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THE ARSENAL ANNUAL: Jem Maidment's complete analysis of the Gunners in 2008

PUBLISHED: 10:04 01 January 2009 | UPDATED: 15:44 07 September 2010

It s been another rollercoaster 12 months at The Emirates. Jem Maidment looks back at 2008. JANUARY The new year begins with a routine 2-0 win over West Ham but in their next home game only a late Theo Walcott equaliser saves Arsenal s blushes in the fi

It's been another rollercoaster 12 months at The Emirates. Jem Maidment looks back at 2008.

JANUARY

The new year begins with a routine 2-0 win over West Ham but in their next home game only a late Theo Walcott equaliser saves Arsenal's blushes in the first leg of the Carling Cup semi-final against Tottenham.

It delays the inevitable - a 1-5 thrashing at White Hart Lane in the second leg leaves fans fuming - and the Gunners' squad reeling.

An on-field spat between Nicklas Bendtner and Emmanuel Adebayor adds to the humiliation. The Togo striker immediately issues an apology. "I am sorry for the disagreement with my team-mate Nicklas," he says.

"We are both passionate about this club and sometimes that can be projected in the wrong way."

But it merely highlightes growing disunity within the club.

Meanwhile, Tomas Rosicky limps out of a 3-0 win over Newcastle and does not play again for the rest of the year.

FEBRUARY

With Arsenal's season threatening to implode, the league leaders begin February with a timely 3-1 win at Manchester City, Adebayor hitting two.

"We have 60 points now and that is phenomenal," said Arsene Wenger. "I don't know how much will be needed [to win the title] but it looks it will be around the 90s."

That optimism proves premature. A 0-4 loss at Manchester United in the FA Cup in front of 9,000 travelling Gooners shatters confidence and the month ends with Arsenal throwing away two points at 10-man Birmingham. The game, however, is overshadowed by a horror leg break to Eduardo.

"I have no words to describe what I saw," says shaken team-mate Mathieu Flamini, "We now want to win the title for him."

Erratic captain William Gallas also appears to have a breakdown as Blues are awarded a last-minute penalty, sitting in the centre circle in protest. The fans will never forgive him.

MARCH

Arsenal begin the month top of the Premier League, but draws with Aston Villa and Wigan allow Manchester United to overtake them.

In the Champions League it is a different story. The Gunners eke a goalless draw at home to holders AC Milan before finishing the Italians off in their own backyard, 2-0. "We have not been in the most positive environment recently, from the media," said Wenger. "But I like the fact the team finds the mental strength to play without restriction."

Didier Drogba scores twice as Arsenal are unlucky to lose 2-1 at Chelsea, but the following week give themselves a massive boost, coming back from 2-0 down at Bolton - and Abou Diaby's sending off - to win 3-2.

APRIL

A hellish month for the Gunners. They produce a superb display but lose 4-2 at Liverpool to go out of the Champions League 5-3 on aggregate. And their title bid ends five days later when they are beaten 2-1 at leaders Manchester United.

Again, the Gunners were hugely unfortunate after a spirited performance. Wenger says: "It is hard to swallow that we won't win the league... (but) we have to continue to produce the football we produce. We will not always be so unlucky..."

Cesc Fabregas is named PFA Player of the Year. Along with Gael Clichy, Bacary Sagna and Adebayor, he makes the PFA Team of the Year - Arsenal having more representatives than any other club.

Meanwhile, Wenger attacks Inter for their public pursuit of Alex Hleb. "I think it is disrespectful. It is illegal," he said.

MAY

The league campaign ends with 1-0 wins over Everton and Sunderland.

"We finish with 83 points which is respectable," says Wenger, "I have won titles with less."

Jens Lehmann finally leaves for VfB Stuttgart after an emotional farewell at The Emirates against the Toffees.

Mathieu Flamini, now a free agent, opts to take the money and move to AC Milan.

Arsenal Ladies complete another domestic double with a 4-1 win over Leeds in the FA Cup final. Boss Vic Akers said: "That is three times in a row [we have won the cup] and we have now set the record of nine finals, and we have won all of them - I am so proud of what we have achieved."

JUNE

Former Gunner Derek Tapscott, who spoke to Ham&High Sport on the 50th anniversary of scoring the last ever domestic goal against the Busby Babes earlier in the season, passed away.

The Welshman was 75. His death comes as another star from the Principality, Aaron Ramsay, completes his move from Cardiff to Arsenal.

Wenger said: "He is still only 17, but has already shown that he is a very intelligent and mature player with great quality."

Fabregas stars for Spain in their Euro 2008 triumph in Austria - the nation's first major honour since 1964.

JULY

Long-term club physio Gary Lewin leaves the club after nearly 22 years in the role to take up a new job at the Football Association.

"He's the best in the business - it will be Arsenal's loss," says Paul Merson. Arsenal confirm the signing of Marseille playmaker Samir Nasri. "Arsenal is a club that leave a trace for life," he said after completing his move to The Emirates.

He is joined by Portugal Under-21 midfielder Amaury Bishchoff, who arrives from Werder Bremen. Wantaway midfielder Hleb finally leaves for Barcelona - and incurs the scorn of fans by kissing the Barca badge as he signs on at the Camp Nou.

Jack Wilshere, 16, scores twice in a 10-2 friendly win over a Burgenland XI. "The fact he is out here tells you how highly I rate him," says Wenger.

Arsenal win the Emirates Cup, beating PSG and Inter.

AUGUST

The Amsterdam Tournament is won after victories over Lazio and hosts, Ajax.

Arsenal struggle to a 1-0 home win over newly-promoted West Bromwich Albion on the opening day of the league season, courtesy of a debut goal from Nasri. Sections of the crowd, however, make their displeasure known at Adebayor after he publicly courted a summer move to Barcelona.

The following week Fulham shock the Gunners with a 1-0 win at Craven Cottage. A 6-0 aggregate win over Steve McClaren's FC Twente sees Arsenal through to the Champions League group stages.

Eyebrows are raised when veteran Manchester United defender Mikael Silvestre is drafted in on a two-year contract.

SEPTEMBER

Arsenal start September with a magnificent 4-0 win at Blackburn and follow that up with a 3-1 defeat of Bolton at the Reebok to go top of the league.

Wenger hails it as a "convincing, united and classy performance". Walcott becomes a national hero with a hat-trick in England's 4-1 win in Croatia.

A young Arsenal side, prompted by the outstanding Wilshere, batter Sheffield United 6-0 in the Carling Cup.

But the following Saturday, with the senior players restored, Hull stun the Gunners with a 2-1 win at The Emirates.

"Human beings are not always machines," Wenger offers limply, "the desire was with Hull today."

Stan Kroenke, the American billionaire who owns a 12.38 per cent stake in he club, joins the board of directors.

The Gunners return exceptional financial figures at the annual meeting. Turnover increases by £22.3m to £223m, with pre-tax profits at a record £36.7m, an increase of just under £10m. On the pitch, the month ends on a high - Porto leaving N5 at the wrong end of a 4-0 scoreline.

OCTOBER

Wins over Everton and West Ham get the league back on track while Aaron Ramsay scores his first for the club as Arsenal run riot at Fenerbahce, winning 5-2.

Gallas is fined after being photographed smoking while on a night out. "In France we all smoke," said Wenger, "I did smoke [when I was younger] but never a lot and never when I played."

Arsenal lead Tottenham, under new boss Harry Redknapp, 4-2 in the north London derby with only three minutes remaining - only to concede twice to draw 4-4.

"There was no Redknapp factor with two minutes to go," snapped an irate Wenger, "You have seen the game like I have seen it. I let you judge that - I believe we were closer to scoring goal number five than we were to conceding two in the last three minutes."

Arsenal legend Tony Adams replaces Redknapp as Portsmouth manager.

NOVEMBER

A busy, and topsy-turvy, month. A 2-1 loss at Stoke leaves more questions than answers, but the Gunners fight back with a 2-1 win over champions Manchester United the following week in one of the finest games in Premier League history.

After a 3-0 win over Wigan in the Carling Cup, league defeats follow at home to Aston Villa (0-2) and at Manchester City (0-3).

Walcott dislocates his shoulder while training with England ahead of their friendly win over Germany. He won't return until the New Year. Wilshere becomes the youngest Gunner in European history at 16 years and 329 days when he comes on as a substitute in the 1-0 win over Dynamo Kiev.

The deeply unpopular Gallas is stripped of the captaincy after publicly criticising his team-mates. Fabregas is appointed new club skipper, a popular choice.

Arsenal appoint Major League Soccer deputy commissioner Ivan Gazidis as the club's new chief executive. "Ivan's credentials are first class," says chairman Peter Hill-Wood. He takes up the post on January 1.

The month ends magnificently. Robin van Persie scoring both goals in a 2-1 win at Chelsea.

DECEMBER

Arsenal's youngsters are beaten 2-0 at Burnley in the Carling Cup and a 2-0 loss for a scratch Gunners side at Porto leaves them finishing second in Champions League Group G - they later draw AS Roma in the last 16.

Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith, one of Arsenal's largest shareholders, leaves the board of directors with immediate effect. It ends her family's 50-year association with the club.

Arsenal's kids win 3-2 at Aston Villa in the FA Youth Cup and will meet Wolves in the fourth round.

The seniors earn a 1-0 win at home to Wigan as their league form remains patchy. The Arsenal crowd uncharacteristically turn on hapless substitute Emmanuel Eboue who is later substituted himself. It opens up a national debate on the right to boo players.

There's stunning praise for 16-year-old Wilshere from his manager Wenger: "I believe he will end up a central midfielder, just off the striker in the Bergkamp role - already he has so much power," he said. "You give him four more years and he will be massively strong."

The best news of the month comes from Barnet's Underhill, where Eduardo returns to action for the first time in 10 months where he played 45 minutes for the reserves in a 2-0 win over Portsmouth. He targets a new year return to the first team.

editorial@hamhigh.co.uk


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