A very Happy Christmas to you all
This is the fourth time I've written the annual Christmas Eve post. I find that hard to believe in some ways. I always tend to write it in the early evening having returned from the traditional Christmas Eve gathering in the pubs of Dover, always attended by a few of the Dover Gooners. As such I am always writing it slightly (only slightly) inebriated. If it sounds a bit like I'm rambling you now know why.
When I wrote this time last year the website had received just over 600,000 hits and that had doubled it's number of visits from the previous year. In 2013 we sit at just over 800,000 meaning that there have been "just" 200,000 hits this calendar year. The difference is that there have been around 50 less posts across the last twelve months than there were in 2012. In terms of raw statistics this explains the less hits. What it doesn't explain is why less has been written. I suppose I should endeavour to do so.
It would be fair to say that part of the "problem" with regards the fewer posts is the better form of the team. When I first penned this piece on Christmas Eve 2010 I made mention that I started the site as a means to let out my frustrations. By writing about Arsenal I had less reason to punch walls. The longest posts usually follow a defeat where there is plenty of anger that needs to be let out in one way or another. There is less to say after a win, simply because there's less to be upset about. That can only be a good thing. As long as Arsenal are winning games you will hear less from me. As virtuous circles go that's a pretty good one to be in from a readers point of view, I'm sure. From the point of view of the author I'd far rather Arsenal are winning and leaving idiots like me with nothing to write about.
The other reasons for a lower output on the site revolve, of course, around work and family. I work shifts, which is the main reason I can't attend as many games as I would like to (though my absence gives my eldest son and my nephew the chance to get to games they wouldn't otherwise be able to). Before a change to the way my job worked it wasn't a problem but, with things being the way they have been in the UK, we've all had to cut our cloth. In ensuring I have been relatively okay in my employment, going to Arsenal has had to take less of a priority. My wife also works shifts which can affect the output on the site. If I'm looking after the kids I generally don't have so much time for blogging about all things Arsenal. Life isn't always as straightforward as any of us would like, and I suppose that's why many of us keep buying lottery tickets.
So here we are at Christmas again. I won't go in to one about how the season has gone to date as that will follow in the mid-season review at some point in this week. What I will do is pick out my highlights from the year. There are three that I will go for, but there is also one low point.
To start with the negative I'd have to pick out the defeat to Blackburn in the FA Cup. I had thought that things couldn't get much darker after the Bradford game in December 2012. For the players to then repeat their lacklustre arrogance less than a month later was shocking and one of the lowest points of the last twenty years.
The first highlight has to be the win at Bayern Munich. If one game could be said to have sparked off the run that has seen us in second place on Christmas Eve it has to be that victory over the best team in World football. We'd been largely outclassed at home, only to go out to Germany and play like heroes. I'm not having it that Bayern took it easy that night because they didn't. They went at Arsenal but Lukasz Fabianski and his defence were brilliant. We stole two goals and proved that we had what it took to really mix it with the best in the business. In the end we went out on away goals, with Munich's third goal at our place being a complete mis-kick that looped over Sagna and in to the net. Such was the margin against the team that would carry all before them in every competition they played in 2013.
The second high point of the year has to be the signing of Mesut Ozil. He may not have hit the heights in the last two months or so but what a lift he gave us all. It had been yet another depressing Summer for Arsenal and the supporters. No signings of note had been brought in to the obviously weak squad. We were trying to sign Yohann Cabaye just a week earlier, remember. Then it happened. Arsenal spent £40m+ on one player. Was he a player that played in a position in which we were weak? No. Was he better than what we had in the squad? Yes. We were signing a World Class footballer and paying top dollar for him. It was amazing and unbelievable. We've been riding the wave since that moment.
My final big moment was the home win over Napoli. It's been a few years since an Arsenal team has produced such a wonderfully complete performance. To do it against a quality opponent like the Italians was special. At the heart of it was our star signing Ozil. He scored a magnificent goal himself, then laid one on for Giroud. The first-half that night announced the arrival of this Arsenal side. The second-half saw them more comfortable taking care of a lead than they have been in many a long year. You could feel the buzz in the stadium that night. It was so good that it heralded the return of the Clock End/East Stand/North Bank songs. Genuinely the Emirates (there, I've called it that) felt like home at last.
I will also pick a player of 2013, if I may. I'm sure plenty will expect Aaron Ramsey to be the man, but not for me. My player of 2013 is Per Mertesacker. Here was a guy written off for no other particular reason than a lack of pace. However, that was to ignore his reading of the game and his organisation and leadership skills. To me he is the real Captain of this Arsenal team. I used to tell people that Mertersacker was a better player than cretins like the Match Of The Day panel would give him credit for. You don't win so many caps for Germany if you can't play. I love the BFG and his enthusiasm for The Arsenal. He has shone this year, and our improved defence is due in no small part to his presence. Long may it continue.
So that's it for this Christmas Eve special. It remains a pleasure to write about The Arsenal. I would implore you, as ever, to register on the website to add your comments, or join us on Facebook (search for "It's MY Arsenal Opinion") or follow me on Twitter (@ARSENALDvbrisG) and get involved in some debate. The website remains, and always will remain, MY view on Arsenal. My opinion matters little. You don't have to agree with it, you don't have to like it. Ultimately all that matters is that we love Arsenal and we want them to win. May God help us to do that in 2014. I will write again at some point between the games at West Ham and Newcastle.
In the meantime I would like to thank you for humbling me by taking the time to read my drivel and, more importantly, I would like to wish you a very Happy Christmas. Here's to The Arsenal.