The highs and lows of Arsenal’s 2010
The year started with a 2-1 win at West Ham in the FA Cup but Arsenal’s interest ended in the next round at Stoke, a game in which Sol Campbell made a shock return on a contract until the end of the season after impressing while training at London Colney.
“I rolled up my sleeves and got stuck in. It was just great being back out there, working hard and trying to win games,” said the 35-year-old.
Two wins over Bolton in three days gave Arsenal’s title hopes a boost, but the month ended with a soul-destroying 3-1 home defeat to Manchester United.
“We need something special now to stay in the race. I am conscious of that,” said Arsene Wenger.
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Arsenal dropped nine points behind leaders Chelsea after a Didier Drogba double gave the Blues a 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge.
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“After every defeat you have to ask the right questions to yourself and the team. You have to go again and dig in – we will carry on fighting,” said Gael Clichy.
And they did.
The Gunners responded with three Premier League wins in February, starting with a 1-0 victory over Liverpool at the Emirates – Wenger’s 300th win at Arsenal.
Meanwhile, London Mayor Boris Johnson lauded Arsenal In The Community’s work as “inspiring” as the scheme celebrated its 25th anniversary.
Aaron Ramsey suffered an horrific leg break in the 3-1 league victory at Stoke City. Ryan Shawcross was sent off for the foul on the Welshman – and Wenger was left fuming
“To lose a player of that quality at 19 years of age when he is just starting his career is just horrendous. It is difficult to accept.”
Porto, the 2004 Champions League winners, were annihilated as the Gunners reached the last eight of the competition.
Nicklas Bendtner became the first player to score a European hat-trick at Emirates Stadium, during the 5-0 win, which put Arsenal through 6-2 on aggregate.
Back in the Premier League, Arsenal beat Burnley, Hull and West Ham before drawing 1-1 at Birmingham.
“We were in a position where we had to win all our games – to not win today is a big blow,” said Wenger.
On the final day of the month Barcelona, who put on a magnificent first-half performance, took a 2-0 lead at the Emirates but the Gunners, inspired by sub Theo Walcott, pulled it back to draw 2-2, Cesc Fabregas netting a late penalty despite a broken leg bone. He would miss the rest of the domestic season.
The wheels began to come off spectacularly.
The month started with a routine 1-0 win over Wolves before three defeats shattered Arsenal’s season. Lionel Messi (above) scored all four as Barcelona ran out convincing 4-1 winners at Camp Nou.
“I don’t know how many players in the world who could score that fourth goal he scored. It looks impossible but he makes it possible,” shrugged Wenger afterwards.
Successive league defeats at Tottenham and Wigan ended Arsenal’s diminishing title hopes before the month ended with a limp goalless draw at home to Manchester City with Robin van Persie starting his first game for five months.
Arsenal lost again – 2-1 at Blackburn – before finishing the season on a high with a 4-0 home win over Fulham to secure third place in the Premier League.
Wenger explained why the title was out of their reach: “Overall we conceded too many goals to win the title,” he said.
“We did not have the players available in the last six weeks to fight for the title. When you go into the final sprint you need your squad available.”
France international striker Marouane Chamakh signed on a long term contract after netting 79 times in 293 appearances for Bordeaux.
“This is a dream come true and a great joy to be joining Arsenal. My goal was always to play in the Premier League and Arsenal was the choice of my heart,” he said.
But Arsenal fans ended the month fearing Cesc Fabregas would leave the club after the skipper handed in an official transfer request.
Arsenal turned down a bid for Fabregas from Barcelona.
“We have no intention of selling our captain. Barcelona have publicly stated that they will respect our position and we expect that they will keep their word,” read a terse club statement.
Arsene Wenger was scathing after England were knocked out of the World Cup following a 4-1 defeat to Germany.
“England were impatient,” he said. “They came back in the second half to 2-1 and they controlled the game.
“What made me sad was that, with the experience they had, they were caught. It was ‘free-kick for England, goal for Germany’.
“They were killed by their impatience. You do what they did with five minutes to go OK, but not with 25 minutes left.”
Spain won the World Cup – and Pepe Reina forced a Barcelona shirt on Fabregas during the celebrations. The Gunner looked embarrassed as speculation mounted he was heading to the Spanish champions.
Eduardo departed for Shakhtar Donetsk. In an emotional statement before leaving for Ukraine, he told supporters: “When I first came to England, I could not speak the language and knew nobody, but as soon as I arrived I was made to feel at home and part of this big family. I want to say thank you to all of you Arsenal supporters - you have been fantastic to me and always sung my name and I will never forget this.”
Lorient defender Laurent Koscielny arrived for a fee of �8.5m – he immediately took the No6 shirt. Wenger said: “Laurent will do well for us. He is a fighter and a very strong competitor.”
Cesc Fabregas confirmed he would stay at Arsenal.
“I cannot deny that joining a club like Barca was not an attractive move for me. This was the club I learned my football, my hometown, where all my friends and family are and a club I have always dreamed of playing.
“(But) I am a professional and fully understand that is Arsenal’s prerogative not to sell me. I owe the manager, the club and the fans everything.”
Arsenal kicked off the season with a 1-1 draw at Liverpool followed by wins over Blackpool – with Theo Walcott netting a hat trick – and Blackburn.
The Gunners completed the �4m signing of Seville’s French defender Sebastien Squillaci.
The Gunners got the month off to a flying start with thumping wins over Bolton in the league and Braga in Europe. In the Carling Cup, Tottenham were humiliated 4-1 at White Hart Lane after a stunning display from Wenger’s men.
But West Bromwich Albion pulled off a shock 3-2 win at the Emirates – with Manuel Almunia bearing the brunt of the fans’ frustrations after two howlers.
Wenger tried to defend the Spaniard, who sustained an injury during the game, saying: “Everybody made individual mistakes. For what happened, everybody will criticise Almunia but if we are 0-0 at half time it is because of Almunia.
“I think mentally we were never in the game … we had no sharpness and you have to analyse why we had no sharpness.” It was Almunia’s last game of 2010.
Didier Drogba scored his 13th goal in 13th games against Arsenal as Chelsea won 2-0 at Stamford Bridge.
Wenger, though, said Arsenal were unlucky: “The game should have been over before it had started - we had the first two chances in the first minute . We had the chances today. But when you have the chances we had you need to score.”
Arsenal responded magnificently with five wins on the spin, including a 5-1battering of Shakhtar Donetsk, 3-0 at Manchester City in the Premier League, and a 4-0 thumping of Newcastle at St James’ in the Carling Cup.
Meanwhile, Wenger admitted he would be willing to pay a player �200,000 a week.
“If it is the market price and we have the resources available and if we can balance our accounts then yes [we would pay that],” said Wenger. “But in the next year or two? No.
Successive home defeats to Newcastle and, crucially, Tottenham Hotspur, seriously derail Arsenal’s title bid.
Spurs’ 3-2 win was their first on enemy territory since May 1993 – after Arsenal blew a 2-0 lead.
The Gunners responded in their next league game with a 4-2 win at Aston Villa, Jack Wilshere scoring the fourth, and a 2-0 win over Wigan in the Carling Cup.
A nervy Arsenal overcame Fulham 2-1 at the Emirates and then sealed their place in the Champions League with a 3-1 victory over a poor Partizan Belgrade side.
Arsenal were paired with favourites Barcelona in the last 16.
The Gunners lost 1-0 to league leaders Manchester United but responded with a 3-1 win over Chelsea at the Emirates on December 27. “We’re in December and in touch with Manchester United. We have to be at our best and continue to improve,” said Wenger.
“I hope the victory tonight will convince the team that we are moving in the right direction and we continue to improve.”