Most seasons turn on just a few brief moments: here are the 2015-16 versions we’ve pulled out.
1) Petr Cech signs
I’ve lost count of how many times over the last few years we’ve bemoaned our goalkeeping options, how many times we’ve witnessed various clowns making mistakes which cost us time and again.
When Petr Cech made the decision to move across the capital, for many Arsenal fans it was a real sign of intent. A top level goalkeeper would be one of the final pieces of the puzzle, one which his former club’s captain deemed worth “12 or 15 points” to us.
Despite the opening day setback, and suspicions that he may not have a perfect grasp of where his near post is from distance, signing the big man has been a huge step in the right direction with his presence clearly providing some much-needed calm in our back four for large stretches of the season.
2) Lightning strikes against Man Utd
The first 20 minutes at the Emirates on October 4th was as good a period of football as most of us have seen. Coming hot on the heels of the 5-2 at the King Power, it underlined the seriousness of Arsenal’s title credentials.
The Gunners were firing on all cylinders, with goals coming from all over the park and a return to the high tempo football that had become sorely lacking at times both before and since.
It was a spell of play which showcased our free flowing style at its best, and demonstrated that with our best players fit we are capable of taking apart any side. The fluid front three of Alexis, Walcott and Ramsey was simply electric, conducted by the majestic Ozil and built upon that titanic Coqzorla base.
And then perhaps as impressively, the second half was played out professionally with solid banks of four and an ever-present threat on the counterattack. It was a pole very firmly embedded in the sand.
3) Missing the midfield
It’s funny, listening to Spurs moan about how their season has been derailed by (deserved, stupid and self-inflicted) suspensions for Alli and Dembélé, to think that missing your first choice midfield is an acceptable excuse to most for underperforming, yet it’s exactly the position we found ourselves in at the end of November.
First to go was Francis Coquelin, picking up a knee injury in the 2-1 defeat to West Brom, before in the very next league game Santi Cazorla picked up his own ligament injury which was to keep him out until the last game of the season.
At the time, Coquelin’s injury was perhaps perceived to be the more damaging, yet his earlier return without improved results perhaps only served to highlight how important to us our diminutive Spaniard has become.
In the end, we were without both our first choice pairing from 29th November to 14th February, a total of 12 Premier League games (32%), and at least one of the two from 21st November to 15th May, a total of 25 league games (66%).
It’s not an excuse for the way our season turned, but it is perhaps an explanation of sorts.
4) Stark contrast at Old Trafford
By the time the reverse fixture against United arrived, we were on a run of 2 wins in 7, and 9 points from a possible 21. The game itself was perhaps not a turning point in our season, for our poor form throughout the first three months of 2016 is hardly attributable to a single moment, but it could be the nadir.
Against a similar side to the one we had destroyed so rampantly earlier in the season, Arsenal contrived to gift goals to United in one of the most abject and naive defensive performances we’ve seen, and that’s quite some feat.
It was simply a game that summed up the lack of confidence infecting the team, unable to create or finish chances at one end, and unable to defend at anywhere near the required level at the other.
5) Curtain falls
Somehow, despite continuing poor form (Arsenal would have been 9th in a 2016 league table compared to 1st in 2015) we collected enough points to take advantage of Tottenham’s epic collapse.
As the final whistle sounded, the overriding feeling was one of – yes, ecstasy – but also a season to forget. This may be Spurs’ best ever Premier League season and, despite our finishing position, one of the least convincing Arsenal seasons, but the joy of the unexpected St. Totteringham’s Day won’t outlast the longer held feelings of annoyance.
The moment Mark Clattenburg brought proceedings to an end, it was a chance to pull the shutters down on a season where so much more was possible, and a chance to look ahead to what the summer might bring instead.
Heartfelt and emotional goodbyes were waved to Mikel Arteta, Tomas Rosicky and – to a lesser extent – Mathieu Flamini. With spaces now open in the squad, it leaves the door open for the manager to add quality without having to push others out.
One of next season’s key moments will be where we stand on the day the window slams shut.
The question is: will it be a turning point for the better or the worse?