Feature

'Next season looks very promising'

Arsène Wenger's 19th season in charge proved to be another triumphant one.

Arsenal rounded off a memorable campaign in the grand manner at Wembley in the FA Cup final - securing a record-tying sixth success in the famous old competition for the boss, and his 14th honour overall with the club.

But as usual, there were plenty of highs and lows along the way.

"I have learned that we have a very promising squad ahead of next season"

Arsene Wenger

The season started how it was to end - by lifting silverware at Wembley, this time courtesy of a 3-0 win over Manchester City.

Once progression to the Champions League group stages was secured yet again, the Gunners set about mounting a serious league title bid, building on the foundation stones laid the previous year.

But a slow start to the season left Arsenal playing catch up after the winter period, which is when the season really exploded into life.

Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin formed a formidable midfield axis and the side embarked on a dazzling run - winning 17 out of 19 games and soaring to second place in the table. One of those two defeats though was against Monaco - which proved fatal for the boss's Champions League aspirations.

 

Francis Coquelin

Francis Coquelin

 

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The new year charge also proved to be too little too late in terms of the Premier League title, however the FA Cup came around just in time for Arsenal to mount a superb defence of the trophy they won so dramatically the previous year.

Hull, Brighton, Middlesbrough, Manchester United and Reading were all seen off before the best was saved for last - a 4-0 thumping in the final against Aston Villa.

After the dust had settled, the manager sat down with the Arsenal Magazine to look back over the past 10 months of action, and we asked him to hand out out his own end-of-season 'awards'.

Best home performance of the season

Just spontaneously, off the top of my head, I would say maybe the Liverpool home game in April. It was a quality game. Everything clicked, at a high pace, at a high intensity, and there were some great goals. It was a day when Mesut Ozil scored as well, and we like to see that from a direct free-kick.

 

 

I just felt it was a decisive game from us. Overall, with everything on the day, I would say that was maybe the performance of the home season for us.

Best away performance of the season

I would pick the Man City game. When we went there we had a hurdle to overcome: To beat a big team away from home. That was the game. It was done with a good quality performance and a good team spirit.

 

Santi Cazorla scores against Manchester City

Santi Cazorla scores against Manchester City

 

There was everything you want in a game, resilience was in there, fighting spirit and tactical awareness, so it was certainly the away performance of the year for us.

Goal of the season

That's a very difficult question, honestly. There are so many to choose from. Some you could say were Theo's Walcott's first goal against West Brom, Alexis Sanchez against Liverpool. There have been so many good goals, it's difficult to choose one – I wouldn't like to offend anyone - but those are the goals that come to mind.

 

Theo Walcott

 

Anyway, I always prefer the collective goals, goals that are the consequence of good passing and good movement. So you could also say the tap in from Theo Walcott to complete his hat-trick against West Brom was one of the ones I like for example. It was more of a team goal, but I must say we scored many good goals this season.

Breakthrough of the season

You would say Francis Coquelin. He is the most unexpected player to make it from January onwards. I don't think I am exaggerating if I say he convinced everybody that he played a huge part and contributed very well. Also, we bought well in the transfer market, and all those players had a good impact. I also think Gabriel will be a revelation. He didn't have many chances this season, but I am convinced he will be a top player.

 

Francis Coquelin

Francis Coquelin

 

We will see more of him next season. Also I don't want to forget players like Calum Chambers, who had a very good start to the season, and will come back to a very good level. We had players too who were out for virtually a year with injury who are coming back, like Theo and Serge Gnabry, so the squad is very strong.

Individual performance of the season

Santi Cazorla - throughout the season - was absolutely top, from the start to the finish, and he played more than 50 games. But everybody contributed. Ozil when he came back from injury, Giroud when he came back after long injury too. At the back Koscielny and Mertesacker too - they've all been great.

 

Santi Cazorla

Santi Cazorla

 

But maybe with the quality, and consistency included within that - you would say Cazorla. There were a few games this season when he was unplayable. I don't look too much at his individual brilliance, but he makes the other players good around him. That's an outstanding quality for a midfielder.

Best decision of the season

Honestly? I always drive home after a game and think about what I have done well and not so well that day. I think I have learnt to be brutally honest with myself. I make mistakes, but overall when the team is consistent and improves you feel you are doing something right.

 

Arsenal fans at the 2015 FA Cup Final

Arsenal fans at the 2015 FA Cup Final

 

What is important is that you are faithful to the style you want to play. On that front I believe people have come to the Emirates, have seen some good football games and have gone home happy, and with the feeling they have seen quality.

Most enjoyable day of the season

Well the most enjoyable day of the season is always the day you wake up after a good game the night before with a positive memory. When you feel you have done well the day before, and got the result you wanted, then of course you are happy. You want to feel that everybody inside the club is happy. Could I pick out a day like that this season? Well what you want is that feeling when you wake up the morning after winning a trophy.

 

Arsenal celebrate winning the 2015 FA Cup

Arsenal celebrate winning the 2015 FA Cup

 

You are always preparing for the next game, but you can enjoy it too at that moment. You feel you have done your job, and then you prepare for what's coming next. We have the Community Shield coming now, which will be a good game and we want to be competitive for that. Before that we have the Emirates Cup, which is against Lyon, Villarreal and Wolfsburg. We want to be ready for that so you start thinking about that straight away.

Least enjoyable day of the season

Well this season the least enjoyable day for me was when we lost against Monaco at home in the Champions League. We felt we were beaten by a team that was not better than us.

 

Arsene Wenger

Arsene Wenger

 

It was a self-inflicted defeat for us because we were not psychologically or mentally at the level to do the job well. We did not have the needed patience on the day.

Surprise of the season

Maybe it was our slow start to the season. That surprised me because we finished last season strongly. But after coming back from the World Cup it was difficult to get going again. Perhaps the surprise of the season was how much the players were affected the by the World Cup. Maybe we underestimated the mental consequences of the World Cup, and in the end we paid a heavy price for that.

Hardest team talk

To be honest I have had harder team talks to give in the past than I did this season, because this season our biggest defeat was by two goals. We didn't lose any games by more than that, which was not the case the year before. The hardest team talk is always after a big disappointment.

 

Arsène Wenger

Ars

 

You know that you can not afford to lose the next game too, so every big defeat or big disappointment is a difficult team talk because you need to get it right if you don't want to lose the next game as well. The quality of a manager is also to make the bad periods short. Where one might lose three or four games in a row, the better managers make it just one or two. You have to shorten the crisis, so the team talks after a big set back are always the most important to give, but luckily we didn't have too many of these this year.

Biggest regret of the season

I will come back to the Monaco game. That's the big regret for me because I still feel we could have gone a long way in the Champions League this year.

Biggest lesson learnt this season

What I have learnt about my team is that they have an exceptional mentality. We made some changes on the defensive front and they turned out to be very positive. The balance looks good now, in fact I would say we are close to a perfect balance in the team. Especially given the players we have coming back, like Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott, I have learned that we have a very promising squad ahead of next season.

 

Arsene Wenger talks to Theo Walcott

Arsene Wenger talks to Theo Walcott

 

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