On July 14th I waited for the team coach to pull into a packed Boreham Wood carpark, something I haven’t done for probably 30 years. This was a long awaited new dawn and a new era.
Unai stepped off the coach to huge cheers and I felt that excitement for the coming season that had been missing for so long. We won 8-0, not a bad start at all for Unai.
The start of the season was as expected, City and Chelsea were write offs, but that was ok. We all knew this was the start of a rebuild.
From there on, we went from August to December unbeaten, amazing run and enjoyed every minute of it. Fulham away was a great day, we sang ‘We’ve got our Arsenal back’ and for the first time in years, it felt like the good old days again. Beating that lot up the road soon after was the icing on the cake.
Mid December we lost to Southampton on a freezing cold day. Without Rob Holding our defence frailties, which had been masked, started to emerge and have stayed with us. Brighton away on Boxing Day was awful and not only did we look shaky at the back, we were suddenly void of creativity. The passion seemed to have gone and the dig deep mentality we have heard so much about in recent years was no where to be seen.
The inevitable thrashing at Anfield was the first dose of reality that actually we were still miles away from being a serious contender. As had become the norm, we turned it on at home against Fulham and went on to beat Blackpool in a stadium full of just Arsenal fans. A slow pedestrian performance against a crap West Ham side saw us drop more points. Sideways football had taken its hold once again on this team, peppered with some suicide football of playing out from the back.
We almost looked unrecognisable to that team at Fulham. From there on, we put a decent enough run together at home and got all the points at Huddersfield.
And then April arrived.
Somehow, we found ourselves in with a serious shot of top 4 and possibly even nicking 3rd, mainly because, Utd, Chelsea and Tottenham were all as crap as us. It seems we’ve been playing a game of ‘you have a go’ ‘no, you have a go’. Without anyone actually wanting a go! With huge comparisons to the year we should have given Leicester as serious race for the title it seemed we didn’t have the winning mentality after all.
Much had been said about players not being good enough, I don’t disagree one bit with this. But they were good enough to be challenging for 3rd for most of April and good enough to be in a semi final of a european cup. What they weren’t good enough at, is holding their nerve and showing a bit of ruthlessness into getting the job done and putting it to bed despite being given the batton over and over again.
As Arsenal fans we are split again. Who thinks Emery is the answer and others who don’t. I’m in the ‘I’m massively sceptical that he is the man’. This isn’t based on points, it’s based on what I see as no real improvement. And it’s based on we should have been winning some
Of these games away from home to sides who we made look much better than they actually are. What I don’t want is to start falling out with fellow fans again, I’ve had enough of that.
I held Wenger accountable for everything, the set up, the squad he picked, and mostly not getting the best out of what he’s got by tinkering too much and playing players out of position and that all too familiar bottling it when it really matters.
I understand that Emery needs the summer, we will see lots of comings and goings I suspect. With a war chest that won’t win us the league we will see how shrewd he is with buying the right players for the right positions. It’s not as if we are a tight club tbh, we pay players very well and have 100mill worth in our two forwards, so if that isn’t enough of a foundation then we are in big trouble.
Drawing to Brighton wasn’t really a surprise, we’ve been playing that way for months now. Bottling it wasn’t really a surprise, we’ve been doing that for years. What I hate most is the feeling of acceptance and resignation creeping back in. I don’t want it to, I want to be far more positive than I have been over recent months but I just can’t find that one thing to give me the hope back.
I would have taken top 4 and a final in the UEFA cup at the beginning of the season, but I feel disappointed because it could have, and should have, exceeded my expectations. Its been made so easy for us and those opportunities don’t come around too often.
I will travel to Burnley expecting the worse and hoping for a surprise. We need to put out our strongest side for that as the final (fingers crossed) will still be a few weeks away and to finish with a big win will give some confidence.
I’m not going to Valencia but expect us to put this to bed so I can get on with eBaying the kids clothes and Xbox so I can book up for Baku. Two days after that, I will then remortgage the house so I can pay for next years season tickets and do the whole thing all over again. It’s been full of ups and downs but one thing never changes. Always Arsenal.