Exclusive – Michael Thomas on Arsenal’s season and hopes for the summer

The Michael Thomas Column

Good afternoon Arsenal fans. Now that the season is finally over it is time for a little assessment of how Arteta has performed in this difficult period. Despite the disappointment of missing out on the Europa League Final, I would say that the Gunners have definitely shown an improvement and the numbers since Christmas prove that, but in the end the team were not consistent enough throughout the entirety of the season. Mikel did point out a few reasons behind the scenes that may not have helped and hopefully that has changed going forward.

Our winning run at the end of the season has been impressive, but in my opinion a late surge is always important, but being in the running for titles is where that late surge would help. The team needs balance & players that can play in Arteta’s system, then we will see how good of a coach Arteta is. The club need to back him this summer and make sure that’s a thing or risk another season of underachievement.

Arteta and Edu have been bigging up our transfer plans this summer and clearly the owners have given some guarantees to the manager during this vital transfer window for the club. They have to get it right and sooner rather than later, given some players values may rise during the Euro tournament.

Joe Willock has made giant strides on loan at Newcastle and he must come back to Arsenal and should be a part of Arteta’s plans next season. He has done what every young player should do when out on loan and taken his chances. He has played in a big team and scored some big goals. Joe is Arsenal through and through and we must keep our best youth products at the club and help them progress. I think he has shown he is capable of competing at this level and should be in the first team plans going forward.

Arteta has to make sure there is room for Willock and other youngsters to play regularly, so he needs to decide what to do with our loanees from Real Madrid. Ceballos has really shocked me this season as he had a great end to last season but for some reason he just hasn’t been able to push on. But through his problems we have unearthed the likes of Joe and AMN who also play in his position that are proving what they can do at this level.

Odegaard came in January and I think he has been a good addition to the squad. He is young, works extremely hard & you can see the quality he possesses in the final third to unlock a team which showed again against Palace. I think that Arteta may him want him to stay with Arsenal if they can make a new deal with Madrid.

We all want to see more of the likes of Willock, Balogun, Martinelli and Nelson to join Saka and Smith-Rowe in the first team, but young players need experienced pros around them. Not only does it keep them grounded but it pushes them further to become better players. The likes of Smith-Rowe & Martinelli are proof. Both have more experienced players at the club in their positions, but have shown they have the mindset to work for their place and that can only be beneficial to the club and the players themselves.

I know fans would like to think that we can start competing at the top table next season, but to challenge for the title requires a lot of good things to be put in place at the club; Players, staff, fans & luck. I think we are way short of it right now, but massive investment and trust in the process that Arteta and co are trying to bring is the right way. He is still learning but you can see what he can do so back him and let him work.

Arsenal just fell short of the important Top Seven, which is a shame as I am assuming any European competition comes with money, so that is always a benefit along with being able to attract players that want to play on any European stage. It does however give them a large amount of games and shorter turnover between games but a club like Arsenal should be used to this so this cannot be an excuse for failing in the League. It will be very interesting to see if we can capitalise on not travelling to far-flung destinations every Thursday next season.

With Davis Luiz definitely leaving, Arteta now needs to finally settle on his two main centre-backs instead of chopping and changing in nearly every game. It looks like he favours Holding as one and depending on the opposition changes the other. I know pundits like to give Arsenal’s defence a tough time but I think they need to do a little more homework. The club boast one of the best defensive records this season and that is despite the amount of individual errors they have made. They will get Saliba back and have Mari, Holding, Gabriel & Chambers who can also play there. They need a right back that is for sure but the players in front of that defence need to be made accountable for goals being conceded and the forward players haven’t scored as much as they should have.

LONDON, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 26: Tammy Abraham of Chelsea is challenged by Rob Holding of Arsenal (Photo by Adrian Dennis – Pool/Getty Images)

If I had to pick my personal defensive partnership right now it would be Holding & Mari for me. I would like to see how Saliba looks when he comes back, and hope he could have the same impact as Fofana at Leicester. Gabriel is also young and will only get better.

Lastly, Arteta has said that every player with a contract will be staying next season, then that would include Willian, Bellerin, Nketiah and other players strongly linked with departures. But I think we can take that with a pinch of salt because players will be leaving, that’s for sure. He will need to trim the squad before adding so I expect some departures.

I cannot wait to see what happens this summer & hopefully all good! The Euros will be very interesting and we need all our players to come back injury free.

Kind regards to all Gooners

Until the next time.

Michael Thomas


        1. Come on mate.. almost never won the war and the europa league is hardly filled with quality teams, a little team from the Valencia region put us out to which we hardly troubled ? The only team of note we beat was Benfica, not because they are brilliant but are a big name in european football.

          1. Our final EL game was disappointing because we couldn’t score, but at least Arteta has improved Peoe, Xhaka, Smith-Rowe, Saka, etc. He’d likely improve the team next season, if the fans aren’t breathing down his neck

      1. At City Arteta personally retrained Zinchenko as LB. At the time he was going to be sold in the coming summer as a midfielder who hadn’t made the grade. He just won the title starting 15 games (5 sub) at LB. He also started 5 and came of the bench 3 times in their CL final run. If you want to talk about coaching, talk about it.

  1. The fact Arsenal will be out of European competition next season will pile the pressure on Mikel Arteta to finish in the top four next season. The extra fitness and freshness of not playing midweek games should be a massive factor and Mikel will have no excuses.

    As it is, I believe there should be an internal review at the club with an inquest formed with all players giving honest answers into how Mikel Arteta went about his tactics and formations this season. So much went wrong. How can you have a player like Martinelli coming on in the 76th minute for most games?

    Maybe a season out of Europe is just what we need to do a reset and start to rebuild? Only time will tell but we must be in the CL next year. No excuses!!!

    1. Spot on, GunneRay!! No more excuses!
      They shouldn’t be knackered, or go awol for the first half of games! We should be challenging in all competitions next season… anything less than that and I’ll want to know why!

      1. I can tell you are so kind Sue, anything less next season, I would want some people kicked out to be honest, knowing the reason won’t be enough for me. 😀 XD
        whoever says 8th is normal for a club like Arsenal, must have been born last season!

      2. You are very kind Sue, I can tell! 😅Anything less than, I would want some people to get out to be honest.

  2. Look yes we had a good run in but we did not play top teams they were teams we would expect to win if we didn’t you would all be calling for Arteta head and rightly so. Now is the time to play the young ones and see what you have got. Arsenal is a top football club not a retirement home for old players. Let’s hope we have learnt

  3. It will be very tough to get in top 4 with City, United, Liverpool, Leicester, Chelsea in contention

    We need to have an excellent summer transfer window to achieve this

    1. The way people have harped on about our form since Christmas, top 4 next season should be a doddle!!

  4. KEEP DREAMING Sue we will have no chance with the top teams above us they will freshen they teams up too

      1. Towny must have been “dreaming” to have missed the sarcasm, Sue.
        You really need a sense of humour to be an Arsenal supporter at the moment.
        We should all wait and see, what the transfer window brings.

    1. Top 4 since Christmas, top 4 all season long without VAR, 3rd best defence all year. I’m putting a large amount of money a top 4 finish next year. No Europe will be a blessing. I trust Leroy Sane “People always ask me about training under Pep, but the things I’ve learnt from Mikel Arteta!” (from Pep’s City: The Making of a Superteam.)

          1. 👍 Been a long time coming, Angus!
            Let’s hope your bet pays off – the drinks will be on you 😁

  5. It’s not just about spending loads of money It’s about buying the right personal to fit into a system we have one of the best defence in the league to start challenging again the defence has to improve even more you build from the back like building a house you build your foundation first

  6. My hopes for next season starts with the Arsenal hierarchy. Changes at senior level should have bedded in and hopefully impact on the overall organisation of the club and on transfer policy. There has been so much upheaval behind the scenes

    Others have referred to an internal review which is an excellent idea.

    Arteta needs to chill for a bit, get refreshed and then have a good look at himself. Next season he no longer qualifies as a rookie and the learning on the job will no longer be an excuse even though this was part of the club’s plan as I understand it.

    Patience has been my mantra but I expect a lot more from him next season

  7. With backing from the board MA will perform we don’t need to castigate him for our performance. He needed a creative MF, he was given a DM who on his own was not a bad player but we failed to note that the new league and environment will affect him which is the reason for a six months period blighted with injury and so the attackers surfered and auba surfered the most and the team had to cry because we missed his double figures of goals. The team has no matter how you look at it one of the best defence this season and if you fail to see this, the management are retaining MA because they recognize the process he is taking the team true. All the young players we have are good but matineli is shooting himself on the leg for not playing with the team hunger or no hunger, instructions matters and that’s why Saka and Smith are better but as it is, he will now have time to introduce his preffered style with this preseason and we will all respect MA wait for the inns and outs.

    1. He had attacking midfielders; ESR he didn’t use until injuries forced him. He also had Willock; he’s scoring for fun so maybe the problem was not him but Arteta.

      Martinelli is a beast to be so young, it falls to Arteta to find a way to have him impactful on matches, not wasting time on the bench so favored Willian can jog around.

      2 years with Ceballos and how many youngsters lost development time with that mistake? We still don’t know enough about Nelson to sell, loan, or keep, but we got plenty of Willian’s nonsense.

      Arteta made a real hash, but hopefully he will learn from his mistakes. No need to loan any players next year, we should use the opportunity to blood our youth like Balogun and Azeez, maybe even Lopez at LB for early cup games.

      1. ESR was injured. Eased in (rightly after a long-term injury) with a couple Europa games and a main stay from his 1st (because of injury) start in the league. The fact people still keep pretending ESR wasn’t injured is one of my biggest pet peeves of the season.

      2. Agreed with you. MA like his former MC manager is not good for young talented players. He like to use oldies. ESR and Saka are in first team because of circumstances, else MA will never use them.

        Asene always use young players for unimportant competitions. MA doesn’t do that.

    2. Felix, Thomas Partey is a box to box midfielder, in the mold of Patrick Viera. Arsenal still requires a specialist DM, in the mold of Gilberto Silva, to complete the midfield.

  8. So with Luiz gone and the loans all finished this is what we currently have allowing that players born 1999 are no longer classed as u21. (U21s for next season Marked *)

    GK – Leno, Runarsson, Iliev, Okonkwo*

    RB – Chambers, Cedric, Bellerin, Osei-Tutu

    LB – Tierney, Kolasinac, Bola

    CB – Holding, Gabriel, Mari, Saliba*, Mavropanos, Ballard, Dinzeyi, Oluwu

    M – Partey, Xhaka, Smith-Rowe* Torreira, Guendozi, Willock, Elneny, Maitland-Niles, Sheaf

    F – Aubameyang, Saka*, Pepe, Lacazette, Martinelli, Willian, Nelson, Nketiah, Balogun*,

    I am expecting Iliev, Sheaf, Osei-Tutu, Bola, Dinzeyi and Oluwu to all be released and possibly Kolasinac.

    I expect Maitland-Niles, Bellerin, Nelson, Torreira, Guendozi and Nketiah will not be with us next season either and possibly, Lacazette or Aubameyang. I also think if Willian and Cedric can find someone to match their wages they will move on.

    We will have far less matches to play next season, so I expect Arteta to work with a smaller squad and there will be lots of academy players going out on loan too, as we have already signed up 14 new scholars.

  9. What a refreshing article! It struck just the right tone and you could see the effort that went into constructing it. Being from a legend is a bonus! Honestly brightened my day.

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