After scraping back into the Champions League on the last day of 2012-2013 season, Arsenal fans hoped to push on and improve. Arsenal had a very eventful season with some very high highs and some very low lows. The North London club once again finished fourth, once again were knocked out in the round of 16 in the Champions League, but they finally broke the nine year trophy drought that has been hanging over them with an FA Cup victory.
Star Players and Results
Wenger’s team had a few star players this season. Though none of their players were better than Aaron Ramsey. Despite missing four months out through injury, the Welshman bagged 15 goals and nine assists in all competitions. The box-to-box midfielder was Arsenal’s second top scorer behind Olivier Giroud. It was more than just goals and assists with Ramsey though. The former Cardiff prodigy proved how key he was, when he was out injured. His drive from the midfield and his defensive effort was missed and the team struggled as a result. The trio of Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny, and Wojeich Szczesny were also phenomenal this season. You can’t speak about one of Laurent Koscielny or Per Mertesacker without bringing up the other. The combination improved Arsenal’s defence immensely. While the Gunners did suffer some heavy defeats, those defeats would be blamed on poor tactics, leaving the pair helpless, not on the centre-backs themselves. The Polish keeper also made huge strides this season. He ended up sharing the golden gloves with Peter Cech. Szczesny started making match-winning saves on a regular basis this season and reduced the amount of errors he made.
Two other players who had good seasons, despite receiving unwarranted or over the top criticism from fans and media, were Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud. Mesut Ozil created a chance every 28 minutes, more often than any other Arsenal player and more often than every Premier League player barring Samir Nasri, Willian, and David Silva. Ozil finished the season with seven goals and 14 assists, in all competitions. While he did not have a season worth £42.4m, Ozil had a strong season. Again despite taking some strong criticism from not only the media but his own fans, Olivier Giroud had a good season for the North London club. Sometimes his finishing was not up to scratch or his overall play wasn’t there causing frustration from fans. Still, 22 goals and 10 assists is not a bad return. The Frenchman also had to play all but two Premier League games and suffered from fatigue at times. He’s not the perfect striker and didn’t have a perfect season but he did stand out as a more than capable striker, just not a world class one.
Wenger’s team had a host of good results this season, but none come close to their extra-time cup final victory over Hull City to end their nine year trophy drought. The FA Cup winners also had big 2-0 wins over both Liverpool and Napoli early in the season. Both were not just big results, but they were some of the best performances of the season. The North London club beat local rivals Tottenham three times over the course of the season. The Gunners also beat Liverpool once again in their run for the FA Cup. Arsenal became the first English team to win at the Westfalenstadion in their 1-0 win over Borussia Dortmund.
Regrets and Disappointments
While 2013-2014 was a pretty strong season for Arsenal, it is a season with some serious regrets. The biggest regret of Wenger’s team will be the injuries they suffered, specifically the injuries to Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott. The squad suffered without Ramsey and Walcott. After losing, not only those two, but also Ozil, Koscielny, and Wilshere for extended periods, the Gunners crashed out of the title race. The other regret for the season was the inability to win a knockout tie in the Champions League. After losing the final group game to Napoli, the North Londoners were paired up with Bayern Munich in the round of sixteen. They really had very little chance to beat the German champions, but it is still a disappointment they were unable to win a knockout tie.
The disappointments of the season were the horrific losses away from home. Wenger’s team lost games to Manchester City 6-3, Liverpool 5-1, Chelsea 6-0, and Everton 3-0 – all away from home. Every one of those games was a bitter disappointment. The worst of the bunch was probably the 6-0 to Chelsea. On Arsene Wenger’s 1000th game in charge of Arsenal, the Gunners were crushed in every fashion. It was an embarrassment for Arsenal, Arsene Wenger, all of the players, and all of the fans.
Arsenal’s objective for the summer is simple, to push on and build upon this season and their FA Cup victory. Arsene Wenger has two huge needs that must be addressed this summer and will have a third if Bacary Sagna leaves, which looks likely. The Gunners are desperate for a defensive midfielder and an upgrade upon Giroud at centre-forward. Obviously, they will also need to replace Bacary Sagna if he leaves. Arsene Wenger will want to avoid losing players as every team does, but with eight first team players signing new deals this season (nine if you count Ozil singing his contract) it does not look like the North London club will have too many players looking to leave. The only real concerns, outside of Sagna are for squad players like Vermaelen and Podolski. If Arsenal can get real world class players at defensive midfield and striker, as well as add depth to their squad, they can become serious title contenders.
While there are some regrets in Arsenal’s season, it should be considered a success. The FA Cup winners recorded their highest points total (79) in six years and got the monkey off their back by breaking their nine year trophy drought. Arsene Wenger showed the ambition fans have been begging them to show by splashing £42.4m on Mesut Ozil. The play of the team was noticeably better than it has been the last couple of years, especially when they were fully fit. While there will be many people thinking what if this, what if that, this season should be remembered for the great things that did happen.