So the season has (domestically) drawn to a close, Arsenal ended the season in 8th place in the end. Certainly not a finishing position we would have expected at the start of the season but here we are. I often highlight the impact the pandemic played as part in this outcome and it’s definitely a factor but not an excuse. All 19 other teams faced the same changes to the situation. Some adapted better than others whilst many on assessment would feel they could have done much better.
An inexperienced manager faced a daunting challenge not faced by any experienced manager in history. He faced challenges, struggled to resolve initially then found a way to improve. Regardless of the circulating last 23 games (or now 24 games) form table that did the rounds for the past week enough damage was maybe done in that bad November/December spell to really sway the opinions of many fans on whether he is the right man to take the club forward.
We ended the season strongly and, if anything, it has shown we have a base to build from; the introduction of a number of youngsters in the second part of season played a part in the upturn in form and should lay the basis for Arteta to build around next season. Whether it’s too little too late for the fans and those responsible for the hiring and firing we will see. It’s important that whoever is in charge come August that we get behind the team and be that 12th man.
As confirmed after the results yesterday that assault on the new season will come without European football. For the majority of fans it will come as a blessing to not be involved in the Europa Conference League. A competition that will provide the cons of Thursday/Sunday fatigued football minus the pay off with the golden carrot of Champions League football to expect.
It was a competition when first announced that was sneered at; it really seemed a bit of an embarrassment to be part of. Yes – it’s European football but the standard/level of teams involved really hit home how bottom of the barrel we would be scraping if we had qualified. The fact it was a reality going into the final round of games had fans calling for the team to lose just to avoid it happening.
I personally never wish Arsenal to lose and wanted a good win against Brighton first, then deal with the consequences second. Although I did not agree – I did empathize with the Arsenal fans that thought that way. In the end we avoided qualifying for the competition and missed out on finishing above Spurs. The ideal outcome would have been Everton putting in a better effort against Man City and taking that spot whilst we won and Spurs lost to Leicester. Good thing I’m not a betting man as I’d be out of pocket.
A few positives from yesterday:
The Ivorian has had an indifferent start to his career at Arsenal, not helped by the price tag and expectation to single handedly win games for us because of it. It is refreshing to see his contributions this season have improved and there are signs that the player we first expected has reared his head and leaves us with optimism that his upward turn in contributions will continue into next season. Yesterdays 2 goals showed how much of a danger he can be and how important a run of games can have on a player.
Holding/Gabriel Clean sheet:
Yes, you read right, Holding and Gabriel played together and we achieved a clean sheet. There has been many grumbles that the two cannot play together and through a combination of bad fortune and some avoidable situations the stats backed up that claim. Holding has had a much improved season, whether he is seen as the elite level Arsenal fans expect the jury is still out but there’s no denying he’s always given his all for Arsenal and has registered some impressive performances. Gabriel seemed to have experienced second season syndrome halfway through his first season. He started the season on fire, looked the player we have missed for many a year then he got struck down with Covid 19 and since his return his performances have not matched the levels prior the sickness. He hasn’t become a bad player overnight and has just struggled to return to his optimum level,. A full preseason will help him get back to the levels we have witnessed. He has a higher ceiling of potential than any of the other defenders we had this season and there’s nothing to indicate he can’t raise that bar once again. It was nice that the two managed a clean sheet and got that monkey off their back.
Like a broken record I cannot overstate how the pandemic and crucially the lack of fans have played a part in our fortunes. It was refreshing to witness the fans cheering on the team not just in our game but across the Premier League for the past two rounds of games. It makes a difference, it really does. As an away player the abuse can help raise your own game, look at how Tierney played his part in our opening goal despite getting booed for pretty much the whole game by the Crystal Palace fans. Additionally the roar from home fans can inspire the home team onto victory. There was a feel good factor that could be seen in the player’s faces from playing in front of the fans yesterday. The fans acted as a 12th man and it made a difference yesterday. The freak stats of there being more away wins than home this season in the Premier League will be a thing of the past when the fans are back regularly next season. God forbid Covid 19 doesn’t take control again and some normality resumes. I certainly can’t wait to get back to the Emirates.
For now there’s a lot to reflect on for the season past, there’s likely to be a big summer of transfer activity not to mention the uncertainty of our ownership and whether the #KroenkeOut movement will prevail. These topics I will address in future posts but for now let’s wave goodbye to a season we would rather not experience again in our lifetime. Enjoy the Conference League, Spurs!
Born a stone’s throw (and a 271 bus ride) away from Highbury. Arsenal is my life, I celebrate every win and I suffer every defeat, it’s all about taking the good with the bad. Writing and sharing about everything Arsenal certainly keeps me sane!