Arsenal: A Year In Review
What an up-and-down year it’s been for Arsenal. In a year that spanned two seasons along with a pair of transfer windows, a lot happened concerning the Gunners.
Arsenal opened 2013 with a disappointing draw against Southampton. With the January window open, the Gunners shipped Marouane Chamakh and Johan Djourou off on loan to West Ham United and Hannover respectively in a span of two days. Losses to then-Premier League and UEFA Europa League champions Manchester City and Chelsea brought forth pleas to sign someone new.
Well, Theo Walcott finally extended his contract which, if anyone knows Arsene Wenger, is just as good as a new signing!
In the final match before the window closed, Kieran Gibbs picked up an injury, prompting Wenger to sign Nacho Monreal from Málaga as future cover for the Englishman and an alternate option to Andre Santos at left-back. It was later announced that Santos would join Brazilian club Gremio on loan, leaving the Gunners with just Monreal as the only healthy left-back.
The Gunners started February strong, but a disappointing loss to Blackburn saw them crash out of the FA Cup. They followed that up with a 3-1 beatdown at the hands of Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League. March meant yet another disappointing loss for the Gunners as they lost the to Tottenham 2-1. After this, though, Arsenal was born again.
They traveled to the Allianz Arena to face Bayern Munich in the second-leg tie in a match that was thought to be over before it started. Even though Gunners pulled off a 2-0 upset over the Bavarian giants, it was not enough for them to advance. Despite this, the Gunners would be the only club to defeat Bayern at home all season long. This was the boost the club needed moving forward.
Stringing together four straight league wins, the Gunners jumped up to third in the table in mid-April. A draw against Everton was followed by a win over Fulham preserved the spot. Decisive wins against Queens Park Rangers, Wigan Athletic and then Newcastle gave the Gunners 73 points, good enough to clinch fourth place and a sought-after Champions League spot.
This current season started out with Andrei Arshavin, Sébastien Squillaci and Denilson exiting the club. Yaya Sanogo then joined on a free transfer from Auxerre. Djourou and Francis Coquelin joined Hamburg and Freidburg respectively on loan, while Vito Mannone left for Sunderland for an undisclosed fee.
Santos joined in the exodus by signing for Flamengo on a free transfer, and it was capped off by the departure of Gervinho to A.S. Roma.
The club started the season with a shocking 3-1 home loss to Aston Villa, prompting fans and pundits to demand that signings be made. They followed that up with a convincing 5-0 aggregate win over Fenerbahce. Mathieu Flamini joined on a free transfer, reuniting him with Wenger after a five -year absence.
An early North London Derby saw the Gunners emerge victors. On Transfer Deadline Day, the club shocked the world by adding Mesut Ozil for $69.8M, shattering the record for an Arsenal transfer by almost double. They also added youngster Emiliano Viviano from Palermo on loan as another backup goalkeeper.
An eight-match undefeated streak saw the Gunners jump atop the league table. A loss to Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League ended the streak, but still saw the club atop their respective group. They bounced back with a win over Crystal Palace, but then crashed out of the Capital One Cup.
Wins in the subsequent Champions League matches were halted by a final group stage loss to Napoli, dropping the Gunners into the second spot, but still good enough to advance. Arsenal was then rewarded with a rematch in the Round of 16 against Bayern Munich to be played in February.
The loss to Napoli began a drop in form for the Gunners as they lost 6-3 to Manchester City a few days later, then drew 0-0 to Chelsea at home. Arsenal has since then bounced back and defeated West Ham and Newcastle to jump back atop the Premier League table.
It was definitely a year of ups and downs for the Gunners, having to essentially win out at the end of last season just to make the Champions League, Here’s hoping 2014 rewards Arsenal and its fans with the trophy they’ve sought after for nearly a decade now.
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