With highs, come the lows. Here are Arsenal’s 10 worst games of 2011.
10. Stoke City 3-1 Arsenal (Premier League, Britannia Stadium, May 8 )
(Stoke- Jones 28, Pennant 40, Walters 82 ; Arsenal- van Persie 81)
Arsenal, at this stage of the season, had only pride to play for. Despite beating Manchester United a week earlier, Arsenal were 6 points behind the Red Devils, and only 3 games left to play. And, the dying embers of title hopes were finally extinguished by Stoke. The entire game seemed a farce, as Arsenal never turned up. Taking nothing away from Stoke, they took the lead through Kenwyne Jones, before Jermaine Pennant doubled the advantage with a flyer against his former employers. van Persie scored in the 81st to restore hope, but a minute later, Jonathan Walters waltzed through a fragile defence to seal a 3-1 win on a miserable afternoon for the Gunners.
9. Ipswich Town 1-0 Arsenal (Carling Cup Semi-Final First Leg, Portman Road, Jan 12)
(Ipswich-Priskin 78 )
Arsenal fans had probably expected a walkover, when Ipswich Town were drawn to play the Gunners in the semi-final of the Carling Cup. The Gunners should have made that walkover, considering the fact they had started with a strong side, and Ipswich were thrashed 7-0 by Chelsea in a recent FA Cup game. But, it was not to be, as Ipswich made more opportunities than their superior counterparts. They should have probably won the tie by more goals,as an acrobatic kick by Tamas Priskin landed in the net, only to be adjudged offside. Eventually, he made up for it, as his well placed shot in the 78th minute hit the back of the net.
8. Bolton Wanderers 2-1 Arsenal (Premier League, Reebok Stadium, Apr 24)
(Bolton- Sturridge 38, Cohen 90; Arsenal- van Persie 48 )
Arsenal endured another frustrating afternoon in Lancashire, when they lost to Bolton in the last minute, to scupper their faint chances of winning the Premier League. The Gunners were way below par in the first half and trailed to Daniel Sturridge’s 38th minute strike. And the Trotters could have made it 2-0 a minute after half-time, but Szczesny saved a Kevin Davies penalty. The Gunners equalised through a well taken van Persie strike. They created nearly 17 opportunities through the game, but all kept out by Jussi Jaaskelainen. When it seemed like a point would suffice, Tamir Cohen popped up with a heart-breaking injury time header, to leave Arsenal broken.
7. Manchester United 2-0 Arsenal (FA Cup, Old Trafford, Mar 12)
(Manchester United- Fabio 28, Rooney 49)
This was one of the breaking points of the 2010-2011 season. After agonizingly losing to Birmingham in the Carling Cup final, and having been knocked put by Barcelona days previously, Arsenal made the daunting trip to Old Trafford to face Manchester United in the FA Cup quarter-final. United, weren’t in best form themselves, having lost to Liverpool and Chelsea in the league. Injuries meant that United started with 7 defenders. But, despite Arsenal enjoying the majority of possession, the lack of confidence and mental fragility was evident to see. Even when they forayed into the box, Edwin van der Sar pulled off some fine saves. Fabio opened the scoring in the 28th, before Rooney sealed a FA Cup semi-final place for the Red Devils in the 50th. As for Arsenal, their challenges on 3 fronts had been ended in quick succession.
6. Blackburn Rovers 4-3 Arsenal (Premier League, Ewood Park, Sep 17)
(Blackburn- Yakubu 25, 59, Song (OG) 50, Koscielny (OG) 68; Arsenal- Gervinho 10, Arteta 34, Chamakh 85)
Coming into the game, Blackburn were bottom of the heap, while Arsenal had picked up just 4 points from 4 games, 3 of those coming in the 1-0 win against Swansea. One of the strangest games of the season, Arsenal managed to lose despite being 2-1 ahead at half-time. New boy Gervinho opened the scoring after being sent through by Alex Song. A deft finish from Yakubu levelled scores minutes later. However, advantage was restored as Mikel Arteta scored from inside the box. In the second half, the Gunners fell like a pack of cards. Alex Song scored off a Rueben Rochina free-kick, disastrously, into his own net. Yakubu scored again heading off Martin Olsson’s cross. And 10 minutes later, Arsenal’s zonal marking policy seemed to be suffering, after Koscielny, too, disastrously, put the ball into his own net. The score was 4-2 and Blackburn fans were rubbing their eyes in disbelief and in luck. Marrouane Chamakh scored late on, but 4-3 was the final score on a puzzling afternoon in the rain.
5. Arsenal 0-2 Liverpool (Premier League, Emirates Stadium, Aug 20)
(Liverpool- Ramsey (OG) 78, Suarez 90)
With Fabregas gone to Barcelona over the summer, and the Gunners suffering from various suspensions and injuries, Liverpool heaped on the misery for Arsene Wenger and his team. Samir Nasri, who was close to moving to Manchester City, was selected to start. Emmanuel Frimpong started in place of the suspended Alex Song, while new signing Carl Jenkinson, a right-back started at left-back. Injuries mounted in the 15th minute, when Laurent Koscielny was replaced by young Spaniard Ignasi Miquel. Thin on resources, Arsenal were at the receiving end of Liverpool’s forays. However, the confidence grew as the match wore on, with Samir Nasri silencing his detractors, with some fine play in midfield. Frimpong and van Persie forced further saves from Reina. It all wound downhill when Emmanuel Frimpong lunged at Lucas and received his second yellow card. Kenny Dalglish sensed his opportunity and sent on Luis Suarez and Raul Meireles instantly. 7 minutes later, Liverpool got their slice of luck, when Miquel’s clearance struck Aaron Ramsey, to chip over Szczesny into the net. Suarez’s late second only helped heap misery on the North Londoners.
4. Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Arsenal (Premier League, White Hart Lane, Oct 2)
(Tottenham- van der Vaart 40, Walker 73; Arsenal- Ramsey 51 )
Probably one of the most entertaining North London derby, in terms of the quality that was on display. Szczesny made a fine save off Scott Parker in the opening exchanges of the game. Arsenal made a mockery of their poor start to the season, as they started to grow in confidence, and indulged in some fine play during the game. Walcott, Ramsey and Gervinho all missed fine chances, before Rafael van der Vaart handed Spurs the lead, despite handling the ball in the build-up, 5 minutes before half-time. 6 minutes in the second, Arsenal got the equalizer they deserved, with Aaron Ramsey’s short-range finish. Both teams involved in some frenetic end-to-end stuff, with Spurs likely to score. Which they did. Kyle Walker’s long-range effort completely bedazzled Szczesny and Arsenal for a 2-1 Spurs win.
3. Barcelona 3-1 Arsenal (Champions League Knock-Out Phase, Nou Camp, Mar 8 )
(Barcelona- Messi 45+3, (Pen) 71, Xavi 69; Arsenal- Busquets (OG) 53 )
Another stark reminder that luck was never on Arsenal’s side. Despite playing out of their skin and winning the first leg against the best football team on the planet 3 weeks earlier, the Gunners fell victim to poor refereeing decisions and a passing masterclass as they succumbed to a 3-1 defeat. Optimism was brimming for Arsenal, ahead of their visit to Catalonia. The lack of luck was demonstrated as the impressive Szczesny was replaced by the error-prone Manuel Almunia, after suffering an early injury. Barcelona were dominating in midfield and their eagerness to win back the ball meant Arsenal had to defend out of their lives to muster a favorable result. Lionel Messi broke the deadlock in the 48th minute, when it seemed it would be goalless at half-time. Luck favored Arsenal in the game once, when Sergio Busquets headed into his own net in the 53rd minute. But 3 minutes later, van Persie was sent off harshly, for kicking the ball a second after the referee had blown the whistle for offside. The Catalans made full use of their numerical advantage as Xavi equalized 13 minutes later, and Messi sealed progress with a 71st minute penalty.
2. Arsenal 1-2 Birmingham City (Carling Cup Final, Wembley, Feb 27)
(Arsenal – van Persie 39; Birmingham – Zigic 28, Martins 89)
Birmingham extended Arsenal’s barren trophy less run of 6 seasons, with a devastating 89th minute goal. In an enthralling encounter at Wembley, only Birmingham goalkeeper Ben Foster kept Arsenal from winning. Arsene Wenger started with his strongest team, despite missing influential captain Cesc Fabregas and Theo Walcott, who were injured in the league match against Stoke City. Birmingham, battling with relegation on the league front, started with beanpole Serbia striker Nikola Zigic. He repaid the faith shown in him as he headed in the opening goal in the 28th minute. He almost doubled the lead, only for Szczesny to make a fine save. Szczesny, himself almost red-carded himself when he bought down Lee Bowyer, but the linesman had already flagged for offside. Jack Wilshere struck the post moments later. Arshavin crossed the rebound, and was met by an airborne van Persie, whose fine volley levelled scores. van Persie, injured himself in the process and was replaced by Niklas Bendtner in the second half. Foster made a flurry of saves in the second half, 3 off Nasri, and also from Arshavin, Rosicky, Koscielny and Bendtner. Despite dominating proceedings, Arsenal fell prey to their own bad luck, as Birmingham snatched a late winner. Zigic’s weak header came to Szczesny who seemed to collect the ball. Laurent Koscielny made a half-attempt at clearing. And a lack of communication between the two meant the ball fell perfectly for Obafemi Martins to prod home the winner. Arsenal were beaten.
1. Manchester United 8-2 Arsenal (Premier League, Old Trafford, Aug 28 )
(Manchester United- Wellbeck 22, Young 28, 90+1, Rooney 41, 64, (Pen) 82, Nani 67, Park 70; Arsenal- Walcott 45+3, van Persie 74 )
The scoreline in this one is enough reason why this tops the list, of Arsenal’s worst matches of 2011. Considering that Arsenal had just 2 shots less than their rivals, is a pointer that nothing went right on a humiliating afternoon in Manchester. Arsenal were short on all fronts, with Vermaelen, Sagna, Gibbs, Gervinho, Song, Fimpong all out, owing to injury or suspension. However, the Gunners had nothing to complain as United took the game to the North London side, right from the word go. Young Danny Wellbeck opened the scoring with his head in the 22nd minute. Arsenal were thrown a lifeline when Howard Webb awarded them a penalty after Johnny Evans bought down Theo Walcott. van Persie stepped up, but was denied by a fine save from David de Gea. Ashley Young made Arsenal pay for their profligacy, with a fine shot that busted the net. Minutes before half-time, Wayne Rooney curled in a fine free-kick. Theo Walcott made it 3-1 on the stroke of half-time to give the Gunners some hope. But, all hopes came down crashing in the second half as United ripped them apart with some devastating attacking football. Wayne Rooney linked with Ashley Young to make the score 4-1. 3 minutes later, Nani nonchalantly chipped Szczesny. And again, after the same time interval, Park Ji-Sung continued his fine scoring run against Arsenal with an unstoppable shot. van Persie got Arsenal’s second consolation goal to make it 6-2. But, United were not yet done. Carl Jenkinson was sent off for fouling Mexican Javier Hernandez in the penalty box. Wayne Rooney scored off the ensuing penalty. Young drove the final nail in Arsenal’s coffin as he curled in a spectacular goal with his left-foot. A visibly hurt Arsene Wenger quietly trudged back to the dressing room to end the worst game, Arsenal played in living memory.