Our resident Arsenal fan Dougie Cazorla gives us his take on the Top 5 Gunners Games of the last decade
As an American Gooner at 31 years of age, my life as an Arsenal supporter traces back 12 years.I know I am late to the party but coverage and overall exposure became more common in the U.S. around 2005. Beforehand, only select games were on television and you had to scour the internet for results. In recent years, the confluence of every match being televised and the growing popularity of social media platforms has made it seem like European football is right at home.
The improbability of Anfield ‘89. Clinching the double at Old Trafford in ‘02. The Cup Winner’s Cup Final in ‘94 against Parma in Copenhagen. White Hart Lane in ‘04 to seal the “Invincibles” season. Henry’s goal against Real at the Bernabeu in ‘06. I would give anything to have experienced these games in real time and have them on my list below. Unfortunately, I can only live these moments through stories and highlight clips. Below are my top 5 Arsenal games that I’ve experienced dating back to the start of the decade.
5. Arsenal 1, Newcastle 0: Premier League, May 2013 – “1-1 at Newcastle”
This one was agonising from start to finish but so satisfying in the end. We entered the final match-day of the ‘12-’13 season in 4th place, one point clear of “that lot”. We needed to equal or better Spurs’ result to progress to a 16th consecutive Champions League and finish above Tottenham for an 18th straight season. Koscielny’s swivel-and- turn finish coming off a deflected Podolski header in the 52nd minute proved to be the decisive goal. The football played on that day against Newcastle wasn’t beautiful, but this victory will always resonate with me.
Why it’s Important: Spurs, seven points clear of us at the beginning of March, were unable to finish above us. On the same day, they got a game winner from Gareth Bale against Sunderland. Near the game’s conclusion, news had begun travelling around White Hart Lane that Newcastle had pulled level with Arsenal. Spurs fans erupted thinking they had overtaken us on points and were about to get the final Champions League spot.
4. Arsenal 2, Barcelona 1: Champions League, Feb. 2011 – “The Aaaaarrrsshavin Strike”
Aaaarrrsshaaaaavin!! Martin Tyler’s U.S. commentary will forever live in my memory. Beating the Catalan giants was an incredible achievement at the time as the team seemed unstoppable under Pep Guardiola. Arsenal was attempting to win with by developing younger players such as Nasri, Wilshere, Song, and Walcott. In the 78th minute, Van Persie cancelled out David Villa’s opening goal to make it 1-1. Five minutes later came that glorious counter-attack that started with a lovely Cesc turn in the midfield and ended with our jolly Russian finishing past Valdez who was rooted to the spot.
Why it’s Important: We were in the middle of a long trophy drought and big wins had been few and far between around this time. Beating such a big team at the peak of its power instilled a belief that our youth project and limited spending would eventually reap rewards.
3. Arsenal 2, Chelsea 1: FA Cup Final, May 2017 – “A New Hope”
This one is still fresh in everyone’s memory and the third FA Final Cup victory in the last four seasons. Goals from Alexis Sanchez and Aaron Ramsey were enough to beat Chelsea 2-1. The controversial Sanchez opener in the fourth minute should have been disallowed, but you’ll be hard pressed to find any Chelsea fans that would claim Arsenal weren’t deserved winners on the day. The attacking football on display was reminiscent of why I chose to support Arsenal in the first place.
Why it’s Important: Although we had beaten big teams in recent FA Cup runs, we hadn’t had to in this 4 year run at Wembley. This victory over the dominant league champions made the trophy that much sweeter. Additionally, it has instilled hope for next season that our manager can cater to the majority of his players’ strengths and implement a system that gets results in big games.
2. Arsenal 2, Napoli 0: Champions League, Sep. 2013 – “Ozil at the Arsenal”
When I think about my favourite Arsenal memories, I always look back to this one. The ink had barely dried on the contract of newly signed Mesut Ozil and this was his coming out party in red and white. His quality and price tag provided energy to a fan base that had been crying out for the club to show ambition in the transfer market. Arsenal began the game energetically and Özil’s cheeky side-footed finish found the net in the eighth minute. Minutes later Ozil provided the assist for Giroud’s goal. Ozil and Ramsey were unstoppable in the centre of the pitch that day.
Why it’s Important: The signing of Mesut Ozil didn’t just strengthen the squad, it gave belief that Arsenal still had ambitions. Year after year we had watched our club get outspent and bullied in the transfer market and 42.5m spent was a signal of intent.
1. Arsenal 5, Tottenham 2: Premier League, Feb. 2012 – “5 Unanswered”
Tottenham finished above us in the 16/17 season and it was thoroughly deserved. However, of all the 12 consecutive years I was able to personally witness a St. Totteringham’s Day, the 11/12 season was the sweetest. Tottenham, 10 points clear of Arsenal at kick-off, were supposed to finish above Arsenal. This is the match that began to swing the momentum in the opposite direction.
Just one time on the soccer pitch, I want to abuse a ball the way Bacary Sagna did with his header in the 40th minute. It served as the catalyst that sparked Arsenal’s come-from- behind victory and will always be one of my all-time favorite goals. After conceding two early goals to Spurs, Sagna’s goal was followed by Van Persie (43’), Rosicky (51’), and Walcott (65’ and 68’) goals to cap the 5-2 mauling.
Why It’s Important: The victory in itself was a thing of beauty, but those three points were critical in eventually finishing third that season. This ensured Champions League qualification and led to Tottenham being left out due to Chelsea’s triumph in winning the competition that season.
Written by Dougie Cazorla, follow him on twitter @
Dougie is also the founder of the superb Arsenal Blog cusegooners.com
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