Our failure to make the top four means our Champions League hopes hang on the outcome in Baku and we have to win to show genuine progress this season. We finished the Premier League campaign with a few points more than last season and one place higher too, but fifth place isn’t enough for a team with Champions League aspirations. Not only are the financial rewards from Europe’s top competition better, but it’s easier to attract new players with the prospect of playing against the best players in the world.
On the face of it gaining a place in the league and going one stage further in the Europa League should be a mark of progress, but it’s difficult to see any progress this season. Unai Emery came in at the end of Arsene Wenger’s 22 year reign at the club and we hoped he could do things differently to how they had been done under the last few seasons under Wenger. He tried to get the team to play the ball out from the back at all times at first, but as the season progressed he gradually had to at least cut it back.
It’s hard to see what our style of play is and how we set about taking on opponents. Surely managing to introduce a new style, or just a style, would have shown a sign of progress, but he quite simply hasn’t been able to do it. I know it was only his first season at the helm, but I don’t think he has lived up to the expectations.
Our biggest problem in recent seasons had been our defence and it’s got even worse in my opinion. We added a goalkeeper, a central defender and a full back, but the same individual errors and team lapses seem to happen game after game no matter who is playing. There have been a few notable exceptions along the way, but all in all it’s not been easy to watch Arsenal this season.
The absolute collapse in our chase for a top four finish was the low point for me, but it came right in the middle of four very good Europa League performances. The performances in those games at home and away against Napoli and Valencia were very good, but we only took four points from six league games at the same time. It’s hard to believe the Europa League doesn’t mean more to the players than fighting for a top four spot in the league.
Of course the hectic schedule and list of injuries played a part in our league downfall, but somehow the players found a way in Europe that was missing in the Premier League. If they can pull one more of those performances out of the bag then maybe we can get hold of that nice shiny trophy and end the season on a real high. I think it would only be papering over the cracks, but it’s still infinitely superior to ending the season without a trophy and not qualifying for next season’s Champions League.
That’s it for today.
See you tomorrow.