Arsenal fans will be happy to see the back of 2019. From beginning to end it was one of the club’s worst calendar years in recent history. Despite the lows, there were, however, some memorable performances. Here’s a look back at five of the best and the worst moments for Arsenal in 2019.
- The Gunners were in contention for a top four finish when they welcomed Chelsea to the Emirates on January 19th. Alexandre Lacazette gave the home side a lead in the 14th minute with captain Laurent Koscielny adding a second from a set piece just before half time. Koscielny put in a Man of the Match performance and Arsenal drew three points closer to fourth place Chelsea.
- On February 27th I was lucky enough to be at the Emirates for one of the team’s most dominating performances of the season versus Bournemouth. Mesut Ozil was recalled for this one and scored in the fourth minute. He then turned provider as he set up Henrikh Mkhitaryan for a 2-0 lead after just 27 minutes. Second half goals followed from Koscielny, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Lacazette. The 5-1 victory kept the Gunners fourth in the table ahead of both Chelsea and Manchester United.
- On March 10th Arsenal handed Ole Gunnar Solskjær his first Premier League loss as Manchester United manager. Granit Xhaka and Aubameyang provided the goals for the home side in a 2-0 win. The three points allowed Arsenal to leapfrog the Red Devils back in to fourth position in the table.
- After being knocked out of the 2018 Europa League semifinals by Atletico Madrid, Arsenal were determined to improve on that in 2019. In March the Gunners were given a tough draw for the quarterfinals versus Napoli. Many expected the Italians to easily handle the men in red and white. Instead Arsenal won both legs of the tie and advanced 3-0 on aggregate. In April they went on to win both legs of the semi-final with Valencia (7-3 aggregate) and advanced to the final.
- On October 24th Arsenal hosted Portugal’s Vitória SC in Europa League action. While the match was not one of the home side’s best performances, it did signal the arrival of $87 million Ivorian Nicolas Pépé. The Gunners trailed 1-2 when Pepe entered the game in the 75th minute. He then produced two brilliant free kicks for goals that gave Arsenal the win.
- On April 15th Arsenal sat in fourth place following a 1-0 win against Watford. With five games remaining the Gunners were on course to finish in the Champions League places. Instead they lost three straight to Crystal Palace, Wolves and Leicester. The final nail in the coffin came at home to Brighton on May 5th. Arsenal had 71% of the possession but inexplicably had to settle for a draw with the 17th place Seagulls. Arsenal then won their final match versus Burnley but missed out on a top four finish by ONE point.·
- On May 5th Arsenal fans said farewell to Aaron Ramsey. The Welshman spent eleven years in North London and was allowed to leave on a free transfer to join Juventus. It was reported that the midfielder was not a part of manager Unai Emery’s plans. This was a colossal mistake and has proven to be a major loss for Arsenal.
- The Europa League Final on May 29th was a total bust. First it was played in the remote city of Baku, Azerbaijan which made it difficult for fans of both Chelsea and Arsenal to attend. Secondly, Arsenal didn’t show up and were easily dispatched by the Blues 4-1. The final route to a Champions League return was gone.
- Arsenal have been painfully mediocre thus far this season. No match drove home this point more than the Gunner’s 1-0 loss to Sheffield United on October 21st. No disrespect to the Blades, but Arsenal should be winning games against newly promoted sides. It’s two months later and Sheffield is closer to the top four; five points clear of Arsenal.
- Starting on October 27th Arsenal went seven matches in all competitions without a victory. It was the club’s longest winless run since 1992 and it led to Unai Emery being fired on November 29th. Arsene Wenger’s replacement lasted just 18 months on the job.
Hope has been renewed with the recent appointment of former captain Mikel Arteta as manager. He has his hands full, but here’s hoping there will be more positives than negatives coming Arsenal fans’ way in 2020.