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ARSENAL IN 2015/16 – A BIG ‘WHAT IF’

Over the past few seasons Arsenal has maintained consistent performances which have seen them qualify for the Champions League for 19 consecutive seasons, a record, and a stellar achievement by Arsene Wenger Many top English sides like Manchester United, Chelsea, and Liverpool failed to qualify for Europe’s top tier competition. Arsenal began their season by winning the Community Shield against local rivals Chelsea. The trophy was Arsene Wenger’s 15th overall in his 20th season of being in charge of Arsenal, it was also Wenger’s first win against a side managed by Jose Mourinho after 13 attempts.   START OF THE 2015-16 SEASON The Gunners began the 24th Premier League season with a game against West Ham at home. The new signing of world-class keeper Petr Cech inspired many to believe that Arsenal would be title contenders for the first time in 11 years. But their solid form to the start of the season was fizzled out as they failed to win their first two games at home with a defeat to West Ham and a goalless draw with Liverpool, which left them third-bottom in the league table.  Heading into October Arsenal probably gave the best display of the season against Manchester United where they demolished the devils with three incredible goals, jumping right into the second spot behind Manchester City. But October didn’t end well as they crashed out of the League Cup by Championship side Sheffield Wednesday in a 3-0 defeat.   BOXING DAY  The month of November proved to be horrid for Arsenal as star players Hector Bellerin, Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Francis Coquelin, Santi Cazorla, and Alexis Sanchez were all on a list of ten injured players for Arsenal, with Cazorla’s injury proving the biggest blow. With a 3-0 win over Sunderland Arsenal returned to form in December and recorded successive victories before Christmas by winning 2-0 at Aston Villa and a 2-1 home win over Manchester City. Leicester City’s defeat to Liverpool gave Arsenal a chance to go top of the table against Southampton before boxing day but Arsenal was thrashed 4-0 but made a quick recovery against Bournemouth winning 2-0 that saw them finishing 2015 at the top of the Premier League table on goal difference with Leicester City.   THE NEW YEAR ( 2016)  2016 started with motivation as Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Elneny was signed from Basel and added to Arsenal’s midfield strength. They kicked off the New Year with style by defending their FA Cup title with a 3-1 win against Sunderland. Arsenal faced their first disappointment of the year against Chelsea as they lost to local London rivals 1-0 at home in a game that also saw Per Mertesacker being sent off.  Arsenal played Leicester City as the Gunner’s won in a dramatic top-of-the-table clash against league leaders Leicester with late goals from Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck. Just when they had caught their momentum going Arsenal’s February ended with a 3-2 loss at Old Trafford against Manchester United. Arsenal’s FA Cup defense was over in March with a shock loss to Watford in the quarter-finals. With 3 draws in the month of April against West Ham, Crystal Palace, and Sunderland, Arsenal blew their chances of ending a 12-year Premier League title drought as they were left 12 points behind leaders Leicester City with only three matches to play.   ANOTHER ATTEMPT AT EUROPE Soon after they hosted German heavyweights Bayern Munich in an attempt to turn around their fate in the Champions League, Arsenal began their record 18th consecutive season in Europe’s top-tier alongside Dinamo Zagreb, Bayern Munich, and Olympiacos. On the opening matchday, they faced Zagreb and slumped to a shock 2-1 defeat after striker Olivier Giroud was sent off. In the following game, they were beaten 3-2 at home against Olympiacos with errors from ‘keeper David Ospina. In serious danger of not qualifying for the knockout stages for the first time since 1998/99, they turned up with an impressive 2-0 win over Bayern. Though they were heavily beaten in the reverse in Germany, they won their last two games to sneak through on goal difference. Up next, they faced defending champions Barcelona. History repeated itself as the Catalans proved a class apart, battering Arsenal 5-1 on aggregate. In achingly familiar fashion, Arsenal crashed out in the Round of 16 for the fifth season running    MY ASSESSMENT FOR THE SEASON  The performance throughout the season was marked by inconsistency, as the major problem for Arsenal was finishing and lack of creative play in attacking third where they failed to open up defenses. Also according to Arsene Wenger’s philosophy players should have pace and high technical ability but these two aspects were missing in crucial positions especially in the center half and the forward line. Many times during the season Arsenal were very slow in passing and movements, which helped opponents in containing the Gunners with ease.

A team like Arsenal who believes in technical superiority cannot be seen committing significant unforced errors

 Apart from the inconsistency in the Premier League Arsenal was quite inconsistent in the Champions League as well.   THE PLAYERS

  • Theo Walcott after his knee injury was far below his best throughout the season
  • Elneny looked to be a good signing with a good work rate and pass distribution during games.
  • Find of the season was Alex Iwobi who made a definite impression in the last phase of the season and should be making a significant contribution in the Arsenal shirt next season.
  • For me Hector Bellerin was the player of the season for Arsenal, he was the most consistent player for the Gunners.
  • The addition of Petr Cech contributed to the team but he lacked adequate support in front of him.
  • Mesut Ozil racked up 19 assists and created the most chances ever created in the Premier League, an astounding record.

Next season, the Gunners require a striker such as the likes of Higuain, Aguero, or Suarez who can score 25-30 goals a season. They are also missing a player, captain, and leader-like Patrick Vieira. If this leadership vacuum is addressed then it can further inspire the whole team in the field of play. Arsenal has to show a bit more ambition next season by signing some good players to fill the gap and go for the title not only domestically but in Europe as well. Quality signing will result in 100% fans backing the team throughout the season.

Keep entertaining the Arsenal Way! Long Live Arsene and Arsenal Philosophy

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