SEASON OVER: SEARCHING FOR THE LIGHT (LONG READ)

by .

Season over. It was like going into the operating theater for something serious. The diagnosis was clear, surgery was necessary, we’re just not sure if we picked the right surgeon for the task.

The best remedy post-surgery? Faith. Positivity. Good vibes.

I can’t spend a summer crying about a very odd season, with historically unique circumstances, that impacted nearly every manager at an elite club.

It’s time to search out the light, hunt out patterns of interest, and rev up that propaganda machine one last time for the boys in red and white.

My base premise for hope is this: We just went through the toughest professional sporting season in living memory. A global pandemic that stretched the physical and mental health of everyone. One that destroyed the basic structure of the game by ripping fans out of the stadium whilst also truncating the season to make amends for TV right issuers. The output? A difficult season.

Arsenal finished 8th.

6 points off 4th place Chelsea, the team that spent £250m on a top 4 squad last summer.

8 points off 3rd place Liverpool, the team that won the league last season with 100 points.

The three managers in the running for the Arsenal job prior to Arteta were Jose, Carlo, and Nuno. Two of them exited their jobs, the most prestigious of them all, Carlo, finished below Arsenal.

The weird season wasn’t just in the Premier League. Sporting won their first title for a long time. Atleti beat off Barca and Real for La Liga. PSG was toppled by a spectacular Lille. Inter beat out Juve.

That’s not to justify our position, it’s clearly not good enough, but all of these observations put perspective on it. It was a fine margins season and we didn’t do well with the margins. Our rookie manager botched a rushed summer and struggled to get to grips with a toxic bloated squad of players until January.

… but things picked up.

People were calling the final 5 ties ‘nothing games.’ You might have thought that, but the players didn’t, and that’s a chink of light for next season.

We won 5 on the bounce.

The Brighton game welcomed fans back into the ground. The boys put on a performance and played to the manager’s tune. Dead game? It didn’t feel like it. The starting 11 looked balanced, well-drilled, creative, and defensively cohesive.

The football was slick and fast. Martin Odegaard and Smith Rowe were pulling creative strings. Our midfield was rock solid, the addition of Xhaka to the midfield gave us more options and left us looking less one-dimensional. Cal Chambers had another really, really good game at right-back. His touch, intelligence and defensive ability really make him stand out.

Nicolas Pepe clearly wanted to take the attention off 7-goals-in-a-row-Joe and he put on one of his best performances yet. He was taking the ball at pace and running towards goal. He was switching sides. He was cutting in. He was defending like he really, really wanted to win that game. Those two goals take his season to 19 g/a for the season. Pretty decent.

When you want to talk about the biggest mistake of the season, I’m struggling to think of a bigger one than signing Willian and giving him Pepe minutes. The player produced next to nothing and he ‘might’ be off at the end of the season. Had we passed on the Kia phone call and given those minutes to Nico or one of the other youngsters, they might have hit their stride in December, versus March.

Still, what I will say is the idea that Nico’s form has just been waiting there is so far off the mark. He’s been dreadful because he’s been dreadful. Coaching is clearly developing his game. But we incubated him at the expense of someone older who wasn’t doing it. Perhaps if we’d let him rough it out hard and fast he’d have implemented the lessons faster.

The irony of the Willian experiment is Arteta thought a seasoned pro would pick up his ideas faster. He never picked them up. I think the player complained in the press that the training was very tactical and he wasn’t used to it.

The biggest truth of the season, bundled in a raft of similar mistakes is this: Older players don’t want to learn new tricks. Nico, against my expectations, really has aggressively eaten up the development plan. He’s not here to bum around, he wants to make it at the highest level, so I’m really, really happy for him.

Back to the game. Brighton does two things well, they create a lot, and their out of possession work limits opportunities against them. Lots of people thought Graham Potter was coming to school us after watching him beat Pep at his own game and amass a whopping 19 shots at their goal, along with a 3-2 win. It didn’t happen. We controlled Brighton. They had 5 attempts, 1 on target. They were completely nullified, left to have shots from less than ideal ranges. We battered them, they were demoralized by the end of the game because that pretty style of free-flowing football they offer couldn’t get off the ground.

We have controlled most teams that way since Chelsea in December.

The one disappointment from the game was Auba. Arteta is trying to play him into form, but it’s not working. He can’t play with his back to goal and the more he tries to do that Lacazette role, the unhappier he looks. Again, an older player, being asked to do new things, and badly struggling. There was a moment when ESR bound into the box and Auba didn’t even chase the run. It’s a bit sad. I’m not sure he’s built for the system we’re trying to operate.

The game finished, the fans clapped the team off, now it’s back to the drawing board.

8th position is not good enough, but it’s clear how we got there. A shocking start we weren’t able to recover from. 38% of the season wasn’t good enough. We were 15th for points accrued, that’s grim. The mitigating circumstances, we hope, were player unrest, Thomas Partey injuries, and no creative players.

The solves, we hope, were the Hale-Enders, creativity, a fit midfield, and a better team dynamic behind the scenes. The remaining 62% of those games gave us a lot of good things, but let’s talk holistically…

We finished the season with the 3rd best defensive record in the league. That’s not bad when you consider the amount of unforced errors that are hidden away in that mess. Dim penalties, inexplicable mistakes, and just all-round punching yourself in the face. If the plan was to build from the back, Arteta has done a good job there.

The final 24 games of the season also post a cheery outlook. 2nd most points. 2nd best defensive record. 3rd most goals.

If you are looking for signs of life and you can’t feel a heartbeat in ‘6 points off 4th place, with the 2nd best form over the final 24 games after we made pointed changes at Christmas’, I honestly can’t help you.

If you thought the first 14 games were relevant enough to merit sacking Arteta, I can’t listen to you tell me the 24 games after count as a mathematical sleight of hand. Again, just to remind you, I understand that the league is 38 games, but we’re searching for light, I’m not trying to convince you we actually won a trophy.

The best part about our little finish to the season was that we kept the pressure on Europe, won all our games, and were pipped by Spurs after a Kasper horror show. Have you ever felt so fine about missing out on St Totts day? I know my pulse on this is right because not one Spurs fans messaged me to gloat about their achievement.

Missing out on Europe is huge for us. It gives Arteta more time to work with a squad that will have new additions. It’ll keep our players fresh for Premier League games as we don’t have to travel long distances to play pubs teams on pub pitches. We’ll also have fans in the ground for Saturday 3pm games.

The summer objectives are clear. We need to be ruthless, fast, and clinical in the decisions we make.

Leadership has moved on coaching staff already. I was very sad to see Steve Bould sacked. Seems like a pretty brutal decision to make on a guy that has served the club diligently for 30 years. I remember him setting up Tony Adams with a peach of a chipped pass for the final goal against Everton to win the league in 1998. I wish him well and hope Per has a sharp idea of what he’s looking for to replace. I also wonder what happened to our PR? ‘Sacked’ is such a brutal headline for someone like Steve Bould.

Edu’s physio buddy Bruno M is out the door. Everyone loves him on the insta, but he was another disaster hire they’ve been trying to deal with for a while. I hope there is deep introspection for other areas of the coaching staff that is clearly not working. The job of Edu is to work out where the flaws in Arteta are and build muscle around them. There are flaws in the backroom team and the moves can’t stop at two changes.

Then we move onto the squad.

Arsenal needs to start selling well. Lucas Torreira just won a La Liga. Matteo G is too talented to take a shit fee on. Willock has 7 goals in 7, Newcastle want to build around him, make it happen. Then there’s a whole group of players like Kola, Hector, Willian, AMN, Reiss, Eddie, maybe Lacazette/Elneny who need to find new clubs. The market will be better this year and I think the players we have on offer this time are more buyable. It’ll also help that clubs know we have cash, so we won’t get lowballed like we did last season.

There’s so much work to do. Every addition has to be perfect if we’re to make moves on the summer. We’ll need a back-up left-back, a right-back, and a proper centre midfielder. I really, really, really hope we make Odegaard our focus. I think he has such a high ceiling. Madrid needs to sell, this would be a good moment to bring him in before he blows up at the Euros feeding that monster from Dortmund.

I also suspect there will have to be some movement for younger players on cheap deals that can pick up some of the weaknesses we have in midfield. I’m also interested to see what happened on replacing David Luiz. It’s a huge position, we have Saliba, but he’s still very green. It’s a moment for Arteta… plugging the gap with someone who is 30 is a tried and true bad approach for Arteta. Signing someone that is 25 blocks the way of a player that could have a Pepe like bounce if he’s given games.

We need to get all this done early, no pissing around until deadline day again.

Once all those moves have been secured, it’s time to use the 6 weeks worth of preseason to bed down the new ideas to ensure we have a really, really fast start. There can be no excuses next season if everything is corrected in the summer. There’s been a lot of patience, a lot of heartache, and a lot of weird stuff fans have had to deal with. Time to bring it all together and prove out the vision.

This is an exciting time to be an Arsenal fan. The club is spending money, problems are slowly being fixed, and the numbers are on our side. So you can choose to be miserable about the totality of our season, or you can be smart, and seek out the positive patterns, and put ALL your chips on next season being a banger.

Thanks for reading this season, it’s been a pleasure. Podcast later. x

425 Responses to “SEASON OVER: SEARCHING FOR THE LIGHT (LONG READ)”

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  1. Almuniasaynomore

    Kroenkephobe
    Thanks for the kind words. I love this site myself and read it for years before posting. I have thoroughly enjoyed the banter and I understand that the line between arguing and insulting is ridiculously easy to cross, even unintentionally. The problem is for now I’m on the opposite side to Pedro so it’s easier to fall out with him,strange because I used to quote him to other Arsenal fans during the Wenger decline. I’m sure the time will come when I’ll be on the same side again. As for your good self, you have a treasure trove of Arsenal memories that I love hearing about so even if I ever was banned I’d expect to be able to read your tales!. You are right about the importance of humour, only problem I guess is that people don’t agree on what that is either, but you have the type of humour that I enjoy,witty without malice, keep it coming!
    1995 cwc final. Cant believe you were at that, heartbreaker. That team is very similar in ways to the present, a real mix of players who could be legends and those who will never be good enough. Both also really lacking in depth. My old mate Eddie mcgoldrick was on the bench that night. Still some great players on the pitch that night, hope to God we get some quality in over the summer to put with our talented young guns. Anyway, don’t be down man, you’ve a dream move on the horizon and I’ll keep you in touch with the weather in this part of the world just in case you get a longing for a ‘soft day’. And your son will never regret being a gooner,cause he’ll want to be like his dad ( my own might kill me though!).

  2. Pedro

    Marc, not sure why you feel compelled to defend the honour of another manager. You’re not even following the thread of the conversation, you just want to shit on Arsenal.

  3. MD-Gunner

    @Dabby S
    “https://www.thesun.co.uk/sport/football/15052718/premier-league-table-without-var-arsenal/So we’d have been 4th without VAR this season. That’s pretty interesting.”

    Sure mate, sure, that’s the reason for Arsenal’s poor season. It has absolutely nothing to do with the manager, players and coaching.

  4. WengerEagle

    Dream

    Not convinced at all by Upamecano either. His physicality is off the charts and he may be the most athletic CB that I have ever seen but he’s massively error-prone, lacks awareness/concentration and isn’t close to the elite defenders re his positioning and anticipation.

    Very flawed and raw, surprised that Bayern pushed to sign him in all honesty. Do not see him panning out too well there.

    Overrated in the same way that Koulibaly is. People get a bit drunk on those athletic monster defenders that are incredibly difficult to run past.

    Konate is a better defender than Upa.

  5. Rich

    Pedro

    The biggest critics are usually the biggest optimists, they don’t criticise because they’re negative, they criticise because they believe that things can get better

    It’s when people get to the stage of indifference that problems begin to arise, because indifference usually means that people have given up hope altogether

  6. BacaryisGod

    Is it fair to say that we might almost entirely benefit from the Euros?

    Almost none of our players will be involved.

  7. BacaryisGod

    Even the players we have there (Tierney01, Xhaka) will have a decent chance of being done by the group stage.

  8. WengerEagle

    Always liked Kolo to be fair. Bull in a china shop type but worked so well in tandem with Sol and even Gallas to a lesser extent.

    Was sad to see him go to City, great servant for us.

  9. MD-Gunner

    Bacary could be a plus but on the other hand what does it say about Gareth Southgate’s perceived potential and ability of the Arsenal players?

  10. WengerEagle

    ‘The biggest critics are usually the biggest optimists, they don’t criticise because they’re negative, they criticise because they believe that things can get better’

    Well said, important point which too often of late gets lost on here.

  11. Mr Serge

    I rated kolo upemacano is not as good and is 50m sod that for a laugh I would rather play saliba and see how far hoe can go

  12. Guns of Brixton

    Hector Bellerin has revealed he turned to alcohol after the serious knee injury he suffered, adding, “We have our issues, we have our mental health problems. And when football, which is basically your identity, gets taken out of you, we find it difficult.” [

  13. Marc

    Pedro

    “Marc, not sure why you feel compelled to defend the honour of another manager. You’re not even following the thread of the conversation, you just want to shit on Arsenal.”

    I can’t stand Rogers as I’ve mentioned on here in the last couple of days. Fact is I want the best for Arsenal and that is Arteta gone ASAP but the truth is that’s got nothing to do with my previous comment or you’re reply because you are deflecting. Another team has a poor performance and gets a win and it’s lucky Arteta does it and it’s a master class performance.

    I’ll take a lucky win but if you can’t recognise the difference between a great tactical performance and pure luck then that’s on you.

  14. Marc

    “Marc why are you always so negative about Arsenal ?”

    Because I’ve seen us play under Arteta and I can see the place the club is in. It’s not good,

  15. BacaryisGod

    Almunia

    Not sure Saka will make the final cut- brutal competition in his position but it will be great if he does.

  16. WengerEagle

    Almunia

    Saka will likely play for the u21s, their Euro tournament is the week before the proper Euros start.

    Senior squad is pretty loaded with widemen and CAM between Foden, Mount, Sancho, Sterling, Rashford, Grealish, Greenwood, Lingard, Maddison [last two likely don’t make it].

    LB they have Shaw and Chilwell too so he probably wouldn’t squeeze in even for there.

    His time will come though, he’s the youngest out of all of those names don’t forget.

  17. andy1886

    Do we really think that it’s realistic to play City style football without the hundreds of millions that you need to assemble the players needed? If Mikel’s only ‘plan’ is to go all City-lite then we’re as doomed as we were when Wenger tried the same thing and tried to copy Barca. This is Arsenal FFS!! We’re not some rip off clone of other sides and I’d be mighty pissed off if that’s how our leaders viewed us (as I was with Wenger).

    Sometimes I think that people forget what made us winners in the first place. Wenger didn’t win titles playing possession based Barca-lite football. It was pretty but ultimately lightweight fluff and a failure. Wenger won titles with powerful, pacey yet technically proficient players. Arsenal in ’98 to ’04 were probably the best (or certainly one of the best) counter-attacking sides that I have ever seen.

    Anyone selling City-lite can stick it where the sun doesn’t shine.

  18. Marc

    It’s a horrible situation to be in – from a purely selfish point of view Saka not going to the Euro’s is good for Arsenal as he gets a summer off and some rest at the same time he’s a great young player with a really good attitude and he’d be thrilled to included.

  19. WengerEagle

    Ha, scrap that. Haven’t been paying enough attention, seems that the tournament was staggered and they are already at the QF stage with England out.

  20. Almuniasaynomore

    Bacary
    Thanks. Imagine being that spoilt for choice. Southgate really is fortunate, he has a wonderfully talented young squad with experience in most areas also. But English fans are so battered by past experiences( the failed golden generation, penalty heartbreak, Iceland) that there is nowhere near the same fanfare(and therefore expectation) on him/ them. Also the opposition are not as strong with only a handful of teams realistically as good or better. Home advantage helps(’66,’96). Maybe,just maybe. Being part of that would be wonderful for any young player even if he doesn’t get minutes, it’s all about sampling a winning culture isn’t it?

  21. Kroenkephobe

    Cazorla and Almunia

    That final was a really strange affair. We’d managed to blag tickets through these journalists which meant we were in a hospitality area with loads of officials including Lennart Johannsen. It was fucking surreal because everyone around us had suits and dresses on and we were wearing shorts and Arsenal jerseys. Free booze and fancy canapés in industrial quantities. Anyway, you know what happened on the pitch. I think we all saw that it wasn’t going to be our night and we were completely bladdered by the time Nayim lobbed Seaman (as it were!). I think if we’d been winning comfortably we’d have gone nuts and got kicked out.

    I hated Paris after that. I ended up working there from 2010 to 13 and always winced when driving past the Parc des Princes on the peripherique. My least favourite European destination (sorry Valentin if you’re a Parisien!).

    We drove back to London the following day and shared some beers with Christopher Biggins of all people at the port. I stopped off to see my granny in Kent (a spud!) and she took the piss out of me relentlessly cos of Nayim. She really knew her stuff when it came to footy.

    A truly mad few days and I bore witness to another Arsenal loss in a final…

  22. Almuniasaynomore

    Wenger Eagle
    Only saw your post after I finished one to Bacary. Christ when you name them out like that and you look at what we have it makes the loss of rice and grealish even harder to stomach.
    Portugal,Spain, France and England, which would you fancy outside of those 4?

  23. Rich

    England are now producing serious talent, and that’ll go into overdrive over the next few years

    …………………Pope
    ……..Maguire Stones
    Trent……….Rice……Saka
    …………Foden Grealish
    …..Sancho ……..Sterling
    ……………….Kane

    Would be nice to see Southgate show some attacking ambition, it’s not like England are devoid of creative talents, Foden could be England’s biggest talent since Gazza

  24. andy1886

    If England win Group D our next match would be against the second side from Group F which is one of France, Portugal or Germany (I’m discounting Hungary). Would anyone put money on a win?

  25. Tom

    Did Xhaka just get named in the PL best Xl ?

    A few on here will spit out their coffee when they find out.

  26. Almuniasaynomore

    Kroenkephobe
    Not much consolation in having the pain numbed by the free booze in those circumstances was there? That’s the problem with making it to the bid occasions, it increases the emotional response. Be there and win,nothing tops it. Be there and lose, hell on earth. Commiserations on that experience. I came into work the next day and some liverpool loving colleague had put up a cartoon on my door showing Houston giving a team talk in the dressing room while Seaman had nipped into the toilet for a whizz. Houston was saying”Oh yeah,one last thing, watch out for any last minute shots from the half way line”. I waited for years to get the fucker back and finally in 05 I texted him at half time during the Istanbul final ” at least you’re not embarrassing yourselves”. Think the abuse I got after that was even worse than ’95.

  27. Rich

    Andy

    England shouldn’t fear anyone, France slight favourites for the tournament

    England second favourites, and I’ve never felt that going into a tournament before

    Not sure why Southgate is so pragmatic when he’s got that amount of elite attacking talent to choose from, England could blow away any team on their day

    If England draw Germany, I’d definitely fancy their chances

  28. Marc

    “Did Xhaka just get named in the PL best Xl ?”

    OK so we’ve got war, famine, pestilence and now Xhaka’s been named in the PL team of the year.

    Welcome to the End of Days.

  29. WengerEagle

    Almunia

    My money would be on Portugal or France winning it. Both sides have the right blend of talent in every area of the pitch, characters, battle-hardened experience to go with fearless youth and look a level above the rest of the competition. Between them have won the last two international tournaments for a reason, Portugal with a far better team now than then too.

    After that, I would give England as good a chance as anyone on paper. Stronger group of players than Germany, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium imo.

    Question with England as you say is whether or not they have the bottle which past experiences show us they traditionally haven’t. Do think that they got a lucky break at the World Cup with the favourable path to the Semi Final with a weak group along with a James-less Colombia that took pens to beat and a really ordinary Sweden team. We saw what happened when pitted against similarly talented teams in Croatia and Belgium.

    Their team now is a lot stronger than it was 3 years ago though, emergence of some superb players in Foden, Sancho, Mount, Grealish and Rice.

    I’d be worried if I were English that Southgate will find a way to ruin the potential of the crop with needless tinkering and a cautious approach though. Can see him benching Sancho and Grealish in favour of Rashford and Henderson. Inferiority complex is strong from his [Southgate] generation of players to the continental ones.

  30. Kroenkephobe

    Almunia

    Ouch. That Liverpool thing must’ve hurt. I was in Miami Airport when all that was unfolding. Made me feel physically sick. I bet it was huge for Batistuta and I doubt he thank us for dredging it up!

  31. Almuniasaynomore

    Andy
    I didn’t realise England had that difficult a draw. Still if Southgate can find his inner Venebales and play to his strengths England could be marvellous to watch. I know, that’s one massive if. Still fancy them against anyone in that group except Portugal who’d be slight favourites over you in my eyes,but not the bookies I’d say.

  32. andy1886

    Sorry Rich, I think that’s national pride overcoming common sense. Southgate is a poor manager, can’t see us beating France or Portugal and we still have an inferiority complex against the Germans even when they are average, We might look good on paper but we’re less than the sum of the parts and several of our ‘big’ players don’t perform on the international stage the way they do domestically.

    Take Kane for example. Won the golden boot at the last WC but was actually very average. Scored six of which three were pens. Didn’t score in the later games all his goals were against very average sides (two against Tunisia, three against Panama, and one against Columbia). Only scored one goal in open play.

    The defence is average at best, midfield could be decent if Southgate can find the right blend but without Kane’s penalties I’m not sure where the goals are coming from, Sterling couldn’t hit a cow’s arse with a banjo in the last WC and Rashford is inconsistent at best. Foden could be a breakout star but it could also be too early for him at an international tournament.

  33. WengerEagle

    ‘I waited for years to get the fucker back and finally in 05 I texted him at half time during the Istanbul final ” at least you’re not embarrassing yourselves”. Think the abuse I got after that was even worse than ’95.’

    Haha christ you’ve suffered plenty my friend.

    You have a lot to thank Julio Baptista and Aliadiere along with Rosicky and Arshavin for I would imagine! What a few nights at Anfield they were.

    Our record at Anfield used to be incredible.

  34. Mr Serge

    How the hell did Xhaka get in the team of the year did they not look at Bruno, pogba kdb gundogan fodden Thiago ? Lol

  35. WengerEagle

    andy

    Yeah if there is anywhere to get at England and a softness it’s at Centre Half for sure as well as the GK.

    Still find it hilarious that United paid 80m for a defender as average as Maguire. And as great as Stones has looked for City, much of that is down to Ruben Dias’ impact no question who is very much the vocal one of the two and organises the backline for them.

    Your GK situation is pretty dire too when it looks like Pickford is going to start, easily one of the worst keepers in the league.

  36. Dream10

    Wenger Eagle

    I heard one of the journos on a podcast saying that the main reason the dominant clubs like Bayern, City and Real want Upamecano is his ability on the ball. With 65-70% possession, they are more than comfortable with a CB who take risks.

    Apparently Ole wants to prioritise Sancho over Grealish. Right decision

  37. andy1886

    WEagle, actually if Kane is a bit crap at the Euros there’s still an upside in that it’ll reduce his value when Spurs are eventually forced to sell. But yeah, our defence and keeper are suspect at one end and I can’t see us scoring too many at the other.

  38. Nelson

    Fabrizio Romano indicated Liverpool is now leading the race for Yves Bissouma. I admit that he fits well in our midfield. But I am quite sure that players with similar skill and physical capability but much cheaper should not be difficult to find. He is not someone who can score or who can control a game like Fernandes. It is time we should scout for up and coming players.

  39. Almuniasaynomore

    Kroenkephobe
    Yeah, bati might still be celebrating this weekend though, he’ll forgive us I hope. Little did we know just how sick we’d be 12 months later! I’ve just realised kroenkephobe,your cwc final story means we don’t even have Humphrey’s immortal parting line” we’ll always have Paris”. Life as a gooner is tough!!

  40. Marc

    Was I the only one who after hearing about the blogger being “kidnapped” off a RyanAir flight felt a sudden compulsion to book Pedro a flight?

  41. Rich

    Everyone seems to remember that 2005 CL final

    I decided to walk the dog at half time, thought it was game over, came back and it was 3-3, then didn’t see another goal until the penalties….

    I managed to get a ticket for the FA Cup final that year, went down to Cardiff without one, then got one off a tout, really good seat on the halfway line, just behind the dugouts

    We were awful on the day, and lucky to get to penalties, but the result made up for Michael Owen committing daylight robbery in 2001, a game I also attended

    Also scored a ticket for the final in 2003 against Southampton, and the 2007 league cup final against Chelsea, Walcott got the opener, but Drogba bagged a brace, John Terry did get stretchered off after being kicked in the head by Diaby though, which did cheer me up a bit

    Finals at the Millenium Stadium were much better than Wembley finals, even if the results didn’t always go the way I liked, walk out the stadium and there’s bars and restaurants everywhere, right in the middle of the City centre

  42. Almuniasaynomore

    Wenger eagle
    I genuinely believe that Pope will make a huge difference to that England team, he is a very solid keeper. Pickford did little wrong in their run to the semis,indeed made some wonderful saves, but doesn’t exude the same calming influence. And if they click going forward, well then the sky is the limit. Rich called it when he said Foden could be England’s next Gazza in terms of pure talent, find it hard to disagree. Difference could be tactics of Venables v Southgate,the latter has yet to throw caution to the wind, imagine if he does.

  43. andy1886

    Interestingly of Kane’s 34 England goals only three have come against top tier sides, all in friendlies (2 v’s France in 2017 and I v’s Germany in 2016).

  44. Almuniasaynomore

    Mr Serge
    That’s my theory down the drain then. There’s something unsettling about Pickford, Everton fans certainly aren’t that enamoured. Pity, cos England are well stocked in most other positions. Amazing how it goes isn’t it, when I was growing up no one produced keepers like England and now they’re becoming very hard to find. We used to laugh at Brazilian keepers!

  45. Mr Serge

    Alumina, Pickfords distribution is excellent apart from that he is average,pope is the opposite good at everything apart for fairly average distribution.

    Don’t think we have really produced keepers since Seaman anyone after that was pretty bang average for England

  46. Dissenter

    I think Bissouma will prefer Arsenal

    I don’t have an inside link. He stands to get more minutes with us and has a very good relationship with Pepe.
    He’s also a childhood fan.

  47. Kroenkephobe

    Getting close now alright, starting to hallucinate about England winning the Euro’s

    That must be some serious acid Almunia. I know you have no vested interest but the idea of ingerland winning anything like that is pure fantasy. They only won in 66 (55 years ago! ) cos refs at the time always made sure the hosts won. Spain, France or Germany – I’m giving you this cast iron betting advice for free!

    You gonna watch? Not sure if I can be arsed to be honest. I might catch KT tearing it up with the Tartan Army though.

  48. Almuniasaynomore

    Mr Serge
    That’s my take aswell and given a choice I’d take Pope. Seaman was so solid, we were lucky to have him at Arsenal. Remember thinking in Pickford and your man at Stoke that England were sorted for the future. Now I cant even remember the 2and lads name!

  49. WengerEagle

    Almunia

    See Maignan is heading to AC Milan? Fabrizio Romano just confirmed it.

    Great pick up for them, question now is where does that mean Donnarumma will be heading?

  50. Almuniasaynomore

    Kroenkephobe
    Will watch alright, football is a drug. Would love to see attacking football for a month or so, pretty hopeful that most teams will try to be expansive. Also give me a chance to see some of the new talent that’s out there, way out of the loop these days,

  51. WengerEagle

    Almunia

    Yeah, Donnarumma has Juve written all over it. Perfect long-term Buffon replacement.

    I always rated Shezzer as a GK, more than most on here. Never liked him too much as a character having said that, did not ever really get the impression that he overly cares past the bare minimum acceptable level for a professional. Always seemed to get up to behind the scenes fuckery and was/is too visibly smiley/nonchalant in rough moments to endear himself greatly to a set of supporters.

    I would take him over Leno but there is better out there than both. Like that Argentine bloke over at Villa, I’d say 20m ought to do it don’t you?

    He’s a better GK than Leno for me but not a significant upgrade.

  52. BacaryisGod

    This is a good summation of what many of us feel right now. It’s from Daniel Story in the Football365.com season losers section.

    ‘We’re now 18 months into the Mikel Arteta project and I’m not really sure what the attacking or defensive strategy is, what their best team is, how to fit the expensive senior players into it and how many players they need to sign this summer. Arteta has been given a lot of faith but he’s a novice. It takes a double dose of blind optimism to believe in Arsenal being in a markedly different position next season if he’s still there’.

  53. Mr Serge

    Almunia are you talking about jack butland ? Palace reserve keeper now

    Chezzer is far better than Leno we could get him back for sure, nice guy I met him a couple of times always happy to talk and never seemed to be annoyed he was talking to a fan. His barber when he was playing for us is Wiltshire’s father in law.

  54. Almuniasaynomore

    Wenger eagle
    There was a goal he conceded where he ended up in the back of the net and sat up and took a drink from his bottle like he was at training, that’s the attitude you were talking about. And league cup final, hard to forget. Upgrade on Leno but not much. Got to find someone else I think.

  55. Almuniasaynomore

    Mr Serge
    That’s him. Seemed to be heading to the top but it didnt work out for him.. Shez is an upgrade on Leno but I’m thinking theres got to be something better. If Wenger Eagle doesn’t know one though I’m stumped.

  56. Valentin

    KroenkePhobe,

    No offense, I did study in Paris, but I don’t like Paris in general.
    I have great memory of a few places and restaurant, but last time I went back to see one of my brothers, I hated it. It was dirty, full of unhelpful people. The locals that I liked have been replaced by crappy restaurants or Starbucks like chain.

    Still the food on average was better and comparatively cheaper than in London.

  57. Valentin

    I am one of the few that never rated Donnaruma. Always found that he was marvellous in a minute and ready to throw two clangers in the next. I never had the feeling that he had progressed since he emerge as precocious teenager.

  58. Pierre

    Dissenter
    “I think Bissouma will prefer ArsenalI don’t have an inside link. He stands to get more minutes with us and has a very good relationship with Pepe.
    He’s also a childhood fan.”

    I think you will find that whoever offers him the most lucrative contract will determine where he goes.

  59. BacaryisGod

    Pierre

    I think you’re underestimating the little boy within Bissouma screaming for Arsenal.

  60. RockyRoe

    Would hate to see willock sold. Few things are as exciting as seeing an academy graduate cementing a first team place.

    My only concern is, assuming xhaka stays (which is what will happen) and partey starts, Willock can only play Cam which is not his best role.

    Or he plays in the second string side, and with no Europe, will not get many games. It is a bit of a conundrum.

  61. Noobie

    First, thank you for the blog and podcasts. I really enjoy the content.

    I think the thing that surprises me most is 3rd most goals. If there is one thing (other than the table and Europa League LOL) that was most frustrating for me was what seemed to be a lack of chances created. Apparently I wasn’t watching closely enough…

    Some roster questions:

    Would it make sense to sell Aubameyang and try to extend Lacazette? I like both players but it seems like Laca is a much better fit with his ability to function as link player, an attribute that I feel is undervalued.

    Also, what sort of player do you see as a fit next to Partey? Asking because it seems like Willock isn’t the guy (you suggest selling him). He clearly has a nose for goal (which is lacking from our current MF), is homegrown, has the athleticism and I recall seeing his defensive effort praised at one point. Is it technical ability/passing range?

  62. JRoooo

    Pedro…thanks for all the great work over the season. Your passion, perspectives, posts kept me going, at times freaked me out, and sometimes gave me hope. As a gooners fan since 1970, growing up in South Africa, and now living in Boston, I try to remain optimistic that a great rebuild lies ahead.

  63. Gonsterous

    Arteta is a mug. The time for ruthlessness was last season after winning the FA cup. Should have confirmed martinez as no.1
    Should have known which players he did not plan on using ala AMN, and co. Should have made sure to put them in the window.
    Should have sold bellerin, (cannot believe a coach who watches him everyday needs 2 years to figure out if he’s good enough or not)
    Should have known his best back up LB for tierney.

    After a woeful season where arteta did a lot of damage, he has to gall to come out and say arsenal have to be ruthless.

    Next season, arteta will come with another obvious message. Something along the lines of, we need to play more expansive football. It’s been dreadful on the pitch. We were slow and ponderous. We have to improve.

  64. China1

    I don’t know yet if willock is going to make the grade but I do suspect he’s good enough to be a bench player and rotation option

    Whether or not that’s enough to be worth turning down a transfer fee for him I think time will tell

  65. Gonsterous

    Rocky

    I think willock can be a good rotational option.
    Partey – bissouma – xhaka – elneny and Willock.

    I’m guessing we are selling guen and if we do sell xhaka we need to bring in another MF.

    Have I missed out any one?

  66. Tom

    Apparently Arsenal would’ve finished 4th on 65 points ahead of Chelsea and Leicester on goal difference if VAR hadn’t been used this season.
    Make of that what you will.

  67. bacaryisgod

    Sounds like statistical variance, Tom. I honestly can’t remember too many VAR decisions that were clearly wrong. The other way of looking at it is that we received more favourable decisions from referees that were ultimately overturned.

  68. Rocky

    If you are looking for signs of life and you can’t feel a heartbeat in ‘6 points off 4th place, with the 2nd best form over the final 24 games after we made pointed changes at Christmas’, I honestly can’t help you.

    Seriously? Arsenal had two important games to make the Champions League possible in the League and two in the Europa. They bottled all four games. Again. There was not the slightest sign of a pulse in any of those games.

    Being given the freedom to stroll around the pitch against a Brighton team already on holidays proves nothing except the fact that Arsenal remain big game bottlers and love nothing more than an end of season kick about against disinterested opponents.

    Been this way for 15 years.

  69. Time Up

    I’ve to say, I was one of the people that said The Potter would school Arteta.

    I’ve been keeping close eye on Brighton and Leeds this season watching all their games. I can assure you no manager controlled The Potter team all season, including Pool and City, like Arteta team did. I didn’t mention the game away against Brighton because with all honesty, Brighton put out the second team that day.

    Against Leeds, no one did to them and limited them to few attacks in both games like Arteta team did, even though we played with 10 men for a full half.

    Not to mention Newcastle and WBA. That is a good sign. However, my issue with Arteta is against the big teams, his team play with fear and defend as if we were Burnley. We flocked the win against Chelsea at the Bridge, we lucked the win at OT, we were shit and embarrassingly worst than Fulham in full 360 minutes (4 games) agains Pool and City.

    Next season we would beat the teams like Wolves, Villa, Everton and Burnley and gain points, my fear is Arteta keeps playing with fear against big teams and we loose all our points against them.

  70. Habesha Gooner

    Maignan to Milan for 15 mil euros is ridiculous. If Leno was going we should have been in there for that price. It means Leno is staying this summer. Also Leicester are signing Soumare for 23 mil euros. And this is after Lille just won the title. It could be a summer of great bargains from Ligue 1.

    But I think we should focus on premier league players for now. Buendia, Anguissa, Bissouma, Pereira, Aarons all should be our targets. Then Odegaard can be too considering he has adapted well. If we are robbing Lillle, I would go for Renato Sanchez. He has had his fall and he is back to being at his best now. A bit of a Mo Salah comeback at one of the top clubs is on the cards.

    Another thing Arteta being the name thrown for the Barca job is laughable for me. Can we exchange Koeman with him. I wouldn’t mind that at all.

  71. Time Up

    I’ve to say, I was one of the people that said The Potter would school Arteta. I’ve been keeping close eye on Brighton and Leeds this season watching all their games. I can assure you no manager controlled The Potter team all season, including Pool and City, like Arteta team did. I didn’t mention the game away against Brighton because with all honesty, Brighton put out the second team that day.Against Leeds, no one did to them and limited them to few attacks in both games like Arteta team did, even though we played with 10 men for a full half.Not to mention Newcastle and WBA. That is a good sign. However, my issue with Arteta is against the big teams, his team play with fear and defend as if we were Burnley. We fluked the win against Chelsea at the Bridge, we lucked the win at OT,. We were shit and embarrassingly worst than Fulham in full 360 minutes (4 games) agains Pool and City. Next season we would beat the teams like Wolves, Villa, Everton and Burnley and gain points, my fear is Arteta keeps playing with fear against big teams and we loose all the points we gained.

  72. Time Up

    HG,

    If we’re serious about top four, two players from the EPL is a must, Grealish and Bissouma.

    Midfield of
    Bissouma Partey
    Grealish

    Would take us to top four 100%. After, we can build from there

  73. Gonsterous

    Jesus remember the days when a link used to get post in here, stating arsenal would have won the league or been in top 4 if VAR existed. Now it’s the opposite. Lmao
    Top 4 if VAR didn’t exist. You can’t make these shit up. Actually you can, someone just did.

  74. Northbanker

    Looks like a Summer of being glued to Arsenal transfer rumours again. Club needs to get the right players to bypass the Europa and get straight into ECL.

    I hope amongst the dealings we can extend Laca by a year and sell Auba. Auba will have a better year next year but he doesn’t fit our style of play.

    If we did that then that would create better balance and a pathway for Martinelli and Balogun to take over.

  75. Valentin

    If Mike Maignan is available for €15 millions plus add-ons, I doubt anybody will pay more than that for Leno. That should lower the expectation that some have with regard to the sale of our players.

    At that price, Arsenal should be in the mixer. If Leno were to leave this summer, we would have lost the opportunity to bring a brilliant keeper for a reasonable price.

  76. MD-Gunner

    Football 365 about Arsenal states a lot of WHATs & IFs:
    We’re now 18 months into the Mikel Arteta project and I’m not really sure what the attacking or defensive strategy is, what their best team is, how to fit the expensive senior players into it and how many players they need to sign this summer. Arteta has been given a lot of faith but he’s a novice. It takes a double dose of blind optimism to believe in Arsenal being in a markedly different position next season if he’s still there.

  77. Emiratesstroller

    Arsenal’s focus in transfer window should be “quality and not quantity”

    We know the positions, which should be beefed up in squad namely
    Goalkeeper [2nd/3rd Strings]
    Right Back [1st String]
    Left Back [2nd String]
    Defensive/Central Midfield [1st String]
    Attacking Midfield [1st String]

    I appreciate that there are those posters including Pedro who feel that our attack needs improvement as well, but I do think that we still have plenty of goal scoring potential
    providing that Aubameyang gets his head and fitness back in order.

  78. Mr Serge

    Time up saying Grealish again every time you make a comment it’s for us to get Grealish drop that chat now we have no chance of getting him in our current predicament.

  79. Sean M

    Arteta’s KPI this season was to deliver champions league football. He didn’t do it. Couldn’t even deliver Europa league or the conference league. Terrible season

  80. bacaryisgod

    Mike Maignan only had a year left on his Lille contract, so 15m w/ add-ons sounds about right.

    I’m pretty sure we’re locked into Leno for another year. With everything we have to do to improve next season, he’s really not even a top 10 priority.

  81. bacaryisgod

    Mr.Serge

    Betting odds currently have us as 6th favourite to sign Grealish behind Man City, Man United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham. So basically zero chance.

  82. Gonsterous

    Bacary

    Actually you can put us below villa too. Why would he move sideways, unless it was for big big silly money. Do we need another player who won’t play for the shirt?

  83. bacaryisgod

    Don’t get me wrong Gonsterous, I would love Grealish at Arsenal. It’s a pipedream though, even though moving from Villa to Arsenal wouldn’t be a sideways move as you suggest. In terms of all metrics, we’re a bigger club.

  84. Kroenkephobe

    Kjelli

    I’m only an occasional aftv viewer so I hadn’t seen Graham before. Looks like someone who knows his stuff.

    Still a big fan of Lee and Kelechi. Anyone know where I can get one of those microphones?

  85. Batistuta

    There’s a Nigerian lad who’s just won best player and highest goal scorer with 33 goals i think at Genk in Belgium, would be an excellent plan B if ever we were trying to get one, dude looks quite big and brilliant in the air but also seems to have a bit of pace about him, still only 26

  86. The Bard

    Time up. We are nowhere near top 4 and won’t be for a few seasons. It’s delusional thinking. If we have a good season next year we are more likely to lose our top players than we are to push on. We lost some of our best when we were serious contenders under Wenger. The club stagnated for too long under Wenger and we are paying the price. The only way we have of making top 4 is to buy top players on astronomical wages and that ain’t going to happen. Saka and ESR will be gone within 3 or 4 seasons to clubs who will double their wages and offer CL.

  87. bacaryisgod

    Batistuta

    Talking about Nigerian lads, it reminded me of this announcement back in 2016.

    https://www.complex.com/sports/2016/01/arsenes-nigerian-teens

    Here’s a sample from the article:

    Speaking to press on Friday, Wenger confirmed that the club were finalising deals for midfield man Kelechi Nwakali and 16-year-old winger Samuel Chukwueze.

    ‘The talks with the Nigerian boys are progressing well and I expect to complete the deal this month.
    Of course there are work permit issues and medical issues to be finalised but we will see if we can get it over the line in this transfer window. We identified Nwakali as a top target when he was player of the tournament in Chile last month’.

    As it turned out, we were only able to sign Nwakali and could not agree on a fee with Chukwueze’s Academy. One can only guess it was over relative peanuts.

    Nwakali went on to make no appearances for us but stayed with us for 3 years going on loan to Maastrich, Venlo and Porto B before leaving to join Huesca in the Spanish Segunda Division. Huesca got promoted last season but ultimately loaned him out to another Segunda team this season.

    Of course, Chukwueze is now impressing at Villareal although we could see he wasn’t quite the finished product when we played them. Still, at the age of 22, he has a very bright future and is already valued in the 20-25m range.

    It’s easy to second guess, but if we had just gone with our instincts and signed them both instead of our classic haggling, we probably wouldn’t have needed to spend 72m on Pepe two summers ago.
    Instead we let the real talent slip from an almost certain signing and kept the one who looks like he’s going to be a flop.

  88. Batistuta

    Bacary

    Yea remember about that, shame really how we seem to be so bad at picking up unknown players like we used to.

    Watch clips of the Onuachu fella, I’d no say no really seeing as Arteta ball seems to be whipping crosses in every mini second

  89. Pierre

    I’m not one who believes that others teams give up and are “on the beach” during the closing stages of the season.

    5 wins on the bounce is what it is, 5 good results and performances.
    Brighton , Chelsea away, Newcastle away, Palace away and WBA are games that we were losing earlier in the season..

    The question i would ask is , if our opponents are always “on the beach” when we put together a good run of games, then why under Emery did we fail against Palace, wolves Leicester and Brighton at the end of the season , or does it only apply when we beat these teams.

    Despite winning our last 5 league games, one’s mind keeps thinking back to the 2 Villarael games and the manner of those 2 performances….this is where the doubts start to surface.

    Personally, I would preferred to win the games that mattered than the league games, which were basically from an Arsenal point of view, meaningless.

    I said at the time and I will say it again, those last 5 league games were the perfect time to give our young players the game time they deserve.
    As well as he played v Brighton, unless Odegaard is signing for us next season , then why play him.

    The same with Aubamayang/Lacazette/Willian/Xhaka / Elneny…
    We know what they can(or can’t) do, but we don’t know what Azeez ,Balogun, Eddie , Martinelli and Nelson can do with more creativity in the side

    Unless we sell the experienced players in the summer , how are these young players going to get game time next season..
    Who’s to say that any (or all) of those players couldn’t do themselves justice in the first team..

    So basically, we learnt nothing from those last 5 league games , except to give the ball to Pepe in the final 3rd of the pitch and he will damage the opposition.

    From where I’m standing, I would say that Arteta put himself before the future of the club, he went with experience instead of blooding a few more academy players and to give Martinelli 5 minutes at the end of the Brighton game was insulting, he may just as well left him on the bench .

  90. Habesha Gooner

    Time up
    There is no way we are getting grealish. Even if we somehow convinced him, we wouldn’t have the money. He is being touted for 80 mil. And we aren’t spending that on one player this summer. And we have only spent that once in one player once on Nico Pepe. Better to focus on Odegaard, buendia or Pereira who are all realistic targets.

    Bacary
    I didn’t know Maingan had a year left. That sounds like a fair price now considering the situation. He is untested at a higher level too so he wouldn’t have gone for more than 25 mil even if his contract was longer.

    And Valentin, Leno is rated highly in Germany. There will be teams that will shell out at least 20 mil on him including Dortmund who need a better keeper. Everyone doesn’t think he is trash like you.

  91. Time Up

    Mr Serge,

    I really don’t know if you understand that, Arsenal is a big club and if we have a project we can present to a player plying at Villa, he would accept.

    You remind me of Arsene scared of any big name player because of the price and go waste on 5 shit players

  92. Valentin

    Bacaryisgod,

    I don’t think the issue was just the fee. If I remember correctly because of his age and passport situation, we wanted him to stay an extra year in Spain and only buy him the following year, but the academy already had a firm offer and so went with the immediate offer.

    But overall you are right, the deal did not have a happy ending.