As another year draws to a close, Arsenal can look back with pride on a year that offers genuine cause for optimism.
There have been plenty of highlights during the last 12 months and here we look at some of the Gunners’ defining moments from 2015.
Although they missed the final month of the year through injury, there’s no doubt that Francis Coquelin and Santi Cazorla were two of Arsenal's most important players in 2015.
At first glance they are an unlikely partnership, with the former recalled from a loan spell at Charlton Athletic midway through last season and the latter more at home as an attacking midfielder. However, the duo soon clicked and provided everything the team required in the centre of the park.
"We call Francis 'the pitbull' because he’s very aggressive and always gives 100 per cent"
Coquelin is the destroyer, the feisty defensive midfielder recording incredible tackling statistics, while Cazorla is the playmaker, dictating the rhythm of the game and distributing the ball effectively in the final third.
It was an unexpected combination to begin with but became hugely effective, and January’s away win at Manchester City provided the first glimpse of what was to come from the Gunners’ new midfield pairing.
The duo’s dominant performance at the Etihad left fans, pundits and players purring, none more so than Aaron Ramsey who dubbed Cazorla “a little magician on the pitch” and hailed Coquelin’s potential to become a “top midfielder”.
Coquelin and Cazorla would go on to star in the heart of the Gunners’ midfield for the remainder of the season, and were rewarded for their fine form in May when Cazorla’s assist and Coquelin’s 11 interceptions helped Arsenal beat Aston Villa 4-0 at Wembley to lift a record 12th FA Cup.
The duo started the 2015/16 campaign in a similar vein, driving the Gunners to memorable victories over Manchester United and Bayern Munich before sustaining injuries that ruled them out until the New Year.
While Wenger will have plenty of midfield options to choose from with everyone fit again in 2016, it will be very difficult for him to not pick Coquelin and Cazorla as his first-choice pairing.
WHAT THEY SAID
“It’s amazing playing with Francis and he’s helped me a lot. He plays well, he defends well and I think he’s one of the best players in this position. We are lucky because he plays for Arsenal and I enjoy it a lot with him in this position.”
Santi Cazorla on Francis Coquelin
“It is easy to play alongside Santi because he is such a great player. We had a good chemistry last season, but there are many great players at this club that we can all play with each other. That is the great thing about this squad; anyone can play and we can still get a result. Last season with Santi was something special because we got a lot of praise, but the most important thing is that no matter who plays, we can get the result.”
Francis Coquelin on Santi Cazorla
“Santi is a very technically-gifted player, just as Francis is. We call Francis 'the pitbull' because he’s very aggressive and always gives 100 per cent. I’m pleased to be able to have those players behind me.”
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