Not with a bang, but a whimper: Arsenal tear up golden Champions League ticket in timid Newcastle display [Positive Needs & Hopes]


How should I feel?

Positive Needs and Hopes

What’s the name of that place in the Caribbean that everybody thinks is the ultimate luxury? I’ve forgotten so I’m going to go and ask my wife……

OK, it’s Atlantis. 

At least to me as a young adult I always saw the commercials for Atlantis and thought it was the Hawaii of the Caribbean.

In 2007 we took a family cruise to the Caribbean. We were supposed to go to Royal Caribbean‘s private island, Cococay.. There was a problem at sea (I don’t really know what that means either), and so they re-diverted us to Nassau in the Bahamas. 

It was a nice place but I was a little disappointed at first because I was looking forward to the snorkeling that I had done on my honeymoon in Cococay.

We got into a taxi and asked the driver if he could give us a tour of the island. As we were driving down the main street I vividly remember looking to my left and seeing Atlantis. It was the first and probably only time in my life that I’d seen something that I perceived as a luxury that I thought we would never be able to afford and yet it was out of the taxi window and I had absolutely no idea that it was going to be there.

We asked the taxi driver to take us up there instead and he told us how best to look around. I think we were too excited to listen to his advice which was a schoolboy error in retrospect.

We spent a couple of hours there and nearly lost our oldest daughter, EllieAnn, to a riptide. After dealing with that trauma, the rest of the visit was very disappointing. Atlantis wasn’t what I thought it would be. 

We left and got back in another taxi to go back to the cruise ship. On the way back the taxi driver asked us what we thought and we told him that we were disappointed. He told us that we were in the wrong part of Atlantis and had looked at the wrong things and that we missed all the good stuff. We were both bummed. We’d had the chance to go somewhere that we never thought that we were going to get to and we screwed up the opportunity.

This was the flashback that I got after watching yesterday‘s game. 

Even though I boldly predicted that we would finish third this season, it became quite obvious quite quickly, that this was not going to happen and that Champions League was a long way off. As we improved and climbed the league I contented myself with the thought of chasing down a Europa place. Then we go on a run of form and most of the teams above us collapse gifting us a golden ticket to a Champions League tournament that we didn’t think we would have a chance of entering this season. The golden ticket was a genuine solid gold ticket and not a cheap imitation. We had been gifted this unexpected opportunity.

What I struggle with now is how should I feel?

Should I be gutted that it looks like we have thrown the golden ticket into the ocean? Well, I think we likely have therefore I think this is a valid emotion.

Should I see it as a season as a whole and be satisfied with the progress from 8th to 5th? From no European football to European football and to the brink of the Champions League.

Should I throw my toys out of the pram and say that the players should’ve mentally prepared better?

Should I look at Mikel Arteta on the sidelines and see how intense he is. More intense than any other coach in world football, in my opinion. Should I then wonder how his intensity affects the nerves of the players the week before a game or in the changing room before kick off?

Should I focus on the reality that we lost Thomas Partey and Kieran Tierney and their back ups are simply not at that level yet?

Should I just recognize that we put a team out with three defenders who were not fully fit and Tavares who has been trusted, not trusted, trusted and not trusted. A midfield partnership that has done well recently yet had no rotation. Wingers that have lost their freshness due to over playing. An attacking midfielder who has played the vast majority of all of the minutes both for Arsenal and Norway this season. Should I look at all of this and give our players a break because our team was far from in optimal condition?


(Photo:Getty Images)

Should I look to the January transfer window and fall into a state of hindsight and start fussing at the club for not investing? At the time I was quite happy that we had not bought a second choice target as we have done many times in the past after failing to tempt Vlahović. Should we have done a short term loan then? Those haven’t really worked for us though and Lacazette was in very good form then.

Should I look at the bench and see it for what it was? It was a group of players that could add little to a fading team.

Should I try and look at the game with a neutral filter as Newcastle were bloody good? Significantly better than any Newcastle team I’ve seen play a football match in many many years. Sometimes you lose not so much because you were bad but they were very good.

Should I ask myself why they were so motivated and we look so scared?

Should I expect a young team whose slightly older players have not been in this position before either, to not be tense and doubt?

Should I expect Arteta to be more thoughtful in his substitutions? The game was killed when Tavares, who was having his best game in a long time, was substituted when his energy and directness was one of the only outlets. Did we need to bring on Martinelli and then move him to left back and sacrifice his attacking threat, giving that opportunity to Lacazette who has not shown any threat recently?

Should I have waited to write this post until after Sunday because I won’t care about any of this if Tottenham lose and we win?

Anyone know where the Newcastle players got their motivation injection from? Can you get the same medicine down to Carrow Road by Sunday?

I’m confused. Truly confused. 

I think I’m 50-50 emotionally. I’m gutted that the golden ticket has faded and looks more bronze. I am also content that this Arsenal team, and where they are currently at, lines up with a fifth place finish. Content also about the future because I love the way that this team has been built and is continuing to be built.

I think I’ve decided to be disappointed for a couple more days and then I’m going on a scavenger hunt to find my Arsenal smile again.

The rest of today’s blog will be brief.

I’m putting on a carnival for kids in Knoxville, Tennessee this Saturday and I am beyond exhausted and a little overwhelmed with my to do list. I certainly hope to have the energy to write and podcast after Sunday’s game.



  • Nuno Tavares. Great credit goes to him. I thought that he was vastly improved and this at least to me, was very much unexpected. His positioning was excellent. His decision making was almost perfect. His defensive posture and recovery was very good. His numerous headed clearances were impressive and he was the only player breaking the lines on the dribble which is exactly what the team needed.
  • I have no idea how many corner kicks we faced but it was somewhere between 10 and 20. Either way, it was a very large number. I don’t remember Newcastle having one clear opportunity from any of them. This has clearly been one of the greatest improvements this season. Regardless of the quality of delivery, our set piece coach has set us up and motivated us to where we’ve only conceded one goal in 37 games from hundreds of set plays. In the fog of disappointment, this emerges as a bright light.
  • I thought Ramsdale made a handful of stunning saves. Saves that the vast majority of keepers wouldn’t get close to as his reactions are lightning quick.


  • Where was Martin Odegaard? I’d have to rewatch this, which I really don’t want to do, to figure out if his positioning was off or the incisive line breaking passes were not delivered. I feel the same way about Eddie, also. He seemed to make numerous runs yet nobody delivered the ball. 
  • I’ve never seen Smith Rowe look so ineffective. Was he unfit? Was he confused by his role? Was he just simply too busy defending to be able to impact the attack?
  • I think if I was a neutral fan looking at Arsenal I would wonder why we deny ourselves opportunities to score simpler goals. I watch other teams slide balls between centre backs and full backs for the center forward to run onto and shoot first time. A 50-50 chance. I see right wingers combine and run behind defensive lines yet we have a hugely gifted right winger who is one of the best in the league and he doesn’t really do this. Everything he does is significantly more complicated yet it doesn’t have to be. I see us so determined to set the play back to the midfield when we have an opportunity to counter attack. I see other teams have strikers that have far more elusive movement and certainly more determination in the penalty area than ours. That can be coached and instructed. I’ll be honest… I really don’t understand why our coaches haven’t insisted that Lacazette and Nketiah show more desire in the box and give themself simpler chances to score. Newcastle‘s first goal… so simple, so effective and yet we don’t ever score this type of goal.



  • I hope that Granit Xhaka‘s post game words are considered fair by his teammates. Only they really know what the coaches game plan was and whether they followed it like he suggested they didn’t. It’s fine to have an opinion as to whether you think he was entitled to that opinion when he was also on the pitch not having a great game, but the real story lies behind the scenes. Until the documentary comes out we will never know what was instructed and where the failure was. So, for me, I suppose I just trust Xhaka that there were players who didn’t follow the coaches game plan and I assume that he did. Kinda hard to know though, right?
  • If we do miss out on the Champions League and therefore miss out on signing Tielemans and Dybala and sign a central midfielder and striker option that I personally would prefer, than this might turn out to be a blessing in disguise. As you may know, there have been strong rumors that the Tielemans deal is done if we secure Champions League. We then found out that Dybala will choose Arsenal over others if we achieve Champions League. I like and respect both players. I also think that they are not what Arsenal really need.


As much as it looks likely that Spurs will win on Sunday, don’t forget that they are Spurs.

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6 Responses to Not with a bang, but a whimper: Arsenal tear up golden Champions League ticket in timid Newcastle display [Positive Needs & Hopes]

  1. jod May 17, 2022 at 8:59 am #

    If you take the long view of the season as a whole, United, Spurs and Arsenal all seem to have tried everything to avoid champions league football. Even now I wouldn’t completely rule out Norwich beating Spurs. No one deserves it but someone was always going to get it. I would argue that with the weakest squad Arteta has actually done quite well to run Conte so close, especially if you look at United’s season. But as the game at White Hart Lane showed the quality gap is significant. Maybe the biggest problem for Arsenal is the lack of experience. Everyone wants to develop young players but too many can lead to problems. We saw that at Spurs under Pochettino, exciting football but ultimately no trophies. Managers like Conte are a lot more streetwise. Next season could be tough for Arsenal. West Ham are at least as good and who knows how Newcastle will develop. 5th may turn out to be as good as it gets.

  2. Funsho Patrick May 17, 2022 at 11:05 am #

    We need press resistant midfielders..only partey beats that Newcastle press.. Odegaard doesn’t thrive in small spaces..Smith Rowe would have done better yesterday just that elneny and xhaka didn’t send any out balls…Yves Bissouma and tielemans were made for yesterday’s duels…protect your ball and draw fouls for crying out loud! The major positive from yesterday is it doesn’t hide our inadequacies…we need other types of attacking personnel….a centre forward like giroud and berbatov of old that ball sticks too and also scores…adama traore perhaps from the bench? To tie down two or three opposition players? I hope they watch every match in the off season…. weldone Mikel! Weldone youngest team in the top echelon of Europe..

  3. Andy May 17, 2022 at 4:30 pm #

    Did Arsenal over or under achieve? If you look at our first eleven perhaps an under achievement. If you look at who replaced tierney, partey, tomiyasu, if you look at the youth of the team, if you consider the first three games, maybe we have done better than this feels.

    The concern for me is that we have been found d out. Pack the midfield full of fast aggressive players and we go to pieces. To improve next season we can’t rely on xhaka or elneny. Six passes from the two of them to odegaard all match? We can do better.

    Anyway, thanks for the excellent analysis and enjoy the summer!

  4. Felix Sumba May 18, 2022 at 2:47 am #

    It appears that it’s goals and assists that the club is chasing in the summer. Tielemans fits this profile. He provides goals and his creativity will reduce the pressure on Odegard as well as open up the left hand side similar to how Odegard has the right hand side of attack. I’m not sure how reliable the Dybala links are. I’m curious as to your preferences for these two positions and why you aren’t keen on these two targets. Thanks

    • Francis Redheart May 20, 2022 at 9:40 am #

      Hello all,

      It has been a painful time for the club as we had top 4 in our hands and to let it slip from our hands or rather hand it over to Spurs is very disheartening.

      What I hope is that Arteta & his team learn from the mistakes of this campaign of which I can highlight a few here.

      1. Arteta needs to learn how to manage players better. The Aubameyang decision came back to hurt us as well as the slimming down of the team.

      2. His usage of only a few players out of the squad. He can learn from Klopp who used his squad very well this season even at crucial times. Saka had injuries and yet Pepe couldn’t replace him at least for Saka to be fitter. It also led to players getting injured towards the run-in or playing when they weren’t fit enough to do so.

      3. We can’t come back to win matches once we have conceded. This shows a weak mentality which eventually derailed the team from making the top 4.

      4. Our losing streaks were a major issue this season. This is something we must work on. His tactics when losing also tens to fail because there’s no chaos agent in the squad ala Oxlade and Giroud.

      5. We didn’t see enough of our academy players and their promotion/integration into the team would be exciting.

      I am very interested in how we build our team especially with identifying them and integrating them into the squad very quickly. Another task for Arteta is the decision on the loan players.

      Throwing away 9 points at the beginning of the season again won’t buy them any favours.

      Thanks for another great post.

      P.S. My daughter’s name is Eliana.

  5. Luke May 18, 2022 at 12:41 pm #

    With a little bit of time comes a bit of perspective. This is the youngest team, and one of the smallest squads in the league. After the start they had, the multiple injuries to key players at one time, the awful decisions that have gone against them and the huge shift in expectations on them as a squad, to get 5th should be seen as a win. It’s clear this team has something about it; however, they do lack certain things to make the huge transition into CL football just yet.

    Villas-Boas was lauded one season for getting his Marseille team into the CL, but then seen as a failure the next season when they bombed out, despite the fact that he and that team were massively punching above their weight. Surely something similar would have happened had (if – who knows what will happen on Sunday!) Arsenal qualified this season.

    On the transfers front, there seems to be this clamour for a pandora’s box of elite players that would only join the club should they qualify for the CL. But this is exactly what lead the club to the Ozil/Auba situations. Surely it’s better to stick to the well thought out transfer policy of buying young, hungry and talented players, who want to play for the club regardless of what competition they’re in? It means there’s a leaner and more equal wage structure; and that there’s an ability to shape the team to be more rounded and together. It also means that there should be a shared hunger to reach the goal of CL. Another bonus of this, as we’ve seen this season, is that the fans get on side (for the most part) – supporting a mix of home grown and full of potential youngsters is a lot easier than supporting a team full of ageing primma donnas that are likely to jump ship or significantly shift down their performances should the team start to flail a bit.

    One of the reasons that failure to secure CL this season is so galling is that Tottenham gain from our failure. But look at what they have compared to us: an established, World Class manager in Conte; the statistically most-potent front pairing in Premiership history; and they’ve also had an amazing amount of luck: no long term/simultaneous injuries, own goals have been their joint 3rd top goal scorer, and they’ve had the rub of the green with refereeing decisions. That won’t happen again next season. Plus, Son and Kane are ageing – they will be 30 and 29 respectively next year. Conte could flip out again, threaten to leave, upset the apple cart, and has a history of doing so when he doesn’t get his way – Levy has a history of not letting his managers get their own way…

    Arsenal have a plan. They have a very young and promising team, littered with home grown, Hale End talent. If this team can grow together, use the hurt of not qualifying for CL this year, and push on next season by gaining some European experience in the EL, then they’ll be in a fantastic position to qualify and flourish in the CL the season after. Arsenal fans have had something to cheer about this season, and we shouldn’t forget how different it’s felt this year to others in the recent past – missing out on CL, by such small margins, shouldn’t be a reason for this to change. It should be a reason for us to be excited and increase our support for Arteta and his team.

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