At the time of writing, the day before we visit Burnley, Arsenal have exactly the same Premier League record as they did this time last season.

It doesn’t feel like it, does it?

This time last year, our brilliant start to the season had become nothing more than a memory. The fond memories of that start replaced by frustration and anger, lots of it. I was going to say that that nowhere was this more evident than the FA Cup semi final, but I’m not sure that’s true. I think it’s more the case that it’s just the first time I had seen just how far we had fallen as a fanbase.

Whatever your thoughts about Arsenal and Arsène Wenger, we should not be fighting with each other.


None of which is to say that the frustration wasn’t entirely understandable, it just made for a really unpleasant day at Wembley Stadium. The memory of which Santi Cazorla’s winning spot kick can’t quite erase, even now.

The thing was, a year ago, it felt as though Arsène Wenger’s future hung on that game. He has since come out and said he would have stayed regardless, but it’s difficult to see how.

I guess it would have required a very thick skin and a very good plan for the summer.

As it was, we won the game and, for the billionth year in succession, finished the season in the top four. A good summer in the transfer market engendered high hopes for this season, but our title challenge rather stalled in the blocks. The anger grew again.

It is safe to say now, with the progress made over 2015, that we are in a much better place than we were a year ago. Although next week’s FA Cup semi final with Reading is still a must win. not least because it’s against… well, Reading, it doesn’t have the same make or break feel to it that the Wigan game did. The pressure on our players a year ago, in such a toxic environment, must have felt close to intolerable.

Clearly, it goes without saying that were Arsenal to lose next weekend, there would be some very unhappy Gooners out there and I would be one of them. However, I like to think we would be able, as a fanbase, to look at this one game in isolation and reflect on a season which has become one of marked improvement in most areas of the pitch.

Were Arsenal to fail in their bid to retain the FA Cup but finish as Premier League runners up, would this season represent an improvement on last year?

It should go without saying that I hope we win the FA Cup and finish second – obviously, I would love us to win the league but there’s a reason Chelsea are 1/25 to win the Premier League – but I think it’s an interesting question to consider. The silverware last season was brilliant, but it still felt like we were miles off Chelsea and Manchester City in particular, whilst we also got tonked by Liverpool as well as struggling with our Manchester United inferiority complex.

This year, however, we have won, and deserved to win, at both Manchester clubs and slapped Liverpool silly. Although we were beaten at Chelsea, we did at least look like we deserved to be on the same football pitch as them.

For a while anyway.

I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that a team able to call on the likes of Alexis,  Mesut Özil and Cazorla, relegating Theo Walcott, an almost permanent fixture in the starting line up to someone who can’t even get off the bench these day, has improved. It seems that Özil and Cazorla are now developing a mutually beneficial partnership, whilst the German has also figured out what is required of him physically. Adding the explosive Chilean to this mix, the ingredients were always there to terrorise the majority of Premier League defences.

We just needed the right base for them.

In 2015, we have found that base.

There are a number of factors in play here, whilst I remain unconvinced that David Ospina has been that great, I can’t deny he has had some impact. The improvement in Hector Bellerin has been staggering and the deployment of Francis Coquelin at the base of midfield an eye opener.

There is also something that, surprisingly, seems to have been missed when talking about our improved form. That is the return of Laurent Koscielny to fitness and the first team.

Koscielny had been conspicuous by his absence in the first half of the season and Per Metersacker looked lost without him. Not surprising when paired with the ingenue, Calum Chambers or the left back Nacho Monreal. Monreal has himself been a factor in our improvement, but in his natural position at left back. The winter purchase of Gabriel, at the moment, looks an inspired one and has allowed Le Boss to rotate his centre backs, without losing too much cohesion.

If we have avoided conceding a goal at Burnley [edit – we did!], then we are at an average of conceding one goal a game for the season – I think this was a lot higher earlier in the season. If we have scored two goals [edit – we didn’t!] at Burnley, then we are averaging two goals a game.

Acknowledging that there are still a few games to go and without getting too tied up in hypotheticals, this is obviously an improvement on last season’s tally of 68 scored and 41 conceded.

Certainly, we may yet end up conceding more than 41 goals, but I’d bet my bottom dollar on the fact that we will score more than 68 goals this season. As we should, with Alexis already on 20 for the season and Olivier Giroud not far behind on 18.

Behind those three are Danny Welbeck, Aaron Ramsey and Santi on eight each which doesn’t sound like a lot, but between them that’s 24 goals. Added to the 38 supplied by the top two, 64 goals coming from five players is not too shabby. Particularly when, epitomising the team first ethos, everyone who plays seems to chip in.

Clearly, as I write this there is time yet for Arsenal to forget how to play and end up screwing things up.

However, watching Arsenal last weekend as they battered Liverpool, that Arsenal – the one that infuriates and confuses – felt a million miles away. Even when Jordan Henderson scored his penalty, I felt totally confident that we would see that one out.

That, for me, is the biggest difference between now and a year ago; we no longer feel like an accident waiting to happen, we feel like a proper team again.