2012/13 Season Review

For everyone concerned with Arsenal football club, it was a classic case of same ol’ problems, different year as the Gunners endured another fruitless campaign without sealing any silverware of any sort.

Robin van Persie grabbed all the headlines in the previous campaign but even his amazing Premier League goal haul of 30 strikes was only enough to secure a third placed finish. Arsenal’s Carling Cup campaign ended in the hands of Manchester City while the FA Cup adventure was one to forget as the Gunners crashed in the fifth round away to Sunderland.

The Champions League offered an enticing tie with a clash against Italian giants, AC Milan, but an appalling display in the first leg was enough to hand the Italians the onus, as Arsenal’s spirited second leg showing at the Emirates enough as they somehow managed to crash out of the Champions League despite a resounding 3-0 victory at home. That speaks a lot in volumes.

In the summer, Robin van Persie shocked the world of Arsenal by completing a move to eternal rivals, Manchester United. The Arsenal hierarchy proactively acquired the services of the Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud, before adding more firepower in the form of Santi Cazorla. In rather acrimonious circumstances, Alex Song left to seek greener pastures in Barcelona only to find out that the grass is certainly not greener on the other side.

With no Emirates Cup preseason tournament due to a clash with a much bigger sporting event in London (the 2012 Olympics), the Gunners began their preseason campaign with 45-minute fixtures against Southampton and Anderlecht before travelling to the Far East to take on Malaysia’s XI, Manchester City (who can forget Thomas Vermaelen’s fumble with assistant ref Siam Massey) and Kitchee FC. The preseason ended with a match against Podolski’s previous employers, FC Cologne.

In a chronological order, I present to you an entire review of the season revealing my take of the match, goal, save and player of each month from August to May.

You may not agree with my pick but feel free to share yours with your comments.

Enjoy!

AUGUST

Arsenal kicked its competitive campaign with a goalless stalemate against Sunderland at home before getting another bore draw against Stoke in the Britannia. The Gunners failed to score in August but they also didn’t concede.

August Match of the Month

Cologne 0 Arsenal 4 (Vermaelen, Podolski (2), Gervinho): With the Gunners failing to score any goal in the league in August. The final preseason fixture against Cologne deserved an honorable mention. Goals from Thomas Vermaelen, Lukas Podolski and Gervinho put FC Cologne to the sword

August Goal of the Month

Gervinho against Cologne: Arsenal was taking FC Cologne to the cleaners in a game that despite ending at 4-0, the scoreline was rather flattering for the German hosts. Gervinho’s goal was the icing on a well-baked cake as the Ivorian waltzed past two defenders before beating the goalie in his near post.

August Save of the Month

Wojciech Szczesny against Sunderland: In a month where the Gunners failed to score, the defending was very good as well with the club keeping two clean sheets in the Premier League. In the curtain raiser of the season, Arsenal dominated the proceedings against Sunderland but Szczesny was called to action when James McClean bored down on his goal. The big Pole made a fine stop in his near post from a McClean shot that was destined for the goal.

August Player of the Month

Santi Cazorla: Despite playing in his debut campaign, Santi Cazorla slotted perfectly into Arsenal’s midfield in the role vacated by Cesc Fabregas. Aaron Ramsey manned the role in the previous campaign and failed to bear fruit before Tomas Rosicky’s resurgence played a vital role in Arsenal’s surge for a third placed finish. In August, Cazorla was simply stunning – just a tip of the iceberg.

SEPTEMBER

Arsenal opened their goalscoring account with a comfortable win over Liverpool before running riot past Southampton. The Gunners kicked off the Champions League campaign with a win over newbies, Montpellier, before earning a creditable draw against Manchester City. The Capital One cup began with a 6-1 drubbing of Coventry but the month ended on a low with a self-inflicted home loss to Chelsea.

September Match of the Month

Arsenal 6 Southampton 1 (Podolski, Gervinho (2), Walcott, Own Goals (2)): The Emirates sunshine warmed the Red half of London as Arsenal thumped recently promoted Southampton, giving them a rough reception in their return to the Premier League.

Lukas Podolski swerved in a brilliant free kick, Walcott scored a close range finish and Gervinho grabbed a brace. There was even time for the visitors to concede two own goals. A perfect outing for the Gunners.

September Goal of the Month

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain against Coventry: It’s fair to say that the Ox suffered a second season syndrome but he had a stormer against Coventry in the Capital One cup. Arsenal rained goals past the lower division side with Olivier Giroud breaking his duck despite missing a penalty but Oxlade-Chamberlain’s goal was the pick of the bunch with a stunning shot that swerved in the air before beating the goalie.

September Save of the Month

Vito Mannone against Liverpool: With Liverpool trailing, they launched an attack on Arsenal’s rearguard with Jonjo Shelvey firing a goal-bound shot at Mannone’s goal. The Italian goalie made a magnificent stop to block Shelvey’s effort before Thomas Vermaelen cleared the ball to Row Z.

September Player of the Month

Gervinho: The Ivorian was deployed as a center forward and rewarded his manager’s faith with four goals in the month. He bagged a brace against Southampton, scored Arsenal’s match winner against Olympiakos and scored the Gunners’ solitary goal in the disappointing defeat to Chelsea.

OCTOBER

The month of October began with a comfortable victory over Olympiakos and was followed by a stellar performance against West Ham away at Upton Park. After two disappointing defeats against Norwich and Schalke 04, the Gunners went back to winning ways with a nervy victory over Queens Park Rangers.

The month ended with that entertaining, enthralling and epic Capital One cup encounter against Reading.

October Match of the Month

Reading 5 Arsenal 7 (Walcott (3), Chamakh (2), Giroud, Koscielny): In all my years as an Arsenal fan, I haven’t seen a game that made me go through so many emotional phases like the game against Reading. I started the game with arrogance (simple stroll in the park, I thought), but that was quickly changed to a state of surprise (1 – 0), perplexion, bewilderment (2 – 0) and shock (3 – 0) before getting heavy doses of frustration and despair (4 – 0).

I ended the first half with doubt (4 – 1), but it was changed to hope (4 – 2). At 4 – 3, urgency became my watchword and when Walcott made it 4 – 4, my euphoria knew no bounds. 5 – 4 was somewhat orgasmic,  but the equalizer was a bitter pill to swallow. After the final two goals that put the game beyond doubt, the only feeling I had was pride.

Theo Walcott celebrates making it 4-4 at the Madejski Stadium.

October Goal of the Month

Santi Cazorla against West Ham: At 2-1, the match was at a stage where the next goal was going to be the most important and at the vital moment, Theo Walcott showed great determination to win the ball and tee up Santi Cazorla that showed off his ambidexterity with a splendid left-footed volley that gave Jaakelainen no chance in Hell.

Joga Bonito.

October Save of the Month

Vito Mannone against QPR: In a fixture that would be fondly remembered for the return of Jack Wilshere, Arsenal had to leave it late to score a vital scrappy goal through Mikel Arteta. However, a lapse in concentration allowed Mackie made a slalom run that saw him evade a host of Arsenal players but Mannone stood his ground to make the save that was the difference between a win and a draw.

October Player of the Month

Theo Walcott: The Englishman was one of the players to make a difference when Arsenal visited West Ham with a goal and an assist. His contribution against Reading was outstanding as he smashed in a hat-trick with goals in vital moments of the game.

NOVEMBER

The start of the month was dominated with the headlines involving the Gunners clashing with Robin van Persie and his Manchester United outfit and as expected, the Flying Dutchman scored (no thanks to Vermaelen!) as the Red Devils edged the Gunners out. A bad month went worse as the Gunners managed to throw away handsome leads against Schalke and Fulham to earn disappointing draws.

A resounding win in the North London derby offered a renewed sense of optimism and the home win over Montpellier secured qualification to the Knockout Phase. Two away draws against Aston Villa and Fulham followed afterwards.

November Match of the Month

Arsenal 5 Tottenham 2 (Mertesacker, Podolski, Giroud, Cazorla, Walcott): It was a classic case of deja vu as the Gunners came from behind to run riot past fierce rivals, Tottenham. Ex-Gunner, Emmanuel Adebayor, opened the scoring before receiving his marching orders after a reckless lounge on Santi Cazorla. Arsenal made the numerical advantage count with goals from Per Mertesacker, Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud, Cazorla before Gareth Bale reduced the deficit. Theo Walcott’s goal was the icing on a well-baked cake.

November Goal of the Month

Lukas Podolski against Montpellier: Arsenal put their foot back on the pedal and were rewarded from a super goal from Podolski. The Ox used his reserves of pace to great effect on the right before teeing up Podolski. The German forward executed an inch-perfect one-two with Giroud before thumping a thunderous shot past Jourdren in goal.

November Save of the Month

Vito Mannone against Schalke: With Giroud and Walcott opening the scoring for Arsenal, the red-hot Klass-Jan Huntelaar offered his team a glimmer of hope with a neat finish at the stroke of halftime. In the start of the second half, Huntelaar managed to beat the offside trap and I’d already envisaged a 2 – 2 scoreline in my head but Mannone made himself big to block the Dutchman’s shot.

November Player of the Month

Olivier Giroud: The striker was in a purple patch of form in November, scoring for fun for both club and country. He scored Arsenal’s second goal away at Schalke, bagged an impressive brace against Fulham, got in the act in the North London derby and scored a late equalizer for France in an away fixture with Spain.

DECEMBER

Arsenal began December in the worst possible manner with a flat performance that culminated to a disappointing loss when Swansea visited the Emirates with Miguel Michu grabbing a spot in the back pages. This was followed with a loss in a dead-rubber fixture against Olympiakos that was to have an impact in the  long-term as the Gunners finished behind Schalke in their group, earning a draw against Bayern Munich as a result.

Mikel Arteta scored two penalties against West Brom before the Gunners crashed out on penalties in the Capital One cup quarterfinal against Bradford City. The Gunners went goal-crazy afterwards, as a scintillating Santi Cazorla performance against Reading was followed with a nervy win over Wigan before Walcott and co. went berserk on Newcastle in that 7 – 3 bashing.

December Match of the Month

Arsenal 7 Newcastle 3 (Walcott (3), Podolski, Ox, Giroud (2)): In a game where everything went according to plan, Arsenal went goal-crazy against a Newcastle side that had a certain Demba Ba that auditioned for a move to Arsenal, as the papers had predicted, only to switch to Chelsea days later.

Besides Ba’s performance was certainly overshadowed by Walcott that definitely staked a claim for a center forward berth.

December Goal of the Month

Podolski against Reading: Many would probably argue that Walcott’s third goal against Newcastle would have been a contender for the goal of the month, but this goal got the nod because of the buildup and precision of the German’s finish that left the goalie for dead.

Podolski and Gibbs have forged a good understanding all season long, even though it will take a while before they form a telepathic understanding reminiscent of the Ashley Cole – Robert Pires days. Podolski teed up Gibbs before drifting slowly into the box and the fullback had a couple of touches before flashing the ball into the box.

The German Machine’s first touch was a stuff made of dreams and his second touch was even better.

Lucas Podolski Lucas Podolski of Arsenal celebrates the opening goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Reading and Arsenal at Madejski Stadium on December 17, 2012 in Reading, England.

December Save of the Month

Wojciech Szczesny against Swansea: Swansea threatened right from the onset and Thomas Vermaelen had to show great awareness to intercept a Miguel Michu defense-splitting pass to Itay Shechther. Swansea fullback, Angel Rangel, broke free from the right and was allowed to fire two shots in quick succession at Wojciech Szczesny’s goal but the big Pole was up to the challenge.

December Player of the Month

Theo Walcott: In a month Walcott pushed hard for a run-out through the middle, Wenger finally heeded to his demands and featured him ahead of Olivier Giroud. The Englishman rewarded his manager’s faith with a goal against Reading, a match-winning assist against Wigan and a stunning hat-trick against Newcastle.

JANUARY

2013 started on the wrong foot with the Gunners putting up a poor performance against Southampton which was followed with a disappointing draw in the FA Cup third round against Swansea. Manchester City visited the Emirates and grabbed all three points but the Gunners secured a place in the next round of the FA Cup with a win over Swansea in the replay.

A loss against Chelsea was followed by a 5-1 thrashing of West Ham. After a FA Cup fourth round victory over Brighton, the Gunners came from behind to seal a draw against Liverpool.

 January Match of the Month

Arsenal 5 West Ham 1 (Podolski, Giroud (2), Cazorla, Walcott): West Ham’s gaffer, Sam Allardyce, has had his history with Arsene Wenger which made the victory against West Ham a lot sweeter. However, the visitors opened the scoring with Jack Collison but the Gunners responded with a thunderbolt from Podolski.

Arsenal began the second half in a somewhat frantic pace and they managed to blitz West Ham with four unreplied goals in the space of just 10 minutes. A brace from Giroud, Cazorla and Walcott completed the rout.

January Goal of the Month

Kieran Gibbs against Swansea: The Scourge of Arsenal, Michu, had opened the scoring with a deft finish after leaving Mertesacker for dead. Podolski came off the bench to level the scoring but Arsenal took the lead when Gibbs and Giroud combined superbly to send the fans into raptures with a quick-fire second goal with a strike worthy of being a match winner.

Gibbs cushioned a pass to Giroud and made a diagonal run into the six-yard box before receiving Giroud’s peach of an assist to blast the ball past Vorm in goal.

January Save of the Month

Wojciech Szczesny against Manchester City: Laurent Koscielny was brandished a red card for his blatant foul on Edin Dzeko in the penalty box. Up stepped Dzeko to take the spot kick but Wojciech Szczesny fixed his eyes firmly on the ball and guessed the right way to make a good save with his legs. The ball crept slowly and hit the post before coming back to Szczesny’s path but the goalie stretched to smother the ball to safety, sending the Emirates into raptures.

January Player of the Month

Theo Walcott: The forward continued his goalscoring form towards the end of the month and everyone hoped for him to sign a new deal as his contract was due to end in the summer.

FEBRUARY

Arsenal began the month with a victory over Stoke before holding the fort with a victory over Sunderland after Carl Jenkinson’s red card made things hard. Blackburn arrived at the Emirates in the FA Cup and somehow managed to come out with a victory, ending Arsenal’s domestic cup adventures for the season.

Bayern Munich compounded Arsenal’s misery by inflicting defeat at the Emirates to more or less seal their place in the quarterfinal. Cazorla ended the month with a brace against Aston Villa.

 February Match of the Month

Sunderland 0 Arsenal 1 (Cazorla): In a game where Arsenal’s resolve was tested, Santi Cazorla scored what turned out to be the winner with a low drive that went past Simon Mignolet in goal. When Jenkinson’s sending off but his team on the backfoot, the Gunners put up a valiant defensive display which was epitomized by stellar displays from Per Mertesacker and Bacary Sagna. Aaron Ramsey also put a great shift as a make-shift right back.

February Goal of the Month

Santi Cazorla against Sunderland: Arsenal’s sheer persistence paid off when Wilshere waltzed through two players before locating Walcott. The English forward sent a carefully-weighted pass to Santi Cazorla and the magician sent a low drive past Mignolet to make it one nil to the Arsenal.

February Save of the Month

Wojciech Szczesny against Sunderland: Sunderland continued to probe the Arsenal defense and almost got an equalizer when Fletcher blocked Mertesacker’s clearance with his hands creating an one on one opportunity for himself but Szczesny raced out of his line to make a very important save for his team..

February Player of the Month

Santi Cazorla: The Spaniard put outstanding performances in the month scoring three times and an assist as well. He was solely responsible for the vital Premier League victories over Sunderland and Aston Villa.

MARCH

The North London derby kicked off the month of March with Tottenham edging the Gunners. That result sparked a resurgence and they began the revival with a spirited display against Bayern Munich that yielded no fruit. This was followed with a win over Swansea before the Gunners eased past Reading.

March Match of the Month

Bayern 0 Arsenal 2 (Giroud, Koscielny): The damage was already done at the Emirates, so the Gunners visited the Allianz Arena without pressure and almost caused the biggest of upsets in Champions League. Goals from Giroud and Koscielny leveled the contest on aggregate but the pendulum swung to Bayern’s direction due to the away goals rule.

The victory against Bayern paved the way for a great run of results that saw Arsenal drop only four points in the Premier League, winning every away encounter in the process.

March Goal of the Month

Santi Cazorla against Reading: With Reading’s relegation confirmed, the club parted ways with Brian McDermott before hiring Nigel Adkins, after he was relieved of his job by Southampton. Adkins’ first game was at the Emirates and he was outclassed by an Arsenal side inspired by Gervinho’s brilliance.

The Ivorian winger had a stormer getting a goal and supplying two assists. He dallied on the ball before teeing up Santi Cazorla and the midfield maestro curled the ball sweetly into the goal.

March Save of the Month

Lukasz Fabianski against Bayern Munich: With Arsenal gaining momentum from that early lead, Mikel Arteta slipped on the turf allowing Toni Kroos to get a chance at goal. The German blasted a shot goalwards but Fabianski made a good save. Kroos was at it again from a Philip Lahm pass but Fabianski was on hand to dive low for another impressive save..

March Player of the Month

Laurent Koscielny: His introduction to the squad brought an upturn in the club’s fortunes as he forged a telepathic understanding with Mertesacker. His goal against Bayern offered his team a glimmer of hope.

APRIL

Arsenal continued its renaissance in April with wins over West Brom and Norwich. The winning streak was dented with a bore draw against Everton before the Gunners returned to winning ways with a nervy win over Fulham. Newly-crowned champions, Manchester United, were welcomed with a Guard of Honor but the game ended with both teams sharing the spoils.

April Match of the Month

Arsenal 3 Norwich 1 (Arteta, Giroud, Podolski): In a game Norwich would have every right to be aggrieved by the officiating, the Gunners worked their skins off to get back into the game with a Mikel Arteta penalty before two late goals from Giroud and Podolski killed off the contest.

April Goal of the Month

Podolski against Norwich: With Norwich failing to take the initiative following Arsenal’s 2-1 lead, the Gunners attacked through a diagonal ball that was flicked to Walcott by Giroud. The English speedster went into the box and fed Podolski that took the ball in his stride before firing the ball past Bunn to put the game beyond doubt.

April Save of the Month

Lukasz Fabianski against Norwich: When it was absolutely vital for the Gunners to keep their concentration levels in check, a lapse allowed Howson a clear cut chance at Fabianski’s goal but the big Pole made a magnificent save to send the ball out for a corner.

April Player of the Month

Aaron Ramsey: Rambo’s sheer determination in the game against Norwich earned the corner kick that led to Arsenal’s equalizer in the match. The midfielder playing in a more natural position worked seamlessly in tandem with Arteta to put up stellar performances in April.

MAY

The climax to the Premier League season brought fits of anxiety, fear and the prospect of playing Europa League football,  from an Arsenal perspective. With Tottenham breathing down the Gunners’ necks, they couldn’t afford to slip up.

The Gunners began the month with a win over Queens Park Rangers before condemning Wigan to relegation. Hoeever, Arsenal had the last laugh against Newcastle courtesy of Koscielny’s goal and celebrated St. Tottenringham’s day, despite the fact that Tottenham enjoyed what would be regarded as their best Premier League campaign with Gareth Bale in the forefront of everything good.

May Match of the Month

Arsenal 4 Wigan 1 (Podolski (2), Walcott, Ramsey): Wigan visited the FA Cup on a high after shocking the football world with a victory over Manchester City. The Gunners started the game behind Tottenham knowing that anything less than a win wouldn’t have been good enough.

Podolski opened the scoring but he was cancelled out by a brilliant Shaun Maloney free kick. Arsenal blitzed Wigan with three goals from Walcott, Podolski and Ramsey in eight minutes that ultimately doomed Wigan to relegation and also getting three vital points that made the Gunners leapfrog Tottenham to third place.

May Goal of the Month

Laurent Koscielny against Newcastle: Sagna offered little or no threat whatsoever on the right flank but his improvisation won a free kick for his team not far from the corner flag.

Walcott took over the responsibility of the dead ball and swung in a cross into Newcastle’s danger area. After the ball ricocheted off Podolski, Koscielny reacted the quickest and showed off his acrobatic side with a swinging shot that almost took out Harper’s head before going in to send the Gunners to the Champions Leagiue for the 16th season in a row.

May Save of the Month

Wojciech Szczesny against QPR: Keepers usually receive accolades for stunning saves week in week out, but when you make a save worth it’s weight in gold, you deserve a honorable mention. Walcott scored the only goal of the game early on but Loic Remy almost scored an equalizer that was magnificently parried by Szczesny to keep the scoreline intact. His save against Wigan

May Player of the Month

Laurent Koscielny: Saved his best for last and stepped up when Arsenal needed him the most. The goal that secured Champions League qualification – for the second season in a row.

It doesn’t get any better than that. This eulogic open letter to Koscielny from Soccergunz is worth a read.

This was certainly a season we’ll struggle to forget. We had a poor start but we had one hell of a finish.

My 2012/13 End of Season Awards come up next

Sayonara

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