The 2012/13 Premier League season has certainly had its fair share of ups and downs for Arsenal. A string of disappointing results in the league and in cup competitions brought forth a chorus of "club in crisis!" shouts from the media -- and even from some supporters. But now, nearly halfway through the season, we find our Club sitting fifth in the Premier League table and through to the knockout stages of the Champions League.
So what can we make of all of this? To help figure it out, we once again turned to our panel of supporters in the USA and Canada to find out their views on what has happened so far and what lies ahead in the second half of the season.
So far our panel has touched on which of the remaining competitions the Club should prioritize. But the question that remains is whether or not Arsenal can do enough for the fans to call the season a success.
Question: What must Arsenal accomplish for you to consider 2012/13 to be a successful season? And has your view of that changed since August?
Yes, other big sides have also bowed out of the League Cup, the two Manchester sides, our neighbours and current holders Liverpool, but their results were not as disappointing as the manner in which we lost. I had felt that we fielded a very strong starting XI that day, one that should have easily been able to take out the League Two side, but the opponents were more focused and had their hearts set on beating a world-class Club. Hats off to them. I do hope Bradford go on to do well in the competition and perhaps even win the cup. I admire their spirit and they have proven they have the fight in them to do so.
But it is important that the team moves on quickly from this game. There are a slew of fixtures coming up during the festive season and it is important that Arsenal set a momentum - a winning one. We are currently three points from third place in the league and are still in the FA Cup and Champions League. As I said back in August, it is important for the club financially -- and traditionally -- to finish in the top four but I also feel that winning a cup would do wonders for the morale within the club and among its fans. Chelsea showed last year that it possible to win a major trophy despite not performing as well in the league. Liverpool has done the same.
However, I would say that I hope the Club always prioritizes finishing in the top four above everything else. It is important that the Club is able to achieve that every season as although cups are a great achievement, I feel they will only temporarily satisfy fans. I can't see many being happy with just winning a cup and then fading into obscurity the following season (ie. Portsmouth, Birmingham, Liverpool). Being able to compete in the Champions League is a draw to many players and I personally would hate to ruin our record in the competition's modern history.
There are several things that need to happen before I can consider this season a success. The first is that the players show absolute commitment while they are on the pitch from now to the end of the season, regardless of who the opposition is. A top four finish in the league is also critical for this season to be considered a success. A decent run in the FA Cup or Champions League would be an added bonus. I'm sure everyone is eagerly waiting to see who we will face in Europe next year (please no Barcelona!). I may actually have to fly out and attend a final if we ever make it that far.
I suppose to answer the question, one has to define what one means by "successful." If you said at the start of the campaign that you would expect a sustained title chase and a deep run in at least two of Arsenal's cup competitions (I'm just trying to think back to August at this point), then I suppose that's where the bar remains.
And by that standard, it's difficult to be too disappointed. Yes, the title appears out of sight, and the League Cup saw Arsenal crash and burn at Valley Parade, but a Top 4 finish is still somewhat on the cards (due possibly more to the failures of our competitors than to Arsenal's own successes), the team is into the knockout stages of the Champions League, and the FA Cup has yet to involve Premiership clubs. So by that standard, things are, maybe not perfect, but chugging along nicely.
However, while I appreciate Zara's optimistic outlook, a cheery disposition in the face of adversity has never quite been my own milieu. Being successful denotes achievement, and that is not a word to be associated realistically with this Arsenal team. The club has struggled to find any form of consistency in any competition this season, and retaining a Champions League place looks less and less like the bare minimum and more like where Arsenal are shooting for. I realize this is a common gripe, and I don't mean to sound defeatist. This is a proud club with a proud tradition, and Arsenal are capable of better. This may not be the greatest squad Arsène Wenger has ever assembled, but surely this group is capable of defeating the likes of Bradford, Swansea, Aston Villa, etc. At the moment, it would be unreasonable to talk about a real run in Europe, and the fragility on display in the League Cup at Reading and then fatefully at Bradford still threatens to be exposed in the FA Cup.
At this moment in time, and I must pre-emptively apologize for not truly answering the question, it is less a matter of determining a successful season than it is about having a successful week, then another, then another. We have entered Goonerholic (TM) territory: we must take this season one day at a time and judge success on a match-to-match basis.
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