Arsenal 2014-15 season review

Wembley

A bit belated, but here’s a whistle-stop season review. It was going to be a general look at the season, but ended up being more about the players. That’s just the way I roll.

| Defence |

Just five Premier League goals fewer conceded this season compared to last, but our defensive stability seems a world better. Not least because we didn’t bend over and get the slipper like we did three times last season to the tune of 6-3, 5-1 and 6-0.

I can’t remember who mentioned it, but I was struck how the biggest margin of defeat across all competitions was two goals. Not bad at all, even if some of them were bitterly disappointing. Here’s looking at you, Monaco at home. Stoke away was a first-half masterclass in rubbish – Joel got away while he could – and we were suckerpunched at home to Utd when we should have been cleverer.

Mertesacker got written off at various points because of his World Cup exploits but – Monaco aside, when he was hardly alone – I think he has been excellent. A calm and assured leader, positionally sound, just a top man. Plus he made my six-year-old very happy by waving at him at the parade.

Gabriel came six months too late but will have benefited from half a season of bedding in. He looks a promising act, with a bit of a cynical edge, and maybe that’s no bad thing. Koscielny – excellent.

Chambers – very good start, fizzled out a bit, and it’ll be interesting whether he’s a reserve right back or centre back next season.

| Who’ll be happiest? |

Monreal, who usurped Gibbs as first choice at left-back after a baptism of fire at centre-back, went on to have an excellent season. Nice attacking edge, generally solid at the back.

But the carriage clock and year’s worth of luncheon vouchers go to Bellerin, who came from nowhere, at the ripe old age of 19, to swat Chambers and Debuchy aside. His rawness has been mitigated by great technique, calmness, speed and persistence. Reward: first choice right-back and an FA Cup winner. Not bloody bad, by Hector.

| Who’ll be most disappointed? |

Gibbs will have been left a bit reflective, though with 28 starts and 5 substitute appearances he was hardly at a loose end. The Woj shot himself in the foot with a peculiar response to a bad game, and his future is now hard to predict even if he did end the season on a high, making positive noises.

Debuchy wins this one. Cracking start, as tenacious as you’d expect, but then spent most of the season out with ankle and shoulder injuries. The second one enforced by some cynical shoving, which will be particularly galling and was particularly costly. He never got back into the side leaving Bellerin to jump at his chance. Next season – straight fight between the two, but it won’t be easy for Matt.

| Midfield |

Oh my, where to start? Let’s begin with an outstanding season from Santi Cazorla, who is not only annoyingly good at football but also seems annoyingly happy. None of this Seasonal Affective Disorder for our Santi, and I bet he doesn’t get the Sunday blues in front of Antiques Roadshow. There were some rumours he wanted to go back to Spain, so I think Wenger needs to nip this one in the bud by confiscating his passport.

Mesut Ozil, still nicking a living, blossomed after his three months out injured and silenced some of those doubters, whether he was on the wing or in the middle. Some games do pass him by a bit, but overall he’s been outstanding. Some of the shimmies, flicks and ghosting runs he made as the season came to its head took the breath away. Keep it up, Mesut. Ja, Ja and thrice Ja.

Ramsey – also pock-marked with annoying setbacks – finished very strongly, and Jack reminded us he’s not going away right at the very end.

With the defensive solidity of Coquelin, our midfield has really started to shine, with creative options all over the centre of the field. We can certainly improve in certain scenarios – such as when teams park the bus – but there’s plenty to be positive about.

| Who’ll be happiest? |

Ha, you thought I’d forgotten him, didn’t you. Well I hadn’t. Francis ‘The Coq’ Coquelin is the footballing story of the year with bells on. Skulking back into the Emirates as a last resort, he went about transforming our season and his reputation. In fact, much of why our defence seems to settled is down to him. Did we think he had it in him? No. Does it matter? It does not. He got an unlikely opportunity but seized it, and is now in the enviable position of being one of the first names on the teamsheet. What a season.

| Who’ll be most disappointed? |

Quite a long list here. Wilshere started well but his injury waylaid him – again. Rosicky had some nice cameos but didn’t feature as much as he’d like. The Ox – good, then injured (there’s a theme here). Flamini watched Coquelin overtake him and disappear over the horizon. Arteta will wonder what the future holds. Adios Abou.

Someone has to win this award though, and it’ll probably be Jack. He didn’t make the progress he’d have liked, and struggled to get back into the team once fit. Suspect we’ll see a lot more of him next season, though.

| Attack |

Who held Arsenal together in the autumnal sluggishness? Alexis. Who carried on working twice as hard as everyone else even when we thought his legs were about to fall off? Alexis. Who scored 25 goals in his maiden season? Tap-ins, curlers, raspers, headers, free kicks? Alexis. He might not have the ball retention of some of our midfielders but that is not his game. The Chilean maestro is a rare footballer indeed and getting him was an absolute coup. To finish the season with one of the best FA Cup goals of all time seemed a rather nice way to sum it all up. A bloody genius.

Giroud – leg broken by a ball, ffs – went onto have a fine season, scoring 19 goals despite missing three months of the season, with a particularly rich vein of form between February and April. He then did that peculiar Giroud thing whereby he hit the buffers, and hit them with a passion. Once he’s spent, he’s spent. There seems little middle ground with him on that front but he’ll be pleased with his contribution overall.

Welbeck – bags of promise, works his socks off and has the flexibility to play across the forward line. Walcott – finished the season explosively.

Who knows what might have been if Walcott and Welbeck had stayed fit all season. You still feel there’s room to add to our collection here – I wonder if Wenger thinks the same.

| Who’ll be happiest? |

Alexis, without a doubt. Bedded into a new league and new culture in about fourteen seconds. Went on to prove he’s one of the best players in the league.

| Who’ll be most disappointed? |

Welbeck or Walcott. I think the former started well and endeared himself to the Arsenal fans in no time. His high-water mark was the goal against Utd in the FA Cup, but I don’t think he had the season he would have liked. Yes, he was injured a lot but he only scored eight goals, and he’ll be desperate to improve on that next year.

Theo had a dismal season until the bells chimed midnight. Understandably tentative after his return from injury, he scored a few but was too peripheral and paid for it with by being benched or ignored entirely – to the point where it seemed he was a dead cert to hit the Emirates exit door. But Wenger told us he was getting back to his best and he was proved right, exploding into form in the last game of the season and winning a cup final place on the back of it. Where he only went and bloody scored. Will he stay? Still hard to say, though I sincerely hope he does.

So overall, I’d go with Welbeck. Not a bad first season, with plenty of promise but plenty still to prove, and unlike Theo he didn’t have the icing on the cake of playing in the FA Cup final.

| Overall |

I thought at various points this season, as many did, that Wenger’s ship had once again sailed. It just goes to show what a useless mariner I’d make. The first half of the season was not always easy on the eye, and we were too far behind too soon, but there’s no denying that something clicked after Christmas. We learned to win big games, we became more resilient, Coquelin gave us much better balance. It just came together and there are so many reasons to be excited. The squad is united, the deadwood is nowhere to be seen, there are a few weak areas but far more strength in depth. Third is progress, and the FA Cup was simply magnificent.

Winning the FA Cup is no easy feat and we’ve done it twice in a row, breaking records as we’ve done so. We also played as well as we played all season in the final. That sea of yellow, the wall of noise, the pressing and waves of attacking, the fluid passing – none of it will not be forgotten for a while.

How can you ever say that a season in which you won a big trophy is not a success? It turned into an excellent, memorable season.

Plenty to do before now and August, but I already can’t wait.

Played you rip-roaring yellows. And reds.