So, in the absence of any interesting Arsenal news whatsoever, except for the anxious glances up to Manchester, where around 50m is being spent on three players to strengthen the champions, it is finally time for The Beautiful Groan’s review of the season. Champagne moments, and those times you wished the ground would swallow you whole. Without further ado, let’s get on with it.
Moment of the Season:
5) Henry’s injury time winner against Man Utd, January
The game was petering out, a draw was looking likely, and in all honesty that would’ve been fair, but then Eboue pinged over a superb cross, and there was Henry, powering a header home in injury time, to secure the league double over United. Lovely.
4) Lehmann’s save from Solskjaer, Old Trafford, September
Same opponents, different match. After Adebayor had put us ahead after an excellent performance, Lehmann pulled off the save of the season with a remarkable one-handed stop from Solskjaer. Without it, we’d have had three points from our first four games. As it was, it sparked a winning streak.
3) Walcott’s goal in the Carling Cup final, February
The media like to remember the game for all the wrong reasons, but what we should remember it for is a first half in which the kids completely outplayed a star studded Chelsea team, experienced in cup finals. What a time for Theo’s first goal, and what a beauty it was. Shame the result didn’t go for us, but a great moment.
2) Cesc nutmegging Savage in the 6-2 win over Blackburn, December
The five goals that came before tasted beautiful against a Blackburn side who never try to do anything except kick us off the park. But the icing on the cake was when Fabregas made Savage look like a complete fool with a beautiful nutmeg, before his shot was turned in by Flamini. All while Savage lay prone and clueless. Sweet.
1) Van Persie’s volley against Charlton, September
Technically perfect, just an utterly awesome goal. Good cross by Eboue, but only a handful of players in the world could strike that volley. Stunning. Enjoy it again here.
Special mention – Henry’s goal in the 2-0 win over Blackburn, January
Worst Moment of the Season:
5) Watching Chelsea lift the Carling Cup, February
Perhaps it was the arrogance they showed, perhaps it was the sight of Cole gloating having sat on the bench all game, but whatever it was, it hurt.
4) Benni McCarthy’s winner in the FA Cup, February
It was inevitable. I remember watching the game and about five minutes before the goal, I called it. It had 1-0 to Blackburn written all over it. Great goal, but a terrible couple of weeks.
3) West Ham’s winner at Upton Park, November
The goal that sparked the melee, if you can call it that. Pardew went nuts, Wenger got angry, and we lost a game that we should’ve won. It got worse when they completed the league double at the Emirates.
2) Alex’s equaliser in the Champions League, March
A player we always knew belonged to Chelsea put in a sterling defensive performance and then knocked us out with a header. In that moment we knew the season was over, and somehow we’d lost to the worst side left in the competition. Liverpool proved that in the next round.
1) Crouch completing his hattrick, March
Not the first painful hattrick against Arsenal – Fowler’s four minute burst still haunts me, and I remember even Coventry’s resident lardarse Micky Quinn scoring one on the opening day some years back. But on the back of an awful performance, to concede a hattrick to a man who quite frankly shouldn’t be scoring hattricks against Watford, was just embarrassing.
Performance of the Season:
5) 6-3 Liverpool (a) January
Yes, Liverpool put out a weak side, but so did we, and they got torn apart by two players, in Baptista and Aliadiere, who looked utterly hopeless for the rest of the season. It was clinical, it was ruthless, and it was a wonderful night at Anfield.
4) 6-2 Blackburn (h) December
The game was close for too long, but in the last twenty minutes the team was unstoppable, culminating in that beautiful nutmeg moment we’ve already talked about.
3) 1-0 Man Utd (a) September
Many people forget just how good this performance once. Bearing in mind it was the only game United lost in ages, and that fact that it was won despite Gilberto slipping and missing a penalty, it was a tremendous result, especially on the back of a poor start.
2) 4-0 Reading (a) October
Reading accomplished much in their first Premiership season, but they made the fatal flaw of attacking an Arsenal team in the mood. They were brutally cut apart, in one of the team performances of the season. Vintage.
1) 3-1 Liverpool (a) January
Very few gave a side missing Cesc through suspension a chance, especially at Anfield against the holders. But having survived early possession, Rosicky scored two terrific goals, and Henry sealed the win, making Carragher, otherwise one of the defenders of the season, look like a fool.
Special mentions – Carling Cup final first half, and everything but the finishing at home to CSKA Moscow.
Worst Performance of the Season:
5) 0-1 Everton (a) March
The infuriating thing is that Everton didn’t even play well, but they had a striker on the pitch capable of putting the ball in the net, and he did, in the final minute.
4) 1-0 Wigan (h) December
Yes, we won the match, but only through one brilliant Cesc pass after nearly ninety minutes of some of the most painful football I have ever seen. It’s a good thing Wigan were even more hopeless that night.
3) 0-1 Sheff Utd (a) December
Of course we know the Blades are good at home. But when you’re 1-0 down, and an outfield player has to go in goal for half an hour, it would help if you gave him something to do. We didn’t, and paid for it.
2) 1-2 Fulham (a) November
Terrible defending all through the game meant we could’ve conceded more against a side that hasn’t beaten us since footballers wore shorts down to their ankles. We never lose to Fulham.
1) 1-4 Liverpool (a) March
What can be said about this ‘performance’. It was shocking in every way. How can a player like Peter Crouch can be made to look so good? The worst thing was that we actually had our first choice defence back after numerous injuries. You couldn’t tell.
Player of the Season:
5) Emmanuel Adebayor
With Henry and Van Persie injured for so long, I couldn’t really include them, otherwise RVP may have got this nod, but Manu has won over the fans spectacularly this season, with work rate, determination, passion, and better finishing. He could be a wonderful player.
4) Kolo Toure
The speedy Ivorian remains probably our best defender, and in the first half of the season especially he was incredible. He has this ‘thou shalt not pass’ attitude and more like him would suit us right down to the ground.
3) Gael Clichy
Ashley who? Fragile he may be, but after a late start to the season he has been superb. Mature, he has improved his distribution and shown a willingness to learn. Injuries are still a worry, but his ability isn’t.
2) Cesc Fabregas
I came close to counting him signing an eight year contract amongst the best moments of the season. What a player – it is incredible to think he is only just out of his teens. By the end of his contract he’ll still only be 27. Awesome.
He didn’t have a great season before this one, but took on the simultaneous roles of midfield enforcer, goalscorer and captain with superb results. His scoring run around the turn of the year was quite astonishing for a man not renowned for it, but his unfussy work in midfield, coupled with his leadership, make him my player of the season.
Disappointment of the Season:
5) Emmanuel Eboue
The frustrating thing is that he can be so good, but right now he’s just building up a reputation for diving, play acting, and generally being an idiot. That will cost games. Ask Pires. Manu is a superb player going forward, and has shown signs of improving his defensive work, but much more is required.
4) Jeremie Aliadiere
I’ve always had high hopes for Aliadiere – having seen him years ago in the League Cup he seemed to have superb natural talent. But surely his time at Arsenal is now up. He is older than Adebayor, older than Van Persie, and not even close to their level. He finally got his run, but didn’t take it.
3) Alexander Hleb
For the first half of the season he was solid, for the second he was often abysmal. Gives the ball away too much , can’t/won’t shoot, and doesn’t track back enough. That said, he is a player who wonderful skills, and he should be given at least one more season to put it right.
2) William Gallas
Talks too much for a player who makes simple mistakes on the pitch. Has criticised everyone this season from the kids, to the medical staff. Needs to shut up and play football like we know he can.
1) Julio Baptista
Such a shame. When he arrived we were all full of hope that he could be the powerhouse linking midfield and attack, bombing forward and scoring hatfuls of goals. And it started promisingly, with a superb run at Old Trafford as a substitute. I remember thinking ‘we’ve got a player here’, but that, along with his Carling Cup efforts, have been a flash in the pan. His finishing is woeful, his penalty taking is even worse, and despite his best efforts he has failed miserably.
Player of the Season:
Cristiano Ronaldo. Drogba came close after Ronaldo’s poor last month, but not close enough.
‘Juan Sebastien Veron’ award for flop of the Season:
Michael Ballack. Many focus on Shevchenko, but he has been played in a withdrawn position, at a time in his career where he’s lost his pace. It doesn’t work, but at least he’s tried his hardest. Which is more than you can say for Ballack, who looks disinterested despite his astronomical wages.
Manager of the Season:
Steve Coppell. Dignified, successful and plays football the right way.
Special integrity award:
Aidy Boothroyd. Never gave up the fight with a team plainly not good enough. Made them very hard to beat.
Worst manager of the season:
Alan Pardew. Made West Ham useless again, decided that Reo-Coker and Mullins were better than Mascherano, lost the dressing room, danced like an idiot, got sacked, and then took Charlton down while watching Curbishley show him how to do it.
Prat of the Season:
Michel Platini. It worries me greatly that he is now head of UEFA.
‘Dan Smith’ award for terrible tackling:
Michael Brown. Not for one in particular, but for numerous two footed lunges, headbutts, and tackles barely deserving of the name.
‘Alexander Hleb’ award for lack of end product:
Alexander Hleb. There can be only one.
Lehmann and Drogba in the most pathetic ’bout’ ever.
‘We couldn’t see each other in grey’ award for poor excuses:
Michael Brown claiming an accidental clash of heads left Alonso with a blood soaked face. Uh huh, and Cantona just collided with that fan.
‘A***** C***’ award for on-field dislikability
5) Didier Drogba.
Not as bad as he’s been before, because he’s cut out a lot of the diving antics, but as Eboue may find out, mud sticks and reputations are hard to lose. Now makes the list because he’s annoyingly good.
4) Robbie Savage
His main skill is getting the most placid people sent off. Dion Dublin, now Gilberto. How does he do it?
3) Cristiano Ronaldo
For that pained look every time his dives don’t win a penalty. For that strop you know is only seconds away. For the way he just knowingly cheats, despite his ability meaning he doesn’t need to.
2) John Terry
I’ve said it before – I think Terry is an utter disgrace. He tries to influence referees every match, swearing at them, intimidating them, and taking things in his own hands. If he was foreign, the media would lambast him. Trust me – watch his actions in any Chelsea game next season.
1) Ashley Cole
Don’t tell me I have to explain this one. He’s so far removed from reality it just isn’t funny anymore.
Special mentions to Michael Brown and Lee Bowyer
‘Red for Life Kenyon’ award for off-field dislikability
5) Jose Mourinho
For a while his arrogance was funny. For a very short while. Now he’s just tiresome, and his rants are getting more desperate. Claiming that United get all the penalties when the stats say otherwise made him look like a fool. Living proof that money can’t buy integrity.
4) Jamie Redknapp
His commentary and analysis is painful. He is so horribly biased it’s untrue. When Chelsea lost to Spurs he went on and on about how well Chelsea played. When Liverpool play he hangs his supporters hat out. And he talks utter rubbish.
3) Alan Pardew
Dances like a moron, talks rubbish, thinks he’s better than he is. Enjoy the Championship.
2) Sepp Blatter
Quite how he keeps his job is beyond me. Some of his ideas are so ludicrous that you have to wonder whether he’s a plant in some reality show. He’d like to see women wear skimpier outfits, Africa to host the Champions League final, and England to get thrown out of every club competition for the next fifty years. Probably.
1) Peter Kenyon
A lifelong Man Utd fan who defected for money and power. Slimy, horrible demon in a suit who make agents look clean cut.
Special mentions to Michel Platini and Graham Poll
How was yours?