The Gunners endured (mostly) and enjoyed (at times) a bittersweet season in their 2016/17 campaign. From thumping league winners Chelsea 3-0 at the Emirates to getting thumped 3-0 by Crystal Palace at the Selhurst Park, Arsene Wenger’s men showed glimpses of how good and how bad they can be in a season that turned ugly at the hands of Bayern Munich (by default) with a 10-2 humiliation in the Champions League.
The best of the good came on 24th September, 2016, when Arsenal destroyed the would-be Premier League winners Chelsea 3-0 at the Emirates. Ozil and Sanchez ran riot as they made the Conte’s side look weak, however, the defeat triggered a superb reaction from Chelsea as they went onto win their next 13 consecutive matches to take the first step towards the title.
The other notable mentions of the Gunners being vintage good included the 6-0 destruction of Ludogorets in Champions League, the total domination in a 5-1 away win at West Ham, comfortable 2-0 win against Manchester United towards the end of the season, and the 9 wins out of last 10 matches which culminated in a remarkable FA Cup win against Chelsea.
As a result, Arsenal are now the record winners of FA Cup with 13 titles, 7 of which came under Arsene Wenger – another record.
In terms of individual performances and brilliance, Mesut Ozil’s magical winning goal in a 3-2 away win at Ludogorets tops the list. The German wizard lobbed the onrushing goalkeeper, left the 2 defenders on the floor with his silky touches before calmly passing the ball into the net.
Alexis Sanchez’s record-breaking season was another positive in a rather dull campaign for Arsenal. The Chilean became the only player to reach double figures in terms of goals and assists in the Premier League.
The young English defender Rob Holding, who signed for a meagre £2 million from Bolton, has proved be a massive bargain as the youngster played an important part in the late revival of Arsenal.
For starters, Arsenal finished 5th in the PL table and missed out on the Champions League football for the first time in the 21-year reign of Arsene Wenger. The Gunners have been the most consistent team in England in terms of finishing in the top 4 over the last 2 decades. However, a 75 points finish this season, 1 point behind fourth-placed Liverpool, brought the long-held and much celebrated trend to an end.
On 10th December 2016, Arsenal were top of the table and looked set for a strong Premier League campaign. However, what followed in the next 2 matches brought the first signs of trouble for gunners. Arsenal went away to Everton and Manchester City in the busy month of December, took the lead in both matches, and remarkably lost both the matches by giving away the early leads. Many believe these were the losses where Arsenal gave up on their Premier League aspirations.
The abysmal month of December marked the beginning of a steep downfall in the Premier League campaign forArsenal. Arsene Wenger’s team then drew 3-3 at Bournemouth, lost 2-1 against Watford at home, before getting bullied by West Brom in a 3-1 away defeat to lose grip on their tumbling season. The 2-0 loss in the last ever White Hart Lane North London Derby was another low point in the season for Arsenal.
In terms of individual performances, Hector Bellerin, Francis Coquelin, Petr Cech and Theo Walcott were massive underperformers for the Gunners during their slump.
The aggregate 10-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the first knockout round of Champions League was, perhaps, the ugliest of the all the ugly that happened with Arsenal in the 2016/17 campaign.
The Gunners started both the legs quite well, before blowing both of them in the second halves to concede a humiliating 10-2 scoreline. Interestingly, club captain Laurent Koscielny left the field in both the matches to trigger the thrashing – he got injured in the first leg and was awarded a red card in the second.
The other humiliation for Arsenal came at the Selhurst Park on 11th April 2017. It was a must win fixture for Arsenal to keep their top 4 fate in their hands, but what followed was a morale damaging 3-0 loss against Crystal Palace which left Arsenal’s season in a lurch. The trio of Benteke, Zaha and Cabaye made the Arsenal defence dance to their flute, as the Gunners were outplayed by a relegation threatened team.
Off the pitch too, Arsenal had a tough season to endure. The uncertainty around the future of the manager Arsene Wenger induced an unstable atmosphere at the club. To deteriorate the situation further, there were unprecedented “Wenger Out” protests all season, and protesters even flew planes with “Wenger Out” banners.
All these factors have also contributed to the lack of belief in star players like Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, who both are yet to sign a new contract with the club.
Written by Shorya Panwar
Has 20+ years of experience managing Schalke in Football Manager 2017. Believes wing-backs are the most complete footballers in the modern/evolved football. Writes weird stuff on his personal blog.