Flashback to 19th May 2013.
An inconsequential date for many, fans and loyalists waited with bated breath and prayers for the fate of their club as the chance of qualifying for the next year’s UEFA Champions League hung in the balance. The match was an away one against Newcastle United. At the end of the first half, the scores were still 0-0 and a 52nd minute Laurent Koscielny volley sealed it for Arsenal as they qualified for the Champions League for the 16th time. On a side note, this is the day where Alex Ferguson stepped on the field to manage Manchester United for the last time in a 27 year long career.
The end of the league was followed by the summer transfer window and with £70million in his kitty and an opening day loss to Aston Villa, Arsene Wenger, the manager, was under tremendous pressure, criticism and he had a nearly failed summer transfer window but a shock signing on the last day of Mesut Ozil,one of the best midefielders, from Real Madrid for about £42 million.
Cut to the present day
6th November, 2013 is a date that few Arsenal fans will forget in a hurry as Arsenal created history by beating Borussia Dortmund , one of the best football clubs, in their own backyard at the Signal Iduna Park in Germany 1-0 and in the process became the first English club to do so. Not only that, they did not allow Dortmund to score only the 2nd time in their last 62 outings. Pretty Impressive.
So what has changed in the past three months?
As often seen, one signing can often change a club’s fortunes. RVP for Man Utd. Is an example. The signing of Mesut Ozil provided a spark for the static Arsenal team. Ozil on arrival, has slotted seamlessly into the Arsenal midfield and has added a new dimension their play with his pin point passing, his vision and his ability to read the game. Very few no 10s in the world stand alongside Ozil at this moment.
Aaron Ramsey, the Welsh wizard has been tremendous form of late. He finally seems to be fulfilling his potential after fighting a leg injury which seemed to be career threatening to say the least. He has scored 11 goals in the Arsenal jersey and he has more fluency into proceedings.
In 2011, Wenger was criticised for panic buying after he signed Mikel Arteta, Per Mertesacker, Andre Santos and Ju Young Park in the last days of the transfer window. Andre Santos has moved on and so has Park but Mikel Arteta has been an absolute rock in the midfield and this season he has dominated the midfield with Ramsey and Flamini. Santi Carzola with his close range game has been great since his comeback and has only added to the midfield with his guile and vision.
The lone forward for Arsenal, Olivier Giroud, has been special, to say the least. Standing at 6ft 4in tall, he is a battering ram to say the least. But his link up play, his ability to drop back and link up with the midfielders and bring them into play is what makes him stand apart from other striking options Wenger has at his disposal i.e. Podolski and Walcott.
At the back of the field, the duo of Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker have been absolutely outstanding and have kept the defence organized and have worked together really well. They stand to become one of the best CB pairs in world football today and keeping a clean sheet against Dortmund is a testament to this fact.
Having said all this, credit must go to Arsene Wenger. Having been the Manager for 17 years, he has seen the club through so many transitional phases after stars kept leaving his club year after after (Cesc Fabregas, Robin Van Persie to name a few). And there was the added pressure of the tremendous financial constraints that come with building a new stadium ( Emirates Stadium), he has managed to keep the club in the top flight of BPL.
There has been a trophy drought for Arsenal since they won the FA Cup last in 2005 ( yes, 8 long years!) but now I believe this is the year that Arsenal finally end the drought.
This is the start of a new era in the history of Arsenal Club, the same club which remained “Invincible” in the 2003-04 season. A new chapter waiting to be written in the annals of the club’s rich and wonderful history.