In the grand scheme of Arsenal history, the 2011/12 season will largely be forgotten. There are far more noteworthy seasons in our clubs history than our 125 anniversary season, and after the highs and lows of last season, I think it’s safe to say that many of us are quite happy to draw a line under that season, and move onto next season.
In truth, the events of last August meant our title campaign was over before it had even began, and I think it’s fair to say I speak for most Gooners in saying I would have happily accepted 3rd place at any point in the season, considering the summer and the start we had.
We all know the low points, they don’t need revisiting, the media remind us of them enough as it is, however in a season we will largely forget and move on from, there really were some magical moments.
Our worst team in a decade managed to destroy Spurs 5-2, beat Chelsea 5-3 on their own patch, play the eventual champions City off the park in our win at the Emirates, mesmerise a European juggernaut in the blistering first half at home vs Milan, and record a win 7-1 against Blackburn.
Success in football is measured in trophies, that can’t be denied, but as this very website proves, great memories aren’t confined to whether trophies are won or not.
This was the year that the King returned. With the Invincibles largely retired, arguably the greatest player in that team came home. In the annals of history, Arsenal beating Leeds 1-0 at home in an FA Cup 3rd round match will be a mere footnote. But for those of us blessed to be there that night, we witnessed a moment to cherish forever. I’ve been to a lot of football matches in my time, and I’m lucky to support a team who have given me the chance to attend cup finals and victory parades, but in my lifetime I’ve never seen anything quite like it. It was by some distance the best night the new stadium has seen, it was phenomenal.
I remember back in 2004, a commentator said he had run out of superlatives to describe Thierry Henry. Well there are no words I can use to express the unique feeling those of us in the stadium shared that night. It was like nothing else mattered, a hero had returned and delivered us a fairytale.
It wasn’t the only time this season I’d have no words to say.
Ten weeks later on a similarly brisk, cold night in North London, I sat in the same seat, and had watched Arsenal outplay and outperform Newcastle for 95 minutes, yet remain deadlocked at 1-1. The way the season had gone we knew we couldn’t afford to drop points, particularly against a Champions League qualifying rival.
Then it happened. As Vermaelen bundled the ball into the net, scoring us a 95th minute winner, joy transcended the Emirates crowd. I experienced a sensation I’ve never previously encountered: I couldn’t talk. Furthermore, I couldn’t even make a sound. I was jumping up and down with the rest of the crowd, the sheer sense of relief and happiness all around. So happy was I, I had lost the ability to make sound – it was like an ethereal, out-of-body reaction. After a few seconds of deliriously hugging fellow Gooners, I was able to grunt some semblance of a cheer as Vermaelen’s name was cheered out over the tannoy.
Both those games were truly sensational, and experiences I will never forget.
Added to the memorable, last gasp victories over Sunderland, Liverpool and Marseilles, in addition to the remarkable anniversary game vs Everton, there was a fair amount to be excited about this year.
So while we bid the 125 anniversary season a welcome goodbye ( I for one am glad to see the back of it, I’ve been fraught with nerves for 9 months about CL qualification), it’s worth reflecting that, even in a non-vintage year, Arsenal still supplied some breathtaking moments. And for the rollercoaster of emotions that this last season caused, we can always remind our neighbours that it was the year the Spuds were 10 points clear in February, and they still f**ked it up. I think they’ll remember it longer than we will.