2015 Arsenal Highlights: FA Cup Super-Champions, Ox’s bullet against Chelsea, Ozil Assists King, Cech’s a Gunner

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2015 was a very good year for Arsenal. The hard stats say it all: we played 38 PL games in the calendar year and won 25 of them: three more than MC, seven more than MU and eight more than Chavs. In total we gained nine more PL points than Citeh, 17 more than MU and 20 more than last season’s champions. Arsenal conceded least goals of all the PL teams: 31, compared to MC 41, MU 34 and Chavs 47.We are the second highest PL scorers in 2015 with 70 goals – MC had nine more goals but we still managed a better goal difference. And we are currently joined TOTL with Leicester.

Here are my ten highlights of the past calendar year.

  1. The absolute highlight was of course winning the FA Cup for a record 12th time – no other club has more FA cups than Arsenal now. We blitzed sorry Villa in the final and played some superb football with especially sexy Alexis in top form on the day. Beating MU away on our way to the final was possibly the biggest FA highlight; especially Monreal’s cool finish will not easily be forgotten.
  2. Finishing third to automatically qualify for the CL, followed by qualification for the last sixteen for an amazing 16th time in December were also highlights. I will never tire to appreciate our boys playing at the highest level of club football year in year out. We had a bad start against Zagreb and Olympiakos, but then we started to turn it round with a superb home win against Die Lederhosen, followed by a good home win against Zagreb and a wonderful, mature performance against the Greeks in their cauldron to get through once again.
  3. But just as important for me was our gradual growth during the year, becoming a stronger and more settled team. For a long time we were not able to beat our direct silverware competitors, but in 2015 we beat MU and MC, home and away, and Chavs at Wembley. Add to that our win against Bayern and the belief in the qualities of this team will only grow. We also have a first team that will grow further with many individuals yet to reach their peak years or being smack-bang in the middle of them. This team will only get better in the next 2-3 years.
  4. Ox’s thunderbolt against the Chavs in the Charity Shield match was another fine highlight: Wenger finally beating ME!rinho when the world was watching was just what we needed to kick-start the season.
  5. Cech signing for Arsenal. Ospina had done very well for us in the second half of the previous season and with Szczesny we have a talented young goalie that can mature into a very fine one, but a top team needs a solid, experienced keeper who oozes calm and class. Petr offers all of this and his PL record of clean sheets will further enhance his reputation and experience, both on the pitch and in the dressing room. I saw him live a few times but his first half performance against Liverpool at home will never be forgotten. He made some super-human saves to keep Pool somehow from scoring as the rest of our team had no answer to their superior attacking football in the first half. What a signing!
  6. Ozil king of assists and goal scoring opportunities. Enough has been written about the genius and importance of Mesmerizing Mesut (just check out our recent posts about him by TA and 17HT).
  7. Flying Spanish full backs: Nacho and Bellerin: both have come to the fore so strongly in the last 12 months. They are a menace for every opponent, especially in terms of the support they give to our attack, adding width and speed to our front players and giving us an extra dimension in the process. Hector Vector still needs to improve his defending a bit but that surely will come. They are both great, likeable professionals with an intrinsic motivation to do well for Arsenal. You gotta love them!
  8. The wall of CoCa: who would have thought at the end of last year that Coquelin and Cazorla would make such a fine double DM pivot for us. They found the right balance between defending and supporting the attack with Le Coq a great protector of our defence, and Cazorla a great feeder of our attackers, giving our attack that extra dimension together with Ozil.
  9. Sexy Alexis: he carried the team for a while with his energy and drive and crucial goals, peaking at the FA cup final with a superb display of all he has to offer. I never tire looking at him and the thought of playing him with Giroud and Theo up-front and Mesut and Rambo/Santi feeding them all makes me do one of those Jurgen Klopp mad smiles… Cech, Ozil, Alexis: three signing in three years that have helped tremendously in moving Arsenal to a higher echelon.
  10. Meeting up with the 17HT family in Sheffield in October. It was a dire game but to meet up with the Tiger of Tahoe, his lovely wife and son and talk proper football face to face was definitely one of my Arsenal highlights of the year. An added bonus was meeting the Sheaf family at the hotel I stayed and talking about their son’s development at the club.

These were my highlights but what are yours?

By TotalArsenal.

Wishing you a Happy, Healthy and a Gooner-Glory-Full 2016!

17HT and TA.

Soccer - FA Cup - Arsenal Winners Parade
How nice would it be for Arsene to win the league in 2016?!

The Cech Factor, Mesmerising Mesut, Spanish Bull Backs, Rambo Dynamo: 10 PL positives until now.

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12 games played in the premier league and now joined top with Citeh: who would have thought this after our first six games? We had a measly ten points and trailed the Northern Oilers by five points, and we had big games against Manchester United (H), Leicester (A), Swansea (A), Everton (H), Spuds (H) and Watford (A) ahead of us. Six games, and sixteen points, later and we caught up with the early season high flyers, and are now an amazing 15 points ahead of the self-adoring one and his spoiled Chavs, who were, let’s not forget, the absolute favourites to win the title again this season, in August. We are also the London PL table leaders with five points more than the Spuds and the Hammers. So far so very, very good; and we should be very proud of our boys.

There is of course still a very, very long way to go and the principle of OGAAT – one game at a time – remains an absolute necessity if we are to win anything this year. Looking ahead to our next six PL games, we have a good chance to stay top and even take a bit of distance from Citeh and other competitors. But this can only be achieved by focussing on each and every game like it is a cup final.

Next up is West Brom away, never easy, especially after an international break; then it is Norwich away, Sunderland at home and Villa away: all teams that need points and will fight us with all they have got; then we play Citeh at home, followed by Southampton away, which are both very tricky fixtures. In the middle of these we have to play two CL fixtures, and especially the away game against Olympiakos – in between Sunderland at home and Villa away – could require a hell of a lot from our team (but only if Bayern manage to beat the Greeks before then in the first place).

So OGAAT it is and let’s see where we are after our Boxing Day fixture against the Saints. Key is to get our team back to strength as injuries have once again depleted our squad in the last few weeks. There is, however, reason for optimism based on our first twelve games in the PL:

  1. We are so much more solid at the back, especially when we play at least four out of Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koz and Nacho. Only MU conceded less goals (8) and we are equal with Citeh (9 goals conceded each), and we have already achieved six clean PL sheets this season. There is still room for improvement and especially the CB pairing could be subject to improvement in the next few months.
  2. Cech, after a rough start against WH, has improved the squad considerably. Perhaps less exciting to many, but his impact on the team is on a par with the previous arrivals of Santi, Ozil and Sanchez. Petr is the sort of goalkeeper we needed for a long time to make real progress in the league.
  3. Santi – Ozil – Sanchez give us the creative magic virtually all our competitors are missing right now. It is very hard for competitors to eliminate our creative force: if they focus on shadowing Ozil then Santi or Alexis will find the gaps instead; if they press hard on Santi, Alexis and Ozil will help him and together they find the space and the passes to hurt the opposition in a flash. We are now a team that at any moment and from almost any place on the pitch can produce a through-ball that will hurt the opposition instantly.
  4. Coquelin is now even better than last season. Some predicted that he would have a disappointing ‘second season’ as our deepest DM, but Francis has fully established himself in the team. He always gives his all and has found the right balance between aggression and control; and quietly he is developing in one of our key leaders.
  5. Goals are being spread between the team, with OG and Alexis having each scored as many PL goals as Aguero (6) and Theo showing a lot of promise too (2 PL goals currently). I love the variety we have in attack and that Wenger is using our attackers flexibly. Just as with our creative play, we have an extra dimension to our attack. However, getting Theo back as soon as possible is much needed to avoid burnout of Giroud, and especially, Alexis.
  6. Ozil is currently totally in the zone: 10 assists in 11 PL games is quite something and he is making our play now more than ever. He benefits a lot from Santi’s and Alexis’ presence and loves to work with the likes of Giroud, Alexis and Theo to produce his mesmerizing magic.
  7. Our Spanish full backs – or Bull Backs – are our power boosters and add sooo much to the team right now, both defensively and in attack. Nacho and Hector Vector are the complete package and play with great energy and passion. Wenger has turned these two into fabulous players and we are reaping the benefits now!
  8. Ramsey the connector, the gap filler, our dynamo: for me Rambo is the ideal box to box player next to Coquelin, but Wenger is a genius for making him play on the right, in a free role. He is great at almost all aspects of midfield play and so important for allowing others to shine. And he will shine himself now and again as well. The goals are still missing this season, but let this not take away from how pivotal his overall midfield performances are for the team.
  9. Our ability to go for the kill when it is on offer has been great. How many times did we score a second goal very soon after we scored the first goal in a PL game? The team now seem to pounce on weaknesses much better and this reminds me a lot of our Bergkamp/Henry/Pires Arsenal days.
  10. Resilience: we are much better in seeing games out now and not expose ourselves unnecessarily (the CL games, bar the Bayern home game, are the exception though). I loved our second half against MU as much as the first one: never gave them a chance to come back; I also loved the way we clawed back a draw against the Spuds, and even fought for a later winner, yesterday.

With almost a third of this season’s PL campaign behind us, we can be very positive of where we are and what makes this team special. There is no doubt that the many injuries can hurt us but until now the impact has been minimal, and with a couple of weeks’ rest, and hopefully no further injuries, we should be able to push on till after Christmas, when I will do another term review.

By TotalArsenal.