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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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The Journalist

Writer: Hughied Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Friday January 29 2010

Time: 1:19PM

Your Comments

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!
deltaforce
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
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.
nikolaijns
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.
deltaforce
No delta the subject is 2009 which covers the second half of last season.
nikolaijns
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.
nikolaijns
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.
shewore
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
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.
shewore
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.
nikolaijns
gooner even!
nikolaijns
Niko, Villa did strengthen in the last January transfer window by buying Heskey. As much as they could'nt find their rythm in the second half of last season, we got an unbeaten streak going as well. Both factors contributed to our late surge.
deltaforce
Exactly, we went 21 games unbeaten. Like I said, just because Villa's bad form came in February, doesn't mean we robbed them, we had our bad form too where we weren't winnign games, but it came between September to November. Ultimately, over 38 games, we pasted them and deserved to do so. Villa were mentally weak at the end of the season and were due a downturn in form anyway, but we were mentally weak at the beginning havign not recovered from blowing the title race the year before and then losing a couple of players. Swings and roundabouts, you could point to their bad form at the end of the season or our good form. Or our bad form at the start of the season compared to their good form. In the end, you always get what you deserve, no arguments.
Little Dutch
'This team will win something this season, I know it will happen' Wenger 2009 AGM. Good luck at the best half-time pie awards ceremony.
HATEtheGOONERS
Off topic but The Guardian has confirmed that it was John Terry who was the mystery footballer who got a court injuction which bound the media from publicising the fact that he as caught cheating on his wife. Sir JT apparently had an affair with a team mate's girlfriend. Terry's lawyers who got the injuction are the same as those used by Usmanov - Shillings.
deltaforce
That's not my idea of strengthening Delta :) but I take your point, lol in fact we've probably inadvertently stumbled upon the reason for their crumble right there!
nikolaijns
Strong start by Hughied, but like Villa faded. Looking forward to the United game, whom I expect to grab at least a point. I'll be back to review the match Sunday.
hodfoundgodwithapass
:-) Niko. Heskey was our double agent all along!
deltaforce
Hodfound, it seems that you dedicate your weekend's to following our club rather than yours.
deltaforce
Text doing the rounds is it was Bridge's missus who had to have the abortion. Lovely women these WAGs, aren't they.
shewore
Sla.gs that would stamp a stilletto size hole in each others skulls as they crawl grubbily ever upward. Fake tanned, shallow, greedy, vacuous, soul dead b1tches.
nikolaijns
At least someone at Chelsea found a use for Wayne Bridge then.........
Little Dutch
Did'nt get that text shewore! Looks like Bridge had more than one reason to leave Chelsea then. More than that WAG, lets look at JT's record. Harrassing American tourists after 9-11, Parking in disabled spaces, spitting on Carlos Tevez's neck, taking bungs to be a Cobham training facility tour guide to anyone who can pay and now this. JT seems to epitomise his club. What is jarring is that he is England captain.
deltaforce
"And what do you do young man?" "I'm Terry's mistresses beard"
nikolaijns
LD that's cracking, taking the credit?
shewore
You'd have to be able to read more than the Sun headlines to quote accurately HTG. Wenger said he 'believed' we would win something. Not much point him saying he didn't believe he would is there.
Amos.
Absolutely shewore.
Little Dutch
deltaforce, keep your friends close and your enemies closer.
hodfoundgodwithapass
What does that make your relationship with vital sp*rs then Hod? Oh I forgot you've never met have you?
nikolaijns
Aahh Dr niko. It's simple, my friends are not there, whereas........
hodfoundgodwithapass
your enemies are legion.
nikolaijns
Yes many, but up to now, none I can't cope with.
hodfoundgodwithapass
Of course not hod, that's because you're enemies don't consider you in the same light. You're not really an enemy, you're just something to be swept away. You're like a fly buzzing in our ear, angrily trying to shout something to us, seemingly unaware that we couldn't give a sod about your opinion, that we merely brush aside. The fly will get back up and spend some more energy buzzing in our ears, so of course, you can cope with us, but what's the point of making an enemy if all you can do is cope with them?
ArsenalRob
Er ok Rob.
hodfoundgodwithapass
Good. I'm glad, althouth somewhat surprised, you understand.
ArsenalRob
If you understood you wouldn't be glad!
hodfoundgodwithapass
Well I do, and I am, so you're wrong.
ArsenalRob
don't suppose you fancy actually posting something on vital spud do you hod? Anything at all? Back on topic - 2009 was a year of good and bad - I honestly believe it was not one of Wengers best years. We've had far better. Or at least, have had years that felt better.
Gunnerman
A good version of events this year. The 2nd half has been much better, but the point should be whether this team performed to its potential, and I think it did, atleast for the 2nd half of least season. So, there should be no complaints about that. This season, there is some belief that this team has learned and can do more, but I'm still not fully convinced that the League will be won.
prits
Wenger is a genius. Frustrating at times, but i will always sucombe to the fact he is one of THEE best managers in the world, and no one could do what he has done.
FuiKaka
I definitely see an improvement in the team but despite what Wenger says I believe signings have significantly contributed to that improvement, i.e. Arshavin and Vermaelen. Yes the team has developed, in particular Song, but I think we'd have struggled this year if we still had Toure in defence. We've done very well this season but the next two games are season deciders for me because we need to show up and prove we can perform and get results against the very top sides. Being comprehensively turned over by United and esp Chelsea will be too damaging psychologically.
Gooner_Vin
2009 was definitely a 7 out of 10 kind of year, notable mainly for the fact that Wenger's young team project developed another year and tantalised us with what might be. If, and only if we win the title this season or next, then history might well look back on 2009 and say it was the time when some of the big pieces of the jigsaw were put in place - the signings of Vermaelen & Arshavin, the form of Gallas, Fabregas, RVP plus the development of Song and Ramsey. And if we were to win it this year or next, Arsene will go down as the greatest manager in the history of the English game, having managed to compete and then win in the top-flight through a stubborn philosophy that combined nurturing kids plus shrewd transfer dealings, all at a time when clubs around us have been doped to the eyeballs on crazy money.
Andy-bayor
Obviously not Andy-bayor, win it this year and hed make the top 5. But this cult of Arsene Wenger is a strange one, im not saying hes overrated as hes quite clearly a fantastic manager and deserves praise. But hes only won 3 leagues in 13 years or something (******** unbelievable achievement don't get me wrong, & more leagues than weve ever won granted) but compared to the likes of Shankly, Ferguson, Clough etc whove won zillions of trophys home and in europe, and they all had stubborn philosophys aswell. Hell Rafa Benitez has achieved more in europe than Wenger.
HuddersfieldYiddo
HY, Yeah 3 titles in 13 years and look at the consistency as well. Champs league football is now taken for granted and there have been several runner up finishes in the league as well. 4 FA cups have also been won. Wenger's philosophy is unique and only Shankly's philososphy (And Ferguson in the 1990's) comes anywhere close to AW. AW's net spend has been lower than ALL his peers and compares to that of mid table sides. He has developed more youngsters into stars than Ferguson has and has kept our club competing at the top end of the league under immense strain on our financial resources. He is already in the top 5 managers in England of all time. If he wins with this squad then he will easily move into the Top 3. AS for Europe and the Beintez comparison, you would remember that we were 10 mins from winning the CL in 2006. Benitez won it after being 3 goals down. Some good fortune was the only missing ingredient for us in the 2006 final.
deltaforce
It's just my personal opinion HY and it's based on IF we won the title this year or next. The 3 managers you named have delivered more trophies but if Wenger pulls this off (and I'd say the odds are against it) I reckon he will have achieved something not done before, and maybe its a subjective judgement but the list would read: transformed a club from top to bottom - the playing side, academy and stadium, scouting & nurturing etc; brought us trophies and the invincibles; imprinted a style of football on us which is a joy to watch (and influenced other now and also will in future); over the last few years he has tried to take the philosophy he has acted out on what I think is it's next step - moulding a bunch of players he mostly developed, to play the beautiful game as a true team, and achieve success without the massive financial doping happenning to our competitors, and to do it in the face of 5 years without a trophy, mounting pressure for short-term results and some glaring holes-apparent along the way... I'll say that if he manages that it's something that surpasses the number of trophies (in my head anyway) And although he already has a great legacy which will survive him, this would take it a step further. The 3 other managers you named are great in their way too no doubt.
Andy-bayor
I'm going a little off topic here, but, HuddersfieldYiddo, at the beginning of the season you mocked me for saying in an article that Arsenal would have one of the best attacks in Europe this season. I just wanted to see what you thought of this: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-1245351/Arsenal-rule-Euro-goals-table--Manchester-United-Liverpool-Chelsea-Spurs-rest-rank.html
gunnerkid107
I have long said that if Wenger wins the title this season it would be a bigger achievement than the invincibles season. Purely based on the facts that the premier league is much tougher to win than it ever was and this is a post abramovich era where we have spent very little money and focused on youth development. I think we we'll finish second at minimum this but a win at against United and Chelsea would set us up as favourites for the rest of the season.
gronedrone
No other manager of "big clubs" has to deal with a lot more 'basic' cash amounts, and as much injuries as Arsene Wenger does. He may have dropped out for a while but pulling himself back was one hell of an achievment, and HE, the man himself, has silenced SO many critics. I will admit, there were times say 12 months ago i was questioning things myself, but i'll admit i was wrong and to prove so many people around the world that you actually did know what you were doing. Well i think his actions and proof speak for themselves.
FuiKaka
i think the invincables era has to be his best by far they were the crem de la crem of english football . Since then its been downhill for ya
radders1990
 

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