We examine the 2007/08 season and focus on what happened, when and where, the stats and the facts.
Arsenal, parading new signing Bacary Sagna, begin the new season with a home match against Fulham, and concede quickly, before a second-half Robin van Persie penalty draws the Gunners level. A late Alexander Hleb winner gives Arsène Wenger’s side a winning start to the campaign. A week later, Van Persie nets again at Ewood Park, but a howler from Jens Lehmann gifts Rovers a point. On a boiling hot Bank Holiday weekend, newly moneyed Manchester City are edged out by a single Cesc Fabregas goal. The Gunners qualify for the Champions League group stages, hammering Sparta Prague 5-0 on aggregate. New striker Eduardo nets his first Gunners goal in the second leg.
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A splendid month for Arsenal, who rise to the summit of the Premier League thanks to some stellar displays. Fabregas, Tomas Rosicky and Emmanuel Adebayor put Portsmouth to the sword at the Emirates and at White Hart Lane, despite falling behind to a Gareth Bale free kick, Arsenal turn on the style in the second half with a majestic display. Adebayor equalises with a soaring header, Fabregas thunders the Gunners ahead from 20 yards, and Adebayor’s stunning volley gives Arsenal an excellent 3-1 win. Relegation-bound Derby are routed 5-0, with Abou Diaby’s sumptuous 30-yarder the pick of the bunch, and at the end of the month a Robin van Persie header gives the Gunners all three points at West Ham. Arsenal begin their Carling Cup campaign with a 2-0 victory over Newcastle, and pulverise in-form Sevilla 3-0 in their first Champions League group stage match.
The Gunners edge out Sunderland in a 3-2 thriller, with Robin van Persie netting a brace. Arsène Wenger claims the Adebayor/Van Persie partnership can be “the most prolific in the Premier League this season”. Unfortunately, the Dutchman sustains an injury on international duty for Holland a few days later and misses the next two months of the campaign. Initially, Arsenal cruise on without him, defeating Bolton, but then, despite dominating large periods of the game at Anfield, can only grab a 1-1 draw with Adebayor the lone striker. Occasional glitches such as these will eventually cost the Gunners dear at season’s end. Eduardo nets two crackers at Bramall Lane in the Carling Cup in a 3-0 win over Sheffield United, and Arsenal continue to motor on in Europe, winning 1-0 at Steaua Bucharest and then crushing Slavia Prague 7-0.
In the league, William Gallas scores a late leveller in a thrilling 2-2 draw at home with Manchester United. The Gunners fall behind twice, with Fabregas netting the first equaliser. Arsenal then cruise past Reading away from home, with Adebayor, Hleb and Mathieu Flamini grabbing fine goals, before ending November with a 2-0 victory at the Emirates against Wigan. The Gunners suffer their first defeat in any competition, losing 3-1 away to Seville in the Champions League.
Arsenal ensure they progress safely through the group stages of the Champions League after Diaby and Nicklas Bendtner goals ensure a 2-1 home win against Steaua Bucharest. AC Milan lie in wait in the first knockout round. In the league the Gunners suffer their first defeat – a 2-1 reversal against Middlesbrough. That blip aside, there are excellent London derby wins against Chelsea (Gallas heads the winner against his old club) and Tottenham, with substitute Bendtner heading the winner with his first touch of the ball. The final game of the year sees Eduardo bamboozle the Everton defence with a clever brace in an emphatic 4-1 win. He’d already netted a double in Arsenal’s Carling Cup win against Blackburn a couple of weeks earlier. "He can be our new match winner," claimed Wenger.
Despite press speculation linking Nicolas Anelka with a move back to Arsenal, Wenger declines to sign the mercurial Frenchman, who instead joins Chelsea. "We’ve got more than enough striking options here," insists Wenger, whose team continues to fire on all cylinders, aside from a frustrating 1-1 draw at home with Birmingham. There are back-to-back 3-0 wins against Fulham and Newcastle in the league, with the pick of the bunch on the goal stakes smashed in by Mathieu Flamini from 30 yards against Newcastle, who Kevin Keegan had recently rejoined as manager. In fact, the Magpies are sick of the sight of Arsenal by the end of the month, after suffering another 3-0 beating in the FA Cup fourth round at the Emirates. Arsenal’s interest in the Carling Cup ends after a 5-1 defeat by Tottenham in the semi-final second leg at White Hart Lane.
The month starts well for the Gunners, with Eduardo and Adebayor combining magnificently in a 3-1 away win at Manchester City. Philippe Senderos and Adebayor goals do for Blackburn, before Arsenal’s season starts to unravel. Either side of the frustrating 0-0 home draw with AC Milan in the Champions League, a 4-0 FA Cup fifth round defeat at Old Trafford is followed a week later by the infamous 2-2 draw at Birmingham. Theo Walcott’s first two league goals for the Gunners are forgotten after the horrific injury sustained by Eduardo, Gael Clichy’s last-minute error - which gives Birmingham the chance to equalise from the spot - and skipper Gallas’s on-pitch sulk at the final whistle. It will prove to be the turning point of Arsenal’s league season.
The Gunners put the nightmare of St Andrews behind them with a stunning 2-0 away win in the San Siro, which propels them into the Champions League quarter finals. Fabregas thunders in the opener from outside the box, before Adebayor slips in a late second goal, leading Arsène Wenger to proclaim: "This is one of the most famous nights in the club’s history."
Tabloid rumours surface about the futures of Flamini and Hleb – linked with moves to AC Milan and Barcelona respectively. Arsenal draw successive games against Aston Villa, Wigan and Middlesbrough, before losing a crucial away game at Stamford Bridge, despite taking the lead through a Sagna header. The month ends with a morale-boosting 3-2 away win against Bolton, when all had seemed lost with the Gunners 2-0 down at the Reebok Stadium. Fabregas scrambles in a late, late winner.
Both Champions League quarter final matches against Liverpool are epic clashes (the first game ends in a 1-1 draw at the Emirates), but ultimately Arsenal crash out 5-3 on aggregate after a bewildering night at Anfield. Diaby rifles Arsenal into the lead following a superb interchange of passes, before Fernando Torres turns on the style for Liverpool. Adebayor’s goal following a scintillating run from Walcott looks to have done the job, but two late Liverpool goals send the Gunners out. In the league, there’s also heartbreak at Old Trafford when Manchester United fight back to win 2-1 after Adebayor’s goal had given Arsenal the lead. Robin van Persie returns to scoring form as Arsenal run riot at relegated Derby, running out 6-2 winners.
Despite the crushing disappointments of April, Arsenal rally well with end-of-season wins against Everton and Sunderland. Bendtner heads a fine winner at home against the Toffees, and a characteristic Walcott gallop and finish grabs three points against Sunderland. The Gunners finish third, but Wenger is left to rue the crucial injuries to both Eduardo and Van Persie, which robbed the Gunners of their top strikers for long periods of the season. The Gunners only lost three league matches in the entire campaign, finishing four points behind winners Manchester United and two behind runners-up Chelsea.
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