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Arsenal - summary of the 2000/2001 season

Pre-season preview

It's hard to know what to expect from Arsenal this season. Last year the squad was significantly strengthened, but the Gunners ultimately disappointed in the league and in Europe, though there were considerable mitigating circumstances of injury and suspensions. So far this year Wenger has added quality to the squad with the signings of Pires and Lauren, but arguably lost more in the defections of Overmars and Petit to Barcelona. The abortive transfer of Edu and the so far fruitless pursuit of Wiltord indicate that Wenger still feels the squad lacks depth in certain positions.

Nonetheless, some Arsenal fans would argue that Petit and Overmars are no great loss, in that neither really performed last season. The new signings and the possible introduction of one or two of Arsenal's promising youngsters could give fresh impetus to the team and lead the Gunners to surprise a few pundits. In any event, since Wenger took over Arsenal haven't finished outside the top 3 in the league and have been either top or 2nd in the last 3 seasons, so the expectation will be for this to continue. However, the lack of any silverware over the last 2 seasons will lead some to set a trophy winning season as the benchmark for success, even if it is only in the FA Cup.

The one area which has been a disappointment for Wenger's Arsenal is Europe, despite last season's near success in the UEFA Cup. Arsenal's run in that competition will encourage hopes that this season will see further improvement in the Champions League, particularly given the return to the spiritual home of Highbury. Reaching the knockout stages would probably be regarded as a relative success.

Key Players

Tony Adams
Remains the team's inspiration and the rock on which Arsenal's defence still depends, and his importance to the club is hard to overstress, the team often seeming to lack motivation in his absence. While the spirit remains strong however, the body is somewhat less so, and Adams has missed long stretches of the last couple of seasons through injury. Wenger has indicated that the club captain is unlikely to be often asked to play more than one game a week, and much could depend on how successful this attempt to nurse Adams through the season is.
Thierry Henry
After an uncertain start last season, Henry blossomed into his new role as central striker in the second half of the season. His lightening speed and partnership with the creative master Bergkamp helped him score 26 goals in total, 22 of which came in a hot streak of only 35 games at the end of the season. With Davor Suker moving to West Ham, if Wenger's pursuit of Sylvain Wiltord proves fruitless, Henry would be Arsenal's only recognised out and out striker. As such much could depend on him staying fit and retaining the lethal finishing which characterised his goal scoring last season.
Patrick Vieira
With the departure of his long time midfield partner Emmanuel Petit to Spain, Vieira's presence in the Arsenal team is now more crucial than ever. Still only 24, the Senegal born Frenchman is awesomely equipped for the demands of his position: a brilliant tackler and superb passer, he also has seemingly limitless stamina and a rocket of a shot, reluctant though he is to use it. His temperament is still likely to be questioned (and tested), but after the Upton Park incident last season he made noticeable attempts to keep his temper in check, and has hopefully learned his lesson.

Unknown Player to Watch for

Ashley Cole

Arsenal's current crop of youngsters shows immense promise, and last season's FA Youth Cup winning team included the likes of Graham Barrett, Jermaine Pennant and David Noble who could all get occasional first team chances this year. However, the player most likely to make the breakthrough this season is 19 year-old Ashley Cole, a quick, tough tackling, and skilful leftback who likes to get forward, and made a big impression on loan to Crystal Palace last season. With old favourite Nigel Winterburn leaving, he will be main backup to Silvinho, and given the heavy schedule this season is likely to get more than a few chances while the Brasilian is rested or injured. The current dearth of decent English leftbacks has even led to suggestions that he could be in the England team before too long.

Post-season review

Close Season Transfer Activity

In:  Lauren           (midfield)  from Real Mallorca (SPA) (7.0 million)
     Robert Pires     (midfield)  from Marseille     (FRA) (6.0 million)
     Guy Demel        (midfield)  from Nimes         (FRA) (free)
Out: Marc Overmars    (midfield)  to Barcelona       (SPA) (20.0 million)
     Emmanuel         (midfield)  to Barcelona       (SPA) (10.0 million)
     Jay Bothroyd     (forward)   to Coventry City         (1.0 million)
     Tommy Black      (midfield)  to Crystal Palace        (0.5 million)
     Julian Gray      (midfield)  to Crystal Palace        (0.5 million)
     Nigel Winterburn (defence)   to West Ham United       (free)
     Davor Suker      (forward)   to West Ham United       (free)

Squad for 1999-1000 Season

                                                d.o.b.         Prem Apps  Goals
24. John Lukic                      Free       11.12.60           144*      0
13. Alex Manninger               500,000       04.06.77   AUT      13       0
01. David Seaman               1,300,000       19.09.63           232       0
31. Stuart Taylor                Trainee       28.11.80             0       0

06. Tony Adams                Apprentice       10.10.66           196      11
29. Ashley Cole                  Trainee       20.12.80             0       0
02. Lee Dixon                    400,000       17.03.64           235       5
18. Gilles Grimandi            2,000,000       11.11.70   FRA      30       1  
05. Martin Keown               2,000,000       24.07.66           212#      3
22. Oleg Luzhny                2,500,000       05.08.68   UKR       0       0
16. Silvinho                   4,000,000       12.04.74   BRA       0       0
03. Igors Stepanovs            1,000,000                  LAT
20. Matthew Upson              2,000,000       18.04.79            10       0
23. Nelson Vivas               2,000,000       18.10.69            23       0

    Greg Lincoln                 Trainee       23.03.80             0       0
08. Fredrik Ljungberg          3,000,000       16.04.77   SWE      16       1  
19. Stefan Malz                  650,000       15.06.72   GER       0       0
    Alberto Mendez               200,000       24.10.74   SPA       3       0  
15. Ray Parlour                  Trainee       07.03.73           199      16  
07. Robert Pires               6,000,000       29.01.73   FRA       0       0
30. Paolo Vernazza               Trainee       01.11.79             1       0
04. Patrick Vieira             3,500,000       23.06.76   FRA      98       7  

10. Dennis Bergkamp            7,500,000       18.05.69   NETH    119      51  
14. Thierry Henry              9,000,000       17.08.77   FRA       0       0
25. Nwanwko Kanu               3,000,000       01.07.76   NIG      12       6
11. Sylvain Wiltord           13,000,000       10.05.74   FRA       0       0
12. Christopher Wreh             300,000       14.05.75   LIB      28       3  

* including 129-0 for Leeds Utd
# including  13-0 for Everton

Mid-season Transfer Activity

In: Sylvain Wiltord   (forward)   from Bordeaux     (FRA) (13.0 million)
    Edu               (midfield)  from Corinthians  (BRA)  (6.0 million)
    Igors Stepanovs   (defence)   from Skonto Riga  (LAT)  (1.0 million)
    Tomas Danilevicius (forward)  from Lausanne     (SWI)  (undisclosed)

Out: Paolo Vernazza   (midfield)  to Watford               (0.65 million)
     Christopher Wreh (forward)   to Al Hilal       (SAU)  (undisclosed)
     Brian McGovern   (defence)   to Norwich City          (undisclosed)
     Rhys Weston      (defence)   to Cardiff City          (undisclosed)
     James Harper     (midfield)  to Reading               (undisclosed)

Complete appearance and goal statistics for the season

Retrospective review of the season

Previous season

The 2000/01 season was once again ultimately one of disappointment. Runners-up once more in the league, narrowly beaten in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, and unlucky losers in the FA Cup final represented an improvement on the previous season. However, the lack of silverware and the fact that the Gunners failed to make a serious challenge to Man United in the Premiership meant that the season was widely judged a failure.

In the league, the principal failing was Arsenal's away form. At Highbury, barring a freak result against Middlebrough, the Gunners swept all before them, but on the road they faltered badly, winning just five and losing seven games. As usual the Premiership campaign took on a cyclical nature - after a perplexing first day defeat at Sunderland, an unbeaten run of 15 games, including home wins against Liverpool, Man United and Lazio, took Arsenal to the top of the league and into the 2nd stage of the Champions League.

However, a defeat at home to Ipswich in the 3rd round of the Worthington Cup, albeit with a second string team, presaged another black November. Four defeats in the next 6 games saw Arsenal slip down the league and make a bad start to the 2nd group stages of the Champions League with a heavy defeat in Moscow. December brought marginal improvement, though the dichotomy between home and away form continued, a 4-0 defeat at Liverpool being followed by a 6 goal thrashing of Leicester.

January and February saw further gradual improvement, with the FA cup campaign getting off to a good start with wins at Carlisle and QPR (another 6 goal mauling), and an away win in Lyon rescuing the European season. However, the end of February saw the end of realistic hopes in the league with the disastrous 6-1 defeat at Old Trafford, and though the Gunners qualified for the quarter-finals of the Champions League, they did so despite a dismal final group game defeat in Munich.

In March the cup competitions proved to be the redeeming feature of the season, a quarter-final win over Blackburn in the FA cup setting up the epic semi-final win over old rivals Tottenham at Old Trafford. In the Champions League a thrilling 2nd half comeback at Highbury secured a 2-1 win over Valencia, but the return leg in Spain two weeks later brought heartbreak, a 1-0 defeat meaning Arsenal went out of the Champions League on away goals.

The final few weeks of the season were thus all about the FA cup final, and the trip to Cardiff on May 12 ended in disappointment. Despite completely outplaying Liverpool for much of the match, Arsenal conceded two goals in the final 10 minutes to gift the cup to the season's knockout competition heroes. A draw at Newcastle in the league 3 days later did secure 2nd place in the premiership and an automatic place in the Champions League again for the coming season, but that defeat in the Millenium Stadium was symptomatic of Arsenal's season as a whole. Good for the most part, but ultimately not quite enough.

Copyright (c) 1994-2000 Derek Brownjohn and Simon Gleave. All Rights Reserved. This document is not to be reproduced in any form without the permission of the authors.

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