You could argue that the negatives outweighed the positives last season; so let’s take a five-minute break to highlight some of the outstanding goals and players that made the season bearable. Full disclosure: this list was developed by Barriecuda, with a few additional comments by me.
Top 5 Goals of the Season:
1. Robin van Persie vs Everton (Dec 10, 2011)
The 1-0 winner was the epitome of technique, deserving of the term “Bergkamp-esque”. The pace and accuracy with which he smashed this mid-air volley was exceptional, and worthy of the audience of Arsenal greats who were on hand to celebrate the 125th anniversary of Arsenal Football Club.
2. Robin van Persie vs Tottenham Hotspur (Feb 26, 2012)
Sagna’s powerful header to make the game 2-1 was the start of a special occasion for Gunners fans, and van Persie’s wonderful curler out of nothing broke the dam and let the waves of an Arsenal victory come crashing down over the Tiny Totts. It was a significant goal, in a significant game, in a significant part of the season – three important elements in a “best goal of the season” selection.
3. Robin van Persie vs Sunderland (Oct 16, 2011)
An easy goal to forget, considering how early in the season it was, but a crucial one nonetheless. After a lot of woeful free kicks over the last year or two, RVP got his groove back, stealing 3 points in a game that Sunderland had looked comfortable in. The 83rd minute winner was inch perfect, struck with pace, and just one of Robin’s many 2011-2012 examples of “he scores when he wants”.
4. Mikel Arteta vs Aston Villa (Mar 24, 2012)
An absolutely stunning free kick, hit with perfect technique. Despite its quality, being an unnecessary 3rd goal in the 3-0 drubbing of Villa relegated this strike to the lower half of the list.
5. Theo Walcott vs Chelsea (Oct 29, 2011)
Catching the Chelsea defenders off-guard, Walcott’s quick recovery and lightning-fast feet helped him dribble through to goal and finish with aplomb. Unlike Arteta’s, this third goal was crucial the 5-3 victory at the Bridge. However, the sloppiness of defending on the play takes a little away from Walcott’s goal, as does the frustrating fact that he’s not frequently capable of emulating these kind of snappy dribbles.
Honorable mention: Mikel Arteta vs Manchester City (Apr 8, 2012)
This game should have been the killing blow for Manchester City, since they were 8 points below Man Utd in the title race. At the same time, Arsenal moved into the crucial third place. Arteta had a bit of a running start, and smashed the goal from 25 yards out, with very little spin on the ball. Worth a visit to YouTube.
Top 3 Players of the Year
1. Robin van Persie
What more can be said about a captain who almost single-handedly saved a team’s season? Robin has been able to stay out of the treatment room and shown us his quality over the last two years, and it’s been a real treat to watch. Wonder goals, clinical finishes, left-foot, right-foot, assists, you name it – he did it all throughout 2011-2012.
It can’t be emphasized enough that Arsenal finishing 3rd this year was primarily due to the heroics of van Persie. We have had very little offense outside of RVP’s contributions, and many points we nicked this season were down to the difference of one man. Without Robin, I am confident in saying we would not be playing CL football in 2012-2013.
Regardless of whether he stays or goes, he should go down as an Arsenal legend who has served the club faithfully and provided a lot for us during our weakest years under Wenger.
2. Mikel Arteta
Arteta makes the 4-3-3 work, and there’s a reason why Arsenal’s record takes a significant dip when he’s not in the side. He’s able to command the game from the midfield like Cesc once did, and his form and work rate were vitally important to Arsenal’s successes in 11-12. Able to make up for defensive lapses from players like Song, and able to provide a little more creativity on a regular basis than Rosicky or Ramsey, the ex-Everton player has also provided the level-headed experience that is sorely needed in the centre of the pitch.
3. Laurent Koscielny
Last season, Koscielny generally looked like a failed buy. Inconsistent performances, weak play, and being overshadowed by the far more dynamic Thomas Vermaelen, LK6 was not much more than a “Ligue 1 defender” – not exactly high praise.
But in ’11-12, Koscielny was an immense player for Arsenal; perhaps the most improved over the offseason and for me, definitely the biggest surprise personnel-wise of the campaign. It’s hard to point to one specific example in the case of a defender; the best defenders are good not because of their big tackles, but because of the consistent delivery making the tackles they need to make. This is how I would best describe Koscielny this year. While TV5 grabbed some plaudits for a few goals, notably a late winner against Newcastle, it was LK6 who was the more reliable of the two through the centre of the pitch.
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