Into the first week of the new year, the Hard Tackle takes a look at Arsenal’s top moments of 2016
The year 2016 was an average one for the Arsenal fans with nothing coming out of the extraordinary. The Gunners failed to get past the Round of 16 in the Champions League in the 2015/16, finished second in the league and ended the season without a single piece of silverware.
Here are their top five highlights from the year 2016:
Finishing in their highest position since the 2004/05 season
In Arsene Wenger’s first nine years at the club, he guided the Gunners to three league titles. However, in the ten seasons following that, his Arsenal side failed to make it to the top two, let alone win the title.
Last season, with a number of weeks to go before the end, Arsenal lost ground and gave up the title challenge. Leicester City’s dream season saw them eventually win the title and lift the trophy for the first time in their history.
The Gunners’ North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur gave the Foxes a fight until the closing weeks, but their title challenge ended at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea held them to a 2-2 draw that eventually handed Leicester the title.
Everyone expected Tottenham to finish second, but they seemed to lose the plot, and eventually conceded the runners-up position to Arsenal. The Gunners fans have been boasting of celebrating above their local rivals for a number of seasons, and the 2015/16 campaign proved to be more of the same.
It also saw them finish in their highest position since the the 2004/05 campaign. Prior to that season, Arsenal were unbeaten throughout all 38 games and went on the lift the elusive Premier League trophy.
An emotional farewell to Mikel Arteta
Mikel Arteta signed from Everton on transfer deadline day and quickly built a connection with the Arsenal faithful. While he wasn’t a regular part of Wenger’s eleven due to a number of injury woes, he was still an integral part of the Gunners setup.
Along with Per Mertesacker, Arteta helped bring back silverware to the Emirates after a long run without any trophies. After his final game for the club, the Spaniard said:
“It’s a day I will never forget, I can only thank everyone for how you have all behaved with me and my family in those magnificent five years. When you leave the club is when you see what you mean to people and how you feel about the club.”
THAT Mesut Ozil goal against Ludogorets
Arsenal topped their Champions League goal this season and due credit must be given to German attacker Mesut Ozil. The former Real Madrid star scored a stellar hat-trick as the Gunners raced to a 3-2 win over Ludogorets.
The pick of the bunch was his last goal on the day where he lofted the ball above the keeper’s head before dribbling it past two defenders to slot it into an empty net. It was undoubtedly a Goal of the Season contender and the one that will be etched in the brains of Arsenal fans for a long while.
Take a look:
The resurgence of Alexis Sanchez
After the downfall of Olivier Giroud since the 2015/16 campaign, Wenger has vested attacking responsibilities on Alexis Sanchez and the Chilean has undoubtedly delivered at the top level for the Gunners.
Last season, Sanchez struggled to adapt as a number nine, but this time around, he has absolutely thrived playing the role of the focal point of the Arsenal attack. He is arguably their best worker off the ball as he is constantly closing down on the defenders and tracking back to regain possession and put in a shift on the defensive third.
Offensively, goals have not been hard to come by as he is second on the goal-scoring charts in the Premier League – a goal behind Chelsea’s Diego Costa. 2016 was a good year for the Chilean and he will be hoping to have an even better 2017.
Avoiding the November hoodoo
Prior to the start of this season, Arsenal averaged a meager 1.59 points per game in November since Wenger took charge and has often been termed as a voodoo month for the Gunners.
They managed to win just 36 of the 78 matches played over the course of the month – failing to win more than half of their games. Arsenal also had the fewest overall goal difference (32) as compared to the other months of the year.
Going into November, Arsenal were on quite a roll and the last thing they wanted was for their run to come to an halt. Fortunately for them, that was not the case as they managed to avoid defeats in two big matches against Tottenham and Manchester United and picked up three points against Bournemouth.
They maintained their fourth place on the table until the end of the month, but suffered heavy defeats in the following month which has now seen them drop to a dismal fifth place – out of the Champions League qualifying berths.