A win away to Burnley on the final day of the season was not enough for Arsenal to secure fourth place, as they finished just one point and one place behind rivals Tottenham Hotspur.
Despite the fifth place finish, Unai Emery and his team do still have one last chance to earn a spot in next season’s Champions League if they can beat London rivals Chelsea in the Europa League final on May 29th.
In what will be seen by many as a transitionary season following the departure of long-standing manager Arsene Wenger, the Gunners were made to pay for their dreadful form away from home.
Regardless of the job Wenger did at Arsenal; following a manager who had been at the helm for 22 years was never going to be easy. That said, many of the Gunners faithful will feel they blew the chance to finish in the top four this season.
With Spurs losing a total of eight games in 2019, the door was left open for Emery’s men on several occasions to nip into the top four. The Gunners would have needed six points from their final five games in order to clinch fourth spot, but could only manage four, despite not playing a single top six side.
One of a few bright spots in the north Londoners’ season will be the form of forward pairing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette, who both had fantastic campaigns. With the former picking up the golden boot and the latter being awarded Arsenal’s player of the season, fans will retain optimism for next season with such a lethal attack.
Domestically, Arsenal never looked like etching their name onto either the FA Cup or EFL Cup trophies. Their FA Cup journey was ground to an early halt when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s resurgent Manchester United side put the Gunners out in the fourth round with a 3-1 win at the Emirates.
Emery’s team also suffered cup defeat to rivals in the League Cup, as the Gunners were knocked out by Spurs in the quarter-finals. Fortunately for Emery, this loss was somewhat masked by their emphatic 4-2 victory over the Lilywhites just a few weeks prior.
Their Europa League exploits are a different story however, as they now find themselves in the final against Chelsea. In complete contrast to their league form, the Gunners progressed from the semi-final with a brilliant 7-3 aggregate win over Valencia, which included an Aubameyang-inspired 4-2 away win.
This particular accolade was only ever going to be given to one of two players. You guessed it. Lacazette or Aubameyang. Despite the latter scoring 31 goals this season, the Arsenal fans sided with the Frenchman following a prolific season. Picking up 19 goals and ten assists, the former Lyon man has been a consistent figure in an otherwise painfully inconsistent team.
Aside from his striking partner, the only player to have been in the frame for this prize would be the departing Aaron Ramsey. The Welshman once again performed excellently in his final campaign for the north London club, as he is set to join Juventus in the summer.
While the forward pairing are at the club, Arsenal will never struggle to score goals. There is a feeling among fans that if they can shore up their defence, the Gunners could be a force to be reckoned with for seasons to come.
Joining from Valencia in the summer of 2016, Shkodran Mustafi was brought in to supply some efficiency and resilience to the Arsenal defence. The reality has been pretty far from this however, as the German has become a truly calamitous figure for the north Londoners.
A critic would label the centre-back a liability, while an apologist may see him as an easy scapegoat. Either way, it is safe to say the defender has not won fans over with his performances this season.
Regularly making errors which lead to goals, Gunners fans feel he has cost his team several points this season – points which would have seen them finish in the top four.
Should Arsenal improve on this season’s performance, their first job for the summer could be to find a replacement centre-half.
Rough patches of form this season have led to a minority of fans calling for the Spaniard’s head. However, these are far outweighed by those who recognise the difficulty in succeeding a long-standing manager and appreciate the job done in steadying the ship and getting them to a European final.
Emery was always going to be afforded some leeway in his first season, which perhaps helped him during tough periods. The real challenge for the Gunners boss will come next season, when such slack will not be afforded.
The Arsenal faithful will expect progress after such long time stagnating in the Premier League. Should the manager
The success of Arsenal’s season could hinge on the outcome of their Europa League final. Not only would victory secure a first trophy under the new manager, but it would also guarantee Champions League football for next season.
Following some astute recruitment last summer, a fifth place finish and regaining their place at European football’s top table would have to be considered a success for the Gunners.
Failure to win that final would not make it a terrible season, but would subject the Gunners to another season of Europa League football and make the task of signing quality players in the summer all the more difficult.
Nevertheless, when you consider the difficulty that Man Utd had in replacing Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsenal’s first post-Wenger season can at the very least be considered satisfactory, if not moderately successful.
Overall Grade: B