There’s a lot of variables still to play out – but it’s time to be optimistic as a Gooner.
The last two seasons have delivered turmoil on and off the pitch. Managerial changes. Player tantrums. Enough discord to unsettle even the most confident and planted of groups or individuals.
And that doesn’t even begin to cover the awful state of affairs we’ve seen on the pitch.
Yes, the FA Cup win was a blessing, sure. But our finishing positions in the last two seasons have consigned us to the ‘also-rans’ tag, living off our fading reputation as one of the big clubs.
But, after so much upheaval, it seems that a gameplan is being unfurled. Our supposed map back to former glories is now on the table and we’ve begun taking the steps necessary to rectify the wrongs.
Ownership aside, the ills that have befallen us and led us to this mess is pretty much cleared out. Raul Sanllehi has long-since left for other shores and his legacy is easy to erase.
And the biggest point on this map to recovery? Assembling a squad capable of competing.
Something we’ve been doing – and upon scrutinising our recent moves, it’s fair to say we have the building blocks for success for the next four or five years pinned down.
Step One – Extend Bukayo Saka’s contract – Complete
Step Two – Extend Emile Smith-Rowe’s contract – Complete
Step Three – Extend Kieran Tierney’s contract – Complete
Step Four – Extend Folarin Balogun’s contract – Complete
Step Five? Acquire top young talent from around the world – In Progress…
Players like Gabriel Magalhaes, Martinelli, Ben White, Nuno Tavares, Miguel Azeez, Sambi Lokonga, Arthur Okwonkwo, Charlie Patino – young, fresh talent that when given the chance, takes it and shines. This group are all at very different stages of their development, but every single one of them are treading the same path, just at different stages. And that path is destined to make a big difference to Arsenal Football Club.
It seems that the backroom high-jinx has stopped and we have begun to zone into what matters most. We now have the nucleus of a squad that could really begin to challenge for honours soon enough.
But much hinges on next season.
Fitness, injuries, form. For Saka and Smith-Rowe, will second-season syndrome leave them with knocked confidence?
…If it all comes together, we have the makings of something truly special. Listening back to the interview with Emile Smith-Rowe, he said
“Everyone loves working with Arteta.”
And I realised this is a common sentence uttered by our players. Aubameyang, Lacazette, Tierney, Saka – whenever ANY player has been interviewed recently, they have always pre-emptively spoken of the respect they have for their gaffer.
So he must be doing something right.
And last season did show some improvements.
For so long we had a porous backline, shedding goals quicker than Rob Holding’s hair recedes. But last season, only two sides bettered our goals conceded column. And although this doesn’t paper over the fact we had 13 defeats last season, it does show that Arteta is taking the mess he was left with and slowly, he is assembling a stronger team. A team from the bottom up who are perfecting the basics first and then the rest will follow far easier.
This season may not have European participation for the first time in more than two decades, but that may well play into our favour.
I’m going out on a limb and predicting a top4 finish. It’s time to look on the bright side, and for Arsenal, there are many.