This was the year Arsenal finally got their hands on more silverware. Here, in our review of 2014, we reflect on how it all unfolded, starting with January to July…
Having finished 2013 with back-to-back away wins over West Ham and Newcastle, the Gunners rang in the New Year with another victory over Cardiff City… eventually. Two goals in the final two minutes - from Nicklas Bendtner and Theo Walcott - gave Arsenal a 2-0 win on New Year's Day, and kept them top of the Premier League. Just three days later Arsenal got the FA Cup campaign off to the best possible start, with a 2-0 home win over Tottenham Hotspur. "All the players want to win something this year," Laurent Koscielny said. "We will work hard for this but we know the season is very long and very hard, so we need to work together. If we do, we can win something for Arsenal." The victory was marred by an anterior cruciate ligament injury to Walcott, which would keep him out for the rest of the season.
The side continued their winning streak with Premier League victories over Aston Villa (2-1) and Fulham (2-0) before seeing off Coventry City 4-0 in the FA Cup fourth round, a game in which Gedion Zelalem made his debut, becaming the club's youngest ever FA Cup player. The month ended with a dramatic 2-2 draw away to Southampton - the point was good enough to keep Arsenal top. On transfer deadline day Arsenal announced the surprise signing of Sweden international Kim Kallstrom on loan.
A second-half Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain brace at home to Crystal Palace got the month off to a winning start, but a week later the Gunners were left stunned when an early Liverpool onslaught resulted in a 5-1 defeat at Anfield. The two sides met again at the Emirates the following weekend - this time in the FA Cup - and Arsenal had the last laugh as they triumphed 2-1 in a pulsating game, with Oxlade-Chamberlain again on target. "It was obviously very important for us, after the defeat at Anfield," Per Mertesacker said. "That defeat was a massive blow for us but we came back in the FA Cup. It was a different competition and a different game. The first goal was key. Fabianski kept us in the game several times."
The huge games kept coming in February, and Bayern Munich were the next visitors to Emirates Stadium. The Germans capitalised on Mesut Ozil's missed penalty to take a 2-0 first leg lead. The Gunners bounced back with a comfortable home win over Sunderland, featuring an excellent Tomas Rosicky goal, to stay within a point of Chelsea at the top of the table. Arsène Wenger was full of praise for Rosicky: "I think when he arrived here he was less of a tactical player and more the 'Mozart' from Prague - he was purely a creative, offensive player. Today he is a real organiser on the pitch. I like to have him in the team because he gives a real structure to our team."
Arsenal marched on in the FA Cup with a 4-1 home win over Everton, and were rewarded with a semi-final tie against Championship side Wigan at Wembley, who had defeated Manchester City in the last eight. The Gunners' Champions League campaign ended in Munich, losing out 3-1 on aggregate to Bayern, despite earning a 1-1 draw in the Allianz Arena. Their league form was starting to stutter, though. The 1-0 north London derby success at White Hart Lane was the only league win out of five in March. Having led the table for most of the season, their title bid faltered when Chelsea inflicted a 6-0 reverse at Stamford Bridge in Arsène Wenger's 1,000th game in charge. This was followed by home draws with Swansea and Manchester City.
“We have gone through an absolute nightmare, a storm, this week," Arsène Wenger said after the draw with City. "The critics come very quick and very hard, the only way we can deal with it is to respond in the next game, and that is what we did. It has been very bad, but as well very positive because it is always an opportunity to show you have some mental strength, so I am very proud of my players because they have shown that.”
With their title bid now over, Arsenal's attentions switched to earning another top-four finish, but a 3-0 defeat at Everton meant their fate was no longer in their own hands. However, the club's first trip to Wembley for three years proved a pivotal day in the season. Wigan Athletic were 1-0 up in the FA Cup semi-final before Per Mertesacker hit a late equaliser, and the Gunners went on to triumph on penalties. "It's a massive thing for us to go through to the final," goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski said after his two spot-kick saves in the penalty shootout. "We've had a bad run. I hope that we will pick up after this result and be back on the winning track."
With a place in the final now secured, that's exactly what happened. Arsenal appeared more relaxed in the league, and earned successive victories over West Ham (3-1), Hull City (3-0) and Newcastle United (3-0). With Ramsey, Ozil and Laurent Koscielny now free from injury, the momentum was well and truly back with the Gunners. Lukas Podolski was a man in form too, notching back-to-back braces against West Ham and Hull. Arsenal finished the month in fourth place, four points ahead of Everton, but now seven points off the lead and mathematically unable to win the league.
Arsenal's 18th successive top-four finish was confirmed when Everton lost to Manchester City, and the following day Olivier Giroud scored his 22nd goal of the season to beat West Brom 1-0 in the final home game of the campaign. The Premier League season came to a close with a 2-0 win at Norwich City - condemning the hosts to relegation. Carl Jenkinson claimed his first Arsenal goal in the process.
Then came the FA Cup final. It started dreadfully - Hull City were 2-0 up after just nine minutes and a shock looked on the cards. But Santi Cazorla curled home a 17th minute free-kick and with 18 minutes to go Laurent Koscielny equalised. It was left to Arsenal's player of the season, Aaron Ramsey, to score the winner 19 minutes into extra-time. "It was a great lay-off. I shouted for it and [Giroud] backheeled it," Ramsey said afterwards. "The goalkeeper has a lot less time to react when you finish it first time. It was the most important goal of my time here. I've been really pleased with my form this year. I wouldn't have been able to do it without my team-mates."
Cue wild celebrations, which continued into the next day for the victory parade to Islington Town Hall. Hundreds of thousands of fans lined the streets in the London sunshine to cheer the players in the open-top bus. At the celebrations Mikel Arteta said: "We had some difficult years and it took a while to build this team and this spirit but I think yesterday was the best example of what it means for us and how much we want it. It's for everyone to deserve - especially for the fans because they've been terrific through the year again. Now it's time to enjoy it - that's what we fight for and we've got the first trophy for years."
Just 26 days after the FA Cup final, the 2014 World Cup kicked off in Sao Paulo, Brazil. There were 11 Arsenal players at the tournament, and three of them went on to lift the trophy with Germany. Mesut Ozil, Lukas Podolski and Per Mertesacker all played their part for Joachim Low's side, who defeated Argentina 1-0 in the final after thumping the hosts 7-1 in the semi-final. “You don’t really take it in at first, even in the days after,” Ozil said. “As children, the whole team dreamt of that moment. You want to win the biggest tournament in the world and when you have the opportunity to do that, everything must fit. That’s happened with us in the summer."
Three more World Cup players signed for Arsenal in July. First Chile's Alexis Sanchez joined from Barcelona, then France defender Mathieu Debuchy made the switch from Newcastle, before Colombia's No 1 goalkeeper David Ospina signed from Nice. "He is a striker and he's a good finisher," Wenger said after signing Alexis. "He made a great impression in Italy - I saw him there and he was really outstanding. I like the fact he can play left, right, up front and that's why I went for him." Later in the month Arsenal also completed the transfer of teenage defender Calum Chambers from Southampton.
The Gunners' pre-season preparations kicked off with a 2-0 friendly win over Boreham Wood and they ended the month with a four-day tour of New York, culminating in a 1-0 defeat to Thierry Henry's Red Bulls side.
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