From epic European nights to high-stakes Premier League battles, Arsenal supporters witnessed some spectacular football matches in 2013.
The 2-0 win over Bayern Munich at Allianz Arena will go into the books as one of the biggest wins in recent memory. And in the emphatic 2-0 win over Liverpool in November, we saw two sensational goals in the top-of-the-table clash.
Our panel already weighed in on their highlights of 2013, but this time we asked them to look into the near-future and tell us which games they have already circled on their brand new 2014 calendars.
Question: Which fixture are you most looking forward to in 2014?
Maybe I’m still just smarting from the six goals we shipped against City, but to me the reverse with them on March 29 has got to be Arsenal’s biggest fixture of 2014 because of the impact it could have on the Premiership title. Both Manchester City and Chelsea are slowly solidifying their status as title contenders, so points taken from games against other contenders are going to be at a serious premium come the end of March.
Add to that the embarrassment City inflicted upon us by putting six past our vaunted defense, combined with the fact that we’ll be playing this game at the Emirates and I think we’ll have a bit of a grudge match element to go with an already high stakes, potentially title-deciding scenario. Just without the nine goals, hopefully.
Points taken from games against other contenders are going to be at a serious premium come the end of March.
Next in line I’d have to say I’m looking forward to the trip to White Hart Lane in mid-March, certainly not because of the scenery, but because I feel even three months away that it will present Arsenal with a chance to compound Tottenham’s turmoil, widen the gap between the two clubs heading into spring and hopefully give us momentum going into a cringe-worthy string of tough fixtures (come to think of it, that will probably be our “easiest” fixture over the course of a month).
Maybe it’s because of that crush of games against top-ranked opposition that I can’t get especially excited about any one of our visits to Bayern, Chelsea or Everton, so in the end the prospect of North London bragging rights wins out for me.
It is hard to look too far ahead because you have to focus equally on each opponent and move on to the next one only after you have beaten the previous one. That one game at a time mentality is really key as you do not want the players to get carried away with title aspirations or counting points on the table. You tell the players that they are in a position that winning their remaining matches will confirm them as league champions and approach every match as one you can win.
Selfishly I am looking forward to two matches, away at Stamford Bridge and a week later at home against Manchester City. They are big matches, but they are matches that I will be flying over to see. For me they are massive because they are against top four opposition. By that same logic away to Liverpool (early February) and Everton (early April) must be important as at the time of writing my response they are tied or within two points of Arsenal.
I should mention that my response is focused on the Premier League. The FA Cup can be a crapshoot depending on who you draw. Arsenal drew Spurs at home, which is the hardest draw for a Premier League club in Round Three. We also drew the Champions League holders in the Round of 16. Focusing on the Premier League is key because that is the one trophy where undeniably the trophy drought is over. If Arsenal won the FA Cup, they could be labeled as having a lucky draw (if they got all easy matches after Spurs). Winning the Champions League is a bridge too far, so I take a win over Bayern as confidence building, but a loss is freeing up more rest time to help Arsenal in the Premier League.
The match I'm most eager to see this year is the rematch in Bavaria.
Arsenal's 2-0 win over Bayern Munich last spring was the catalyst for the Gunners' great run of form since. On that frozen night in Munich, Arsenal frustrated Bayern with their stellar team defense, forcing the Germans to take 15 of their 23 shots from outside the 18 yard box. Bayern only ended up taking one shot in a real dangerous position and that was blocked by Koscielny. Keeping a clean sheet against the eventual Champions League winners was no small feat but scoring two goals against them was in many ways more impressive.
After the Arsenal match, Bayern beat Juventus 4-0 on aggregate and Barcelona 7-0 on aggregate. The fact that Bayern allowed Arsenal to score three goals over the two legs has to be the main reason why Jerome Boateng bemoaned the fixture saying "They're the toughest opponents we could have had. They'll be totally up for it after what happened last year. Both matches will be very intense."
So for me, this match will be Arsenal come full circle and a true measure of how far the Gunners have come in a year.
The views expressed above are those of the writers and do not necessarily reflect those of Arsenal Football Club or Arsenal Media Group.Copyright 2014 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 2 Jan 2014