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.
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.