It’s fair to say that the 2020-21 season has been one of the worst in Arsenal’s modern history. Not only are the Gunners out of the Europa League, but three of their biggest rivals will line up in European finals at the end of the campaign. Aside from Manchester United, who play Unai Emery’s Villarreal in the Europa League final, Chelsea will meet Manchester City in an all-English Champions League final.
Even the most passionate Arsenal fans will acknowledge that English football’s landscape has changed, but the Gunners are a long way from where they should be. Although the club’s value is increasing, their on-field stature is lessening with every passing season, and their rivals’ European campaigns shine a light on Arsenal’s failures. So, can the Gunners get back to the pinnacle over the coming years?
Tuchel Shows the Value of Experience
It’s no secret that Arsenal haven’t consistently spent sizeable sums of money on transfers since moving to the Emirates in 2006. Under the ownership of Sheikh Mansour and Roman Abramovich respectively, City and Chelsea have invested significant amounts into their playing staff. On the field, this has yielded positive results. Such investment has taken the Citizens to their first Champions League final, and odds on the UEFA Champions League have them at evens to win the event. Chelsea, on the other hand, are 14/5 to triumph, as of May 12th.
Although Chelsea spent around £250 million on new players in the 2020-21 summer transfer window, Thomas Tuchel took the Blues to new heights following Frank Lampard’s sacking in January. Even though financial backing is paramount to elevating a club’s potential and competitiveness, the German manager has improved his players by coaching them. The same can’t be said of Arsenal players under Mikel Arteta, highlighting the value of experience as a top-level coach.
A Million Miles Away from the Pinnacle
It speaks volumes of Arsene Wenger’s credentials that the Gunners qualified for nineteen successive Champions League campaigns between 1998-99 and 2016-17. Since then, the 13-time league winners have twice finished fifth in the Premier League, as well as falling to sixth and eighth during the 2017-18 and 2019-20 campaigns respectively. Not only that, but Arsenal’s inability to win the Europa League also showcases how far they’ve fallen.
In Arsenal’s semi-final defeat to Villarreal, Arteta opted to bring off Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang when the Gunners were chasing a match-winning goal. The 13-time league winners failed to progress to the final, and former Highbury playmaker Paul Merson described substituting Chelsea spent around £250 million. Although this decision alone didn’t result in Arsenal’s exit, it showcases that the club‘s Spanish coach isn’t the finished article. Arteta is learning on the job and finding his identity as a manager, but Arsenal aren’t in a position to let a young coach find their feet during this period of failure.
Where Do Arsenal Go from Here?
There are plenty of decisions to be made at Arsenal at the end of the 2020-21 season as they seek to re-establish themselves as a Champions League calibre side. Few can argue that the Gunners aren’t a million miles away from where they want to be, and unfortunately, there’s no overnight solution. Whether Arteta is the man to lead the revival, however, remains unclear.
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