Was it really a disaster?
Mystic Gus predicts our future!
So, I had fun predicting our results this year, starting in the day before my birthday, 20th January, here I took on the task of figuring out where our season would end up.
The strangest thing about our strangest season yet was the number three, at least regarding my predictions. I was out by 3 quite a lot, or 3 had an impact on what I was writing. First, I predicted 64 points, we got 61. I predicted 70 was needed for Champions league and 67 was enough. If we had 3 more wins we would have got Champions league. We needed one more win worth 3 points to finish above the Spuds. We scored 3 goals 13 times, far more than any other, if you exclude the times we scored once (15), but then we are one nil to the Arsenal so we are expected to score once, to give the fans something to sing about. And, at that time, if we won all our matches (ha ha), we would have got 84 points which I said would probably win the league, but City, in the end, got 86, so we would have needed 3 more points to win the league.
Put your money on me
I did pretty well overall, predicting a City win and comparatively low points score. From halfway at 27 points we got 61, an extra 7. Not too bad and our final form was good. My second one with 8 league matches plus Europa league left was very close and I predicted most matches correctly, including scores sometimes. Truly our only poor results were Fulham, Everton and crucially Villareal. One goal in the latter match and we would be playing Man Utd for the Europa League. A couple of centimeters and we were through. A fine margin. Close but no.
Were we any good?
What were our highlights? Beating Liverpool twice, in the Charity shield and the Carabao cup. Beating Chelsea twice, beating and drawing with Man Utd, beating Leicester and Spurs, beating and drawing with West Ham. Our good run in the Europa League. The form of Saka, Smith Rowe, and Tierney when he wasn’t injured. The latter performances of Pepe gave hope as well. Surely Willock’s performances gave us optimism too? We have needed such a player since Ramsey, a box to box guy who scores. We badly need that aggression, someone to run at defenders and also to ghost into the box. It seems we have one and we don’t want to play him? He also has balls, scoring the vital shootout penalty against Liverpool in the Carabou Cup.
I like Arteta but his decisions baffle me. We need settled defenders but he keeps messing with them. At this moment, assuming Bellerin goes, I would like Chambers, Holding, Gabriel and Tierney unless Saliba proves to be worth the money. Midfield, for me, would be Partey or Xhaka and Xhaka seems more solid at the moment, Willock, Smith Rowe and Saka, then 2 of Martinelli, Pepe, Lacazette and Aubamayang. Forwards get subbed a lot so we can be flexible there. That leaves plenty of players ready to fight for their places. Elneny (again I like his aggression, something we are missing), Maitland Niles, Nelson, Mari, Soares, Balogun, Nketiah, Azeez and others are there. And I am aware there are some more academy players awaiting their chances.
Who to me are certs if fit? Saka, Smith Rowe and Tierney for sure. Pepe and Martinelli would be certs also. Willock could become another if played right. Arteta needs to get his partnerships right. The 2 fullbacks, the centrebacks, the centre of midfield, wide midfielders, and strikers. Players who know how to find each other, and aggressively chase down the opposition.
What are our weaknesses? To me coaching seems a problem. Nobody seems to know how to take a throw in effectively. Our marking at corners and free kicks can be poor as can taking them. We make mistakes too often. A simple ball over the top puts our defence in a panic. We get red cards too often, leaving us exposed. And crucially, we are not aggressive in taking on teams, we tap around the ball here and there instead of going for their throat. Remember, we needed 3 wins for Champions League, and improving all these areas would have got those 3 wins.
I want to tackle a question finally. Our players are not good enough is the refrain all year. No, our coaching isn’t. Pepe, Aubayamg, Lacazette, Partey, Saliba and Xhaka cost fortunes. Saka, Smith Rowe, Tierney and Martinelli would cost fortunes now. Maitland Niles, Chambers and Holding have played for England. Nketiah does wonders for England’s juniors. Willock also, it seems would cost a lot. Leno, although I am not totally convinced, is as good as some in the Premier League. If they corrected the errors mentioned above we would be challenging.
We need to beat the smaller teams
Our players showed we can beat the big teams, which means we can also beat the smaller ones. We seemed to struggle against teams who parked the bus and hit a quick ball over the top. That should be an essential aspect of training as many teams in the premier league rely on this. The defenders have to be able to deal with it. It is easy to practice in training. We need also to be quicker out of defence ourselves, occasionally whacking a defence splitting pass for our speedy guys to latch on to. Only really David Luiz tried this with any regularity. What’s the point of having speedy players like Tierney, Saka, Pepe, Aubayamang, and Martinelli if we don’t give them a ball to run on to? A slow build up has its merits but so has a quick long ball. We need to mix it up more and also finally show defences something to be scared of. Teams know that if they pile forward, Arsenal will give them plenty of time to get back. Every time they pile forward, we need to hit them on the break, and make them afraid to put numbers up.
Ask me, Mr Arteta and go, Mr Kroenke
Can we look forward to next year? Maybe. We need to be far better drilled. We need to beat the lesser teams, we need greater discipline and we need the fans to get behind the team. Having greedy, unwanted and uncaring owners doesn’t help. I am not convinced about another billionaire taking over but he does sound better than the Kroenkes. I would love a true fan ownership but it seems like a far distant dream. But I want to believe in Arsenal, I want us to be Arsenal and hey, send the other teams home crying.