We've kicked off our 2012/13 season review by picking 10 key moments from Arsenal's campaign.
Scroll down for part two and click here for part one.
READING A NEW SCRIPT
Arsenal had already rattled in seven goals at Reading’s Madejski Stadium this season, but they returned for a Premier League fixture on December 17 in seemingly more straitened circumstances. The Capital One Cup run that had been so superbly prolonged in Berkshire had come to a shuddering halt against League Two side Bradford eight days previously - an undoubted low point during a period in which the Gunners’ results in all competitions were decidedly mixed. A big response was needed, and that’s exactly what was delivered; Arsenal were 3-0 up within 35 minutes and four to the good within the hour. What was eventually 5-2 win - including a hat-trick from Cazorla - counted as a crucial example of ‘bouncebackability’, and Arsenal won their final two December games to see their way out of what had threatened to be a Christmas storm.
JANUARY COMEBACK KINGS
Key to Arsenal’s season was the fact that, when the chips were down, things never quite got away from them - and, in general, their reaction to adversity was exemplary. Two home games within a dramatic week late in January demonstrated the point. A 2-1 defeat at Chelsea on January 23 had looked a big blow in the Champions League race, and the picture looked gloomier when Jack Collison fired West Ham into an early lead at Emirates Stadium three days later. A Podolski thunderbolt provided an instant, and vital, response before a newly-invigorated home side blew their visitors away with four goals in a blistering 10-minute spell after the break. Spirits were high when Liverpool arrived in town the following Wednesday, but goals from Luis Suarez and Jordan Henderson promptly dampened the mood. That was until Giroud and Walcott, with his 18th of a fine season, retorted in the 65th and 67th minutes to secure the draw. Scoring goals in quick bursts was a feature of Arsenal’s season - these two games aside, see the Premier League matches with Tottenham (h), Reading (a), Newcastle (h), Norwich (h) and Wigan (h) as examples of opponents being seen off by short, devastating periods of clinical football.
A BAYERN BEGINNING
It won’t go down as one of Arsenal’s most famous European nights - it still, after all, signalled an aggregate defeat. But the 2-0 win at Bayern Munich’s Allianz Arena on March 13 will probably be seen as the defining moment in the Gunners’ campaign. A disappointing first-leg performance had seen the Germans go into the game 3-1 up, and things didn’t look much better in the league - a 2-1 defeat at White Hart Lane handing Tottenham a seven-point lead in the race for fourth place on March 3. After 10 days out of action, Arsenal came out firing in Munich – Olivier Giroud breathing life into their mission just three minutes in. The Gunners resisted home pressure after that, before scoring again through Laurent Koscielny in the dying minutes. The turnaround wasn’t quite completed, but the efficiency of the performance at both ends boded very well. It proved the catalyst for an 11-game unbeaten run that spelt a highly satisfactory end to the season.
He might not prefer it to be this way, but spring has definitely become Tomas Rosicky’s season. His dynamic return to the side towards the end of the 2011/12 campaign was widely credited as being decisive in Arsenal’s eventual Champions League qualification and, after missing the first part of 2012/13 through injury, the same can be said to apply this time around. Setting the tempo from his position at the tip of the central midfield, Rosicky's work both on and off the ball was a feature of the Gunners’ late-season unbeaten run. His brace in a tricky match at West Bromwich Albion could not have been more timely, while his first-half performance in the draw with Manchester United will live in the memory. Settling into a deeper role upon Mikel Arteta’s injury in the final game at Newcastle, Rosicky's calmness and maturity helped steer the side to the three points they required. Playing with the legs of a man seemingly far younger than 32, Tomas will hope for the full season of fitness and form that he deserves next term.
Centre back pairings can, in theory at least, only improve given time together. Towards the end of the season, Arsenal struck upon a partnership that clicked in the most timely of fashions, providing the solid base that steered the Gunners through an end-of-season run that, while not always spectacular, saw Arsène Wenger’s side prove a tough nut to crack. Laurent Koscielny had endured a frustrating season until the win at Bayern Munich, with injury and suspension denying him a consistent run in the starting line-up. He was drafted in at the Allianz Arena alongside Per Mertesacker, and the pair kept an admirable clean sheet under pressure. When they repeated the trick at Swansea three days later, it seemed Arsenal were onto something - and their partnership would be broken only once during the remainder of the campaign, when Mertesacker was suspended for the win over Norwich. Three 1-0 wins in successive late-season away games owed much to their understanding - and they even combined to decide the fixture at Fulham, Koscielny heading down for Mertesacker to apply the finish. With Koscielny himself scoring the acrobatic clincher at Newcastle on Sunday, both players could look back at two months of performances that proved absolutely critical.