The football season was laid to rest. RIP first-year transition. It’s been well worth it whatever the last dregs of the AKB tell you.
It was a mixed bag of fortunes, we have the glorious 22 game unbeaten run. We had some dark patches, we had some resurgent moments, we fixed playing against the big boys, then we bottled top 3 in embarrassing fashion.
But when it all shakes out, the Emeryista will champion the fact that we were two points off third place.
‘Would you have taken 5th at the start of the season?’
Well, this is what I wrote.
‘There’s pause for concern. I think the reality of the new regime is you don’t quickly fix a house that’s been left neglected in woods for 14 years. There are so many agenda items the new backroom team need to address in a short period of time just to bring us to elite parity from a setup perspective. The dream that we’ll be chasing down Manchester City in season one are fanciful, if we’re totally honest, 5th is probably a fair expectation of where we’ll finish, 4th would be the stretch target.’
So the good news for me is that I was correct with my prediction, the bad news is that we gained context as the season went on and now we’re at the end of it, it looks like we blew it.
Things that changed:
- United were shite and managed to get worse
- Sarriball never really materialised, they were dross all year
- Spurs lost 13 games in the league, an abject season considering the hype at Christmas
- Emery started like a fu*king BEAST
I think a team that is capable of 22 games unbeaten is capable of finishing in the top 4. We showed resilience, we showed guts, and we had some sublime moments if you think back to games like Fulham and Leicester.
So, you can judge the season based on what you thought at the start, or you can judge it on what actually happened. We took 4 points from 18 when 7 could have had us in 3rd. We dropped those points entirely to teams below us in the league, and would likely have shipped more had Troy the boy not been sent off for Watford. ‘But Brighton are a handy side and they’ll give City a good game’ never really materialised, did it? All of those sides were beatable. Bad tactics, poor rotation, and possibly too much desire for the Europa (we shall see).
Arsenal should have improved towards the end of the season, not crashed and burned like a beginner learning to drone in Chicago. But even if you just want to accept those games as a blip, for a man that was hired as a coach, it’s tough to see where the major improvements have come?
This was him before the Chelsea game at the start of the season.
“Defensively: first it is to be organised, recover the ball quickly. But in these two moments in the match we need to work.
“To say it here is easier than doing it on the pitch. We also need time, but now I am happy because I think the players are improving.
“We need two things: quality players, which we have, and then organisation. Together I think we can improve, to win in our way. I repeat: organised, then play.
“When we are thinking in an attacking moment, I want the goalkeeper thinking for that, he is the first.
“The same when we are thinking defensively, I want our strikers to be thinking: ‘We need to protect the goalkeepers.’ I want those two moments to feel the same for all players.
We conceded the same amount of goals as we did last season after adding a brilliant keeper, a good centre back and a defensive midfielder we all love.
We scored one less than last season. For a coach we were hoping would unlock us moving forward, we’ve actually gone backwards. Our play is one dimensional, outside Auba and Lacazette, our top scorer is Mikhi with 6. Our conversion rate is the highest in the league from the lowest amount of shots, a great thing to boast, but that will correct itself at some point.
Finally, there’s no defined style. The football is dull as dishwater. Compare to what Liverpool were offering up at the end of their first season, it’s chalk and really tough algebra (what, I like chalk).
We can celebrate 5th as progress, honestly, we can… but for me, that’s a bit like the time we celebrated 2nd when we finished behind Leicester. Given the context of the season, the excellent early season form and the absolutely dreadful run-in of those around us, I really had hoped for more. Interesting to note that we’d have finished 6th last season with the same points total and goal difference. Those 7 extra points this season cost us £10m a pop.
You could say £290m more and we’d be Champions… but I have my doubts, and so do you if you were being really honest.
Next season, all the teams around us will spend money (bar Chelsea, LOLOLOL). The clubs behind us closed the gap this year, they’ll get better as they push to spend their money in sharper ways than Arsenal. xG has us in 7th, a whopping 11 points better off than we should be. xG predicted the luck would run out with Emery and OGS and it was right.
We’re in a Bruce Rioch moment without the leadership to see it.
Even worse, we have absolutely no idea what the club is going to do this summer. Our head of recruitment is Cagigao. Have we made an internal promo because he’s the best candidate, or is it a kingmaker hire with puppet strings attached to Raul? I’m not for one moment doubting Cagigao is a talented guy, I’m just a little worried that Raul moved Sven on partly because he believes in contacts wheeler-dealing. Would a winning interview answer for Raul be, ‘I’d love to invest in talented young players 20-21 with one or two years left on their deal, ideally from unknown markets so we get the best, then elevate them early’… or would it be, ‘I like your idea, Malcolm, Banega and Nzonzi seem like a very good humans that will elevate us.’ Time will tell, but I am concerned we have the Spanish Harry Redknapp at the wheel.
Edu doesn’t start until after the Copa America, and he’ll likely be busy with his actual job until the end of the tournament.
It seems to me like we’re a little rudderless.
Good news is we have a cup final to look forward to, where we ‘could’ find our way to the Champions League via the backdoor. That would be very good for us because it would reduce the dire need for us to cull our wage bill. Let’s pray Emery goes big for his favourite competition.
P.S. I’d say congrats to Arteta on his second Premier League win, but I’d get in trouble, so I’ll just pretend that monumental feat didn’t happen.