Arsenal & Chelsea: Season Review, High’s, Low’s & Final Grades
Join us now as we review what went wrong for the Premier League’s big boys, starting with Arsenal and Chelsea, including highs, lows and overall grades.
They only went and did it. A monumental campaign has seen Leicester City become the most unlikely champions in Premier League history. A quarter of a million fans lined the streets of their hometown to cheer on the conquering Foxes, in a year where the footballing A-list all conspired to fluff their lines. Whilst nobody can take away from the achievements of Claudio Ranieri’s charges, it’s been a horrendous year for the Premier League’s biggest clubs, whose collective failures cleared the way for a most unlikely title win. Join us now as we review what went wrong for the Premier League’s big boys, starting with Arsenal and Chelsea.
This should have been Arsenal’s year. Despite a lacklustre transfer window in which they were the only club not to sign an outfield player, the transfer of Petr Čech added steely experience to a traditionally-leaky defence. Gunners fans were optimistic about the chances of ending their Premier League trophy drought, with Alexis Sánchez’s glittering debut campaign in England and Mesut Özil finally beginning to demonstrate his world-class talents early on.
Yet again, however, Arsenal have failed to deliver on hollow promise. A lack of potency up front has been brutally exposed, with Olivier Giroud unable to break the 20 goal barrier in the Premier League for a 4th year in a row. Sánchez, whilst always a willing worker, couldn’t match the effervescence of his maiden campaign, struggling with the hangover of a Chilean victory in the Copa America. Mesut Özil had a storming first half of the season, only for his form to collapse in the new year alongside the rest of his teammates. Injuries to players like Welbeck and Wilshere haven’t helped, but the Emirates crowd are beginning to grow restless with a regime that seems incapable of arresting their teams’ slide into stagnation. A fan protest against Norwich in April was more meek than militant, but make no mistake – Arsenal should have been celebrating this year.
Highs: A last-gasp victory over Leicester on Valentines Day closed the gap at the top of the table to just two points, Welbeck’s finish breathing new life into Arsenal’s title challenge. It would be a short reprieve, however, with the Gunners’ form collapsing shortly afterwards. Héctor Bellerin has established himself as the best fullback in the Premiership after a formidable season, his lightning runs from the flank adding zest to a pedestrian Arsenal attack.
Lows: Another early exit in the Champions League, once again at the hands of Barcelona. Wenger’s reliance on the Olivier Giroud as a starting striker is unfair on the player and myopic for his team, who are crying out for a world-class finisher. Jack Wilshere’s continuing injuries are worrisome for club and country – he desperately needs a trouble-free season next year if he is to make the most of his obvious potential.
After securing the title at a canter last year, there was no reason to suspect that Chelsea wouldn’t be just as formidable this campaign. Things went awry on the very first day of the season, José Mourinho’s rant against club-medic Eva Carneiro leaving a bitter taste in the mouth’s of most football observers. A horrible run of form cost the Blues their title and the Portuguese his job, with last years’ outstanding midfielders Nemanja Matić and Cesc Fàbregas having a torrid time of things. Guus Hiddink has managed to arrest the slide, but it’s been a disastrous campaign for the Pensioners, who will be happy to consign this season to the dustbin of history.
Highs: At times this season, Willian has looked like the only player in a Chelsea shirt capable of kicking a football. The Brazilian has been decisive for his team all year, with his clinical set-pieces and incisive runs from the wing often getting points single-handedly. A brutal showing would be even worse this year save for the former-Donetsk dynamo.
Lows: Eden Hazard’s form has been truly abysmal. Last year’s standout player in the Premiership simply hasn’t shown up this time around, only scoring his first goal of the season at the end of April against Bournemouth. Branislav Ivanović, usually one of the clubs’ more reliable performers, made a litany of costly mistakes that were in keeping with a ramshackle defensive performance all season. The Mourinho-Carneiro debacle cast a very long shadow indeed.
Next Up – Liverpool and Spurs…
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