Arsenal 2008-2009 Season Review, Part 1 – Analysing the Key Moments of a Very Disappointing Season
I understand the season is over and almost everyone is looking ahead of the next one, but the website would be missing something if I don't write a recap on the highs and lows of the 2008/2009 season, a very disappointing one, at least for Arsenal's high standards.
I don't know if that fan who after the 1-2 Chelsea win approached Wenger saying We will never win the League is a prophet or anything like that, but unfortunately he was spot on, on what our campaign was going to be.
Very little done to solve problems
Speaking of that away win at Stamford Bridge, that was one of the reasons why we didn't win anything this year. It was a lucky win, almost all of it gifted by Mike Dein and had Lampard scored a glorious opportunity when we were trailing, we would have definitely lost that one. Now usually, and this is why I'm saying that was one of the reasons why we didn't lift any trophies, after such a game you sit down, you thank the Lord for a win you didn't deserve and try to analyse why things are not working out.
Instead, that didn't happen. With the only exception of Arshavin – which let's face it, was an emergency signing – we kept on playing with the same faces, over and over again, and when we reached the knockout stages of competitions, a stage where a 3-0 defeat away at Manchester City cannot be canceled out by a 1-2 away win against Chelsea – we were completely outclassed and outplayed by our opponents. I'm not saying Ramsey, Vela, Wilshere, Bischoff or any other youngster would have helped us win a cup had they played more, but it would have meant trying to actually do something against problems in midfield, an area where we struggled a lot this season.
I mean, I may understand Wenger's policy not to sign players because he believes in the youngsters but sometimes I wonder how much he believes in them. I'm sure Aaron Ramsey and Carlos Vela felt miserable when they saw Wenger pick Diaby to play on the left, a player who had a poor season regardless where he played. So where is all this belief in the young ones?
Gallas and the captaincy
For a number of incidents which happened during the season, with his public attack on the team being the main one – William was stripped of his captaincy role, a role which was then given to Cesc Fabregas. We all love Cesc, but you need character to captain a top European side, especially one like the Arsenal and I'm afraid Cesc is too young for that. Maybe it was a desperate move by Wenger to keep the Spaniard at the Emirates but even if he was having a horrid time when all this happened, I believe Toure would have been a better option and if not him, Almunia.
Injuries and more injuries
For many, Rosicky and Eduardo had to be our true signings for the year but we saw very little of the Croatian and none of the Czech star. Also, Fabregas, Walcott and Gallas suffered long-term injuries and so did van Persie, Adebayor and others although the extent of their injury was not as serious as the other three. Of course, when you lack in depth just like the Arsenal squad, facing injuries can turn out into a nightmare although to be completely honest, Cesc was not having the best of seasons before being sidelined.
Hopefully, now that many of our youngsters experienced first-team football, they will provide the depth in the squad we will be needing when suspensions and/or injuries will hit us next year.
The good and bad of the 4-4 wins
The four all draw against Spurs is definitely one of the must-forget chapters of this season, contrary to the one at Anfield six months after that which of course is a must-remember chapter. The derby was a game no-one expected us not to win after taking a 4-2 lead but when you have Silvestre playing as centre-back, I'm afraid anything can happen. Arshavin, on the other hand, wrote history by netting four at the you never walk alone stadium, something which other players don't even dream about and now that I think of it, Silvestre was part of the back four that night as well.
Speaking of the Russian, well indeed, he's one of the best things which happened to us this year. I was disappointed when Wenger went for the Russian instead of a central midfield which we so much needed but magic from Andrey made me realise how special he is and of course, how special he can be next season.
Another major moment of the 2008/2009 season was Van Persie in January. Many are divided on the future of Robin, some want him to stay whilst some would not feel upset if he leaves but what he did in January was pure class, especially the goal away at Everton which I strongly consider as a turning point into the season. Had we lost that game, not sure if we would have ended fourth. Unfortunately, however, yes, Robin lacks consistency but who didn't lack in that this year?
The Carling Cup
Despite the premature exit from it, this was the only competition where the fans and the players were relaxed and really enjoying themselves. How to forget the memorable party-mood night at the Emirates when we hit three past Wigan? We also understood the potential of the likes of Carlos Vela, Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey, all who hopefully will have a long career at our club.
Part 2 and 3
This has been part 1 of a three-part season review. In Part 2 I will rate the players on their season performance and on part 3 I will try and analyse what signings – both in and out – this Arsenal team needs to be competitive next season.