You don’t need a fortune teller to make you understand that Arsène Wenger is going through his worst season in his 16-year stint with Arsenal. After enduring a somewhat disappointing campaign last season, just scraping a third place finish after Tottenham’s slump, many had expected that the Gunners would fare better this season.
Euro 2012 provided a good distraction as the continent’s finest showcased their talent on the world stage. Arsenal had its fair share of ambassadors in the competition but only Nicklas Bendtner, Theo Walcott and Robin van Persie managed to get on the score sheet. Those aliens from Spain swept through the tourney and were clear and deserved winners.
After Euro 2012, transfer speculation was the order of the day and as expected, Arsenal was linked with a host of players from the football world. The Gunners did well to acquire three talented footballers, but the club lost two of its favored sons, Alex Song and Robin van Persie.
Alex Song arrived in the club as an unearthed gem from SC Bastia, and he was shipped to Charlton Athletic to get some much-needed match experience. He wasn’t still getting first-team action on his return to Arsenal but the quick-fire exits of Mathieu Flamini, Lassana Diarra and Gilberto Silva paved the way for Song to become synonymous with the first team.
The Cameroonian gem got better with each passing season and was to become Arsenal’s enforcer for years to come, we thought. In his final season with the club, he honed his attacking side to become Arsenal’s creative lynchpin despite playing as a holding midfielder and the return of 16 assists was impressive to say the least.
No one can really know why Song searched for greener pastures, but the midfielder stated that he wanted a new deal at the Emirates, but the talks were postponed. (via Daily Mail)
Van Persie, on the other hand, was a player tipped for greatness at the Emirates.
He arrived at Arsenal after going through a tumultuous phase in his former club, Feyenoord. Arsène Wenger took the Dutchman under his wing and molded him into one of the finest strikers in the business, as he showcased his lethal finishing ability in his last two seasons with the club, scoring 58 goals.
When everyone had thought that at van Persie’s frantic goalscoring pace, he was odds on to match Thierry Henry’s outstanding goalscoring record for the team, the little boy inside him had other plans, as he moved to Arsenal’s rivals, Manchester United.
Without the creativity of Song and firepower of van Persie, Arsenal began the season with two goalless draws against Sunderland and Stoke City before going through a rich vein of form in September. It was believed that the Gunners had a wake up call with the surprising defeat to Norwich, but the appalling performance against Schalke that followed didn’t go down well with the fans, as the club’s impregnable Champions League record against non-English opposition went with the wind.
Inconsistency has become Arsenal’s watchword this season and the draws from handsome winning positions, as well as the disappointing defeats to Manchester United, Swansea, Olympiakos and, of course, Bradford City put Arsène Wenger in a pretty precarious position.
Despite all the gloomy phases of the campaign thus far, Arsenal has had its fair share of positives as this season has progressed. In a chronological order, I present my top 10 positives taken from the first half of the season.