Since I've cut down a lot on blogging about MMA and even movies, I thought perhaps I should start blogging about football as sort of a replacement. Although I do realise that most of my loyal readers are only interested in my movie reviews, this site's traffic has decreased a lot since January. I believe it's because I no longer review movies that are obviously going to be shit. Not as much as last time, at least. I still do review blockbusters that totally deserves to panned though. I still believe that lesser profit for garbage would give us higher quality releases in the future, and I'm already seeing huge improvement this year.
As for MMA, I just feel that I'm not appreciated even though I'm the first and still only independent blogger who supports the sport since its beginning stages in Malaysia. However, I'd still blog about ONE Championship and UFC's PPV fights just for the passion of it. The same passion that I have for Arsenal.
I've been a Gooner ever since the club (and Thierry Henry) turned me into a football fan during invincible season 2003/04. Before that, I actually thought football was boring (at least I never called it soccer). The attacking football style of Arsene Wenger's side was truly amazing to watch. It made me love the sport so much that I started playing futsal during my college days. I won't claim to be a professional or expert of any kind, but I will blog and criticise as a fan, because I love it, so much that I could even hate it at times when it's overly frustrating.
A quick Arsenal season 2014/15 review
The EPL season didn't start out well for the Gunners. Dropped way too many points even though we stayed unbeaten until October where the now-champions defeated us 2-0 at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea were runaway winners by Christmas and we couldn't even beat Tottenham Hotspur. The players simply couldn't click from the get-go and if it wasn't for the individual efforts of Wenger's brilliant new signing, Alexis Sanchez, the 4th spot may have been out of reach.
Wenger had one mistake that's more crucial than any other ones he made this season, and it's the same mistake that he tends to make every season -- not signing enough experienced players. Despite our obvious defensive problems since forever, we started the season with the aging Mathieu Flamini and captain Mikel Arteta as our only defensive midfielders, no new experienced natural central defenders as backup (until we signed Gabriel Paulista in the January window), no world class striker, and furthermore, sent out Francis Coquelin on loan (before he was recalled back in December and miraculously became one of the best defensive midfielders in the league).
We did sign Manchester United's unwanted striker Danny Welbeck, who's young, athletic and could still improve but he's no RVP yet, that's for sure. He did well, especially when he needed him to against his former club. His goal kicked them out of the FA Cup competition, which was priceless. New multi-purpose defender Calum Chambers started off very well at central defence while co-captain Mertesacker was injured, but when he was placed at right back, he was badly exposed due to his lack of pace for that position. But he was only playing at right back as Mathieu Debuchy, the new player we signed to replace Bacary Sagna, was out injured for 3 months. David Ospina was signed to replace goalkeeper Lukas Fabianski and to challenge the inconsistent Wojciech Szczesny as the number one choice, which he did. For most of the season, Szczesny was dropped and played only in cup competitions while Ospina was became the preferred keeper in league games.
Things didn't look too good until Santi Cazorla came to life in late November and helped Alexis carry the team. Coquelin was recalled to the squad early from his loan due to the injury crisis and lucky for Wenger, he was outstandingly brilliant for his role, covering front of the back four exceptionally well, giving confidence for the attackers to do their thing. Three of the players were simply fantastic this season. In January, we beat the then-reigning league champions Manchester City at their turf with a surprising rare defensive-counter strategy which got us the 2-0 victory. City never looked quite the same again this season after this defeat and it was a turning point for the Gunners.
From then onwards, the team finally showed signs of greatness, gelling well together, and players like young right-back Hector Bellerin, left-back Nacho Monreal and new goalkeeper Ospina were getting more consistently good with respective roles. There were no replacing central defenders Laurent Koscielny and co-captain Per Mertesacker but fortunately, they stayed fit for the rest of the season from here. Alexis proved to be one of Wenger's best ever signings, netting 25 goals in this debut season. Olivier Giroud had a great scoring form in March and finished the season as the second top scorer of the club behind Alexis with 16 goals in much lesser appearances than Alexis (36 total appearances, Alexis had 52). Mesut Ozil still couldn't quite prove why he cost 42.5 million pounds but he did contribute offensively, making some magical passes and assists from time to time.
The point is, Wenger finally found his best combination of starters for his 4-1-4-1 formation, that looked more like 4-1-2-2-1 to me. Either way, they're pretty much the same stubborn tactics which struggled in the first half of the season like previous years, but we could see how well it could actually work when the players know the system and each other better in the second half of the season. At least they don't look as clueless as before when they have loads of possession. And thank goodness, there have been much lesser blind crosses to no man's land, and no more conceding easily from opposition's set pieces.
Although we lost to the Spurs a game after the City match and got knocked out in the Champions League by Monaco in the last 16 stage, we could see that the club wasn't mentally fragile like before and was eager to come back stronger. In fact, I think it was overconfident that cost them the 3-3 away goal lost against Monaco. We went on to a 8-win streak in the league and reached second place before the draw against the bus-parked Chelsea and losing to the Swansea again. We finished the season with a 4-1 victory over West Bromwich Albion with Theo Walcott's hat trick and went on to trash Aston Villa 4-0 in the FA Cup Final with some beautiful goals, most notably Alexis' 30-yard stunner which may well be the goal of the season for the club. Yes, I agree that FA Cup may not seem much, but it's much more than Manchester United, City, Spurs and Liverpool were getting. They finished the season winning absolutely nothing. If we were playing against a bigger club in the final, the perception on the cup may be different.
In overall, it was a slightly improved season compared to the previous one. We won the FA Cup twice in a row, started signing big names since the stadium debt is settled, and finished third in the league comfortably instead of the usual fourth. I started the season wanting Wenger to leave the club (since 2011 if I'm not mistaken) but I am now on the fence, unless of course, someone like Pep Guardiola would like to replace him. For the first time in years, I could feel that the club could potentially challenge for the title.
Simply put, I look forward to seeing whether Wenger could continue to progress and improve much further. If he makes the same mistakes by not signing right or enough (first, offload Abou Diaby please), doesn't have new workable tactics and ends up in a top 4 race again, I think he should go even if we win the FA Cup yet again. No more second thoughts. What I think we really need is a world class centre forward, a defensive midfielder who could challenge Coquelin for the position, and perhaps a well proven goalkeeper.
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