Month-by-Month Analysis of Arsenal’s 2021/22 season by Dan Smith
Our worst League finish in 25 years, zero European football for the first time in quarter of a century, how do the Kroenke Family respond?
By signing a record deal with Amazon to be the latest series on the All Or Nothing Franchise.
The creators are willing to pay Arsenal more than they have any other football team to follow them around for the whole season.
Our owners know full well it’s not to chronicle any success but essentially sell their souls for a quick buck.
Arteta lies all summer saying players now have a fresh start and a chance to prove themselves.
Yet Guendouzi, Torreira and Saliba are loaned out for the second season with kicking a ball in preseason.
Mikel Arteta follows up Arsenal’s worst Prem finish in quarter of a century with their poorest start since 1954, the last time we lost our first three League fixtures. In three games we concede 9 goals without being able to find the net ourselves.
Our manager later admits he’s surprised the trip to Brentford wasn’t postponed after the club confirm 4 cases of COVID, which include Aubameyang and Lacazette. A positive result means Ben White missed the visit of Chelsea. The other two names are Willian and Runarsson, although neither are at the club past the end of the transfer window.
Off the pitch we are guilty of a lack of organisation in terms of recruitment with a lot of our new arrivals not ready till September to play. This leads to Kolasinac being forced to play as a makeshift centreback at the Etihad despite having been loaned to Schalke the previous January and it was well known we were trying to get him off the wage bill.
After the Champions put 5 past us, not helped by a Xhaka red card at 3-0 down, the whole team apologize to the away end at the final whistle.
Having gone on the International break bottom of the table, a home match with Norwich is built as Arteta’s job being on the line, although that’s never stressed by anyone in the club. What’s noticeable is how the home crowd stick by the team, patiently waiting 66 minutes for Auba to score the only goal.
We equally grind out three points a week later at Burnley in a fashion not associated with Arsenal.
In one of the best atmospheres seen at the Emirates in years, we find ourselves 3-0 up against Spurs inside 35 mins with two of our academy graduates scoring, Saka and Smith Rowe.
After praise for how they played in the NLD, fans are brought back down to earth with disheartening displays in draws at Brighton and at home to Palace. In a worrying sign of how far the standards had fallen, a Lacazette equaliser against the Eagles that puts us in 12th, leads to players jumping into the crowd to celebrate.
Palace don’t dare celebrate like that when they beat us 3-0 later on in the campaign.
What is apparent is how quickly our ex-captain Vieira has every one of his players knowing their jobs and believing in his ethos.
In comparison, it’s still not clear what our identity is under this regime.
Ramsdale, who already at this point has proved his doubters wrong, produces one of the saves of the season at Leicester.
Auba scores and gets an assist against Villa. Little did we know, that would be the last goal our captain would score for us.
Josh Kroenke gives a rare interview as part of his family’s promise to be more open with Gooners after the disaster that was agreeing to participate in the Super League. On behalf of his Dad, the owners want to stress they want to be judged on the period they became sole custodians of the club and not when they shared shares.
He’s insistent that Arsenal are not for sale and stresses the short-term goal is to return to the Champions League, and long term to lift the Premiership (that’s for those who now are saying we should be happy with 5th).
Home wins over Watford and Newcastle are sandwiched in between our annual humiliation at Anfield.
Aubameyang starts his last ever game for us at Old Trafford and is then left on the bench at Goodison Park. Despite being the first team Everton beat in 9 attempts Auba doesn’t even make the bench against Southampton and is stripped of the armband.
To this day Arsenal have never officially said what the striker’s breach of discipline was but reports say it’s due to his poor time-keeping on more than one occasion.
It’s similar to the Ozil situation where every press conference our manager won’t give a time frame on when the player will return.
At that point he was being picked ahead of Lacazette and Nketiah who are free agents in the summer and a month away from being allowed to sign a pre contract with a club abroad.
Wins over Christmas though and the form of Martinelli, Smith Rowe and Saka seem to have Gooners accepting the decision. Plus, the assumption is if Auba is no longer wanted, we will replace him in the winter transfer window….
On New Year’s Day, leading the Champions, this young team show weak mentality by falling apart the moment they face adversity. We go down to 10 men minutes after conceding a penalty.
Despite knowing for months, they had 4 players at the African Cup of Nations, Arsenal slash the wage bill by loaning out or releasing Niles, Nelson, Balogun, Mari, Kolasinac and Chambers.
They then have the cheek to ask the Premier League to postpone their NLD due to failure to field an 11.
Bear in mind we also at this point had the likes of Guendouzi, Torreira, Saliba and Bellerin out on loan.
Spurs and others rightly feel that we are manipulating a rule designed for squads impacted by outbreaks of COVID, to which we had one case.
Three days after the postponed game we were able to field a strong team in the 2nd leg of the Carabao Cup Semi Final. Like in the FA Cup at Forest, we didn’t show up and struggled to create chances.
Despite few League goals between Laca and Eddie, Arsenal essentially give Barcelona Aubameyang and don’t bother replacing him.
Edu calls it a good window and some Gooners even agree even though our squad is weaker than it was coming into the New year.
Perhaps the reason it took Gooners a few months to notice the impact of January was the team were grinding out results.
With zero European commitments and out of both domestic cups, we only had three fixtures in February which gave us time for a trip to Dubai for ‘warm weather training’.
The two wins over Wolves were done in a manner that previous Arsenal teams wouldn’t have managed. We could now win games without playing well and were confident in defending 1-0 wins.
Post-match celebrations showed again how far standards had dropped. A Tony Adams or Henry would never have acted this way for wins over Wolves. It did highlight the relationship between players and fans were better than then had been for years though.
There was a worrying acceptance in the fan base In losing to Liverpool. Apparently, we should be happy that we got to half time and it was goalless. That’s such a small, minded mentality.
Grinding out a 1-0 win over Wolves was again met with over-the-top celebrations. The feeling was the manner of the win was huge psychologically. It meant we went on the international break with a 4-point gap between us and 5th.
At this point, Spurs were in 7th, 7 points behind.
It what would prove costly Arsenal lost three on the bounce to Palace, Brighton and Southampton. More concerning than the results were the performances and the players seemed to either lack motivation or thought they simply had to show up. Or both?
With only a deflected goal in those 3 encounters finally more Gooners started to question why the club had chosen to rely on two strikers for firepower who only had 4 League goals between them all season? This coincided with Aubameyang scoring goals for fun in Spain.
Not the best time for Xhaka to do an interview where he explains the level of abuse he had received from his own fans since moving to London. The midfielder comes across well and the documentary doesn’t paint Gooners in a positive light.
Our fate was still in our own hands but 4 out of our final 7 fixtures were against those In the top 7.
Our game in hand was at Chelsea where we gave our performance of the season, winning 4-2.
Three days later we essentially knocked Man United out of top 4 contention with a 3-1 victory. On the same day, Spurs were held at Brentford, sending us into May with all the momentum for Top Four..
Even though it was officially announced on the 6th that Arsenal had extended the contracts of both managers of the men and women’s teams, Arteta explained that terms had been agreed after the Saints fixture. Our boss felt proud that his employers had so much faith in him that they would offer him a new deal despite three straight defeats.
Taking this action without knowing what UEFA competition we would be in could also indicate that the owners have a lack of ambition?
In the same month the Spaniard would boast about slashing the wage bill, he failed to mention the increase in his salary.
Two 2-1 wins at West Ham and Leeds put all the pressure on Spurs. Tottenham had to win the NLD while we could afford to lose and still have our destiny in our own hands.
It’s not that we lost at the Lane but the manner of how we lost. We again showed weak mentality and a lack of composure leading to a penalty and a red card.
Arteta said ‘if he said how he felt’ concerning the officials on the night, he would get banned for 6 months. It was an obvious attempt to deflect and some Gooners followed suit, blaming the refs for a deserved 3-0 defeat.
If we won our final two games it wouldn’t have mattered but when Spurs beat Burnley, you sensed that being two points off 4th, having to win on a Monday Night on the Toon with the lights on, that would be too much for our players to cope with.
We were pathetic, lacked motivation, desire and fight. The saddest aspect is many Gooners were not surprised as they had seen this movie before.
Arteta couldn’t defend how bad we were last Monday while Xhaka was very critical of our performance, refusing to use youth as an excuse and finally someone admitted this wasn’t good enough for the Arsenal.
We put 5 past Everton at the weekend but that made it seemed worse in a way.
Some assumed that players were fatigued, but clearly once the pressure was off we found some energy.
As we go into the summer Gooners will continue to debate ‘is 5th progress’.
Others will continue to blame officials for why we are not in the top 4.
With Eddie and Laca free agents it forces the club to buy strikers, but many Gooners, including myself, don’t trust this club to be brave and try to take that extra step.
At least All or Nothing will be a good watch in August, eh?
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