Tom’s Weekly Ramble: A Good 2015 but the Best is Yet to Come

As we enter another year, everyone is no doubt relaying everything that they have achieved (or not) in 2015 and scheming as to how they can make 2016 a year to remember….. Well not me, I’m more concerned with talking about the Arsenal!

It’s been a funny one for Arsenal fans. With the 2014/15 title virtually wrapped up by Chelsea this time last year, we were left with the familiar feeling of battling for the coveted fourth placed ‘trophy’ that we have come to dominate over the past decade. But the second half of the campaign really began to show how this side were growing into a potential title-winning side.

Our 2-0 victory away at Manchester City certainly feels like a turning point, which has been highlighted by both the manager and the players throughout the previous 12 months. The performance was glorified as a change in tactics by Arsene Wenger and finally an acceptance that sometimes a more disciplined display was required in order to overcome some of our fiercest rivals. However, it is worth noting that this is simply the match where everything seemed to come together. Similar tactics had been deployed in our 2-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge earlier in the campaign, but having conceded the opening goal, the game plan will not be remembered at all.

Fast forward a couple months and the team were absolutely flying. We had appeared to have cemented our place in the Champions League for the forthcoming year far earlier than usual, and our defence of the FA Cup looked all but certain. Another key fixture to highlight was the 2-1 victory away to Manchester United on our way to Wembley. There has always been an aura surrounding Man Utd, even since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson, that we have not been able to handle. Often, it felt like just the mention of the Red Devils was enough to dictate the outcome of our encounters with them. But that day in March was a further indication that this team are mentally stronger than many of the other squads that Wenger has assembled. True, Man Utd were not the team they once were, but it still felt like this was a major hurdle that needed to be overcome in order for this squad to grow.

The Gunners retained the FA Cup after a crushing victory over Villa

The Gunners retained the FA Cup after a crushing victory over Villa

The Cup Final itself was arguably the most one sided show piece the competition has ever seen. Aston Villa simply could not deal with the power, pace and attacking verve that we had to offer, and we ended the season picking up a second successive FA Cup.

While Arsenal have been destroyed recently for not signing an outfield player in the transfer window, it would be unfair not to laud the signing of Petr Cech from Chelsea. While I always knew he was an outstanding goalkeeper, I never realised quite how good he was. Despite his rather questionable league debut against West Ham United, he was transformed this Arsenal side. He’s always in the right position, and there is no greater compliment I can pay him than that! Gone are the days of Wojciech Szczesny giving me a heart attack every time the ball goes anywhere near him; we finally have a world class goalkeeper!

avfc afc cech 169

Petr Cech holds the Premier League record with 170 clean sheets but he came to Arsenal to win the PL

The stats will tell you that we have amassed more points than any other side in the calendar year. Although this does show a marked improvement to our consistency, it generally is a fairly meaningless statistic that I’ve come to loathe. Yes, this does show how the side have developed, but ultimately we cannot read anything into this unless we back it up by in the forthcoming months and take home the title.

Our start to the season has certainly not been spectacular. We’ve dropped a lot of points against teams we really should be beating, and had we not done that, our position at the top could be insurmountable. However, we still head into the New Year as the league leaders, and that is something we all would have accepted at the start of the campaign. The question now is whether we can finally see out a campaign and win our elusive 14th League Title. In 2013/14, we found ourselves in a similar position yet fell away. If this group of players are to finally show their worth and bring home the big prize, then a massive effort in the coming months will be required, We face some gruelling away games which will test the true mettle of this side.

With a whole host of players still to return from injury, it really does feel like the title is there for the taking and we are unlikely to have an opportunity as clear as this to end our wait for glory. It really is the hope that kills you!

Finally, it would be wrong to write a summary of the year and not include Mesut Ozil. We’ve been spoilt for technical brilliance over the years, but he is right up there with the best. If he continues to play as he has been for the remainder of the season, he is surely a show-in for Player of the Year and you’d imagine we would have a fairly good chance of winning the league. Add a returning Alexis Sanchez to the mix and my mind again begins to wander to what could become in May……

The last year has been good; this year could be great!

 

 

Gooner Ramble

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