Why a Champions League slot really is possible at the end of this campaign

By Tony Attwood

It was interesting to read the recent TalkSprout headline, “Chelsea and Man United are in turmoil’ – Arsenal hero predicts 2019/20 top four”

The hero is Perry Groves, and unfortunately he doesn’t give us any real insights in the interview, other than to say that we might grab the slot because Chelsea and Man U have problems of their own.

Those problems are of course well documented.  Chelsea’s owner seems to have gone walkabouts since he was refused a work visa in Britain, and immediately after that refusal was made public the owner closed down the idea of re-building the Chelsea stadium.   They also have a one year transfer ban in place, and as yet have not been able to push through an appeal either to have the ban put on hold or to have it overturned.

Manchester United’s next season is harder to discern.   Their new manager got off to a flyer of course, but then went on a run which clearly wasn’t in the script…

Date Game Res Score Competition
10 Mar 2019 Arsenal v Manchester United L 2-0 Premier League
16 Mar 2019 Wolverhampton W v Manchester U L 2-0 FA Cup
30 Mar 2019 Manchester United v Watford W 2-1 Premier League
02 Apr 2019 Wolverhampton W v Manchester U L 2-1 Premier League
10 Apr 2019 Manchester United v Barcelona L 0-1 Champions League
13 Apr 2019 Manchester United v West Ham U W 2-1 Premier League
16 Apr 2019 Barcelona v Manchester United L 3-0 Champions League
21 Apr 2019 Everton v Manchester United L 4-0 Premier League
24 Apr 2019 Manchester U v Manchester City L 0-2 Premier League
28 Apr 2019 Manchester United v Chelsea D 1-1 Premier League
05 May 2019 Huddersfield T v Manchester United D 1-1 Premier League
12 May 2019 Manchester United v Cardiff City L 0-2 Premier League

12 games and two wins.  Of course they could turn that around – they can spend as much money as they want, given the huge income they get from the worldwide marketing activities, and maybe they can shake that run off.  But there is a doubt.

For while Arsenal was only one point away from the fourth placed team, Man U were five points.  While we were only six goals away from the fourth placed team in terms of goal difference, they were 17 behind.  It’s quite a gap.

And in fact Manchester United did far worse last season than they did in coming sixth in 2017.  So they are now a bit of an enigma.  A club with oodles of cash, and a club that came second in 2018, but sixth in 2017 and 2019.

We might also wonder if Tottenham will be able to maintain last season’s form.  The savage drop in the attendances at Wembley last year (down over 20% on the year before) suggests a certain fickleness on the part of the fans, and history suggests that they will struggle in the new ground, simply because the vast majority of clubs that move do exactly that.

Tottenham have progressed of course – although they have not won anything since the league cup in 2008.  But it is interesting that Kane, having scored 31, 28, 35 and 41 across four seasons, dipped to 24 last time around.  Still impressive but still a drop.  If injuries do plague him from now on, that would reduce Tottenham’s potential.

Since 2009/10 they have been top six regulars, getting there six times, four of these in the last four years.   But in the last three years their points total has dropped: 86 in 2017, 77 in 2018, and 71 in 2019.  Goalscoring has declined too: 86 in 2017, 77 in 2018, 71 in 2019.   The 13 defeats they suffered last season was the largest since 2009.  The defence which improved enormously since 2014/15, let in 13 more than in 2017.

Obviously everyone can improve or decline, and that is by no means a secure prediction for next season, but it is a little comforting to note that there are potential bananaskins lurking for Manchester United and Chelsea, while Tottenham might be in line for a little bit of a wobble.

However, it’s not just the clubs around us we have to be concerned with; what we need, obviously, is a growing and developing Arsenal team.   A team which can play tactically, so as to get our away form back in order without affecting the home form.   And it should not be too difficult.  After all a couple more points away from home last season would have had us back in the Champions League this time.

Obviously we don’t know which of the 80+ players that have been noted by the ever over-excited scribblers to be coming to Arsenal, will actually sign, but we do have some indicators of positive movement for next season already.

First, despite endless chatter about changes to the goalkeeper line up, the two most obvious keepers in the squad  have been playing in the pre-season games and that gives me confidence.   Leno looked very good last season to me, and Martinez has been with the club a long time, and the manager clearly knows what he is getting.

Second, there really is a good bunch of young players at the manager’s disposal.  Of course I don’t know who will ultimately make it, but given the way young players can lose form or get injured I’d sooner have a larger rather than a smaller list of players to rely on.

Just consider…

  • Willock
  • Nketiah
  • John-Jules
  • Saka
  • Nelson
  • Burton

And undoubtedly we can add one or two more who have started to catch the eye in the pre-season games.

Then we have Chambers, Holding and Bellerin coming back in.  I was of a mind that Chambers might have had his day, but looking at the pre-season game I am wondering if that conclusion was a big hasty.  Mavropanos is still injured which is why we are not seeing him.  If he can regain full fitness he will be a solid bonus.

In attack, only Liverpool and Manchester City scored more than Arsenal last season which suggests to me that although ultimately we will need to catch them up, and they are a long way ahead, that is not the priority area – it remains, as everyone says, defence.

So, we wait and see, but with the manager talking of three or four more incoming players, maybe getting back int to the top four won’t be quite so difficult as we thought.

And there is one reason to be happy about the Europa League this season (although I am not a fan of Thursday games, I must admit).   They give many more opportunities for the younger players to get experience than the champions league games do.  And there’s a real value in that.

5 Replies to “Why a Champions League slot really is possible at the end of this campaign”

  1. Normally the big problem in bringing through younger players is game time, but we have the Europa League and League Cup; and I expect to see a number of them being on the bench for PL games.

    Holding, Chambers and Bellerin are like new signings, and Saliba (in 2020/21) and Tierney if we get him will give us more strength in depth in defence. Martinez will be a solid No.2 keeper.
    Just a shame that Bielik does not impress Emery; I remember AW eulogising the young Polish player when he was signed 3 seasons ago.

    We will miss Rambo in midfield for those surging runs but Willock is impressing in the US, as is Mesut the Blonde; Iwobi too has been on good form in the African Cup.

    Laca and Auba remain a strike force every team will fear (and they will help Eddie and Saka to develop further). Reiss Nelson looks off-form just now, but class will out with more opportunities.

    Just a shame about Kos who has been an outstanding servant for the club, but the club must stand its ground.

    And as you said in previous articles Tony, Edu is a shrewd and exciting addition as Technical Director.

    Looking forward to the new season

  2. You have missed out Emile Smith-Rowe.

    I understand he is injured, which is why we have not seen him yet.

    However, we saw last year how well the youngsters did in pre-season and then we saw little of them.

    Whilst we do need a new left-back, and proper cover for Bellerin, if Jenkinson is not to stay, and further cover at centre back, I can see no need to buy anyone for midfield or the attack.

    The question is whether UE is brave enough to give the youngsters a good try this season, or perhaps he will have to if there is no big money for purchases.

    That is especially so if the rumours that we are buying Saliba and won’t see him until next year.

  3. You’re right, doh!! ESR did well in pre-season last year, and in the Europa League. He has the skills and style to be an ideal long-term replacement for Rambo. If as reported Mavropanos is injured an additional CB before start of season would be good.

    I also forgot AMN who covered well for Bellerin last season and will need to do so for the start of coming season. Once Hector is back would like to see Ainsley get a decent run in midfield.

  4. While reading this article posting, I watched Harry Kane on my TV set in a live match hits a stunner against Juventus beating Szcsesney in goal who moved out of his goal. I believe if not for the injury that Kane had last season which runs for weeks, he might have retained the PL golden boot again that shared between our Auba’ and Liverpool’s Mane last season. And I wonder how he continues to remain at Tottenham Hotspur who are holding on to the £200m world class striker at top club football level, Harry Kane without any of Real Madrid, Barcelona, PSG or even Juventus or Man Utd not coming to Spurs to snatch him off their hands.

    Well, Arsenal can make the top-four places finish next season but if the Gunners played to the required level of finishing in the top-four places. They might even against all odds win the Premier League title next season if the club makes it their number one title to win next season. After all, didn’t Leicester City against all forecasts won the PL title in 2015-2016 season’s campaign? All that Arsenal will need doing in this regard for this win to be possible is for Unai Emery to assembled a Gunners squad with the right and correct caliber of players who will be hungry always to win matches in the PL and win at least 35 out of the 38 PL matches they are out to play during the season’s campaign in the PL next season. Winning 35 matches by Arsenal next season in the PL will give them 105 points to set a new recording breaking season PL title win in 2019-2020 season. Which can even be bettered if they don’t lose a single match during the process but draw 4 matches to have a new unbeaten recording breaking season in the PL amassing 109 points.

    These 2 new record breaking season title points win and unbeaten season campaign are 2 possibilities that Arsenal next season if the right and correct Gunners squad that Emery should assembled this summer is put in place and gets ambitious to win the PL title next season winning their 3 opening season matches and sustaining the wins continually with wins deep into the 2nd half of the season’s campaign not losing or drawing in any match winning up to their match NO. 30 before they might play to the first of the four draw games they should play throughout next season.

    On another issue at Arsenal, I think Iwobi should be calmed to not be ranting publicly about his staying or not staying at the club if they sign any of the 2 out and out top wingers Arsenal targets of Wilfred Zaha or Everton Soares this summer. He should not forget the problem Koscielny has caused for himself at the club by his unruly behaviour to the club management and coaching officials that is seeing him now in trouble waters at Arsenal. Let me make Iwobi to realise that Arsenal are determined to move away from the comfort zone that has in recent past seasons seen the club finished out of the Champions League places in the PL table for 3 seasons running and losing a European Cup final last season. But are now moving away from these losing mentality zones to the winning mentality zone that will see the club not only finish in the top-four in the PL next season, but win any final it reached to win the 2 major titles of the PL and hat of the Europa League Cup or a major title and a domestic Cup as it may turnout to be for the club next season God’s willing. Hence, Arsenal making changes to the club’s management setup, the coaching setup and the players retaining and signings setup currently ongoing at the club since th last past 2 seasons is geared toward achieving these wins set objectives for the club next season. Therefore, for Iwobi to be on the safe side of playing at Arsenal next season, he can play but he must improved on his game playing quality for Arsenal generally next season especially in the PL to start scoring goals and giving assists in their numbers for the club to thus move away from his average level form stage in matches for Arsenal last season as seen by the eyes of the vast majority of the Gooners who watched him played for the club. But move to the improved level that will take him to the high level playing form for Arsenal next season in the PL if he’s aspiring to become an Arsenal legend in future like Nwawko Kanu was at the club and even surpasses him.

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