Arsenal's 7 Best Moments This Season
With only one game remaining in the 2012-13 Premier League season, it's time for reflection upon a tumultuous campaign.
Obviously, the story of this season has not yet been concluded, so ultimate judgments cannot be made.
But there have been an ample amount of memorable moments to recount. From the perennial period of summer promise to the deep depression of winter to the renewal of spring, Arsenal's season has followed the fluctuations of the calendar.
Enough of that sappy stuff: Let's look at the seven best moments, in chronological order, from the season that is (almost) in the past.
The 6-1 Thrashing of Southampton
It is mid-September. Arsenal have scored just two goals in their first three games, and mid-table mediocrity seems to be beckoning already. The Gunners need a lift.
Then Southampton walk into the Emirates.
And they get summarily destroyed. The Saints' Daniel Fox can only futilely pull a goal back before halftime when Arsenal are up 4-0. Arsene Wenger's side refuse to let up, taking out more energy through two second-half goals. The game finishes 6-1.
What a release it was for anxious Arsenal fans and a team that had failed to live up to its attacking promise until that point. The match was a welcome anomaly in a campaign when the Gunners often failed to finish off their opponents.
If Marouane Chamakh scores two goals in a game, you know it will go down in the history books.
Frankly, this game would have anyway. Arsenal had already come back from an incredible 4-0 deficit against a team that was eventually relegated through a Theo Walcott goal in the 96th minute.
With the world's attention turning to the Madejski Stadium, Chamakh scored for Arsenal for the first time in more than a year to put the Gunners up in the 103rd minute.
But it wasn't over. Not even close.
Pavel Pogrebnyak equalized in the 116th minute. Then, with penalties almost certain, Walcott returned to the scoresheet in stoppage time of the second period of extra time. Oh, and Chamakh found time to get an insurance goal in time added onto time added onto extra time.
It was that kind of game.
Jack Wilshere's Return
After not suiting up for Arsenal in a competitive match during the totality of the 2011-12 season, Jack Wilshere was certainly welcomed back into the fold with open arms.
There was much fanfare upon his return to the starting XI against Queens Park Rangers in October. Though it was obvious from the off that he lacked fitness, Wilshere's weaving runs and need to constantly be involved in the play helped Arsenal's attack immensely.
He quickly acquired his previous sharpness, and the Gunners' midfield was simultaneously structured around him. The Arteta-Wilshere-Cazorla trio was just as dynamic and effective as was hoped when the talismanic Englishman made his much-awaited return.
Theo Walcott Scores a Hat-Trick as Arsenal Beat Newcastle 7-3
All season, Theo Walcott has begged to be played as a central striker. In the last fixture of 2012, he got his wish and made a convincing case for retaining his place up front.
He began with a blazing run down the left flank and a Thierry Henry-esque finish from a seemingly impossible angle past Tim Krul.
Then things got nuts. Neither side could keep their defense organized, and four goals were scored in the first 19 minutes of the second half. Walcott put Arsenal ahead on 73 minutes, and substitute Olivier Giroud bagged two goals in three minutes toward the end of the game.
After the Frenchman barely missed a hat-trick, Walcott elated the Emirates by securing his. And it was no cupcake goal, either.
You might remember this peach, which speaks for itself. Don't be surprised if it is voted Arsenal's goal of the season.
Theo Walcott Signs a Contract Extension
As Arsenal endured a period of poor form during the early months of winter, the story of Theo Walcott's contract dominated all others surrounding the club.
The swirling cauldron of rumors only intensified after his sumptuous display against Newcastle. Would the Gunners once again lose one of their best players due to financial complacency and a lack of ambition?
Experience told fans that the longer a player waits before putting pen to paper on a new deal, the longer the odds of ink hitting the page.
Walcott, who had one season after this remaining on his deal, had been procrastinating since the summer, so the prospects of Arsenal re-signing him seemed slim. The avalanche of criticism toward Arsene Wenger, Stan Kroenke and the board of directors would have been insufferable if Walcott had not signed.
But, remarkably, he did. Though he probably does not deserve to be the highest-paid player on the team, the fact that Arsenal were willing to shell out elite money for one of their best players signals a statement of intent from a club that is often criticized for its frugality.
Bayern Munich 0-2 Arsenal
Everyone knew what a powerhouse Bayern Munich was before they met Arsenal in the Champions League round of 16. It was certainly clear when the Germans dismantled the Gunners 3-1 front of their own fans.
After Bayern's astounding 7-0 two-legged annihilation of Barcelona in the semi-final, however, Arsenal fans can truly appreciate what an achievement it was to beat Bayern 2-0 at the Allianz Arena.
Sure, the Gunners had no pressure on their shoulders after putting themselves in a seemingly impossible position in the first leg. Bayern Munich probably took a more conservative approach than they otherwise would have.
But still, they got a clean sheet and two goals against a side that beat Barcelona 4-0 at the same venue only weeks later. It conclusively proved that this Arsenal side is capable of beating any team in the world on their day, and that their League position was (and is) not reflective of their true quality.
It is no coincidence, then, that the Gunners' best form of the season has come after giving the German juggernauts a reality check at their own home ground.
Qualifying for the Champions League
Even if I had the money, I wouldn't put $22,000 on Arsenal winning their last game in a similar manner as this crazy Tottenham fan did with Wigan before their 4-1 defeat to the Gunners.
I do consider myself an optimist, though. And seeing Arsenal beat Newcastle this Sunday, the final day of the Premier League season, does not require a whole lot of wishful thinking.
We have seen what Arsenal can do when they really get themselves up for a match and are determined to take the game to their opponent. They needed three points against Wigan and came out for the second half with a single-minded resolve to add to the disappointing 1-1 scoreline.
The game convincingly ended 4-1 to Arsenal.
Newcastle ostensibly have nothing to play for, and the Gunners are one of only three sides in the Premier League that still do, although Chelsea have already secured Champions League qualification.
With their fate in their own hands and only one final hurdle remaining, Arsene Wenger and the players will throw every last ounce of their energy into their push for a top-four finish and ultimately achieve their season-long goal.