5 Shining Lights Of The 2010/11 Season
As the season draws to a welcome close most Gooners feel deflated, annoyed, down right angry about how this campaign panned out (and the subsequent ticket price increase), quiet rightly too, but I feel that we should also look at the positives.
That`s not to say we shouldn't still be pissed off about what`s happened and sweep it under the carpet and pretend all is swell at Casa De La Gooner, because it isn`t. However it is important to realise that many of our players have busted their balls for the entire season (last two games excluded) in an attempt to finally win something shiny. They didn`t do this on purpose, we need to show some love.
So in an attempt (futile?) to raise the spirits of my fellow Arsenal supporters let`s leave the negativity behind for one article and look at the shining beacons from our 2010/11 campaign.
1. Wojciech Szczesny
At the start of the season we were all hoping and praying for a new goal keeper, reports even filtered through of a big money move for one of the finest keepers in the world in Liverpool`s Pepe Reina, but it wasn`t to be and we started the campaign with what we already had.
Shakey displays from Almunia and Fabianski (injuries? Yeah right) eventually led to Szczensy being handed the gloves, and he didn`t disappoint.
Still in his early 20`s WS commands his box like no keeper (bar Lehmann) we`ve had in years, he`s an excellent shot stopper, and while his decision making isn`t always the best that is something that will only improve with experience. But don`t let this fool you, he is the real deal.
It`s often said that you have to be a bit mental to be a goalie (see Jens Lehmann for details), and if this is true we`ve got about 3 keepers in one. His most important attribute however is his confidence. Many a keeper has looked to be a bone fide number 1, but as soon as he makes a mistake he crumbles like a tea soaked hobnob. Not WS though. He made an absolute howler in the Carling Final and it hasn`t troubled him one bit. And that`s how you need to be to be one of the greats. Don`t care about what has happened, because you can`t change it, just concentrate on catching the next cross or stopping the next shot.
If things go our way we could be set with a top keeper for the next 15 years.
2. Jack Wilshere
The past couple of pre-seasons we`ve been getting sneaky peeks at the young Englishman, and he`s been exciting to watch, however after saying he`d like to push more for a first team place during the summer, he`s absolutely exploded onto the scene. No-one could have expected this, not us, not Wenger, probably not even Jack himself.
Arguably one of our players of the season, Wilshere has put in stunning performance after stunning performance, even when he didn`t play well he desire and work ethic was there for all to see. If the rest of our players would have had his commitment we`d have won the league at a canter.
His finest performance came at Ashburton Grove when faced with the likes of Xavi, Iniesta, Lionel Messi and all their mates. He stood toe to toe with them and came out on top. At 19 years of age he was on top of the world.
In Wilshere we have a player who the entire nation is excited to see, and that`s very uncommon in Arsenal players, everyone hates us and our boys, but because of Jack`s nationality he`s cut some slack. However on this occasion, the hype is right, this kid is immense. Future Arsenal captain, future England captain. Never in doubt.
We all dream of a team of Jack Wilsheres, a team of Jack Wilsheres, a team of Jack Wilsheres.
3. We`re bigger and stronger than before.
A criticism of Arsenal for many years was that we were wimps. Easily pushed around. Not up for the fight.
"Get in their faces they`d say", try that now and they`ll get it ripped off. Over the past few years we`ve been top of the fair play league every year, and that`s in spite of some of the ridiculous bookings we`ve seen simply because we`re Arsenal, and I feel that it`s been detrimental to us somewhat.
Now I`m not one to condone the kicking of players to stop them, but strong tackles and beastly players and make or break you. And slowly but surely over the last year or two we`ve began to show our strength. Players like Alex Song, Thomas Vermaelen, Jack Wilsere, Bacary Sagna, Robin van Persie and Mouranne Chamakh have really gotten down with the nitty gritty and kicked a bit of ring piece. We`ve come in for a bit of stick for being dirty, but better than than being wussies right?
Now it just needs to be fine tuned with a bit more defensive discipline and shape at set pieces and we`ll be on to a winner.
Getting the monkees of our backs.
To win the league you`ve got to beat those teams around you, and over the past god knows how long, wins over Manchester United and Chelsea have been few and far between. And wins over Barcelona …. Well, we`ve never beaten them.
That all changed this year.
The win over Chelsea was emphatic, we battered them, whooped them all over the park. We asked questions to which they had no answers. The victory over the chavs put us right back in the title race and proved we still have what it takes.
When we faced Barcelona at the Grove, we`d never previously beaten them, we`d come close in the Champions League final of 2006, and we`ve been pummeled before, but we`d never got the job done.
Coincidentally this was one of the first times we`d faced them not crippled with injury or had players sent off or other such hindrances. The start of the match Barca threatened to dish out another beating, but we defended valiantly, and had our name have been Stoke City or Bolton Wanderers, they likes of Hansen, Tight-pants Redknapp and Fat Sam would have been drooling at our defensive prowess.
However not only did we defend well, we played barca at their own game, and we won. The moment Arshavin smashed that ball home was one of the happiest moments of my footballing life.
A few weeks ago we had to beat United to remain in the title race, and we did just that. As with the Chelsea match we passed them to death and played them off the field. We proved that we have what it takes to beat some of the biggest and richest sides in the world (we beat four of the five richest teams in the world this season), we now have to figure out how to motivate ourselves against the lesser sides.
5. Robin van Persie.
I`ve saved my personal favorite till last. As Tim Stillman wrote in his match report, as it stands, RvP is the best striker in the world. He has become what I always knew he could if he could stay fit. He still struggled early on in the season, but in 2011 he has become untouchable.
21 goals in 20 games, assists galore, stunning pieces of individual brilliant and exquisite team play. The guy is big, strong, intelligent, and his fight and passion is there to see (I think he tried to fight the whole Villa side in the space of ten seconds the other day).
There had been some mutterings that van Persie could be sold on, I didn`t exactly agree with them but I could understand why people started to think it, but imagine where we would be now if van Persie had gone in Janurary? Mid table? Perhaps worse?
I believe Fabregas is as good as gone, but we must ensure RvP stays with us. Indeed he`s already talking about next season. I`m of the opinion, and this is complete speculation here, that as long as Wenger is at the club then van Persie will remain also, whether it be loyalty to AW for bringing him to England and escaping the reserve team of his former club, or thanks to the father figure that stood by him through some extremely tough times, what ever it is, a season full of van Pizzle and we`ll be close to, if not, Champions of England.