A Season Review: Springboard To Success?

 

nosWhen the final whistle blew at Wembley, there was something tangible to settle the argument. Third place in the Premier League and retaining the FA Cup was an improvement on fourth place and winning the trophy twelve months earlier. Tangible is the crucial word, everything else is a feeling based on a viewpoint. In simple terms, progress was made. Whether that progress was enough is where the argument shifts to quicksand.

My view is that Arsenal stand on the cusp on something better and that surely is the over-riding view of last season. It started in a rut of mediocrity and blossomed after Christmas. Your view on why that happened will be coloured by your general perspective of Arsenal life but I don’t think it’s that much of a stretch to believe that Arsène wouldn’t be looking beyond his current deal had the season continued in that vein. And it would have been his own choice; he’s too much of a winner to accept such a fall in circumstance.

As it happened, hard work, effort and experience, sprinkled with some luck, brought about a transformation in the second half of the season. Imbued with the confidence that winning breeds, the next campaign can be looked at with an optimism which extends beyond the hope that a new season brings. Arsenal might genuinely challenging for the title once again.

Yet we’ve been here before, in the not too distant past. Arsenal remain a half-season team at the moment. When there was an unbeaten run, optimism about the squad knew no bounds; this was the squad that could really kick on. In many senses, the surge of positive thought was emotional because when it ended, there was an air of deflation far deeper than you would normally expect. Possibly because the peak of reaching second went with it, almost like losing a final against a backdrop of scrambling into the Champions League more often than not.

Hope springs eternal and all that but we need a good summer. There’s no need for a signing just for the sake of it, we’ve had enough journeymen in the past to know we don’t need any in the future but we do need to strengthen the squad. There’s a good depth across most positions, we just need it in every position which is a lot easier said than done. We don’t need to kill off youthful careers by blocking their path to the first team just for the sake of appeasing the fan base but you can kill the same career by throwing them in at the deep end and seeing criticism from all quarters wreck their confidence. It’s about finding the balance between the two.

And as usual, there is a cautionary note to add. Just as we can get too fixated on the mistakes which led to the torpor in the first half of the season, we can pin too much hope on the form post-Christmas which saw Arsenal claim one more point than champions Chelsea from the final nineteen fixtures. It’s a shame we gained thirteen less in the opening nineteen. Don’t believe too much in one scenario just because it fits your view. Finishing third will be disappointing for the manager, especially since second was within Arsenal’s control until the home defeat to Swansea. Going into next season having been runners-up? The confidence in those circumstances, ought to be rock-solid. It should be high now, improving year-on-year is a step in the right direction.

It was a season contradictions. The highs of the FA Cup, not just at Wembley and Old Trafford, are offset by the all too familiar home defeat in the first leg of Champions League Round of Sixteen to Monaco. An eminently winnable tie that was almost thrown away, only to be rescued by a late Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain goal before being lost by the decisive third goal. Monaco weren’t that good a team as Arsenal found in the scant comfort of the two-goal away win in the second leg. For all the trumpeting of qualifying for the Champions League for nearly two decades, it doesn’t feel like we will ever progress in that competition.

Even the second half of the Premier League season wasn’t all plain sailing with the comprehensive victory at The Etihad in stark contrast to the abysmal efforts put in three weeks later in the North London Derby. How could a team switch so quickly between the extremes, especially as the five matches preceding the defeat at White Hart Lane had been comprehensive victories. That scenario identifies the step that Arsenal have to overcome to become title challengers; they have to find consistency over the course of the season and not in five or six game spells – more of the ten-match unbeaten run that saw the climb from sixth to the eventual third-placed finish. It’s no easy task but becoming champions never is.

But the potential to do so is there with judicious strengthening. We saw the impact of having a third experienced centre back in the squad. Gabriel’s signing bred confidence when he was playing, there was no nervousness about an out of position full back or a youngster who had been on the receiving end of a torrid afternoon. Had he been in situ during the opening half of the season, the impact of Mertesacker’s loss of motivation or Koscielny’s injury in October, might have been mitigated. No guarantees of that, of course, but the evidence suggests, the stumbling inconsistency could have been halted.

And signings have a two-fold impact; their ability and the boost they bring, none more so than the arrival of Alexis Sanchez. The Chilean had a phenomenal début season in English football. He was the ‘go-to guy’ when things were going wrong in the first half of the season, when Olivier Giroud was absent and it was capped off with a stunning Wembley goal in the final. A marquee signing who produced the desired impact.

How his second season will turn out, who knows? More of the same or will he become the Marmite footballer that Mesut Özil has. The master of the ‘pre-assist’, the pass before the eye-catching moment in a game, Özil was outstanding at Wembley in a performance which typified his value to the team; Coquelin won the ball, Cazorla made the first distribution and the German passed and moved. It wasn’t just against poor opponents, he did it week in, week out to varying degrees. He suffers from the FIFA Disease; a generation of supporters who, if a £42m-man isn’t scoring every week, condemn him as rubbish. It couldn’t be further from the truth.

But it depends on the formation. Arsène was forced into using a defensive shield by injury and the blinding necessity for the back four to be protected. Flamini and Arteta couldn’t do it in the way needed, the latter’s combative style of yesteryear not working for the ageing midfielder whilst Arteta is not a naturally defensive player. Step in Francis Coquelin, a genuine success story whose path to the first is subject to revisionism. On loan, by his own admission waiting for his initial spell to be renewed, Coquelin was recalled as injuries struck.

He took his opportunity brilliantly, for the most part controlling his aggression and bringing a discipline to the role that served the XI well. It was this role in the side that provided the pivotal change of fortunes. Santi Cazorla was liberated in the deeper role, his artistry creating attacking momentum on which the XI was able to build and exploit the pace and power of the forward line.

The likes of Giroud and Walcott in the final two games – Welbeck to a lesser extent – were able to thrive in this environment. It offered something different for opponents to deal with and for the most part, made Arsenal harder to beat, particularly as it allowed a rope-a-dope tactic to flourish. When it worked, as at The Etihad and Old Trafford – it was astonishing. When it didn’t – White Hart Lane – it was abysmal. Like the squad, it’s a work in progress, almost there, a little refining and it can take the club back to the position of challengers and not fighting with the also-rans.

And that’s why I think we’re on the cusp. We have depth in most positions, some open to debate and Arsène will know where he feels we can be better. The confident Szczesny of Wembley offers a path to redemption that didn’t seem likely after St Mary’s. We need depth in the forward line but I suspect that is Theo Walcott. Defensive midfield may well be this summers big money spend.

It’s not necessarily about replacing what we have, the squad needs competition so that playing levels continue to improve. It also depends on who leaves; what’s said in the media now has no bearing on the next three months. But it’s a summer that can be faced with a huge amount of optimism. Whether that gets eroded or not will be shaped not just at Arsenal but at other clubs. It isn’t just about what Arsène does that decides next season, it’s what the others do as well. But few of them have such a good starting point.

’til Tomorrow.

133 thoughts on “A Season Review: Springboard To Success?

  1. Runebreaker says:

    Morning yogi
    You sum up yesterday’s discussion perfectly
    Right am off to work

  2. Yeovil Gunner says:

    Another great post…I fail to see how you do it day in day out!

  3. Ras says:

    3rd Morning YW.. On the Cusp of something new? Could this be the dawning of the Age Aquarius then?.

    A new more holistic approach from Arsene. Gone is the Mantra ” Arsene Knows Best” and ushered in is the All Seeing Eye”.

    You spoke of tangibles. I wait and see how we do in the transfer market, whom we buy etc.

  4. jose says:

    nice writeup, pls where is sagna, have hardly heard about him for the past few months, pastures aint always green u know. Same for RVP. A DM and a CF and something special cud transpire nxt season.

  5. Damon says:

    Jose

    Running with that idea slightly and picking up and tying it to something in Yogis post…

    Is it also a tangible. And a nice one. That two young players have been given a bit of the cold shoulder from Arsene (Theo and Shezzer) and both have responded by keeping it buttoned, not being petulant and turning in performances on the pitch that say they want to fight for the right to play. Coupled with a noticeable physical change that suggests they e seriously knuckled down in the gym and in training

    Not so long ago both would’ve just ended up at The Etihad. Perhaps they still will but it looks and feels quite different now?

  6. Damon says:

    Ummmmm

    Going back to yesterday’s post, how did Limey manage to take credit for my gag??

    Bloody shirt tail rider!!! 🙂

  7. HenryB says:

    Good Morning, Yogi,

    It would be understandable if the quality of your Post writing had slipped a little post-season, but i think today’s is awesome and right up there with the best you have written. Excellent stuff.

    Still trying to work out a code for my ad, as instructed halfway thru the Post read tho’. 🙂

  8. HenryB says:

    Damon, it’s the way Limey tells ’em. 🙂

  9. austinpaul says:

    Anoda incisive summary Yogi! U bring inner warmth nd knowledge of arsenal futbol to dis page every day ,u make us proud nd hapi *rsenal family; I hope AW finds tym to read d contributions on dis platform inspite of himself.my observation of AW’s transfer interests is: must be inexpensive; young, intelligent, pacy/speedy, must posses educable multi motor skills , physiognomy nt vital consideration bt splendid if he can find one wit all d afore mentioned attributes; dats why his signings hit d ground running-ozil, alexis, gabby , we are yet to cee Bielik , am sure we won’t b disappointed wen he debuts.he cees d hidden attributes of players most people don’t cee or appreciate until such players blosoom-ozil for instance; people are beginning to appreciate his game wich was often criticized, bt u nd I appreciate Ozil’s game more dan many even coaches are only beginning to come to terms wit d damage he. Does to d opposition wit his precise passes nd deft touches; only technically sound minds appreciate Ozil’s kind of players nd I tell u his likes are far in btw.Luk at Rosiscky wit his lukaway passes, alexis is in his own class wit his wrkrate, dribbles , rpg like strikes, check out Le Coq , gabby, theo, ox , ramsey, dey all hve sumtin in commom wich has culminated in d beuty of arsenal fotbol ! AW wrk in progress team is coming of age. next season is d year our beutiful flower will burst forth out of d calyx irresistibly to sun’s exposure.I hve no doubt in my mind AW will reinforce his team , he’s a winner, he’s ambitious , he’s an endowed natural manager Who patiently wrk at his set achievable goals; he is almost there now nd he knows wat is required to b where he had set his vision of Arsenal. U said all YW; all d trials, dissilutionment, anger et al , misfortunes of d early part of d season,injuries, inability of players to adapt became encapsuled in d last 2 matches of d season- WBA nd AV. Wembley ultra performance ; meaning AW nd his team are now close to d summit; therefore , going into d summer AW certainly will srtenghten his team in areas he Considers critical inspite of anybody, dats d stuff AW Is made of, I will say he is a reble bcos he tends to go against general trends bt gets his result;maybe a I appreciate him so much bcos I used to b like him wen I was in active service!

  10. Wavey says:

    Morning,

    Another fine read.

    Reading the paper this morning, I was quite pleased that the focus was all on other clubs. Maybe one or two stories about Arsenal targets, but generally quiet. Good, let’s get our signings done under the radar.
    A couple of wrist slaps for Jack, but those who seem most affronted by it seem to be up themselves a bit too much. Time to let it go.

  11. Els says:

    YW – okay so that’s a great post that pretty much captured the discussions of yesterday and took it to another level. Some great points, possibly some that i’d otherwise discount but you have me convinced. Regarding the throwing in at the deep end of youth sometimes being negative it’s a real thing. Good point. I think perhaps Chambers is the most recent victim of that. He started strong but I think he just needed rescuing by the time Monreal was used at centre half. Flip side of that though is Bellerin. It would have been very easy for Bellerin not to be where he is now. That to me would have been caused by an excessive signing. It’s a very difficult line to draw, and one that I don’t envy Arsene Wenger for.

    As you say we are there, and there is cause for optimism. It’s easy to get carried away with how perfect the squad is, I do this a lot, but I can see that a little push is needed now. Not a big one, just some strengthening for Coquelin and if there is someone out there that can cause a surge of confidence. But please not another small dribbler. We have those and they are all fantastic.

    Good job.

  12. Damon says:

    Els

    That’s the thing with young players – they can be rather fragile. Or at least, their confidence can. There is nothing to say that Bellerin won’t have a horrid run of a half dozen games or more. If the criticism comes, it wouldn’t shock me to see him ask questions of himself and potentially the same thing happen

    As players get older, they have a bank of years of good performances to remind themselves that it is a blip to steady the ship with.

    I think Bellerin is probably the prime candidate for a little plateau or even slight regression next year. I only say that as he’s had such a stellar season this one just gone.

    With that said, you look at Ramsey, Theo, Jack, Ox, Gabriel and Welbeck and think there is the potential for at least a few of these to add a lot more to what they contributed this season in the next. Then Akpom, Gnabry, Chambers, Zelalem might offer a chance at a single one having their breakout season. Longer shots there, but a lot to feel positive about.

  13. silvergunner says:

    Morning YW what a brilliant summary of the season.
    I fear you are right regarding an incoming striker as someone said I guess Walcott will ask for assurances about playing as a striker when signing a new deal and as someone pointed out yesterday another striker coming in would make him possibly look elsewhere.
    I however still feel another striker is needed to make that difference in the toughest games.
    With sneiderland off to man u kondogbia would be a good option.
    There’s also the question about the likes of Campbell, Jenkinson, Sanogo, Podolski.
    Wenger has some tough calls to make I have a feeling Sanogo will be given another shot at integration into our team, Podolski needs to focus on doing the things he did in his first season scoring and giving assists and not instagram. Jens I feel sorry for as I think he had a solid season at Westham but so has Bellarin and debuchy has that pedigree.
    Campbell is the one most likely to be sold as he never looked like he was part of the Arsenal furniture as much as I think given a run in the team could be a great asset.

  14. Damon says:

    Great news everyone!

    Sounds like Milner is off to Liverpool!!

    We dodge a bullet and a weaken a rival in one simple transfer. Happy days!

  15. Els says:

    I don’t think Milner is all that bad to be honest. He’s got experience and has won things, he has things that we would need. We could do a lot worse. However you’d also hope for something better and he doesn’t seem to be a Wenger signing. I think 3 years ago we may have gone all out for him.

  16. Damon says:

    Els

    He is yesterday’s man.

    The fact that the team who finished immediately above us are not retaining him, all the while they are desperate for players that meet the home grown criteria, tells you all you need to know about how suitable he is for our needs.

  17. C says:

    Quick side note……..

    Zelalem has been really good for the USA in the U20’s World Cup.

  18. andy1886 says:

    Yes, Milner is solid, has an occasional very good game but is he going to improve us significantly? I don’t think so, therefore what would be the point? Realistically it’s a striker we need (and that could be an additional one or a replacement for OG or Theo if he will not sign) or a wide left forward, another DM and if we get Cech on a free I don’t have a problem with that. If Santi does go I don’t think we need another body in the middle, Monreal though is another matter and we’d need someone there if he wants out.

    Usually we clear players out before we buy. If we see Campbell and Sanogo leave that might indicate a striker is on the cards, if we keep them, re-sign Diaby, keep Arteta and Flamini I predict a dismal summer. Fingers crossed as usual.

  19. Els says:

    Damon, I’m sure they want to keep him. It’s just his contract situation. City would never let a Home Grown leave. That’s regardless of talent. However I still think he’s half decent. The fact that he gets any game time in that squad is a testament to him.

  20. Els says:

    Andy, I think if we sign another striker then Theo goes.

    My first reaction to signing Cech would be to vomit from every orifice. Perhaps I’d get used to it but I don’t know.

  21. luckyarsenal says:

    Enraged of Tunbridge Wells that you spelt the town name incorrectly. Tonbridge is down the road

  22. C says:

    @Els

    The thing with Milner is that he is already 29 and set to be 30 in January, for all that we mine as well keep Mozart and play him more(which I think would have helped us not lose as many points early in the season).

  23. Brevity says:

    Agree with other posters – Milner is ok but not an upgrade. Anyway, it seems he is looking for regular first team football and I just can’t see that for him at Arsenal.
    If he does sign for Pool then that doesn’t look good for Lallana’s future – back to Soton at half the cost?

  24. Damon says:

    I would expect new pastures to be found for the following

    Joel Campbell
    Sanogo
    Arteta
    Flamini
    Podolski

    Is Miguel still on our books? If so, is that one over now? I think his loan to Leicester was, basically, a disaster? If so, I’d add him.to the list. I think if this lot are all cleared out I would expect the two central mids to be replaced with the top top CDM, two squad spots into one. I’d also expect the three forwards to become two. If Theo stays, a wide forward that is pressing for a first team start and a prospect to replace Sanogo.

  25. luckyarsenal says:

    Great post Yogi. It would be good to see us challenge for a whole season rather than giving Chelsea and Man City such a generous headstart

  26. luckyarsenal says:

    Sanogo is not Arsenal quality

  27. Damon says:

    I actually believe that Sanogo will be retained for next season as our prospect.

    I can see what Arsene see’s in him. He’s got it, but it’s whether it can be extracted from him on a consistent basis. I’m not sure, but that is Arsene’s job to find the key to unlock.

  28. andy1886 says:

    Damon, I’m not convinced he’s got it as you say – unless ‘it’ is something different to what I’m thinking of 😉 He couldn’t even do anything for Palace who were one of the form teams after Christmas. He has been consistent when I’ve seen him – consistently poor unfortunately. This is where if we are going to have a prospect in the squad it should ideally be one of our youth players, otherwise I can’t really see the point. Hopefully we will sign a top striker, in which case if he stays or goes will probably be irrelevant.

  29. Els says:

    Thanks for the link C. Yeah he’s looking good. Let’s hope he can bulk up a touch.

  30. debislyv says:

    Nice write-up I’ll say, it sums up everything “Arsenal” in the just concluded season… the final 3games (wembley included) of the season shows what arsenal have missed all season in Theo Walcott, his pace,decisiveness, eye-for-goal e.t.c are just some the things Arsenal can make good use of next season. Against sunderland, he came on and open up the away side’s defence in such a way giroud couldn’t all night,he did the same against Manchester united also, west brom included, and aston villa at wembley. Wilshere also look refreshed, and chamberlain… i also think Monreal deserve an honourable mention, he played his part so very well in our season. All the team and all the backroom staff did well, they can all reveal in the glory, ozil, le coq, BFG, kosc, giroud, ospina, szcech and Gabriel did there best when called upon. Hopefully next will bring more #success than the just concluded. Mr Yogi, I’ll appreciate a mail from you, i have some enquiries to make. Thankz.

  31. Brevity says:

    Damon,

    Wouldn’t disagree with any of the names, except Mikel, and would
    add Yaya too. I agree Yaya might just, perhaps, possibly have something (I can’t get more on the fence than that) but we just don’t have the time and the first team opportunities for him.
    I think if we can, we keep Mikel, good man to have as a steadying hand if things turn ugly next season.

  32. Brevity says:

    Damon, apologies, I just realized you already had Yaya.

  33. Els says:

    I think a lot of this summer hinges on Walcott to be honest. I also think Walcott realises that once again he’s found himself holding most of the cards in the deal. Whilst we aren’t bent over the barrel like last time, I’m sure Wenger would like to keep hold of him. Ideally to be a goal threat from the wings with Girouds flicks and fantastic link up play putting him and Sanchez in. That’s how I see it anyway.

    Regarding Sanogo it’s far too early to write off Sanogo. First off you don’t find too many tall, fast and very strong attackers with such good feet. His overall game is average but that’s the part that can be taught. If ‘it’ means he’s the ideal physical specimen then yeah. He’s got it all right. If things click, and we’ve made more of players with less natural ability then he could be a world beater. I seriously think that.

  34. Damon says:

    On the GK thing, I see why people are talking about an improvement. But… I think a lot of that chat was brought to the forefront because Cech fell down to number two and his contract is up. The easy and tidy solution was to move him onto us.

    I actually think that he’s more likely at Spurs. Don’t think Jose will let us get him. De Gea is off and Lloris will go to United as his replacement. Did Real defer Reus as they’re going to crowbar DeGea out of United?

    Looking Shezzers game on the weekend, I actually really like what he did. He kind of replicated his best game of the year, against Stoke. He was aerially dominant there and at Wembley. All just a week after Ospina shipped one to WBA where a tall and dominant keeper would’ve caught the ball.

    Food for thought for AW. I reckon that will have got into his mind. Probably enough so that unless a really good upgrade falls into his lap, he won’t do anything this year at GK. Which means he won’t! If DeGea moves, there could be a big big merrygoround of GK’s this summer.

    This could be the first time in Wojciech’s career that’s he’s had genuine competition. I don’t think he ever felt that Fabianski was his equal. So far, all the signs are he’s taken his slapped wrist and had a think about not only how he can make himself better, but also sell it to the boss to get back the number one jersey. Interesting times.

  35. Els says:

    I doubt we’ll see that many departures. The boat will not be rocked. Unless any of those players are trying hard to leave I think they’ll be retained.

  36. C says:

    Top post Yogi and even better summation of things that are surrounding the Arsenal at present.

    I think you are spot on, the thing that needs to be noted is that we need to be more consistent as Yogi has pointed out. To be champs, we must find the level of consistency that is needed, no longer can we be a “half….” teams. Do we have to be invinsible, no but we can no longer go on 4 or 5 match unbeaten streaks and then lose 2 or 3 in a row to teams like Stoke or Sunderland. We have to find the mental strength to play for a full match, full season even if things are going our way. That is what it takes, the ability to push through.

    While I think striker/wide-striker is clearly an area that needs to be strengthened, I tend to agree with Yogi, DM is the area that needs to be addressed first. Job well fucking done to Le Coq and I really do mean that, his introduction showed not only the balance that this team has needed for a good while but also that Le Coq can be a really good player for Arsenal(even if that means really good squad/rotational player). I would also say that it showed the type of player that we need in that position based on our style of play, Arteta and Flamini simply can’t cover the ground that Le Coq covers and that is something that really needs to be thought about. Sure Arteta has the positional know-how but doesn’t mean fuck all if you don’t have the legs to not just get there but deal with the opposition once you get there.

  37. Els says:

    I’m with you on Szcz Damon. I don’t think the FA Cup was his best game, he didn’t do anything but he showed enough to suggest he’s going to fight. He’s only 25. He’s got easily 8 years left. It’d be crazy to let him go now.

  38. Els says:

    From a purely personnel point of view, I find the spectacle of a defensive midfielder blocking and shutting people down with good strong tackles a fantastic part of football. It also lets the creative players create. Coquelin is the best in an arsenal shirt at that role. Better even than Vieira. I love FC’s game.

    That’s not me saying FC could even shine Vieira’s boots as PV often didn’t need to do a lot of the desperate work as he had the ball without trying too hard, and then he could do far more going forward also. I just mean I love a succesful coq lunge.

  39. Damon says:

    Els

    Everyone loves a successful Coq lunge!!!! 😀

  40. Damon says:

    When I worked at sea, my old cabin mate’s “special move” was the lunge. Usually displayed in the crew bar, but it depended on where the best ladies were at the time. I believe this was the precursor to most of his most successful Coq lunges!!

  41. Brevity says:

    Damon,
    Probably you’re right that De Gea goes, but then why would Lloris go to Man U if we were interested. I’d much prefer him to Cech, who I simply don’t like, and he’s 4 years younger

  42. C says:

    Rumors and reports have both Campbell and Podolski set to leave for a combined 19-20M.

  43. Els says:

    Haha @ Damon – “the Lunge” I think Francis may be a little aggressive in a club on the pull.

  44. Damon says:

    Not sure it would be down to Lloris

    I’d imagine that DeGea would probably break the GK transfer record. And therefore United would have £30m plus change to wave at Spurs in transfer and he’s already on a whack of wages.

    Arsene will not wax that on a keeper (rightly, this window – but if Schneiderlin ends up at United and we don’t get Vidal!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) and we will be out of that race.

  45. Damon says:

    Els

    “the lunge” basically involved standing in front of said lady, grinning, saying something clever or witty (depending on his level of intoxication, it often was neither) and then lunging in, bending her backwards over his outstretched thigh and shoving his tongue down her throat.

    To this day, I am flabbergasted at the success rate this move had. Easily over 50% hit to miss ratio

  46. Damon says:

    C

    For the rest of the summer, when discussing our outgoing players value or figures quoted, can we try to not use pounds sterling and a more universal currency, relevant to our off season plight?

    Your earlier post should therefore read….

    Rumors and reports have both Campbell and Podolski set to leave for a combined value of a quarter a Bale

    Thanks so much in advance

  47. Brevity says:

    Damon – I’ll just have to hope that well reasoned argument is wrong 🙂

  48. C says:

    @Damon

    I think I can handle that.

    I’ll just relate everything to Bale since that seems to be easiest for you mate. 😉

  49. blazon says:

    Damon…lunge…funny? Jesus…retract.

  50. Bill says:

    Great review Yogi. Thanks again.

    It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us.

    Charles Dickens must have had the gift of prophecy because that describes every Arsene Wenger managed teams for the last 10 years. There is something about the way he builds and manages his teams that allow them to be really really good for 10 -12 games but also really bad for just as many games in every season. The way the season played out was completely predictable once we got off to the poor start. At some point we were going to wake up and go on a good run and secure a top 4 finish and just as predictably once the top 4 was secured we would take our foot off the gas and go thru a run of poor results the way we did in May. The lack of urgency that we started the season with was frustrating and unacceptable but the loss of focus in May was perhaps just as disturbing because none of the usual excuses apply. No injury issues, no reason to be tired and the refs were not conspiring against us. On paper this squad is the best we have had since the start of 2010 and the brilliant form we showed at times this spring certainly give cause for optimism but somehow Arsene needs to find a way to exorcise our demons of consistent inconsistency.

  51. Bill says:

    There is no doubt that at some point next season Giroud, Ozil, Ramsey, Cazorla Wilshere, etc etc are all going to go thru a 10 – 12 run of good form and we will see some really great football. Unfortunately the historical evidence would argue that those same players will also have just as many off form games as they have good games. Ramsey will probably still have issues with his hamstrings and quads and Jack will probably be unavailable for a good portion of the season due to ankle injuries. Ox will probably still be right on the cusp of greatness and Welbeck will run fast and work hard but his finishing will probably still be suboptimal. Who knows what will happen with Walcott. Its hard for a team to be more then a 1/2 season team when your critical players have been 1/2 season players. Arsene has to find a way for the team to get results when those critical players are going their annual downturns.

    The best solution is to be aggressive this summer and get a couple more big time players like Sanchez for the front line and an new DM. The stronger the squad the more easily it can weather the inevitable storms and downturns in form and injuries. Besides nothing will get the players and fans more excited about next season then a great summer of transfer news. Knowing that very few of them have guaranteed spots will also encourage the players to work really hard this summer and come into preseason training in great shape and mentally ready to be at their best.

  52. silvergunner says:

    Afternoon Bill agree with you about the predictability of our form. Surely the thing would be to rotate our players more we certainly have player capable of coming in because both you and I know that if the season hadn’t already have finished Wenger would still be playing pretty much the same team barring suspension, injury or loss of form with the infamous red zone being ignored.
    Granted we don’t have adequate cover in all areas but a dmc this summer with the hopefull addition of a quality CF & GK should see us have little argument over the shape of our squad.

  53. philmar says:

    Ozil is playing better because he has come to grips with his new reality. A player’s performance is often a reflection of their motivation, happiness, feeling of belonging. I suspect it was hard at first for Ozil as he probably never dreamed of being a Gunner and he may have felt more self-esteem as a member of the galacticos. For many players a move to the Gunners is a step up – for him it may have felt like a demotion. No longer passing to Cronaldo and tracking the runs of Ramos, he was now playing tippy tappy with Giroud and Gibbs. He may have had self-lingering doubts about if he was truly world class after he was dumped by Madrid. The move to the Emirates wasn’t of his choice – his head and heart was with the biggest team in the world. But I think he now feels part of this team.

  54. Bill says:

    Silver

    I think Arsene could make better use of some of the players in his squad. I think it was a huge mistake to leave Walcott out of the squad until game 38. A lot of us were complaining about not using Rosicky enough but IMO impact sub is the perfect position for him at this stage of his career.

    That said, I think the idea that “rotation” is a “magic bullet” for our inconsistency is misplaced. As far as I know Arsene did not rotate any more during the ultra successful first 1/2 of his reign as our manager compared with the last 10 years. We had 38 league games, CL. FA cup and Carling Cup and international games in 2000 – 2004 and we did not rotate much back then and we were not inconsistent. Players are in better shape right now for the most part then they were back then. My own impression and the evidence would argue that Arsene’s policy and methods of rotation today are not that much different then other managers of big clubs and I fail to see a good reason to believe that our players would need to be treated any differently then the players at other big teams.

  55. C says:

    @philmar

    He has actually talked about that adaptation period and that he has adapted to the style of play and physicality of the PL. He also talked about how he was tired in the 2nd half of last season due to not having a winter break and playing so many midweek matches. He also talked about how this season he feels a lot better both physically and mentally. Not to mention, I think having Sanchez(another player that can read the game and see the space that Ozil sees) helped him too.

  56. Bill says:

    Philmar.

    Ozil started off in good form and played very well for about 15 games then faded with the rest of the team starting in Dec. This season he was absolutely terrible early in the season when the whole team was terrible. Then he was injured and came back into the team and played very well for about 15 games just like the whole team and then faded around game 33 with the rest of the team. To his credit he refocused and played well in the FA cup.

    I did not follow him closely while in Madrid but his 2 year history with us is playing well for about 15 games when the whole team is playing well but playing poorly when the rest of the team does. He and the whole team fall back into our tippy tappy or worse when we are not playing well. He is our biggest signing in history and that places more responsibility on him to be a leader and one of our best players and help to pull the team forward when we start to lose form. Hopefully he can find a way to be more consistent next season because we need that from him.

  57. C says:

    @Bill

    I have to disagree with you that he only played well in 15 matches. Not sure what you consider playing well, but 15 matches is being really really harsh on him. I think there has been times were he has tried to drag the team forward (like against Manure) but its hard to do that when people aren’t getting on the end of your passes or you get no movement.

  58. Damon says:

    German FA chief Wolfgang Niersbach, speaking ahead of a meeting of Uefa officials this week, said: “We don’t want to go down the route of a boycott.
    “That won’t accomplish anything.”

    I tend to disagree. Completely.

    For me, this adds our pal Wolfie here to the list of “got at already” of the FIFA bung takers.

  59. silvergunner says:

    Bill I don’t know I’m pretty certain even back in the days of the invinsibles players like edu, reyes & wiltord would get their fair share of games along side gilberto silva, Pires and Henry maybe that’s just me.

  60. Els says:

    Bill you’re far far too critical on Özil’s performances there. I hope to all flip that you aren’t somebody’s boss. It must be very hard to impress you.

    Özil has been steadily working toward exceptional since his return from injury. Obviously a few ups and downs but a steady arc of improvement no doubt.

    Also regarding a lack of rotation, this has its benefits also. Many players get to work through bumpy patches and end up far better for it. To be honest I think over the years that has been one of Wenger’s strengths that has seen countless players “come good” and has had a great knock on effect in us over-reaching in the recruitment of players.

  61. Limestonegunner says:

    Good news about Milner. He might be a fine player but I think it would have been in place of a proper DM recruited this summer and believe we could do better in that department. He might have made a good contribution to our squad but obviously he wants to play more football. If he was content with occasional starts and being on the bench, he would have stayed at City for bigger wages than we would have probably paid. Hats off to him. I’m sure he is making a handsome salary but probably is sacrificing some money to play more regularly. I admire that.

  62. Limestonegunner says:

    Now he and Henderson can fight to be not as good as Gerrard and the captaincy.

  63. philmar says:

    Football is different now than it was at the beginning of Arsene’s reign. NOW we have 4 EPL teams that essentially have 2 internationals at almost every position. Players are better fit and they probably run farther than they did 20 years ago, they run at greater intensity than they did 20 years ago, tackles are flying in at greater speed and they need more recovery time. Watch game tapes from 20 years ago and players look like they are strolling comfortably over the pitch compared to how they play today. Rotation is more important now for reasons of recovery as well as competition and keeping players happy and engaged. With more capped international players comes bigger egos and demands for playing time. Our team needs more rotation and recovery time than Chelsea because Arsene has signed a smaller bunch of players that can’t stand up to the physicality of the game. The Invincibles may have been technically great players but they were also relatively large and powerful physical players. They were better able to withstand the demands of 50+ games, I believe our current crop are less so enabled.

  64. Bill says:

    C

    i am not going to try and quibble about how many games he has played well this season. It does not matter if it was 15 or 18 but the major point of that comment is inescapable IMO. Ozils performances both good and not so good have basically mirrored those of team as a whole. It’s easy to play well when the whole team is in form. I don’t expect miracles from him but he should be one of our critical players and we really need him to smooth those ups and downs.

    Els:

    I have no real problem with Arsene’s rotation policy. My impression is that he has done the same thing for his entire Arsenal career and its similar to what any big team manager would do. My only concern was that I don’t think he played Theo enough this season and he really loves the idea of playing central midfielders as false wingers which is detrimental to our having enough goal scoring firepower on the pitch, but that has nothing to do with rotation.

  65. Limestonegunner says:

    Picking up on Philmar’s attempt at psychoanalysis and Bill’s strict results paradigm, I think Ozil has been a bit underwhelming for a 42million star signing, but expectations have been inflated as well. He faded from some big games until Dec/Jan and the expectation is that a player of his quality and price should be a match winner. And, actually, he does create incredible numbers of chances. We just have had few finishers other than Sanchez and unfortunately they did not seem to mesh that well initially or Sanchez was going through a dip. Oddly, I don’t think Giroud is the sort of CF that would work best with Ozil but OG scored prolifically Dec-March. Now, we are starting to see better interplay between Alexis and Ozil.

    My conclusion on Ozil is that he is supremely gifted, had to adapt to the intensity and physicality of the league and become more robust. It might have been an emotional adjustment as well, but I think he has made it. I do think Bill’s assessment is far too harsh, but Ozil still has some more to prove. I love his play and skill. His imagination and ability with the ball. He needs to shoot more. But he is stronger, plays more intensely, and creates huge numbers of chances. With better finishers who can latch onto his passes, we’ll see the benefits of his creation. Finally, I think he has started to shoot a bit more readily, and that is a good sign. The idea that he is lazy or doesnt put in enough effort, however, which we sometimes hear in the media and certain quarters of the goonersphere, is totally laughable. But if he doesn’t make a big impact next season, I’d say that perhaps he didn’t fulfill his potential. If he creates chances, stays fit, and maintains the level he has been playing at since his injury return, he will be great for us and help us to an excellent season.

  66. C says:

    @Bill

    I’m not talking exact number of matches but I also think that every players has ups and downs so that is to be expected. I’m not so sure one always mirrors the other when it comes to his performances and the team’s performances but I get where you are coming from. The main thing though is the fact that from year 1 to year 2 we have seen Ozil play a lot better more often and I actually think since his return from injury this season he has been a large reason why we played so well culminating in his brilliant performance in the FA Final. Surely he will play better next season.

  67. Limestonegunner says:

    Because he is such a team player, Bill, perhaps when he doesn’t play well, the team suffers but when he does, it flourishes. Hard to know the causality but you are expecting his performances to somehow be distinct from the team’s, which might not be appropriate as he is like a great passing point guard in basketball who should probably shoot more prefers to feed others. I do think that he has had a tendency to disappear in some of the big games, but recently has played well: against Liverpool, MU, Chelsea, FA cup final he was very good.

  68. Limestonegunner says:

    Bill, even Sanchez had 10-15 games where he wasn’t really at his best this season. Some of them I thought he was actually fairly poor. However, he does put in obvious effort with his high energy running and pressing and probably earns a pass from us because of it.

  69. Els says:

    Bill – yeah a lack of Rotation will be Wenger. If someone is playing well and fairly fit they’ll be in the squad. I can’t say I have a problem with that. If injury occurs it’s a form of rotation in itself.

    I’m wondering if the reason for not playing Theo is partially contract related. Also who should he have dropped for an out-of-form Walcott. Ramsey was out wide if that’s what you mean. Ramsey can’t be dropped for Walcott. It would mean a total drop in productivity. Ramsey is a work horse. Also just cos Ramsey starts out wide doesn’t mean he sticks to the wing. We know that Wenger’s ideal team switches and moves around. I’m pretty sure we’ll see more and more of that as the team gel’s more.

  70. C says:

    @LSG

    I think you are pretty spot on with that. I’m think its unfair to judge a player based on how much another team values them to be honest because we all know that when it comes to modern futbol, players are bought and sold for monies that are borderline ridiculous.

    I wonder what people would think of Ozil if we had more finishers or even a more clinical CF that could not just get on the end but also finish more regularly the chances that Ozil creates? The one thing that gets so often lost is the fact that Ozil was and will never be a physical player so that part of the PL he had to adjust and learn to deal with and this season he has. He has added muscle that has helped him when players are draped on him but he also at times does other things i.e. his nutmeg, that allows him to drift past all those physical challenges that he now deals with.

    I agree 100% with you about laughing at those that call him lazy and saying he doesn’t put in the effort. He doesn’t just press high up the pitch but he also tracks back and then will win the ball back and drive the team forward. Am I saying that he is Ramsey, no not at all but he puts in his fair share of work.

    42M for Ozil to help lift the club last season and help inspire lifting back to back FA Cups, I think he is well on his way to being worth every penny.

  71. Limestonegunner says:

    I agree with Philmar at 4pm about our players being less physically robust than the Invincibles. But this is a lot less true than it was 3-5 years ago. CB’s still don’t run too much, our fullbacks are super fit and not really smaller. The key is the midfield. Santi, Arteta, Flamini, Coquelin, JW are smaller players. But only Santi and Coquelin played that much. Ozil is slight but fairly tall and bulked up–he’s clearly stronger and fitter than before. Ramsey is physically strong and has a dynamo inside. Sanchez, while small is robust and incredibly energetic and powerful. Giroud is big and doesn’t really run too much. Welbeck is big and strong.

    We used to be much more lightweight. And while City and Chelsea might overall be bigger, when we matched up with them I thought we were actually physically more imposing in our play. I said it right after the Chelsea match, that unlike in past encounters we were not overmatched physically and if anything I thought Chelsea players were the ones struggling with our physicality. In so many of the clashes, it was the boys in blue who were on the turf.

    Still, there is room for improvement and that is partly why the squad needs further reinforcement. It is having to be remade still from the days when we collected small technical players in imitation of Barcelona in a league unsuited for it and smaller youth players who were not physically fully developed but had to play in the first team in a physical league against bigger and older men. We are getting there. And Santi is one player who shows that there is still some place for a small and technical maestro, if he is rugged and has a huge heart.

  72. C says:

    HAHAHAHA, reports say Liverpool will sell Sterling to Arsenal or should I say, want to send Sterling to Arsenal for Gibbs and Theo…….yea wouldn’t do that one.

  73. Phil says:

    Bloody hell you would think Villa knocked us off!
    Ozil works harder than most would think.
    He creates plenty.
    Scoring himself is obviously not his thing, but that’s ok, as long as others are on the end of the opportunities he presents.
    A slow start to the season? Ofcourse. But if you ( no one in particular)really think players can come straight off one season, into a World Cup, straight into the next season,and dominate, then an unreasonable expectation exists. Also I am not sure that Ozil actually set his own price tag.

  74. Limestonegunner says:

    That said, Bill, I agree 100% with you at 2:09.

  75. Limestonegunner says:

    Not necessarily with the predictions in all their particular details (though we should be prepared for those assessments to be correct since they are based on what we have seen the last few seasons) but certainly with the conclusions and solutions you propose.

  76. Phil says:

    C,
    Pretty sure the press are now just into the – I can write whatever I want routine now.
    No way in hell Theo and Gibbs get swapped for Sterling.

  77. The Arse in the Gamb says:

    http://www.si.com/extra-mustard/2015/06/01/fifa-corruption-john-oliver-video-sepp-blatter

    I didn’t know anyone was more offensive than me about Sepp Blatter, but this had me in stitches at the end. I feel absolutely the same way about FIFA ruining this game, although there is absolutely no chance that sponsors will do anything about it unless pressure and arrests continue.
    The deals they sign are not about a positive branding, it is about locking out other suppliers so we have to drink Pissweiser at the games and use VISA to buy the tickets. The sponsors are scum, they know what they are doing and in the case of VISA bought these rights when they were already signed to Mastecard. (read ‘Foul’ for details) so without the outside investigation it will all go back to normal and nothing more said. USA USA USA.
    Dyke at least is saying they will act if others Europeans do and pull out of FIFA, the Germans just want to play football and don’t care, but, for all their glory, they just don’t see how bad it is.
    For all the fools who think that Blatter is spreading money around poorer nations, there was a really wrecklessly idiotic bit of writing pointing to Blatter having supported Indian football to the tune of 8 million pounds. Someone pointed out that it was 2 million less than the crook Jack Warner and Chuck Blazer got for helping rig the South Afriican bid. I personally think that third world football would be in much better shape if FIFA was run properly and I think the ‘Blatter is a friend of the third world’ is a fatuous lie. He only cares about money, himself
    ……and of course reelection.

  78. Limestonegunner says:

    Phil, he didn’t. Had nothing to do with him. Back in Gay Paris? I was so exhausted after the parade from the celebrations the night before and a week in Istanbul prior, that I collapsed and slept until the next day as soon as I brought little LSG home! Otherwise, it would have been nice to try to meet up. You did well to witness probably the best Arsenal FA Cup final in history–good call! I hope someday I might be in London to see Arsenal win a trophy live. Being in the area and watching at the Emirates was still tremendous though!

  79. Bill says:

    Philmar

    OK. I think that is a bit of a stretch. My impression is that very few managers rotate their critical players outside of injury or suspension. We sometimes draw our conclusion first and then search for some reason or evidence to justify the conclusion and I think this is one of those cases. There is no evidence that Arsene has ever done anything differently then any other manager would.

  80. andy1886 says:

    Thing is a team isn’t just a sum of the individuals, I’m sure when AW spends £42m on a player at least part of the valuation is based on what the team needs rather than is this guy in isolation worth that figure. Like a jigsaw, if AW sees Ozil as the missing part that makes the whole, then he’ll pay over the odds. Only Arsene knows how he wants it all to work, and if it clicks nobody gives a damn how much the individual components of a successful team cost.

  81. Pistolfish says:

    Havent had a chance to comment since the win due to a extended fishing trip into the everglades.
    Fantastic win and what a team performances. I don’t think any one would have beaten us on the day if we played like we did. Every one played a fantastic game.
    Kudos to Theo for his goal and what a strike by Sanchez. Its amazing what a different team we are when we play with pace upfront. I hope to see more of it from Theo. God knows we have invested enough time and emotion into him and it would be awesome if re payed it with a few stellar seasons.
    I agree with Tierry Henry 100%. Wont win the leuge with Giroud as our no 1. We either need superstars at every other position in the squad or else a better number one striker than Giroud. That should be our top priority followed by a DM.
    Some one mentioned yesterday that it would be a insult to Giroud if we got in another striker. I ask, what has he done to deserve being our no one? Last seasons title push ultimately came undone when he felt the need to go shagging around on his wife the night before a match, his drop on from after that was there for all to see. So much so that we had to start Sonogo against Bayern. Then he cant be arsed to get in shape for the start of this season and shows up unable to start the first few games.
    That does not sound to me like some one that has too much respect for his team mates or the fans. Lets not even get into the latest hairstyle. So why does would it be such a shock or be insulting to him if we get in some one who can stay focused and be consistent throughout a season? In my opinion either Higuain, Martinez or Mandzukich are better all round strikers and in our team would contribute more.

  82. C says:

    @Phil

    No doubt, I truly do enjoy the silly season but sometimes I even have to sit back and have a real laugh at some of the things that are written.

  83. Limestonegunner says:

    I’m with Damon on the keepers. I was hugely encouraged yesterday, as I mentioned here, by WS’s comments on his future because it suggests he has taken this the right way and not let his ego overwhelm sense. He is more talented and has the better physical attributes than Ospina. So for him, it is a matter of attitude and development of his skills and decision-making as a keeper. Ospina is a genuinely decent keeper who succeeded with us for half a season in the first team. If WS wants to win back his position, he’ll have to work hard but it could be done and might lead to an improvement on the season before this last one when he shared the clean sheet record with Cech.

    I don’t see Cech going to Spuds, though it would make sense, unless he takes a big wage cut. I don’t think Spuds can afford anything close to his Chelsea wage.

  84. Phil says:

    Hi LSG,
    Finally left London yesterday after a long Eurostar delay.
    Like you, I am running on empty at the moment, and with a big dinner looming this evening. No sympathy at home, as its self inflicted. But that’s as it should be!
    I am sure a good academic such as yourself can find a reason to Re visit London for further research at the appropriate time!
    When do you head back over the pond?

  85. The Arse in the Gamb says:

    Theo and Gibbs for Sterling? No way, nice try ‘Puddle.
    Theo for Sterling? It seems obvious if they both want the swap as they are quite similar, but they are different stages in their careers as Theo loses a bit of pace and migrates to the box. Sanchez is our number 1 right wing and we have plenty of cover asin Gnabry or Chamberlain, so Raheem would be on the bench if he came, unless we used him up front, which we should not often do as he struggles to find the net when scoring seems the more likely outcome. So I say no deal. Theo seems to be finding his composure in front of goal, but if he does not live up to expectation up front and ultimately has to go Sterling brings us little in the short run as a replacemtne and it will be money spent that will not go onto the field.
    No thanks, left winger please!

  86. C says:

    This is GREAT NEWS too with Nacho responding to reports he wants to leave and go back to Spain. Keeping him and starting next season with the same back 4(some will argue for Debuchy but its still Bellerin for me with Debuchy as #2) would be massive and would really be a solid base for which to build on. Nacho said in response to reports he wants to leave Arsenal:

    “I have one more year on my contract and I would like to stay at Arsenal. I am very lucky to play for Arsenal, and am very happy to play for Arsenal.

    “I would like to stay. If the boss [Arsene Wenger] wants me to stay, I will do as I am very happy. I only have one more year left on my contract. I am really happy and would like to stay at Arsenal.

    “I am in contact with the club. My main intention is to stay at Arsenal, I hope I can extend my contract.”

  87. Limestonegunner says:

    Pistol, everyone forgets these OG lapses of judgment and commitment. I’ve said several times that it is no coincidence that he puts in his best performances when he thinks his position is threatened and he has to compete for it. Welbeck does a credible job and OG returns early from injury on fire. Once he has re-established himself unquestioningly as the first choice striker, we find his form dips for 8-10 matches until Theo replaces him, scores a hat trick and starts the FA cup final. Bingo, OG comes on as a sub and scores after 8 scoreless starts.

    He is an ideal backup striker competing for games. He can come off the bench and provide something different if we are chasing the game either as a replacement or second striker, as well as start matches where his style suits tactically the opposition and the way we want to play. He is wonderful to have late in matches as a sub when we are up and need hold up play and his prowess with defensive headers. He’s great to have in our squad and would get plenty of appearances. However, we need a better, more mobile, more clinical striker with other attributes and qualities to be the number one striker. We have had Ian Wright, Anelka, Henry, RvP over the PL era. When did we decide we would make our primary striker a large back to goal number nine without either pace or superb moves on the ball? I think AW wanted Suarez and just hasn’t found a player he likes under 50million that he thinks is of that standard. Otherwise, I really can’t explain it. Maybe something will shake out this summer, but it is clear that AW was looking for a striker two summers ago and perhaps again last summer but couldn’t or wouldn’t make it happen.

  88. C says:

    So both Jenks and Chambers have been selected for England U21’s then.

  89. Limestonegunner says:

    I hope we extend him as well. Clearly he was playing for a new contract this season–excellent work. I hope that he keeps up the same quality as he is reliable defensively and manages to stay fairly fit.

    Thanks for that news, C! Makes me happy.

  90. C says:

    @LSG

    I agree with all of that outside the fact he didn’t find the striker he wanted; I think it wasn’t just Suarez, but as Yogi has pointed out previously Higuain was all but set until Napoli pulled the trigger before Arsene finally made up his mind. Higuain was the striker that Arsene wanted and the one that Giroud feared coming. He was welcoming of the Suarez transfer but not so with Higuain.

  91. Limestonegunner says:

    As far as Bellerin v. Debuchy, we hardly saw Debuchy, so it is really hard to say who will be first choice at the start of next season. There is all of preseason for these two to compete. However, it could mean that Debuchy wants a move away to keep his France spot going into the Euros. If that were the case and he agitated for a move, I’d be ok with that and bring back Jenks to fight it out with Bellerin. Chambers could go out on loan with a recall clause in case of injury.

    Bellerin was outstanding. However, he did have some games where defensively his youth and inexperience showed. He was fairly consistent over the half season basically that he played but there were some dips and we could see more of that next season. The second time through a set of teams is when you really see whether the player has what it takes as opponents become familiar and make adjustments. If the player can meet that challenge, then they can be relied upon. We haven’t seen that yet from Bellerin. No question though: he played very big for us. Debuchy should be very worried!

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