A Year of Highs and Lows…
Well the year is coming to an end so I thought I’d post up my highlights over the last 12 months.
This year will mainly be remembered for Arsenal making the Champions League Final, securing 4th position in the Premiership, Thierry Henry committing his future to Arsenal and Cashley Cole moving to Russia – certainly a year of highs and lows.
Top 3 Highlights of 2006
The Champions League Run
Arsenal were simply fantastic in the Champions League, beating Europe’s elite to reach the final including Real Madrid and Juventus in Feb-March-April of 2006. Jen’s Lehmann had set a record in that he didn’t actually concede a single in the CL last season, but his sending off in the final put Arsenal in deep trouble. But Sol Campbell gave Arsenal hope with his 37th minute header and we did so well to hold on for 77 minutes – but eventually Barcelona managed to get through the tiring 10-man Arsenal team. Such a valiant performance really deserved better. There were many highlights in the run-in but the most memorable include Jen’s sensational save from Riquelme in the semi-final and Henry’s goal against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu.
Finishing 4th in The Premiership
Losing Patrick Vieira in the summer of 2005 was a shock to the system as Arsenal lost their consistancy in the league. Some irregular results put Arsenal well out of the title race and even worse was that Spurs were favourites for 4th place, and Champions League qualification. April 22nd was the crunch tie with Spurs and it was eventful as ever when Robbie Keane slotted the ball into the net as Gilberto & Eboue lay injured in the centre of the pitch. Arsene squared up to Martin Jol and all hell broke loose. But Arsenal won their remaining 3 league games culminating in a memorable 4-2 in the last game at Highbury, with captain Henry scoring a hattrick. Even better, West Ham beat Spurs on the final day secure 4th spot and we all know why!
Thierry Henry Staying at Arsenal
After the Champions League Final Thierry Henry finally decided to stay at Arsenal and snub Barcelona. The speculation started way back in 2005 but after Arsenal’s performace in the final Henry saw enough potential for success with the current squad and added impetus to add more experience, with Rosicky, Gallas and Baptista joining us in the summer. The future’s bright, it’s red and white.
Top 3 Matches of 2006
1-0 Versus Real Madrid (Santiago Bernabeu, Feb 21st)
Nobody gave Arsenal a chance. Especially since we had recently lost against Bolton, Liverpool and West Ham – and Real Madrid had won their last 10 games in La Liga. But as usual when you write Arsenal off that’s when they really perform and we created a number of chances from the kick off. Reyes and Henry had big chances within the first 10 minutes and with Real under the cosh Arsenal controlled the game and created other chances before the break. But then a couple of minutes after the restart Cesc fed the ball to Henry on the half-way line. The captain then proceeded to beat Ronaldo, Meija, Guti and Sergio Ramos before placing the ball into the far corner past Casillas – giving Arsenal the win and a historic result at the Bernabeu.
2-0 Versus Juventus (Highbury, March 22nd)
The build up was all about Patrick Vieira, but it was Cesc who people were talking about after the game. The opening goal, on 40 minutes, was created after Bobby tackled Vieira just past the half-way line and then fed Henry who slipped the ball to Fabregas on the edge of the box. Cesc then slotted the ball through Emerson’s legs and gave Arsenal a much deserved lead. Then on 68 minutes, Hleb, Cesc and Henry combined well to give Arsenal a 2-0 lead and put one foot in the CL semi-final.
1-0 Versus Manchester United (Old Trafford, Sept 17th)
Wins at Old Trafford are always memorable and this one was no exception. Once again, everyone was writting us off before a ball had been kick but Arsenal controlled large periods of the match and Adebayors goal on 84 minutes was the least we deserved. Gilberto also missed a penalty in the first half but that didn’t stop Arsenal pushing on and winning the game – our first vital win of this season’s Premiership campaign.
Top 3 Arsenal Goals of 2006
There were some great goals this year but the following 3 were the ones that made me scream the loudest and go totally berserk. Thinking of these goals again still gives me goosebumps…
Sol Campbell versus Barcelona
He might have had an indifferent season but Sol played in the CL final after Senderos picked up an injury and made the perfect impact with his headed goal on 37 minutes, especially with the Gunners down to 10 men. Arsenal fought on bravely and Barcelona might have ended up winning the final in the end but that goal gave every Gooner hope that we might just win the biggest club competition in the world. And we were so close…
Emmanuel Adebayor versus Manchester United
With no Thierry Henry and seemingly no chance, Arsenal travelled to Old Trafford needing to win to keep their title chances alive. Arsenal played with no fear against a team who were in scintillating form and attacked throughout the match. Scholes cleared off the line from Adebayor’s header in the first half and won a penalty – but Gilberto’s effort was saved. But then with only 5 minutes remaining Cesc played in a well-measured through ball for Ade to coolly slot past Thomas Kuszczak for the opening goal and all 3 points! A great goal and such a vital win over the currently leaders of The Premiership.
Mathieu Flamini versus Chelsea
The game had so much tension it was almost unbearable. There was the Cashley fiasco before the match and the game itself was electric, with Arsenal having the best of the first half. Chelsea had the better of the second period, but with only 13 minutes remaining Hleb and Flamini combined to deadly effect and scored a goal that looked like giving Chelsea their first defeat at home since way back in 2004 when we beat them 2-1 thanks to Edu and Vieira. The goal itself came from no where which added to the exhilaration and Hleb’s skill in creating the chance against Cole in the build up was even better. Chelsea equalised with a scuffed tap in from Essien 5 minutes later but that couldn’t hide the fact that a team missing Henry, Gallas, Rosicky, Toure and Lauren (with only Gilberto & Lehmann as the experienced players) coped with a full-strength Chelsea squad – and could have stole all 3 points.
Top 3 Players of 2006
There is no doubt that Kolo has been simply immense for Arsenal over the year and has been our most consistent player. His pace, positioning, strength and above all his desire is what has kept us going and he is certainly an Arsenal captain of the future. He keeps putting in performance after performance and is a true leader in the pitch.
The kid is still only 19! Along with Kolo probably the most consistent Arsenal player over the last 12 months, and like his team-mate has played the majority of Arsenal’s games. His all round play is improving all the time and he keeps racking up man of the match performances throughout the seasons. It’s hard to imagine there’s more to come from this boy!
Since being dropped for a few games a couple of seasons ago Jens has been in inspirational form, which resulted him being Germany’s first choice keeper in the World Cup. He has made some really excellent saves over the last year but certain highlights that stand out for me include THAT save from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Old Trafford, a penalty save from Steven Gerrard at Anfield in February which almost earnt us a point. But the moment of the year for Jens was his stop against Riquelme’s penalty in the semi-final of the CL. I have never cheered a save so much!
Thank you for reading and let me wish all you guys a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!