Wednesday, 8 June 2022

Season review 21-22

These are my thoughts, for what they are worth, on the season just gone.

Okay, this blog is probably a little later than you might expect, but I needed some time to reflect and digest after it was confirmed that we'd failed to qualify for the Champions League on the last day of the season.

Hey, it's my blog and I'll do what I want, okay? You're welcome!

So, how did we do?

Many Arsenal fans, if you'd said at the start of the season that we'd finish fifth, would have been more than pleased with that. On the other hand, there will be those who say that having got into such a good position, being forth with only a few matches to go, we bottled it.

Not wishing to sit on the fence, but I kind of agree with both those positions. Of course I'm disappointed that we aren't in the Champions League next season, and no doubt it would have improved our attractiveness to potential signings and helped fill the transfer funds pot, but we are probably where we deserve to be.

The commiseration prize is that the Europa League is not without it's advantages: Arsenal had the youngest squad and first team in the Premier League last season and many of those young players got their first chances in the Europa League in previous seasons and may not be where they are today without it - so there is that. But also, we have a much more realistic chance of winning the Europa League than we do the Champions League.

Why did we fail to qualify for the Champions League?

Inevitably, we have to look at the matches that we should realistically have won, but failed to. We lost to Brentford on the first day of the season, we drew with Brighton and Crystal Palace in October, we lost to Everton in December, we drew with Burnley in January, and we lost to Crystal Palace, Brighton and Southampton in April.

You get the idea - in some cases there may have been mitigating circumstances, but there can be no excuses, these are matches in which we were the better team on paper and we should have won. Of course, you aren't ever going to win all these matches - football doesn't work like that. And you will win some matches against supposed better teams like Man City and Liverpool. However, we need to be winning more of these matches against so called 'smaller' teams.

And lastly, in May, when we had our destiny in our hands in terms of qualifying for the we lost to Tottenham and Newcastle, which was disappointing to say the least, though I did see it coming. I though we were looking a bit jaded - more on this later.

Finally, I don't wish to be one of those moaning fans who make excuses for their club, but there is one final point I want to make. The Premier League said at the start of the season that matches would not be cancelled if players and staff at a club had Covid. Of course they were never going to stick to this. For one thing, if a squad had Covid within it's ranks and played against another team, there is a chance - however small - of Covid spreading to the opponents, and that couldn't be allowed to happen. Imagine the outrage: 'We had to play against X when they had Covid and now we have Covid!'

Arsenal played the first three matches of the season with key players missing due to Covid - matches which we lost. Of course the Premier League were not going to cancel the first match of the season due to Covid, so Arsenal just got on with it. After all, the Premier League had said that no matches would be cancelled due to Covid, so it was a level playing field and just bad luck. Erm, yeah, Premier League, about that...

The other aspect of this to consider - which I don't think I've seen mentioned anywhere else - is that Arsenal sold or loaned out a lot of players in the January transfer window on the basis that we would mostly only be playing one game per week due to not being in Europe and it was going to be hard to give all these players matches - only to later find ourselves often playing two matches a week due to earlier matches having been cancelled due to Covid. The result of this was that we had a small squad and at times looked a bit lethargic and jaded. Did I mention that the Premier League said that they would not cancel matches due to Covid?


Anyway, we are where we are, as they say.

I will be doing a blog next week about how the new signings got on last season, and at some point I will be posting a preview of next season. I may also do some blogs about new signings or transfer speculation, depending on whether I think there is anything interesting to write about.

In the meantime, COYG!

Image by Tim Snell (CC BY-ND 2.0)

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