Arsenal Season Review: Have the Gunners Progressed?

Arsenal Season Review: Have the Gunners Progressed?

At the end of last season Arsenal went on another late run to scrape into fourth place.  Yet, last season was different from many in the past.  The Gunners finally ended their nine year trophy drought, and, while they did fall away, had been atop of the league more days than any other team in the Premier League. Add the summer signings, specifically the signing of Alexis Sanchez, and there was a lot of optimism from Arsenal fans going into the season.

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Arsenal did a very good job of squeezing any and all optimism out of their fans early in the season.  They started off with only two wins in their first eight games.  Draws to Leicester, Hull, and Everton killed any possible momentum early on.  Injuries to key members of the squad, like Laurent Koscielny, Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey, Olivier Giroud, and Mikel Arteta, meant Arsenal’s poor form got even worse.  Losses to Manchester United, Swansea, and Chelsea dropped them further down to ninth.  The low point of the season came when they imploded and lost 3-2 to Stoke. That seemed to be the turning point.  They won three of their last four games in 2014 while integrating both Francis Coquelin and Hector Bellerin into the team.

The 2015 part of the season was much different to the 2014 part for Arsenal.  Despite losing on New Years’ Day to Southampton, Arsenal have been the form team of 2015.  Wins away to Manchester City and Manchester United (in the FA Cup) were huge results for the team.  Their eight game winning run, which included a 4-1 demolishing of Liverpool, pushed them up the table, where they eventually finished third.  2015 hasn’t been all good for the Gunners as it did include crushing losses to Monaco and Tottenham. The season ended very well for them as they retained the FA Cup, making Arsenal the most successful team in the competition’s history.

The team’s season has had its ups and downs, but really was another positive season.  Alexis Sanchez has come in and proved that he is a world class player.  The Chilean scored 25 goals in his debut season, and showed he can come up in the big moments with goals against Manchester City, Liverpool, and three goals in the FA Cup final and semi-final.  Mesut Ozil has adjusted to the Premier League and has proved his quality this season creating more chances per 90 minutes than any other player in the Premier League.  The emergence of Hector Bellerin and Francis Coquelin have been have been huge positives this season.  The emergence of the Frenchman in particular was a turning point, as his ability to screen the back four has been vital for the Gunners.

I think most people that follow Arsenal would say that they have progressed this season.  They’ve finished in the top three and they’ve won the FA Cup for the second year running.  They may have finished on a lower points tally than last season, but just watching the team, it’s obvious that they have progressed.  They improved their record in the “big games”, something that they desperately needed to do after last season, they went on their longest winning run since The Invincibles, and, after nine years of no silverware, they’ve won another trophy.  But the best indicator is just watching the team on the pitch.  Just watching them, they’re clearly a better side than they have been in the past.  The team balance is much better.  They can attack and they can defend.  The team is more complete now than it has been in a long time.  Another indicator of progress is that, bar maybe goalkeeper, there aren’t any huge weaknesses that all Arsenal fans think they need to address over the summer.  There are places they can improve, but nowhere that they are desperate for a player.

If I was grading the season, I’d give it a B+, with the poor first half of the season and the loss to Monaco bringing the grade down.  While there were those trying parts of the season, it was ultimately a positive one for Arsenal.