Morning folks and welcome to this Tuesday ahead of another dreaded international break, colloquially known by so many of us Gooners as the dreaded ‘interlull’. And after the madness of the football last weekend with the draw away to West Ham, it feels like quite the come down to have to endure a solid 11 days until The Arsenal play next. I know I have been saying for some time that I want this season to get firmly into the bin and that I can’t wait for it to be over, but in comparison to a tiresome mid-season international break, Arsenal football matches are like a precious nectar to sup on.
At least we have the mercy of the Premier League bringing our match against Liverpool forward from the Sunday afternoon to the Saturday evening. Alright, it is an evening kick off and not only do we seem to suck at those this season, but they’re also generally a bit of a pain in the arse, but i’d take any type of game rather than a Sunday fixture. They are the pits. But we’ve got a little less time until we see the lads again so you gotta take your small wins where they come.
I wonder what small wins Arteta might be taking right now. I’ve listened to a couple of podcasts, followed a few conversations online and been in a couple of debates about when this season ends, whether it will have been a success or a failure for our former midfield maestro. There’s no doubt mistakes have been made and I don’t think you’ll find many Arsenal fans contesting that what we’ve had domestically in 2020/21 has been a season that will live long in the memory for the scintillating football we played and the success we achieved. But depending on what side of the Arteta fence you sit, there are either shoots of optimism or areas of concern that you’ll be highlighting.
I’m still on board the Arteta train. I have been all season. Very early on in the season this year – because of the pandemic – has felt like it isn’t a proper season as it is. We weren’t really able to get in all of the players last summer that I suspect the manager wanted, we certainly weren’t able to offload players on high wages, which creatred a bit of a stagnant atmosphere around the club and I think contributed towards that awful run in November and December. Added to that some key injuries to players like Partey, and you get a cocktail of funk that manifested itself as a bunch of shoddy displays in which the teams’ confidence seemed on the floor.
I mean come on now, we have given Mohammed Elneny 31 appearances in all competitions this year. 31! Does anybody really believe that Arteta thought at the beginning of the season he’d have to give so much game time to a guy who 99 times out of 100 can’t pass or move the ball forward in any way shape or form?
I certainly don’t. Which is why I have been happy to let this season play out with Arteta and have never been on the ‘get him out’ bus. For me this season was about getting rid some of the players who were sucking money out of the club and not delivering the same level of output that their wages demanded and I suspect that would have started last summer, continued in January and we’d have been a little further along the purging process by this summer. The fact that the pandemic meant so many players sticking around meant we had to push a lot of decisions back and that’s why even this summer we find ourselves with a host of decisions that simply must be made.
- Getting cash for Lacazette with a year left on his deal?
- Decision time on Nketiah?
- Mo Elneny to be cashed in on with a year to go until his deal expires?
- Guendouzi to be offloaded whilst we still can?
- Hale End boys to have their futures agreed (Maitland-Niles, Willock, Nelson)?
There is still a lot of work to be done and I don’t think Arteta and Edu will have wanted to do as much work as they did in January and STILL have to do more this summer. I think the pandemic played a big part there and that’s why I’ve been happy to just ride out this season.
Has it been a success? Not really….yet. But as with all things Arsenal these days, it does feel like it can swing on a knife edge. If Arteta gets us to a European final, by gosh if he even wins one for us, then you’d have to say that this season HAS in fact been a success. It is as binary as that. Success is trophies, failure is mediocrity. We will finish mid table in the league, we all know that, but ask any fan with sense whether mid table and a trophy is preferred to finishing fourth in the league and if they don’t tell you they want that trophy like the Europa then, well, they just don’t understand the highest joys of football.
Probably they are a Tottenham fan.
If we finish 10th and don’t win the Europa then most Arsenal fans will look back and say that this season has been an extremely poor one and if you are like me, then the ‘free pass’ Arteta has had has to expire in the summer. In the summer he has to show he is willing to make tough but decisive decisions. He needs to start properly shaping and molding his squad. Ruthlessness needs to be the Soup de jour and that means things like saying to an ageing David Luiz “you are a good player, great for morale, but you aren’t playing next season”. When the 2021/22 season starts up in earnest he will have had the summer to do the necessary in shaping the squad in his image. There can be no more excuses. If we do not show massive signs of progress domestically, then I’m afraid that is when the gloves are off from my perspective. I don believe he should be held accountable for this season, but to a lesser extent. Next season simply must start well and continue in that vein.
I have hopes it will. My hopes are that the improvements we see and the momentum we’ve gained since that Boxing Day game against Chelski, are all just the green shoots towards picking up next season. Of course we have to continue that momentum for the rest of this season, but now that Arteta has found the formula at The Arsenal to pick up victories, and whilst we still have that chance of winning the Europa League, I feel a little more hopeful that real change and progress will come from the summer.
Let’s hope that bears out.
Catch you all tomorrow.