Arsenal are enjoying a very good second half of the ongoing season, a period that has brought plenty of joy to their supporters and already given them major incentives going into the last month of the campaign.
The Gunners, with 5 more games to go in their league campaign, are in a 3-way battle – along with Manchester City and Manchester United – to finish 2nd in the 2014/15 Barclays Premier League season.
They also have made it to the finals of the FA Cup and will be facing Aston Villa at the Wembley Stadium on the 30th of May, definitely starting as favorites to retain the crown they won last May.
With very good prospects ahead of them towards the end of this campaign, can we consider this season a ‘success’ or has it ‘still’ not been good enough? Read on…
After lifting the FA Community Shield to kick the season off in grandiose fashion, the North Londoners failed to make a good start to their league campaign and progress beyond the second round of the Capital One Cup.
Arsene Wenger faced a lot of tough questions about his ability to get his side competing with the big boys in the Premier League and also in Europe, where they were pitted with Borussia Dortmund, Galatasaray and Anderlecht in the group stage.
Wenger’s wizards had accrued a mere 27 points after gameweek 17 in the Premier League, having been beaten by the likes of Swansea City and Stoke City in the first round of fixtures. However, they still managed to sit in 6th place on the table and keep themselves in touch with the then top four sides.
Also, in the UEFA Champions League, the North London’s biggest club qualified for the knockout stages of the competition, getting an enviable R-16 draw that saw them pitted against AS Monaco.
A major reason for Arsenal’s poor early season form was because of the injuries suffered by the most crucial players in the Arsenal squad: Mesut Ozil (knee ligament), Mikel Arteta (ankle), Jack Wilshere (ankle), Mathieu Debuchy (ankle sprain and dislocated shoulder), Aaron Ramsey (hamstring) and Olivier Giroud (broken leg), were all out of action for 2-3 months during the first half of the season, making it close to impossible for Wenger to even pick a 18-man matchday squad.
It was Alexis Sanchez’s scintillating form before the beginning of 2015, that kept Arsenal in touch with the then top four teams in the league and saw them defeat Jurgen Klopp’s Dortmund at the Emirates on matchday 5 of this season’s Champions League.
The Chilean had scored 12 goals and registered 5 assists in the league before the aforementioned personnel returned to action from their respective injuries and took up the mantle from their new teammate, who has been instrumental to Arsenal’s current standing on the league table.
Wenger’s wizards have, however, turned their form around since the beginning of this calendar year that has seen them play a mesmerizing brand of football, lose just 3 games across all competitions and surge into the top four in the league standings.
The unearthing of Francis Coquelin, who has won 57% of his duels in 18 league appearances, as a midfield enforcer has been one of the major positives to come out of this season.
Santiago Cazorla has also been playing a starring role in Arsenal’s midfield, scoring 7 goals and creating 67 goal scoring chances in 32 league appearances this season.
Let us also not forget the contribution of the Girouds, Ozils, and Ramseys since their respective returns to action.
The underestimated French striker’s goal scoring form has been mighty pivotal to his side’s current 9-game unbeaten run in the league, scoring 9 goals in 13 league appearances since the turn of the year.
Ozil, for his part, has made a good comeback from injury too, scoring 3 league goals and creating a whopping 33 chances since returning from his ankle injury.
|Arsene Wenger masterminded a victory at the Etihad Stadium earlier this season|
As a team, Arsenal also have won at the Etihad Stadium against City in the league and Old Trafford against the Red Devils in the quarterfinals of the FA Cup – something which had been a hoodoo for a very, very long time – prompting us into thinking that good things are on the arisen and some degree of progress has been made by way of those prestigious triumphs.
However, having said that, Wenger has yet to beat Jose Mourinho, who, with the 0-0 draw at the home of Arsenal last Sunday, has now extended his unbeaten run against the Frenchman to 13 games.
It was a perfect stage for the Gunners to prove their mettle and put down a marker, at least for next season, but they didn’t manage it although they weren’t poor on the day.
Coming to the continental assignments this season, Arsenal couldn’t progress past the R-16 stage in the Champions League for the 5th year running, despite being handed a very favorable draw.
Their defence came apart in the first leg against Leonardo Jardim’s side that emphatically won 3-1 at the Emirates and made it an arduous task for the English club ahead of the second leg in Monaco.
That is definitely a cause for concern if you are Wenger and you knew it was a golden opportunity to shut the mouths of your detractors by progressing to the quarterfinals.
But Wenger and Arsenal came unstuck once again, and it maybe a difficult task to even progress into the knockout stages of the Champions League in the years to come, with UEFA making changes to the seeding system that will see Arsenal move into the second pot ahead of the group stage draw next season.
First and foremost, Arsenal ought to finish off this season on a good note, by hopefully finishing above 4th on the league table and holding onto their FA Cup.
Finishing above 4th on the league table is paramount to the Gunners, as it will give them something to rejoice during the off-season and definitely be an improvement from the previous seasons.
In addition, there have already been a handful of positives to come out of this season: Coquelin’s consistent midfield displays, Hector Bellerin’s spirited performances at right-back, Cazorla’s renaissance and someone like Nacho Monreal overtaking Kieran Gibbs in the pecking order, have, in a way, made it a campaign to remember for everyone concerned with Arsenal.
On the flip side there are the obvious lows of failing to progress in the Champions League, defeat Chelsea in both the league games and mount a league title challenge that the Gunners have been craving for quite sometime now.
Overall, this season has definitely been progressive, but very less to deem it successful.