END OF SEASON SIGN-OFF: 5TH JUST THE START

by .

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?

Yes, fun.

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

P.S. Subscribe to the channel!

803 Responses to “END OF SEASON SIGN-OFF: 5TH JUST THE START”

Jump to comment form ↓

  1. WengerEagle

    AFC Forever

    ”It is starting to become impossible to have a sensible fucking debate on this blog…!!!!!!!! All you lot want to do is measure dicks and find an echo chamber.”

    This directed at me? Relax yourself ffs. I didn’t see the previous post. You’re well able to dish it out but have little patience for getting any back it seems, not a great trait.

    ”My ORIGINAL question was:……….do you keep them or sell them.”

    Well I don’t see the point in selling Partey as he is a top class player in his position and it is hard to find a CM as good in the market without paying top dollar. Not as convinced on KT if I am honest. I would gladly upgrade on him this summer, not like there are a shortage of quality LBs out there.

    The point I was making though which you failed to acknowledge amid your childish rant was that we knew about TP and KT being crocks LAST SUMMER, this season shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone at the club given their injury record so the real question is why the bozos failed to buy a CM/proper LB cover LAST SUMMER.

  2. Naija+soccer

    It’s not the manager but the players you have. And how long you can keep them fit for.

    For example, Wenger would have won a couple more titles (07/08,10/11), if he didn’t lose key players for lengthy periods in those seasons.

  3. WengerEagle

    Marko

    True but I just have no time for erratic defenders, you cannot coach that out of them.

    Give me an unspectacular Steady Eddie like Monreal over that all day.

  4. AFC Forever

    Naija+soccer

    “Perhaps managers magic is overrated, the key is signing talented, fit and durable players.”

    Durable players is key.

    How would Liverpool do if Van Dijk and Trent could only play 24 PL games? Salah? Or Spuds if Kane and Son kept breaking down. It is a valid debate. How would that impact on the results of those managers? All those players are hitting 45-50 games.

    This idea that you can have two players of equal quality for every position is pie in the sky. That means you need your best players to be able to do sensible numbers. My concern, as you may have seen, is that we have a CM and LB that are unreliable fitness wise. It does concern me.

  5. WengerEagle

    Bati

    Haha attaboy. I envy you, was a kid when Arsenal last won the league so have never had that experience of sheer boozy football delirium even though winning the FA Cup was brilliant.

    Tomori and Miagnan for £40m was a spectacular haul. They have both been the game-changers for you and Leao has hard-carried Milan in the past couple of months with goals and assists. Giroud too has scored some crucial goals, fair play to him always liked the guy even if had my frustrations with him as a ST.

  6. Ishola70

    Tavares had his little stint where he was being quite positive and adventurous in his play but even then you could see how erratic he was.

    As for him being a dodgy defender he’s not even that good going forward either. He doesn’t seem to have proper balance when he is running on the ball. He’s like a rolling barrel on the ball.

    Some of these younger players brought in and they are not 18 years old btw (the way some talk it’s as if we have complete babies in the side in their teens) could be seen to have a positive beginning but tailed off such as Ramsdale as well.

    There is no guarantee that these younger players are all going to kick on and become much better and consistent with it. It’s hope more than anything.

    Pedro keeps bleating on about youngest squad as if it’s a medal to be bestowed upon the club just for that.

    Young doesn’t mean automatic guaranteed improvement season to season. You are either good enough or not whatever age you may be.

    Tavares after seeing him now for a longer period clearly isn’t good enough.

    Lokonga well there is talk of him being demoted even further next season so there’s another one.

  7. Valentin

    Batistuta,

    I never rated Donnarumma. Excellent shot stopper but poor with his feet and erratic under pressure.
    Milanista overrated his overall ability. Mike Maignan may not have his shot stopping ability, but he is a much better overall keeper. You don’t get the brain farts and the stupid goals conceded as you do with Donnarumma as experienced by PSG in the Champion’s League.
    To me Mike Maignan is one of the reason Milan got the title. Calm influence who does his job (Keeping the ball out of his net) without creating a fuss.
    I see Donnarumma as just an Italian Leno.

  8. Dissenter

    Gazidis has been great for Milan
    He surrounded himself with Milan and has not been afraid to let a manager that was unsuitable leave

    When Donaruma put a gun to Milan’s head, they let him leave and signed an even better goalie in Maignan

  9. Samir

    Nketiah given the no.14 shirt according to the Arsenal app.

    Our new number 1 striker? I hope you’re all excited.

  10. Dissenter

    i wonder who needed Mbappe more
    a] Real Madrid
    b] La Liga

    It seems La Liga was ready to use him for most of their international marketing
    They are squealing louder than little piggies

  11. London gunner

    Rafaël leao is next big player utterly elite baller one of the best dribblers in world football. Great passing and pace and can finish. As well as clutch as fuck giving ac Milan a Gatwick of assists in their must win final game of the season

  12. London gunner

    Dissenter

    Gazidis is quite a savvy guy he realised arsenal was an utter shit show with the kroenkes and jumped ship to AC Milan a project he knew would pay dividends.

    Winning the first serie a title in 11 years is elite level management.

  13. WengerEagle

    London Gunner

    Want to know something hilarious?

    Leao was signed by Milan the same summer that we bought Pepe.

    Bought were at Lille at the time. We paid €79 million for Pepe while they paid €23m for Leao.

  14. Wengaball

    The really worrying aspect is that the last really elite players who came to Arsenal were Sanchez, Özil and Aubameyang.

    The players who have the highest ceiling in the current squad are Saka, ESR and Saliba, and Arteta has nothing to do with any of the three.

    Two came from the academy and the third was bought before Arteta, then ostracised by him.

    Barring Saliba, of the long players bought since Wenger left, not a SINGLE ONE can be said to be elite – Leno, Pepe, Partey, Tierney, Guendozi, Torreira, Gabriel, White, Ramsdale, Lokonga, Tavares. Which of these can you say is truly top marquee?

    On evidence so far, even if spend in the summer, it does not fill one with confidence that the current recruitment team has the eye for talent.

    So on what basis are we saying we will climb the table?

  15. Wengaball

    I missed out Tomiyasu and Odegard.

    Neither a world beater in my book though they have potential.

  16. Dissenter

    “West Ham star Kurt Zouma is CHARGED with three offences under the Animal Welfare Act after ‘kicking and slapping his pet cat’ as his brother is charged with two offences for filming him”

    That outs an end to that saga
    People need to understand that the justice system doesn’t run at the speed of a counter attack

  17. Wengaball

    Wenger used to buy very few players but they used to be in two brackets – elite or ‘bodies’, and he paid peanut for the bodies.

    The only time I saw him bring in truly mediocre talent was when were truly skint – Chamakh was one such but even he did the job for half a season. Thankfully, Van Persie then took over.

    The other time was the trolley dash – Mertesacker, Santos, Park Chu Young and Arteta himself. Plus Benayoun on loan. None of these was truly elite but Wenger had to buy because his hand was forced after the 8-2 thrashing.

  18. Wengaball

    Giroud was somewhere between mediocre and elite, but he came on the back of the title winning season for Montpellier.

  19. WengerEagle

    Giroud was brilliant for us factoring in that he only cost £12m.

    It wasn’t his fault that he was brought to replace Van Persie who was the best ST in the world at the time. Impossible task to fill those shoes, we needed Suarez or Higuain to have had a real shot at it.

  20. Valentin

    WENGABALL,

    I fully expect Guendouzi to be a world class midfielder when he hit 27 years old. He is already in the French National squad, likely to go to the World Cup.

    Properly coached, Lokonga has the attributes to be world class. However he will not be if he is asked to play in that straight jacket of ponderous lateral game plan.

    The rest, I just don’t see a very high ceiling. Most don’t seem to have the physique, the technique or football intelligence to progress much further.

  21. Wengaball

    He did well WE. I was just listing the non-elite talent brought in by Wenger. I would say he was better than average but obviously not in the top bracket, which we used to have a steady trickle off right since Viera. Montreal and Giroud were similar in that sense.

    Petit, Pires, Henry, Ljungberg, Kanu, Campbell, Fabregas, Diaby, Nasri, Arshavin, VanPersie, Rosicky, Cazorla, Özil, Sanchez, Aubameyang.

    That guy could pull :).

  22. Mr Serge

    We no longer recognise talent we just watch it hence these top prospects no longer come to us

    We don’t even know who they are anymore
    This is our board now

  23. Killroy-TM

    The money difference between CL & EL is massive Frankfurt made £13.2 mill while Pool already made £98 mill. Being in the group stages of CL is more worth than winning the EL. Why does this matter to AFC? Players contracts have bonus clauses in them for CL qualifications, therefore more money for the players playing CL games. Can you see why we will not attract top talent without CL? With the Deal making dunce and Pound Shop Pep’s ability for spotting talent being so abysmal we are in a Catch 22 situation. Only way out get rid of the dysfunctional management.

  24. Wengaball

    Our board consists of two Kroenkes and Lord Peckham, the carpet seller.

    How connected to football do you think that board is? It is a tragedy.

  25. WengerEagle

    Wengaball

    Yeah agreed there was a steady decline in his ability to spot a player throughout the years. In the 2010s the only real gems he pulled off I would say were Koscielny in 2010, Cazorla in 2012, Monreal in 2013 and given his production for us Sanchez even if for £35m although he was an established star player already.

    By the late years he had completely lost it and that is reflected in our transfer business. £65m combined on Xhaka and Mustafi, £110m combined on Laca and Auba in the same season, Lucas Perez, etc.

    Even the young gems started turning more into the Yaya Sanogos than the previous gems of the 2000s.

  26. bacaryisgod

    Here’s one ray of light. With Spurs in the Champions League, it almost guarantees yet another season they’ll have without a trophy. No chance in the two main competitions they’ll be in and their squad will be too stretched to compete in the domestic cups.

  27. WengerEagle

    Yeah we need more football people behind the scenes for sure. Would love to see Thierry come back to be involved in some capacity as well as Dennis.

    I got to be honest, I have been extremely impressed with Vieira’s work at Palace. Yes they on paper have only improved their league position by 4 points but they have drawn 15 games and many of them were matches they outplayed the opposition. They have only lost 12 of 38 PL games which is actually less than us.

    They have played very adventurous football and improved their GD from -25 last season to +4 this season. Conceded 46 goals in the league which again, is less than us in fact.

    Would be very interested to see what Vieira can do with actual elite talent and a budget like Tets has been afforded.

  28. Wengaball

    WE – I read the latter years differently.

    When Arsenal were doing well (relatively), Wenger was left more or less left alone to do his stuff. Especially because he was managing it on a shoestring.

    In the latter years, with money becoming a bit more available, and expectations accordingly going up, my reading is he was pushed into buying against his instincts.

    Wenger was never authoritative even in his prime, so I assume he would probably work to establish consensus. Gazidis was playing the Dein role in the latter years (well, trying to), and he should be held equally accountable.

    My take is Mustafi, Perez, Xhaka, Laca, Auba etc were committee buys – with the data guys, gazidis, the board all playing a role.

    The buck obviously stops with Wenger, and he tightly carried the can for these.

  29. Wengaball

    Agree with you on Vieira. With a bit of luck, he could have finished top half this year.

    Brighton have had a similar year. A few more wins from their 15 draws and the could have been in Europe.

  30. Dissenter

    “When Arsenal were doing well (relatively), Wenger was left more or less left alone to do his stuff. Especially because he was managing it on a shoestring.”

    True… and Wenger did it well enough [after Dein] for several years because he was a football man with experience across several continents

    Problem is that the club hired a rookie and are giving him Wenger-type powers
    Behind the scene are two nonentities [in Vinai and Edu] that he’s bullying rather easily because he just goes directly to the owner’s son.

  31. WengerEagle

    Wengaball

    I somewhat agree and Lacazette/Aubameyang especially never struck me as Wenger signings, especially the latter.

    Xhaka and Mustafi did, were just bad calls. And his eye for a player deserted him, even those guys I named were all from 2010-13. From 2014-2017 he signed absolutely no player you would call a hidden gem.

    A 15 year old FIFA enthusiast could have told you to bring in Sanchez and Ozil.

  32. Wengaball

    The other problem with Wenger was he was ambitious beyond his means with talent.

    So he would go after Mbapé, and when he could get those types, he just wouldn’t sign anyone. A bit more pragmatism would have been his own best friend.

  33. Naija+soccer

    AFC,

    Yes I agree. If Partey and Tomiyasu had been available longer, we make top 4 this season. Having durable and talented players available, is the most important factor for teams to do well throughout a season.

    Thats why City is the best team in the league. They have those players and another eleven on the bench. Let’s hope our recruiting buy durable players going forward. We can’t afford our key players going missing for half the season. There’s no magic a manager can wield if he has to field inferior players(key players absent because of injuries)against superior ones. Its that simple.

  34. Naija+soccer

    Nketiah getting the number 14 shirt? Say it ain’t so. The guy was out the club just a few weeks back and suddenly he’s the new Henry ? Let the guy play for a couple of years and prove he’s even good enough for Arsenal. Then MAYBE give him the number 14 shirt.

    I understand this might be some sort of negotiation tactic so Nketiah can sign. Still, it smells very small-time for a huge club like Arsenal.

  35. Dissenter

    Naija
    I honestly don’t understand why you and so many others get hung up on squad numbers
    So what if Henry wore #14?
    If number 14 was so sacrosanct why not just retire it and han it up on the stadium?
    If offering #14 to Nketiah helped to convince him to stay and avoid losing a potentially top talent to other clubs, then so be it.

  36. Naija+soccer

    Dissenter

    I wholeheartedly disagree lol. Like you mentioned, the number 14 shirt should be retired. The fact that its being passed between Walcott and Nketiah is disrespectful to the honour of the club’s best player. If they won’t retire the number, then players have to earn it. It ll put fire in players to earn those shirt numbers.

    They build the guy a statue but treat his number like he’s Sanogo.

  37. Killroy-TM

    Thought on the Serie A title race were AC Milan won the title after 11 years.
    Milan decided they were going to grow through youth, scouting, data and, above all, the collective rather than the individual superstar. And they were true to their word.

    They were not held to ransom by guys like Donnarumma, Calhanoglou, Kessie and Romagnoli. This was the youngest squad in Serie A, and players like Saelemakers, Kalulu and Krunic came from nowhere. The analytics side worked hand in hand with the scouting, delivering guys like Maignan, Leao, Tomori and Hernandez.

    Why could AC Milan accomplish what AFC couldn’t. The clue is in analytical and scouting data working hand in hand plus it helps to have a competent DofF and manager to get this job done.

    Looks like they are interested in David Nunez, there goes our chance signing him, but I never thought that this would be possible anyhow.

  38. Thorough

    Ironically I love Ramsdale and think he’s a lot better than Leno. We may never get to know if he’s top notch until the defence and midfield get sorted though.

    However, there is no reason in the world why we pay 30 million for Ramsdale. You’ll have to kill Wenger to make him pay top dollars for a keeper that’s been relegated twice when Onana was available for less than 10 million. Paying 30 million for Ramsdale is a good example of the novices we have running us. Ditto, 50 million for White.
    In an ideal world you’ll bid 10 mil for Ramsdale and follow up with a 15 mil take it or leave it offer. Allow 2 weeks to pass and see if the player don’t start making noise. Ramsdale and White even at 50 mil looks to me a bad bad bargain.

  39. LoveSausage

    Tielemans rumours are heating up. He hasn’t been my favourite target but some of his stats look pretty decent. If we can get him for 25M it could be good business.

  40. Mr Serge

    .
    DissenterMay 23, 2022 20:26:44
    Naija
    I honestly don’t understand why you and so many others get hung up on squad numbers
    So what if Henry wore #14?
    If number 14 was so sacrosanct why not just retire it and han it up on the stadium?
    If offering #14 to Nketiah helped to convince him to stay and avoid losing a potentially top talent to other clubs, then so be it.

    The stars have aligned I am in total agreement with you Diss who gives a shit. Retire it like Milan did baressi and maldini shirt

  41. Ebor Gooner

    I want Arteta to be “the man” but I’m not seeing much to encourage me. Let’s be honest, 4th was ours to lose -and we lost it. More than that, the way we lost it was pitiful. Palace, Southampton, Spurs, and especially the Newcastle performance were simply unacceptable. All that was needed was one, half decent, performance. Arteta couldn’t deliver that.

    Can you name me one player he has improved? Saka, ESR, Martinelli, Gabriel, Nketiah. Be honest. He only picks them when there is, literally, no alternative. To my mind our youngsters have regressed under Arteta. And Abua has shown at Barca he was far from done. But Arteta couldn’t get a tune out of him. It feels that any improvement is despite Arteta. Not because of him.

    I am 100% behind the team. But we have now seen what Arteta brings to the party. Does anyone honestly think we will see an improvement next season?