2011 will be fondly remembered by Arsenal fans for good, bad and ugly reasons. There have been many good memories but the pick of the bunch will certainly be Robin van Persie’s amazing goal-scoring form that started with a deflected free kick in St. Andrews when Arsenal thrashed Birmingham City in their own turf.
A brace followed against West Ham before a headed goal from a Nicklas Bendtner cross when Arsenal defeated Leeds United in a FA Cup replay. His first hat trick in Arsenal colors against Wigan was followed up by a brace in that epic 4-4 outing at St. James Park…or Sports Direct Arena, as it has been recently called.
Wolves were on the end of another brace before Arsenal’s goal of 2011 was scored when Barcelona visited the Emirates; van Persie also scored against Birmingham City in the Carling Cup final, but the goals dried up a bit before his scrappy finish in a game that was marred by Manuel Almunia’s stupidity (West Brom).
In April, van Persie smashed one past Blackpool, then scored a penalty in the 97th minute against Liverpool. He saved one for the North London derby before ending the month with a well-executed finish against Bolton following a neat one-two with Cesc Fabregas.
After netting three more times in May against Stoke, Aston Villa and Fulham, van Persie has picked up where he left off last season with 17 more goals to name. In my books, his amazing goal haul, amongst other positives from Arsenal, will be placed in the "good memories" category.
Arsenal fans have become accustomed to the "bad," and the club’s form after the Carling Cup final defeat will bring memories that the Gunners will want to forget quickly.
After crashing out of the Champions League and FA Cup in quick succession, the Gunners had a realistic chance of winning the Premier League if they could manage nine wins (Manchester United included), starting with the visit of Blackburn to the Emirates.
It’s fair to say that Arsenal became the first English club in recent times involved in a “two-horse” title race to finish in fourth place.
I can classify the "ugly" as the injuries suffered by Thomas Vermaelen (Achilles tendon), Jack Wilshere (ankle), Bacary Sagna (lower leg) and Abou Diaby (everywhere) in the course of the year.
The off-the-field "ugly" incidents involved the shenanigans of Denilson (raising the white flag), Nicklas Bendtner (climbing Mount Everest with a speakerphone, proclaiming that he’ll never be a Gunner), $amir Na$ri (putting the club at ransom before moving for the greens) and much more.
Arsene Wenger and his men started this season in a very precarious position after the 8-2 drubbing at Old Trafford, but he has steadied the ship with his deadline-day signings, coupled with the return to full fitness of some key players and the form of Robin van Persie.
Per Mertesacker is a player that was bought on late; with little time to gel, the German international has done pretty well at the heart of the defense. He says that the club’s defenders are beginning to trust each other and he has hailed the progress of the club in recent times.
Mikel Arteta is another player that has brought his vast Premier League experience to Arsenal’s midfield; he scored a beauty in Arsenal’s last league encounter against Wigan. He hailed the team’s ethic and he ran out of superlatives for the club’s captain, calling him a “superstar,” to say the least.
Van Persie has been a phenom this year and it really hurts to know that he didn’t even make it to the provisional 23-man FIFA Ballon D’Or list that has been sifted down to the usual suspects; the world’s best midfielder, football’s most expensive player and the Messi-less alien that has invaded Earth but has refused to go back to Krypton.
However, van Persie told the media vultures that Arsenal’s new left-back Andre Santos reminds him of the Brazilian legend Roberto Carlos—a player so great that he scored one of the best free kicks I’ve ever witnessed as a football fan in that friendly against France.
In his prime, Roberto Carlos was one of the fastest footballers on the planet and he possessed a shot that would have probably been strong enough to kill an animal. I can’t deny that I used Carlos a few times as a center forward in my PlayStation One days (Winning Eleven); he performed wonders with fellow baldy, Ronaldo da Lima.
Andre Santos is a good technician like every Brazilian, but comparing him with the great Roberto Carlos is a bit too much, in my opinion. He has been a breath of fresh air, though, and the memories of Gael Clichy are slowly fading away.
Moving over to transfers, the media vultures are at it again, linking Arsenal to many players all over Europe. They’ve reported that Arsenal and Bayern are locking horns for Marseille’s Andre Ayew. They’ve also added Chelsea’s Salomon Kalou and Milan’s Alexandre Pato to the mix.
The most outrageous rumor of all is that Wenger is prepared to offload Nicklas Bendtner and Andrey Arshavin just to secure the services of German wonderkid Mario Gotze.
That’s a wrap folks.