ATAFC is now officially 1. The year has flown by. I remember writing the first piece off the back of an FA Cup triumph so it’s nice to see the year has been rounded off in similar circumstances. Happy Birthday to me I guess…!
I think it’s been a good season for us. A progressive one. We’re one place higher in the league and we also won the cup in a much more stress free way than the year before. We’ve got no Champions League qualifier to play which gives us a little more time and space for the transfer rumour fun of the summer.
Our performance in the league started off is a really wayward fashion and it really did take us some time to adjust to our slightly new formation as well as find the missing piece to the puzzle that enabled the formation to flourish. Coquelin was that piece and his is a story that I still can’t quite believe. A true rising from the shadows if I’ve ever seen one, he could well be Batman you know. Pre January we really were struggling to put together any sort of commanding form. It was to do with our change of style as well as incorporating our multitude of talent to be fair. We did have a number of tactical questions that needed answering at the beginning of the season and I think that a part why that situation arose was due to one man. Santi Cazorla. He has taken the position alongside the Coq and made it his own. He’s pushed our man of the season from last year out to the right hand side. It gave Wenger a problem during the season in that he had to incorporate Ramsey, Cazorla and Ozil into a midfield that needed Coquelin at the base. It meant that Welbeck and Walcott waited in the wings for the last part of the season, half due to injury half due to the fact that Ramsey works a damn sight harder than Walcott coupled with him being more integral to the team than Welbeck in terms of end product. That’s a telling statement if there ever was one but one things for sure, with a fully fit squad at the beginning of the season there are going to be some very tough decisions to be made from the manager. There are around 8 players fighting for 2 positions. Out of the midfield 5 Coquelin, Ozil and Alexis are dead certs but we then have Ramsey, Cazorla, Wilshere, Arteta, Rosicky, Flamini, Walcott and Welbeck looking to fill just 2 places. Yes Welbeck and Walcott can play through the middle which helps but that still leaves 6 to pick from. On top of this it looks like we may add one more to the mix. It’s going to be a curious summer and one that will tell us a lot more about Arsene Wenger.
Coming back to our season at hand and our indifferent form, the game that encapsulates our League season the most is the home game vs Man Utd. Absolute domination but no killer instinct. We’d put ourselves in great positions to score and then go on and win the game, however we continued to flounder when it mattered. Monaco was another game that followed the same pattern, although Monaco were actually decent on the counter in comparison to the dross from up north. We really did miss a trick against the Mancs this year, in that we really should have put such an average side to the sword with the team that we have. This again was concurrent of the Coquelin effect. What’s interesting about Coquelin in this regard is that his absence was noticeable vs Utd as we looked lost on the counter but his presence in the Monaco game was also noticeable in the sense that he galavanted far too high up the pitch for a DMs liking. That’s where the conundrum will lie this summer. Wenger will need to help coax a more consistently defensive mindset out of him to ensure he doesn’t end up becoming Alex Song mark II. He has been great for us in the big games as well as the smaller ones and it’s not that he loses his temperament or that the occasion gets to him, it’s that when the team are struggling on an offensive front he takes it upon himself to try and drive the team forward, leaving us exposed at the back. It’s a third his fault, a third the teams fault and a third the managers fault. A culmination of uncertainty if you will. This is why I think he will address this position over the summer with either a Schneiderlin or Vidal shaped purchase.
Thankfully for the most part Coquelin was pretty exceptional in the second half of the season and helped us turn our January slump around in a big way. We turned into a winning machine as far as the Premier League was concerned and it was due to his combativeness and anticipation for interceptions that teams really did struggle to get at our back four. The stability of Coquelin alongside the decreased pressure with which the centre backs played due to the purchase of Gabriel, made for a rapid climb up the table and almost propelled us into the title race. We needed a few more results to have gone our way but the luck in those little moments fell to Chelsea and not ourselves meaning their path to the title remained well in their hands and all in all a straight forward process. As discussed previously, it’s the first half of the season where our regrets should lie, dropped points against some awful sides was our own doing so there’s no point in being wound up by Chelsea’s luck or the lack of ours.
The main thing was that we finished the season strongly and were able to progress in that we’re a place higher in the table. We don’t have to worry about playing that dastardly qualifier and lest we forget…we won the FA Cup!!!
Player of the Season
My player of the season was a hugely difficult decision. The obvious candidate is Alexis Sanchez, solely because he’s smashed in 25 goals in his first full season. Hugely impressive. Interestingly it’s his best ‘season total’ thus far in his career, so it will be intriguing to see if he can better that. I genuinely believe that he can, and could have easily had 30 goals this year if not for some missed chances and a little more luck. My other candidate is Santi Cazorla. He in my eyes had his best season in an Arsenal shirt. His vision and range of passing was on full display, he was thrust into a new position within which he excelled far beyond anyone’s expectations and in turn was able to contribute 8 goals from a deep lying midfield role. A truly commanding display, notably in the away performance v Man City. Bossed the game and had a quite delightful little jig when celebrating Giroud’s goal on the day.
On balance as much as I love Santi, I went with Alexis. He’s just an infectious player to watch and never ever ever hides. Even when he looks like he’s carrying a knock he makes sure the opposition feels his presence and it’s his work off the ball that is much to be admired from a fans’ perspective and for that reason I say Alexis Sanchez.
Goal of the Season
We truly witnessed some stunners over the course of the season so this again was a tough choice to make, but I managed to whittle down the list to a top 5.
At number 5 I went for Ozil’s free kick against Liverpool. The fact he practised that same free kick before kick off and then executed the exact same effort in the game was a pretty big F U to Simon Mingolet, which I thought was quite brilliant.
At number 4 I went with Sanchez’s goal against Liverpool. I still can’t believe Michael Owen blamed the keeper for as ferocious a strike as that. great to watch and Alexis looked like he loved every second of it to boot!
At number 3 I went for Ramsey v Galatasary. Absolute Thunderbastard. nothing else to be said.
In 2nd place I went for a slightly left field one in Giroud’s against West Ham at home. The one touch passing in the lead up to the goal reminded me of Wilshere’s goal v Norwich the season before. Maybe not quite as intricate, but a typical Arsenal goal if I’ve ever seen one.
In 1st place it just has to be that Alexis Sanchez FA Cup Final goal. Wonderful strike on a massive occasion. He’s the big player for the big games and his quite sublime goal killed the game for Villa leading us to FA Cup glory once more.
In conclusion it’s been a great season. To round everything off with another trophy and now be the most successful FA Cup side in the history of the competition also made it that extra bit special. It truly had it’s ups and downs but most importantly we finished the season in an air of optimism and joy. Those are the two facets that any joining players look to when deciding whether to join. A long summer of transfer musings will ensue, however we will all be able to rest easy knowing that we should well be able to attract the right talent in order turn Cup glory into a Title tilt next season. The players all pointed towards this in their post FA Cup interviews as if they were already hungry and fixed on it. Here’s to hoping the conviction of it all comes through next season.
Enjoy the summer folks and I’ll still be posting my weekly transfer mumbo jumbo so keep on reading.
Follow me on Twitter @MiteshLakhani1