Last year, Arsenal finally ended their trophy drought of nine years as they won the FA Cup, beating Hull City 3-2 in the final. The Gunners have since, been active in the transfer market as both Bacary Sagna and Lukasz Fabianski saw their contracts out while former captain Thomas Vermaelen joined Barcelona.
To fill the gaps left by these departures, David Ospina, Mathieu Debuchy and Calum Chambers along with Danny Welbeck and the £35 million signing of Alexis Sanchez were brought into the club.
While the Gunners didn’t exactly push on and use the FA Cup as a springboard for greater things in the 2014-2015 season, they still however, ended the season in third place, winning the Community Shield and retaining the FA Cup along the way. We take a look back and review the highs and lows.
Arsenal convincingly won the Community Shield beating Manchester City 3-0 while they started their league campaign with a late winner against 10 man Crystal Palace. However, it was anything but impressive following those games as they managed just one win in the next five games.
This poor form extended into the Champions League against Borussia Dortmund as the Germans won 2-0 which wasn’t even close to being a fair reflection of the game.
A lot of questions were being asked particularly on Wenger’s decision to play a 4-1-4-1 formation with Mesut Ozil mostly deployed out wide.
Another season, another injury crisis. Arsenal had key players in Mesut Ozil, Mathieu Debuchy, Olivier Giroud, Laurent Koscielny and Mikel Arteta out injured for a large periods of time.
Ozil got injured against Chelsea and was out until the new year. One can say the German wasn’t having the best of performances at the time but he was still a vital part of the team.
Arteta did a decent job with his best performance coming against Man Utd and Dortmund. But with him on the sidelines, we saw the unreliable Mathieu Flamini starting which did no one any favours.
With Giroud out injured, the attack lacked a goal threat as both Danny Welbeck and Yaya Sanogo were not finishing off chances or making the most of their opportunities. With Debuchy and Koscielny also on the sidelines, it’s not a wonder that Arsenal failed to find consistent form early on in the season.
Dip in form and revival
Aaron Ramsey was arguably Arsenal’s best player in the 2013-2014 season but he failed to recreate that form this season. With his knack of scoring goals, Ramsey lost his scoring boots and was goalless for four months at one point.
His defensive work rate was relatively lower than last season which created more problems for Arteta or Flamini as he was trying to do too much on the field with misplaced passes, wild shots and over-hit long balls. It seemed that he had forgotten the basics and was struggling to play in the new formation.
Per Mertesacker had the biggest dip in form however. Mertesacker was arguably one of the best defenders in league for the past two seasons but after returning from World Cup, his performances were below par.
It seems that the number of games played for club and country over the course of 2014 fatigued the experienced centre back as fans were turning on the big German.
While he did have a better second half of the season along with Ramsey, one can wonder if both had performed from the very start, maybe Arsenal wouldn’t have been out of the title race so early on in the season.
Spanish players take their chance
Hector Bellerin was initially below Chambers and Debuchy in pecking order until Debuchy got injured again and Chambers wasn’t preferred after his poor showings at right-back.
It’s easy to forget that Bellerin had a poor first start as a Gunner against Dortmund but he cemented his spot when he got his second chance in 2015 when the Spaniard played against Hull City in FA Cup.
Bellerin continued to impress from then on, being one of the best players on the pitch in Arsenal’s win against Manchester City at the Etihad – arguably their best performance of the season.
There are some aspects of Bellerin’s game that still needs work – mainly his defensive qualities – but that will improve by time, and so will his attacking side which has already been very impressive.
Nacho Monreal, another Spanish fullback who has surprised us all with his improvement, has now become the undisputed first choice left-back. Monreal significantly improved on the defensive side of the game, with his zonal marking being one of his strong abilities and he has also shown improvements offensively.
Wenger said his coordination with Sanchez on the wing has been the key reason for him to start and it’s not surprising Monreal’s change in form is one of the big positives of Arsenal’s season.
Cazorla’s new role and the rise of Francis Coquelin
With Ozil injured on the sidelines, Santi Cazorla mostly played in an advanced role behind the striker. In 2015 with Ozil’s return however, Wenger surprised many by deploying the Spaniard in a deep lying midfield role alongside the returning Francis Coquelin.
It was an interesting decision ahead of the game against Stoke City but it worked as the duo complimented each other as Arsenal soaked up attacks and took their chances, most notably in their away win against Manchester City.
Cazorla was distributing the ball all over the pitch, keeping hold of possession, as well as regaining it to help his partner defensively. On the other side of the pivot, Coquelin broke down the opposition’s attack, shielded the back four and provided Arsenal the much needed defensive solidarity and steel in midfield.
Coquelin’s change in fortune was another bright point in Arsenal’s season as having played for Charlton on loan in the first half of the season, the Frenchman was recalled and took his chance and is now one of the first names on the team sheet, having recently finished second in Arsenal’s Player of the Season poll.
Mesut Ozil’s resurgence
As mentioned, Ozil didn’t have the best of starts as he was mostly played as a wide playmaker in what was an experimental formation by Wenger.
With just the solitary goal and two assists, the German wasn’t living up to his or anyone else’s expectations and things got worse when he got injured at Stamford Bridge and was subsequently out for three months.
The general consensus is that the mercurial German hasn’t lived up to the previous high standards that he set at Real Madrid, however, since returning in the new year, there has definitely been improvements in his game. Looking more comfortable and being able to dictate games at ease, Ozil has really put some of his doubters to bed.
He was one of Arsenal’s best players in the semifinal and final of the FA Cup and was absolutely crucial in Arsenal’s unbeaten run of 11 matches which resurrected their season. Here’s to a better 2015-2016 season for the 26-year-old.
Undoubtedly Arsenal’s player of the season, Sanchez directly contributed to 37 goals (25 goals, 12 assists) in all competitions.
Initially benched when the season started, it was not long before Sanchez started hitting the headlines, scoring goal after goal as the Chilean was the Gunners’ go-to-guy the first half of the season.
Even though he wasn’t efficient at retaining possession and often lost it, his work rate was phenomenal off the ball as he pressed the opposition more than anyone on the pitch. Compared to the first half, his second half of the season wasn’t as good but his performances in Wembley were crucial.
Alexis not only brought pace and spark which Arsenal lacked on their wings last season, but also a goal threat capable of creating on his own and most importantly, a player with the hunger to win. It’s no surprise that he labels this season as an underachieving one.