The aftermath: what one fan thought of Arsenal’s season

By Tony Attwood

I have no objection to people presenting their opinions, and of course I do it all the time.  But I am troubled by some of the opinions I see.

For example, the Guardian newspaper recently ran a column in which one supporter of each Premier League club was invited to write a brief review of the club’s season.   The review of Arsenal, written by a fan, noted that the Europa final was pleasing but then went on to speak of the squad’s “obvious inadequacies”, the manager’s failure “to motivate” the team, and how “His relentless tinkering, in a struggle to shore up our porous defence, has left us all bemused.”

Reviewing the players the writer noted that, “Torreira and Guendouzi showed plenty of early-season promise but sadly both flagged. Leno is yet another half-decent shot-stopper who lacks the authoritative personality to dominate the area. Lacazette is just about the only player who can take pride in always leaving everything out on the park…”

And then, when asked to nominate the writer’s, “Biggest surprise” in the season his answer was “Our abysmal away form.”  It is all written in the style adopted by the anti-Wengerians last season – although I have no idea if this writer is pro-Wenger or just against both Wenger and Emery on the grounds that the failings are so obvious a child could see them, and the fact neither manager can shows how pathetic the club is.

All of this gave me pause for thought, for it wasn’t just that I disagreed in terms of a matter of opinion.  It was that the writer’s opinion was so far removed from mine, I began to wonder which of us was on another planet.

So let’s try and untangle some of these points…

1: The squad’s “obvious inadequacies”

As I have pointed out over and over, Arsenal were the third best team at home this season, with just two defeats.  Which is hard to explain for a team with “obvious inadequacies”.   If one wanted to make a point it would be that the failure to convert home form into away form was a problem – but to blame the squad implies it needs to be ripped up – which would surely reduce some of the power found in that home form.  How can a squad be good enough to be better than all teams apart from the top two (who were exceptional this season) have obvious inadequacies?   Clearly it is a message the Guardian loves to run, because they run it all the time, but to outsource such a meaningless message seems a bit odd.

2: The manager’s failure to motivate the team

If one added “away from home” to that one might have a point, but then it would have to be examined to see if it was tactics, motivation or indeed a lack of players suited to playing PL games away from home that was the problem.  One might also mention the occasional bad refereeing decision, but maybe the writer didn’t think there were any.

3: The manager’s “relentless tinkering, in a struggle to shore up our porous defence, has left us all bemused.”

Well, no, not me.  Nor quite a few of my friends.  Nor some readers of Untold.  We lost Bellerin and Holding – both of whom I would have expected to make a major contribution to the defence in the latter part of the season – and we had already put Chambers out on loan, and couldn’t bring him back.  Monreal too had periods when he could not play, which was a blow given his adaptability.

Of course all teams get injuries – but a group of injuries which are long term, to players who would normally be in the squad, and which affect the same part of the team – the defence – will screw up all teams other than those with unspeakable amounts of money at their disposal.

With such losses to the defence, and the puzzle of why away form was so much worse than home form, surely changing the defence where possible was not a bad idea.  Had he not done so the manager would have been accused of doing nothing.

Also it does look as if the one year contract for Lichsteiner was a bit of a waste, and Maitland-Niles – a fine player for the future – only emerged part way through the campaign.

Such things happen to most clubs one time or another – for us, this was the time.

4: “Torreira and Guendouzi showed plenty of early-season promise…

“but sadly both flagged. Leno is yet another half-decent shot-stopper who lacks the authoritative personality to dominate the area. Lacazette is just about the only player who can take pride in always leaving everything out on the park…”

Torreira joined us aged 22, from Italy, where a different style of play and a different style of refereeing holds sway, having had one full season there.  He was also picked for the Uruguay team for the first time in 2018 and has played a ludicrous 15 games for them.  Do you not expect such a player to be tired?

As for Guendouzi – he came as a total unknown from a second division club in France for a modest sum.  I would have thought any good performances from him in his first year would be a bonus – and we have had a lot.

As for the dismissal of every player except Lacazette for not giving enough effort when we have the equal top league goalscorer, and the best goalscorer we have had since Van Persie – to name but two, well, it just begins to look plain daft.   And when it comes to Leno – ok maybe his ability is a matter of opinion, but to take just one moment… away to Leicester when there was much dismay among the travelling fans, Leno was cheered and cheerd through the game for his work, and his name alone chanted at the end of the game.  He then came over to our section to thank us for our support of him.  The rest of the team kept a respectable distance.

Of course I only know a few of the 60,000 odd regularly in the stadium but I don’t know anyone who would put him down as “half decent”.

5.  Biggest surprise

So I wonder what this writer is talking about – and that wonder reached far beyond my comprehension when he nominatted as his “Biggest surprise” what he described as “Our abysmal away form.”

How could that be a surprise when last season we were often talking of little else?  Most commentators away from the national media (who can rarely see beyond the complimentary food and drink provided by the club) were painfully aware of our away form last season when we just won five games.  How could it be a surprise this season?

If the manager had managed to get rid of the problem in one go, that would have been a surprise.  But this past season our away form improved by 56%.  So where was the surprise?

And that in turn makes me wonder how the newspaper selected this writer and how, having done so, they decided to print the coverage.  Yes we all have our opinions, but here were facts being treated as non-existent.  But I guess we just have to admit that the piece fitted the paper’s agenda for Arsenal.



10 Replies to “The aftermath: what one fan thought of Arsenal’s season”

  1. nothing the guardian publishes about arsenal surprises me anymore
    whatever happens in baku, it has been a decent season, not as successful as all of us, regulars of this blog, would have wished, but it certainly has not been a massive disappointment
    i have had second thoughts about some of unai’s decisions, but i think he has to be respected … he had big shoes to fill, and he has worked very hard to be up to the task
    the only thing that worries me about him, and our club in general, is the lack of trust in our amazing youngsters (joe, eddie) … i wish we weren’t talking about buying, but about integrating – believing in – them (and nelson, smithrowe, medley, …) as soon as possible; nothing would disappoint me more than seeing them bloom in other clubs

  2. This Guardian article was written by one Bernard Azulay (French?) who runs a part time blog called Gooners Diary ( which last posted an article on 22nd April, so not very prolific.
    I can’t understand how the Guardian chose him over all the other Arsenal bloggers (although they do sometimes use Andrew from Arseblog) for such an in depth opinion piece.
    I find that the Guardian is generally equally fair to all clubs and praises those that earn it.

  3. Completely agree with you Le Gall.
    I think overall Emery has done a very decent job in his first season. It wasn’t perfect but he had to learn about the toughness of the PL and I hope he can adjust himself and the team for that come next season.

    My only worry is just like yours the fact that our youngsters didn’t get much chances to show what they can do. Give Nketiah match time and he will score (and plenty goals I think) but if you only give him 3 or 4 minutes at the end of a match that is already lost then he can’t show it properly.
    My biggest fear is that they will move on to another team and come back to haunt us somewhere in the future.

    Give the kids a chance to integrate more and give them a real chance in the PL is what I would like to see more next season.
    For this season, winning one more match will do nicely for me. And if we do then the first season of Emery can be judged as a real success story.

  4. I must admit that, whilst we all want to see as many Arsenal youngsters making it at the highest level, I can understand why the manager doesn’t rely too much on them as there has been a major imperative for the manager to return the club to Champions League. In fact, some might even say that Emery’s big mistake was giving a Ligue 2 youngster from Lorient (sounds familiar?) 23 starts in a midfield while leaving one of our best players Ramsey on the bench. Yep, Matteo Guendouzi had 23 starts this season. He still looks raw and inconsistent but there is a player somewhere under all that hair.

    I wouldn’t say that Emery didn’t give youngsters a chance. Three of them have been around for years – Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Alex Iwobi and Rob Holding have all been treated as important members of the first team by Unai Emery – whilst some others like Eddie Nketiah, Joe Willock, Emile Smith-Rowe (arguably the most exciting youngster I’ve seen since Jack Wilshere) and Bukayo Saka (maybe we don’t need to spend 40 million pounds on a winger) have got their chances in cup matches. Also, Dinos Mavropanos was given a few start towards the end of the season.

    Mind you, there is also Reiss Nelson who might get straight into the first team next season even if his spell at Hoffenheim wasn’t always bright.

  5. Tony

    The opinion of the ‘fan’ of each team, praise or damnation, only reflects the opinion of said team by the editors who chose that particular ‘fan’ to represent the millions. Had the Guardian asked me or you or countless other AFC supporters the comments would have been quite different. They publish because they have to not because there’s a public clamor for the opinion of so-called fans. They fill columns or inches or whatever the metric. I don’t think they actually believe what they publish. There is an agenda in every publication. It’s called editorial slant. Whether it be politics or sport there will be an agenda. I don’t think they’re fooling or influencing as many as they think they are.

    As for me, this was an interesting season. For all the criticism of Emery and dissection of his every move, one would have thought he’d been here for years instead of one season. Criticism for tinkering with selection and tactics? How else will he know what he has, FFS? On the training ground? Hardly. My concern going forward is honestly not Emery. As you’ve pointed out, he knows what he needs as indicated when he referenced Liverpool’s acquisition of van Dijk. Rather, my concern is Kroenke Sports. They institutionally do not spend. You won’t get a centre defender, box-to-box midfielder and possibly a winger who are worth anything for the 40 million figure that’s been tossed about.
    So I’m concerned with budget and who the f**k is identifying, recruiting and signing players. As we all should be.

  6. In as much as the piece written by that Gooner looked to have fitted the Guardian newspaper’s Arsenal agenda of dressing-down the club whenever it sees the slightest chance to do so as it always finding faults in the out-field and on-field operations of the club to highlight them openly for criticism and condemnation. But notwithstanding, I believe Unai Emery performance at the club in his 1st season at the club as the Gunners head-coach has been a mixed feeling success story he has had so far at Arsenal. For, he has tried his best but from the die-hard Gooners perspective, his best has fallen short of expectations of the Arsenal faithful fans as he could not guide the Gunners to finish in the top-four in the PL in the just concluded PL season’s campaign. Neither couldn he see to Arsenal won the Carabao Cup nor has his Arsenal coached team reached the FA Cup final all in this season too. So, on the domestic front, he’s seeing Arsenal placed 5th in the PL isn’t condemnable as that an improvement on the 6th that Arsenal had placed last season. But nevertheless, if he had guided the club to a top-four place finish in the PL season that ended last Sunday, that would have been commendable. And if the Gunners had won the Carabao Cup to stop Man City, or will be playing in the FA Cup final this season to try and win it again will be more commendable. However, his coaching the Gunners to reach the Europa League Cup final this season is a stand-out commendable effort made by him Emery. And it’ll become a more commendable effort made by him if Arsenal turned their reaching the final to success by beating Chelsea to win the Cup. The Cup win will be huge and satisfactory for us Gooners to admonished and try to forget the disappointments of us seeing Arsenal to not finish in the top-four nor have won the Carabao Cup or by this weekend be playing in the FA Cup final to try to win it again. Speaking from the Gooners point of views, I am one of them who would have ascribed to the wish of wanting to see Wolves deny Man City from winning the domestic treble this season. But restrict them to the double they’ve already won for all their FFP rules breaching by beating them in the final to win the Cup. Come On You Wolves!

  7. The newspaper probably found (or maybe just invented ) such an ‘Arsenal’ fan to suit their narrative. There would be riots if ever there were a fan with the temerity to say that he indeed WAS happy with Arsenal’s season.

    There were a few shortcomings as pointed out by Tony and the rest , but I have to admit that I like the way we are shaping up after AW .UE’s buys have been promising, other than Lichsteiner , who probably was a stop gap replacement on a free transfer.

    Those dropped points still rankle , but there were times when our football was sublime . And some of the goals , were brilliant just like those we have become accustomed to.

    Other than the top two , especially Liverpool , the rest of the chasing pack have had their ups and downs. And depending on who wins the respective coming cup finals , the fans can decide if it indeed was a good season or not.

  8. Then again …..

    Liverpool’s only defeat this season cost them…
    1. The title .
    2. 100 points.
    3. An unbeaten season.

  9. I can’t think of a single section in The Guardian which doesn’t have a terrible bias which ignores facts or misinterprets data, and the football section is no different.
    For years the broadsheet newspapers were pretty middle of the road with a leaning, but now they all seem to have joined the redtops in producing bias incoherent drivel.

  10. I agree
    If we look at our Academy then we have players that many Other teams will want to loan or buy.
    Why not bring them into the first team squad and benefit ourselves?
    Emery though seems more reluctant than Wenger to utilise our youth.

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