The Season So Far – And What We Have to Look Forward To
When Arséne Wenger announced his departure in April 2018, supporters across the world were unanimous in their praise for one of the most successful managers in club football. The techniques and teachings of the old schoolmaster brought Arsenal well and truly into the twenty-first century, with his regimes and diet giving the team an immediate edge.
This led to many teams seeking to emulate the Wenger effect (remember Christian Gross and his tube ticket?), and his attitude towards training and fitness arguably helped transform the English top-flight into the world’s best league. And then he retired.
Since then, supporters have been left with the feeling that the club failed to adequately prepare for the inevitable, and despite a lot of restructuring behind the scenes, the transition from the Wenger era to the ‘post-Wenger’ era has been a bumpy ride.
The 2018/19 season showed signs of promise with a higher finish (by one place) and a Europa League Final (lost to Chelsea of all sides), but looking back, maybe the signs were already there that there were problems at the club and in the dressing room.
The Biggest Transition of a Generation
Unai Emery had the unenviable task of following one of England’s most successful ever managers, and easily the most successful and influential manager in the club’s history.
Though the club had time to prepare for Wenger’s departure, they seemed to have been too preoccupied in changing the structure of the club and finding someone to fill their new ‘head coach’ position rather than finding a manager that had the potential to fill the hole left by Wenger’s retirement.
Change is never easy, and it seems that the further the side transitioned to Emery’s style and methods, the more inconsistent the results became.
Better Than a Mid-Table Team
Though it may be fair to point out that Arsenal were having trouble challenging for the top spot in Arséne Wenger’s final seasons, they always looked capable of it. For his last two seasons, Wenger’s sides looked to be just a signing or two away from reaching the heights of the early 2000s again.
After a few too many summers of saving, however, when Arséne left, the squad was possibly in its worst shape for a decade; with many of its biggest names feeling discontent with the direction Arsenal were taking.
When Unai Emery led his side out at the start of the season, the seeds of discontent had already been sown. Mesut Ozil is probably the most high-profile player to let his feelings be known, with poor performances in training keeping his name off the team sheet when his side needed him most. The summer’s one big signing, the £72 million-man, Nicolas Pepe, can be forgiven for not finding his feet in this atmosphere – it must be hard to gel with a squad so lacking in cohesion.
The Return of Mikel Arteta
Before September had ended, it looked like Unai Emery was a dead man walking. There were signs and glimpses of what Arsenal could achieve under his stewardship, but it was obvious that October and November would make or break the Spaniard. His sacking was announced on 29th November 2019 after a run of seven games without a win – and on the night of a 2-1 home defeat to Frankfurt in the Europa League.
While the club began a search for a replacement, Freddie Ljungberg stepped into the position as an interim manager. Freddie has been a fan favourite since he first put on the shirt but looked out of his depth as manager from day one. In his early press conferences, he had a ‘rabbit-in-the-headlights’ look about him. It is rumoured that even then, talks had begun with Mikel Arteta about a return to Arsenal.
The midfielder had been enjoying a managerial education as a part of Pep Guardiola’s coaching staff and had enjoyed success with him and Manchester City as he looked to make his own step-up into football management. His appointment suits both fans and the corporate management of Arsenal; a fan favourite that can fit into a ‘head coach’ role with ease, for a reasonable amount of money. Time will tell whether Mikel has what it takes to return Arsenal to the top of the table, but so far results have improved and so has the atmosphere in the dressing room.
The End of The Season Could Be a New Beginning
Many can be forgiven for thinking the remaining games of the season are all about damage limitation. If Arteta can salvage what is left of the 2019/20 season and keep the club in one form of European competition of the other, most fans (and owners) will breathe a sigh of relief.
There are some great fixtures left to play, and you can still get good priced tickets for the big games on Ticket-Compare.com. They scour the internet for the best prices on the best tickets for football games so you should be able to grab a decent deal on the game.
These games will give fans a better look at what Mikel Arteta has planned for the next season. If he can get the squad to play consistently, and at the level the players are capable of, Arsenal may be just a couple of summer signings away from the top spots… again.