In the first instalment of our 2012/13 season review, we've picked 10 key moments from Arsenal's campaign.
Scroll down for part one and click here for part two.
A NEW START
It hadn’t been an easy summer for Arsenal. The departures of Robin van Persie and Alex Song had, understandably, raised question marks in supporters’ minds about the Gunners’ ability to compete for honours. On the flip side, there was curiosity as to how new signings Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla would fare in their debut Premier League campaigns as an expectant Emirates Stadium crowd settled in for the season opener against Sunderland on August 18. They saw Cazorla set the tone for what would be an outstanding personal season in which he played more games than any other Arsenal player, while Giroud - despite missing a couple of presentable chances - demonstrated his nose for an opportunity. There was also the first clean sheet of several early-season shut0outs, a theme that would return in timely fashion at the end of the campaign. The game itself finished goalless, but a string of fresh narratives had been set in train.
UP AND RUNNING
Two early-season clean sheets had been well and good, but there was something lacking at the other end - an Arsenal goal. With Liverpool in a similar early transition to the Gunners, Anfield seemed as good a place as any to break the duck. As it happened, those who travelled were able to celebrate twice. Podolski played an incisive one-two with Cazorla before getting his season, along with that of the team, up and running, before returning the favour for the little Spaniard to break his own duck midway through the second period. If Arsenal had been feeling their way towards a steelier side, it was comforting to know that they could still prove devastating further forwards.
OLIVIER SETTLES IN
Whichever way you look at it, Robin van Persie’s were big boots to fill. As the season developed, it became apparent that his goalscoring shoes would be filled by a pleasing division of labour between Arsenal’s attacking players - four of whom reached double figures - but early on the pressure, even if it was more external than internal, was undoubtedly on new striker Olivier Giroud. The French international felt his way into English football with some promising early performances and a Capital One Cup goal against Coventry, but a Premier League goal - which never felt too long in coming - was needed to genuinely settle him in. That arrived on October 6, and it was a big one, turning home a Podolski cross at Upton Park to equalise Mohamed Diame’s opener and set Arsenal fair for a vital 3-1 win. Ten more top-flight goals would duly follow in a productive first season for the ex-Montpellier man.
JACK IS BACK
The sheer volume of the cheers upon the teams’ announcement at Emirates Stadium on October 27 said it all. Jack Wilshere was back in the Arsenal side for the Premier League fixture against QPR - taking his place for the first time since the 2011 Emirates Cup - and the lift around the Gunners’ home was tangible. It was as if the midfielder had never been away as he put in an increasingly influential shift, being named man of the match by Arsenal.com readers in a 1-0 win. His remarkably swift return to form would prove vital in a tough winter for the Gunners. On several occasions his energy and verve would make the different in tough attritional match - not least the 1-0 FA Cup win over Swansea in January, in which he capped a remarkable individual display with a superb winner. His influence was limited in the season’s latter stages by a slight injury, but the importance and success of his return was undoubted.
HERE FOR THE LONG HAUL
There was still around half of 2012/13 still to run when Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs, Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Carl Jenkinson and - a month later - Theo Walcott all penned long-term deals with the Gunners, but the impact will be felt well beyond this year. The commitment of the British sextet, all firm friends, ensured two things. First a strong team spirit continued to grow as the campaign developed, without the distraction of any question marks about possible departures. Secondly, the Gunners enter the close season transfer window secure in the knowledge that key assets are in north London to stay.