Saturday, May 26, 2012

The 2011/12 Season Review (2) – Games

A couple of weeks before the season ended, Daily Mail compiled the top 10 Premier-League games of the season (obviously the list didn't include the most dramatic game of the season that sealed Manchester City's championship win nor any of the final-day matches). Out of those 10 games, Arsenal were involved in four (two for wrong reasons from our point of view): namely, those against Manchester United at Old Trafford, Blackburn at Ewood Park, Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, and Tottenham at Emirates Stadium. This means that we, Arsenal supporters, have enjoyed the best value out of this Premier-League season.

We reflect on some of the most memorable games of the season.


The most entertaining game of the season


Chelsea 3 Arsenal 5 at Stamford Bridge

Roberto Di Matteo may have guided his side to the glory of the Champions League victory, but his team haven't produced a game as entertaining as this one they played under AVB. Some attributed the goal fest to poor defence by the both teams, but it was a very open game, in which the two top teams demonstrated their attacking prowess. Although Arsenal went into this game on the back of three consecutive league wins, we started feeling that this was going to be a long afternoon to endure, as soon as the game had kicked off. After 90 minutes, we came away with all three points and boosted confidence. It was a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon.


The best and most important game of the season


Arsenal 5 Tottenham 2 at Emirates Stadium

The stage was perfectly set for this classic north London derby. Arsenal needed to respond to their massive disappointments: namely, the the 4-0 defeat to AC Milan and the early exist from the FA Cup competition. Tottenham supporters were taunting us that "the gap" between the two clubs was to be extended to 13 points after this game, and we, the Arsenal Playa Flamenca Supporters Club, were in Benidorm to watch this game as the focal point of our annual Benidorm trip.

Theo Walcott referred to this game as the "turning point" of his performance this season. Arsene Wenger considered replacing him at half time as the home crowd's frustration towards the Englishman was becoming overwhelming, but he decided against it. His decision was vindicated as Theo went on to score two goals against the north London rivals. We are not totally sure if this was truly the turning point for Theo's performance as he had a few more off-days after this game, but this game certainly reignited Tomas Rosicky's form.

This game was arguably the turning point for the team, as well. Following the heartbreak we suffered in the previous two games, conceding two goals in the first 34 minutes in such an unjust manner could have been a devastating blow, but Arsenal refused to give in and showed their determination not to lose. Their steel demonstrated in this derby match set the tone for Arsenal's run of wins in the coming weeks. Since this game, "the gap" has began closing quickly and eventually turned around.

The best performance of the season

Manchester City 1 Arsenal 0 at Etihad Stadium

Arsenal 1 Manchester City 0 at Emirates Stadium

The game in Manchester proved that there was very little between the two sides and we were unlucky to lose. The both teams produced an excellent performance both offensively and defensively. In the reverse fixture in April, Arsenal were easily a better side as a majority of Man City players looked demoralised. However, it took Arsenal 87 minutes to break the deadlock through Arteta's superb solo effort as Manchester City captain Kompany and keeper Hart put in some courageous efforts. These games showed that when they played to the best of their abilities, Arsenal were as good as or better than the Premier League champions.

The most exciting winner of the season

Arsenal 2 Newcastle 1 at Emirates Stadium

It looked like the game was heading for a 1-1 draw despite Arsenal's efforts to find an elusive goal and then Vermaelen dashed forward to put the ball at the back of the net at the death of the match. Arsenal showed their resilience again, coming from behind in the fourth game in a row. Las Mimosas Bar, our usual venue, exploded with joy.

The bravest effort of the season

Arsenal 3 AC Milan 0 at Emirates Stadium (Champions League Round of Last 16)

Arsenal gave everything to overturn the four-goal deficit from the first leg of the tie and put in an impressive performance, but sadly they run out of steam in the second half and there was no fit players on the bench to refresh the tired midfield. Their determination and spirited first-half performance did us proud. They gave us exhilarating 60 minutes with hopes of progressing to the next round of the Champions League, which we, supporters, had never dreamt of after the first leg. Arsenal bowed out of the Champions League, but their pride was restored.

The most magical moment of the season

Arsenal 1 Leeds 0 at Emirates Stadium (FA Cup Third Round)

As Arsene Wenger said, fairy tales seldom happen to us, but this game was a real fairy tale story. In the season Thierry Henry had his statue built, he came back to his old club on a short-term loan to help them out. The legendary striker came off the bench in his first game of his return and scored a winner to send Arsenal into the next round of the FA Cup. Las Mimosas bar erupted with euphoria. Many, including us at the Arsenal Playa Flamenca Supporters Club, were initially sceptical about what impact the 34 year-old striker could make on the pitch, but his short loan spell proved to be priceless even just for this magic moment.

We are going to focus on key players' individual performances in the next post.

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