Order was restored after a tumultuous November. Arsenal, in typical fashion recovered from their blip in form winning five out of the six games they played in the last month of 2015. The festive period poses several challenges : players are fatigued, conditions are tricky and team chemistry is disrupted by squad rotation. However, the Gunners faithful were treated to several scintillating displays and there were certainly more highs than lows. Let’s look back at all the action that elapsed.
A Match to Remember : A Greek God comes to the rescue
It was difficult choosing the match of the month for December. There were two standout performances from Arsenal, a 3-0 win against Olympiakos away from home and a 2-1 victory against title rivals Manchester City at the Emirates. While both victories were important in their own way, the win against the Greeks gets the nod for “The Match of the Month” for its implications. Not even the most optimistic of Arsenal fans would have imagined such a comprehensive margin of victory. The Gunners barely broke into a sweat as they polished off the Greek side with time to spare. Olivier Giroud scored a center forward’s hat-trick and it was truly a complete performance from the Frenchman. He led the line magnificently, working ever so hard to link up with his teammates, and physically imposed himself on the opposition center backs. The highlight of the match was definitely the second goal that Arsenal scored. Ozil passed the ball to Campbell in the box, who held the ball up before taking out 6 Olympiakos defenders with a laser guided pass to Giroud. The striker timed his run to perfection, received the pass in his stride and finished it pass a helpless keeper. The win will go down as one of our greatest ever escapes in Europe.
A Match to Forget : Sucker Punched by the Saints
The high from the win over City was quickly erased by a shambles of a performance against Southampton. Arsenal looked like a shadow of themselves and meekly conceded defeat to a Saints team who were prior to the game terribly out of form. The players were fatigued, and while it can be said that some refereeing decisions went against us, there was no excuse to the manner in which we lost. It was a great opportunity for us to go top, and we duly capitulated. Parity was restored in the next game however. Wenger summed the game up aptly :
They were sharper than us in the challenges and on that front we have to look at what we can master. We cannot master the decision of the referee but we can master our own behaviour and I believe Southampton looked stronger in the challenges and we lost too many tonight.
Star Man : It’s called an Ozist
There are three certainties in life : Death, Taxes and an Ozil assist. The German playmaker is playing at the height of his powers and Arsenal fans and pundits (cough cough) are finally seeing what he can do. Truth be told, he has been doing this for a while, and it has taken these past two years for an understanding to develop between Ozil and his Arsenal teammates. Mesut has racked up 16 assists this season, all before Christmas! Against the cherries, Ozil created a whopping 9 goal scoring chances, and had the strikers not been so profligate in front of goal, the scoreline would have looked a lot more convincing than the 2-0 that it was. Ozil has also added goals to his game this year, and in this past month of December, there is no one in the Arsenal side who can hold a candle to the mercurial midfielder. The wait has certainly been worth it!
Keep your Eyes Open : Get out while you can?
The phrase “Get out while you can” has been used quite frequently with Joel Campbell. The Costa Rican has never been able to replicate his World Cup form for the Arsenal. In the squad as a fringe player, Campbell was thrown into the spotlight thanks to a series of injuries to Arsenal’s first team, substitutes and perhaps even the reserves. Exaggerations aside, Campbell took his time to find his feet, but you can sense that there is a confidence growing within him. Slowly but surely, he has put on some eye catching performances. Joel’s best performance came against a team he was loaned out to, Olympiakos. Had that pass for Girouds second been played by Ozil or Silva, pundits and fans would be raving about it. Campbell has certainly made his case to Arsene and on current form, he is definitely ahead of Alex Oxlade Chamberlain in the pecking order. Will Joel do a Coquelin and be Arsenal’s most improved player of the season? Only time will tell.
Final Words : Consistently Arsenal
December was definitely a month where we bounced back from the disappointments of November. Arsenal put on a consistent string of wins, and while the defeat against the Saints was a blip, the overall mood in the camp is one of optimism. Arsenal finished the year top of the league, and all Arsenal fans will be hoping that they stay there come May. The title challenge is on, and all of us hope that the Gunners have learnt something from the past experiences. Come on you Gunners!