A look back at Arsenal’s highs and lows during 2015
16:51 06 January 2016
Alexis Sanchez continued to plunder goals for most of the year before tiredness and injuries kicked in. Santi Cazorla still doesn’t convince everyone, but was consistent for much of 2015. A mention also for Francis Coquelin for playing well above himself to fight fires in front of the defence.
Then there’s Petr Cech, excused an atrocious debut after barely putting a foot – or a glove – wrong since August. What a signing. He could be the difference.
But it would be churlish to omit Mesut Ozil just because of a lacklustre start to the year. The Germany international’s assists this season alone – 22 by Christmas, just five short of Thierry Henry’s 2002/03 league record – have been worth their weight in gold.
His vision is freakish, his touch sublime. He is truly blossoming. It is no coincidence Theo Walcott has found form at the same time. But Ozil has also added steel to his game – and this is the clincher.
One 50-yard trackback in the final moments of the recent 2-1 win over Man City exemplified that, sending an opponent sprawling to buy his defence some time. Stylistically, Ozil is the closest player we’ve seen to Dennis Bergkamp. Right now, £42m seems a snip.
Some players still polarise opinion, Per Mertesacker being one. Staggeringly, Aaron Ramsey is another. Neither deserve it.
Blundering Wojciech Szczesny lasted barely a week of 2015 before he was packed off.
Injury-prone Mikel Arteta continues to leave this correspondent scratching his head. His leadership qualities remain well hidden when he does limp onto the pitch.
But Mathieu Debuchy has barely covered himself in glory. Yes, he got injured. But his sulky reaction to Hector Bellerin taking his shirt tells you this is a player not willing to fight for his place.
And on the rare occasions Debuchy has made the starting XI he has been woeful. Sheffield Wednesday away, anyone? His attitude clinches this one.
A 4-0 FA Cup final victory would make it in other years. But the quality of the opponents – Tim Sherwood’s lame Aston Villa – and some other very decent performances throughout 2015 preclude it quite comfortably.
The 3-0 win over Manchester United saw arguably the most exhilarating 20 minutes of football played all year. A 2-1 FA Cup win at Old Trafford was a night to remember. In Europe, beating Bayern 2-0 was another high, as was that Pyrrhic 2-0 win at Monaco and the 3-0 hammering of Olympiacos in Piraeus.
A smart 2-1 defeat of Manchester City – showing nous and a killer instinct – just before Christmas gave fans and players belief this could be our year.
But it was another victory over City – in January – that edges it for me. The unexpected maturity, a dazzling midfield display by Cazorla – and, finally, a realisation from Arsene Wenger of the need to sometimes concede possession and hit hard and low away from home – seals this category.
Losing 3-0 at Sheffield Wednesday – in front of a fantastic away support – in the Capital One Cup was unacceptable, as was the 4-0 loss at Southampton, another example of how this team can go into dramatic meltdown at the most unexpected times.
But it is in Europe where Arsenal still continue to disappoint most. A 5-1 battering in Munich earlier this season reminded us how far we have to go. It was abysmal and a reality check of the most severe kind – although Wenger was quick to dismiss the result, especially after his team scraped into the group stages.
Many would point to that woeful 2-1 loss at Dinamo Zagreb or Olympiacos’ shock 3-2 win – but Monaco’s 3-1 win at the Emirates in March was a hammer blow. It was as easy a tie as the Gunners could have hoped for – yet their worst characteristics came to the fore. The defensive naivety – pulling a goal back late on to make it 2-1, only to concede as we chased an equaliser in the dying stages – was crass, Sunday football stuff.
WISH LIST FOR 2016
n The Jack Wilshere injury mystery is finally solved.
n The Danny Welbeck injury mystery is finally solved.
n Ticket prices at the Emirates are frozen.
n Arsenal take advantage to finally win this damned league.
n Pep Guardiola flutters his eyelashes in the direction of Ivan Gazidis.