I must say, from the start, that I started this past season with low expectations. I thought we’d miss out on the top four (when Tony often said we’d make it). I expected we’d do better in the Europa League than last season because, well, history tends to suggest that a little experience is a good thing, but also because we wouldn’t have to play Athletico Madrid this time. I wondered if we might reach a domestic cup final, maybe even win won. But overall I thought it would good if just played more as a team, defended better, and beat one or three of the top four from time to time.
I stayed to cheer Arsene Wenger on his last game in charge but I was also thrilled to see Unai Emery in person at the Emirates in his hastily arranged appearance a month later. He chose to speak in English and his bravery in doing that ever since certainly endears him to me. I didn’t have high hopes of him but mainly because I thought (and still think) that the squad he inherited needs a lot of work to be successful.
So how do I feel after the season and will I renew my season ticket in the North Bank Lower? It has given me pause for thought and I was certainly underwhelmed by Wednesday’s final in Baku which, for me and perhaps others, seemed to represent Arsenal’s season in microcosm.
At times in the first half we looked quite lively, were the better team, and more than matched Chelsea. But we didn’t score nor did we really look like scoring. Unless all our creative and offensive players are really ‘on it’ this is pretty toothless side, away from home at least. Yes, we’d lost the one player that might have changed things to injury a few weeks earlier but since we wont have the talents of Aaron Ramsey next season this was a perfect opportunity to see how we’d do. I’m a big fan of Mesut Özil so I’m sorry Emwery chose not to play him against Cheslea (lol), and I love Auba but he left his scoring boots on the bus. Lacazette has been my favourite player this season but he can’t do it on his own.
Still we might have held on and got lucky but not this Arsenal. Instead we conceded, lost our heads defensively, and capitulated. Same old Arsenal, always losing (away).
We did better points wise than last season and so that is progress of sorts. But we weren’t great to watch, even at home where we were pretty dominant (as Tony has pointed out). We had that great unbeaten run (14 games domestically until we lost to Southampton away) but we rode our luck at times. The highlights were the away win at Fulham and the home defeat of Sp*rs (which I missed) and we might have done better than draw at OT had the ref not allowed United players to cripple ours with impunity.
We had to wait till February for our next little run of success, winning five and drawing one (Sp*rs, which we should have won) before Everton beat us in a woeful away performance (I use the term loosely) that effectively undermined the rest of the season and our chances of a top four place. After Goodison we won just once (Watford away) and once at home, lost 3 and drew the other, before the final dead rubber against Burnley where we suggested we might be up for the EL final.
Never mind eh?
I’m not going to dissect the players because frankly I’m a fan not a coach and what do I know? I can see they tried at times and at others they might have tried harder. Emery shuffled his pack and experimented with his tactics – remember second half Arsenal anyone? Is he a tactical genius? I’ve no idea but I’m not sure he’s got the tools yet to be judged so I’ll not be calling for his P45 just yet.
Of course watching the tinies fall at the last hurdle does temper the disappointment of our own thrashing by Chelsea but schadenfreude will only get you so far. I live in London and on Saturday afternoon I was heading home on the tube with the wife when the Victoria line carriage we were on was invaded by the drunken hoards of the ‘Y** Army’, loudly shouting their nomenclature and breathing Holsten Pils over everyone.
They were heading for the Tottenham area to watch the game with their fellow supporters. I watched them lose with satisfaction, even more so because they probably played better than Liverpool for the most part even if both sides were well below the high standards each have set this season.
There is a key contrast between Arsenal and Sp*rs fans at the moment. Tottenham fans are proud of their team, delighted they got to Madrid, prepared to accept they lost but tried, and are optimistic about the future despite the doubts that hang over several of their stars and, most of all, their (let’s admit it folks) excellent manager. They are united as a team and as a club and they have a shiny new stadium to boot.
The contrast is stark. Arsenal fans are still divided. Some choose to blame Wenger for the current state of the club and squad; others believe his legacy is being undermined by a relative minnow who says ‘good evebing’ in a faintly comic manner. Emery is undermined by those that loved Wenger and Wenger is decried as a saboteur who somehow deliberately set us up to fail so the days of the ‘unbeatables’ could never be repeated. Getting within a point of top four (one behind Tottingham and 2 behind Chelski, comfortably above free spending United) was no success at all for us, and losing the Europa League Final was, frankly, embarrassing.
Perhaps we need to acknowledge were we are. We have an owner who is not inclined to invest his own money in the squad. We have a set of players who are pretty well paid so are expensive for other teams to buy. We have some great youngsters but a manger who needs quick results so may not be inclined to trust them. We are hamstrung in the transfer market and outbid by our nearest rivals.
So fifth place was and is about right at the moment. Ok we nearly caught Sp*rs, and Chelsea had a terrible season so we might have caught them. Liverpool and Citeh are out if sight (and will remain out of sight for a season or two I expect).
Much as it sticks in my craw to say so we need, as supporters, to be a bit more like the noisy neighbours up the road (or Lane in this case). We need to support the team and enjoy the journey. It won’t be easy but we have back whichever players Senor Emery puts out and whichever manager Mr Kroenke appoints. Or we have to try and get the present owner to sell up and leave. That is about as likely as Ann Widdecombe coming out as a lesbian so don’t hold your horses on that one.
And yes, I did renew my season ticket, and you can thank Jurgen Klopp for that ☺
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