Here we are. Another roller-coaster season has ended, and it’s time to review it.
Traditionally (only once, really), I ensure the blog has an end-of-season review on 30th May, assuming the season has ended by then. However, due to the delay with the Arsene Wenger news I had to push the fictional deadline by a couple of days. On the next day, I put up a ‘Season Blogged’ – yes, two Gunnerblog ripoffs – and consider the season done and dusted.
Best player of the season:
NOTE: This award is handed to the player who put in the best number of performances throughout the campaign. It is not necessarily backed by statistics, but from an overall feel of the player. Of course, subjective opinions count.
I’m not going to try to preface this.
I know Alexis Sanchez probably does not have the best passing rate, and some of his individualistic football works to the detriment of his team, but how often have we sat here lamenting the fact that Arsenal pass the ball in the final third all too often? Arsenal lack cutting edge, but Alexis remedies that in sensational style, as he did throughout this season.
Some of the goals he scored – I’m thinking of his hat-trick against West Ham United and his pearler at Middlesbrough – have been phenomenal, but he’s also dragged Arsenal out of hidey-holes when we’ve needed him to. Thirty goals is no joke, and what makes it better is that Sanchez could actually have had more.
The only thing that separated him from a Thierry Henry status, unfortunately, Premier League titles. Regardless, I’ve always found it an immense privilege to see a marquee man like him don the red and white. If he leaves, as seems a probability, I will do my best not to hold any hard feelings. It’s the least he deserves.
Worst player of the season:
NOTE: This award is handed to the player who had the least impact and is becoming a liability to the team. Also in consideration should be the number of performances the player has made. Per Mertesacker, for example, cannot be a candidate for this award since he’s hardly featured.
You would be surprised to know that Kieran Gibbs made 21 appearances for Arsenal this season, and two of them were as (hah) Arsenal captain. Suffice to say, despite Nacho Monreal’s substandard season, the fact that Gibbs did absolutely nothing to put his position under pressure tells you all you need to know.
Theo Walcott and Kieran Gibbs are perhaps the two best poster boys of Wenger’s failed Project Youth, but at least Theo’s relative effort in the first half of the season and his output considerably redeemed him. Gibbs serves nothing, and when you factor he’s already 27 years old, this summer really should be the end of the road for him. Let’s see if Sead Kolasinac is any better.
Revelation of the season:
NOTE: This award is given to the person who, despite critics or fans not paying much attention to, takes huge strides in their development. They need not be a young prodigy.
The Bolt(on) from the Blue, Rob Holding wasn’t expected to play many games for Arsenal, let alone the FA Cup Final. Instead, Arsene loaned Calum Chambers and made room for the 21-year-old, and you have to say, despite all the warranted criticism Wenger gets, this was definitely one of his better decisions.
My only worry is that Holding does not become one of those youngsters who shows promise in the beginning of the season only for the ‘Senderos’ effect to kick in. Still, his bust-up with Diego Costa shows the lad has some fight in him, and that could make the difference.
Letdown of the season:
NOTE: This award is given to the player fans had high hopes of, but ultimately failed to live up to the hype. He didn’t necessarily have a bad season, but could have, and should have done much better.
It feels harsh to award this to Mesut Ozil, yet it also feels necessary. For during Arsenal’s great slump between January to April, while Alexis Sanchez consistently looked like trying to turn things around, Arsenal’s other marquee player slunk in the shadows.
Don’t tell me that it’s Ozil’s ‘style’. In 2015/16, we could all see that the German did have the fight to bag six consecutive Premier League assists and rescue a faltering Arsenal side, or score two at Old Trafford on that horrific day. He clearly has what it takes, but the fact that this season he disappeared like a fair-weathered footballer when Arsenal needed him was telling.
Regardless of the management, great players lift the team when they look lost. Sanchez does that. Laurent Koscielny does that. Cesc Fabregas used to do that. Does Mesut Ozil? Certainly not this season.
Best match of the season:
NOTE: This award is given to the most entertaining match, or the one that provided most happiness and optimism.
Keeping in mind that the FA Cup Final gets its due credit below, this is a good chance to mention Arsenal’s other win over Chelsea this season, the 3-0 win in September. With Conte’s Chelsea on a bit of a patchy run, we were all over them, fantastic to rub salt in their wounds with a blitzkrieg opening half, and crucially, a wonderful show of negation in the second. Looking back, it’s obvious that this really should have been the blueprint for us to follow.
Quick mention to Arsenal’s 2-0 win over Manchester United, which ended Jose Mourinho’s hoodoo over Arsene Wenger for good. I know Mourinho had a particularly uninspiring team to show on the day, but the win still felt like a huge monkey lifted off our backs.
Worst match of the season:
NOTE: This award is given to the most anguishing, disappointing or damaging game for the club in the season. Again, subjective opinions count.
So many to choose from – the losses against Bayern Munich, West Brom and Crystal Palace immediately spring to mind, yet nothing felt worse to me than the pitiful 2-0 loss to Spurs, mathematically confirming that they would finish above Arsene Wenger for the first time in 22 years. Not only was the result embarrassing, it came at a time when we wanted the team to respect the occasion and put up a fight. Instead, we rolled over to give them a memory to cherish on the last North London derby in the Lane. Maddeningly painful.
Highlight of the season:
NOTE: This award is given to the moment, the person, the action, the decision or the time that had a vastly positive impact on the team, a moment that the season will be remembered by.
After a trying and testing season, lifting the FA Cup at the expense of Chelsea and Manchester City was a great way to get a dose of much-needed morphine. The FA Cup is one of those competitions that spawns a lot of memories, and to win it against a team like Chelsea, despite being massive underdogs, was one of those moments I’ll always look back at proudly as an Arsenal fan.
We won the Cup!
Lowlight of the season:
NOTE: This award is given to the moment, the person, the action, the decision or the time that had a negative impact on the game, and broadly the season.
Again, a long list to choose from. In the end, I had to plump for finishing outside the top four, simply because it was a stark reminder that if the management let it, Arsenal could actually fall below the perceived minimum barriers that Arsene Wenger aims for.
Europa League is a terrifying prospect. I don’t think people will appreciate just how awful it is when they see Chelsea, Tottenham, Liverpool and Manchester’s City and United line up for the Champions League, while we ply our trade in a European competition that will hardly get any attention. Thursday night football can also have a very real impact on our Premier League results as well. To assume that Arsenal will simply bounce back from this and finish in the top four next season is one that could leave you very, very disappointed.
Goal of the season:
NOTE: This award goes to the most technically perfect goal or one scored after some sublime passing. However, importance of the goal with respect to the game (or season) is also a factor.
Sorry Giroud, but Ozil’s solo effort against Ludogorets just edges it for me. Perhaps part of the reason I found it better was because it felt more deliberate. I don’t mean to suggest that Giroud didn’t mean what he did with his scorpion kick against Crystal Palace, but there was a teenth of luck with that finish that Ozil’s did not.
Ozil meant to loop the ball over the keeper, he meant to allow those defenders to slide into nothingness, and he meant to stroke the ball home to complete what was a sensational comeback on what was proving to be a difficult away job. When you factor that that result was crucial for Arsenal topping a Champions League group since 2011, it feels all the more important.
Until of course, Bayern Munich happened.
Picture of the season:
NOTE: This award is given to the most iconic photograph in Arsenal’s season.
My, is this going to be controversial.
I know a lot of people found this classless and juvenile, but I was proud to see this happen. It showed that just for one moment, the fans were united enough to stand where they should – against the manager, against the board, against the owner, against the regime.
If this doesn’t bring about a conversation on the administrative level, I wonder what will.
-Santi [Follow me on Twitter @ArsenalBlogz ]