Ranking Arsenal's 5 Best Wins of 2013
2013 has been a good year for Arsenal—probably the best in a long time.
It got off to a rocky start, though. The Gunners played a whopping eight games in January and won just three of them. Despite grinding out a few results in the league, February was ultimately a heartbreaking month for Arsenal fans. The Gunners crashed out of the FA Cup with a 1-0 loss at home to Championship side Blackburn Rovers, followed by a devastating 3-1 home defeat to the eventual European champions, Bayern Munich.
March kicked off with a 2-1 defeat at Tottenham Hotspur, but things only got better from there. Arsenal didn't lose a single game from then until the end of the 2012-13 season, winning eight out of 10 matches.
After a lack of summer transfer activity and a shock defeat at home to Aston Villa on the opening day of the new season, Arsenal's 2013-14 campaign kicked off in full-on crisis mode.
This "crisis," which seems to have become an annual event in North London, didn't last for long. Arsene Wenger miraculously signed Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid, and after the opening-day defeat, Arsenal won seven straight games in all competitions.
Despite a slight dip in form this month, Arsenal have finished 2013 on top of the Premier League table.
It may have seemed like an up-and-down year, but the fact of the matter is that the Gunners have amassed 82 points in 2013, more than any other Premier League team.
Without further ado, here are Arsenal's five best wins of 2013, ranked both on the importance of the win as well as Arsenal's performance in the match.
Arsenal 4-1 Norwich City, Oct. 19
Although the scoreline doesn't quite reflect the game, Arsenal scored four goals of utter quality, including their best goal of 2013 and a Goal of the Season contender.
Arsenal 4-1 Reading, March 30
Here the scoreline completely reflected the game, as Arsenal passed Reading to death and won with four different players scoring. The fact that Reading were eventually relegated, however, makes the performance a bit less impressive.
Arsenal 4-1 Wigan Athletic, May 14
Arsenal needed all three points in the penultimate match of the 2012-13 season to keep their top-four hopes alive, but they conceded from a free-kick on the stroke of half-time to make it level at the break. They showed their mental strength in the second half, though, as they scored three magnificent goals, highlighted by Santi Cazorla grabbing four assists.
Arsenal 2-0 Napoli, Oct. 1
If it were a list of Arsenal's top six wins of 2013, this would certainly be No. 6. Mesut Ozil scored his first goal for Arsenal, and the Gunners played some sublime first-half football to stun Napoli and take hold of their Champions League "group of death."
5. Arsenal 5-1 West Ham, Jan. 23
Although the scoreline might not suggest it, this game was actually quite an even affair at one point. West Ham scored the first goal of the game before a trademark Lukas Podolski left-footed thunderbolt brought Arsenal level, and it was 1-1 at the break.
We can only guess what happened in the Arsenal dressing room at half-time, because what came next was truly stunning. Arsenal scored four goals in the space of 10 minutes, with Theo Walcott and Santi Cazorla's goals sandwiched between Olivier Giroud's 47th- and 57th-minute strikes.
Sam Allardyce, West Ham's manager, described it as "10 minutes of genius," per BBC Sports' Gary Rose, and it's quite possible that Arsenal's best football of 2013 came during those 10 minutes.
The win also marked Lukas Podolski's best game in an Arsenal shirt, as he grabbed a hat-trick of assists in addition to the aforementioned wonder-strike.
4. Arsenal 1-0 Tottenham Hotspur, Sept. 1
Although it was a far cry from the pulsating North London derbies of past seasons, this win was particularly sweet due to the circumstances leading up to the game.
Andre Villas-Boas, the former Tottenham manager, had spent around £105 million on signings in the summer transfer window, including big names like Roberto Soldado, Paulinho, Erik Lamela and Christian Eriksen.
Arsenal, meanwhile, had yet to spend a penny in the transfer market, with the free signings of Yaya Sanogo and Mathieu Flamini the only additions to the squad.
So with Arsene Wenger's side in somewhat of a crisis mode and Spurs coming off of a summer shopping spree, there was something especially satisfying about Olivier Giroud's game-winning goal in the first half.
What followed was something that's become quite regular at Arsenal this season, which is the defensive resilience and mental strength that the Gunners have displayed time and time again when hanging on to leads.
This particular quality has been rare in Arsenal teams of the past few years, but this season, it could be the thing that separates them from the rest of the pack in this exhilarating title race.
3. Arsenal 2-0 Liverpool, Nov. 2
In a highly anticipated match between the Premier League's two most in-form teams, it was Arsenal who came out on top and asserted their title credentials. In the end, actually, it was quite a comprehensive win.
Santi Cazorla scored in the first half with a composed finish after his initial header came off of the bar, and Aaron Ramsey doubled Arsenal's lead in the second half with a spectacular half-volley.
More notable than either of the midfielders' goals, however, was the performance of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny.
Going into the game, Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge were in unstoppable form, grabbing the headlines as Liverpool's "SAS" strike partnership. The fact that the deadly pair were so quiet against Arsenal is a testament to just how good the pairing of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny is.
Keep in mind that the Liverpool team that's been playing such good football in the past month is the same one that lost to Arsenal, minus Daniel Sturridge and their captain, Steven Gerrard.
2. Borussia Dortmund 0-1 Arsenal, Nov. 6
Although it wasn't a vintage Arsenal performance, it was the importance and impressiveness of the result which warrants a spot so high on this list.
In fact, for a while, it looked like Arsenal simply hadn't shown up to one of their biggest games of the season, as they managed just four attempts on goal all game compared to Dortmund's 15.
It was Aaron Ramsey's second-half header which proved the difference, though, as the Gunners became the first English team to win at Borussia Dortmund's intimidating Westfalenstadion.
Not only did it end up being a crucial three points for Arsenal in qualifying for the knockout round of the Champions League, but it was also a massive statement, considering Jurgen Klopp's side were runners-up in the competition last season.
1. Bayern Munich 0-2 Arsenal, March 13
It's a no-brainer, right?
As Bayern Munich continue to break records and assert themselves as the best team in the world—if not one of the best club sides of all time—Arsenal supporters will continue to point to the fact that the Gunners beat Bayern on their own turf last season.
Although Manchester City's win at the Allianz Arena this season means Arsenal aren't the last team to beat Bayern Munich in Germany, Arsene Wenger's side remain the last team (in all competitions) to prevent the Bavarians from scoring.
Call them Mertescielny or Kosciesacker (their names don't really mix well, do they), the clean sheet at the Allianz Arena was the beginning of the immense partnership that the German and Frenchman have formed. After all, captain Thomas Vermaelen was unceremoniously dropped before the match, and he’s barely gotten a sniff in the first team since.
Ironically, the final whistle of Arsenal's best win in 2013 was met with heartbreak from supporters, as the Gunners' valiant effort in Germany wasn't enough to atone for the 3-1 loss in the first leg.
Looking back on the match months later, it's easier to ignore how bittersweet the result felt at the time and instead praise the performance. The win, although it wasn't enough to keep Arsenal in the Champions League, inspired an incredible run of form which saw Arsene Wenger's side pip rivals Spurs to fourth place and ultimately secure Champions League football for this season.
It might seem like a stretch, but the victory at Bayern Munich could be Arsenal's most important win for years.