Arsenal Can Only Get Better?
It’s been a real rollercoaster season for Arsenal fans – in the Premiership we finished 4th which is, by our high standards, disappointing. But we have a chance to build on this season with Champions League football which is the most important thing. And pipping Spurs in the process – so not all doom and gloom!
The big question is did we suffer with Vieira leaving for Juventus?
Hard to say really.
When you lose a player who has been so influencial for the last 8/9 years then surely any team would suffer. I don’t personally think we suffered quality-wise in the squad, but there is no doubt that psychologically the team had a problem without their captain in the dressing room.
It is interesting to note that when Vieira was missing for the first couple of months of the 2004/2005 season, we were still smashing teams like Everton and Norwich 4-1, and who could forget the amazing comeback from Boro to win 5-3 at Highbury – what a game!
I think Arsenal suffered because the team knew Vieira wasn’t injured, but had gone for good. We also had Henry out for about a month in September which didn’t really help the start to our season.
The team took time to find some belief in themselves and that didn’t come until the later parts of the season. Our away form was dire this season and we lost a total of 11 games. We really suffered against the so-called ‘physical’ teams like Everton, Bolton and Blackburn who would bully us out of games. I personally don’t berudge these teams for using these tactics – in the end the 3 points is all that matters. We can’t complain about it, we just have to find a way around team who use this approach.
Arsenal also had major injury problems this season, with Lauren, Campbell, Senderos, Cole, Freddie and many others on the treatment table for big parts of the campaign.
But through adversity Arsenal showed great character, and players like Flamini and Eboue showed us how good they are. Giving youth a chance this season will surely help Arsenal when the season starts again in August, and the experience they have had will be priceless.
The major part of our season was the European campaign.
Once Henry scored that wonder-goal at the Bernabeu against Madrid Arsenal was the start of something special which took us past Serie A champions Juventus and Villarreal – and almost got us past Barcelona.
It’s so strange how things pan out – our worst domestic campaign for 10 years results in our best ever European season. To have both domestic and European success you need an amazing squad of players and no-one can argue that Barcelona have that.
Arsenal really deserved better against Barca, but that’s all in the past now and we have to move on. Football can be cruel sometimes!
Ironically the defeat to Barcelona in the Champions League Final could have been the reason Henry decided to stay at Arsenal.
He wasn’t particularly happy with Barcelona’s ‘sportsmanship’ when Lehmann was sent off and the fouls he suffered against Puyol and Marquez. It’s funny how now that Henry has decided to stay that Barcelona ‘didn’t want him after all’. It’s alright though, they’re going for Forlan.
The grass isn’t always greener on the other side, as Petit, Overmars, Anelka – and Vieira to an extent – have found out. And where else in the world would Henry have a team based around his strengths?
The Season: Overall
The postives from 2005/2006 is that over the last 10 seasons this is by far the worst we have had to endure from Arsenal – and we still have Champions League football.
We are also moving into a state-of-the-art 60,000 stadium, have Henry to lead us out and with the signing of Tomas Rosicky we look like to be improving the squad. But we have to address the loss of legends Dennis Bergkamp and Robert Pires so Arsene really needs to bring in a couple of real top-quality players to the squad if we are going to compete.
But now to the negatives.
We finished a massive 24 points behind Chelsea.
This is simply too big a gap and baring in mind re-claiming a league title is much harder that winning it the first time, Chelsea still had a pretty easy campaign.
And despite Manchester United having a make-shift midfield consisting of Fletcher, O’ Shea and Alan Smith we finished 16 points behind them. Of course, we had Europe to concentrate on unlike United but a fixture build up is a part of English football.
I hope Arsenal can add a few names before the World Cup begins but that seems less and less likely as Germany gets closer and closer!