Arsenal's 125th year was as special as it was challenging. The pessimist might focus only on the low points, but without question, there were some remarkable highs.

We witnessed big wins and felt crushing losses. We welcomed new faces and said farewell to old friends. But despite some tough times, as the year went on we undoubtedly experienced a renewed sense of optimism.

Here is a month-by-month look back at the year that was.

January - A star returns

10/11: West Ham United 0-3 Arsenal - Robin van Persie

It took only 13 minutes for Arsenal to grab their first goal of the New Year - appropriately, it belonged to Robin van Persie. Arsenal would score twice more in that 3-0 win at Birmingham and were firing on all cylinders. Second place in the Premier League was within reach, but Manchester City's defense-only tactics at Emirates Stadium four days later saw the game end 0-0. Two disappointing performances followed - a draw in the FA Cup against Leeds and an away loss to Ipswich in the first leg of the Carling Cup Semi-Final.

Arsenal bounced back behind an in-form Van Persie. The Dutchman netted twice against West Ham and picked up a hat-trick against Wigan - the first of his career. The month ended positively: Arsenal moved up to second in the league, dispatched Leeds and Huddersfield in the FA Cup and overcame a feisty Ipswich to advance to the Carling Cup Final.

February - Ups and downs

10/11: Arsenal 2-1 FC Barcelona - Andrey Arshavin

A gutsy win over Everton kept things on track, but the infamous 4-4 draw at Newcastle sounded the alarms. Despite cruising to a 4-0 lead in the first 26 minutes, the home side responded in the second half with four late goals to stun the Arsenal players, manager and supporters alike.

But Arsenal bounced back against Wolves - courtesy of a Van Persie brace - which set up one of the most memorable games in Club history. After falling behind 0-1 to Barcelona in the first half of their Champions League tie, Arsenal responded with two late goals from Van Persie and Andrey Arshavin. Laurent Koscielny played the game of his career and kept Lionel Messi in his pocket the entire game.

Arsenal were the hottest team in England, and the only club still in the running for four trophies. But after a 1-1 draw against League One side Leyton Orient in the FA Cup and a difficult 1-0 win over Stoke, things started to turn. The month then ended in the most disappointing of ways with a 2-1 loss to Birmingham in the Carling Cup Final.

March - Confidence slides

Conor Henderson against Leyton Orient

A 5-0 thrashing Leyton Orient was the lone bright spot of the month. A frustrating 0-0 draw to Sunderland was the pre-cursor to two of the biggest games of the season.

Hopes were high for the second leg of the Barcelona tie. And after 52 minutes, Arsenal had the lead on aggregate and were closing in on a monumental achievement. But soon after, Van Persie was shown a second yellow for ‘wasting' a second of referee Massimo Busacca's precious time. And despite playing valiantly for the rest of the game, much like in 2006, a 10-man side can only last so long against the Catalans.

Out of the Carling Cup. Out of the Champions League. And then out of the FA Cup after a 2-0 loss to Man United. Adding insult to numerous injuries, we dropped two points at West Brom to put a serious dent in our title hopes.

April - Sorrow and frustration

Daniel Fiszman

An awful 0-0 draw at home to Blackburn saw Arsenal fall further behind the league leaders. They did rebound to win 3-1 at Blackpool, but any sense of redemption was immediately overshadowed by the death of Club Director Danny Fiszman. The longtime Club servant played a leading role in the Club's move from Highbury to Emirates Stadium.

Before he died, Fiszman made one more dramatic move. He sold his shares to fellow board member Stan Kroenke, which put the American on track to become the Club's majority shareholder.

But frustration was the name of the game for the rest of April. Arsenal looked to have secured a big win over Liverpool at home, but had to settle for a draw after conceding a late penalty. How late? Three minutes after injury time was supposed to expire.

Looking for redemption, Arsenal built a 3-1 first half lead at Spurs, but ended up conceding twice to drop another two points. The game was immediately followed by a crushing loss to Bolton which effectively ended any remaining hopes for a trophy.

May - A painful end

10/11: Arsenal 1-0 Manchester United - Aaron Ramsey

But then a funny thing happened. Despite the doldrums and loss of confidence, Arsenal beat Man United 1-0 at home on the back of Aaron Ramsey's first goal since his horrible injury the previous February. The title was out of reach, but the pride was still there.

Unfortunately, the wheels soon came off. A loss at Stoke followed by a home loss to Aston Villa and a draw at Fulham meant that Arsenal would finish in fourth place. And it set up what would become one of the most stressful - and short - off seasons in recent memory.

June - Tabloid time

Cesc Fabregas

June was a month full of rumor and speculation. Virtually all of the chatter was about the future of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri. But despite all the talk, nothing would be resolved for another two months.

July - A short break ends


Just 52 days after the final game of the 2010/11 season, Arsenal's pre-season began. The Club shied away from the usual Austrian experience to take a quick tour of Asia featuring warm-up matches against a Malaysia XI Chinese Super League side Hangzhou Greentown.

The next event was a trip to Germany where newly-signed forward Gervinho made an impressive debut with two goals against FC Cologne. Emirates Stadium re-opened for business a week later with the 2011 Emirates Cup. Despite the home-hemisphere advantage, Arsenal failed to raise the trophy after settling for draws against Boca Juniors and Thierry Henry's New York Red Bulls.

The Cesc and Samir Nasri saga continued without resolution, but Arsenal did say farewell to the last player from the Invincibles squad - Gael Clichy - who left for Manchester City.

August - A horrid start

Mikel Arteta

Arsenal's unbeaten pre-season run came to an end against Benfica in the Eusebio Cup, and confusion about the status of both Cesc and Nasri continued. Making matters worse, Jack Wilshere developed what originally appeared to be a minor ankle injury, so the once well-stocked midfield had suddenly become rather bare.

But reinforcements would arrive. First came the signing of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, a 17-year-old midfielder from Southampton. That was quickly followed by the news that Arsenal's Japanese prodigy Ryo Miyaichi was granted a work permit and would be able to stay in England rather than go out on loan.

The actual season kicked off on August 13th at Newcastle. Despite dominating the game, Arsenal left with just a single point after another controversial draw against the Barcodes.

The month's biggest story occurred the following day when the protracted transfer saga involving Cesc was finally decided. The former captain returned to his hometown club after eight seasons in North London. Within a week and half, two other players would also make their exits: Emmanuel Eboue and Nasri to Galatasary and Man City respectively.

Balancing the good with the bad, Arsenal overcame Udinese to secure a spot in the Champions League Group Stage for the 14th consecutive year.

But Arsenal's worst start ever in the Premier League had begun. A loss to Liverpool at home hurt, but it was nothing compared to the 8-2 loss at Old Trafford. Working quickly to fill the holes in the squad Arsène Wenger brought in five new players in the final two days of the transfer window: Ju-young Park, Andres Santos, Per Mertesacker, Yossi Benayoun and Mikel Arteta.

September - Finding their feet

Andrey Arshavin and Robin van Persie

The month opened amid an international break, which gave several of the new players a chance to become a bit more familiar with their surroundings. All five would be in the squad against Swansea, although it was a goal from Andrey Arshavin and - I'd like to believe anyway - the presence of yours truly that sparked the team's first Premier League win of the season.

A draw in the Champions League against Borussia Dortmund preceded perhaps the most bewildering Arsenal performance of the year: two second-half own goals leading to a 4-3 loss to Blackburn. But the loss served as a wake-up call and the team responded with three straight wins.

October - Confidence returns

Arsenal celebrate the win at Chelsea

October started with an exasperating loss in the North London derby and - perhaps more crucially - the loss of Bacary Sagna for three months. The Frenchman joined a growing list that meant - somewhat ironically - that the only healthy member of the first-choice back four was Kieran Gibbs.

But a two-week international break let some of the walking limping wounded get healthy. And by the time League play resumed ... there was something different about this team. Arsenal won four straight and displayed the kind of assurance and mettle that was lacking at the end of the previous campaign.

The game against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge was the icing on the confidence cake. Robin van Persie's hat-trick highlighted Arsenal's fifth straight win, and the Club continued their meteoric rise up the table.

November - On a roll

11/12: Arsenal 3-0 West Bromwich Albion - Thomas Vermaelen

In recent years, November has been a brutal month for Arsenal, but not this time around. The team's unbeaten run continued with draw against Marseille and another three-game winning streak against West Brom, Norwich and Dortmund. A draw to Fulham was disappointing, but still extended the unbeaten run in the league to six games.

In Europe, things couldn't have gone much better. The win over Dortmund combined with an Olympiacos win over Marseille meant Arsenal not only sealed a trip to the Champions League knockout stage for the 12th consecutive season, but also clinched the top spot in the group with one game to go.

The only downside to the month was a tough loss to Man City in the Carling Cup. It was a disappointing loss to be sure, but the young squad played more than admirably against a very experienced - and expensive - City side.

December - Where we are

11/12: Arsenal 1-0 Everton - Robin van Persie

Arsenal stormed back to a huge road win - 4-0 at Wigan. But as the unbeaten run in the Premier League continued, but with qualification in Europe already assured, the run in the Champions League came to a halt. In addition to losing the game, Arsenal lost another full-back to injury.

But that would not dampen celebrations later in the week. Arsenal marked 125 years with a huge fete surrounding the game against Everton. And the party became an even bigger occasion when Van Persie scored the game winner in incredible fashion. The win pushed the Club into the Top Four for the first time this season - up 13 places in less than three months.

But the unbeaten run wouldn't last. The holiday season brought with it the usual bout of fixture congestion: four games in 14 days. Another meeting with Man City resulted in the same scoreline as before: a 1-0 loss. The game was not without controversy, but it once again showed this team can play with anyone.

A win against Aston Villa put us back on track, and saw Van Persie tie Thierry Henry for the most goals in a calendar year. Arsenal played well against Wolves, but luck was elusive, and the match ended in a draw. But the year would end on a high note. Arsenal topped QPR as Van Persie broke Henry's scoring record ... and Arsenal finished 2011 in the Top Four.

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30 Dec 2011