It sounds weird to say there’s hope for Arsenal fans after their eighth-placed finish, but…there is? Kinda? A bit?
They looked a much more potent attacking side after the mid-season restart, while being much improved at the back. That’s about all you can ask from a football team.
Here’s an evaluation of the Gunners’ 2019/20 season (so far), with an overall grade for the report card…
Premier League – Eighth
After two wins to start off their league season, the Gunners were in second place and fans started to get excited about their chances of challenging at the top…well, a bit.
It all went pretty pear-shaped after that. Two wins from their next eleven games resulted in Unai Emery’s dismissal, with potential wins against Watford, Wolves, and Crystal Palace all becoming draws due to some poor late-game management.
Caretaker boss Freddie Ljungberg failed to impress with just one win in five matches, before Mikel Arteta’s appointment drastically improved the team’s form. Nine of their 14 victories came under his tenure, including an unbeaten run from January to March.
Wins over Manchester United and league champions Liverpool will be of huge encouragement for the Spaniard as he strives to elevate Arsenal towards the top of English football once again.
To moderate that – of course – defeats against Brighton and Aston Villa underline the huge scale of the task ahead of the former City assistant. Something about nothing worth having coming easy?
Carabao Cup – Fourth Round
After ruthlessly thumping Nottingham Forest 5-0 at home, the Gunners made the daunting trip to Anfield to take on a potent Liverpool side.
Hang on, no, that’s wrong. They went to Anfield to take on a Liverpool reserve team, with only one member of their standard starting XI – Joe Gomez – starting. They nearly pulled off the win in 90 minutes, if not for Divock Origi’s late equaliser to tie the game at 5-5 and send the game to penalties.
Dani Ceballos’ spot-kick miss was the decisive moment in the shootout, and the Londoners were knocked out. Fun though.
FA Cup – Finalist
Victories against Leeds, Bournemouth, Portsmouth and Sheffield United in the early rounds were all workmanlike, but they were made to sweat by competent opponents all the way up to the semi-finals.
They saved their best performance for that semi-final, defeating Manchester City 2-0 thanks to a brace from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. What comes next? We’ll know on Saturday.
Europa League – Round of 32
After starting the group stage off with three straight wins, Arsenal looked set for an extended tournament run, topping the group despite faltering towards the end with two draws and a loss to Eintracht Frankfurt.
It certainly looked as though they would progress into the round of 16 after a 1-0 first-leg win over Olympiacos…until they let their lead slip, crashing out of the tournament on away goals after a 2-1 defeat at the Emirates.
It’s a scary thought but, if not for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s goals, the north London side’s season would have been a lot worse.
The skipper has been nothing short of incredible for the club, with his 22 Premier League goals being the difference in many of their games. He’s played well starting centrally and out on the left wing, allowing the likes of Eddie Nketiah and Alexandre Lacazette to come into the game.
Could’ve been any one of a handful of defenders, but…well, no defender has ever given away as many penalties in a Premier League season as David Luiz did in 2019/20. None. Ever.
Managing to get sent off within half an hour of crunch Premier League games against Chelsea and Manchester City was a nice touch too.
In need of a new direction, Arsenal appointed Arteta in the hope that his (presumed) style of play and fresh ideas could steer the club towards some kind of stable base from which to build.
The Gunners’ attack looks better – albeit lagging way behind most of the league in chances created – while his switch to playing three at the back (and the emergence of a finally-fit Kieran Tierney) has seen the defence cope admirably with a number of relatively potent attacking threats.
That being said, this is still a side who conceded twice against Brighton, once in a defeat to Aston Villa and twice when theoretically in control against Watford on the final day – and there were only nine more fragile defences in the league post-restart.
Green shoots are popping up through the dirt, but the situation remains precarious.
Securing European football with victory in the FA Cup final will help matters, but it’s hard to hang too many shiny medals on a team who recorded their lowest top-flight finish and points total in 25 years. Take some positives, sure, but this season is a low point.