Arsenal Season Review 2019/20 by Dan Smith
Gooners worldwide fall in love with Adidas’s new kits, especially the Bruised Banana away strip. We then realise the club is yet to bring in any new players to wear the shirts (they tricked us again) with Crystal Palace pricing us out of a movie for Zaha. They value him at 80 million. We start the bidding at 40. They insist they won’t budge on their asking price. We come back with an offer of 45!
In our tour of America though (where Mustafi is booed) Josh Kroenke tells us ‘To be excited’. In 10 minutes, he speaks to fans more than his dad has managed in over a decade
The month ends with shocking scenes of Kolasinac fighting off armed robbers trying to rob him, Ozil and their wives.
Fans wake up shocked to read that we are in negotiations to sign Pepe. I go back to sleep dismissing it because Arsenal just don’t do those type of deals. It makes more sense when we learn that Lille are so keen to get that amount of money, they agree to a generous repayment plan. Supporters are so giddy by that signing that we kind of ignore that we swapped Koscielny with David Luiz, somehow making our defence worse
The window closes with incomings, including Ceballos on loan, Saliba (loaned back), Tierney (injured) and Martinelli.
As predicted, we use deadline day to reduce our net spend, getting approx. 35 million for Iwobi in the deal of the decade?
Ozil misses the wins over Newcastle and Burnley as well as defeat at Anfield when there is a security incident at his house, thanks to Sky News smartly giving away his address.
Despite starting our first three games of the season Monreal is sold, not Kolasinac? Guendouzi is the highlight of the month with MOTM displays in our comebacks against Spurs and Villa.
Having thought it was due to safety concerns, Emery makes it clear he doesn’t trust Mesut Ozil tactically in certain matches. Despite assisting a goal in his first start at Vicarage Road Ozil doesn’t feature in the League for the rest of the month, nor in the squad for any away fixture.
We concede our third consecutive penalty at Watford (2nd by Luiz) and fans turn on Xhaka due to him often losing possession. He shows he’s aware of his perception by celebrating goals the following Thursday with a ssshing gesture. He’s booed/ sub cheered when taken off against Villa forcing Emery to defend his captain. That gets swept under the carpet thanks to a late free kick from Aubameyang.
The youngsters in the League Cup and Europa League are impressing more than those in the Premiership, in particular Martinelli and Saka.
As hard as it is to imagine now, many fans want answers why Ozil can’t even make the bench when it’s clear we are lacking in creativity. This is emphasised by a poor performance at Sheffield United which leads to Emery becoming one of the favourites to be the next manager sacked.
Ozil is vocally backed by away fans at Anfield when he makes two of our 5 goals (we lose on pens). Despite this he still is not in the squad the following weekend.
It’s assumed Xhaka has played his last game as a Gunner when he swears back at fans, cups his ear and throws down the armband when subbed as we throw away a 2-0 lead at home to Palace. He appears to refuse advice from his boss to apologise.
While not saying sorry Xhaka, through his social media and in interviews with media in Switzerland, goes into detail about the abuse he has been subjected too. This includes threats to break his legs, kill his wife and the wish his baby gets cancer. Emery doesn’t include him in any other match day squad.
In a sign of the manager feeling the pressure he brings back in Ozil from the cold, but it doesn’t lead to a single win that month, as we draw at home to Wolves and Southampton and lose to Leicester, falling 9 points behind them. The performances are more of a concern then the results.
The manner of our home loss in the Europa League and mood in the stadium makes it assume it was a case of when, not if, the Spaniard was sacked. That was confirmed the next day.
Arsenal are criticised for, unlike Spurs a week earlier, sacking their manager without a replacement lined up. In the following 20 days Brendan Rodgers, Carlo Ancelotti and Nuno Santos are all made favourites for the vacancy.
In the short-term our Club legend Freddie Ljungberg takes charge, someone who had worked with many of our youngsters. His only win in 6 games is away at West Ham with the home loss to Brighton our rock bottom. The key changes he makes is giving Mustafi his first League start of the season and starting Ozil more regularly.
Arteta is left in the awkward situation of knowing he is most likely to become our manager while being Pep Guardiola’s assistant manager in Man City’s 3-0 win at the Emirates. He looks ashen faced as he realises the scale of the job he’s walking into hours before he has a ‘secret’ meeting with Arsenal bosses at his house.
He impresses many with how he speaks when being unveiled as our new boss, immediately speaking of standards and principles and he won’t accept anyone who doesn’t follow those values. He starts with a draw at Bournemouth but a home loss to Chelsea.
We start the new year with easily our best performance of the season so far, beating Man United. Arteta played Chambers as a centre back in the League for the first time this season and carried on featuring Mustafi, while Saka is being used as a makeshift left back.
It was clear his tactics would be based on a high pressing style which needed everyone to be fitter. Arteta would later admit he wasn’t sure if Aubameyang would buy into his ethos while also insisting he would try to talk Xhaka out of leaving in the transfer window.
Xhaka started for the first time since the Palace incident in the FA Cup win against Leeds. To be fair there was zero backlash from those inside the stadium.
Martinelli scored at home to Sheffield United and at Chelsea when he ran the length of the pitch, the team showing perhaps new found spirit to get a draw with 10-men.
For the second year running we could only afford loans in the shape of Mari and an injured Cedric in the winter window.
Arsenal put together their longest winning sequence of the season in the League (3).
In Europe though we choke. Defending a 1-0 win from Greece, the fear of failure consumes us at the Emirates, and we show weak mentality. The pressure gets to Leno who with seconds to go kicks the ball out for a corner. Defeat means that (with us 7 points behind 4th) it is most likely we won’t be qualifying for the Champions League.
Ozil assisted the winner against West Ham. Little did he know he wouldn’t play again this season and, who knows, maybe never again for the club.
Fans leaving the Emirates that day would never have believed that Arsenal would not be playing in the Premiership for another three months, at which point the game would look very different.
The Footballing world ( mainly because the Prime Minister himself) doesn’t take the warning of a worldwide Pandemic seriously until it’s announced that the Olympiakos owner had contracted the virus and been in contact with our squad, meaning we had to go into quarantine, forcing our game at the Etihad to be called off. A day later it was confirmed our manager had the virus.
Boris Johnson ordered for all sport to be stopped indefinitely.
March – June
Along with the whole world, sport is left wondering and debating how and if or when it can resume this year. Many owners have their own theories, but everyone is acting in their own self-interest.
Some Leagues in Europe void all competitions, some basing the outcome on how the season looked when it was paused, the others pretending that it never happened.
It leaves the possibility that Liverpool might not become Champions while those in relegation make it clear they will take legal action if they are relegated without playing 38 games.
The longer clubs go without match day revenue the more it becomes clear of the financial impact it’s having on them.
At Arsenal they ask players to take a pay cut.
Football returns but without fans and with the final 9 fixtures crammed into the space of 2 months.
On the day, the Prem returns, David Luiz gets sent off and concedes a penalty at the Etihad. It means he has been sent off and conceded more pens in a season in North London then he did in his entire time at Stamford Bridge. Yet somehow, it’s enough to earn him, Mari and Cedric contracts for next campaign.
A loss at Brighton ends any outside hope we had of finishing in the top 4.
Leno suffers an injury although it’s not as bad as first feared.
Guendouzi’s immediate reaction to defeat is to boast about how much money he earns. He and Ozil have not been included in any squad since.
An impressive win at Wolves rekindles Arsenal’s hopes but a home draw with Leicester and a loss in the NLD makes it a realistic prospect that we won’t be in Europe next season.
In easily our best week of the whole campaign we beat the Champions Liverpool, then Man City in the FA Cup semi-final with Luiz producing his two best performances against ironically the two best teams in the country. Both wins see Arteta tactically out-think Klopp and his mentor Pep.
Arteta confirms that he can’t be sure what financial backing he will get in the summer.
A loss to Villa means we finish in our worse position in 25 years.
Arteta puts on another tactical masterclass to beat Chelsea in the FA Cup Final, ensuring Arsenal will be in Europe next season. It means Arteta is only the 9th man to win the Cup with the same club as player and manager.
Again, we let the opposition have all of the ball while waiting to hit them on the break … Aubameyang became the first African to score for us in an FA Cup Final. As I write this, he still hasn’t signed a new contract.
Guendouzi and Ozil were asked to stay away from Wembley and if the club have their way will be sold. It’s reported that Sokratis has also been told he doesn’t fit into long term plans, while we are trying to get another loan for Ceballos who had his best game for us at the weekend.
It’s believed that the Europa League will add 30 million to the piggy bank, but with it still not known when or if crowds will be allowed back into stadiums. It’s hard to forecast how much transfer business we will do in the next couple of months.
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