Well, we are just over halfway through one of the dullest international breaks I have ever experienced, though I am not surprised by its stale nature. I have said before that a quiet week in regards to Arsenal is a good thing, however, this is almost a deathly silence broken only by meaningless transfer gossip from far-fetched sources from even farther afield media outlets.
While we have a moment or what feels like a thousand moments, let’s look very realistically, verging on pessimistically, at our squad and club as a whole, hopefully, to trigger a well-opinionated debate or more importantly to establish where the fanbase stands in terms of this Arsenal season.
The rating of this season:
For me to explain how I got to my rating of this season, I first need to define what my expectations were before it began. I remember, all too clearly, watching Sokratis pass sideways to his centre back partner, Luiz for the hundredth time in our 2-2 draw against Southampton at the Emirates on the 23rd November 2019. He was waving his hands, ushering David to pass forwards like everyone that day and indeed that period of the collapse of Unai’s reign. It had been months since I had seen an Arsenal attack of any footballing quality or even a team performance that I could be proud of, let alone a good result. It was then that I realised that it would not only take a new manager and a transfer overhaul of players but also a lot of time before we would have a freely attacking “Arsenal” performance again.
So, when Mikel took over this pretty sorry bunch of players who stopped giving their all on the pitch, even while fans were still in stadiums (and paying to be there!) I knew it would take at least three transfer windows and a whole season to make any progression from those performances, which quite frankly still give me nightmares.
You might say I am utilising hindsight here but I can assure you I am only speaking honestly.
Playing five at the back and winning the FA Cup was a fantastic feat, but it was clearly only plaster over a mile long crack. It gave me so much confidence in Mikel, as he managed to turn that same, uninterested group of players into a cup winning team through some pretty outstanding man management and formation juggling.
Then, without a preseason I knew this season was not going to define Arteta’s time as the Arsenal manager. It was going to be an uphill battle of using what he had and creating an identity that had gone missing and was sorely missed.
Two transfer windows later and much of the deadwood is out either on loan, sold or thankfully have had their contracts cancelled. I think we are where we should be in truth. I don’t think identity, consistency or confidence was ever going to be emitted in the first half of the season. Though, I never thought it was going to be quite as bad as it was before Christmas.
We have really suffered in patches, as you do during a largescale rebuild which is an excuse which other clubs, namely Liverpool and Tottenham don’t have the luxury to use.
I have been incensed and frustrated at times but also increasingly optimistic and in some games pretty astounded by the standard of play, especially post-Christmas. We have a real shot at getting back into the Champions League and bringing home a European Trophy this season.
At the same time, we will finish outside of the top six again, there are no two ways about it. If we lose and get knocked out of the Europa League by the brutish Sparta Prague and finish 9th I will still rate this season – and hold on to your hats – at a sturdy 6/10. All I expected from this season and all I really wanted was to see an improvement in performances and an identity return to the Emirates. Which we have. You could argue that the inconsistency of performances means there has been no progression, but all you have to do is take a brief trip down memory lane, back to any of the performances during the 2-2 Southampton draw, 2-0 Leicester loss or 1-0 Sheffield loss (which all happened in the space of a month surrounded by months of similar results and performances) to remember how dire the state of this club was.
Winning the Europa League would nudge my rating up to a 7/10 and taking home the only silverware on offer and making top six would take it to an 8/10.
I am sure a lot of this won’t sit well with some of you Gooners, so let us know what you think and how you would rate the season
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons