2015 is finally behind us, and what a year it was. More trophies were won, we signed an excellent goalkeeper and we finished the year top of the league in what promises to be a thrilling year ahead.
Here is our special collection of key points and memories to take from last year:
1.We finally have a world-class goalkeeper.
For years Arsenal have been carving out world-class players, not buying them. Whilst we still continue that trend, our purchase of Mesut Özil in the summer 2013 was a massive step in a new direction. It was followed by the signing of Alexis Sanchez in 2014 but the real cherry on top was the arrival of Petr Čech in 2015.
We didn’t just sign one of the best goalkeepers, we signed THE best. You could argue that by saying Iker Casillas has won everything with both Real Madrid and Spain but if Čech had been born as, say, Pietro Cecchone, he would have won international tournaments as well. He has already gained us a lot of points and become an influential player in the locker room. The fact we got him in spite of Jose Mourinho’s dissent makes the whole transfer even sweeter (via the Guardian). His fantastic save of Oscar’s free-kick in the Community Shield could be the moment that set the scene of the season for both Arsenal and Chelsea.
2.Hec’s hectic pace.
Hector Bellerin has embraced the opportunity given to him due to Mathieu Debuchy’s injury caused by Marko Arnautovic’s unpunished savagery (via Daily Mail). Bellerin is far from being the finished article but his blistering pace is already an asset down the right flank. It’s difficult to choose between his goal with his weaker foot against Liverpool in April or his interception against Bayern that led to Ozil’s goal. Both were incredible moments for the youngster.
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Nacho Monreal has been our most consistent defender since the beginning of 2015 but he hasn’t forgotten to supplement our attack either. His goal at Old Trafford in the FA Cup Sixth Round handed us the lead against Manchester United and he earned a penalty for Santi Cazorla’s opener in our big victory over Manchester City in the league. Easily the best left full-back in the league at present.
4.The emergence of Le Coq.
Francis Coquelin’s fairy-tale has been temporarily paused by the knee injury he picked up against West Bromwich Albion in November but that doesn’t change the fact the Frenchman was the success story of 2015. He is the defensive beast our midfield was craving since the demise of Gilberto Silva, a player that makes us too strong for the best teams in England and Europe. Finding a player to fill the Coquelin-shaped hole in our midfield will be Arsene Wenger’s biggest task this January. His performance in our victory over Manchester City was arguably his best as David Silva couldn’t take a breath without asking Coquelin for permission.
5.Alexis Sánchez scoring amazing goals.
As I’ve pointed many times, Alexis has “the Henry-factor” – the ability to score a goal that nobody else could see coming. It doesn’t matter whether we talk about his back-heel finish against Manchester United, his long-range effort against Leicester or the projectile in the FA Cup Final against Aston Villa – Alexis knows where the goal is when it matters the most. 2015 was a great year for the Chilean as he also scored a winning penalty to win Copa America with Chile. Still, I would pick his brace against Manchester United as the highest point of Alexis’ 2015 in an Arsenal shirt.
6.Olivier Giroud scoring for fun.
The Frenchman’s 2015 was actually quite astonishing. Even with a barren spell that had lasted between the 4th April and 30th May, he managed to score 28 goals in all competitions including two goals against Manchester City and another two against Bayern München (via Transfermarkt). For some reason, however, Giroud will never be able to prove his class to those who judge players solely on their pace. Indeed, the centre forward could have added a few goals more to his tally but that doesn’t mean he is not an excellent striker. It’s difficult to pick his best moment of 2015 but I would go with his first Arsenal hat-trick in a must-win game against Olympiacos in Piraeus.
7.Santi Cazorla’s revival as a deep-lying playmaker.
“The Beardless Pirlo” is out due to injury and it seems that he won’t be back on the pitch for some time which is a huge blow for Arsenal. Still, Cazorla had a great 2015 as Wenger found him a new role – a deep-lying playmaker next to Coquelin. The Frenchman does the heavy work while the Spaniard controls the game from a deeper position. His best performance was most notably against Manchester City in our 2:0 victory at Etihad.
8.Aaron Ramsey’s sacrifice on the wing.
The Welshman’s best position is in central midfield but Wenger used him on the wing before Cazorla’s injury. Ramsey did a solid job out wide giving balance to our team with his work-rate. He has been scoring goals again since his return to a central role and will be an important asset in the second half of the season. His goal against Aston Villa in our 2:0 victory scored after a move that had started with his own challenge was Ramsey in a microcosm – tackling, countering and scoring.
9.Theo Walcott’s return.
The English winger had spent over a year on the sidelines following the ACL injury against Tottenham in the 2014 FA Cup, so it’s no wonder he took some time to shake off the rustiness. Theo has shown he is more than just a pacey forward with his improved finishing, link-up play and actual defending. His performance in our 2:1 victory over Manchester City was heroic – he scored against the run of play with a magnificent strike from our first goal attempt and then defended our goal like a lion.
10.Mesut Özil is the best No. 10 in the world.
He may have No. 11 on his back but he is the best No. 10 in the world. Sixteen assists in eighteen league games this term, twenty assists in the league in 2015, nine chances created against Bournemouth, seventy-nine chances created in the league so far and seven games in a row in which he assisted for a goal – he is indeed The King of Assists (via Skysports). He has been absolutely brilliant this season. It’s difficult to pick his best performance because there was so many of them. Perhaps the one in our 5:1 defeat against Bayern stands out as a heroic attempt of a player to take on eleven Bavarian players. He was the best player on the pitch by a country mile and his team lost the game 5:1. Think about that for a second.
11.Trophies keep on coming.
We won two trophies in 2015 – the FA Cup and Community Shield. I know that some people will argue the quality of those trophies but there are real, silver trophies. It’s important for Arsenal to win more silverware, it is after all how a winning mentality is built. In case some people have forgotten, Alex Ferguson’s career at Manchester United could have lasted just four seasons if he hadn’t won the FA Cup in 1990. Speaking of the FA Cup…
12.Arsenal have become the most successful team ever in England’s prestigious knockout competition.
Arsenal have won the FA Cup 12 times which means we are now the most successful club in the history of competition (via BBC). Given the historical importance of the competition, it’s not exactly a tiny feat, is it?
13.Arsene Wenger has become the joint most successful manager in FA Cup history.
Before Arsene Wenger’s reign, Arsenal had just six FA Cup trophies to their name. Wenger has managed to double that tally making both Arsenal and himself the competition leaders in the record books (via Dailymail). Wenger shares top spot with the former manager of Aston Villa George Ramsay who probably won’t win FA Cup ever again given that he’s been dead for eighty years. Also, Arsene has finally beaten Jose Mourinho.
14.Aside from Theo Walcott, “The English Core” didn’t have a good year.
Jack Wilshere’s ankle injury has kept him on the sidelines this term; Danny Welbeck’s “minor knee injury” has turned into an eight-month absence and he won’t be back before February; Calum Chambers has been used sporadically but still managed to score two own goals this term; Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been involved in more goals for our opponents this season; Kieran Gibbs has been demoted from a first team left full-back to a back-up auxiliary winger. Injuries aside, the sense for positioning looks like a blind spot of English football which could explain why there is no world-class English goalkeeper’s since David Seaman. You can’t live on your “young talent” label forever so it’s time for our young English talents to really step up.
15.A few bad days at the office.
A shocking home defeat against AS Monaco in the Round of 16, a home defeat to Swansea that essentially gifted Manchester City second-place finish, a home defeat to West Ham in the league opener and a shocking 4:0 thrashing at the hands of Southampton away were the lowest points of our year.
16.Injuries, injuries, injuries.
This problem just won’t go away. For our last game against Bournemouth we had six central midfielders out due to injuries (Mathieu Flamini, Mikel Arteta, Francis Coquelin, Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky). Wilshere, Rosicky and Welbeck are yet to feature this season.
17.Poor refereeing including the scandalous Mike Dean performance at Stamford Bridge.
It seems that everything can improve except for refereeing in England. We have been subjected to appalling refereeing for years and 2015 was no exception. Jonathan Moss didn’t think Marko Arnautović had deserved a yellow card for pushing Mathieu Debuchy to the advertising hoardings, never mind a red card. As a result of that intentional push, Debuchy suffered a dislocated shoulder and hasn’t been able to return to his best ever since.
The very same referee was in charge when Ryan Bennett pushed Alexis Sánchez into a TV camera pit and, again, there was no yellow card for the offender. Mike Dean’s daylight robbery at Stamford Bridge finally made the headlines though. Two wrong decisions at the end of the first half helped Chelsea to beat us as Dean failed to show a red card to Diego Costa and wrongly dismissed Gabriel. It’s no wonder that the referees are crap in most of our games when you know who is the head of the Hydra that is PGMO – Mike Riley. The man who once stopped The Invincibles and who shouldn’t have been allowed to watch football after that performance at Old Trafford in October 2004.
18.Loud demise of Jose Mourinho.
Nobody could predict such a hilarious Mourinho meltdown. The Portuguese had spent most of his time in 2015 spitting venom toward Arsene Wenger but at the end of the day, he got fired after Claudio Ranieri got the better of him. Now two good men Wenger and Ranieri are joint leaders while Jose Mourinho is still unemployed. Sometimes life is like a romantic movie: the good guys win and the bad guys..well…lose.
19.The silent fall of Robin van Persie.
It is always nice to watch the suffering of players that once betrayed Arsenal. Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas haven’t had the best year, Emmanuel Adebayor is without a club…but Robin van Persie’s year was hilarious. He helped us to finish above Manchester United last season by missing a penalty against West Brom during the third-place battle. Then he was sold by Manchester United to Fenerbahče (Turkish league) and we all know that “the big boys don’t play for Fenerbahče”. Finally, he scored an own goal in a decisive match for Holland in their unsuccessful qualification for EURO 2016. Still, it went a bit under the radar of Arsenal fans who were too busy enjoying Alexis and Özil’s performances.
20.We were the best English team in 2015.
The most points, the best goal difference, most victories… Arsenal were the best team in Premiership in 2015. Now we must stretch out our good form until May.
Conclusion: 2015 was a very successful year. Two trophies, a lot of important victories, so many hoodoos broken, the arrival of Petr Čech and Özil’s domination should be enough for all Gooners world-wide to feel excited and optimistic looking ahead to 2016. Hopefully our next year review will begin with memories of our first league title since 2003-04!
COYG AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!