By Rob Kelly
Optimism abounds as Arsenal’s year draws to a close but there have been peaks and troughs along the way. As 2013 edges closer we look back at some of the defining moments from an eventful 12 months for the Club.
NOVEMBER 23 - CLUB ANNOUNCES EMIRATES DEAL
Arsenal and Emirates announced one of the biggest sponsorship deals in football with the news that the airline had extended its shirt deal by five years at a cost of £150 million. As part of the deal the Gunners’ home will continue to be known as Emirates Stadium up to 2028. “It is a very important step for the Club, because it gives us the financial platform to compete more effectively and I think that will be a great benefit. It is all about what happens on the pitch and providing the funds that we need to compete at the top of the game,” chief executive Ivan Gazidis said.
NOVEMBER 17 - DERBY DELIGHT, PART TWO
Lightning couldn’t strike twice, could it? Yes it could, and in glorious fashion again after a bit of help from Emmanuel Adebayor. The former Arsenal striker gave a buoyant Tottenham the lead, and the visitors seemed in control until Adebayor was sent off for a wild lunge at Santi Cazorla. That changed the nature of the game, and goals from Per Mertesacker, Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud, Cazorla and Theo Walcott sealed another spectacular derby day win. “It was amazing to play in. It’s always a great pleasure to play in a derby, especially when you win,” Bacary Sagna said afterwards.
OCTOBER 17 - READING 5-7 ARSENAL
Where to start with this incredible Capital One Cup victory at Reading? At 4-0 down, Arsène Wenger’s men were staring into the abyss - in disarray and surely defeated. But no. A stirring second-half display took an unforgettable game to extra-time, and a Walcott-inspired Arsenal finally ran out brilliant, breathless 7-5 winners. “I’ve lost twice 7-1, once I lost 8-3 and once I won 9-3 and now 7-5. But this game was one I will remember always because it was from 4-0 down and I don't think anyone here believed that we could come back,” Andrey Arshavin said afterwards.
OCTOBER 10 - LADIES DO THE DOUBLE
Arsenal Ladies can look back at 2012 with huge pride. After a sensational unbeaten season that saw them lift the Women’s Super League title, they won the Double after beating Birmingham in the Continental Cup final. But why stop there? They have also moved serenely into the Champions League quarter-finals, where they will face ASD Torres. “Every season our aim is to win everything. The next step for us is the Champions League and we want to be successful in that while keeping up our domestic stance up,” Kim Little said. Worrying words for Arsenal’s rivals.
AUGUST 17 - VERMAELEN BECOMES CAPTAIN
There were a number of changes over the summer, and one of the most significant was the appointment of Thomas Vermaelen as captain. The Belgian international replaced the departed Robin van Persie, who joined Manchester United. “It makes me really happy and proud to be Arsenal captain - it's a real honour,” Vermaelen said. “The boss makes you captain because of the way you are, so I won’t change how I am in the dressing room or outside. I want to lead by example, and do as well as I can on the pitch.”
AUGUST 7 - CAZORLA JOINS THE CLUB
Few signings have captured the imagination like that of Santi Cazorla. The arrival of the Spain international was greeted with huge acclaim, coming soon after the additions of Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud. Cazorla soon showed what all the fuss was about with a vintage performance in pre-season against Cologne, and has earned praise from fans and pundits ever since. The diminutive playmaker has quickly become a fans’ favourite and is widely regarded as one of the best players in the Premier League. He has been quite some signing.
MAY - PAT RICE RETIRES
Arsenal waved goodbye to a true legend in May, as Pat Rice retired after 44 years with the Club. He first joined as a youth-team player in 1964, was a Double winner seven years later and captained the side to FA Cup glory in 1979. In total, Rice made 528 appearances for Arsenal, before returning as a coach after a spell at Watford. He soon became assistant manager and played a key role in helping the Club to seven major honours. “Pat has been amazing for me over the past 16 years,” Arsène Wenger said. “I’ll always be indebted to him for his expert insight into Arsenal and football as a whole.”
MAY 13 - CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FOOTBALL SECURED
The excruciatingly tense final-day victory against West Brom encapsulated a challenging 2011/12 campaign. Arsenal went into the match knowing that a win would secure an automatic place in the Champions League. Anything else could scupper their hopes. It all started so well as Yossi Benayoun gave the Gunners an early lead, but West Brom soon turned things around to lead 2-1. Andre Santos’ strike levelled matters, before a Laurent Koscielny goal after half time secured the three points. It proved vital, as Chelsea’s Champions League victory meant fourth-placed Tottenham dropped down to the Europa League.
FEBRUARY 26 - DERBY DELIGHT, PART ONE
In terms of a moment, or match, that defines a season this was it for 2011/12. Arsenal went into the north London derby 10 points behind Tottenham, and fell two goals behind within 34 minutes. But just when all hope seemed lost, Sagna halved the Gunners’ deficit and Van Persie restored parity before half time. The second half was nothing short of sensational as a Tomas Rosicky goal and Walcott’s brace secured a famous victory. The ramifications would be far-reaching, as the Gunners stormed up the table to overtake their rivals and claim third place.
JANUARY 9 - HENRY'S FAIRYTALE COMEBACK
"I hope someone isn’t going to wake me up and tell me it was a dream," said a bemused Thierry Henry, hours after that goal. After all, who could really believe it? Just three days after signing a short-term deal to return to Arsenal, the Frenchman stepped off the bench in a deadlocked FA Cup third-round tie against Leeds and stroked in the winning goal. “It was the perfect script from a perfectly special player,” Arsène Wenger said afterwards.