The Real Breakdown of Arsenal’s 2016/17 Season

Were Things Ever Really as Bad as the Press and ‘Wenger Out’ Crowd Made Out?


So the Premier League is over for 2016/17 and Arsenal have finished 5th and out of the Champions League qualifying places, for the first time in over 20 years. The coach’s head has been called for on numerous occasions, banners have been unfurled and flown above the grounds screaming for his demise, the press ask every week when he is going to leave and almost every paid pundit says that it is time for him to go. But have things ever been as bad as the press made them out to be, or the Wenger Out crowd are willing to believe?

Alexis-Sanchez-Olivier-Giroud

Alexis Sanchez was the 3rd highest goal scorer in the Premier League. Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott also made double figures

Let’s Take a Look at Some of the Facts.

  • Yes Arsenal finished 5th, their lowest Premier League position since 1996, but they accumulated more points than they did last season, when they finished second. The 75 points, that they finished with, would have gained them a top four finish in every previous season going back to 2008/09
  • Arsenal went out of the Champion’s League at the first knock out stage, with two embarrassing defeats to Bayern Munich, but they did actually top their qualifying group, undefeated, almost beating Paris Saint Geramain, home and away, despite PSG‘s massive spending power. Remember PSG went on to defeat Barcelona 4-0
  • Despite a horrible mid season slump, where they lost or drew games that they should have won, Arsenal won 23 Premier League games, that’s a better than 60% win record, the same as Manchester City, better than Liverpool and only 3 fewer wins than Tottenham.
  • Arsenal‘s goal scoring efforts were right up with all of the top 4 teams. There were only 8 goals differentiating the champions and the team finishing 5th. Despite all of the money Manchester United spent in the close season and the press plaudits for Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Paul Pogba and Wayne Rooney, United scored 23 goals less, or 30% fewer goals than Arsenal.


While many of the Wenger Out crowd take the words of the pundits as supporting evidence that the manager needs to move on, a more discerning view would be that this is simply a method of filling column inches and creating controversy to fill air time.

Even former Arsenal players have been willing concede that it is time for Le Boss to go. Some may see this as expert opinion, others as disloyalty. But again, when you examine it closely, it is most likely just a means of picking up a pay cheque.

Once the papers, TV sports shows and online media have written their match reports, previews and made up some transfer rumours, where do they go next? Well, time to shuffle some managers around, obviously! Stability is not news, so no good for them.

There was uproar in the press earlier this year when Claudio Ranieri was sacked by Leicester City. Obviously no one wants to see a championship winning coach sacked a few months after winning the Premier League, especially a fairy tale championship winning coach. But the reality was that Leicester was flirting with relegation from the Premier League and drastic situations demand drastic action. This was a crisis for the club.

Arsenal have never been in a crisis during Arsene Wenger‘s stewardship, they have just not won as many trophies recently as he got the fans used to in his early days. That is a totally different situation.

Arsene_Wenger

If there is one man who knows about Wenger‘s situation it is Sir Alex Ferguson, he has been there and this is what he had to say. When reading this bear in mind that, unlike many other ‘experts’ who have been quoted on the subject, Sir Alex does not rely on the press for an income for his opinion.

“At the moment, of course, with the ridiculous situation of the pressure Arsene is under, I just wonder if they realise the job he’s done,” Ferguson told Sky Sports.
“The most amazing thing about him is this: he has come through a forest of criticism for months now, and has never bowed. He has seen it right through, he has shown a determination, a stubbornness. I think when you look at that, it’s a quality, and I’m not sure they’ll ever get another manager like that.
“It’s quite easy to say ‘Get rid of him’, but who do you get? Who do you get in to keep that club the way they are for the next 20 years?
“I really feel sorry for him because I think he’s shown outstanding qualities, and I think he has handled the whole situation. I don’t know many that have done that.”

Lack of Understanding

The Wenger Out crowd do not have an iota of the understanding of football, or sport in general, that either Arsene Wenger or Sir Alex Ferguson has.

To my mind they are a total embarrassment to the sport, up there with diving players who writhe around on the ground to get a free kick or another player booked and are up and running about as soon as that is done.

There is a very good argument that all of the disruption that they have caused is a major contributor to Arsenal‘s drop in form mid-season. It must affect the mind of players when they are going out doing their best to win and no matter what, sections of the crowd are calling to sack the coach.

They do the game, the club and themselves a disservice and I am certain that they would be happier at a club like Chelsea or Manchester City, where money talks and loyalty means nothing.


Changes

cech-mustafi

Cech and Mustafi are stalwarts in Arsenal’s defence, but they need more of them.

But this is not a blind tribute nor an acceptance that not winning is OK. There is no doubt that changes need to be made to win the big trophies. But before the transfer rumours begin and numerous strikers are linked with the club, remember that the goals are coming already. It is the defence that lets Arsenal down so often and has been a problem since Wenger took over and the original back four that he inherited retired.

Picking quality defenders has never been his forté and I thought that maybe things would improve when Steve Bould became assistant manager and they did, a bit, for a while. But the flakiness in defence returns far too often.

Mustafi was a good buy and I don’t think it was a coincidence that Arsenal‘s poor mid-season run linked in with his drop in form. But hopefully his form will return. Rob Holding looks very promising and the change to a back three has proved positive, after a shaky start.

Gabriel went off injured after having one of his best games at the weekend, but I would still like to see him replaced, with someone much more reliable in that position.

In midfield the big buy, Granit Xhaka, did not have a stellar start to his Arsenal career. But hopefully it has been a foundation season for him, that could see him go on to be a major Premier League player. Because, as well as solid central defenders, Arsenal really need someone solid in midfield, who does not get sent off or booked all of the time.

At left back Arsenal have a defensive problem too. Both Monreal and Gibbs are very good at going forward, but not defending and far too many crosses come in from that side

It Ain’t Over ’til it’s Over

But Arsenal‘s season is not over yet. There is still one big game remaining… at Wembley, and Arsenal love Wembley. There is no denying Chelsea are going to be hard to beat. They are on a tremendous run of form and full of confidence. But Arsenal have been tenacious of late, with five wins on the trot, scoring 13 goals and only conceding 2.

So, if you are a real Arsenal fan, get behind them next weekend and drown out any cynical voices that you hear.

4 Comments
  1. I have never been part of this embarrassing lynch-mob that currently exist @ the club, but that don’t mean we have some serious problems that needed attention & I’m afraid AW has now become part of the problem & not the solution.
    For about the last seven seasons now if not longer he has been the boards BOY, where he has kept spending down to a minimum but telling us off season (always around season ticket renewal time) how we are going to compete with wealthier clubs for the big signings, obviously this never happened until it was too late. Because now all the other clubs have already caught us up & in most cases passed us.
    I could go into this much deeper but as this is an Australian website I’d actually come across as one of those whinging-poms you guys are happy to identify.
    So in short yes AW is to blame on two counts:
    1, he still can’t see a defender after all these years when it comes to buying one, although Holding looks decent, but he never played him until the last 7 games of the season????.
    2, he needed to grow a pair when dealing with our board because Kroenke it just a businessman who doesn’t care if we ever win the league or Champions League in his lifetime (WELL I DO) I’m prying our Russian bid to buy-out Kroenke happens over the summer, although we all know the current Usmanov bid won’t cut it & needs to lay a lot more Rubbles on the table to even get Kroenke’s attention.

    • I am happy to hear that you have never been part of the embarrassing lynch-mob and hopefully you will not be hiring any planes to fly banners over any stadiums in the near future. But I think your analysis and language does tend to be close to theirs.

      I don’t believe that Arsene Wenger is anyone’s BOY. He is a man who works within the framework of the organisation that he is employed by. The simple choice is to do that, or move on and he has said that he has had offers from all of the leading clubs in Europe, but chooses to stay.

      That said, I believe that he has great influence on the organisation itself and it is a positive influence, especially with regard to player development and loyalty to players and staff alike.

      I don’t agree that there has been any power change in English football, apart from the obvious exceptions. The big clubs that were there before the Premier League are still competing on a roughly equal footing – Arsenal, Tottenham, Liverpool, Everton, Manchester United.

      The big new additions are obviously Chelsea and Manchester City, who had massive injections of cash, that no one could have predicted and that has screwed everyone’s perception of how the game is meant to be run.

      But that is a distorted view, because it is an exceptional circumstance and not maintainable, beyond the current regimes.

      I did discuss Wenger‘s shortcomings with defence, in some detail, in the article above. But Rob Holding was played in several games early in the season. He made a few mistakes and was then replaced, when more experienced players became available.
      So was he ready before the late season?
      Do we know?
      We don’t see them at training and what improvements are made at the training ground.
      Also, the change to a back three may have done him some favours.

      Now, Kroenke is JUST a business man, as opposed to what? A man spending like a drunken sailor home on shore leave?

      We should be glad that Arsenal has a structured business set up, because what Chelski and Man City have is not sustainable. When the crazy billionaires tire of buying themselves trophies, you’ve got to find another one crazy enough to do it and it is a very, very, very expensive hobby. The transfer fees and massive salaries are only the tip of the iceberg. Every time they sack a manager, all of the support staff go with them and they all have to be paid out the balance of their contracts. Who is going to take that on?

      When Abramovich and the Sheikhs are gone Chelsea and Man City will be back to their mid-table obscurity and Arsenal will still be competing for all the big trophies.

      Not to mention Arsenal still do what a football club is supposed to do, which is develop young talent. I know a lot of people prefer watching a game of Monopoly these days, but I still think winning things with a significant number of players that your club developed is much more rewarding.

  2. Think you are missing the point…
    The top half of the prem has become a rich mans plaything, we have a rich man owner with long pockets n short arms, this is NOT news to me I knew he did business this way 12 years ago when he was first mentioned to be interested in the club. I read-up on him extensively @ the time about his business model & it worried me then. I was right to be worried…
    Our club creates the wealth from within year-in year-out, so we don’t need an owner spending like a drunken sailor just one that is not feathering his own nest for him & his family.
    What we need in the Prem today is what the Germans have 50/50 ownership with the fans, there would be a whole lot less frustration for fans if this was in place, but that’s another discussion for another time.
    P.S. by the way the first thing Kroenke did @ board level when he became majority share holder was cease the FANSHARE programme that had been in place for 10 years or more. so the rot was set.
    I just want to see the back of him & the only way I’m afraid that is going to happen is for AW to stop taking Kroenke’s bullets for him, i.e. we get a new manager nothing changes AGAIN because they have employed another puppet, then the fans can vent the anger in the right direction.
    Lots are catching on quick about Kroenke’s dealings he has already been stopped paying his other company’s through AFC PLC, when he was questioned about the services provided by these subsidiary company’s, guess what the year after these payments stopped!!!

    • No, I am not missing the point, especially as it was my point in the first place.

      Yes, there are better financial models that the club could have, there always are and a benevolent billionaire, throwing a bottomless pit of money into the club, obviously seems ideal to many.

      There is no doubt that Kroenke has his faults, but he is the man that holds the purse strings and that is what Arsenal are stuck with at the moment. Calling Wenger a puppet and expecting him, or any manager, to change the way the club is financed is really expecting the tail to wag the dog.

      As I said above, a manager has two choices, to go, or to stay and work with what he has available. Many a football manager has resigned, or been fired, for disagreeing with the chairman. Wenger chooses to stay, I believe, because he knows that he has enough funds to compete and run a stable organisation.

      Looking at those funds, yes they have been lacking in the past, but not in recent seasons, with just short of £265 million spent on transfers alone, in the last 4 years and no major departures since Van Persie left 5 years ago.

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