After it's all over... Thoughts on Arsenal’s Season

Wednesday evening’s capitulation merely confirmed club’s obvious problems

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It’s the hope that kills you. After the end of season run-in, and the capitulation against Chelsea, there doesn’t seem to be much of that about at Arsenal.

We had two chances to qualify for the Champions League. Dropped points against Crystal Palace and Brighton, coupled with yet more poor away performances, put an end to our top four ambitions. However, we had another bite of the cherry with the Europa League final. Oh dear.

The Azerbaijan annihilation was particularly difficult to stomach. Most of us have been through crushing cup final defeats; last minute heartbreak against Luton and Real Zaragoza; Michael Owen in Cardiff; Copenhagen and Paris. But last Wednesday was just plain embarrassing.

I could cope with last year’s Manchester City League Cup Final defeat. That expensively assembled team, led by a trophy-hungry manager, are light years ahead of us, so I wasn’t massively shocked when we left Wembley with our tails between our legs. The Europa League final felt different.

I never believed the stories coming out that Chelsea were in turmoil prior to the final. Yet, they were a side that we could beat, as we proved earlier on in the campaign. Far from any of the vintage Chelsea teams that we’ve all witnessed since 2003, the final appeared too close to call.

It looked that way as the first half progressed. Arsenal grew into the game, and Chelsea ended the half strongly, and the thought of a nerve-wracking penalty shootout entered my head. Twenty minutes into the second half, any hope of Europa League joy had disappeared.

Once the goals arrived, a feeling of gloom descended. Even at 1-0 I doubted our chances of getting back into the game. Some may call me pessimistic, I see it as realism. As soon as the wheels start coming off, this Arsenal team do not contain enough character to get the car back on the road.

Stupidly, I allowed myself to dream when Iwobi scored, telling myself that this was the year of the comeback, and maybe, just maybe, we could add another chapter to that book. But our terrible defence quickly put an end to such thoughts. The end couldn’t come quickly enough.

The final left so many questions. Why could our owner not be bothered to turn up for a European final? Is Unai Emery the right man to take us forward? What are we going to do about Ozil? And, if the rumours are to be believed, how are we going to fix this with a transfer budget of £40 million.

Kroenke’s absence was confirmation, if we needed it, that we now have an owner who really couldn’t give a toss about our club. If he can’t be arsed to get on a flight to Baku to watch a European final, after the efforts some of our fans made to get there, then we are in serious trouble.

When I think back to Peter Hill-Wood and his “we don't want his sort” comments about Kroenke in 2007, my heart sinks. Our former chairman was right all along, but our principles seemed to evaporate once the smell of money entered the room. And now we are stuck with him.

He doesn’t seem overly concerned that we keep missing out on Champions League football. If the club is still making money, then why should he worry? His no-show for the final has fully demonstrated his apathy towards the club, and when the owner of Arsenal feels this way, then alarm bells ring constantly in my head.

Then we move on to the manager. I’ve had doubts about Emery all season, but I’ve tried to provide a counter argument to my own concerns. Four of his five signings have been decent additions to the squad, but what worries me is that I don’t really know if we have improved, and I’m a little unsure about the style of football Emery is adopting.

With Guardiola and Klopp, you get an idea of their footballing philosophy through the way their teams play. Emery seems to be muddled in his thoughts. And although he improved our league points tally, he certainly has not made us better defensively. You would hope after a year at the club, evidence of his coaching approach would bear fruit, yet we appear as fragile at the back as ever.

I think Emery should be given another season… maybe. But I really do wonder if it is time for Mesut Ozil to leave the club. His performances this season have been disappointing – I think that is possibly a polite description – and for £350,000 a week, I reckon we are entitled to expect more.

The final straw for me came with his actions on Wednesday night. Substituted late in the second half, he strolled off the pitch as if we were 4-1 up and coasting to victory. Admittedly, sprinting off the pitch would not have made any difference. But his attitude stunk, as he began muttering to himself. He deserved to be taken off, so why was he so angry at the decision?

The problem is, finding another club willing to match his current wages seems impossible. So, if we do keep him, then Emery needs to get a tune out of him. Judging by large periods of this season, does anyone have any confidence that this will happen?

It looks as if any signings we will make over the summer may have to be bargain buys, with failure to qualify for the Champions League not helping in this regard. I have no problem with that. After all, there must be some players out there who can improve our quality without breaking the bank. But do we have the right people at the club to find these players?

Apologies if this is so downbeat. I’ve tried to let the dust settle and gather my thoughts, and I fully appreciate that I would not have written this piece if Arsenal had won on Wednesday. In truth, that would have been papering over the cracks, though. The end of season matches, and the nature of the defeat in Baku, has seen these doubts rise to the surface.

It was never going to be easy after Arsene. Following a long-serving club legend has proved difficult at other clubs, and ours is no different. But this season promised so much at one point, only for our previous failings to reappear.

Assuming Emery stays, then I really think he can be judged properly come next May. With new signings, and the introduction of some youth players, hopefully we can steadily improve, and fingers crossed, maybe with the return of Bellerin and Holding, the defence could even tighten up.

I’ll be at Boreham Wood on July 6 to see an Arsenal XI with my son and dad. Three generations of Arsenal fans, hoping that 2019/20 will have a happier ending than 2018/19. A Liverpool win this evening would at least improve the mood slightly at the end of a difficult week and season.

Twitter@1980sSportsBlog 

 

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17
comments

  1. peter wain

    Jun 3, 2019, 07:00 #114030

    the problem lies with the owner who is only interested in Arsenal as a cash cow. We need a new back four that is quite clear so why we are chasing after wingers and midfield players is strange. Yes we could do with reinforcement in this area but clearly the first buys should be in the centre of defence. I think the FA has a responsibility as they should judge whether Kroenke is a fit and proper person to own our club. Kroenke please leave now.

  2. markymark

    Jun 2, 2019, 16:46 #114027

    MBG - I wonder what Wenger’s answer would be? One of his enigmatic smiles and some waffle no doubt. He did have plenty of experience though 8-2 6-0 1-5 even 4-4 against Newcastle . Wenger should concentrate on findings new employment . There must be a top tier club by now? Surely ?

  3. mbg

    Jun 2, 2019, 13:33 #114026

    Don Howe, well said, and hear the latest comment from his big gob, yes still talking shyte with £80- 100 million over the last ten years in the bank for leaving us in this fooking mess, you have a hell of a lot to answer for wenger.

  4. mbg

    Jun 2, 2019, 13:25 #114025

    I see TOF himself is back giving his two pence worth accusing Arsenal of collapsing in the final, some fooking cheek indeed as the majority of our collapses were under him, and it could be argued this collapse was down to him too, still no shame.

  5. markymark

    Jun 2, 2019, 08:59 #114021

    ArsenalMagna- I think you’re being far to generous with your assumptions. I was at the Brighton game . They played like it was game over and were plagued by lack of intensity which effected a swathe of our away matches as well. If you’re not sure what you are meant to be doing on the pitch and when the game will pass you by. There have been rumblings that the players are confused over what they should do and let’s face it who has heard of a team that is meant to press but also counter at the same time? Outside of Emery no one else is trying it simply because it will be a Mish mash. Arsenal faded due to having no confidence in the tactics. Once again the plan failed as at Liverpool and City away and once again we were swatted. Basically Arsenal played their away form which has been dire all season

  6. markymark

    Jun 2, 2019, 08:01 #114019

    And it’s relax and breathe! The 2006 / 2019 paradigm shift is playing out to a strange symmetry . Here end the high point of Tottering Spuds minus a title or two . There players and manager have been put in the window and could now be picked off. We will continue with Martin Jol. Relax and breathe !

  7. Don Howe

    Jun 2, 2019, 07:53 #114018

    Wenger owes the club 8 Million quid for each year of his salary taken when he didn’t in reality turn up for work. That’s 10 years. With 80 million pounds we could at least buy some defenders. Fair criticism of Emery by all means but we all know who the real villain is. So sad about Reyes. What a lovely player

  8. ArsenalMagna

    Jun 1, 2019, 21:50 #114017

    Firstly, have to say RIP to Reyes - really tragic news. Having watched the Champions League final tonight I can forgive Emery for not winning the Europa League. The fact is that all the English teams are exhausted. Alongside the scheduled winter break, the EPL should follow the German model by ditching the League Cup and reducing the number of teams in the league to 18. Exhaustion also explains why we fell off so much against Brighton, Palace etc. As one of the few matches we won towards the end was with our reserves against Burnley, I can only criticise Emery for maybe not playing them more! Also we should maybe next season prioritise domestic or European.

  9. 1975

    Jun 1, 2019, 16:23 #114016

    What a very sad day. RIP Jose Antonio. 35 is no age to die. Strength to your family.

  10. Exiled in Pt

    Jun 1, 2019, 14:44 #114015

    Sad day RIP Reyes, always gave his all for the team.

  11. KC38

    Jun 1, 2019, 12:25 #114012

    The final was a microcosm of the season. Defensively naive, the premiership is a hard league away from home and to deal with this you require a strong base that can go to war before you can express your talent, Arsenal fail at every turn. I am very dubious of Emery to do defence especially if the budget reports are true. Kronke is the main issue and the club is facing a dark future while he stays in control. I will not renew my ST as I believe morally you cannot ask people to pay top dollar for a mediocre product, next season will be interesting if we get off to a poor start. Arsenal have sucked the life out of me which is sad after so many great memories. Bottom line is that while I love attacking football I simply hate watching our pub like defending, its soul destroying. We are the biggest club in London with such huge potential but I think Kronke is going to turn us into a mediocre mid table to top 6 also runs.

  12. mbg

    Jun 1, 2019, 12:12 #114011

    Yes Ozil has to go he can't be allowed to continue earning that massive wage for being crap, and if he refuses ? Well let the fans let him know what we think make live uncomfortable for him he's not going to stay where he's not wanted and it certainly can't be said it'll affect his game lol. But that brings me back to what was mentioned in another article that we haven't the fans for that, their too nice, too forgiving they'd just rather wait and see if things get better and look where that has got us. Like I said he can't be allowed to continue earning that massive wage for being crap.

  13. mbg

    Jun 1, 2019, 11:46 #114010

    markymark, your right sad news indeed fond memories it's was a shame he couldn't settle.

  14. markymark

    Jun 1, 2019, 11:39 #114009

    Terrible week continues with the death of Jose Reyes in a car crash . RIP

  15. RobG

    Jun 1, 2019, 10:16 #114008

    Emery will have one more year at least. So people have to face that fact. Ozil has to be free transferred out. I don't want to appear vindictive against the guy. But he has to go and take the transfer fee - which would be @ £10 million - as a signing on fee for elsewhere. Same with Miktaryan. Because it hasn't worked out for him. We have to promote from within. We have no choice. And we have to make three or so astute - cheap - signings and hope they all hit the ground running. Three or four others need to be shipped out - Jenks, Mustafi, Elneny, and maybe a couple more. If Emery would directly address the defensive problems with a specialised defensive coach, this would be a big plus. How much of that will happen ? We will see come August. But if Ozil and Mik are still here and Emery is still trying to paper over the cracks and no one of any note has arrived and the deadwood remains, we will be looking at sixth or seventh next year.

  16. Noodles

    Jun 1, 2019, 08:50 #114007

    It’s all very very depressing ? The only bright spark is I pick up £50 off a Manc as we finished above them who are even worse than us. But will I take double or quits next season .... no chance ?

  17. John F

    Jun 1, 2019, 08:12 #114006

    I have my doubts about Dick but I think you are forgetting the state Arsene left the club in ,aged players,unbalanced squad and mediocre players on huge contracts that was the "it's never going to be easy part".