With a season like ours, we were always bound to look to the future for positives.
For the bleak landscape we currently set our eyes upon is barren, save for a few green shoots. The likes of Kieran Tierney, Bernd Leno, Aubameyang, Thomas Partey – they have the potential to, on their day, change games all by themselves.
And at times we have looked like a team that is on the up – our recent win over Leicester a prime example.
But these moments have come few and far between. Manchester City have shown the perfect chemistry this season. A team effort across the pitch, all putting in the same incredible effort. Built upon a newly resolute defence – helped of course by the megabucks purchase of Ruben Diaz from Benfica – City have swept all aside on their march to reclaim the Premier League trophy.
And when they haven’t played well? When this season’s exertions are a little too much to bear and their levels drop?
THAT, is when their individual brilliance shines through. We had it with Henry, Bergkamp, Pires, Vieira. These endangered species who can lift an entire team off their haunches with a flick of a boot. When the chips are down, De Bruyne, Mahrez, Silva, Gundogan and Foden have produced the goods to get the job done.
And while we have a few players who are around the top bracket in terms of talent – the likes of Tierney, Auba etc I referred to earlier – they have not been able to elevate our performances too often.
Or rescue us.
Hence why looking over the horizon is forgivable.
Because over there, we have some frighteningly good players. Youngsters who have shown they’re capable of anything. Saka, Smith-Rowe, Martinelli, Gabriel – they hold the future to our club over the next decade. Even Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Joe Willock have the potential to step up and make a difference.
Our future looks bright, but how can we get there quicker?
Because the sands of time shift quicker in football. A few seasons out of the limelight and you fast become branded as a ‘sleeping giant.’ A club who has the potential to do well, has the support and the structure, but lacks the players and investment.
Then, all of a sudden, you’re just expected to be mid-table fodder with the odd sniff of success. And the slope to mediocrity is a steep and slippery one. Just ask Leeds, Forest, Wednesday and Villa.
The need for Champions League football in order to keep our pulling power for top players is massive. When a big player joins, they always refer to our generation of Invincibles. So the next generation will be referring to our skilful but ultimately flawed teams between 06-16. Where maintaining top four was everything.
And from that point? The players of that generation will know Arsenal as a team full of potential that never lived up to its own hype? A team that won a trophy or two but was nowhere near Premier League contention?
We all hoped that the road back to at least competing near the top had begun and we would start to see it. And Mikel Arteta has had to do a heck of a lot of pruning before he can even begin to shape what he needs.
But time runs differently in football as we mentioned previously. Arsenal next season – with Arteta’s first ever pre-season with his squad – is the time to judge. At the moment though, just take a little joy in the thought that at least we’re getting the mistakes out of the way now…