Almost like the days of old

The season came to a close with a big win over Everton and in at least that one way it reminded me of the good old days. When I first started watching Arsenal in the late 90s and early 2000s Arsenal had an amazing record. Between January 1997 and January 2006 Arsenal only lost 2 times to Everton. I had a friend who was a Nottingham Forest supporter but who also supported Everton. That may seem odd but back then the only games you could watch were Premier League games and Forest were in the 2nd or 3rd division so he picked Everton to watch in the Premier League.

By about 2004-05 we could watch a lot of the matches live – though some of them were only available in my area via pay per view. It was May 2005, the last home game of the season and Arsenal hosted Everton and I asked my friend to come over. We won 7-0, goals by Bergkamp and Vieira were memorable, especially Bergkamp’s pass to set up Vieira’s goal.

The match was also notable for a number of reasons. It was the end of an era. Chelsea had just won the title and only lost one match all season. We didn’t know it at the time but it was one of Vieira’s last matches for Arsenal, it was Edu’s last match, and as if to foreshadow the next few years Fabregas and Flamini both came on late in the game. Bergkamp was nearly unstoppable that day and watching him and Henry in their prime is something special. Henry was playing deeper than I remember, running everything, and just toying with defenders. He literally dribbled some of those players two times in one move. I had forgotten that Mikel Arteta played in that match and he was utterly outclassed by Vieira in midfield.

You can watch the entire match on YouTube and I highly recommend at least watching the first half. Arsenal’s ball movement, their player movement, and Bergkamp’s passing is just electric. We really were blessed to have Henry, Bergkamp, Vieira, Campbell, and others on the same team at the same time. We beat them 7-0 and that was the 4th place team in the League that season, the one really great Moyes season as a manager.

I’m not suggesting that this Arsenal team are anywhere near the 2004/05 Arsenal side, rather just that it was a bit of a blast from the past to see Arsenal trounce Everton on the last-ish day of the season.

Now we go into the summer with a lot of work to do. I think everyone knows what needs to be done to keep the team competitive in the top 6. Two major signings are needed in attack and midfield and a host of signings are needed to make us deeper all around the squad. If we get close to signing someone (for example a strong link is reported in a reputable paper like the Guardian) I will happily speculate on the player and how they fit into this team but until we have anything like a good link, I tend to stay away from that sort of nonsense.

Qq

92 comments

  1. It was a bitter-sweet ending to the season. I don’t think that was anywhere near the best Everton could play, but you can only beat what’s put in front of you.

    The substitutions were curious. I get Lacazette, because he’s gone and he deserved one last run out with the team. I do not get Xhaka coming off, unless he really is going to Roma this summer. And I do not get not letting ESR get one last run-out for the fans, I thought he deserved some attention ahead of Pepe who was marginal all season.

    We need two big signings, but I’m curious too if there’s any weight to Juventus wanting Gabriel to replace Chiellini – we cannot let Juve drag this out until the late summer like they usually do with their transfers. Because if Gabriel is going, Saliba has to stay and that whole thing needs sorting asap.

  2. I feel you on that last paragraph. The next 3 month are about typing “Arsenal transfer” into the search bar, and hitting refresh. Groan. And this club of ours loves late drama. I hate myself when summer comes around.

    Tim, is being “competitive in the top 6” really what we want/expect of Arsenal? Maybe Wenger spoiled me, but I see it differently. The least I want of the team is competing for the Champions League. I’ve scaled back my expectations. When Wenger left, they were about being title-competitive by now. OK, I was naive. That’s not going to happen. We’re not going to have a Klopp-like revolution… we didn’t hire the quality of coaching nor do we manage our resources with that outcome in prospect. I’m realistic about that. But I don’t want to temper those expectations further, just because we know in our heart of hearts that we don’t have the quality of manager to put us at the top table.

    Hand on heart, gooners… do you truly believe that if we gave ArtEdu 300m that they’d make us more competitive? I don’t. We need those players you speak of, yes. But we also need new direction, which won’t happen. Funny we’re talking about Everton. I talked some time back about the Evertonisation of Arsenal. That was an exaggeration… they’ve fallen very far. While Arsenal was thrashing them on Sunday, their supporters mustered more energy cheering City’s goals, which denied Liverpool, than cheering their team. What pathetic state of affairs. That is how we gooners will be, watching Spurs in the Champions League. Our late collapse will leave sour taste for a long time.

    And that 7-0? Probably my favorite Arsenal performance. And it was a season opener to boot. Good times.

    1. You probably should set your heart on top 6 as the goal from now on.

      1. We aren’t competing for the League title unless several clubs have a bad year at the same time.
      2. Newcastle was actually superior to us in the 2nd half of the season this year and I don’t see any reason why they won’t get even better this summer. They will buy a good striker and will be much more competitive.
      3. Chelsea is an unknown, so lets drop them from the list but by my count there are still 6 teams competing for the top six places: Man City, Liverpool, Man U, Tottenham, Arsenal, and Newcastle. And if Chelsea get bought and have some capital injection, that’s 7 teams.

      1. If I had to add to these reasons, I’d say the biggest reason we most likely won’t get top 4 next season is because Arteta is our manager.
        No other top club will spend £250 million on a squad and not expect top 4 from their manager.

        1. Sorry, but this is an absurd statement when you consider the state of the Premier League and what we bought for 250m last summer.

          Not discussing Net Spend, because that includes Sales which is an area we’ve sucked at and others have had really good luck at, here is how the last five years, up to January 2022 have turned out in terms of spending on transfers:

          1 Manchester City – 816m
          2 Chelsea – 657m
          3 Man Utd – 611m
          4 Everton – 537m
          5 Liverpool – 471m
          6 Arsenal – 443m

          That 443m included 100m for Pepe and Saliba – arguably big failures in recruitment because we a) overpaid and b) they never became first team starters.

          So the way I see it, we HAD to spend 250m last summer… just to keep up. Look at how much the others are spending. Right behind us is Spurs at 380m, but they have an aging squad and just built a new stadium, their bill is coming due very soon or they will not be able to keep up.

          And what we bought were younger players whose potential won’t be fully realized for another couple of years. All of the players we bought have strong re-sale value, even someone like Nuno Tavares has doubled his transfer fee potential after just a year.

          Just more irrational Arteta hate. We did well this year considering the average age of the team and where we ranked in salaries. Top 4 would have been a bonus, not a minimum expectation.

          1. We need to start generating alpha in the transfer market. Every transfer last year gave us more or less the value we paid (except White and Sambi who underperformed imho). Buying £30mm players for £30mm won’t get us to where we need to go sadly. Arteta was loathe to play Nuno at times down the stretch so hard to say his value doubled.

            Would be interested in Tim’s thoughts on our summer business and lessons learned for the next window.

          2. “Not discussing Net Spend, because that includes Sales which is an area we’ve sucked at”

            We suck at it because we aren’t good at buying.

          3. Jack,
            What you have here is an irrational defence of the manager. Saying a manager is poor is not the same as hating him.

            Imagine if we got a manager like Antonio Conte when we got Arteta, will you still be satisfied with 5th place after spending 250 million pounds? It’s funny how when you support Arteta, you have to massage everything in his favour.

            Let’s neglect sales since that will make us look bad and tell a different story. As if Arteta has not overseen some of these horrendous sales. Think about it: We’ll sell Guendouzi, Saliba, and Aubameyang for less than 40 million pounds. We bought Ben White for 50.

            We spent over 100 million on the defence and conceded more. Maybe if we’ve spent that money wisely on the midfield and attack, you won’t be massaging figures to make Arteta look good.

            Antonio Conte came into a team that sacked a manager they hired this summer. They were 9th. They had a squad that most Arsenal fans said was worse than ours. Son and Kane were shit.

            This was a team that some Arsenal fans were angry because some pundits put 5 Tottenham players in our combined 11 four games ago. Yet, Conte didn’t need 5 transfer windows to get top 4.

            The same Conte many said could do nothing at Spurs has gotten them 4th. But saying Arteta is a poor manager is irrational hate.

            If Arteta can’t make top 4 while playing the least amount of games among the top 7 teams, what makes you think he’ll get it with heavier load? Oh I forgot, we shouldn’t demand anything from the manager. That’s irrational hate…

      2. If Chelsea get the deal on offer we’ll all be jealous – debts written off, guarantees regarding ownership stability and financial stability, investment in facilities and playing squad. And let’s be frank, their squad is very strong but under achieved this season. Plus they’ve got some exceptional young players returning from loans. Yep Chelsea will be up there.

      3. Good advice. Guess I’ll take it.

        Man, I bloody hate looking up at Spurs. The one thing that sustained us gooners over our title struggles and near misses over the years was that we were better than them — they were the poorer neighbours of North London. Saint Totteringham’s Day was such a big one.

        They have comprehensively overtaken us, and we are now firmly 2nd best in north London. Bigger, better stadium, consistently better finishes, better managerial talent, a front 2 to die for. Swift and decisive decision-making. A more recent Champions League final appearance. No trophies mind (we last won the FA Cup in 2020), but their superiority to us is now firmly entrenched, and it hurts.

        Look, we’ll adjust, but it will take time. We will think about what might have been this just ended season, just as we’ve continued to do after Leicester’s title winning on. It’s understandable.

        Persuading targets like Jesus to come to Arsenal without CL would be a good start.

        Let’s stop the “hate” thing in response to folks’ arguments. It’s childish. And it doesnt address the argument.

        The good — we’re the 5th richest club in England (8th in the world), and we’re just about where we are on the money charts as we are in league position.

        The not so good — we’re richer than Spurs; but less rich than United. Both will consolidate and probably get better next year.

        1. Our average age this season was 24.4 and Spurs was 26.1. City, Liverpool, United and Chelsea all have average ages over 27. This tells me Spurs are approaching their peak as a team and the decline starts after next season unless they overhaul their roster and we all know Conte loves veterans and players who can deliver now, not down the line.

          And we’re going to get younger if we take Lacazette, Mari, Leno, Cedric and Pepe off the books.

          Next year will be very tough, we can all expect Man Utd to regroup and Spurs to again be solid if Conte stays. If we’re talking about expectations for next season, I think it is very reasonable to expect us to be in the finals for the Europa League and that’s the best route back into Champions League. This past year West Ham made it to the semi’s, Rangers the final. Last year Man Utd were in the final. Two years earlier it was us and Chelsea. Two years before that it was United and before that Liverpool. In the past 7 years, British teams have done extremely well in the competition. I think if once we get to knock-out stages we make it a priority, we can go all the way.

          1. I read this story and thought that it’s dumb for the club to release information about their “war chest”. At least w. Arsenal it’s usually just rumored amounts, that they might always deny in negotiations. When selling teams know how much you have to spend they will hold out for as much as they can.

          2. Yep Jack… but Levy won’t spend a penny until deadline day. They still have to pay for Bentancur and Kulusevski. They were smart young buys who moved the dial. That’s the standard we should be looking at this Summer.

  3. As well as incomings lots of selling likely. Several players returning from loans. Several players leaving for peanuts. Several players with no Arsenal future. Feels like we’re stuck in a perpetual rebuild…

    The additional EL schedule will require more than reinforcements. If Arteta wants to improve on 5th he needs to work on:
    – Better squad rotation
    – On-field leadership
    – Playing time for academy prospects
    – In-game adjustments
    – Reduced muscular injuries

    Oh and creativity. I see we finished the season near the bottom of the table for big chance creation. We’ve become a team that’s perfecting the art of goals from set plays. Even George Graham sides were creative.

    Can’t help but think we’ll look back on this season as the one that got away. The Thu-Mon cycle has proven a challenge that Arsene, Emery and Arteta couldn’t solve.

    1. I’m not exactly optimistic about our trajectory but I’d still say there isn’t really a “season that got away” unless the management make it so. If we spend seriously this summer (two strikers, two CMs, some fullback cover), next season will still be worth watching.

      Agree particularly on squad rotation – at times, he’s gone full Arsene – trusting 14-15 players in league play until he nears a crisis point. In this relentlessly optimised high-intensity era, that’s a mistake. He has to use his squad far more creatively, including lesser-seen formations/tactics if need be.

      From his comments on wanting 22 quality players it seems he does want to – it’s not great that he wasn’t able to use resources he had, but the club’s appointed him, so they are obliged to give him the tools he wants.

      Not sure what he can do on injuries – our injuries guy left, maybe that helps.

        1. Probably. Partey’s unexpected recurring injuries are genuinely puzzling though.

    2. We were 4th in xG, 4th in shots attempted, 4th in touches in the opposition box.

      In Odegaard and Saka we have 2 of the top 6 most creative players in terms of chances created from open play.

      Creativity is there, but it needs development. And a striker.

      On the perpetual rebuild thing, I don’t think that’s really fair. It’s a rebuild, sure, but why perpetual? We are accumulating the right players piece by piece, or at least that’s the idea.

      If we change our mind and start moving on key parts of that rebuild, players we’ve invested in like Partey, Tierney, Ramsdale, White or Ødegaard, then we will indeed be churning and you will have a point.

      1. I’ve seen so many different chance created stats thrown around that I’ve stopped paying attention to any of them.
        Only goals for and against stay constant, regardless the source, and the gap to the elite is telling.

        1. Call me old fashioned but I like big chances as a metric of quality. Big chances created, big chances missed, big chances scored.

          The reason for that is because Big Chances are about 50% of a team’s overall goals in a season. So if you’re not creating big chances, you’re living off fumes.

          1. That’s weird! I looked there and it doesn’t exist as a direct link. I also searched the googs and it just returned me the player data.

          2. Strangely I only located it via a goog1e search using prem league team big chances…

      2. The sky sports column I linked elsewhere, don’t know where they got it. Chance creation, not big chances though.

  4. I for one was glad to see the season end. It has been exhausting to make sense of what the club is doing because their claims keep shifting, when they are even stated.

    2 seasons in a row Arteta has looked at the points finish of the previous season, both low outliers if memory serves, and said look, we did well enough to have qualified last season, so there’s hope. I’m sorry but this would make me laugh if it didn’t annoy me. I can’t take this entire thing seriously. It’s all easier if you just submit to this and accept everything is good, regardless of what it may be.

    And hey, maybe that is the way to go. I can tell you what I did enjoy though. PL’s last day was a madhouse, in a good way. It’s how exciting football can be. I did have a flashback to Adams scoring the goal that is immortalized with his statue on the final day, but was just an ok day Arsenal-wise. Milan winning the Serie A with Giroud and Gazidis doing well made me happy too.

    So yeah, I guess Arsenal doesn’t make me happy any more and I need to find joy elsewhere. Maybe a few new signings will get me interested and hopeful again. On the other hand, all the noise is already annoying me. I need a break.

    1. If your happiness is tied to the Arsenal, I gently suggest you use your “break” to re-examine your life’s priorities…

  5. Thanks for the post Tim. Anxious to hear your end of the year review if you plan to do one.

    I think finishing 5th was better then anyone should have realistically expected. The 4 teams that finished above us had a clear advantage in terms of talent in their squads. In calendar year 2022 games Son scored only 1 fewer goals then Saka, Smith-Rowe, Martinelli, Nketiah, and Lacazette combined. Spurs have the best 1/2 punch in their front line in our league and for us to stay as close to them as we did to them is rather remarkable. Arsene had a fabulous record with top 4 finishes but there is no doubt his teams always had top 4 level talent until the end and we do not have top 4 talent in this squad right now. We fell out of the top 4 when Arsene’s critical players started to fade and we did not do a good job of replacing them. A big part of the problem is acquiring talent has become more difficult because overall wealth of clubs in the PL and Europe wide has increased and competition for the good players increased. Additionally in our league there is more talent from top to bottom and there are a lot more teams who are legitimate contenders for the top 4 spots then anytime in this century. Tim pointed that out in his comment at 8:46am. We can no longer can claim we are one of the 3 biggest teams in the league and way above 16-17 other clubs in terms of resources and talent.

    1. Yes, Arsenal need a forward.

      League goals scored since February

      Lacazette – 1
      Martinelli – 2
      Smith Rowe – 2
      Ødegaard – 3
      Nketiah – 5
      Saka – 5
      Aubameyang – 11

    2. I basically did my season wrap up a few days ago and I can’t think of much to add but I guess I’ll do it as bullet points for people who like to argue.

  6. The point of all of that is the landscape of our league and European football has changed dramatically compared to the days when Arsene finished top 4 every season, Unless we are sold to a multi billionaire consortium who spend lots and lots of money its probably not realistic to expect any manager to turn back the clock and return to those days when top 4 finishes were a given. If regular top 4 finishes are the way we judge front office and managers then we might be changing every couple years forever.

  7. Only 5 teams have been in the top 4 in the last 6 seasons. Man City ManU, Chelsea, Liverpool and Spurs. There have been plenty of good managers in the rest of the leagues teams but no other teams cracked the top 4 since the year we dropped out of the top 4 in 2016/17. 4 of those 5 teams are the leagues current big spending teams who have outspent us over the last 5 years (based on the data Jack provided in his comment at 9:46am). It just shows the key to winning is spending the most money and its going to be very difficult for us to ever consistently be a top 4 team in the current PL environment. Soon we may have Newcastle joining the big spenders. Hopefully it will take them a while to get there project on its feet but its going to make the CL an even tougher goal to reach in future years

    I won’t argue with anyone who would say that Klopp and Liverpool have out performed based on their spending level compared with Man city, Chelsea and Man U but how many Jurgen Klopps are there in the world? If we judge our manager based on what Klopp has done the last 6 years then I doubt we will ever find a manager we like.

  8. During the last 6 years Spurs have had a bunch of managers and they have not always played good football but they have clearly been the best of the teams chasing the big 4. I think the thing which has been constant for Spurs and really separated them from the rest of the chasing pack during the last 6 years is having Kane and Son to build the rest of the team around.

  9. I remember that 7-0 victory very well Tim. You are right about that match, it was not just about the goals. I remember how the beautiful football on display almost made me feel like I was “one with the beauty of God/Universe”.

  10. I get all the caution and the reason for tempering expectations – from Tim, Bill et al. It makes sense.

    I would also say though that at every level of income you get clubs that are run better, that make their way up the ladder, while others stagnate, stumble or fail. We can emulate Liverpool. We can also emulate Brighton only with greater resources and at a higher level.

    Based on the steady improvement we have seen over the last 3 seasons* I’m hopeful that we can continue to work our way up into a regular top 4 berth.

    For example, we improved by 8 pts this season. I wanted more than that, but anyway. Let’s say we improve by another 8 pts next season. This is not guaranteed but I think it is possible:

    – On the + side, we will recruit and current players will continue to develop and improve. Also there are clear things we can improve on: for example if everything stayed the same but we improved our shot conversion rate from 12th best to, say, 5th best in the league we would score another 15 goals and almost certainly make top 4.

    – On the – side there is increased competition and bedding in any new players, and the possibility that we have reached our max potential.

    If we achieved it, that would put us at 77 pts. To date, 77pts has been enough for 4th place every PL season bar one – 2013/14 when Arsenal finished 4th with 79 pts.

    (Apart from 2013/14, it would also be our highest points total for 14 years. We have only scored above 77 pts 3 times since the Invincibles and our last league title).**

    I would prefer we hit 80 points, at which level I think we are guaranteed CL. We would then have to sustain that level at a minimum and obviously, hopefully improve still further.

    I can see that this is the objective and a plan is in place to achieve it, whether it works is of course a different question. Arteta, Edu and Josh between them could still mess it up. There could be more Willians and fewer Tomiyasus. Arteta’s ceiling as a manager could well be reached very soon, if it hasn’t been already. We saw from the Super League fiasco that the club hierarchy is still capable of making monumentally stupid and unethical moves.

    *yes, there has been steady improvement, as documented here: https://www.skysports.com/football/news/11670/12617412/arsenal-fall-short-in-champions-league-race-but-they-are-well-set-for-future-success-under-mikel-arteta

    ** I understand why some prefer not to focus on points but on places – but you don’t get places unless you score the points, and by looking at points you get to compare across seasons and you also get a more objective measure of the level of improvement required

    1. I should say as well that we are still in the zone where we can improve some basic things and see a pretty big impact, but as you get closer to the top it becomes harder and harder to make big improvements and find the marginal gains.

    2. The big thing for me, and I wrote about it the other day, is can we get 15-20 more goals next season. I am of course assuming our defense will at a minimum stay at it’s current level or, with more experience as a unit, improve.

      To that end, a really good striker will go a long way to keeping us on track. Doesn’t have to be a golden boot winner, just a guy who can score +/- 15 goals in the Premier League.

      I don’t want Nketiah if he thinks he should start. He’s a best a back-up striker on a top 6 team. We need to buy Gabriel Jesus or Domenic Calvert-Lewin or Victor Osimhen and make a statement that will energize the team and the fan base.

      1. Also agreed.

        One last point – I think we have more headroom for improvement than, say Spurs or Chelsea.

        Chelsea basically already have the full complement of talent right now, including a £90m CF, possibly the world’s best all-round MF, top-level talents like Havertz, Pulisic, Ziyech, Werner and Mount, an experienced and successful coach – and they will have to replace Azpilicueta, Christensen and Rudiger at the back.

        Spurs’ big missing piece is an Eriksen type of creator, other than that they already have Conte, up front they already have Son, Kane and Kulusevski with able supporting cast. They could improve defensively perhaps, replace their RB. I guess it’s possible for them to have a really big season next year.

        Man Utd have possibly the biggest potential to improve but there’s so much going wrong there, it might take a season or two.

        1. It would be foolish to think Man U won’t challenge for top 4 next season. By all counts they have gotten rid of most of their trouble makers and they have obscene money to spend.

        2. Check out Newcastle. In the second half of the season they were close to 2 PPG and outperformed Arsenal. They could well be vying for 4th next season.

          1. They will be. They are a striker away from being a top 4 side if they continue on their current form.

          2. Dare I say it their ‘project’ is ahead of schedule (lol).

            When you look at 3 teams that outperformed Arsenal in the second half of the season, all bought forwards or CAM’s in the January window (Diaz, Guimaraes, Bentancur, Kulusevski) who were all influential in the run in.

  11. From YouTube I have decided Scamacca is a rich man’s Giroud. Big, not can outrun molasses, can score goals, backheels galore – sign him up. More seriously, he’s Italian, so definitely too small.

    Also, Richarlison feels higher ceiling than DCL – not sure why DCL seems to be flavour of the 2020s. Maybe because Everton are more willing to part with him?

        1. I don’t mind him… I’m more puzzled that our desired striker recruitment seems to be one target-man/poacher (Osimhen, DCL, Abraham etc) and one link play forward (Jesus) – not that different from what we had before in Auba+Laca.

          Which is fine, just not the “complete/perfect forward” idea that was floating around when we concluded those two weren’t good enough.

        2. Cost prohibitive I would guess, Roma would ask for 50-55m+ and is he 15-20 goals per year in the Premier League? He scored 17 goals this season in Serie A, which is defensively a softer league. Look at the struggles Lukaku has had coming into a better team than ours.

          Unless we’re throwing Xhaka into the deal, in which case we’re creating another hole to fill in midfield. I’m in the camp of keeping Xhaka, only that we shouldn’t be relying on him and should be looking for an upgrade if possible.

          1. This is simply not true. Lukaku is a premier league tested and proven striker. Lukaku’s lack of scoring at Man U and Chelsea are because his managers either don’t know how to use him or don’t want to play to his style.

            I don’t like Abraham because Roma will probably want closer to 80m.

      1. 6’3″ and a unit. We haven’t had an aerial threat like him in ages. He does work hard as well and I think his link up play last year when he had a better team behind him was decent. This year is hard to judge with all the injuries.

        It might be a moot point anyway, Newcastle are supposedly very interested. We won’t be outbidding the Saudis.

        1. I’ve watched Calvert Lewin play, he does run around a bit, that’s true.

    1. I like Richarlison but he has two years on his deal left vs. one for Gabriel Jesus. Everton will ask for a ton of money for him, probably more than DCL because he’s durable and can play across the front line. We are however, supposedly linked with him though (and so are Spurs).

      Everyone knows we need a striker and we’re being linked with everyone… Osimhen, Emmanuel Dennis, Jonathan David, Aleksander Isaak, Serge Gnabry even.

  12. Ok, let’s talk points as progress.

    In 3 at bats, Arteta has not hit the 70 points that Unai Emery managed in his only full season.

    And that’s the problem with assessing progress under Arteta. He took us so far down the hole, that folks want to argue that merely seeing sunlight again constitutes progress. My baseline assessment is that if 8th is followed again by 8th and is (sackable) underachievement, let us adjust for 6th as par last season. You then factor in the level of churn, massive spends over his windows (particularly last summer), and the fixture congestion ease of not having European midweek games. Then 5th is not really progress; it is effectively standing still. That said and arguing against myself, it’s easier to go from 8th to 5th, than it from 6th to 4th. As they say in the other football, those last yards are the toughest.

    All those finishes that Arsene (and the sole one Emery managed) were achieved in the face of 3 games a week/8 days/9 days at the slog end of the season. ArtEdu looked at our advantage accrued from that said, “you know what, let’s demolish that advantage and thin the squad. Let’s work Saka to the bone”. How on earth is that a good thing? Wage Bill never scored a goal. Our savings there are offset by what we will lose by failing to qualify for the CL. And severances COST YOU MORE in the short term. Departures of high earners dont immediately accrue. The club has been spinning its decisions furiously to ESPN ‘s James Olley

    https://es.pn/3wLvTSt

    (spot the on-the record source in this story, and note the prissy, puritanical explanation for why we couldnt keep the club’s leading goalscorer till the end of season). You cant use the lack of resources argument. We chose intentionally to reduce our resources. We had enough for Top 4. Our position after 35 games proves that.

    Let’s look at some other stats besides points…
    *we’ve conceded 9 more goals despite spending £110m on the back line and keeper, but that was offset by improving set piece offence, and unearthing another Koscielny in Gabriel (5 goals). We have worse GA than Brighton (from whom we bought White, ironically), Wolves, Palace and Southampton. Shameful. Overall, defensive regression.

    *We won a game more than 3rd placed Chelsea, but their 11 draws to our 3 were worth 8 points. Or problem is when we lose, we also tend to lose it. We almost never recover from goal deficits, and our record of procuring wins coming from behind is similar to those of relegation teams. We’re mentally flaky. Whatever culture that Arteta is instilling at the training facility, it’s not translating to steeliness and leadership on the field. The Sergeant Major is sergeant majoring, but he’s not inspiring the troops.

    *We lost more games than the Top3 combined.

    So, pile excuses on excuses. It’s exhausting. I’d say that next season is put up or shut up (as LAGUNNER does), but I just know that we’ll find more excuses. But hey Tim, Im going to try real hard as loyal gooner of 26 years to adjust to the new reality. This is 6 seasons now that Spurs have finished above us, and Im simply going to have to accept that we are now firmly entrenched 2nd best on our patch, and there’s little prospect of that changing. But yeah, give Mikel more money, and watch him excel.

    1. This is all fair, and I can see this point of view. I have a couple of minor quibbles.

      Yes severances cost you in the short term, but they do save you in the long term. Also, if you’re basically making a loss on a player because they are not contributing to – or worse, actively hindering – the kind of changes you are trying to make, that also offsets some of the short-term cost of letting them go because if it works, it accelerates you through the turbulent change period, and time is money.

      Also yes, absolutely: Emery got 70 points and 1.84 points per game in 2020. So an almost identical finish in 2022 looks very stagnant. I definitely understand why it must drive some people crazy to hear Emery’s result classed as a failure and Arteta’s slightly worse result classed as a wonderful achievement.

      My quibble on that one is that when Emery was sacked, we were already 8th on 18 points after 13 league matches @ 1.38 points per game. Arteta actually improved Arsenal when he took over that first season, taking us up to 1.6 ppg – and that trajectory of improvement has basically continued (with a few extremely rocky spells).

      I’m not claiming that 1.6 ppg was a wonderful result, that Arteta is great, or even that he’s better than Emery, just that it’s not really true that Arteta drove us down, Emery took us there. Maybe Emery would have rescued the season, I don’t know, but it seemed clear at the time he had lost the dressing room and we were running out of ideas.

    2. I will say that a lot of the defensive issues are probably due to injuries. When we have Tomi, Partey and Tierney all in, we look pretty solid. But one or more of those players have pretty much been missing for the entire second half of the season.
      We’ll see if that turns around next year. If not, it will be yet another black mark in the transfer box.

      1. I like Tomiyasu but his absences wasn’t a problem. It’s Tierney and Partey going down at the same time that correlates with our bad patch.

        We also need to talk about Ramsdale, who I think had a terrible 2nd half of the season. That follows a weird pattern with him where when he’s confident he’s very good but otherwise he’s not.

  13. Watching the ECL final. Would be wonderful if Reiss Nelson won a European Cup. He’s been good for Feyenoord, has grown up a little, and said that van Persie has provided valuable help and guidance.

    I wonder what role, if any, he’ll play for us next year.

    1. I think he comes back as back-up for Saka. He’s homegrown, the right age profile and better defensively than Pepe (who will be sold). That said, he is entering his final year so if he’s unwilling to extend his contract he has to be sold this summer.

  14. i remember that game against everton. it was a big deal because, if memory serves me correctly, that was the game gilberto had returned from the back injury that had him out most of the season. likewise, bergkamp hadn’t featured regularly and his contract was expiring so wenger gave him a run out. prophetically, gilberto and bergkamp gave arsenal fans a glimpse of what they’d missed. gilberto was like a catalyst in midfield how his presence made everything work better. dennis put on a virtuoso…one of the greatest performances of his career (clearly behind the argentina game at the ’98 world cup). i think the fans were screaming “one more year”. and you’re right, vieira was miles better than arteta.

    i think the focus should be on the points total more than league position. the points is all you can control. the table is what controls your league position and that’s based on what you’ve done compared to what the other teams have done. more fundamentally, the focus should be on the quality of play. arsenal’s play has suffered primarily due to a lack of on-field leadership in tough games. likewise, you shouldn’t make your goal scorer or playmaker captain of a young team. either the leadership will suffer or the goals will.

    lastly, i don’t consider losing more than a third of your games as progress or a sign of a good team. it’s certainly not what champions do. if you can’t compete for the championship, you don’t deserve to be in the champions league, regardless of the table. that competition is for winners.

    1. I think it’s just posturing by Arteta in the face of negotiations with Marseilles.

      Saliba has a realistic shot at playing in the French national team. But only if he’s playing regularly, which he has a better shot at doing with Marseilles. At Arsenal he can at best hope to rotate with Gabriel.

      Marseilles just made the Champions League, but have lost one of their best players on a free to Aston Villa, so they’re on the back foot already getting ready for next year.

      So I think Marseilles will desperately want to keep him and I think Saliba will want to stay there.

      I think we sell him if Marseilles comes up with 30m, which is fair considering that even though he’s in the last year of this contract, he’s the young player of the year and a national team player. We recoup our transfer fee and can spend it where we need it more (Jesus, Tielemans, a right back).

      However, if there’s any seriousness to Juve’s interest in Gabriel and we decide to cash in on him and take the 50-60m they might offer, Saliba has to come back and we can offer him then the starting job alongside White.

      1. Marseille do not have anything close to 30m to pay for Saliba and there isn’t a world in which Juventus pay 50m+ for Gabriel.

        1. Where would you rank Gabriel with other CB’s in the league? I may have rose-colored glasses, but I’d say he’s top ten. van Dijk, Dias, Matip, Laporte, T. Silva, Christensen, Rudiger… Gabriel? Romero, Mings, Tarkovski. I dunno, I think this past season he’s established himself. He’s definitely better than Maguire. Juve paid 75m euros for de Ligt… is de Ligt that much better?

          I was just suggesting that that should be our asking price if Juve come knocking.

          I don’t think Saliba wants to come back for a variety of reasons. We’re going to work out a deal with Marseilles. Even if it’s on a payment plan over several years, maybe there’s a massive sell-on clause or a first-rights to buy him back at a set price if Marseilles want to sell him.

          I’m not down on White either. So I think Saliba has a challenge displacing either Gabriel or White, and not just because Arteta doesn’t rate him, I think our CB duo was developing a decent chemistry this past year.

          1. I agree that he’s better than Maguire but Gabriel is 2nd tier — he’s fine but I’d even put him below Ben White.

            De Ligt’s price was high but those were pre-covid days. Juventus have hemorrhaged money since then and are in some financial trouble, which is the main reason why they are STILL pushing for “Super League”.

            We are actually telling Juventus a price that they aren’t willing to pay, which in my estimate is in the 40m range.

          2. BTW: de Ligt is 22 years old and a full Netherlands international with 35 caps and Gabriel has yet to feature for the Brazil first team. I’m sure Gabriel will play for Brazil one day but he hasn’t yet partly because I just don’t think he’s calm enough on and off the ball. I do think he’ll get there, hopefully starting this fall.

      2. Not sure we can say for sure how having the trio would work out. We certainly shouldnt presume — on any other evidence besides the fact that White is Arteta’s big buy — that White would keep Saliba on the bench. I don’t think that gooners realise what we have in this player. He’s a once in 10 years talent. Calling players “generational” is overused and should be talk reserved for the Messis of this world, but the kid is very special. If the system is fair, he plays. He’ll make mistakes, which will be grist for some mills, but he’ll play.

        Arteta played Ode ahead of in-form ESR (ESR’s conditioning compounded things, but he was — I think — our leading scorer at the point that he stopped making the staring XI). You’d hope that the manager picks on merit. If he does, he benches White and it shouldnt even be close. But we know that that’s not how Mikel operates. Ramsdale certainly should have been sat for the last 5 games of the season.

        We dont know what would happen, because Arteta said he’d give Saliba a chance in the Arsenal squad, and didnt. A lot verbal caginess is taking place. But I agree with Tim, on both him and Gabriel. What we might do is lock down his value with a new contract, and then come to an agreement with him that he can stay with Marseilles; and play CL plus keep himself in the frame for Qatar.

        Gabriel is our best defender, and he’s developing a Koscielny-like knack for scoring valuable goals. If we sell, it would speak volumes about our ambition. It should only be because he becomes mega disagreeable in agitating for a move. That doesnt seem to be the case.

        And talking of locking down value… I’m glad we re-signed Nketiah, for this reason. We increased the asset from £0 to £15m. If he doesnt work out, we get something. But Im not sure than anyone but our dismal front office is paying him 6 figures a week. I hope that those reports aren’t accurate.

        1. i think the odegaard/smith rowe argument works against you. if you think about it, odegaard, like ben white, is an arteta signing whereas smith rowe, like saliba, was a player arteta inherited. with that, odegaard’s brilliant where emile, although effective, is not brilliant. did arteta pick him because he was brilliant or because that was his guy? there’s no way to tell if your argument is true…at least not yet. if the point you made about ramsdale is anything to go by, you’ve made an argument against yourself. we’ll see.

          question: if you were saliba, would you sign a contract extension at arsenal this summer? if he doesn’t, it presents a real dilemma for arsenal; they’d have to shop him around this summer or let him enter the last year of his contract next summer. i agree with tim that marseille can’t afford him for £30 million+ so where does that leave arsenal? i know that newcastle were interested in him but their situation has changed. this whole situation may come down to how arteta has treated this guy…and what guendouzi has told him about arteta. a manager’s reputation is so important as football is such a small world.

          are arsenal rally going to pay eddie £100k a week? if so, these guys really don’t have a clue what they’re doing. everyone is going to want that money as they’re ALL better than eddie.

          1. Yeah, that salary for Nketiah is hard to believe. I think it makes him impossible to move to a team at his apparent level. One thing in his favor is that he got a lot better the more he played (duh!). So, I’m wondering if they see him as one of our long-term solutions up top. At that salary, it seems like they do. But that’s going to be a weird situation because we absolutely have to buy a real starting forward and even if we give all of the backup minutes to Eddie, that’s not a lot of time (hopefully) for a lot of salary. And I say hopefully there not because I don’t want Eddie to play but rather because if we buy an 80m striker, I hope he plays a LOT and scores a LOT!

          2. There’s a fair bit of nuance in there, Josh. And yes, I often argue against myself in weighing up a situation. I try not to go black and white (no pun…. 🙂 )

            Fair points, though.

            From the way he’s answered these awkward questions, I doubt whether he’ll have his head turned by Guendouzi. He’s going to have to work out what’s best for him in a world cup year. Remember this tournament is in November. Games take a break after 3 months, and for a long time. There’s no time for a bedding in period. He has to hit the ground in late August certain of his role, or his France place is in jeopardy.

            he wants to be (a) a certain starter (b) in the fanciest shop window, UCL. The CL group stage will start in the first week of September 2022 and conclude in the first week of November 2022 to make way for the World Cup.

            He’d have to love Arsenal real bad to come back this season. And as much as Im itching to see the kid play for us, he’d need his head examining if he does this year.

          3. If I’m Saliba, and I don’t get very clear assurances about my role and playing time, I don’t sign an extension. It basically forces Arsenal to find a buyer and the transfer fee will be depressed because other teams will know our predicament.

            Aston Villa just bought Diego Carlos and that was a big Newcastle target in January. So they may be interested in Saliba after all.

            It would be great if we had Saliba and had 3 high quality CB’s like Liverpool, City and Chelsea do. I just don’t think we can keep Saliba happy if he has his eye on the national team. Do we sign him to an extension and loan him back to Marseilles AGAIN?

          4. still no answer to the question. if you were saliba, would you sign a contract extension?

            this guy’s been an arsenal player for years and has never even been given a chance by the current manager. not only that, but he’s been screwed over by the manager in not registering him to play for an entire half season but not allowing him to go on loan. despite that setback, he’s made a name for himself, being named france young player of the year, helped his team qualify for the champions league, and has become a france international…..and he didn’t need arteta or arsenal to merit those accomplishments.

            funny place arsenal are in. they need him to extend but he doesn’t owe arsenal a damn thing.

          5. They’ll probably get him on an extension and loan him to Marseille again (hopefully for a fee). That’s what Chelsea did with Zouma. It’s the only way he gets to keep playing for Marseille.

        2. If it’s a choice I take Gabriel over White every time. Gabriel has shown he can be sometimes rash; that’s a temperament thing that can be worked on. White for me isn’t a natural defender or CDM. I don’t see that he reads the game well out of possession. Brighton certainly didn’t miss him as they climbed the table and shipped less goals.

          I’m fully on-board re-upping Eddie but if the £100k/week and £5M signing on bonus are true it feels like Arteta’s dithering has cost us. There’s bound to be a ripple effect of wage demands.

          If Leno leaves Ramsdale has no one to keep him honest. Martinelli needs a breakout season. The raw ingredients are there but he needs to start converting. ESR is stagnating at the moment. Having MO ahead of him is not good for his development.

          1. 1) It’s not Odegaard in front of ESR necessarily, it’s also Saka and Martinelli. I wouldn’t worry about Emile, we get more games next year he’ll get more games and it will be a proper rotation.
            2) Didn’t we buy an new goalkeeper in January from MLS as back-up?

  15. If we sell Saliba for $30M, we are yet again failing on the transfer front. He’s worth more than that, certainly something more like what was paid for White(even considering White’s English bonus).
    Obviously it will be interesting to see how he does in the PL, but seems to me that he and Gabriel could be a generational partnership. So I hope every effort is made to keep him and give him significant playing time, even at the expense of White (would it be worth trying White at CDM)?

  16. I hope Saliba stays with us next season. We could certainly use another good CB. It would be interesting to see what he does. The track record for players we have brought over from Ligue 1 has been very disappointing for the last 12 years since we purchased Kos. The performances and stats they were able to put together while playing in France significantly over rated their ability to influence the games in England. Hopefully Saliba can break the trend.

    Claude has mentioned our goals against record this year a couple of times. The one thing that was a legitimate disappointment and unexpected about our season from a statistical and performance standpoint was the fact that we conceded more goals then the year before and the goals against number has to be significantly decreased if we want to have any chance to finishing in the top 4 next year. We were 6th in goals scored which almost miraculous given the fact the 3 players who scored 60% of last seasons goals all crapped out and our 2 leading scorers had only 8 total league goals combined before this season. Its going to be very difficult to see how we can score more without a couple new upgraded players at forward. We finished in 8th place in the table in goals conceded and that is disappointing and has to be reversed. 6th in scoring and 8th in goals conceded realistically should not equal a 5th place finish and without some major reinforcement this summer its hard to see us finishing next season with a better table position then 5th.

  17. Long term the thing with correlates with success is money spent on player acquisition. You can spend a lot of money and still not succeed such as Everton but its proven almost impossible for any team who is not a really big spender to finish in the top 4. You have to spend a lot and turn the spending into a critical mass of top players. Rarely there is a team like Leicester in 2016 who breaks thru. Unfortunately, since 2016 the only teams which finished in the top 4 are the 4 big spenders and Spurs who have been there to take a top 4 spot when one of the big spending teams has a bad year. The idea there are managers who can consistently outperform teams that spend a lot more is probably more of a myth then reality. If there is such a manager who is that good he will most likely be gobbled up by one of the big spending teams in the world.

    In the early Wenger era ManU was the only team we had to worry about. Then Chelsea came along and when it went from 2 big teams to 3 it became much more difficult to compete for league titles but top 4 was not in danger. Next came Man City and there were still only 3 big teams we had to worry about. In 2016 Liverpool ascended and now there were 4 big teams and everything has changed. Newcastle potentially coming on board as the 5th big spender could make it even tougher.

    Tim pointed this out in an earlier comment but our road to a consistent top 4 team much less a title contender will be very difficult. Our best hope is the Kronke’s decide to compete dollar for dollar with the other big spending teams in our league. They have shown a willingness to spend recently but how far will they go?

  18. The Eddie contract could be a good one if they have an actual plan for him – a role, reasonable expectations. Unfortunately, it’s more than likely a way to save on a transfer fee. That kind of thinking tends to backfire (ref. Aubameyang). I hope they’ve made a considered choice to invest in him.

    1. there’s no way the eddie contract extension is a good one if he’s getting paid that much. this is not only bad short term but long term. as i’ve alluded to, everyone will want to get paid proportional to what eddie’s getting paid, meaning bukayo should be making at least £200k a week. likewise, only arsenal would pay a transfer fee to a player already on their books. this management team are straight outta the circus; blowing arsenal resources. they overpaid for ben white and aaron ramsdale when there wasn’t even a market for them. who does that? it’s stupid. it’s piss-poor management.

  19. my point, thw14, is that it’s not just up to the club to extend saliba. the player has to agree. the question is, if you were saliba, would you agree to an extension this summer?

    another question is how does an extension at arsenal serve saliba? how has being an arsenal player served him? is saliba really going to be dropped from the french team simply because he’s not playing for marseille or in the champions league? is this world cup more important to him than being in a place where he enjoys his work for years to come? are arsenal so petty that they would not play him or loan him because of his refusal to extend? is that a reputation that arsenal want’s to present on how they treat their players? are they even aware of that reputation? if so, do they even care?

    claudeivan mentioned that guendouzi won’t be the deciding factor in saliba’s decision. it’s not so much that guendouzi would be telling him what to do. it’s more about do they have that conversation (they do) and how does that conversation influence saliba. i don’t recall saliba saying he wants to play for arsenal since his last dealing with arteta. after what he’s been through with arteta, is playing for arsenal even an ambition?

  20. With us being back in Europe, there is another aspect to our transfer business to consider

    Ramsdale
    White
    Holding
    Saka
    Smith Rowe
    Nketiah

    Currently the only homegrown players in our first team squad, of which only the last 3 are club hg.

    On our books we still have
    Bellerin
    AMN
    Nelson
    Balogun

    Not sure whether Saliba goes on the club HG list yet, but I think he does. And this might be one more reason why the club will force him to stay. I say force because I don’t think he’d want to if given a choice.

    It could also go some way towards explaining Nketiah’s reported new contract offer.

    We might also see Arsenal retain the likes of Nelson and AMN just because we need club hg players, although ESR Saka Eddie/Balogun plus Okonkwo/Hein should cover the requirement. Of course we could also promote guys like Azeez, Patino and Hutchison but they’d make the B list anyway.

    1. Saliba will never count as homegrown. He literally signed for the club six months too late.

      You can’t force players to stay, the UK has labor laws, these men aren’t slaves. If Arsenal were to deny Saliba another loan and then tell him he “has to go play for the reserves” – as long as there’s no disciplinary breach (see Auba) – he would have an extremely open and shut case for constructive dismissal. In which he would then win the remainder of his salary and be free to go sign for another team. The team even paid Auba off to go score goals for Barcelona because he probably could have brought a case against the club for freezing him out the way that they did.

  21. since when has a club like marseille become a more desirable destination than arsenal? every young frenchman wanted to play for arsenal like their idols. hell, every young player, french or otherwise, wanted to play for arsenal because of the reputation wenger had for how he treated players. how’s that reputation changed under arteta?

    this is the problem i’ve always had with arteta; how he treats players. in essence, that’s what leadership is; how you treat people. i’ve always expressed uncertainty that arteta knows how to treat people right; only “his” people.

    in football, just like any other industry, people talk. do you think vlahovic didn’t talk to torreira about arteta’s arsenal? folks will say, “oh, he was always going to go to juventus” but you don’t know that. if wenger were the arsenal manager, do you think he wouldn’t have considered playing for wenger over allegri? it’s not like wenger doesn’t have a reputation developing strikers vlahovic’s age. hell, he could have been at a restaurant in milan and peeled away from the crowd for about 15 minutes to learn about arsenal from giroud. even alexis sanchez was at the peak of his powers wearing arsenal red. you never know. just like wenger had a reputation, so does arteta.

    1. Since Marseille challenged for the title and got into the Champions League!

      HA!

      But seriously though, you are exactly right about reputations. Sampaoli at Marseille is a vocal coach, very animated on the touchline, and very demanding of his players. He definitely has a system and wants his players to play a certain way. But Saliba and Guendouzi like him because he treats them with respect. Guendouzi is still crazy and a world class asshole and Sampaoli even benched him this season but I think there’s a mutual respect there between coach and these two players. For me, that’s a much bigger reason why Saliba will want to play for Marseille.

      Well, that and the fact that he’s guaranteed 50 games as the starting CB in a team that’s playing Champions League football.

      I think people just want to be convinced that Saliba will come back to Arsenal and make up stuff to make that believable to themselves because they don’t want to admit that Arteta and the club fucked this whole thing up. That’s my sense. But hey, maybe they didn’t. Maybe I’m wrong, I feel like the odds of that are kinda low but there’s a chance I guess.

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