Arsenal's 2013 Highlights: Best Player, Best Match and More
2013 has been a very good year for Arsenal.
It has been a transformative year for the club. It began with a dull 1-1 draw at Southampton, but ended with a win at Newcastle that has kept Arsenal at the top of the table. It's a year in which Arsenal metamorphosed from a club struggling to make it in to the top four, to one capable of challenging for the title.
It's also the year in which the spending shackles came off, and Arsenal shattered their transfer record to sign German international Mesut Ozil.
Over the next few slides we look at some of the highlights of Arsenal's 2013, handing out awards for the best player, best match and many more.
Best Player: Aaron Ramsey
The fortunes of Aaron Ramsey have mirrored those of Arsenal in 2013. Like his club, he has grown significantly in stature and strength. Now, he is among the best.
In 2012, Ramsey was a much-maligned figure. However, his form in 2013 has established him as one of the Premier League's most effective midfield players.
His industrious partnership with Mikel Arteta was integral to Arsenal securing a spot in the top four in 2012-13. In the first half of 2013-14, he added goals to his game and became the complete midfielder.
Ramsey is still young, so 2014 promises more progress and plaudits for the Welshman.
Best Match: Arsenal 1-1 Everton
2012 was full of glorious goal feasts. Arsenal beat Newcastle by seven goals to three, Reading by seven goals to five, and Tottenham by five goals to two—twice.
Arsenal's defensive solidity in 2013 has led to more conservative scorelines. However, a game doesn't need a glut of goals to be entertaining.
Arsenal's 1-1 draw with Everton in December of 2013 was one of the most exciting Premier League games in the Emirates Stadium's nascent history.
Although the memory of Gerard Deulofeu's late equaliser will still sting Gunners fans, the match will predominantly be remembered as an end-to-end thriller between two exciting attacking teams.
Funniest Moment: "1-1 at Newcastle!"
For sheer hilarity, nothing tops the Tottenham fans mistakenly believing that Newcastle had equalised against Arsenal on the final day of the 2012-13 season.
A Newcastle equaliser would have helped Spurs towards a place in the top four. However, their excitement was misplaced: The game finished 1-0 to Arsenal, and Spurs were doomed to fifth.
Best Performance: Bayern Munich 0-2 Arsenal
Arsenal were lucky enough to have plenty of outstanding performances in 2013.
However, the victory in Munich has taken on a real significance. It was the game in which Arsene Wenger dropped Thomas Vermaelen, and Arsenal played with a renewed defensive focus.
The performance provided a template which Arsene Wenger would use again countless times before the end of 2013. In Munich, Arsenal discovered a formula for success. They have not looked back since.
Arsenal will need to create this performance over two legs if they are to overcome Bayern Munich in this season's Champions League.
Best Goal: Jack Wilshere vs. Norwich
This might be the best goal of Arsene Wenger's reign, let alone this year.
Jack Wilshere's goal against Norwich represented the pinnacle of the style of football that Wenger has made synonymous with Arsenal. There was intelligent movement, precise passing, and a sumptuous finish. In the stands, the fans reacted with a stunned silence.
They had witnessed football perfection, and a goal for the ages.
Best Signing: Mesut Ozil
Although Nacho Monreal and Mathieu Flamini have both been useful recruits, Mesut Ozil has undoubtedly been Arsenal's best signing of 2013.
A year ago, the prospect of Arsenal signing Ozil seemed infeasible. However, circumstances conspired to create a perfect storm. Gareth Bale's move to Real Madrid forced Ozil out, and Arsenal's failure to sign Luis Suarez meant they had the funds and the pressure required to land a big name.
Ozil's impact can not be underestimated. In half a season, he has scored five goals and collected nine assists.
However, more than that, he has invigorated the team and the club as a whole.
Best Stat: Arsenal's 2013 Premier League Points Tally
In 2013, Arsenal won 82 Premier League points. It is the highest tally in the division.
Unfortunately for the Gunners, the league season runs from August to May rather than January to December. However, the record is testament to Arsenal's incredible consistency throughout this calendar year.
Best Arsene Wenger Quote: "One Day You Will Realise..."
Speaking in a heated press conference prior to Arsenal's match with Bayern Munich in February, Arsene Wenger told the Daily Mail:
We are champions of England in the second half, and in the first half, no. For psychological reasons. Because we fight the whole season against everybody hunting here (in press conferences) ... ‘The players are not good enough, buy players and all that’, but one day, you will realise that this team has fantastic qualities.
How right he was.
Wenger's team since have justified his bullishness. If they can lift the title in May 2014, it would be the ultimate reward for the manager's faith.
James McNicholas is Bleacher Report's lead Arsenal correspondent and will be following the club from a London base throughout the 2013/14 season. Follow him on Twitter here.