After the end of their worst season since 1995, Arsenal fans will find it very difficult to simply put the events of Mikel Arteta’s first campaign behind them. Whether it was limping out of the Europa League to former manager Unai Emery’s Villareal or the shambolic defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers, the Gunners will struggle to decide at which point rock bottom was. After years of decline, the club has come to terms with their current positioning and have to now re-address their goals.
No longer can they compete in the transfer market with the top four. No longer can they rely on Mesut Ozil or Alexis Sanchez to drag an underperforming team into a Champions League place. Will the deterioration continue? Or has the previous season been a painful build-up to what will be a rejuvenation of Arsenal? Either way, there are a lot of questions surrounding Mikel Arteta and whether he is good enough to manage at one of England’s most prestigious clubs.
Make or Break Season for Arsenal
With a squad costing close to £500 million and a wage bill that doubles the likes of 2015/16 champions Leicester City, many wonder just what that money is being spent on. As of 2021, it has been over four years since Arsenal last played a Champions League game. Since then, they have drifted further and further away from that fourth spot, to now even being excluded from a Europa League place.
With players like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Gabriel and Nicolas Pepe, it is a mystery as to why so many players with proven quality fail to impress the further into their Arsenal career they go. £350,000-a-week star striker Aubameyang scored ten goals in his first season at the Gunners in just 13 games back in 2018. This last season, he managed the same number of goals in a much less impressive 29 games. Not bad, if his team was fighting survival rather than trying to push for Champions League places.
Is this something that only Aubameyang is guilty of? Absolutely not. Many big-money signings have failed to achieve the impact they were brought in to achieve. David Luiz, Willian and Granit Xhaka have all had fingers pointed at them at one time or another. Clearly, underperforming is a trait ingrained in Arsenal’s current system, from the training to the ownership. No one, not even Arteta, has a clear path to improvement.
Hope Might Still Be There
Arsenal are close to completing the signing of Brighton & Hove Albion defender Ben White. Despite the transfer not appearing as appealing as some of the Arsenal fan base would have hoped, it remains a very solid transfer. With Arsenal holding the inglorious record of most errors leading to goals for quite a few years running, an overperforming White is exactly what Arsenal need. With proven players such as Nuno Tavares and Albert Sambi Lokonga also joining the fray, there is no sign of their transfer business slowing down.
After the horrendous debacle surrounding the European Super League, no club owners faced a more vocal backlash than the Kroenke’s. Arsenal’s relationship with the board has been fragile (to say the least) for many years. With Arsenal fans heavily backing an attempted takeover from Daniel Ek, the Kroenke’s should be desperate to get the fans back on their side. With government officials dipping their toes in and out of football ownership this year, Arsenal’s board should see the huge benefit for their operations in winning the support from the fans. Manchester United’s board, who are in a similar position to the Kroenke’s, have responded to the backlash with the marquee signing of Jadon Sancho and they are also closing in on Raphael Varane. This could spur Arsenal on to plunge their hands into their own pockets, continuing for important sought-after players such as Ben White.
Are new transfers the solution to all of Arsenal’s problems? Of course not. Many questions still loom over Arteta’s head. Are we in the final stages of this so-called ‘process’? Will the blossoming young talents such as Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli rightfully cement their names in Arsenal’s first-team squad this season? Will Arteta’s addition of new coaching staff be a quietly crucial decision? The manager certainly believes so. However, relying on the new coaching staff and youthful talent can take quite a while to have the desired effect. Yet, with the reality of Arsenal’s situation, patience appears to be a must if they are wanting to reach the heights of Champions League places. However, after almost two years in charge, Arsenal fans can not be begrudged for dismissing any type of process if similar results of last year remain.