When it mattered most, we produced relegation form, undoing all the good work of this season. After our 2-0 victory against Newcastle on April 1st, I confidently predicted we would navigate the tricky cluster of April fixtures and emerge in pole position to secure a top four position. Turns out it was the best April fools’ prank ever! Four losses in five games and a string of appalling performances have poleaxed our season. Only Avengers Endgame and Game of Thrones managed to keep my spirits from plummeting entirely. Despite the disaster that has been April we still have the opportunity to make this season a massive success by winning the Europa League. Emery has to find the blueprint to get it done.
Arsenals last five premier league fixtures:
- Everton 1 – 0 Arsenal
- Watford 0 – 1 Arsenal
- Arsenal 2 – 3 Crystal Palace
- Wolves 3 – 1 Arsenal
- Leicester 3 – 0 Arsenal
Full disclosure, I like Unai Emery and he has my full backing as a fan. Whatever happens this season, he deserves our patience and respect because that’s the way it should be at Arsenal. I understand why many fans lay the blame for our demise with the owner, but I will reserve my judgement until after this summer, and I’ve seen if the actions we take resemble those of a big club. Despite the shortcomings of Kroenke’s ownership and the poor executive management of footballing matters at our club, our April collapse was very avoidable, and the blame lies with the manager.
There is a catalogue of errors you can point to over the last couple of weeks, but Emery made one huge mistake that is at the heart of our failure. That mistake was to place too must trust in the available squad players to manage rotation and multiple tactical systems, when the pressure was on.
This crop of players are not capable of delivering seven out of ten performances week in week out for the best part. When the pressure was dialled to ten, they crumbled and were unable to execute the tactical plans Emery asked of them. The manager could have countered this, by sticking to a formation, taking one game at a time and limiting rotation. Emery needed to find a rhythm during this time, but I think he tried to be too clever and with his usual match winners not available or not at the races, his tinkering meant we lost games, that we maybe could have drawn. Two draws from our four losses would have put us in pole position for fourth, emphasising how tight the margins were.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a fan of rotation, but we didn’t have the players to do it during this high-pressured period. If we were playing a cup final, we would have fielded our strongest eleven. That game against Crystal Palace was a cup final, but the manager fielded a team too weak to compete and handle the pressure of that game. I understand the need to manage fatigue in a congested period, but we should have been focusing on one game at a time. Consistency with tactics and personnel may have got us the extra two points we needed.
Europa League Endgame
Our navigation of the Europa League has arguably been the most promising aspect of our season. Apart from the slip ups away to Bate and Rennes we have been close to flawless. As a result, we have the opportunity to salvage the season, but with confidence low, the two-legged tie against Valencia won’t be easy. The team looks stale, confused and scared. Aubameyang and Lacazette have carried the burden of our attack throughout the season. With Aaron Ramsey injured, we now need Ozil, Iwobi and Mkhitaryan to step up and take more responsibility for the effectiveness of our attack.
All we can do is hope.
Thursday 2 May – Valencia (H)
Sunday 5 May – Brighton (H)
Thursday 9 May – Valencia (A)
Sunday 12 May – Burnley (A)
Wednesday 29 May – Fingers Crossed!