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Arsenal’s Key Moments of 2012
On this final day of the year I’ve taken a look back at the key moments of the year that I thought stand out to me as memorable moments in the calendar year
Thomas Vermaelen’s 95th Minute Winner vs Newcastle
The win was Arsenal’s fifth on the bounce, and it meant that the 10-point gap that once separated the Gunners from Spurs had now been reduced to one. And in the span of a few weeks the Gunners all of a sudden seem well-placed to achieve the top-four finish that seemed way beyond them at the turn of the year.
But was especially telling was the way that with the break on, the entire team busted their ass to gain the advantage in the closing seconds of the match. Newcastle at this point was playing for the draw. It would’ve suited them but Arsenal needed all three and with virtually everyone streaming down the field to give attacking options, it was Thomas Vermaelen who virtually was unmarked on the far side and slotted home Theo Walcott’s cross.
The ecstasy on the pitch and the stadium was electric. The result was dramatic and capped off essentially one of the greatest turnarounds of a club’s fortunes that many had ever seen.
Kieran Gibbs’ saves Champion’s League qualification
Gibbs is an oft maligned player, less for his attacking prowess and speed than for his defending (and Arsenal penchant for injuries) but I’ve argued that in 2012 I saw leeps and bounds in terms of defensive performances. He still makes errors (who doesn’t) but he is also capable of making key tackles at the right moment and none was more necessary than his injury time block on a Billy Jones shot in the final game of the season.
West Brom were playing for pride and were looking to play spoilers to Arsenal’s Champion’s League hopes. The 3-2 win over locked down 3rd place. We all know what happened to the fourth place team.
Arsenal 5 – 2 Spurs (the first one)
Having done this scoreline twice in one calendar year is an amazing feat. But the second one is only an honorable mention as it hasn’t affected the bigger picture as the 26 February tie did.
Heading into the match Spurs had a “comfortable” 10-point edge on their North London rivals. A win would’ve all but likely sealed Spurs first finish above Arsenal in aeons. And after going up 2-0 in the first 34 minutes, it certainly looked like all hope was lost.
In a complete reversal of the previous season’s corresponding fixture, Tottenham threw away a two-goal lead to concede five at Arsenal for the first time since 1934.
It was an amazing performance by a Gunners side who had lost 8-2 at Manchester United at the start of the season and 4-0 at AC Milan 11 days previously, but all that changed in a Span of three minutes when Bacary Sagna slotted home a header and then Robin Van Persie netted the equalizer in one of his many wonder shots of the season.
Rosicky made it 3-2 in the 51st minute, playing a one-two with Sagna before poking in the latter’s deflected cross. Arsenal were now the more dangerous of the teams, especially on on the break.
As in the first half, the Gunners scored twice in three minutes to kill the game.
It was a brilliant counter-attack that brought the 65th-minute fourth goal, Benayoun releasing Van Persie, who held off Ledley King and Younes Kaboul before squaring for the onrushing Walcott to clip the ball over Friedel.
Three minutes later Walcott would net the final goal of the game as Kaboul played Walcott onside, where the winger raced to connect onto Alex Song’s pass and found the bottom corner.
The win closed the gap to 7 points and started both Arsenal’s ascendency and Tottenham’s decline. In the end it mattered more than anyone thought it would. Had Arsenal finished fourth this season it would be the Gunners not Tottenham who would’ve suffered from Chelsea’s Champion’s League win.
Alex Song sold to Barcelona
The move was shocking because it virtually materialized out of nowhere. But in August, coming on the heels of that other big move, Arsene Wenger sanctioned the £15 million move of Alex Song to Barcelona.
There was a lot of conjecture as to why he was sold. Some close to the club claimed that Song’s levels of professionalism had dropped significantly and Wenger decided enough was enough earlier in the summer. It was also being reported that Song regularly arrived late for training, took a half-hearted approach in sessions and did not follow instructions from the management staff.
Whatever the reasons, coming so soon after the sale of Robin Van Persie to Manchester United Arsenal supporters were left with their annual bout of angina especially given the fact that next to Van Persie, Song had established himself as one of Arsenal’s more valuable players.
Emirates Renew Shirt Deal to the tune of £150 million
Arsenal fans heard repteadly in 2012 that by 2014 Arsenal will be able to compete with the biggest clubs in Europe financially on the back of improved commercial deals and the club’s overall financial health. The first piece of that puzzle dropped on 23 November when the club announced a new five-year deal; with Emirates to remain the shirt sponsor through 2019.
Worth £30m a year, the agreement also includes a seven-year extension of the naming rights of Arsenal’s Ashburton Grove home which will now remain the ‘Emirates Stadium’ until 2028. The contract has been heralded as the second-biggest shirt deal of all time, behind Manchester United’s £51m-a-year contract with Chevrolet that begins next season.
“That verdict is somewhat clouded by the fact the overall figure includes a sum to continue naming Arsenal’s ground ‘Emirates Stadium’ but, regardless, chief executive Ivan Gazidis considers it a landmark moment for the club,” said the Evening Standard
The deal means that Arsenal will now be receiving almost twice as much as Real Madrid, and three times as much as our rival Spurs. Additionally, while the deal isn’t actually effective until 2014, funds are being front-loaded and being made available as early as 2013.
“This is an update for the fans about my current situation. I have kept quiet all this time out of respect and loyalty for the club and as agreed with Mr. Gazidis and Mr. Wenger, but since there is so much speculation in the media, I think it is fair for you guys to know what’s really going on at the moment.
“As announced earlier this year I had a meeting with the Boss and Mr. Gazidis after the season. This was a meeting about the club’s future strategy and their policy. Financial terms or a contract have not been discussed, since that is not my priority at all.
“Out of my huge respect for Mr. Wenger, the players and the fans I don’t want to go into any details, but unfortunately in this meeting it has again become clear to me that we in many aspects disagree on the way Arsenal FC should move forward.
“I’ve thought long and hard about it, but I have decided not to extend my contract. You guys, the fans, have of course the right to disagree with my view and decision and I will always respect your opinions.
Those words stung like a bitter dagger. Many thought that Robin would be different. That he would stand by the club that had stood by him when he spent 65% of his time in the trainer’s room. But alas the gauntlet was thrown down and the writing was on the wall.
Even with the signings the club had made it seemed destined to happen. But the statement more than the sale has made Robin become more vilified than the likes of Samir Nasri. For all his professed love of the club, Robin couldn’t keep the business in house. He was openly challenging the club. And whether the statement was true or not, Arsenal have never conducted their business in the open and by dragging it openly into the air like he did it has made his eventual departure more bittersweet.
The return of Jack Wilshere
He is widely regarded as the brightest of England’s young crop of players. He is also considered the likely successor to the Captain’s arm band. But how he would return to the club and in what form was hard to know.
But in October against APR, Jack Wilshere made his first appearance at home for Arsenal in their 1-0 win. He lasted for 63 minutes and it was almost a dream return for when he collected the ball in midfield and charged to the edge of the QPR penalty area before drilling in a low, left-foot shot which Julio Cesar spilled but then collected with Cazorla looking for a rebound.
Since his return he has improved game over game. He is quietly and quickly becoming the true leader and voice of the squad. He leads by his performances on the pitch and his actions off it (recently signing a new 5 year extension and committing his future to the club.
All signs point to a continued upward trajectory for Wilshere and Arsenal.
Young Guns Commit
For years now, Arsenal were known as the Foreign English club – a club in England but chock-full of foreign players. Arsenal were the butt of many jokes which regarded our predominantly non-English line ups, which sometimes even were so foreign, there wasn’t a single Englishman in them.
However, the departure of such talented foreign players like Van Perise, Nasri, Fabregas and others Wenger has now had to turn to a crop of young, talented English players to provide a new, solid base upon which he can once again build a successful team. These players are some of the brightest prospects in the country, with Jack Wilshere arguably set to become the best midfielder this nation has seen for a long while. The rest of this group include: Kieran Gibbs, Carl Jenkinson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Aaron Ramsey (Welsh) and the man who’s ‘too-fast-to-tie-down’, Theo Walcott. Wenger truly believes that this group are the key to future success at Arsenal.
Where as he tried to build a team with a core of foreign players who had no logical or emotional links to the club, Wenger has changed tack to lock down these core players who either through their own association as supporters of the club, development from the club or the fact they see their best opportunity at the club. He will then focus on supporting that core with talent from abroad. And while it doesn’t change anything in terms of how Wenger wants to play it is a marked change from how this club looked during the bulk of his tenure.
The players are all tied down to long extensions. What remains to be seen if this new ‘Noyau Anglais’ (English Core) can produce the same results of the former English core of Tony Adams, Lee Dixon, and Martin Keown.
Robin Van Persie is sold to Manchester United
It is likely to go down as one of the bone-headed transfers of all time. Not because he was sold but who he was sold to and what it has meant. Robin Van Persie after he made his statement was always going to be sold. Even if he had a change of heart as was reported, after challenging the club and trying to affect its direction, the writing was on the wall.
But selling the best striker in the Premier League to a team once considered your arch rivals is ridiculous. His 14 goals for United have kept them in the lead for pretty much all of the season. The fact is without his goals United would be languishing in 17th place. You wonder aloud where Arsenal would be with his goals?
No matter how this one is sliced or diced the sale of Robin Van Persie to Manchester United goes down as the key and most damaging moment of the year.
In close we’d like to thank you all for another amazing year. Your continued support is much appreciated. All of us at YAMA hope you have a joyous and prosperous 2013. Happy New Year.