End of season blog 2: It was the best of times.

May 20, 2012 19 Comments by Sian

**This is long, sorry. I guess there were more highlights than anyone is willing to give us credit for**

Sorry for the hefty delay between the depressing original part of this end of season blog and this, the (hopefully) marginally more cheery one, but there was a small case of dashing Frenchman to attend to in the meantime. We are now back on track, and ready to look back on the beautiful season that was.

Well, perhaps beautiful is being slightly kind. It was certainly not a classic, though in a weird way, it felt like one of my favourite seasons in recent times. While the lows were hella low, the highs were quite magnificent.

Picture the scene on 24th August 2011. It came the day after possibly the worst night’s sleep of my life, except for the night spent on a cruise ship on really rough seas somewhere around Portugal a few years back. If I tell you the scariest film I’ve EVER seen is Poseidon, you’ll understand my aversion to snooze that night. Anyway, it was the day of Udinese away, the second leg of our Champions league qualifier. This is because last season, we finished fourth and had to qualify for the 2011-2012 campaign. In spite of having had Cesc and Samir and Jack at our dispense. Hehe.

We went to Italy with a 1-0 advantage, but were still feeling terribly gooey-bellied about the whole thing. We’d just lost Nasri and Cesc, and were still almost pointless in the league. In fact with our 0-0 draw at Newcastle and our 0-2 loss to Liverpool at home but with red cards dished out to both Gervinho and Frimpong, we had at that time more players suspended than goals scored. And when di Natale put the home side ahead in the first half, everything looked bleak. It took a van Persie goal in the 55th to give us any sign of hope, but even then a penalty awarded to Udinese for a Thomas Vermaelen handball, had us weeing our knickers once more. Then came one of the best penalty saves ever from Wojciech Szczesny – even Bob Wilson thought so. Theo Walcott added another goal shortly after and Arsenal were, once more, in for another season of Champions League football.

Of course this match also resulted in another lengthy injury lay-off to Vermaelen and took place four days before dun dun duuuuuuuuuuuuun 8-2, but I still consider it a high point as without it, we’d have been denied another of my favourite moments of the season – which we will look at later.

My next season highlight came two months later. In between we’d held the German champions to a 1-1 draw away, and beaten Swansea, Shrewsbury, Bolton, Olympiacos, Sunderland, Marseille, Stoke and Bolton (again), but last minute Rambo winners and mega van Persie freekicks aside, none of them were exceptionally spectacular wins. Nor were they as hilarious as the next season’s highlight.

Chelsea away, 3-5 to the Arsenal. I missed the first half completely as I was on my way to Barnet-Burton Albion. I relied on text updates from my mum and DanielClancy, and it looked pretty bleak. Here’s an excerpt:

It was not fun. Fortunately, Barnet had the second half on in the clubhouse. It turns out, either most Barnet fans simply hate Chelsea, or they’re all Gooners. Which was handy. I had heard Santos had had a shocker in the first half, so my God how happy I was it was he who brought us level to 2-2 shortly into the second half. Then Theo put us ahead for the first time, before Mata (so close yet so far) leveled the bastards up again. And then. Well. Then came the slip. In as much as it was a given Terry would score that day, in the aftermath of Ferdinandgate, it was as bloody hilarious it would be he who would end their chances of holding onto a lead. RvP took advantage, and the laughter began. Because we’re Arsenal, we really needed another and RvP provided us with one in injury time. It remains one of my favourite games of the season, and not just because I truly despise Chelsea.

In November we drew with Marseille, beat West Brom 3-0, beat Norwich away, and qualified for the knock-out rounds of the Champions League, the first English side to do so. That was a great night as well, and showed how far we seemed to have come from that di Natale goal when we could have been Europa Leagueing it up for the rest of the season. Given both the Manchesters had to continue fretting until December (they thought…), it was a welcome relief from all the crap we’d been having said about us. Also in November, Thomas Vermaelen scored at both ends in a disappointing home draw with Fulham, and our babies lost 0-1 to Manchester City in the Carling whatever. It’s worth mentioning too that Vermaelen signed a new contract in October. No fuss, no bother, he just signed. I love this in a player.

In December we beat Wigan emphatically, had a total whoopsy away in Olympiakos, and enjoyed seeing both Manchesters crash out of the Champions League. And oh how we enjoyed. Three days later came Everton at home and the celebration of 125 years of Arsenal. With all the faff around the match, it was fitting that the end result was a nice and traditional 1-0 to the Arsenal, with an absolute cracker of a goal from Robin again. It was also a great day to remember how wonderful the club still is, in spite of its uncertain future at that point.

It’s just as well, because we had to wait over a month for the next ‘up’ in the season. A win away at Aston Villa and being better but still beaten away at City couldn’t really make up for a home draw with later-relegated Wolves and a horror of a match away at Fulham.

But then, what’s that I hear? Could it be the sound of a returning king? Thierry made his comeback on North London soil against Leeds in the FA Cup on 9th January. It was an unspectacular match with only one star. It didn’t hit me just how huge it was that Henry had returned to his club and scored until I realised I felt quite emotional imagining it had been David Beckham for Manchester United. Watch this, don’t weep.

Which highlight shall we choose next then? Certainly not Swansea or Man United. Definitely not Bolton or our transfer dealings in the January window (not including you, Thomas Eisfeld). Our comeback against Villa at home in the cup was good. As was our 7-1 win against Blackburn at home. That we played early on a Saturday was great, because it meant we could just sit back and relax for the rest of the weekend – which was rare this season. There had been murmurings that in spite of his comeback goal against Leeds, the temporary transfer of Thierry had been pretty pointless. His goal against Blackburn (later taken away by the wanky dubious goals committee, the wanking wankers) was not important and he’d not pulled anything out of the bag in matches where goals were needed. Fortunately, he managed that in his final domestic game for us. We were playing on a potato field in Sunderland and were drawing 1-1 without a large German, who had been broken by the potato field. In the closing minutes, he got himself on the end of an Andrei Arshavin cross to win us the game 1-2. Oh. The. Relief.

Unfortunately it was not to last, as we PLUNGED into doom for AC Milan and Sunderland away. Things looked about as low as low could be heading into February 26th’s North London derby. Things could not have been more in favour of Spurs. They were flying, ten points clear of us, and looking sweet. Plus, they had really had the upper hand in recent NLDs, whereas we’d come away with only one point from the previous three.

Louis Saha’s goal in the, oh I don’t know, – 3rd minute or something, put Spurs technically thirteen points ahead. Adebayor doubled this lead after the Diving Welshman won them a penalty. Ade’s lovely little dancing celebration gets sweeter and sweeter the more I look back at it now. Considering how low things could have felt at this point, we didn’t seem too worried. The two goals had been a great big huge kick in our behind and we were playing very well. Bacary’s headed opener for us reeked of ‘Sod this, I hate them, they can’t win.’ Van Persie’s equaliser had slightly more finesse and was absolutely no less than we deserved. That also seemed like the day Tomas Rosicky really started to come back to life as well. Given that against AC Milan he’d had a shot actually go out for a throw-in, you could understand his screamy runny shouty celebrations. Spurs looked knocked for six and with no idea what to do. When Theo, who’d had a rough time of it in the first half added two more, the perfect North London Derby was complete.

Of course another highlight of that day was the Spurs fans holding up seven fingers to indicate the number of points we still trailed them by – apparently oblivious to the fact they were simply spelling the scoreline out on their fingers. Mind the gap indeed.

I’m not sure whether I’d consider our 1-2 win away at Liverpool a highlight. Van Persie’s late goal, almost a carbon copy of his against their Merseyside neighbours was surely a beaut, and Szczesny pulled off a super double-save to keep Liverpool from actually managing to score a goal for themselves, but we didn’t play well that day.

The same cannot be said for our next home match, the dead rubber of a second leg against AC Milan. It was my personal highlight of the season in terms of match performance. After being laughed out of town (and rightly so) after the first-leg, the Italian writers were absolutely loving Arsenal’s demise. Perhaps they had a point, given the rubbish that is spouted about the magic of the Premier League, but when they’re piling it on YOUR team, you only hope they fall off a cliff no matter how pertinent their points. Anyway, we were missing Mikel Arteta, who’d been knocked flat out by some lummox at Anfield. It turned out to be about the only match in which we missed him that we didn’t really miss him. I don’t know what the boys had been fed, but they looked so magnificently up for it from the first second. You have to watch this video of Charlie Nicholas back again to remember exactly how it all played out. With one of the most attacking line-ups we could have fielded (RvP, Walcott, Ox-Cham, Gervinho), there was no fear we were hoping to simply stop any further damage being done to our egos.

I’ve also never known the Emirates crowd to be as up for it as we were that night. Even against Barcelona, Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham, I can’t remember a time in which every single opposition touch was booed or whistled on the ball. People barely sat down. Sadly it wasn’t eventually to be as, as Rosicky said in his brutally honest post-match interview, ‘We blew it in Milan.’ We knew we could score against them, but keeping them out was going to be the issue. Or not, megalolz @ you, Zlatan.

The legs went in the second half and the bench saviours of Chamakh and Park didn’t quite have the effect they could have, but an awful lot of pride was restored that night as well as giving us a benchmark for match performances. Gutting to go out, further gutting that Robin was a touch from forcing extra time and even FURTHER gutting that had we won that penalty at the end of the away leg, it could have been a different story. But hey, we move on.

My next chosen highlight of the season came a week later against Newcastle. Time-wasting is a massive bitch, but nothing is a bigger bitch than time-wasting coming back and taking a chunk out of your backside, eh Timmy? It had to be Thomas, and it had to be done in the final minutes of the game. Also, given how tight it would eventually be at the end of the season, that game only becomes bigger and bigger. If you consider Chelsea’s unfortunate victory against Bayern Munich last night and that Newcastle have been subsequently left with no European football at all… ouchy.

After Newcastle we went on to beat Everton away (Vermaelen again), Aston Villa at home and to lose to QPR. Somehow. But no matter, because what came next eased the pain of that somewhat. Arteta’s goal against City was one of my goals of the season and was so deserved given the performances of the two sides that afternoon. City later went on to win the league. If anyone tries to tell you we are more than one or two players away from fully competing with the two sides who finished above us, give them a belt. Admittedly, we might also need to buy a hefty dose of whatever we were fed pre-AC Milan, but we’re really not as far away as the 19 point gap tells you.

The run-in to the end of the season was pretty crap. It came later than our usual collapse does, and thank God for that. In spite of the fact perhaps our best player against West Brom was Marton Fulop, it still has to be a highlight. Looking back, I don’t know how we got through it. How little red and white hearts didn’t just throw themselves to the ground shrieking ‘I GIVE UP, YOU’VE PUT ME THROUGH TOO MUCH’ is truly beyond me. At 2-1 down I even asked my dad if we should leave the pub so as to unjinx the situation. Later on, he asked if I wanted to put my beer bottle down on the table. “NO WE’RE WINNING, I CAN’T” came the reply. Of course the joy and relief at the win meant that some of us didn’t even realise City had nicked the league until we were half way home. So truly truly gutted I missed out on that magical fairytale moment. Naaaaaaaaaaaaat.

But anyway. Thanks to Bayern Munich’s complete and utter inability to see straight yesterday and poor old Bastian Schweinsteiger losing his cool and his German DNA right at the end, we would now be in the Europa League were it not for the fact we did manage to stay third. Thank Kieran Gibbs for that. But also thank Robin van Persie, and Wojciech Szczesny, and Thomas Vermaelen, Andre Santos, and Mikel Arteta, and every other goalscorer of every other goal that counted this season. Had any of it not happened, the depression of this morning would really be something to scream about.

And thanks finally to Arsene Wenger. Everyone spoke about how grabbing fourth under the circumstances of this season would rank up there amongst his highest achievements. Achieving third after having been 17th in September is really a marvel. Yes it went to the wire but at the end of the season, the wire left us third. In a season in which money has won pretty much everything, I am more thankful for Arsene Wenger now than ever before. In a summer where the only topic of conversation will be Robin van Persie’s future, give a bit of thanks for the fact that no matter how many players we lose, he is always here to pick up the pieces. He’s not perfect, but he’s bloody close to it.

Now it’s time for a rest from the stress. Or it would be, were Robin not still pondering his future. We’ll see what happens with that one. I’m still quite sure he’ll remain our captain next season, but if he doesn’t we’ll just have to deal with it. We might see old faces go and new faces arrive over the summer, but no matter who ends up in our squad photograph next season, we’ll all still be here. Cheers to us for getting through it, and cheers for us for being silly enough to know we’ll all be back in August no matter what happens.

19 Comments

  1. RIParsenal
    1921 days ago

    Thanks to arsene wenger?

    The man who got us to 17th in the first place?
    The man that has turned us into a laughing stock?
    The man that could not win the CL in 15 attempts?
    The man who has no idea on tactics on motivation?
    The man who awards mediocre players like djourou and ramsey?
    The man who cannot hold on to his best players?
    The man who is constantly making excuses for failures and in general being an embarrassment to the club?
    The man who has lied to the fans

    Fans like you is the reason we will never move forward as a club, you see wenger as a great manager and revel in his past glories instead of recognizing the present

    Until Wenger leaves we are not winning anything.

    Reply

    • Sian
      1921 days ago

      Oh Hasan Pasha take a day off darling.

      Reply

  2. 1886Guy
    1920 days ago

    Highlights for me. Heart says Thierry against Leeds; head says Sagna against Sp*rs.

    Had some lows but at least The Grove is starting to feel like home now.

    Reply

  3. Damian
    1920 days ago

    This is great Sian. My favourite moment is definitely the 3-0 vs Milan – love the video of Charlie (surely how we were all feeling!).

    Close second is the roar from the Emirates when Thierry came on against Leeds, just an incredible noise. I’m sure the atmosphere has been louder and better this season. Here’s to a few months rest!

    Reply

  4. Daniel
    1920 days ago

    Fantastic. We certainly don’t do things by halves, that’s for sure and neither do you. I only hope next season there will be need for only one end of season entry and that it’s a “best of times” one delayed by a massive parade and a monster hangover.

    Feel very happy and lucky to have share some of these moments with you, and it will be my pleasure to use utilise shaky hands to text you the extent of our woes again in future – preferably with less heart palpitations – or sit with you and your loveliest of folks.

    Thanks for being consistently amazing in the blogosphere throughout the highs and lows. Would take all summer to compile your highlights.

    In the words of Arsène Wenger, peace and little bit love. X

    Reply

  5. vaders_grandfather
    1920 days ago

    Good Afternoon All,

    Not going to say too much but it has been my first full season following your blog Sian.

    All I would like to do is say Thank You for your words and the odd Twitter pic.

    Look forward to your pre-season blog.

    See you in eighty-nine days.

    Reply

    • Sian
      1920 days ago

      You’re very welcome, and thank you for your always enjoyable comments! See you in 89 days… not that we’re counting or anything.

      Reply

  6. Art C
    1920 days ago

    Away to Udinese was one of my proudest moment of the Gunners. It just meant so much. If we failed, ALL the hardwork we had put in the season before would have been for naught; we also wouldn’t get the chance to beat Dortmund, top our group and showed the world how good (well and how bad) we could be in the games against Milan.

    The team defended excellent, had good possession and was not too even nervy after Di Natale scored. I think that game signalled a sea change from years past. Yes, we were in rebuilding mode this season and not without faults this season but I feel we could be on the way to something we can be proud of next season. We just have so many more fighters now. Think of Bac, Arteta, TV5, Szczesny, Kosc, even Gervinho who had been disappointing after ANC never stopped working hard. Let’s hope the youngguns can rub off on them and together we have a great season next year!

    Reply

  7. ChrisK
    1920 days ago

    I agree about arsene. At various points in the season I thought it was time for him to hang it up come season end to avoid tarnishing his legacy but my faith is now (almost) wholly restored and I doubt any other manager we could’ve got would’ve lead us to 3rd.

    Personally RVPs goal against Liverpool was a highlight mainly because it was so undeserved plus I went out in islington that night and somehow ended up singing the RVP song with a group of total strangers at the top of my voice. That and the Chelsea game and Terry’s slip. I watched that clip over and over again. Oh how I laughed!

    Reply

  8. Gf60
    1920 days ago

    Nice one Sian. Thanks for a great season’s blogging.

    Reply

  9. ChrisK
    1920 days ago

    By the way, your blog doesn’t show up in my newsnow feed (unlike many other blogs I don’t want to read). Any ideas?

    Reply

    • Sian
      1920 days ago

      I’m not sure to be honest Chris, just had a look and can’t see it either. I am supposed to be on NewsNow, but if I try to get in touch with them now, they’ll take about six months to get back to me. Thanks for spotting!

      Reply

  10. Alan
    1920 days ago

    Well, if it was a long blog, it certainly didn’t feel like it. Bringing back the highs has brought a bit of balance to last night’s farcical result. The lows bit in the previous blog showed how close we were to being in the Spuds’ shoes. Your blog – pure class, just like the club we support.

    Reply

  11. Alex
    1920 days ago

    What a ride this season’s been, and what a blog post this is! Don’t think you missed out anything in the positive side, my favourite moments were Ch3l5ea – Ar53nal, Henry’s Return + Goal & the AC MIlan Game at Home, special mention to the Home Support’s overall improvement and our Away Support, undoubtedly the best in the League, would win by 18 points in a League Table :)

    And like Vaders Grandfather above, this has been my first season following your blog along with the Goonerholic’s & the Arseblogger’s, the quality of theirs enabled me to find them on Newsnow Arsenal eventually but your blog’s uniqueness singled it out from the rest of the pack.

    Thanks for every single great post, following me on Twitter, the hilarious tweets (rhyming on some occasions :lol: ) and just being your amazing self.

    Waiting till the Pre-Season begins, Alex :) (WindAFC6)

    Reply

  12. UncleK
    1920 days ago

    Never a dull moment all season…and likewise,never a duff posting.
    Here’s to the next lap of the rollercoaster,some would say scenic railway.

    Reply

  13. FunGunner
    1919 days ago

    “a Thomas Vermaelen handball”
    And do you remember how unjust it was? He was pushed in the back in midair and the ball hit him. One of the most ridiculous penalties I’ve seen.

    “Bacary’s headed opener for us reeked of ‘Fuck this bollocks, I hate them, they can’t win.’” – my personal highlight of the season.

    “Later on, he asked if I wanted to put my beer bottle down on the table. “NO WE’RE WINNING, I CAN’T” came the reply.”
    ha ha ha!

    Hilarious and thoroughly entertaining blog again, Sian. I’ve really enjoyed the ride this season as well.

    Reply

  14. Uncle Mike
    1919 days ago

    1. 5-2 over The Scum
    2. WBA finale
    3. 5-3 over Chavs
    4. Beating Man City
    5. The Return of the King — with some of our players looking like hobbits

    And, of course, Spurs getting “relegated” and the Fergie bastards going cupless.

    Bring on 2012-13. We are The Arsenal, Arsene Wenger’s Red-White Army, and we are not letting anyone stop our march next season.

    Reply

  15. irishgray
    1919 days ago

    Sian – A brilliant summary of our season’s highs and lows, my favourite moment has to be the Return of the King. Henry was, is and always will be an Arsenal player, fan and legend. And to score such a sweet gaol on his return was just amazing! The sheer joy written on his face when he scored was very touching. Beating the spuds after coming back from 2-0 down was also a great moment, as was the Milan game at the Emirates. But still Henry’s return gets my vote for season high. I wonddr if he would do it again?

    Reply

  16. Adam
    1919 days ago

    Thanks Sian that summary was thrilling!

    I’m very happy with our season overall – the highest I thought we could finish in the league when it began in August was 4th and I remember many of the season previews had us finishing 5th or 6th because Liverpool had splashed so much cash.

    One of the moments of the season I’ll never forget is the interview that Arsene Wenger gave to Sky Sports’ Geoff Shreeves after the 8-2 defeat at Old Trafford. Mr. Shreeves asked, “Is is entering your mind to quit?” Wenger’s reply, with no hesitation or pause for breath was, “No, not at all.”

    The only downside I’m feeling now is that nagging anxiety that Robin will leave, and I just can’t shake it.

    Reply

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