Two Thousand and Fourteen

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2015.  I can’t believe we’re here already; hoverboards, flying cars, self-tying Nikes.

Welcome to the future.

As I sit here somewhat still boozed up after a night of debaucherous board games and banging pots (followed by passing out and a very strong headache), I think it’s a good time to reflect on the year that was from an Arsenal perspective.

For many, it ends on a low. Given the number of injuries, the fact that we are not mounting a title charge, the division amongst the fans, and the vitriol being hurled at our players and manager – the latter stages of 2014 stand in stark contrast to how it began.

January 1st saw us top of the table and playing some fine football. An FA Cup 3rd Round Tie against that lot and a couple of injuries (especially to our 2013 main squeeze, Rambo) were the only significant threats to derail us. Looking past that, we had Bayern waiting in the Champions League.

We started off well enough by dumping Spurs out of the Cup but perhaps even then, the storm crows were gathering with the loss of Theo to a knee injury. We continued our fine form in the league through January and put 4 past Coventry in the 4th round of the FA Cup.

The transfer window was a different story altogether. While we were in need of reinforcements due to key injuries, we only managed to bring in Kim Källström on loan – and he wasn’t available for 8 weeks due to a broken back: SPECTACULAR SIGNING!

I kid, I kid.

Truthfully it was February where it all started to fall apart for us. A comprehensive away loss to Liverpool in the league and a poor home game versus Munich in the Champions League was only buoyed by the fact we turned Liverpool over in the FA Cup.

By March, our Premier League season was slipping away and we could sense it. From a fan’s perspective it felt like quicksand – the more you fought it, the worse it got. A loss to Stoke in dubious fashion (that was never a penalty) followed by that absolute shitstorm at the Bridge.

Unfortunately a draw in Bavaria failed to kickstart our season in the way the result did twelve months prior and except for that wonderful derby goal by Tomas Rosicky and another good win over Everton in the FA Cup, March was not a month to remember.

After another big away loss to start April off in the League versus Everton, we did manage to get back to winning ways although it was too late to salvage anything more than 4th in the League by May. Perhaps not leaving it to the last game of the season to secure that spot was a bit more pleasant than recent seasons, but ultimately, to fail to maintain our title assault through the first three months of the year was a bitter pill to swallow.

There was to be a silver lining – in the quite literal sense of the word – in May. After narrowly scraping past the holders Wigan in the semi-final (my eternal thanks to you Per), we faced Hull in the FA Cup final.

May 17th, 2014.

There are so many emotions that flood through me when I think about that day – I could write a book on the first half alone. The game itself was mostly pain. I remember feeling completely destroyed at 0-2 and even failing to celebrate Santi’s fine free kick. We looked tired, depleted, lost – and yet we persisted. Kos’ goal – well that was a bit anti-climatic but then Sanogo came on and to his credit, transformed the game.  The first time I felt truly alive was the gut-wrenching moment when Gibbs failed to find the net in the closing minutes of regulation time.

But then it all happened – the backheel from Oli – the finish… and Ramsey lying on the green grass of Wembley like Charlie George before him. That is the enduring image I have from that game.

I have to reign it in but how special was that win; the parade, the fans worldwide celebrating, Per singing “I’m Arsenal til I die.” We were a fan base united by a trophy and it felt good.

Going into the summer, we had a trophy, Champions League secured (if via playoffs in August), money to spend, and the promise of football in the World Cup. Even more exciting was the announcement of an American pre-season trip and the promise that Bendtner was finally off the books. What a time to be alive.

We saw our Germans win the World Cup along with excellent displays by Joel Campbell and our new signing Alexis Sanchez. By all accounts the New York trip was a fantastic event, and to top it off we won the Community Shield – adding to our trophy haul for 2014 in the process.

I think now I can talk about the summer transfer window without being overly critical. The business we did do was excellent. Alexis, Debuchy, Chambers, Ospina and Welbeck were good, if not great signings. Alexis excites me like no other player that has worn our red and white since the Invincibles. Debuchy too looks to be a strong and experienced player and Chambers, while he’s been played a lot in different positions, will come good for us.

It’s the business we didn’t do that frustrates so much in the failure to find proper defensive coverage via an additional centre back and defensive midfielder. I think it’s that failure, along with crippling injuries and baffling formations, that has punished us this season.

It’s hardly been fantastic so far but surely things will improve. This isn’t me being an apologist by any stretch; I just refuse to believe that it is going to get worse with key players returning from injury (Theo missed the entire calendar year himself and has been a massive loss for us).

What a year to be a fan too – an utter roller coaster of the most extreme highs, followed by disastrous lows – the type that if plotted as a histogram and played as a sound wave, would reverberate like the most severe of death metal bands.  We’ve developed into these odd bi-polar Gooners: one minute afraid to approach Twitter even after the most mundane loss, ready to turn on each other after a single mistake on the field – the next we’re ready to stand and sing united at a parade lead by Gunnersaurus.  Football eh?

So how will 2014 be remembered? Along with our second round Champions League exit and early League Cup loss to Southampton, below is our 2014 calendar year for Premier League results:

Played 38  |  20 Wins – 8 Losses – 10 Draws  |  70 Points

I find it extremely ironic that the calendar year of 2013 produced some of the finest football we’ve witnessed in years (P38 – W25-L6-D7 = 83 pts.) and yet we failed to satisfy our deep desire to win silverware.

In contrast, 2014 saw us play some awful football away from home and still only lose two games in the League at the Emirates.  We’ve had one of our worst starts to a league in recent memory, suffered horrific injuries, and yet we’re the reigning FA Cup and Community Shield champions.  No wonder we’ve all gone bi-polar.

It seems harsh that despite the amazing football we played in 2013, ten years from now it will be the trophies of 2014 that we’ll all remember.

I asked a few of you to share your thoughts on 2014 as we head into 2015 and below are the responses that I enjoyed the most:

“Arsenal 2014: The agony and the ecstasy” – Rob Parritt (@rob_parritt)

“This seven month trophy drought has me concerned” – Back Office Gavin (@BackOfficeGavin)

“Disappointing decline from the top of the table, injury mysteries continue.  But FA Cup was a fantastic roller coaster to win” – Pixel Rapture (@pixelrapture)

“This year has been soooo much more fun in terms of trips to Wembley” – AFC Andrew (@PR_WhoRu)

“With a fully fit squad, with the fans behind the team, and with a bit of luck…there’s no team in the Premier League we can’t beat.  I need to do a poo now.” – Danny the GFP (@The_GFP)

It’s pretty hard to argue with any of that (well maybe the bit about a poo).  I also thought it was interesting that not a single person responded on Arsène Wenger (either for or against) despite the topic being the most polarizing under his reign this year.

Finally, from a personal perspective, in 2014 I joined up with A Bergkamp Wonderland and have enjoyed every moment so far.  I’m grateful to Danny and Gimli for inviting me aboard and my fellow ABW crew for putting up with my Canadianisms.  It’s been fun to be able to write my thoughts and have bots and real people read them.

To you readers of my blogs (all 3 of you) – thanks for sticking with me and your continued support – I look forward to carrying on through 2015.

You Know It!

The Other Geoff
By ‘#ABW Chief Blogger’ The Other Geoff (@Hollefreund)

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