Every May, when the Premier League campaign comes to an end, supporters all over the globe have very strong opinions on how they felt the past season went for their club. And those opinions vary widely. What some view as clear positives are sometimes seen as indisputably negative by others. And what was iconic to one was mundane to another.
But there are always a handful of moments that - good or bad - become our abiding memories of a season. So we asked our panel of supporters in the USA and Canada to reflect on 2012/13 and tell us what they think they will remember about the season in the years ahead.
Question: How will you look back on the 2012/13 season -- and what stood out for you?
Overall, I think this will be a season to forget for me personally. The team got off to the roughest start in the Wenger era, winning 48 per cent of the matches played before Christmas. Even though more goals were scored, fewer goals were conceded and more points were amassed in the league than last year, there were only a handful of pivotal points in the season that I will clearly remember for years to come, and not for all the right seasons.
I had come to the realization early that this would again be a season of transition for the club especially with the player turnover in the summer, the Manchester clubs dominating the league table all season and Chelsea and Spurs having invested heavily over the summer. Even though we had added great quality to our side as well with Cazorla, Podolski, Giroud and Monreal, it was clear that we were coming up short in some positions, especially with injuries to Diaby and Wilshere and players like Sagna, Szczesny and Vermaelen being uncharacteristically out of form.
I will admit that there were times during the season when I felt like my heart was being beaten with a wooden spoon repeatedly. They may or may not have involved humbling games in certain cup competitions (please, never again). There may even have been brief moments when I doubted that the club would qualify for Champions League football again next season; the Spurs away result having been a wake-up call to keep an eye on the lot at White Hart Lane.
And then Bayern away happened. Many underestimate the importance of the match that day as we got eliminated from the Champions League anyway but I really do think it is what turned our season around. The result that day sparked a run of form we had not seen all season. Not only did this Arsenal team beat the German powerhouse on their home ground that day, they did not concede even one goal. Not many teams that have played at the Allianz Arena this season can say the same. In their final 10 matches the team recorded eight wins and two draws.
This season, we also saw a more ruthless side to the manager as he loaned out players like Santos and Chamakh and dropped the captain. This decision played an important role in the team’s run of form in the last 10 matches. The Mertesacker-Koscielny partnership helped keep five clean sheets and conceded only a single goal in each of the other five. Even though the football wasn’t visually stunning during these games, the team and manager clearly had one thing in mind and that was the result.
In addition to uncovering a formula that works in defence, this was also the season we saw Arteta establish himself as a leader both on and off the pitch, Theo become the club’s top scorer, our British talents signing new long-term contracts with the club, and our new signings quickly acclimatizing to the pace and tenacity of English football. I can’t help but feel hopeful for next season already. Bring on 2013/14.
After seeing Arsenal sell off two important players from the previous campaign before embarking on this season, I think we all expected a difficult transitional period as we looked to bed in three new signings, all in attack, which certainly inhibited our forward play. Additionally, the club faced a contract standoff with Theo Walcott, and featured Mikel Arteta in the “pivot” role in midfield, a departure from his normal role further upfield, although not outside of his tactical experience, having played there at academy level. What we got was a season that could rightly be described as somewhat bipolar.
While the season started brightly enough, with three consecutive clean sheets, we were unable to truly get our attacking game firing on all cylinders, a stagnation that seemed to creep in periodically throughout the season. The defensive solidity gave way somewhat in what seemed an attempt to stimulate more goals scored, and I suppose it did, but it also manifested itself in more goals conceded. I was in attendance as Arsenal threw away two-goal leads in consecutive matches against Schalke and Fulham, which led to draws in both instances.
Zara is correct in pointing out the importance of the win at Allianz Arena over Bayern and the effect it had on the run-in. Fresh off the back of the FA Cup exit to Blackburn and a thorough turning-over at White Hart Lane, the mood of Arsenal fans was at its nadir. We were realistically out of all four competitions. Even fourth place, which should be the absolute minimum requirement for Arsenal, seemed completely out of reach. Yet the manager reacted, dropping a mistake-prone Vermaelen (the armband going to the ever-reliant Arteta) and a perhaps complacent Szczesny, and in so doing, finding a perfect balance at the back. Koscielny’s aggression perfectly complemented Mertesacker’s thoughtful and tactical approach, and the midfield, featuring the tireless Aaron Ramsey, committed to defending. The resulting 2-0 win proved a massive shot in the arm, and while we did not advance in the Champions League, we did have a blueprint that served us well for the remaining 10 matches.
Eight won, two drawn, zero lost. If Arsenal at times struggled with goalscoring, it was offset by a renewed commitment to defending. The team that seemed leaderless had found that, as well as a solidarity that was on full display at the final whistle at St. James’ Park. This was a team that had suffered together, had faced the fire, and had come out unscathed together in the end. It was a season to forget, but it gave us something at the end that Arsenal fans haven’t had much of recently: hope for the future.
As Zara rightly summed up, this season we saw a fragile team see-saw their way through a run of mediocre results until a confidence-inspiring result gave them the motivational and disciplinary shot in the arm they needed to buckle down and rescue their campaign in the home stretch.
You could say it was just the same old same old, but the asterisk to this otherwise all-too familiar season has to be the final 10-game unbeaten run, where I think Arsène Wenger may have sensed that -- if he’s going to achieve results -- he’s simply got to compromise style for function with a side that’s lacking in depth.
I think going 10 games unbeaten (and winning eight of those) proves Wenger can implement a pragmatic approach in order to achieve positive results. Between this managerial efficacy and some increased spending power I think this season’s run-in can be a useful object lesson for the manager as he contends for silverware in the 2013-14 season: either assemble a squad that’s got the depth required to compete for honors throughout the entire season, or be prepared to make the necessary sacrifices to ensure your team wins games.
The views expressed above do not necessarily reflect those of Arsenal Football Club or Arsenal Media Group.Copyright 2013 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 5 Jun 2013