It’s safe to say that Arsenal’s 2012/13 season was a bit of a rollercoaster. Thanks to some stellar defensive performances throughout August and September, the campaign started off promisingly. Arsenal’s new-found stability at the back was thought to be inspired by the new assistant manager, Steve Bould.
However, as the season went on, the familiar defensive errors began to creep in. [quote_right]”The Gunners managed to weather the storm, dragging themselves through the Christmas and New Year period…”[/quote_right]
Early season Injuries to Wojciech Szczęsny and Lukaz Fabianksi meant that third choice Vito Mannone had to fill in. As a result of the uncertainty within the back four, October was plagued by losses to Norwich and Schalke 04 respectively, and suddenly The Gunners looked vulnerable both domestically and in the Champions League. Arsenal were also struck down by their traditional November Curse, sending them into further disarray.
After failing to overcome Bradford City in the Capital One Cup, Arsenal managed to weather the Winter storm, dragging themselves through the Christmas and New Year period, despite also losing to Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup in the process. Nacho Monreal was signed in the January Transfer Window, whilst the ailing Andre Santos was loaned out to Brazilian side Gremio.
The beginning of March marked a slightly more encouraging period for Arsenal. Finding themselves seven points adrift of fourth placed Tottenham after a defeat at White Hart Lane, The Gunners went on a strong, impressive run of form. Ironically, their form picked up after being knocked out of the Champions League despite a powerful 2-0 away win at Bayern Munich.[quote_left]”Unlike the 2011/12 season, Arsenal didn’t achieve fourth spot via outstanding offensive play. Instead, it was via world-class defending on a number of occasions.”[/quote_left]
Arsenal’s improving domestic form saw them catch up their bitter North London rivals in the race for fourth spot.
As the season’s end drew nearer, the intensity of the situation became apparent. Arsenal were in desperate need of Champions League football, as the Europa League may well cause long-term Liverpool-esque damage to the club.
However, Arsene Wenger knows a thing or two about clinching fourth spot under immense pressure.
Impressive run-ins from Theo Walcott and Laurent Koscielny in particular helped Arsenal complete their catch up with Tottenham, dumping them out of the last Champions League qualifying spot at St James’ Park on the very last day of the season.
The media and fans began the season praising Steve Bould’s impact on the Arsenal back line, and spent the last few weeks of the campaign doing exactly the same. Unlike the 2011/12 season, Arsenal didn’t achieve fourth spot via outstanding offensive play. Instead, it was via world-class defending on a number of occasions.
[title]Arsenal’s Fantastic Five[/title]
Revealing just one player of the season is a slight injustice to the other key players who strive to make a difference. So, I shortlisted Arsenal’s top five players of the 2012/13 campaign in order to fully illustrate the strengths of the squad overall. A list of five will also allow you to understand the thinking behind my selections.
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1. Theo Walcott
For the first time in his career, scored 21 goals and racked up 14 assists, making him Arsenal’s top goalscorer and top assister. The Englishman inspired numerous wins, getting some highly important goals along the way. Yet, he appeared less this season than both Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla.
2. Mikel Arteta
The unsung hero of the Arsenal 2012/13 campaign. The Spaniard was constantly applying the oil to the Arsenal machine. His passing accuracy was at 91.5%, whilst completing more passes per game than anybody else in the league. Additionally, Mikel had the job of Captain following Thomas Vermaelen’s severe lack of form. He handled the pressure of leadership brilliantly, and successfully led Arsenal to fourth spot.
3. Santi Cazorla
Cazorla is the touch of class that every top club needs within their side. Cazorla appeared more than any other Arsenal player this season, scoring 12 and assisting 13. Whilst it is true that Cazorla is a master of the pass with great dribbling skills to match, it is also clear to me that improvements could be made. Throughout the season Santi drifted in and out of games, especially whilst up against imposing opposition. With 47 starts under his belt, one may expect a slightly better return in terms of goals and assists. However, it was his first season in English football, and, overall, it was a successful one.
4. Laurent Koscielny
The Frenchman’s form in the final part of the season was possibly the main reason for Arsenal’s late unbeaten run. Dominance in the air and on the ground throughout his performances were inspiring to watch. The goal against Newcastle which sent Tottenham packing for the Europa League was befittingly scored by Laurent. However, the first half of his season was less magical, appearing inconsistently and getting himself sent off against Manchester City.
5. Olivier Giroud
Giroud had his critics at the start of the 2012/13 campaign, and many of them never went away. However, a return of 17 goals and 10 assists during your first season of English is not bad at all. His movement off the ball throughout the season led to many chances for players like Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski, many of which resulted in goals. A good first season for Olivier to build upon.
[title]A Big, Bright Summer[/title]
Overall, Arsenal had a pretty average season. A period of poor performances between October and February cost us the chance of getting anywhere near silverware for the eight season in a row, and almost cost us Champions League football next season.[quote_right][For the 2013 Summer Transfer Window] Big names and an even bigger Arsenal wallet are being hinted at by journalists, bloggers and fans alike…”[/quote_right]
On the other hand, a great start and an even better finish yet again saw off our arch rivals, and sealed fourth spot on the final day of what turned out to be a heart thumping, nerve-racking campaign.
Looking forwards, strong rumours are flying around regarding the 2013 Summer Transfer Window, and what it may contain for The Gunners. Big names and an even bigger Arsenal wallet are being hinted at by journalists, bloggers and fans alike. Naturally though, rumours are rumours.
For the first time in a few years, Arsenal are not burdened by an unhappy player wanting to leave. The squad seems to be settled, and is therefore perfect to add to and build upon. If one thing is for sure, it is that the next few months will be interesting.