Monday, June 30, 2014

The 2013/14 Season Review (3) - Players

In the final part of our season reviews, we look back at our individual players' performances.

The player of the season

Aaron Ramsey

Although he missed a large chunk of the season (14 weeks to be precise) through a thigh injury, he deserves to be named as our player of the 2013/14 season because of his influence on the team. He was already an instrumental part of Arsenal's strong run-in last season, but he became irreplaceable this season because of his goal-scoring form and tireless forward runs. Ramsey scored 10 goals in the Premier League, 5 in the Champions League, and an extra-time winner in the FA Cup final, becoming Arsenal's second top scorer only after Olivier Giroud. The Welshman also provided 9 assists. Newly found confidence was an important factor behind his improved finishing and decision-making in the final third.

Ramsey's impact on the team was obvious as his return from injury coincided with Arsenal's resurgence after the devastating run of form in the February-March period. It has already been enough talked about as to what if Ramsey had been fit all season, so we don't repeat it here, but we just say that his drive and runs beyond Giroud were sorely missed. We need to keep him fit all through the season or find a sufficient cover in order to sustain our title challenge throughout the next season (Jack Wilshere provided a temporary cover and did his job well for a short period but he is yet to be of the same calibre as Ramsey's and he fell the victim of injuries himself unsurprisingly). 

The most improved player of the season

Per Mertesacker

The German centre-back featured in more games (52) than any other Arsenal player this season. Since he established a central defensive partnership with Laurant Koscielny in the latter stages of the last season, Arsenal have enjoyed stability in defence and the pair achieved an impressive feat, an unbeaten run of games since 22 January 2012 until 8 February 2014, when both of them completed 90 minutes. It was good news that the 6 ft 6in defender signed a new long-term contract, which he described as a "reward", in March 2014 and Koscielny followed the suit in May 2014.

His disciplinary record was also excellent. The BFG conceded just 12 fouls all season in the Premier League. When he had uncharacteristically given away a penalty in the FA Cup semi-final, he strove to find a chance to redeem himself and for the team to come back into the game. His never-say-die attitude was rewarded in the form of his 83rd minute equaliser. As the club captain Thomas Vermaelen has fallen in the pecking order, the BFG wore captain's armband for Arsenal on a few occasions this season, when vice-captain Mikel Arteta was not available. His leadership quality has also started to be recoginised.

The German defender grew in stature this season. He often took criticism in the previous seasons because of the notorious lack of pace, but his intelligent reading of the game made up for it, helped by a complementary partnership with a pacy defender, Lolo. The BFG was a runner-up in Arsenal Player of the Year, followed by his defensive partner.

The young player of the season

As Arsene Wenger opted for the experience of older players in the crucial time of the run-in, there were no stand-out young players this season. However, some young players had their moments.

The Ox's season was plagued with injuries. He missed the first 5 months due to the serious knee injury he sustained during the opening game against Aston Villa, while his run-in was disrupted by a groin injury. However, in between those spells on the sidelines, he shone in a clash against Crystal Palace, scoring two goals from his future position in central midfield. He was also outstanding in the 2-1 victory over Liverpool in the FA Cup 4th round and causing the Bayern Munich defenders all sorts of problems in the first leg of the Champions League round of last 16.

Serge Gnabry scored his first senior goal against Swansea in September. In the absence of injured Theo Walcott, the German teenager was deployed on the right wing and his physical strength and technical ability caught eyes. The highlight of his season was arguably his fearless display against Tottenham in the FA Cup 3rd round. At one time, there was a talk about the prospect of him breaking into Germany's World Cup squad, but his season tailed off as Wenger opted for experience, combined with the German teenager's knee injury in April. As he was awarded a long-term contract in October 2013, we will hopefully see more of him next season.

Gedion Zelalem made his senior debut against Coventry in the FA Cup 4th round as the first player who was born after Arsene Wenger took charge. His vision and passing rage captured the fans' imagination in the pre-season. As a result, he was dubbed as the next Cesc Fabregas. The German-born 17-year-old signed his first professional contract with the Club in March 2014, but his first-team action was limited this season.

We discuss Yaya Sanogo's season later. Another youngster worth mentioning was Thomas Eisfeld, who scored a dramatic equaliser in Arsenal's penalty shoot-out win over West Brom in the Capital One Cup 4th round.

Ryo Miyaichi's season was utterly disappointing despite his promising display in the pre-season. Wenger planned to loan him out in the January transfer window, which never materialised. The Japanese forward's season was cut short by a hamstring injury in March.

New signings

Mesut Özil

His first season may have not lived up to our expectations or his price tag of the club record of £42.5 million, but it was not an unsuccessful season by any means. He scored 7 goals in all competition, but what distinguishes him is his ability to create chances. As he is dubbed as the King of Assists, he was Arsenal's top assist provider this season, setting up 9 goals in the Premier League, 2 in the Champions League, and 1 in the FA Cup.

The signing of the German playmaker excited the fans and the players alike, while it raised a question among critics about the massive spending in what seemed to an area where Arsenal had plethora of talents, when a striker was more urgent agenda for the north London club's transfer activity. Still, we thought his silky touches and elegant moves were worth every penny. He was simply a joy to watch. However, his form dipped in the mid-season and his confidence registered all-time low after his penalty miss against Bayern Munich. After suffering a hamstring injury in the second leg of the Champions League round of last 16 in March, he was sidelined for 7 weeks. When he returned from injury, however, he produced a man-of-the-match performance in the Gunners' 3-0 win over Newcastle.

Hopefully, in the next season, Özil will be more adapted to the Premier League's physical requirements, including the absence of winter breaks. Also, he is expected to benefit from Theo Walcott's pace and runs behind the opponents' defence, when the England winger has fully recovered from a cruciate knee ligament injury.

Mathieu Flamini

Amid mounting expectations for Arsenal to make a marquee signing last summer, the majority of the Arsenal fans were initially underwhelmed with the news of the re-signing of the French midfielder, who had been allowed to train with Arsenal after his contract with AC Milan came to an end. Arsene Wenger described the signing as a no-brainer, but we were somewhat apprehensive about what the 29-year-old midfielder could bring to the team. We didn't have to wait long to find the answer as he showed what he could offer the team in his first appearance for Arsenal in the five years: a steel. He also provided a much-needed vocal leadership and organisation. He was soon to be heralded by the fans as the best signing of the season, especially when considering how much it cost us to bring him back to the Emirates.

The highlight of his season was arguably his equaliser against Man City at the Emirates. He also scored a screamer against Cardiff. On the other hand, one of the lowest points of his season might be scoring an unfortunate own goal against Swansea in the last minute when we thought Arsenal had secured all three points they desperately needed, after coming from behind. Also, his sending-off in Arsenal's draw with Southampton at the end of January ruled him out for three matches during Arsenal's injury crisis and subsequently forced Arsene Wenger to bring in Kim Källström on loan on the January transfer deadline day. He was also suspended for two games in April after picking up his 10th booking. We love the French midfielder's no nonsense approach to defending, but we have to admit that he is often found wanting in technical prowess. For some reason, the boss seems to prefer Arteta, whenever the Spaniard is available. As a result, Flamini's playing time was limited to substitution appearances in the final part of the season.

Yaya Sanogo

Then 20-year-old French striker joined Arsenal in July 2013 from Auxerre, on a free transfer. With his bad reputation for injuries, which led the French second division outfit to release him, we suspected that he could turn out to be another Abu Diaby. He made his debut as a late substitute in the 3-1 victory over Fulham in late August, but a back injury he suffered during international duty in September kept him sidelined for more than 5 months. Nevertheless, he showed a glimpse of his potential against Liverpool in the FA Cup 4th round and against Bayern Munich in the first leg of the Champions League round of last 16, when he led the line. He made a positive impact in the FA Cup semi-final and final, when Arsene Wenger played him alongside Olivier Giroud in the rare 4-4-2 system. He desperately needs a goal to build his confidence.

Friday, June 27, 2014

The 2013/14 Season Review (2) - Games

In the second part of our season review, we reflect on the highs and lows of the 2013/14 season, focusing on individual matches.

The best moment of the season

Arsenal 3 Hull City 2 (AET), FA Cup Final at Wembley, 17 May 2014
Team: Fabianski, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Arteta, Ramsey, Cazorla (Wilshere 105), Özil (Rosicky 105), Podolski (Sanogo 61), Giroud
Goals: Chester (3), Davies (9), Cazorla (17), Koscielny (72), Ramsey (109)

The FA Cup victory was arguably the best moment of Arsenal's 2013/14 campaign, ending their 9-year trophy drought. Arsenal FC also helped us, supporters, make the FA Cup final a special event for us, dispatching a commemorative banner, flags, and clappers to all the official supporters club around the world. The match certainly lived up to the expectations full of drama, intensity, and determination.

Arsenal fell behind as early as in the 3rd minute. After a shock start, things got worse quickly in the 9th minute, when we found ourselves 2-0 down. Furthermore, had it not been for Gibb's off-the-line headed clearance, the game could have been beyond our reach. However, Santi's free-kick, a 30-yard screamer, changed the whole dynamic of the game. Arsenal didn't look back from there and an elusive equaliser had finally arrived through Koscielny's close-range shot from a corner. Arsenal continued to look for a goal, but they had to wait for it until 10 minutes from the end of extra time, when Ramsey slotted home Giroud's astute back-heel pass.

At O'Neill's Bar in Los Altos, we celebrated the first trophy in 9 years emphatically. It was the best moment of the season for us.

The most important game of the season

Wigan 1 Arsenal 1 (2-4 pens), FA Cup Semi-final at Wembley, 12 April 2014
Team: Fabianski, Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Monreal (Gibbs 63), Arteta, Ramsey (Källström 112), Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sanogo, Podolski (Giroud 68)
Goals: Gomez (63 pen), Mertesacker (81)

The match itself was not something that was likely to stay in our memories for a long time, apart from Fabianski's penalty-shootout heroics, but the psychological consequence of the win was immense. Just imagine what would have happened if we had lost this game. Another disheartening loss after a humiliating 3-0 defeat by the hands of fifth-placed Everton who were breathing down our necks. Needless to say, another year ending without silverware. One may say that the prospect of playing in the FA Cup final kept our players going. Arsenal went on to win all the subsequent matches, including the FA Cup final, after this match. This game was arguably the biggest turning point of the season.

Where the title was lost

Liverpool 5 Arsenal 1 at Anfield, 8 February 2014
Team: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal (Gibbs 61), Arteta, Wilshere, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cazorla, Özil (Rosicky 60), Giroud (Podolski 60)
Goals: Skrtel (1, 10), Sterling (17, 52), Sturridge (20), Arteta (69 pen)

Chelsea 6 Arsenal 0 at Stanford Bridge, 22 March 2014
Team: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny (Jenkinson 46), Gibbs (s/o 17), Arteta, Oxlade-Chamberlain (Flamini 46), Rosicky, Cazorla, Podolski (Vermaelen 23), Giroud
Goals: Eto'o ('5), Schurrle (7), Hazard (17 pen), Oscar (42, 66), Salah (71)

Everton 3 Arsenal 0 at Goodison Park, 6 April 2014
Team: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Monreal, Flamini (Oxlade-Chamberlain 66), Arteta, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Rosicky, Cazorla, Podolski (Ramsey 67), Giroud (Sanogo 71)
Goals: Naismith (14), Lukaku (34), Arteta (61 og)

There is a certain pattern here. Per Mertesacker blamed lunch-time kick-offs away from home for these losses against our title rivals. In that sense, perhaps a 6-3 defeat to Man City should also be included in the same category, but we think the loss at the Etihad was a bit different as we could have beaten the hosts 6-5 had all the ref's decisions gone our way.

Nevertheless, what we have learnt from these games was that Arsenal cannot beat top teams by sticking to Arsene Wenger's attacking football philosophy. Even Aaron Ramsey said that the team had to be more "streetwise" in the big games. The Gunners were too open against these teams. In the modern football and Arsenal's 4-3-3 formation, the full-backs' bombing down the flanks is essential but it often leaves the centre-backs exposed, which is suicidal against top clubs. Arsene Wenger has to learn how to change his tactics, depending on the opponents and their tactics. In the reverse fixtures at home, Arsenal beat Liverpool, and drew with Chelsea, Man City, and Everton. In fact, the Gunners even knocked Liverpool out of the FA Cup just a week after the humiliating defeat at Anfield, by beating them 2-1 at the Emirates. The facts clearly indicate that the team's quality was not a problem, but how they approached these games was. Wenger needs to address the issue next season. After all, these games are six-pointers in the title race.

On the other hand, Arsenal maintained their consistency against bottom-half clubs, where they traditionally dropped points. They say that you need to win the big games to win the title, but Chelsea proved this season that games against lesser teams could cost you a title.


Arsene Wenger cited losing at home to Dortmund in the 82nd minute in the group stage of the Champions League as one of his regrets. Arsenal were too eager to find a winner in the latter stages of the game. As a result, they made themselves vulnerable against counter-attacks and Lewandowski did not fail to capitalise on the fragility.

However, the biggest regret for us, Playa Flamenca Gooners, was Arsenal's failure to beat Manchester United in the defending champions' record-breaking season. While so many other clubs beat the Manchester giants for the first time in their history this season, we were unable to do the same, losing 1-0 at Old Trafford and ending up with a goalless draw at the Emirates.

North London derby treble

Arsenal 1 Tottenham 0 at the Emirates, 1 September 2013
Team: Szczesny, Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Ramsey, Wilshere (Flamini 43), Rosicky (Monreal 78), Cazorla, Walcott (Sagna 90), Giroud
Goal: Giroud (22)

Arsenal 2 Tottenham 0, FA Cup 3rd Round at the Emirates, 4 January 2014
Team: Fabianski, Sagna, Vermaelen (Mertesacker 45), Koscielny, Moreal, Arteta (Özil 75), Rosicky, Wilshere (Flamini 71), Cazorla, Walcott, Gnabry
Goals: Cazorla (32), Rosicky (62)

Tottenham 0 Arsenal 1 at White Hart Lane, 16 March 2014
Team: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Arteta, Rosicky (Flamini 69), Oxlade-Chamberlain (Vermaelen 85), Cazorla, Podolski (Monreal 77), Giroud
Goal: Rosicky (2)

Arsenal achieved a treble against their local rivals this season, scoring 4 goals in total without conceding any. Compared with the previous two seasons's identical scorelines of 5-2 at home and 2-1 away, this season's outcomes look less exciting, but Arsenal's performances underlined their grit and improved defensive solidity. As the red side of the north London spent the most of the season top of the table or thereabout, we didn't have to hear any of that annoying "Mind the Gap" phrase this season from the Tottenham supporters.

Back in the summer of 2014, the Spuds supporters were boasting a number of their new signings all through the summer, while we were frustrated with the reports of Arsenal's failed attempts to sign a new striker. The first north London derby came as the third game of the season. Its highlights were Giroud's superb one-touch goal at the end of a sweeping team play and the Gunner's dogged defensive display thereafter. In fact, too many new signings turned out to be a problem for Tottenham with a long time required for the team to gel together. On the next day, Arsenal confirmed the signing of Mesut Özil, much to the excitement of the supporters and the players alike.

A comfortable 2-0 win over Tottenham in our path to the FA Cup final will be remembered forever with Theo Walcott's famous 2-0 gesture, which earned him an Arsenal legend status instantly. It was an impressive performance from the Gunners, leaving no doubt in a gulf between the two north London sides. However, the game was overshadowed by an injury to this day's star performer, Theo Walcott. Unfortunately to the England speedster and Arsenal, the cruciate knee ligament injury he sustained during the game ended his season prematurely and dealt a significant blow to Arsenal's title challenge.

The highlight of the last north London derby this season was Rosicky's stunning strike in the 2nd minute. In the second half, Arsenal repeated their first derby day's gutsy defensive performance to complete the treble against Tottenham this season.

The most accomplished performance of the season

Arsenal 2 Napoli 0, the group stage of the Champions League at the Emirates, 1 October 2014
Team: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Arteta, Flamini, Ramsey (Monreal 88), Rosicky (Wilshere 63), Özil, Giroud
Goals: Özil (8), Giroud (15)

Arsenal were at their fluent best in the first half, especially in the first 15 minutes, when the club's record signing, Mesut Özil, scored his first goal in an Arsenal shirt and set up Olivier Giroud for the home side's second goal. An in-form Aaron Ramsey was deployed on the right wing in order to accommodate the double pivot, with Mathieu Flamini assigned with a specific task to keep Hamsik quiet. Despite playing out of position, the Welshman ran the game in tandem with Özil. The Gunners were breathtaking in attacking. However, what earned even more plaudits was their solid defensive display in the second half. It was a game of two contrasting halves, but equally satisfying for the Gooners. This was arguably the first stern test for Arsenal's credentials to challenge the titles and they passed it with flying colours.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The 2014/15 Premier League Fixtures

The Premier League fixture list was published on 18 June. Arsenal will kick off their 2014/15 campaign with a home match against Crystal Palace. Hopefully, it will be a lot different outcome from the last season's opening game, a shock defeat to Aston Villa. We are hoping that Arsenal will extend their unbeaten run of home games since that day into the new season. At the other end of the fixture list, it's good to end the season with the lap of appreciation in front of the home crowd for the first time in the last 5 years.

The fixture list looks better than last season. OK, everybody has to play everybody else home and away at some time of the season, but at least there is no repeat of last season's February-March fixtures, when we had to play against our title rivals in succession in addition to the two-legged the Champions League round of the last 16.

The first of those so-called big matches is a trip to Goodison Park on 23 August. The game comes between the two legs of the Champions League play-off. It is expected to be a tough game, but we need to win this to get off to a good start. Hopefully, the squad will be strong enough to cope with the busy start of the new season, which will begin a week earlier than usual due to Arsenal's involvement in the Community Shield.

North London derbies are always the first fixtures we look at in the calendar. In this season, we will face our local rivals on 27 September 2014 at the Emirates and 7 February 2015 at White Hart Lane.

The focal point of our Benidorm trip next year could be a home game against Everton as this fixture falls on the last weekend of February, which is our usual date for the annual event. Last season, the Sunderland game at home offered us an ideal party feel with a comfortable 4-1 victory, but this fixture looks a bit tricky. Having said that, it will be another story if we are in the Capital One Cup final next season, which will fall on the same weekend.

The fixtures that attracted the attraction of the media include a clash with Chelsea at the Emirates in April and Arsenal's visit to Old Trafford for the penultimate game of the season. The former will give a chance to see how the former Gunner Cesc Fabregas will be received at the Emirates, which the press are eagerly awaiting. The mid-May date with Man U is tipped as one of the possible title deciders. Let's hope Arsenal will be still in the race as late as that next season.

We welcome three newly promoted sides, which are Leicester City, Burnley, and QPR. Leicester City will make their return to England's top-flight league after a decade's absence. QPR and Burnley have more recent experiences in the Premier League, with QPR only missing one season. With QPR coming back to the Premier League and Fulham relegated, we have the same number of London derbies as last season.

With no major competitions to be held in the summer of 2015, the Premier Season season will stretch to 24 May (The FA Cup final is scheduled for the following weekend on Saturday 30 May). It's going to be a real marathon. All the more we need to manage the fitness of the players well. Hopefully, the newly signed fitness coach will make a difference in the new season.

Please see below the Arsenal FC DRAFT fixtures for season 2014-2015, but don’t build your life around these dates as we would expect there to be many changes for TV, Cup games etc. We will update our fixture list on this blog from time to time throughout the season.

16SatHCrystal Palace
30SatALeicester City
13Sat HManchester City
20Sat AAston Villa
27Sat HTottenham Hotspur 
4Sat AChelsea
18Sat HHull City
25Sat ASunderland 
1Sat HBurnley
8Sat ASwansea City
22Sat HManchester United 
29Sat AWest Bromwich Albion
2Tue HSouthampton
6SatAStoke City
13Sat HNewcastle United 
20Sat ALiverpool
26Fri HQueens Park Rangers
28Sun AWest Ham United
1Thu ASouthampton
10Sat HStoke City
17Sat AManchester City 
31Sat HAston Villa
7Sat ATottenham Hotspur
10Tue HLeicester City
21Sat ACrystal Palace 
28Sat HEverton
3Tue AQueens Park Rangers
14Sat HWest Ham United
21Sat ANewcastle United 
4Sat HLiverpool
11Sat ABurnley
18Sat HSunderland (or FA Cup S/F)
25Sat HChelsea
2Sat AHull City
9Sat HSwansea City
16Sat AManchester United 
24Sun HWest Bromwich Albion

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A Cold Night in June and 300 Happy Gooners (The Arsenal Supporters End of Season Party)

Sandra and I were very pleased to represent the PLAYA FLAMENCA GOONERS at the annual end of season party held at The Emirates on 4th June, it was a cold wet windy evening (typical English summer) but the mood was very upbeat and happy as we waited for the reception to open at 19.30.

We started with complimentary drinks in the reception area at the end of this was a dias with both the FA cup and the Ladies FA cup that the girls had won two days earlier (well done) we had our photos taken with both trophies as I was wearing our club cup final shirt I thought the PFG emblem looked good next to the FA cup and could get used to it . (pixs to follow)

The main event was a question and answer session with Ivan Gazidis and guests this was chaired by the stadium announcer (name escapes me), he first introduced  I.G who walked in from the back of the audience to a warm reception, next he introduced Pat Rice who got the biggest cheer of the night everyone stood up and cheered him to the rafters after all his travails recently, next up came Perry Groves, then came the guy who's assist won us the cup in 1979 Graham Rix who also received a rousing reception.

I.G started the session with an update on the works ongoing at the training ground at London Colney to expand the facilities and various other works, but, of course what everyone wanted to know was what was happening on the transfer front "we are in deep and meaningfull negotiations with a number of people which are ongoing and cannot be discussed, a stock answer I suppose, which has been blogged to death.

Various Questions were asked by other members of the audiance from places as diverse South Africa, Hungary, Japan (your not alone Michie) also the Gay Gooners, did you know we are the foremost club to champion gay rights in football. Most of the questions revolved around the 1st team of course and it was the general consensus of all the panel that the team spirit and togetherness was better now than for years, this is put down to the German influence (they haff ways of making you smile) and the never say die attitude especially the BFG.

After the Q&A the meeting broke up with members having another photo shot with the two trophies and the members of the panel.

To sum up what a difference a trophy makes, the atmosphere in December for the Christmas party was tense and angry with I.G giving a very short address and looking like he would like to be anywhere but there and Sir Chips not even bothering to turn up, all in all a good evening well spent.


                                                    Sandra & Tony (without Millie)


Thursday, June 12, 2014

The 2013/14 Season Review (1) - Overview

It's time for our season review again! We look back on the 2013/14 season in the same manner as in the past two years. To start with, here is our overview of the season, followed by close looks at individual games and players in the next two posts.

Arsenal ended their 2013/14 campaign fourth in the league to qualify for the next season's Champions League for the 17th consecutive season, and more importantly with an FA Cup success to end their nine-year wait for a trophy. Having led the league for 128 days, more days than any other club, finishing fourth may feel like a failure to some fans, but we think that the 2013/14 season was a successful one for Arsenal.

In the 2013/14 season, the Gunners entered a new era as the austerity period forced by repayment of stadium debts was finally over, with their finances boosted by a lucrative new shirt deal. For the first time in recent years, they did not sell their star players. On the contrary, Arsene Wenger was given a sizable war chest in the summer. However, the club's failed attempts to sign a world-class striker had been frustrating the fans all the summer. The north London club's only signing so far was 20-year-old Yaya Sanogo from a French second division club on a free transfer. So their shock defeat to Aston Villa on the opening day immediately triggered an uproar among the supporters with quite a few calling for Arsene Wenger's head.

However, things turned around quickly. Arsenal secured their place in the group stages of the Champions League by beating Fenerbahce comfortably in the initially tough-looking two-legged qualifier. Then they embarked on an impressive run of form. In fact, they would go on to end the season unbeaten at home since the opening day. The re-signing of Mathieu Flamini, on another free transfer, did raise a question among fans first, but after his gutsy performance and vocal leadership in a north London derby at the end of August, the French midfielder was hailed as Arsenal's best summer signing. The mood surrounding the Club was further buoyed by the capture of Mesut Özil on the transfer deadline day. The fans and the players alike were lifted by the club record signing of  £42.5 million. At the end of 2013, asked the fans which was the best moment of 2013 on their online poll. 44% of voters chose the signing of Mesut Özil, ahead of the famous win at Allianz Stadium or securing Champions League qualification on the final day of the 2012/13 season. The players were equally excited with the arrival of the ex-Real Madrid player. Kieran Gibbs' words summed up its impact on the squad: "We can't let him down".

It didn't take very long for the German playmaker to show his class. He set up Olivier Giroud's fourth goal in the fourth straight game against Sunderland in the 11th minute after taking a deft touch to bring the ball down in the air. However, what contributed more to Arsenal's fine start to the season was Aaron Ramsey's scintillating form. He had been getting in great positions for the previous two seasons, but goals were added to his game this season. Up until his injury on  Boxing Day, he made second most touches, third most assists, second most successful passes, and second most tackles won in the Premier League, demonstrating his calibre as an all-round midfielder.

Arsenal had been proving the doubters wrong every time they suffered a blip, but they had finally surrendered their reign at the top of the Premier League after a heavy defeat to Liverpool on 8 February and never regained the top spot for the rest of the season. The collapse of the form was attributed to two factors: injury to key players and poor results against title rivals. Aaron Ramsey's 4-month lay-off was arguably most damaging, judging from the fact that his comeback coincided with the resurgence of the Gunners. Without the Wales midfielder, Arsenal lacked penetration and a cutting edge in the final third. Theo Walcott's pace was also sorely missed. In the absence of this season's in-form player and last season's top goal scorer, Arsenal seriously struggled for goals. In addition, Mesut Özil, Jack Wilshere and Laurent Koscielny, joined them in the treatment room in a crucial period for the title challenge. Although any team would struggle if they lost these players for a lengthy spell at the same time, Arsenal's weakness in the depth of the squad was cruelly exposed in the February-March period.

A 5-1 defeat at Anfield, a 6-0 debacle at Stanford Bridge, and a 3-0 loss at Goodison Park in this period were also detrimental for Arsenal's title hopes and credentials. We will go into details about these games in the next installment of our season review.

Just when we started to resign ourselves to the prospect of a usual end-of-season scrap for fourth place, Arsenal's form turned the corner and they went on to win the final five games in a row, while Everton cracked under the pressure of the race for a Champions League place. In the end, Arsenal secured the top-four finish with two games to spare, finishing 7 points above the fifth-placed Merseyside club. Also, St Totteringham's Day arrived this season as early as 28 April, with our north London rivals finishing 10 points behind us.

Overall, the 2013/14 season saw the Arsenal squad take a step forward from the previous season. Despite finishing in the same position in the table as the 2012/13 season, they collected the most points (79) in the past 6 seasons, a highest point tally to finish fourth. The long spell at the top of the table indicated that they were ready to compete for the title. Furthermore, they lifted a first trophy in 9 years. Hopefully, as many, including players, suggested, the FA Cup victory will serve as a springboard for more silverware to come.