By Rob Kelly
Optimism abounds as Arsenal’s year draws to a close but there have been numerous peaks and troughs along the way. As 2012 edges closer we look back at some of the defining moments from an extraordinary 12 months for the Club.
DECEMBER 10 - THE CLUB'S 125 CELEBRATIONS
Arsenal celebrated their 125th anniversary by paying tribute to heroes past and present on an emotional day at the Emirates. After unveiling statues of Herbert Chapman, Thierry Henry and Tony Adams, the Club welcomed Everton for the commemorative game. A number of Arsenal legends were presented to a packed stadium, referee Howard Webb used a sixpence to decide the kick-off and the great grandchildren of Club founder David Danskin took out the match ball. To cap off a memorable occasion for everyone associated with the Gunners, Van Persie fired in a sublime volley to claim three points for Wenger’s side.
OCTOBER 29 - CHELSEA 3-5 ARSENAL
The Gunners’ revival had started to build momentum after four successive victories, but the acid test of how far they had progressed would come at Stamford Bridge. Despite trailing 2-1 at half time, a reinvigorated Arsenal stormed out after the break to take the lead through goals from Santos and Walcott, before Mata fired in a late equaliser. However, a Terry slip gifted Van Persie the chance to put Wenger’s men ahead again, and the Dutch striker completed a wonderful hat trick with a last-gasp strike. Arsenal truly were back.
SEPTEMBER 25 - ARSENAL LADIES COMPLETE THE TREBLE
Laura Harvey’s side secured an historic Treble with a 4-1 victory against Birmingham City in the Continental Cup after goals from Ellen White, Jayne Ludlow and a Rachel Yankey brace. In an incredible season, Arsenal beat Birmingham to the Super League title by three points and won the FA Women’s Cup too. “These are really exciting times - we have a batch of young players who have stepped up this season and they will get better and better,” Harvey said.
AUGUST 30/31 - WENGER'S LATE SUMMER SIGNINGS
With the clock ticking down to the transfer deadline, Wenger made a number of late moves. The signings of Santos, Mertesacker, Arteta, Benayoun and Park - all full internationals – immediately injected greater depth and experience to Arsenal’s squad and led to a major upturn in form as the team climbed the table.
AUGUST 28 - MANCHESTER UNITED 8-2 ARSENAL
An injury-hit, depleted Arsenal side suffered the worst defeat of Wenger’s reign at Old Trafford. Despite the painful nature of the result, the Gunners’ travelling fans were widely praised for their vociferous support. Afterwards, Wenger admitted his squad was short in key areas, prompting him to re-enter the transfer market.
AUGUST 15-24 - CESC FABREGAS AND SAMIR NASRI LEAVE
After long-term speculation over his future, Fabregas returned Barcelona just two days after the start of the new season. The Spaniard made 303 appearances for the Club after joining in 2003, scoring 57 goals, and is widely regarded as having developed into one of the world’s best midfielders under Wenger’s tutelage. A week later Nasri also left the Emirates, moving to Manchester City in a big-money deal.
APRIL ONWARDS - STAN KROENKE INCREASES MAJORITY SHAREHOLDING
An Arsenal director since September 2008, Mr Kroenke made an offer for the Club in April. He had increased his majority shareholding to 66.64 per cent by June and it now stands at 66.82 per cent. Mr Kroenke purchased the shares of Danny Fiszman, shortly before the long-serving director’s tragic death at the age of 66 in April.
FEBRUARY 27 - ARSENAL 1-2 BIRMINGHAM
Wenger’s side were heavy favourites to win their first trophy in six years against struggling Birmingham in the Carling Cup Final, but they went behind to Zigic’s 28th-minute strike. Van Persie restored parity on the stroke of half-time with a sublime volley, but much as Arsenal pressed in the second half, they could not break down the stubborn Blues. With the game seemingly destined for extra-time, a defensive mix-up gifted Martins a heartbreaking late winner. It proved to be a turning point, as the Gunners won just three times in their last 14 games.
FEBRUARY 16 - ARSENAL 2-1 BARCELONA
Coming just 11 days after the result at St James’ Park, few gave Arsenal much hope against the imperious Catalans in their Champions League last-16 first leg. David Villa fired Barcelona in front after 26 minutes but the resilient Gunners refused to buckle. With Jack Wilshere in dominant form, Wenger’s side stormed back to claim a famous victory with goals from Van Persie and Arshavin. The Gunners went on to lose the second leg at the Nou Camp but proved they could beat the cream of Europe.
FEBRUARY 5 - NEWCASTLE 4-4 ARSENAL
Arsène Wenger’s side raced into a four-goal lead after just 26 minutes following strikes from Walcott, Djourou and a Van Persie brace. But Djourou’s injury and Diaby’s sending off five minutes after the break changed the course of the game and Newcastle took advantage to complete a late comeback in a result that showed both the best and the worst of the Gunners.