This story first appeared in the February 2016 edition of the Arsenal Magazine.
This month's debate, which was the best goal in 2015? An Arsenal fan and a commentator have their say on the matter.
When it comes to choosing the best goal from any set period of time, there is a perennial struggle in whether to pick out the eye-catching powerful efforts, or one with more involved team play. Thankfully there was one last season that managed to find its way in between the two
Arsenal went into their home game against West Ham on a good winning run, but with most of the previous victories being owed to efficiency going forward rather than the bold, purposeful attacking play we like to associate with the Gunners.
"The game itself ended up being a fairly routine 3-0 win, and the brilliance of that Giroud strike and the play leading up to it have been somewhat lost among the goals in the more significant games"
The first half had been the complete opposite of the recent performances. They had flown forward at times, creating some great chances and playing with an energy that had been absent for a while.
The main reason for the first half of that was Aaron Ramsey’s return to the side, in his favoured box-to-box midfield position with Mesut Ozil at number 10. In their positional homes they combine brilliantly together, even more so when they play off Olivier Giroud up front. It was no surprise the goal involved all three.
Per Mertesacker sent a short pass to Ramsey near the centre circle. On the half turn, the Welshman instantly sent a strong ball right through to Ozil, who had drifted slightly towards the right. Ozil exchanged a one-two with Giroud as Ramsey, who had started his run as soon as he released the initial pass, burst into the space ahead of them.
Ozil sent Ramsey the return ball. It is unclear whether Ramsey’s touch was just a miscontrol or another one touch knock into Giroud, now on the left side of the box (I’m inclined to say it was intentional but then, there may be a certain amount of bias involved). Giroud controlled the ball with the outside of his left foot, opened himself up into the space and then, almost completely unexpectedly, smacked the ball right into the far corner of the goal with exceptional power.
It clipped the inside of the post as it flew in, as Adrian was barely able to get close to it, despite being at full stretch.
The game itself ended up being a fairly routine 3-0 win, and the brilliance of that Giroud strike and the play leading up to it have been somewhat lost among the goals in the more significant games. But the sight of such decisive, instinctive and high quality one and two touch play, ending in such a magnificent finish really was quite something.
Arsenal Player commentator
For the occasion, the situation in the game and the element of surprise, I think Alexis Sanchez’s superb goal in the FA Cup final deserves to be named as Arsenal’s best of 2015.
Arsène Wenger’s team were excellent at Wembley, dismantling Aston Villa with ease. But despite the Gunners’ domination, they had only Theo Walcott’s first-half opener to show for their play until Alexis took centre stage. The second goal just killed the game. We should have been five or six ahead by that point but scoring at that time helped everyone to relax. After the drama a year before, that second goal seemed to calm everyone down.
"I think that is what Arsenal have lacked in the past – someone who can take opponents by surprise with a long-range shot"
It was just a brilliant strike, hit with so much power. Just as impressive was the swerve he generated on the ball, taking it away from the goalkeeper. Shay Given didn’t have a chance. When I first saw the goal, I thought that Given could perhaps have done better. But when you see the way the ball moves in the air, you realise that he couldn’t do anything to stop it.
He hit it with such ferocity and it was such an apt way to round off a superb debut season – and one in which he was comfortably Arsenal’s player of the year. What’s so striking about the way Alexis strikes the ball is that he manages to generate so much ferocity with such a small backlift.
Alexis scored 25 goals in his debut season. I don’t believe there was anything flukey at all about this one. He scored a similar one against Liverpool a month before the FA Cup final, where he sidestepped Kolo Toure before smashing a shot into the roof of the net. He isn’t afraid, he’ll shoot from anywhere.
I think that is what Arsenal have lacked in the past – someone who can take opponents by surprise with a long-range shot. Alexis is the first player since Thierry Henry to reach 20 goals in his first campaign at the club – and if he continues to perform at the level he has during his first 18 months at the club, he could end up having a similarly long-lasting impact.