed re-living these moments with me. I know I did. Share your own best moments in the comment section below.