Josh's Review Of The 2008/09 Season

In the midst of transfer rumours and speculation, I decided to have a look back at last season and personal highlights and disappointments.

Best Goal of the Season
This season has seen some memorable goals, some of individual brilliance, others of combination play.  Below are 5. in no particular order of preference, that stick out in my mind from this season.
Arshavin’s 2nd goal vs Liverpool
After half time, the defence had thrown away the lead we had worked hard to hold.  Suddenly, the momentum was with Liverpool and I could not see passed anything other than a Liverpool 3rd.  At 2-1, Arsenal needed the next goal to stay in it and Arshavin produced it.  Showing great anticipation to capitalise on a loose header, he still had lots to do but in the blink of an eye, he thumped a rocket passed Reina.  As Andy Gray said, “how can a player who has hardly had a kick produce that?”
(23 minutes into the video)
Nasri’s 2nd goal vs Manchester United
This goal was a master class in intricate passing, patience and penetration.  The 5 man midfield was able to keep the ball, moving it in tight spaces until Nasri could get free.  The ball made its way to Fabregas, the one man you need if the final, killer pass is on.  Cesc delivered it and Nasri’s finish was brilliant in itself.  He simply smashed it in with such ferocity for his 2nd of the game.  Theo Walcott also played a big part as it was his clever run which opened up the large gap into which Nasri could run.
Adebayor goal vs Villarreal (away)
Having been outplayed in the first half, it looked bleak.  I had not seen a poorer performance for a while and Villarreal looked so confident at home.  However, one moment of brilliance completely turned the tie on its head.  Fabregas dinked a ball up to Adebayor and although the pass was inch perfect onto his chest, Adebayor seemed to have nowhere to go.  Twisting his body brilliantly, he made himself the room he needed before sending a bicycle kick into the corner.  No one expected it, Diego Lopez in goal did not move a muscle; simply brilliant.
Arshavin 1st goal for Arsenal vs Blackburn
There was a lot of hype surrounding Arshavin after he moved to Arsenal in January.  The players really needed to turn the season around and many desperate fans labelled Arshavin as the saviour before he even kicked a ball.  Two consecutive promising performances at home to Sunderland and Fulham only helped to increase the expectation.  In one individual piece of brilliance at home to Blackburn, Arshavin confirmed that he was the man to breath new life into the Emirates.  Coming in from wide left and close to the by-line, Arshavin jinked passed the defender with seeming ease before lifting the ball high into net.  On the reverse angle reply, one can see how small a gap he had to aim at.  The sheer audacity of this goal showed what a player he can be for Arsenal.
Eduardo goal vs Burnley
We all knew how good a finisher Eduardo is but this goal was something else.  He made the finish look so easy but I tell you now, that technique is nearly impossible.  He uses the side of his heel to generate immense power into the shot.  I could not believe what I had seen when I saw it and this for me is one of the best volleys I have EVER seen!
Robin Van Persie vs Liverpool
The pass from Samir Nasri was the first piece of play which deserves credit.  He picked out Van Persie’s run perfectly with a drilled diagonal ball.  Then, RVP himself showed how much ability he has.  Trapping the ball on his chest, it seemed as though he was off balance.  However, he managed to drag the ball away from the approaching Carragher.  Trusting his right foot he was able to smash the ball into the net.  It showed confidence, ability and precision.  Van Persie is a talented footballer and this season he has shown this at crucial times and this goal summed up the good bits of his season.
Most improved player
In a season that brought more disappointment, it seems the squad is still in transition.  There have been players that have shown they are capable of playing at the highest level.  Some have secured their positions, while others have shown the fans that they may have been too quick to judge.
Alex Song
This guy has come on leaps and bounds since he was booed by Arsenal fans at Fulham a few years back.  His tackling has gradually become better timed, stronger and less reckless.  His positioning and reading of the game are now two of his best attributes and he seems to be bringing a calmness to centre of midfield.
08/09 video Alex Song
Denilson
Denilson has provided vehement debate throughout this season.  Although I do not think he is ready YET, I do think he can be a great player for Arsenal in a few years.  People forget that at 20 he has been asked to fill a big void in central midfield.  He had never played a full season before this one but he played in more games than most of the squad.  He was always prepared to put himself on show and never cowered away from criticism.  He has improved areas of his game and very much deserves the fans’ support over the next year or so.  It is not his fault that Wenger put too much responsibility on his young shoulders too early.
08/09 video Denilson
Kieran Gibbs
He may have only played a small amount of games, but the maturity Kieran Gibbs showed suggests he has a big future here.  It was testament to him that we did not miss Clichy too much.  Although his defending still needs some improvement, his attacking play represents that of an experienced full back.  His final ball is often excellent, something that cannot be said for Clichy, his dribbling is good and he has pace in abundance.  His tackling is good and if he can work on his positioning, he will soon be pushing Clichy for the left back slot.
Nicklas Bendtner
Not everyone’s favourite, but Bendtner has pushed on admirably and is starting to look like a very good striker.  Despite many claims he was too arrogant, he worked hard on his game and is starting to prove that he can fini sh well, can link up play astutely and can be a real presence in the penalty area.  He did not complain when Wenger put him wide right or wide left but instead came up with crucial goals and assists.  He really looks to be enjoying his football at Arsenal and gives 100% on the pitch.
08/09 video Bendtner
Best Moment of the Season
This season has not beenthe best but there have been some exciting, promising and positive moments
Penalty Shootout win vs Roma
In the hostile atmosphere of the Stadio Olimpico, this young team showed real character to come through a tough shootout.  The game itself had been draining and as the penalty shootout dragged on, one wondered whether we would cope with the pressure.  However, each player stepped up confidently and took his penalty well.  When Tonetto missed, the relief spread through every fan and the players looked delighted.  It showed that these players do have the ability to handle pressure.
Winning at the Bridge
Having gone 1-0 down at Stamford Bridge, to come away with a victory was a fantastic achievement.  Chelsea had only lost once at home in the previous 4 years and Arsenal went there with the backing of very few pundits.  Yet, after going a goal behind, the players grouped together and produced an excellent team display in which it never looked like we would concede.  The two goals were brilliant moments themselves as we came away with a really positive result.
Winning at home to United
Many pundits believed Manchester United would be too strong for Arsenal in this game.  Both defensively and offensively United had blown away their opponents early on in the season.  However, Arsenal came out on top in what was a very open game.  We were able to show how we want to play football because we were granted space and I think we deserved the result due to how we fought for each other.  It gave hope that we could match anyone when we are on our game.
Nasri Goals
Arshavin 4 goals at Anfield
I do not remember a better showing of how to finish chances off.  Arshavin’s stats read: 4 goals, 4 shots on target, 4 goals.  He did not have much influence on proceedings other than his 4 goals. Each goal had something different that made it so good.  The first showed his ability to understand where he can get himself a goal.  He knew exactly where to be as the move developed.  The 2nd showed pure striking ability.  He thumped the ball home with minimal backlift.  The 3rd showed composure as he brought the ball down in an instant before burying the chance.  The 4th goal showed his pace and stamina as he raced the length of the field at speed before slotting it home with his weaker foot.  Rarely have I seen such a clinical individual performance.
Liverpool 4-4 Arsenal – All goals
Eduardo comeback goal vs Cardiff
This really was a beautiful moment.  Not many expected to see Eduardo start this game but Wenger decided it was time to unleash Eduardo once again.  After such a horrible injury and tough rehab, every Arsenal fan was delighted to see him playing again, let alone scoring.  However, he delivered what we all wanted and that was a goal.  He was involved in all the buold up play for the goal before he suggested he was ready to start scoring again as he put away a clean header.  When Eduardo went to his knees it nearly brought a tear to my eye and I said to my mate, “this really is the romance of the FA Cup”.  His name rung around the Emirates at a volume I had not head there often.  It really was a fantastic moment.
Worst moment of the season
In another trophyless season, I felt I had to look at some of the worst moments of the season.  Some of these were embarrassing, some ridiculous and others down right frustrating.  I do not want to dwell on these too much so I have picked 3 that really hurt me. Videos are included here also if you really want to watch!
Losing to Man Utd 3-1 in the Champions League
I was absolutely devastated after just 10 minutes.  All the hype and optimism around the club just vanished.  It was embarrassing to see just how far we were from Manchester untied at that moment in time.  Such a result had been coming in the away leg but to lose like this at home was nothing short of a horror show.  We had beaten them at the Emirates already that season but this time we had not shown anything to suggest we could match them when it mattered.
Losing to Hull 2-1 at home
This was the one result I did not expect when I saw our fixtures for last season.  Granted, Hull had started well but to lose this game was laughable.  Hull had two chances and scored but we looked blunt in attack and shaky in midfield.  This result still makes me angry when I think back now.
Losing FA Cup Semi-Final
It all started so well as we went 1-0 up.  However, the players just seemed to fizzle out as Chelsea took control.   We conceded through errors by Fabianski and his central defenders which added salt into the wound.  We almost handed Chelsea victory rather than forced them to really take it from us.  Wenger also frustrated me when he left Nasri, Song and Arshavin out.  All 3 were on form and the excuse that he wanted to show the players that we could win without Arshavin is sheer crazy talk.  Nothing could instil more confidence than a scheduled Cup Final date but Wenger messed around with this before the game begun
Goals (In Dutch)
Best player of the season
I want to end on a positive note by looking at my very own player of the season.
Manuel Almunia
Manuel Almunia
This season, Almunia has been up there with the most consistent goalkeepers in Europe.  He has made a few errors but so has every keeper this season.  I think Arsenal fans are far too quick to judge Almunia.  No keeper is perfect but Almunia has produced some brilliant performance this season.  He commands his area very well, is a brilliant shot stopper and is really starting to organise his back four.
08/09 video Manuel Almunia
Samir Nasri
Many have been critical of Nasri this season but I think he has done admirably. People forget he is still young and this was his debut season in the Premier League.  He has adapted well and next season I expect him to push on even more.  He links well with others and has boundless energy in the middle of the park.  7 goals in 41 starts is a decent return from midfield and I expect we will see even more from Nasri next season.
08/09 video Samir Nasri
Robin Van Persie
Many people looked at Van Persie last summer and questioned whether it was possible for him to put his injury problems behind him.  In answer to these calls, Van Persie pushed himself when everyone else around him dropped like flies on a regular basis.  I have no doubt that Van Persie has the ability to be on of the best in Europe.  This season he showed that he can do it on the biggest stage with 10 assists in the league (joint top) and 20 goals in all competitions.  This is a good scoring rate for a withdrawn striker and the assists emphasise his ability to bring others into the game.  He dragged us through January by himself; scoring or creating every goal.  If he can keep himself fit once again next year, I expect big things from RVP
Andrei Arshavin
Despite the fact he was only here for 6 months, Arshavin’s impact means he must be considered in this debate.  He turned the season around with his positive direct play.  His goal invigorated others and his creative play helped bring back the football Wenger wants us to play.  He is soon becoming our BEST player and he says there is more to come.  I cannot wait…
08/09 video Andrei Arshavin
Please give your opinions on these moments and even say which you thought was the best, and even the worst in one vote!  Add your personal favourites/low points that I have left out.  My personal votes are as follows
Best goal: Eduardo vs Burnley
Most Improved Player: Alex Song
Best Moment: Eduardo comeback goal
Worst Moment: Man Utd defeat
Best Player: Robin Van Persie

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