Well, here we are people, the end of the season is here, and though technically there’s still something on it, we know the chances of Norwich pulling an upset are about as likely as Kylian Mbappe pivoting on PSG to dedicate himself to the Arsenal Youth Project for 6 years.
The Everton home game is basically a nice day in the sunshine for the home fans to say goodbye to a season that has been pretty fun by most standards.
Fun you say?
We competed until the last game of the season, we haven’t had that in a long time. By the end of today we’ll have won 22 games. We got to know a new batch of very awesome players. Arsenal fans started to enjoy each other again.
That is a fun season.
I managed to attend a pretty healthy chunk of games this season and I can categorically say I’ve never seen the fanbase this united around a project. I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that the best thing Mikel Arteta has done for Arsenal is reignite the passion in the base by putting out a team of very likeable young players that are tied to an ambitious vision.
This was the topline take from the manager:
I think it’s been a long journey again and a very challenging one this season, but I think that we have come a long way as a club and as a team, I think we have transformed the energy, the vibe and expectation of this football club again. We’ve done it together, showing incredible unity between the staff, the players, everybody in the club, and especially with our people, which has been incredibly supportive throughout the season, especially in difficult moments.
And now I can sense that I have the hope and expectations to move this club to the place that it deserves. We’ve done it the way we predicted with the project that we set a year ago. With a lot of young players, with the senior players helping and with our crowds again in our stadium and with a real sense of connection around the place.
So we are back in Europe. We don’t know where, it will be decided. Hopefully, it will be Champions League. I believe that we’re going to do what we have to do. We are going to be cheering for Norwich to do what they can do, for sure, and after that, we want to take the club to the next level.
That’s the ambition. In order to do that we have a very clear plan again, how we want to do it and execute it, and there are no secrets. We need resources and we need to increase the quality and the depth of the squad as long we maintain in the same way who we are as a club and the people that we have next to us.
There were a few people trying to find ways to slag off Arteta for his comments in the media before the game, but the blows don’t really land for me.
The basics are difficult to argue:
- Our season delivered Europe. Most didn’t think we’d finish 5th. No one thought we’d be competing for top 4 this late in the season. If you are disappointed we didn’t make top 4, admit that you are disappointed because the standards were raised against the odds this season.
- Top 4 is not the target, Top 1 is. Arteta wants top 4 next season, a title challenge the season after, that is ambition.
- We have a ways to go, but the foundations are extremely strong. We have the youngest squad in the league, no team this young has finished this high in the league in the last decade, the future is so bright it’s hurting my eyes.
The path forward hasn’t been this clear in a very long time.
- We need a world-class striker capable striker 21-24.
- Some additional goals in the frontline
- We need to sign our best players down to new deals
- We need 2 quality midfielders to compete with Thomas Partey
Arteta was pretty adamant about taking the righteous path on the January window. Clearly, everyone at the top didn’t see a signing we could make that would ‘move the needle’ so they didn’t sign anyone. That gives us freedom to move at targets that will take us to the promised land this summer. Say what you will, but it takes discipline to keep your powder dry… but if you hold off, you really can’t fuck up your decisions in the summer.
Your move, Edu.
Next season, the objective is 100% clear, it’s Top 4 for Arteta.
Tying down our new players is the key objective of the summer, no doubt. There’s been a bit of a stir in the media because apparently Saka has asked for a release clause if we don’t make top 4. I don’t know what the deal is on those things, I know United didn’t sign Haaland before Dortmund because they wouldn’t accept a release clause, I’m not sure Arsenal would want to invite ‘clause panic’ uncertainty, especially in a world where PSG can pay a player £100m to stay for 2 more seasons, but if we aren’t making top 4, he’ll stamp his feet to leave anyway. Barca had a Neymar clause, the Madrid clubs have players with clauses, I just think it’s the way of modern contract… because no one wants to be in Harry Kane’s purgatory.
We also have to accept our reality: At some point, one of our crown jewels is going to exit the project. Klopp lost Coutinho who funded Alisson and VVD. There’s a high chance we might have to do something grim like that at some point, but let’s look to the positive: Saka wants to sign right now.
There are rumblings in France that Saliba wants to stay with Marseille, again, this story is so fucking boring and I refuse to get emotionally invested in it… but let’s be real here, Marseille registering interest in Saliba is like me putting forward interest in purchasing Thierry Henry’s North London penthouse… the intent might be there, but we’re not living in a Marseille metaverse where they have money, so it’s bollocks. These stories work for a player that wants assurances and a new deal, let’s also remember that.
I really hope the Everton game is a fun blowout. We need to win because 69 points is a good haul for a season and 66 is not so impressive.
One would imagine the Everton players went out on the lash and haven’t paid much attention to what is happening in London after that Palace win. I’ve never seen a team celebrate staying up after a horrible season with more glory than Everton. Their disgusting fans that invaded the pitch and stepped to Patrick Vieira deserved relegation. Frank Lampard talking about his epic achievement of taking them from 16th to 16th is so embarrassing, it’s almost at Spurs DVD levels. I would love to slap them about tomorrow and give some debuts to the kids that have been sitting on the bench.
Before I go, I just wanted to say a huge thanks to all the folk that come back to this site relentlessly to read the blog as we head into YEAR 15 of existence. Thank you to the Grovers in the comments section who keep things to an off-the-scale Scoville heat level all season. Thank you to anyone that sent me an e-mail this season, I read them all, you are too kind. Thank you to all the new people that entered the Le Grove world via The Arsenal Opinion that has been crushing it in the football podcasts charts around the world. Also, thank you to Matt Kandela and Johnny Cochrane for making the podcast properly amazing, I love you guys so much. Thank you to Mike McDonald for his mega scouting contributions. Finally, let’s send some big love to all those that didn’t make it through the season, you’ll be missed, we love you, I am thankful we’re part of such an amazing community that makes those sad moments for those left behind a little more bearable. x
BIG LOVE, crack open a beer, let’s have a nice afternoon and celebrate with an On The Whistle season ender! x
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