So the Premier League has finally finished. (A little later this year then originally planned!). With the Gunners having to face another game this weekend in the FA Cup final, the countdown is on to the finale.
This season will have made an ever lasting impression on those associated with the club. In short – this final could be more important than the Europa League Final in Baku last year. That final highlighted the errors the club made over the past three seasons. This one could highlight the club’s errors during the past season.
If Arsenal can beat the Blue side of London on Saturday it would offer an estimated boost of thirty million extra income, which could prove vital in the transfer window; which is now officially open.
Moving on to the league table after Matchday 38 – there is a huge gap between title contenders and Champions League hopefuls. On the final whistle against Watford, Arsenal’s record read W14, D14 and L10. Two sides finished with more losses and still managed to book their European berth for next season: Leicester and Chelsea.
When I was thinking about the season around this time last year I had hoped Arsenal would grab their chance at Champions League with both hands. During preseason there was anticipation of what this team could do: with Chelsea relying on youth as they had no money to spend; United somehow just stumbling by and still getting into Europe and the rivals across the road just deciding to stick with what they’ve got; Champions League football looked very possible. But finishing at the end in 8th position has highlighted what needs to happen in the next coming months. Both on and off the pitch.
Another thing that should be highlighted is the goal difference. Arsenal finished with only eight plus: no other team in the top eight finished lower in fact only Wolverhampton; our North London rivals and Chelsea finished with a goal difference below twenty. Other stats from the Premier League highlight Arsenal were seventh with goals scored (with 56, of which Aubameyang contributed 21 goals) and 9th for clean sheets (managing only ten). Not a good sign.
However, considering that there was two managers and an interim caretaker, this could perhaps explain why there was some inconsistency. Perhaps with Mikel firmly in charge, progress and development both on and off the pitch will continue to flourish – there have been promising signs already.
It’s been many years since Arsenal attempted to – as the Scouseres say “conquer all of Europe”. In 2004, we lost to our opposition in the final this weekend. In 2006, we were so close but came up empty handed. In 2008 heartbreak again this time against Liverpool and a year later again versus Manchester United. And that’s just the Champions League.
We have since also lost to Atletico Madrid in a semi-final two years ago in the last year of Wengers’ tenure at the club and then the disaster of Baku the year after. This year seemed different though, I was expecting Arsenal to push for some European glory this season. Which was ended at home to Olympiakos in dying minutes of extra time in the first round. Disappointment would be an understatement of the feelings I (and perhaps other fans globally) had at the time.
European glory seems to be something that still eludes the trophy cabinet at the Emirates of late – it would be nice for something else to go into the cabinet apart from pre-season trophies and the occasional FA Cup. (Not that I am complaining about that!) But should Arsenal win this weekend I hope that we can go on to end the twenty year wait for another European trophy.
The League Cup is another trophy that has escaped Arsenal’s clutches over the years. Most recently in 2018, but also in 2013, the dreaded 2011, 2008 and finally 2007. Although in recent times this is more of a trophy for City to pick up on the road to ensure that they have had a “successful season”, it is still a trophy that Arsenal should be looking at as potentially a big honor considering it has never been won by the club before.
Arsenal needed a win this season and after the display against Nottingham Forest and being drawn in the next round to play a Jurgen Klopp Liverpool side that wouldn’t feature any of his best players – relying instead on academy players because of “fixture congestion” – it seemed like luck might be on our side. In a frenetic game that that produced 10 goals in normal time, Arsenal ended up conceding a last minute equaliser in the 94th minute, and went on to lose on penalties. That was probably the most embarrassing it could get for the club – and after suffering a loss against Frankfurt in Europe, Unai was finally out of the door.
Finally the FA Cup offers a last chance to grab silverware. Having already beaten the holders in the semi-Final in a defensive display which I don’t think anybody expected, there is perhaps some optimism among fans though the Gunners have had an what some onlookers may say was an easier route with matches against Leeds, Bournemouth, Portsmouth and Sheffield – though some of these games were tough and closely-fought.
Our counterparts had to play Nottingham, Hull, Liverpool, Leicester and the red side of Manchester. This season, Chelsea have pounced on their chances which has brought them Champions League football, and they will be looking to spoil another party in North London. These two teams are very similar but worlds apart. Sometimes when you face the same opposition not just in the league but in a final such as this one coming up there is something that makes you think maybe we won’t win it this time. Evidence was shown for this when playing Watford on Sunday. Were we just too good? Or did we just take our chances and then lose our heads? Only the players and Mikel can answer.
Whether you’re watching on with high anticipation of a much needed win to lift some spirits or hiding behind your hands and hoping that there’s going to be a miracle at the weekend, come the final whistle we will all know where Arsenal stands at the beginning of the next season: looking out of the window wishing to be part of European football again or playing Thursday night football.
Whatever your view, I just hope this team can give us the performances that they are capable of and not another dismal display.
A football lover from an early age, who began to support Arsenal in my early years. I never got to go to Highbury to see any games or even the tour, something I wished I was able to do. I play disability football as well and appreciate the support that the Arsenal Foundation has given the local community, which I have raised money for previously.