A season of mellow fruitlessness


by Blacksheep

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 ☺

23 Replies to “A season of mellow fruitlessness”

  1. Good points, i think we ended up where we should have Europa final 5th but closer than i expected. We knew last season this squad needed a big overhaul and if any gunners thought that would happen in 2 windows they are idiots.

    We did some good work in the summer, Leno, Sokratis, Torriea, Guendouzi all have performed well.Dont forget we had an apparent 40m budget last season and spent 75m without any sales. The above with Laca and PEA is a great starting place. We have Bellerin to come back with Holding and Mavripanos too. Add in Willock, AMN (in midfield), Nelson, Smith-Rowe, Saka and Amiechi were building a squad built around the Arsenal way.

    How refreshing was it at the interview after the final. Basically stating there are players who will not be at the club next season. Essentially stating they are not good enough and are not willing to put it on the line for the team.

    Were looking at some very good youngsters which i am excited about and it is the market we should be in. Established stars havn’t worked for us, were a gem finder club, we make world class players not buy them in for silly money and thats the Arsenal I’m proud of and its the way we should always be.

    I’m looking forward to what this summer brings, have faith it may take another 2 seasons to get to the level of city and Liverpool but it will come.

  2. A strange season , as you said a few great highs but too many lows .
    If the team collectively played to a 7 or 8 out of 10 you get your win , too often it was a 4 to 6 which I think was down to a change of the team and change of formation and the use of different players in different positions , they never looked comfortable
    None of the players got to grips with this and was made worst when 3 regular players end up with long term injuries .
    As we’ve just had 20 odd years with Arsene we now have a manage more concerned with the opposition than what we’re going to do , he’s reactive and not proactive another reason for up and down results , maybe when it’s his team we will be able to judge him better .
    I think I’ve only scratched the surface when you analyse our season and how it effects you .
    When he gets this side of the game right we are excellent

  3. i was … ashamed of our team in the second half, of how … dull we were
    having said that, i think, our “first-choice” team that year was:
    the caveat being that we actually didn’t play once with that XI
    that’s certainly an excuse, but unai’s big test lies ahead of him right now
    will he be brave enough to make room for willock-nketiah-nelson-smithrowe and other brilliant youngsters we have in store, or will he go for the likes of suarez-lichtsteiner (even sokratis)?
    will he have the team play attacking football, or will he keep adapting to the opposition, and make me doze off – and/or rage – in front of my screen?
    youngsters and attacking football – actually i think the ajax man (ten hag) would be the right man for this
    lastly, i think we’re about to have a “homegrown” problem (with jenkinson-ramsey-welbeck out of the way); it might be wise to bring back and trust more lads like chambers/martinez (who is “homegrown”, i think, didn’t have the time to check it out), both certainly showed talent and character this season

  4. Very good talk,my question is how much are they going to give Emery to challenge the likes of mancity and Liverpool,don’t forget man u are coming coming out strongly next season,are we going to continue with this fringe players currently available now?

  5. I’m not unhappy with the end results of the season (although some of the performances were embarrassing). Some club owners/fans need results on day 1 but also have the budget to make that a possibility, whereas we (club and long term fans) have always been more interested in the longer term as we’ve never had the budget for major squad changes.

    I think Emery has had a very decent season by ending up so so close to the CL positions (IMO there are lots of managers that would have done worse in year 1 of a multi-year project).
    The real test of Emerys quality is next season, but while he hasn’t proven himself as a genius yet, he’s certainly shown he’s not an idiot.

    Can he get a squad with a bit more consistency in both quality, effort and resilience?
    The season ahead could be the year some of the younger members become ‘Mr Consistent’ (in a good way) and some of the older players have an injury free season, whilst a few key player buys make the team better balanced and resilient…
    As usual it should be interesting to find out.
    Lets hope it’s also vey enjoyable to find out… fingers crossed.

  6. James Simmonds “Dont forget we had an apparent 40m budget last season and spent 75m without any sales.” Actually the money we spent lines up exactly with what the papers were reporting our budget as, same with the January transfer window, which is why I see no reason to assume that the reported $40m~ budget for this window is incorrect.

  7. Excuse me for changing the subject, but there was a nice Obituary in the Times this morning for J.A. Reyes.

    What was striking was that it was introduced by a quote from Phillip Neville in which he states that he, his brother and Scholes went out of their way to foul violently Reyes as much as they could and that is what they did.

    Now, unless that quote was genuine and true, they would not have published it, so, I think that shines a very strong new light on the 50th game, the conduct of Manure, its players and its manager and, of course, last, but not least, Riley, who stood by and allowed it to happen.

    ON Saturday, a team who have cheated their way to countless penalties were undone by a penalty that some people think should not have been given, I did not see it, so cannot comment, and the beneficiary was another team that has cheated its way to many penalties themselves.

    We find ourselves addicted to a public sport that seems to be riddled with unpleasant and unacceptable aspects, that simply won’t go away.

    IN a nutshell, why do we bother?

  8. Jigsol

    It was terribly sad news about Reyes, but I think we already knew how rigged that 50th game was. I agree that Liverpool and Sp*rs have both ‘won’ a fair amount of dodgy penalties this season but I’m not sure I’d call Saturdays’ as cheating. The ball hit Sissoko’s arm and his arm was in an ‘unnatural’ position for his position (if you follow). On another occasion it might have not been given but I think the only doubt here was, perversely, that it happened in the first minute of the CL final. At any other time in any other match I think the ref gives it and no one grumbles. So we bother because while an unknown level of cheating (by clubs, players, officials) goes on it is only part of the game, not the whole of the game. And what would Tony, Walter and Andrew have to moan about if all the rules were fairly applied and no players cheated? 🙂

  9. ”And what would Tony, Walter and Andrew have to moan about if all the rules were fairly applied and no players cheated”

    We would not be moaning we would be singing the praises of our victories!

  10. Blacksheep

    Great article.


    I’ve posted on here many times about a conversation between Souness and Gary Neville that took place in the build up to an Arsenal United match about 5 years ago.

    Basically, talking about that infamous game Souness said to Neville something along the lines of “You gave Arsenal a bit of a ‘bullying’ didn’t you that day” (nudge nudge wink wink)

    To which Neville replied through much giggling, yes, you could ‘bully’ Arsenal in those days (Snigger snigger).

    The fact that they were alound to get away with it at the time is bad enough, the fact that they can now talk about, even laugh about, it with inpunity is shameful.

    The thing is people might say it was one match, get over it, but that is simply not the case.

    That match laid down a marker. From that day onwards everybody knew ‘this is what you can do to Arsenal and you will get away with it’.

    From that day onwards the way we get refereed changed dramaticly, because as we know to our cost, the referee that oversaw that debarcle simply moved upstairs and continued his dark arts from behind a facade of secrecey and non accountability.

    When I watch that game on utube I still cannot believe what I’m watching.

  11. jigsol we bother because it’s a beautiful game when played beautifully. the real thugs of the game are the crooked and weak refs who allow teams like manu and toke to continue along their wicked ways. if fans spent more time protesting the refs than their players we might see a change.

  12. Thought we were nailed on for fourth place this season,but the wheels fell off in those disastrous last five games. So next season is going to be tough.

    Seems to me if we only have the reported £40million to spend on transfers that should be prioritised around either a good quality CB, or a Rambo replacement. This has to be someone who’s a real team leader, able to put some steel into our away performances.
    The limited Kronke transfer funds means we will need to accelerate the promotion of some of the younger prospects

    Our defensive capabilities will be improved with Bellerin and Holding back from injury and Chambers back from a successful (for him) loan to Fulham. Sokratis will be OK for another year though both Kos and Nacho will struggle to do a full season. So Bieliek and Mavropanos should get some useful game time

    If Emery is going to play 3 at the back with 2 wing backs, then we need additional cover at both RWB and LWB to back up Hector and Kolasinac.

    AMN has performed well as a makeshift RWB, but he deserves his chance to join Torreira, Xhaka and Guendouzi in midfield; along with Smith Rowe and Joe Willock providing back-up. Not sure who would buy Ozil, but his declining contribution means we must sell him – his £15M wages would go a long way to reward some of the up-and-coming youngsters.

    Up front we have fewer issues (other than possible injuries) with Auba and Laca leading the way and Eddie Nketiah looking to be ready to make the step up; Reiss Nelson should be given a good chance to challenge Alex Iwobi as the wide player.

    Our prospects for 2019/2020 may still be 5th at best, unless the Spuds or Chelsea lose the plot, but the team may surprise us

  13. BarryL, “Our prospects for 2019/2020 may still be 5th at best, unless the Spuds or Chelsea lose the plot”.
    Do you really think that with only a 2 point gap between 3rd and 5th it’s that certain…
    One not-missed penalty against the tinys would have made a big difference to the look of the table 3-5.
    Apart from the top 2 who were a real step above for the whole season, IMO the next 4 are very difficult to split (assuming they make some headway at Odd Trafford) and the Russian team are allowed to get someone good to replace Hazard (assuming he does go to RM). Although I think RMs interest in tinys players may have reduced following Saturdays game, which is probably a benefit to them.

  14. Andy Mack

    “Although I think RMs interest in tinys players may have reduced following Saturdays game, which is probably a benefit to them.”

    To be honest I doubt Real, or anyone else for that matter, would be put off by one performance, although I doubt you was being that literal anyway really.

    The truth is, to judge any player on that match would be utterly misleading.

    Both teams played way bellow the level at which they usually performed in the PL, espicially Liverpool, despite winning.

    As such, despite losing, personally, I thought Spurs were the better team. Oh well !!!

    If, and it’s a big if, Real Madrid did have any interest in Spurs players I cant imagine for one second Saturdays match made any difference at all.

    In any case it’s not the players we need to worry about, it’s the manager. To my mind he’s managed to get far more out of this team than it’s component parts warrent.

    Now if HE went to Real then Spurs would be in trouble.

    NB: I know he’s won f*** all, and I do give him stick about that, but I do have to admit that given his budget and the circumstances under which he opperates, he has done exceptionally well to propel Spurs into a top 4 side and a CL final.

    That is impressive work.

    The fact is though, whilst he remains at Spurs he is very very unlikely to EVER win anything, so will they keep hold of him? Time will tell.

  15. If as I’ve thought to myself before now in my thinking for Arsenal to finish in the PL next season will come to pass, then the club will not finish below the 6th position in the table. More so, if all the last season’s 25 senior first team squad at the club but four who have left will be the main thrust on which the club will largely be depending on to push it for a top-six table finish next in season’s campaign should work. But if there are meaningful import additions to their first team squad this summer to strengthen it very well, I am of the believe believing Arsenal will finish in the top-four places next season. And they could in the process of doing this make an audacious attempt to finish first on the table by challenging Man City and Liverpool to the title successfully to win it at the end of the season. This I cannot rule out from happening to Arsenal next season. Because in football, it is a possibility that can happen,

    But if Arsenal will attain this remarkable success of to finish in the top 4 places that could see them upsurge the 3rd and 2nd placed clubs in the table during the campaign to become the No 1 team on top of the table at the end of the season, then Arsenal must recharge their last season’s first team squad of 25 Gunners very well with addition of 4 top quality fully charged new batteries with hidden talent to reveal at Arsenal. But the club has lost their diamond eye scout Mislintat. But with the first team squad still up to 25 Gunners or more in number as the on loan 3 Gunners returnees of: Martinez, Ospina & Chambers have returned to the club. And with at least 2 to 3 of the club’s academy youth Gunners waiting in the lurk to be promoted to first team squad next season, Unai Emery, the Gunners head coach is looking will have some first team squad Gunners downsizing in the first team squad on his hands to do this summer before next season kicks off in the PL. And to this end, Arsenal should endeavour to do very well in the transfer market this summer to fish out 4 hidden talents of top quality grade kind that are hidden from the knowledge of their top-six rivals club sides to sign them. And sign them on the bargain for the club this summer against the would be the League 3 biggest spenders club sides of Man City, Liverpool and Man Utd to outperformed them top quality of hidden talents signings on the bargain in the transfer market this summer to equip the club to beat the trio giants club sides to the title next season. Which I believe can be achieved by Arsenal if they have a 3 game winning start to the new season next season. And build on it to sustain the 3 game winning start to the season that they have by following it up with winnings upon winnings unrelenting to continuously be winning up to match No 38 in the PL to garner an all time unprecedented record breaking season of 114 points ever garnered in the League to win the title in a single season campaign in the PL. No Gooner whatsoever should think that I am out of my mind to think for Arsenal to garner 114 points in a single season campaign in the PL. For, I think Man City haven garnered 100 points in a record breaking season in the PL in 2017-2018 season could make another attempt through their coach, Pep Guardiola guidance to set a 2nd record breaking season in the PL to go through the whole length of 38 matches and winning them all to garner 114 points to become Champions next season or the season after. Which I can see to be the ultimate ambition of Pep Guardiola to achieve next to do the thought to be impossible feat of collecting 114 points in the PL. After which if he achieves it, he could leave for the Italian Serie A or the French Ligue 1 to coach or manage a top club side there to success again where he has not been to before to coach or manage in his career.

    Therefore, Arsenal should try by every possible means that is available and get it to be the first club side that wins the Premier League title on 114 points setting a record breaking season that can only be equalled in a 38 match League but can’t be surpassed. Hmmm.

  16. Nitram,
    I wasn’t being serious about it when I typed it, but on reflection I think there is some truth in it. RM are about big games and having players rise to those games. We’ve seen it occasionally in the last few seasons by the tinys, where they’ve hit above their weight but they certainly didn’t on Saturday in their biggest game of the season.
    I have to say that I’ve only seen some brief highlights but I gather neither team did well and the stats for shots on target for the tinys looked terrible for the first 70+ minutes which wouldn’t reflect well on their frontline (which is where RM are rumoured to have interest), and certainly not at Levys usual price requirements.
    However if Levy needs money for his stadium (or whatever) and is prepared to deal a bit on the price then maybe there’s still some interest.
    But I do agree their strongest brick is definately their manager.

  17. @Andy Mack @Nitram

    An article (USA centric) which I posted a few days ago; was looking into tilting the field in sports. The League could be doing it. The officials could be doing it. The players could be doing it. In England, we would need to add The (sweet) FA to who could tilt the field due to their involvement in discipline.

    Money is always going to try and find a way to tilt things.

    Do fans want a level playing field?

  18. I personally am not too disappointed with our season. While I was hoping that we win something as well as qualify for the Cl , in truth we were not too way off.

    Some of our games were very poor and appalling , while in some we were superb. I just hope that we add some steel and determination to our game as well as some cynicism . I don’t see the PIBMOG giving us any leeway , so we have to be more adept in administering some covert dark arts to our play.

    I would love us to get a reputation of a team not being able to be bullied, or pushed off the ball rather easily , but rather a hard team , willing to give back as good as we get. And with sheath and cunning . And ‘in your face’ , when required.

  19. I think Emery is not a fit for Arsenal. Actually the club should act now.But he might bring us down very quick. The decisions he made towards the end of the season were terribly wrong. Thats why we lost a number of games to teams we were favourates to win.As well we are losing the attractive football.

  20. Andy Mack

    “I have to say that I’ve only seen some brief highlights but I gather neither team did well and the stats for shots on target for the tinys looked terrible for the first 70+ minutes which wouldn’t reflect well on their frontline (which is where RM are rumoured to have interest), and certainly not at Levys usual price requirements.”

    Personally I thought it was an awful match.

    To be honest Spurs played a bit like we did against Chelsea, in the first half at least, in so much as they dominated the ball and played decent football up to and around the box, but like us never really looked like scoring.

    Where as Liverpool were similar to Chelsea in that every break they did have ended with at least an effort on goal, and they always looked likely to score eventually, so it was no surprise when they did.

    But as I say, surely Real Madrid, or indeed anyone else, would judge Kane on his last 3 years as opposed to his last game, but I get your point, it certainly didn’t ADD to his value, as would of been the case in another of your points, Spurs players annual capitulation.

    The fact they are a very good team that constantly fails to get over the line shows a mental fragility akin to what we are lambasted for, even though we do actually win things, all be it cups that don’t count.


    “Money is always going to try and find a way to tilt things.

    Do fans want a level playing field?”

    Indeed it will and indeed they do.

    Do I believe if we had a Billionaire piling money into the game we would be treated differently? Yes I do.

    Does that mean a level playing field? No. It just means we would be on the favoured side of the tilt.

    Brickfield Gunners

    “I would love us to get a reputation of a team not being able to be bullied, or pushed off the ball rather easily , but rather a hard team , willing to give back as good as we get. And with sheath and cunning . And ‘in your face’ , when required.”

    So would I but I cant see it happening.

    I think a big part of our away day problems are psychological and I believe a lot of those psychological problems are routed in how we are refereed, especially on those said away days.

    I feel, using Gords term of ’tilting’ matches, that is exactly what happens.

    It is actually quite difficult to actualy call out a referee for ‘cheating’ per say because he doesn’t actualy need to cheat to tilt a match.

    It’s simple.

    Lets say there are 20 50/50 challenges in a match. Foul/no foul, Yellow/no yellow, Red/no red.

    If you take every one of those calls on an individual basis then by the nature of them being 50/50 he cant actually get any right or wrong can he ? So on no individual incident can he be accused of ‘cheating’ or even ‘biased’.

    BUT, and this is the point, if 80% of those 50/50’s go to the home side can he then be accused of ‘cheating’ or at least being biased? I think he can.

    Now everyone will say, and I would agree, that most home teams get a little bias in there favour, including ourselves, which is often as not simply down to the atmosphere, or crowd pressure. But this bias is often actually quite small, say 55/45 or perhaps 60/40, although unacceptable it is at least understandable.

    But I think for a good few years now we have had this bias against us inflated to a much greater degree.

    Our opponents are allowed to kick us off the park (or get in our faces) with impunity whilst any form of retribution from our players is often as not dealt with to the maximum degree.

    The bottom line is I think our players are actually afraid “to give back as good as we get” even with “Sheath and cunning”.

    That fear will only diminish with a change in the way we are refereed, especially away from home, and I cant see that happening any time soon.

  21. Always a pleasure to read.

    There is no dispute that the team is underfunded, 8t has been since the majority shareholder changed in 2009 and was as of 2004 because of the stadium redevelopment.

    What pains me is the stupidity, dollars to pounds, Brexit, insider trading and information and American, Russian 9r Chinese owners.

    Emery has not equalled the record, he almost didasbad, with a better deeper squad, he got a handful of points more, with a lot of firepower.

    Pragmatism plays Aaron, Aaron wouldn’t and then as if cursed, injured as we needed him because some ass can’t rotate.

    Im biased, but my words are objective.

    He stays I go, and Wenger, the loyalty, everywhere.

    Ben Chilwell, ask Dortmund for Diallo, go in for Rodriguez or take Alexis wagesang give a little cash back.

    Sell Mustarfi, Xhaka, Montreal. Take Mounier or go younger still.

    Play Martin ez as a second.

    My opinion, imclosetoallowing football.

    And the routes in both international club cups were rigged.

    Oj about that Brexit….

    Now watch…. Actions always trust actions.

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