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Was 2009 one of Wenger's best years?

Was 2009 one of Wenger's best years?

We started last year in 5th place, with hopes for the title thoroughly dashed. The property market had just cut £50m or more from Arsenal's future bottom line. Critics were questioning the probity of building a stadium without outside financial backing. It looked unlikely that Arsenal would secure CL football in 2009, placing further questions over Arsenal's financial future. Its football future looked insecure as well, without CL football, it seemed only a matter of time until the best players left.

With three of our European conquering midfield not on the pitch, two of them, the most senior, decided they wanted out of Arsenal, at the same time taking a large part of the squad's experience, heart and self belief. The young men left behind would soon be led by a 21 year old after an all too public airing of the team's laundry; their demoted captain would remain a presence at the heart of the defence. His partner at centre half was about to publicly cite internal disharmony grave enough to prompt a transfer request. Other's who'd left the club 6 months earlier, included our two most experienced players, a world class goalkeeper and a World Cup winning and key Invincible defensive midfielder.

Our two most important attacking players at the time were injured until March, our second best attacking midfielder suffering on the sidelines from an undiagnosable chronic injury, our third choice striker training with screws in his leg, our first choice striker mutinous in his attitude and about to pull a hamstring and miss the second half of the season bar a CL semi final where he appeared in name only.

Our second choice striker had spent the first half of the season recovering from another injury plagued season, presciently, including one incurred playing in an international friendly for his country. He would miss the bulk of the following season because of another friendly injury.

Our midfield for the majority of the season featured a 20 year old Brazilian who'd started less than 10 PL games prior to 08/09 season, a 21 year old central defender who'd played only a handful more games in an Arsenal shirt, a tempestuous right back masquerading as a midfielder, an immature 21 year old lanky and natural no. 10, playing as a central midfielder and a 19 year old Frenchman playing away from his home town for the first time in his life.

What happened next has rarely been acknowledged as an achievement and is more commonly regarded as another trophy less campaign.

Our rival for fourth place had just bought a proven forward and preferred choice of Capello for the national team. The upstarts in Manchester would spend 20 m in January. The other top 3 teams had spent each over 30 m in the offseason. Arsenal remember had made a 10m transfer profit in the summer (a bulk of that coming from the £16m Spurs spent on a Highbury reject) - a £40m difference, in one transfer period.

The entire football world and many outside of it were adamant that Arsene must buy at least 3 players in January, if they were to reclaim their CL place and progress in the Cups. None of them were adamant that one of those players should be a 5`4" Russian playmaker. All of them were adamant that two of them should be hulking 6'6' defenders, the other should be a hulking 6'6' defensive midfielder.

The entire football world, for all its wisdom was ignored. Wenger opened negotiations for the Russian. The entire football world offered their opinion on this transfer, pay up. This opinion too was ignored. The best player to move clubs in 2008/09 was ultimately secured for £12m, £6 m short of his market price 6 months earlier.

With the aforementioned midfield leading the line, Arsenal would go on to play 23 unbeaten in all competitions, including a win on penalties in Rome. The demoted captain would put ego aside and score winning goals in injury time twice. The side would make it as far as the CL semi final, where despite abject performances from the mutinous first choice striker, the absence of 2 of its preferred back 4, our most senior player doing a poor job of imitating a defender and 6 players starting under the age of 22, we were one goal down against the best team in Europe for 100 minutes of the 180. A slip on the turf and a goalkeeper's mistake would end the tie at the 100 minute mark.

We would ultimately end the season with a whimper, as our best paid players showed their true colours. They would later be granted their ticket out of town. It is here where Wenger showed why this would be his best year.

So Wenger enters the 2009 summer period, looking to offload two of his players. He does so by making £40m in the process. And it turns out that neither player is worth half that amount, yet Wenger managed to make the football world believe Arsenal was strengthening a rival. To be fair, the market was on steroids with Madrid and Citeh's money, but £40m for two players in their prime is good management in any market.

Wenger then buys an unknown full back for £10m and it turns out he is a reincarnation of Ronald Koeman and the buy of the year. He then again defies all opinion and makes this his only purchase. He starts the season with all but people inside the club, predicting Arsenal would fall out of the top 4 and continue the 'decline' that begun when Arsenal sold Vieira. What's happened instead, we've seen the financial ramifications of irresponsible spending catch up with Chelsea, Utd and Liverpool, as predicted by Wenger. The field has come back to Arsenal, just as Arsenal is catching up with the field. All the while, Wenger has made tens of millions in transfers for the club, and stocked the squad with world beaters in every position.

He's also converted the club to the 4-3-3 system, a potential epoch moment for the club.

He's done this amidst ridiculous, but all the same very vocal questions about whether it was time for Wenger to move on from respected members of the press and some of the fans. He's not wavered and blamed the board, or his players, or referees, he's faced public ridicule at Old Trafford and kept his civility, while at the same time creating a piece of theatre to underline the insanity of the ridicule that will live long in the minds of football fans everywhere.

Despite all of this, Arsenal start the year of 2010 in contention to win the Premier League, one of the favourites to win the CL, and with money to burn for years to come, just as the market starts to settle down. Not that he'll need to spend much, because in 2009, just as in years before, he's blooded young talent, only in 2009, the stable was full of thoroughbreds, Wilshere, Gibbs, Merida, Ramsay, Fabianski, Bendtner, Song and Denilson.

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Date:Friday January 29 2010
Time: 1:19PM


A very unique perspective Hughied. We always seem to measure a manager's performance from season to season but not in an annual fashion. 2009 was indeed a remarkable year for our genius of a manager. He appeared to make things hard for himself in 2009 when in fact he was planning ahead of the curve all the time. Now that the fans and the media are urging him to buy a striker, it does seem that he will defy them all once again and probably buy a defender!
29/01/2010 13:33:00
An excellent read, it is very worthwhile ruminating on how far we've come in the last 12 months. We've done so signign only two players, which shows you that throwing money around isn't always the answer. A settled, confident side that is caoched to improve isn't a recommendation that resonates around Arsenal fans nowadays. I've been thinking for a little while that basically, this time last year we were in about Liverpool's current position. The parallels are striking.
Little Dutch
29/01/2010 13:35:00
Quite frankly no, it wasn't one of his better years. Granted there have been highlights from this season, 3-0 drubbings of the No Heart laners and villa, robbing citeh of 40 mill, Vermaelens arrival and pulling back to sit atop the league for 3 mins after being 11 points behind. But the tedious protracted jan window in which Arshavins' signing only materialised after the little fella had enough of our dithering, abdicated and flew himself in, promptly becoming our form player for the seasons rest only to be bizarrely omitted in the FA cup against the chavs with the reason that we wouldn' have him available for the CL semi the following week so we'd better get used to it, which we predictably enough didn't, as we were overrun and out of the domestic cup, a hard earned scrap at Old trollop leaving us trailing only a goal in the first leg was *****ed away almost instantly with a rookie slip from a tearful distraught lad who blatantly was just too jejune for the occasion, Villas' capitulation in the league could not have been foreseen and was a huge escape for Arsene, granted not a last day fill your pants with pasta escape but an escape none the less. Combine this with the ire and frustration shown by the clubs shareholders, a walloping at home by the chavs, self inflicted suicides at Old truffle and wastelands involving a humiliating colisseumesque ritual sacrifice at the former and it's safe to say 2009 isn't going to be remembered fondly in the minds of most gooners.
29/01/2010 13:59:00
Niko, most of the bad memories you mention relate to last season. This season the home defeat to the chavs is the only really bitter episode I can remember. While most of the bad memories you mention are true and irrefutable, lets look at the bottomline - we stormed to 4th place last season with a comfortable margin because we played well and not just because Villa self destructed. This season has been good so far barring the chav defeat, so all in all 2009 was'nt a disaster by any means.
29/01/2010 14:04:00
No delta the subject is 2009 which covers the second half of last season.
29/01/2010 14:06:00
I'm by no means saying it was a disaster, but gaining a CL place aside which is obviously no mean feat and something we all too readily take for granted it was far from a roaring success. Ask 95% of gooners what they remember about the year and the points I've mentioned (also covered in the article tbf) will be the most remembered. Positive spin is useful in an ongoing season but relatively redundant in seasons past.
29/01/2010 14:12:00
And there's no way the loss in Rome was a positive, fluking through on penalties against a p1ss poor Roma side is not one of my cherished Arsenal memories. Getting smashed at home twice by the chavs was an absolute low. Still though, revenge is possible in a week or so.
29/01/2010 14:21:00
I don't buy the "we were lucky Villa capitulated" line at all. A season is 38 games long, end of. Why weren't Villa lucky we capitulated between August and November to get in that position in the first place?
Little Dutch
29/01/2010 14:29:00
We were always gonna get fourth last year, like Faldo parring every hole in the open, consistency was the key then. Much like i still fancy the mickeys for fourth this year.
29/01/2010 14:39:00
When we were what was it 7 or 8 pts behind them at one stage I don't think most people were that cocksure of us being shoe-ins for fourth. They self imploded in the last few months not winning in something like 12 games, had they not got a nosebleed, maybe made a morale boosting jan signing like us, whatever the reason, maybe they'd have made more of a decent fist of things. but they didn't and we capitalised. They looked pretty strong early on, beat us 2-0 at home and clawed back a 2 goal deficit at theirs. Not one goner could've predicted they'd have t*tenhammed things up as much as they did. I stand by it mate, we were lucky/fortunate/took advantage of the fact they fell apart.
29/01/2010 14:50:00
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