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Arsenal have a desperately awful team. So how come we made the final?

By Tony Attwood

As you might expect the media is full of the glory of four England clubs being in the two European finals.   BBC Radio 4 didn’t actually mention that three of these clubs are based in London, and very noticeably listed Arsenal as an afterthought after celebrating Chelsea’s win on penalties, but yes, we did get a mention if only in passing.  There are four English teams in the two finals.

Yet all this celebration has come just a day after almost all the Arsenal headlines were all negative…  This collection appeared within a five minute spell a day or two before the match

  • Transfer news recap: Emery plans Arsenal five-star clearout, De Ligt ‘to England or Spain’ (Football.London)
  • Arsenal news: Edu’s sporting director role, 11 possible exits & nightmare Europa League scenario (Football.London)
  • “Another window botched” One thing has annoyed lots of Arsenal fans about Edu appointment (FootballFanCast)
  • Get another club’ – Loads of Arsenal fans flock to demand ‘anonymous overrated’ star’s exit (The Transfer Tavern)
  • Sell him all day’ – Loads of Arsenal fans ready to let ace go after ridiculous valuation (The Transfer Tavern)
  • What Frimpong has said may embarrass Arsenal players, delight Tottenham Hotspur fans (HITC)

Now of course it is all different and the “1984” effect of simply re-writing reality took hold after the game.  So now it is positive news all the way.

Which means that no one is particularly interested in analysing how Arsenal can fail to get a result one day and then succeed the next.  Or how Arsenal can perform as they did last night after the way they played against Brighton.

For the fact is Arsenal lost in succession to Palace, Wolverhampton and Leicester in consecutive games, and then only drew with Brighton.  And yet either side of the Brighton game we were brilliant against Valencia.  Surely the question is “How come?”

And although it made just a few headlines (well, virtually none in fact) in the previous 12 games from 21 February to 18 April Arsenal lost two, drew one and won nine.  Not perfect but not bad.  And that was nothing compared with the run from 25 August to 13 December when we were undefeated in all the main competitions.

Plus the fact that the contrasts across the season between the good runs and bad spells are matched by the contrast between our home and away form in the league.  In home form we are the third best team in the league, above Chelsea, Tottenham and Man U.   Away from home we are 10th, behind Palace, Leicester, Wolverhampton and Watford.

Yet the near universal response to Arsenal’s performances this season has been to demand that certain players should be kicked out – Mustafi and Xhaka being top of the list.  Xhaka played last night, Mustafi played the last 20 minutes and I thought we were rather good.    Yet going back to the end of last year 90Minutes ran the headline “7 players Arsenal should sign in 2019 January window”!

Apart from the fact that signing so many players at once is liable to disrupt the team completely, there is the fact that we don’t particularly was to disrupt the team that provided Arsenal with the run between late August and mid-December.   Nor the team that performed at Arsenal Stadium for most of the season.   We just want certain performances changed.

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Now that is not so hard to say, is it?  “We just want certain performances changed.”

Which means understanding how the team could move from that 22 undefeated run to one win in the next five.  Is it really a good idea to disrupt that team completely with a mass of new signings, when in fact what is needed is something that stops the occasional defeats from turning into a run of defeats?

Or put it another way, what is needed is something that transforms the home form in the league into the away form.  Because if our away form was like our home form, we would be third in the league, 19 points clear of the fourth placed club, four points behind Liverpool and five behind Manchester City.  Still only third, not top, but not that far off the top and with hope of closing the gap next season.

In other words there is a real danger of disrupting the positive side of the team (our home form through most of the season) by having a complete change around in the team.  What is needed is to find the cause for the problems with the away form and stop the occasional poor runs, so that one defeat remains just that – one defeat.  Not the start of a series of defeats.

Surely it is far better to focus on what is wrong with the away performances, such that we are only the 10th best team in the league away from home, rather than disrupt the team which is the third best home performing team in the league.

However it is a bit of a complicated issue – and I fear far too difficult for many journalits to cope with, so I doubt we will get much discussion on this in the future and the demands for wholesale changes will be the central theme of this summer.

But maybe we can focus on reality and let the rest of the media deal with fantasy.  Arsenal did not finish in a champions league place because of two things: our away form and a couple of sudden dips in form.   Remove either of those problems and we would have qualified .  Remove both and we would have been third, way ahead of the rest of the top six, and ready to challenge for the title.

20 comments to Arsenal have a desperately awful team. So how come we made the final?

  • Sammy The Snake

    We do well at home and in Europe, while the ref allow the opposition to kick us out of the park away from home in EPL. As simple as that.

  • IDDI AMIN

    May be Edu will manage that only his arrival and time will tell us other wise you are on point we have to get rid of those players who make us loose crucial point. By selling them or loan them else where.

  • Dublin Gooner

    It’s the refs again. Focus on the things you can’t change, I say.
    Great to have the feel good factor back after a great performance, but 5th best in the PL is where we are, the table doesn’t lie.
    The budget will surely dictate that there cannot be a wholesale churn of the squad. We have Holding and Bellerin to come back, which will limit opportunities for Mustafi, assuming an ageing Koscieny has another year in him.
    Not much wrong with the forward line or the overall attacking potential. But with our best player, Ramsey, leaving, surely we need to focus on two mid-field acquisitions, which might mean Xhaka moving from first choice to squad player.
    Two strong midfield acquisitions, continued progress from the young players, and top 4 is a possibility, particularly with the Chelsea transfer ban and Hazard going. But we are miles off competing for the premiership, and would require favourable draws and plenty of lucky to make progress in the CL knock-out phase.

  • Les Martin

    Negative reaction is down to the sick parrots up the road still being above us despite their 13 premier league defeats.
    Second reason is down to pgmo.
    VAR next season wont alleviate matters in the slightest ;match officials being the same they can pick and choose when to apply what they laughingly call the rules.
    Great article – as ever .
    Can only agree with the previous 2 posts.
    Very proud of The Arsenal withthe 4-2 win at Valencia .

  • Brickfields Gunners

    I like to think that we have progressed thus far in Europe because we were not ‘targeted’ by the European referees . The are way too many of them from many different countries to induce or corrupt.

    Unlike certain countries, where the scum all are strangely from within the same locale and seem to follow the same song sheet . For now they are not in any position to touch us in Europe.

    And for me personally , they are totally tone deaf and way out of tune . Luckily, others also seem to agree , and these clowns are not rewarded with games in the WC and hopefully in the Euros.

    At least the get a ‘shut your fucking mouth ‘ fee when they retire from the club. It must be enough to keep them in sufficiently stock of soothing balm so as to assuage their guilt.

  • nicky

    The sooner a pool of referees is drawn from the whole of Uefa, to officiate throughout European football, the better it will be for the integrity and honesty in the game.
    No more excuses about travel problems. They no longer exist. And the game can afford it.

  • WalterBroeckx

    I was very impressed with the two refereee performances in the matches against Valencia. I am not saying that they made no errors. But they applied the laws of the game in a very fair way for both teams.
    The Valencia players tried to put pressure on the ref (in both matches) from the first minute but both refs did well to get suck in to that.
    I was very much impressed with the way the Dutch referee Makkelie completely ignored the moaning Valencia players.
    Give us the refs of those matches (Turpin was the other I think) every weekend and I will stop complaining about referees 😉 🙂

  • Nitram

    nicky

    “The sooner a pool of referees is drawn from the whole of Uefa, to officiate throughout European football, the better it will be for the integrity and honesty in the game.
    No more excuses about travel problems. They no longer exist. And the game can afford it.”

    Agree 100%

    In fact I have been saying it for years including on here many times.

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    This summer will certainly be interesting in terms of player movements.

    To my mind we would be stupid spending money on another goalkeeper as we have a couple on our books who are more than ready to take up the mantle of being backup to Leno.

    At centre back we have Holding to come back from injury and Chambers to come back from his year at Fulham as well as Mavropranos, they will join Sokratis and Kos. We also have Mustafi who, when he isn’t having a brain fart, isn’t nearly as bad as many make him out to be – but an upgrade would be welcome. From the U23s we have Zech Medley who shows great promise, Kristian Billikens and Julio Pleguezuelo who has been captain at both U18 and U23 levels. Maybe one addition as an upgrade to Mustafi.

    Right back we have Bellerin to come back and Ainsley MN as backup enough for normal purposes. Jenkinson always puts in 100% effort but probably isn’t good enough and Lichtsteiner is now showing his age.

    Left back is more of a problem area, Monreal is showing his age and is probably now better suited to being the left side of a back three, Kola is great going forward but less so in defence. Jordi Osei-Tutu from the U23s has already been with the first team a bit this season and should feature more prominently next but may not be ready to be a starter (another year I think). Maybe a position where we need to bring someone in.

    In midfield we already have Joe Willock with the first team for training and Emile Smith Rowe who will both become first team regulars in the very near future to add to

    Wingers/wide forwards in addition to Auba we will have the returning Reiss Nelson who has all the quality to be a starter. Nearly ready from the U23s are Xavier Amaechi and Trae Coyle

    Central strikers. Our main man should continue to be Laca with Eddie Nketiah as back up. Up from the U23s should come Tyreece John-Jules who should gain first team experience and substitute minutes.

    In short we don’t need a new team, whatever transfer funds we have should be spent on two or three top quality players who are clearly an upgrade on those we already have. Maybe a Left back, Centre back and midfielder. The exact mix will depend on who is available within our budget.

    It won’t be easy as Real Madrid will be looking to rebuild, Barca are in need of strengthening as are Bayern. United are in a complete mess and both City and Liverpool will be looking to cement their places as the PL 1 and 2 for the next few years. All of those clubs will have greater financial muscle than us so we will undoubtably have to buy clever. We are lucky to have a great set of young players to cover for normal squad wastage and don’t need to buy in squad players

  • Mikey

    I’m with previous comments and had similar thoughts last night during the game, i.e. how come when we don’t have English refs, we don’t get ridiculously one sided games in terms of officiating……….rocket science it ain’t

  • Samuel Akinsola Adebosin

    The media opinion that has said Arsenal have a desperate awful team that cannot win titles is a wrong assessment made by the media. For, in as much as the club has not won any domestic and European titles in the past 15 seasons beyond the FA Cup title it has won thrice in the past 5 seasons should not be a point of reference for the media to claim Arsenal have a desperate awful team that can’t win any other title beside the FA Cup that the club has been winning in recent past seasons.

    Nevertheless, I am of a contracting opinion to the one made by the media. For, I believe Arsenal can win any title that is available for winning in any season’s campaign but if (a) sufficient fund is made available by the club owner this summer to strengthen the club’s 1st team squad adequately. Say, with 4 top class quality new player signings during next summer window to upgrade some positions in the first team squad in readiness for next season’s campaign so as to give the club a chance to lay it’s hand on the PL and UCL title wins next season.

    And (b) if the PGMO will stop being part of the problems that have hindered Arsenal to reclaim another PL title win and even win the Carabao Cup after failing to win in over 22 past seasons to stop Man City from dominating the win perpetually. And of course Arsenal can take a shot at winning the UCL title next season.

    As Arsenal have reached the ELC final yesterday night after beating Valencia in the semi-final stage, I believe the time has come for us Gooners to start praying for Arsenal to overcome their London giants club side rivals – Chelsea who they will play against in the final. For, I believe in prayer that move mountains. Therefore, let us Gooners start praying fervently for Arsenal to move Chelsea out of their ways in the final.

  • Gord

    An article is talking about the 4 English teams in the two different UEFA finals.

    Here’s another excerpt from the medja:

    Pep Guardiola is in his third season as City manager, Jurgen Klopp in his fourth at Liverpool and Pochettino near the end of season five at Spurs.

    https://www.the42.ie/premier-league-european-finals-champions-league-europa-league-4628191-May2019/

    Does Emery not exist? Why have a paragraph that ignores one of the four teams you are writing about?

    Bunch of dorks!

  • BLACKSHEEP

    Yes we have talent coming back from injury and plenty of bright young things in the youth reserves BUT I think Liverpool have proven that a) sticking by your manager and b)giving him funds to strengthen where necessary is imperative if you want to challenge for the top trophies. So I would like to see top quality in the centre of our defence and midfield. I agree we need someone at LB but am not sure AMN is the answer at RB. This is nothing against Ainsley except that this is not the position HE wants and I think he is a super talent and unless we cultivate him where he wants to play, in midfield, he’ll go elsewhere.
    So LB, RB deputy, CB, and creative midfielder. Sell Mustafi, let the dead wood (SL, CJ, DW) leave and build the squad from the U23s.
    And hire a (better) psychologist because I’m pretty sure our away form is in their heads not their feet

  • Mandy Dodd

    We have had a few bad moments lately, but despite a couple defensive lapses, yesterday was very impressive, what strikers we have.
    Do we save our best for Europe these days? Is it Emerys favoured tournament and it transmits? Are we more suited to European football and the way these games are often officiated? Highly motivated strikers willing the team through in Europe but not having the energy to do it every game?A mystery,.
    Really hope we win this, staring the obvious, and unless Stan is hoarding, emery will then have a budget to really get to grips with continuing to build his team.
    Not sure they need that many more players, but what we see and from reports in Jan, it would suggest we really need a fast dribbling wide man, many domestic performances with Ramsey’s absence also suggests a MF who can take on players and break lines. We have lost Alexis Theo Ox Danny, Bellerin and the mayhem they causes opponents without like for like replacements. I believe emery has had a lot of tactical conundrums this season, with injuries, and some inbalance in the squad, will be very interesting to see what he does next season.
    Whatever we do or don’t need, the team can be proud of making the final, with all the injuries and upheavals they have faced.
    Don’t know why, but Got a good feeling about both these European finals, with a firm relative in the good feeling for the CL.

  • Menace

    Blacksheep -‘hire a (better) psychologist because I’m pretty sure our away form is in their heads not their feet’. So true.

    This is a key to part of the problem – aggression on the pitch with urgency to score. The other part is not giving the officials room to impact our momentum. We had such a beautiful game of counter attacking accuracy in Valencia. We can do that anywhere.

  • Nigel

    I hope we can win this final and give us the impedus to move on to greater things. Good first seasons for Leno, Sokratis and Torreira with Guendouzi promising. Would love to see more power in midfield as used to be provided by Vieira, Petit and Gilberto and as Mandy suggests a fast wide player like Overmars, but overall Unai Emery has also had a good first season coming in at a difficult time. An interesting summer awaits and lets hope our owner starts to truly support the club, and team.

  • omgarsenal

    With regards to our season, there seem to be the usual suspects for our change in form home and away and in Europe:

    1) The PigMob of course, either out of sheer incompetence or willful negligence, allowed Arsenal to be kicked off the park far too often, made spurious penalty decisions against us, permitted rotational fouling to flourish against us, failed to apply the Laws fairly or firmly, etc. Same old….same old!

    2) European and home games offered the Arsenal a surcease in their season. At home, our players’ confidence, stylish play and attacking style paid enormous dividends. In Europe, Auba, Ramsey, Laca and Ozil rose to the challenge and showed what they could do, bolstered by professional officiating and Unai’s great managerial nous. Away in the Epl, we started to play as if we were tired and overwhelmed losing to far inferior teams and failing to score anywhere near what we could do elsewhere. Our defensive alertness seemed lost and were it not for Leno’s excellent play in every match, we might have been severly embarassed away from home.

    3) 4-5 key players were injured for long periods during the season, at crucial times when they were really doing well. Had Danny Welbeck been fit, we might have been able to salvage some close games, we either tied or lost. This has been the Arsenal curse ever since I started watching them in 1989.

    4) we have a totally difference managerial system Unai has begun to develop. Wengerball is secondary now, we have much more playing out from the back and a reliance on pressing and midfield control…..which doesn’t always go according to plan, but when it does, we see our performances against Valencia…that is the new Arsenal!

    5) Some of more important players are getting older and the grind of the EPL and European games takes its toll. That is why I expect to see Unai use a lot of our youth and reserve talent in the 2019-2020 season.

    He will most certainly try and work on improving our away and preserving our home form, as well as strengthening where it is needed…..so we’ll see that in the summer transfer window and at the start of next season.

  • Zedsaunt

    It was obvious in the first leg against Valencia that we had the edge in the quality of the players, in the coherence as a team, in the creativity to create openings up front. Consequently I felt relaxed after the final whistle at the Emirates. We would get to Baku. My congratulations and thanks to everyone.

    It’s a completely different ballgame in the EPL. Massively different. It’s taken the EPL close to thirty seasons to produce four teams competing in two European finals, this on a planet where the overall quality of football has risen, and continues to rise, and people make decisions to chose careers as professional footballers, and can choose the EPL to secure their futures.

    Football is a game understood by anyone who watches it. Consequently billions have been poured into the EPL and – it’s taken almost thirty seasons to see the results, we saw it this week – club by club the football player has a support system of professionals examining every detail of their lives as footballers, in a team game played for a purpose.

    The EPL might therefore be a far tougher proposition, with far more difficult games, against far more difficult opponents, than European tournaments. Add the unchallenged machinations of the PGMO mob to the mix and it might well be the case that Mr Emery has a more surefooted path to success in Europe.

    For me, if there is one underlying reason for this season’s poor away results, all the games watched with the sound muted, the root of Mr Emery’s difficulties away from home is that he has no player like Rosicky or Cazorla who explodes the dimensions of the game in one short burst.

    The tempo of the team is predetermined by the players available. What Rosicky offered was a game plan where the continuity of the game was in his hands. He could transform the space on the pitch, the tempo, the mindset of the opponent, in one burst.

    Without Rosicky, Santi, game after game away from home this season there is a period in the first half, between fifteen minutes and thirty-eight minutes, before the sight of the halftime whistle triggers the mind and fixes concentration, where the need to manouevre a path through the length of time of the game remaining, overcomes the players. The task becomes huge. Ninety minutes in a length of space. Aimlessness takes over.

    There is nobody there to transform the game. How Mr Emery will deal with this next season will obviously be the next incline on his learning curve.

  • Gord

    TheRegister has a sarcastic article about AI, which touches upon how sports articles are written.

    https://www.theregister.co.uk/2019/05/10/ai_has_automated_everything_including_this_headline_curly_bracket_semicolon/

    I looked through the comments, nothing seems to touch on sports article writing, at the time I glanced through the list.

  • rondejonge

    thanks Tony for your analysis, its refreshing nuance is a balm for the ‘cut away the deadwood’ pseudo managers elsewhere on da internet
    Agree totally with view that succes in Europe has also to do with proper refereeing. If only my countrymen Kuipers and Makkelie where allowed to whistle in the EPL…