It is THAT time of the year, ladies and gentlemen!
It is time to look back at the bad and good of this crazy, forgettable year and get done with it, once for all.
This year started with three disappointing results in the league and a feeling that Joe Montemurro and team were losing their way, outclassed once again by Chelsea and Manchester City and held to a draw by Reading. As soon as Fran Kirby scored the third goal in our 0-3 defeat at Kingsmeadow Stadium and the referee blew the whistle to put us out of misery, we found ourselves in the fourth place, seven points behind third-placed Manchester City, nine points behind Manchester United and twelve points adrift of the top spot, occupied by Emma Hayes’ Chelsea.
It was gloomy back there, we were in a dark place.
Things improved by spring time and a home win against Manchester United put us back on track to grab the last Champions League qualification spot but then the news dropped: Joe Montemurro would leave the Club at the end of the season “to stay close to his family and take a professional break”. The break wouldn’t last long, as he became Juventus head-coach three months later, but the news added uncertainty to an already quite fragile environment.
A last minute spot-kick by Kim Little away at Everton sealed the third-place finish in the league and the opportunity to qualify for the Champions League via the most complex qualification path anyone can imagine, salvaging an otherwise very disappointing campaign. Joe Montemurro had the send off he deserved and everyone seemed ready for a fresh start.
Fact is, this “new start” didn’t actually start until late June, when the Club named former Rosengård coach Jonas Eidevall. It was a very late appointment but an inspired one, as we started the new season with nine straight win in all competitions, beat Chelsea at home in the 2021/22 season opener and thrashed Manchester City 5-0 at our ground. This new Arsenal is energetic, intense, passionate, clinical in front of goal and tight at the back. Most importantly, this Arsenal team has broken the jinx against the direct rivals.
Things got a bit more complicated towards the end of the year as we rescued a point in the North London Derby thanks to a Viv Miedema’s stoppage time header and we almost got eliminated from the Champions League after a 4-1 defeat against Hoffenheim, in Germany. We finished the year top of the league with a comfortable four-points advantage over Chelsea but we had to swallow a three-nil defeat in the FA Cup in Wembley, against the Blues.
Quite a roller-coaster, heh?
There’s no end of the year wrap-up without the end of the year awards, so without any further ado I present you this year’s winners!
Kim Little is my player of the year, simply because she’s been our guiding light through some of the most difficult times, last season. Her calmness, security, talent and leadership helped the team navigate through their terrible winter spell and it felt just right that it was her who sealed the qualification to the Champions League. She might not be the most flashy player out there but she is the very best, to me.
Beth Mead and Manu Zinsberger are the most improved players, ex-aequo. The former Sunderland forward has been the revelation of the new season, adding goals and assists to her relentless pressure and defensive work, while the Austrian goalkeeper has improved her distribution and seemed to have benefitted from the change from Joe Montemurro to Jonas Eidevall, with the latter not interchanging goalkeepers that much.
I found it hard to pick the game of the year but I chose the 5-0 win against Manchester City at home. After years of suffering and humiliations, it was so refreshing to be on the other side of the battering. The home win against Chelsea is a close second but the thumping win against the runners-up is too satisfying!
Arsenal’s Katie McCabe has been named WSL Player of the Month 🏆— Soccer AM (@SoccerAM) November 4, 2021
This OUTRAGEOUS lob deserves an award alone 🥵🔥 pic.twitter.com/47ZRvXJTj1
Last but not least, Katie McCabe’s 40-yards lob (above) against Aston Villa is the goal of the year: the audacity and execution were simply sublime.
A special award goes to Jonas Eidevall for his wild celebration after the three-two win against Chelsea in the first game of the new campaign, providing GIF and meme material for ages
That’s it for this year, the season will start again on Sunday, 9th of January.
To a happy, healthy and succesful 2022!
Thirty-something Italian, currently in Switzerland. Gooner since mid-ninties, when the Gunners defeated my hometown team, in Copenhagen. Twelve years ago I started my own blog (www.clockenditalia.com) after after some experiences with Italian websites and football magazines. Debate, don’t insult or you’re out.