Arsenal 2015-2016: The One That Got Away

miracleofmidre

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Everything about that first half was tepid, from the play of the team to the protest itself.

Again, why is Giroud playing? He's a step behind, always. This is total folly. What is the manager watching?
 

DennyDoyle'sBoil

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It's a crucial three points though. Leicester may win the league and they've had their share of those kind of wins. Every season involves a bunch of those, but Arsenal are just under a microscope at the moment.
 

mikeford

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It's a crucial three points though. Leicester may win the league and they've had their share of those kind of wins. Every season involves a bunch of those, but Arsenal are just under a microscope at the moment.
Yeah I mean, a win is a win. Boring boring Arsenal won trophies once after all. Its more that it just feels like nearly ALL Arsenal's wins looked more like that than like a team who just showed up and took care of business against inferior opponents.

Fair play to Norwich, they fault hard all game and probably would've had at least a point if not for Cech in the 1st half.


also this guy, you da real MVP:
 
This weekend's results were pretty much perfect from Arsenal's perspective - Arsenal needs 3 points (i.e., to defeat Aston Villa) to clinch no worse than 4th place, and two draws or a win over Man City to clinch 3rd place. They're also only 2 points behind Spurs; if Chelsea wins tomorrow night, 2nd place - and an unexpected St. Totteringham's Day celebration - isn't out of the question.

All of that said, I can't help but feel as though it's precisely this sort of end-of-season result that creates the toxic atmosphere around the club. I half-heartedly suggested late last season - or was it the season before that, or even the season before that? - that Arsenal might benefit from a year away from the Champions League, and while I'm still rooting for Arsenal to finish as high in the table as possible because I'm a fan and that's what fans do, I actually feel that's more true than ever. Just like a forest needs purging fires every so often to regenerate and grow, Arsenal simply needs to stop finishing 3rd or 4th and going out of the Champions League in the last 16 every season - either they need a serious title run (finishing first or a close second), or they need to mess up badly enough to unite the fans in favor of change and/or simply set us a different set of expectations ahead of a new season. That half-hearted nonsense in the 12th and 78th minutes yesterday was awful. This club has no heart or soul at the moment.
 

coremiller

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This weekend's results were pretty much perfect from Arsenal's perspective - Arsenal needs 3 points (i.e., to defeat Aston Villa) to clinch no worse than 4th place, and two draws or a win over Man City to clinch 3rd place. They're also only 2 points behind Spurs; if Chelsea wins tomorrow night, 2nd place - and an unexpected St. Totteringham's Day celebration - isn't out of the question.

All of that said, I can't help but feel as though it's precisely this sort of end-of-season result that creates the toxic atmosphere around the club. I half-heartedly suggested late last season - or was it the season before that, or even the season before that? - that Arsenal might benefit from a year away from the Champions League, and while I'm still rooting for Arsenal to finish as high in the table as possible because I'm a fan and that's what fans do, I actually feel that's more true than ever. Just like a forest needs purging fires every so often to regenerate and grow, Arsenal simply needs to stop finishing 3rd or 4th and going out of the Champions League in the last 16 every season - either they need a serious title run (finishing first or a close second), or they need to mess up badly enough to unite the fans in favor of change and/or simply set us a different set of expectations ahead of a new season. That half-hearted nonsense in the 12th and 78th minutes yesterday was awful. This club has no heart or soul at the moment.
If your goal is to make everyone else hate Arsenal supporters as much as possible ... keep up the good work.
 

coremiller

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I mean, only Arsenal fans would look at the disaster that has been Chelsea this season and think, "why can't we ever do that?"
 

mikeford

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This weekend's results were pretty much perfect from Arsenal's perspective - Arsenal needs 3 points (i.e., to defeat Aston Villa) to clinch no worse than 4th place, and two draws or a win over Man City to clinch 3rd place. They're also only 2 points behind Spurs; if Chelsea wins tomorrow night, 2nd place - and an unexpected St. Totteringham's Day celebration - isn't out of the question.

All of that said, I can't help but feel as though it's precisely this sort of end-of-season result that creates the toxic atmosphere around the club. I half-heartedly suggested late last season - or was it the season before that, or even the season before that? - that Arsenal might benefit from a year away from the Champions League, and while I'm still rooting for Arsenal to finish as high in the table as possible because I'm a fan and that's what fans do, I actually feel that's more true than ever. Just like a forest needs purging fires every so often to regenerate and grow, Arsenal simply needs to stop finishing 3rd or 4th and going out of the Champions League in the last 16 every season - either they need a serious title run (finishing first or a close second), or they need to mess up badly enough to unite the fans in favor of change and/or simply set us a different set of expectations ahead of a new season. That half-hearted nonsense in the 12th and 78th minutes yesterday was awful. This club has no heart or soul at the moment.
yeah you can think that about missing the champions league til you realize who our owner is and look at all his american teams

Kroenke don't care. Arsenal would turn a profit if we finished in 16th. Nothing matters.
 

NHbeau

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I mean, only Arsenal fans would look at the disaster that has been Chelsea this season and think, "why can't we ever do that?"
Not an Arsenal fan myself. The problem is exactly because Chelsea is crap. The excuse has always been Arsenal can't compete with Chelsea, Man U, City for wages and transfers. Fair enough. Explain why they are staring up the table at Leicester and Spurs of all teams though? This was Arsenal's year to grab the prem and run away. All of the big boys have had enough problems it was their title to lose. Would you expect their chances to get better next year? I don't. I expect them booted from the top 3 and a decent chance they don't make top 4 next year. Pep will be given the US gdp for a transfer budget. Man U will sack Van Gaal and find someone who can use the talent they have plus have a kings ransom for transfers. Chelsea will be back to being Chelsea. The Spurs have a better side now top to bottom than Arsenal.

Had they won the Prem this year it buys some serious time to right the ship. Maybe fix the midfield and the center forward problems and you can compete for that last champions league spot. Maybe. Like I said I'm not an arsenal fan but I don't have a good outlook on that club moving forward. I like their prospects even less with Wenger at the helm. This was as golden an opportunity as they can really ask for to take the league and make that step. Instead like the other big four teams they said fuck it.
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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Not an Arsenal fan myself. The problem is exactly because Chelsea is crap. The excuse has always been Arsenal can't compete with Chelsea, Man U, City for wages and transfers. Fair enough. Explain why they are staring up the table at Leicester and Spurs of all teams though? This was Arsenal's year to grab the prem and run away. All of the big boys have had enough problems it was their title to lose. Would you expect their chances to get better next year? I don't. I expect them booted from the top 3 and a decent chance they don't make top 4 next year. Pep will be given the US gdp for a transfer budget. Man U will sack Van Gaal and find someone who can use the talent they have plus have a kings ransom for transfers. Chelsea will be back to being Chelsea. The Spurs have a better side now top to bottom than Arsenal.

Had they won the Prem this year it buys some serious time to right the ship. Maybe fix the midfield and the center forward problems and you can compete for that last champions league spot. Maybe. Like I said I'm not an arsenal fan but I don't have a good outlook on that club moving forward. I like their prospects even less with Wenger at the helm. This was as golden an opportunity as they can really ask for to take the league and make that step. Instead like the other big four teams they said fuck it.
I agree that Arsenal probably blew the best opportunity they'll have in a long while to win the league. I think you really overrate many of these other clubs' prospects for next season though. United bringing in a new manager isn't necessarily a good thing in the short term, even if that manager is Jose Mourinho - LVG just spent two years teaching a bunch of kids to play a possession based game and now they're bring in a manager who is famously impatient with young players and hates possession football? Spurs having a better side top to bottom is a massive stretch in my opinion - they are very good and very young but they've had immense, probably unsustainable injury luck this season and really don't have a lot of depth, which will be much more sorely tested now that they are playing in a European competition which they can't just blow off. Chelsea is a total mess, Conte has no premier league experience and isn't clearly a top tier manager (IMO), and he is going to get a late start to the summer since he'll be with Italy through the Euros.

I don't expect Arsenal to win anything next year but, ex ante, I like their odds of finishing ahead of each of those three teams.
 

coremiller

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Not an Arsenal fan myself. The problem is exactly because Chelsea is crap. The excuse has always been Arsenal can't compete with Chelsea, Man U, City for wages and transfers. Fair enough. Explain why they are staring up the table at Leicester and Spurs of all teams though? This was Arsenal's year to grab the prem and run away. All of the big boys have had enough problems it was their title to lose. Would you expect their chances to get better next year? I don't. I expect them booted from the top 3 and a decent chance they don't make top 4 next year. Pep will be given the US gdp for a transfer budget. Man U will sack Van Gaal and find someone who can use the talent they have plus have a kings ransom for transfers. Chelsea will be back to being Chelsea. The Spurs have a better side now top to bottom than Arsenal.

Had they won the Prem this year it buys some serious time to right the ship. Maybe fix the midfield and the center forward problems and you can compete for that last champions league spot. Maybe. Like I said I'm not an arsenal fan but I don't have a good outlook on that club moving forward. I like their prospects even less with Wenger at the helm. This was as golden an opportunity as they can really ask for to take the league and make that step. Instead like the other big four teams they said fuck it.
None of this makes any sense. For one thing, Spurs don't have a better top-to-bottom squad than Arsenal. Spurs' main advantage is that they lucked into a legit world-class striker coming through their academy and Arsenal didn't, and it would cost Arsenal at least 40m to buy a striker of Kane's age/caliber if they could even find one for sale. But at most of the other positions, Arsenal are just as good or better. Spurs don't have a playmaker anywhere near Ozil's class; as much as I love Dele Alli, Sanchez is the best goalscoring/attacking midfielder in either team; Cazorla is the best ball-playing mid in either squad, etc. Kane, Aldeweireld, Rose, and maybe Dier are the only Spurs players clearly superior to their Arsenal positional counterparts right now.

Arsenal are in third because a) Leicester are having a one-in-a-million season where (at least until the last couple of games) just about everything has broken right for them in terms of injuries, refereeing decisions, chance conversion, etc. b) Arsenal had a couple of key injuries (Cazorla especially, Sanchez, Welbeck also) while Leicester and Spurs didn't, and c) Giroud and Walcott both turned into pumpkins in the second half of the season and the team's finishing has been absolutely dreadful, leading them to significantly underperform their peripheral chance creation stats:


Arsenal are a very good but imperfect team that basically got no breaks this year. Some of that is that their strikers have weaknesses (although both Ozil and Sanchez have had atypically low conversion rates this year too), but a lot of it is just random variance. Sometimes things just don't break your way. The Patriots went a decade without winning a championship despite having the best coach/QB combo in the league. Variance is a bitch. And it's very different from Chelsea (who quit on their coach because he was mean to the lady physio and tanked the season to get him fired), Man City (whose players just can't be bothered to play hard in a lot of their away games), or Man Utd (who have an expensive but incoherent squad assembled with no strategic vision). Probably Wenger should have strengthened the squad more, but in the wake of the ongoing Chelsea debacle and Man Utd's struggles and Man City's petulantly throwing away points because they're lazy, I don't think Wenger gets nearly enough credit for his man management and his ability to maintain the team's performance level. Arsenal don't always play well, but they never quit on their coach, or regularly mail in games because they just can't be bothered. They've had some bad losses, but they never go into a tailspin as a result (thread title notwithstanding). And they never have a down season. If this season has proven anything, it's that big clubs don't have some god-given right to finish in the top 4, and it takes real work and commitment to do it consistently.

There are legitimate questions as to whether Wenger is the right guy to take this team to the next level (he doesn't always get his tactics right, some of the hyped youth players aren't developing as well as hoped, and his, well, odd transfer business has been covered to death), and who knows what's going on financially with the ownership, but there are very few available managers who could plausibly be better now that Klopp, Ancelloti, Guardiola, etc. are all off the market, and obviously it could be a whole lot worse, as Man Utd have shown in trying to replace Ferguson, or as Liverpool have shown as they struggle to find consistency post Benitez. And Arsenal can't afford to just throw giant wads of cash at the problem like Man Utd can if they miss the CL for a year or two. Arsenal have money, but not the kind of money where they can spend 65m on a player and then dump him a year later at a huge loss, or buy 35m youth prospects, or 25m players who don't fit their tactical system just because.

For the first time since the 2002-04 period, I think Arsenal should probably be favorites for next season's title, depending on what happens in the summer. Leicester won't repeat. Chelsea may have a housecleaning, and that was a thin, aging squad at the back anyway. Pep is a great manager but that roster is not currently set up to play Pepball and I think it will take him a year of transition. Utd's front office management is a mess. Spurs will be good again, but unless they strengthen significantly they'll need some luck to keep up a campaign on 2-3 fronts. And Arsenal are due for some positive regression to the mean next year. I don't know if Wenger can win them the title, but I do know that calls to blow it up in order to "reset fan expectations" or have "purging fires" are outrageously stupid. My advice for Arsenal fans would be:

 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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None of this makes any sense. For one thing, Spurs don't have a better top-to-bottom squad than Arsenal. Spurs' main advantage is that they lucked into a legit world-class striker coming through their academy and Arsenal didn't, and it would cost Arsenal at least 40m to buy a striker of Kane's age/caliber if they could even find one for sale. But at most of the other positions, Arsenal are just as good or better. Spurs don't have a playmaker anywhere near Ozil's class; as much as I love Dele Alli, Sanchez is the best goalscoring/attacking midfielder in either team; Cazorla is the best ball-playing mid in either squad, etc. Kane, Aldeweireld, Rose, and maybe Dier are the only Spurs players clearly superior to their Arsenal positional counterparts right now.

Arsenal are in third because a) Leicester are having a one-in-a-million season where (at least until the last couple of games) just about everything has broken right for them in terms of injuries, refereeing decisions, chance conversion, etc. b) Arsenal had a couple of key injuries (Cazorla especially, Sanchez, Welbeck also) while Leicester and Spurs didn't, and c) Giroud and Walcott both turned into pumpkins in the second half of the season and the team's finishing has been absolutely dreadful, leading them to significantly underperform their peripheral chance creation stats:


Arsenal are a very good but imperfect team that basically got no breaks this year. Some of that is that their strikers have weaknesses (although both Ozil and Sanchez have had atypically low conversion rates this year too), but a lot of it is just random variance. Sometimes things just don't break your way. The Patriots went a decade without winning a championship despite having the best coach/QB combo in the league. Variance is a bitch. And it's very different from Chelsea (who quit on their coach because he was mean to the lady physio and tanked the season to get him fired), Man City (whose players just can't be bothered to play hard in a lot of their away games), or Man Utd (who have an expensive but incoherent squad assembled with no strategic vision). Probably Wenger should have strengthened the squad more, but in the wake of the ongoing Chelsea debacle and Man Utd's struggles and Man City's petulantly throwing away points because they're lazy, I don't think Wenger gets nearly enough credit for his man management and his ability to maintain the team's performance level. Arsenal don't always play well, but they never quit on their coach, or regularly mail in games because they just can't be bothered. They've had some bad losses, but they never go into a tailspin as a result (thread title notwithstanding). And they never have a down season. If this season has proven anything, it's that big clubs don't have some god-given right to finish in the top 4, and it takes real work and commitment to do it consistently.

There are legitimate questions as to whether Wenger is the right guy to take this team to the next level (he doesn't always get his tactics right, some of the hyped youth players aren't developing as well as hoped, and his, well, odd transfer business has been covered to death), and who knows what's going on financially with the ownership, but there are very few available managers who could plausibly be better now that Klopp, Ancelloti, Guardiola, etc. are all off the market, and obviously it could be a whole lot worse, as Man Utd have shown in trying to replace Ferguson, or as Liverpool have shown as they struggle to find consistency post Benitez. And Arsenal can't afford to just throw giant wads of cash at the problem like Man Utd can if they miss the CL for a year or two. Arsenal have money, but not the kind of money where they can spend 65m on a player and then dump him a year later at a huge loss, or buy 35m youth prospects, or 25m players who don't fit their tactical system just because.

For the first time since the 2002-04 period, I think Arsenal should probably be favorites for next season's title, depending on what happens in the summer. Leicester won't repeat. Chelsea may have a housecleaning, and that was a thin, aging squad at the back anyway. Pep is a great manager but that roster is not currently set up to play Pepball and I think it will take him a year of transition. Utd's front office management is a mess. Spurs will be good again, but unless they strengthen significantly they'll need some luck to keep up a campaign on 2-3 fronts. And Arsenal are due for some positive regression to the mean next year. I don't know if Wenger can win them the title, but I do know that calls to blow it up in order to "reset fan expectations" or have "purging fires" are outrageously stupid. My advice for Arsenal fans would be:

Great post.

I think Arsenal did have a lot of bad luck this year. But some of the issues were very predictable. Arsenal fans and Wenger are like two people who have been in a marriage for 30 years. The fans know exactly what they don't like about Wenger (extremely stubborn, both in terms of tactics and loyalty to certain players; very hesitant to take chances in the transfer market) and so when he does those things and it turns badly, it drives everybody up the wall. Every Arsenal fan on the planet knew last summer that we needed to buy a central midfielder since we had no real backup for either Coquelin or Cazorla (Ramsey isn't really cover for either player IMO, he brings different elements to the table that don't actually fit our tactics very well right now) and that our strikers weren't good enough. Then we threw away a great shot at the title largely because both of our central midfielders got injured and our strikers weren't good enough. Wenger can't conjure a world class striker out of thin air but he certainly could have taken a chance on somebody rather than just giving Walcott a big contract and he absolutely could have added a midfielder.

Loyalty is both one of Wenger's greatest strengths (I think a big part of the reason that his teams always play hard and never fall apart) and one of his biggest weaknesses. The loyalty he has shown to players like Arteta, Flamini, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, Walcott, and Mertesacker throughout the last two years has really held us back. One of Ferguson's greatest qualities was that he inspired loyalty but was also absolutely ruthless when it came to improving his team and replacing players who he thought were on the downslope or might not make the grade. Wenger needs a bit more of that but you can't teach an old dog new tricks.
 
None of this makes any sense....
(snip)
This is the best defense of Arsene Wenger I've heard in quite a while, so thanks for taking the time to post it. (Although for the record, I'm not advocating anything like "blowing it up" - purging forest fires are natural, not acts of arson.)

But MMS' riposte is also spot on. Arsenal are about to finish third or fourth for the 11th straight season. That's insane. Imagine the Red Sox losing in the ALCS this year, and every successive year until 2026 - always with the same manager, and always with the same mistakes in the playoffs every year. (Basically the Bobby Cox-era Atlanta Braves, only without that one championship season.) You'd go crazy, and rightly so...even though fans of nearly every other team would envy you and think you nuts for complaining. And what MMS describes as bad luck is for all practical purposes systemic when you seem to have the same bad luck every single season.

Maybe a year or two finishing 5th or 6th followed by a bounce back into the Top 4, or a year or two making the Champions League QFs or SFs instead of always the last 16, would have broken the cycle of stagnation. I don't know. All I know is that I'm sick of the same thing every year. And I don't watch sports for its predictability.
 

NHbeau

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None of this makes any sense.
We can agree to disagree on the squads. Other than Ozil, Sanchez and maybe Cech I'll take Tottenham's side. That's only part of the point though. You can hope that Man U, City, and Chelsea are crap again next year. Because if they aren't Arsenal is in big trouble. You're comparison to the patriots is probably as silly as I've heard. Forget that it's a salary capped sport or that it has much higher variance due to one third the games. Or that the patriots are synonymous with excellence in every facet of the NFL. No NFL coach in the world is allowed to just make the playoffs for 10 years without signs of improvement and keep his job. In between super bowls how many AFC championship games did the patriots play in? How many times did they get to the super bowl and lose? Comparing them to a team you can set your clock to finishing 4th and getting bounced in the final 16 of CL isn't even close to the same. It's not variance for ten years. It's called water finding it's level. Burn it down. Don't burn it down. I honestly don't care. Like I said no dog in the fight. But to pretend it's all fine and it's just bad luck is plain silly. If I was an Arsenal supporter I'd expect to see some change rather than more Groundhog Day.
 

mikeford

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If anyone SERIOUSLY believes Arsenal are the favorites for next year's title, I have like 69 bridges to sell you and also you are fucking insane in the membrane.
 

soxfan121

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Is there an EPL version of Fisher? An amiable ex-player with a bitchin mustache and the ability to give good quotes to the media?
 

miracleofmidre

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It's quite fascinating, the differing perspectives that result relative to expectations. Arsenal is derided as failing, as underachieving, stagnant, as squandering a missed opportunity this season relative to the other big clubs' shortcomings. They were ahead this year, midway through, and then fell behind - never to recover the lost ground. Tottenham started out behind, and actually never caught up. They never lost much ground on Leicester (five behind in the fall, about the same at the new year, a little bit further behind now), but they never gained ground either. Yet they are the pundits' darlings, due to their youth and, in my mind, lower initial expectations. They were the team with the young upstart manager that came ever so close, and is on the ascendance. That's the real-world contextualized view, and, frankly, understandable.

But isn't this season as much a missed opportunity for Spurs as it is for Arsenal, perhaps an even bigger missed opportunity? Because the circumstances are that they couldn't beat the Foxes either, despite every other big club (including Arsenal, on top of the other three standard-bearers) underachieving and almost everything going right for them: fewer key injuries (Arsenal lost 229 man-games to injury across the squad, Tottenham 144, and Leicester a mere 75), with players playing as well as they ever had, etc.

I think Tottenham, perhaps even more than Arsenal, ought to rue what has happened, it might never be set up so well for them again.

Next year should be very interesting. Even if nothing changes for any team. Which, of course, isn't anything like what will happen.
 

mikeford

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Pep coming to Man City alone immediately makes them the favorites even if he does nothing (which he obviously will do a lot of something)
 

coremiller

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This is the best defense of Arsene Wenger I've heard in quite a while, so thanks for taking the time to post it. (Although for the record, I'm not advocating anything like "blowing it up" - purging forest fires are natural, not acts of arson.)

But MMS' riposte is also spot on. Arsenal are about to finish third or fourth for the 11th straight season. That's insane. Imagine the Red Sox losing in the ALCS this year, and every successive year until 2026 - always with the same manager, and always with the same mistakes in the playoffs every year. (Basically the Bobby Cox-era Atlanta Braves, only without that one championship season.) You'd go crazy, and rightly so...even though fans of nearly every other team would envy you and think you nuts for complaining. And what MMS describes as bad luck is for all practical purposes systemic when you seem to have the same bad luck every single season.

Maybe a year or two finishing 5th or 6th followed by a bounce back into the Top 4, or a year or two making the Champions League QFs or SFs instead of always the last 16, would have broken the cycle of stagnation. I don't know. All I know is that I'm sick of the same thing every year. And I don't watch sports for its predictability.
Forest fires aren't always natural -- the Forest Service actually starts small controlled forest fires to prevent larger uncontrolled ones. But that's neither here nor there ...

Also, fwiw, Arsenal haven't historically underperformed their expected goals in the past. That's a new thing. Obviously xG models are still rudimentary and should be taken with several grains of salt, but poor chance conversion has not historically been a problem.

The only difference between "consistent" and "stagnant" is perspective. I think Arsenal's "problem", to the extent it has one, is entirely with its fans' expectations, which got overly inflated by the early Wenger years. This is the same club that between 1953 and 1989 won the league exactly once in 45 seasons and won a total of 5 trophies in that span.

I understand some of the frustration with Wenger, but just because it's understandable doesn't make it any more rational or fair. Let me put it this way -- in what season from 2005-2015, given their relative resources and the strength of their main opposition in England and Europe, did Arsenal significantly underachieve? Maybe they should have spent more money, but there's no guarantee big money signings will work out, and Wenger has been extremely good at avoiding the kind of big money flops that destroy your squad.

Or, to put it differently, if you are sick of the same thing every year, the problem is with you, not with the team. To play off MMS's analogy, you should tell your spouse, "it's not you, it's me", and find a different, less predictable club to root for (try Newcastle for drama!), rather than blaming the club for your not fulfilling your irrational expectations.
 
Let me put it this way -- in what season from 2005-2015, given their relative resources and the strength of their main opposition in England and Europe, did Arsenal significantly underachieve?
I can play this game too: in what season from 2005-2015 did Arsenal overachieve? Not even "significantly" - apart from perhaps one or two Champions League runs early in that spell, when did they overachieve at all?
Or, to put it differently, if you are sick of the same thing every year, the problem is with you, not with the team. To play off MMS's analogy, you should tell your spouse, "it's not you, it's me", and find a different, less predictable club to root for (try Newcastle for drama!), rather than blaming the club for your not fulfilling your irrational expectations.
This is not how sports work.

And I don't believe my expectations are irrational, unless you mean in the sense of the clinical definition of insanity. Take Liverpool, for example, another club with similar means and an even more grandiose tradition and set of historical expectations: in the same 10 seasons in which Arsenal has finished 4th-4th-3rd-4th-3rd-4th-3rd-4th-4th-3rd, Liverpool has finished 3rd-3rd-4th-2nd-7th-6th-8th-7th-2nd-6th. Both clubs have won two domestic cups in that span; in Europe, whereas Arsenal has lost in the Champions League R16 for six straight years after a 2nd-R16-QF-SF-QF run, Liverpool has had literally every possible Champions League result (one victory, one runner-up, one SF, one QF, one R16, two group-stage exits and several failures to qualify), along with UEFA Cup/Europa League finishes ranging from SF to R32 (not yet including this year). So Liverpool have had worse troughs, but they've also had higher highs, not least in 2013-14 when they set a standard for surprising Premier League performance only surpassed this year by Leicester and Spurs. And those troughs led to significant changes, including the signing of Suarez and most recently the hiring of Klopp.

Do I think Liverpool will finish higher in the league than Arsenal next year? Probably not. Do I think Liverpool fans will be more excited heading into next season that Arsenal fans? Yes, I do. They have a vibrant and charismatic manager coming into his first summer at the club with a chance to mold a new squad together, and while they may not immediately break into the Top 4, failing to do so wouldn't automatically write the whole season off as a failure. (They may yet be in the Champions League as well.) And they certainly won't go into the season a couple of 0-0 draws away from a halfhearted set of "KLOPP OUT!" fan protests. What do Arsenal fans have to look forward to? Silent Stan, Arrogant Arsene, and probably more of the same on and off the pitch. I don't think it's wrong for me to wince at that prospect, or to believe the quality of my experience as a supporter shouldn't just be measured by the final league tables every year.
 

coremiller

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I can play this game too: in what season from 2005-2015 did Arsenal overachieve? Not even "significantly" - apart from perhaps one or two Champions League runs early in that spell, when did they overachieve at all?
"Apart from the year they came within 20 minutes of winning the European Cup, when did they overachieve at all?"

They have a vibrant and charismatic manager coming into his first summer at the club with a chance to mold a new squad together, and while they may not immediately break into the Top 4, failing to do so wouldn't automatically write the whole season off as a failure. (They may yet be in the Champions League as well.) And they certainly won't go into the season a couple of 0-0 draws away from a halfhearted set of "KLOPP OUT!" fan protests. What do Arsenal fans have to look forward to? Silent Stan, Arrogant Arsene, and probably more of the same on and off the pitch. I don't think it's wrong for me to wince at that prospect, or to believe the quality of my experience as a supporter shouldn't just be measured by the final league tables every year.
How about the quality of your experience as a supporter being measured by supporting a team with some of the best players in the world win a lot of games while playing attractive football? That seems like it should count for a lot. I can't stand Arsenal, and I still love watching Mesut Ozil play. Every game he plays two or three passes that no other player would even see, let alone be able to execute (e.g. against Noriwch he played a perfectly weighted 60-yard through-ball off the volley that was absolutely astounding).

It is true that Arsenal have never had a season where they played at, say, the 80+ percentile of their season expectation in a long time. Wenger may strategically try to minimize variance to a certain extent, but I think Arsenal's lack of high-outlier seasons is mostly random. European play in particular is relatively high variance, and Arsenal have had some rough breaks in Europe (e.g. bad draws and refereeing decisions -- if RVP doesn't get sent off for time wasting against Barcelona in 2011 they probably knock out what's now considered one of the great teams of all time). Chelsea won the European Cup with probably their worst team of the Abramovich era (well, before this year). The key is to keep putting yourself in position so that when you do get a year when the breaks go your way, you're in position to take advantage.

Arsenal have a much better chance to win things next year than Liverpool do -- the Liverpool squad has some interesting pieces but is kind of a mess (they are still starting Kolo Toure in key games, and the striker they just spent 32m on doesn't fit the manager's tactical vision). That alone should be a good reason for Arsenal fans to be more excited than Liverpool fans.

If you're worried that the other irrational Arsenal fans are going to poison the atmosphere with dumb protests, I suggest ignoring or mocking them.
 

mikeford

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Saying any of these things before the transfer season even starts is goofy and pointless. If Liverpool buy Aubameyang and Hummels and a midfielder and a real keeper and have a full year under Klopp... why couldn't they be better than Arsenal?

What if Arsenal lose Alexis and/or Ozil? Neither have signed a new deal yet.

Its just preposterous to make these proclamations based on the idea that Arsenal had "bad luck" in front of goal this year and nothing else.
 

miracleofmidre

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Here's a question, does Leicester's title have a negative impact on Arsenal's summer, in that it might seem to verify Wenger's own values, that one can win championships without spending like an oligarch? Does the Leicester championship verify, in Arsene's eyes, his own trepidation about risk and reward and thus put a mental clamp on his openness to spending on transfers?

He's a stubborn man, and I wouldn't be surprised if this indirectly cements his risk aversion. But I think he'll spend on an elite player this summer, and this won't change that possibility. What do others think?
 

NHbeau

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It's quite fascinating, the differing perspectives that result relative to expectations. Arsenal is derided as failing, as underachieving, stagnant, as squandering a missed opportunity this season relative to the other big clubs' shortcomings. They were ahead this year, midway through, and then fell behind - never to recover the lost ground. Tottenham started out behind, and actually never caught up. They never lost much ground on Leicester (five behind in the fall, about the same at the new year, a little bit further behind now), but they never gained ground either. Yet they are the pundits' darlings, due to their youth and, in my mind, lower initial expectations. They were the team with the young upstart manager that came ever so close, and is on the ascendance. That's the real-world contextualized view, and, frankly, understandable.

But isn't this season as much a missed opportunity for Spurs as it is for Arsenal, perhaps an even bigger missed opportunity? Because the circumstances are that they couldn't beat the Foxes either, despite every other big club (including Arsenal, on top of the other three standard-bearers) underachieving and almost everything going right for them: fewer key injuries (Arsenal lost 229 man-games to injury across the squad, Tottenham 144, and Leicester a mere 75), with players playing as well as they ever had, etc.

I think Tottenham, perhaps even more than Arsenal, ought to rue what has happened, it might never be set up so well for them again.

Next year should be very interesting. Even if nothing changes for any team. Which, of course, isn't anything like what will happen.
Not a Spur's supporter but I and I think others big take away from their season is how young they are. This isn't really a team of grizzled vets who ran out of gas. It's closer in the key positions to a team of kids putting it together for the first time. I think Kane, Alli, Eriksen have their best years still ahead of them. I think the Spurs have a bright future as currently constituted.
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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Here's a question, does Leicester's title have a negative impact on Arsenal's summer, in that it might seem to verify Wenger's own values, that one can win championships without spending like an oligarch? Does the Leicester championship verify, in Arsene's eyes, his own trepidation about risk and reward and thus put a mental clamp on his openness to spending on transfers?

He's a stubborn man, and I wouldn't be surprised if this indirectly cements his risk aversion. But I think he'll spend on an elite player this summer, and this won't change that possibility. What do others think?
He has referenced them on several occasions talking about the value of squad continuity and that you don't need to spend a ton of money to be successful.

But I think he will be under some pretty serious pressure to spend this summer, given the lack of outfield players bought last summer, the sentiment among the fans, and the likely departures of a bunch of players. I know we've seen similar circumstances before without him spending a lot and I would never predict him to go crazy this summer. But I'd be somewhat surprised if we don't spend at least 40-50m pounds (not net, just on fees for players coming in). Arteta, Flamini, and Rosicky are all out of contract. I don't see much future for Ox, Campbell, or Walcott at the club and woudn't be surprised if at least one and quite likely two of that trio left this summer. There are even rumors about Giroud going to Wolfsburg, although I am more skeptical about him leaving.
 

miracleofmidre

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The UK rags are rumor-mongering...rags. These stories are so loosely sourced as to be laughable, typically agent-planted fodder or worse. Why take this seriously, when other such nonsense (Higuain! Draxler! Vidal!) is mostly proven to be...nonsense.

Now, this could be true. I am not interested in burying my head in the sand. But with the Daily Star (or caughtoffside, or Goal.com, or most other UK tabloids) we are talking about, if they are right, blind squirrels and nuts and stopped clocks. When it shows up on BBC or other more reputable places it's something of concern. Until then, forget it. Weren't the tabs claiming Ozil was beyond unhappy several weeks ago and then he came out and directly rubbished the claim?
 

The Gray Eagle

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I don't know if Sanchez wants out or not, but he did head down the tunnel away from the field after he got substituted last weekend. Probably doesn't mean anything, but if you're looking for signs that he wants out, you might construe it that way.

If Sanchez and Ozil both stay, they both have 2 years left on their deals, so you would want to sign them to extensions this summer. There have been negotiations with both, but no extensions yet obviously. As of mid-April, the club was "confident" both would sign.

There are a lot of other players whose Arsenal future is up in the air though. Arteta, Flamini and Rosicky will be leaving as their contracts are up. That means at least 2 new midfielders should be brought in. For in-house options, young attacking midfielder Jon Toral has looked good on loan at Birmingham, so he might be ready to play a depth role. And if he played in a handful of games next year that would be more than Arsenal got from Arteta, Wilshere and Rosicky combined this season. (Iwobi has played some at attacking midfield too, though he's been a winger more often and that's probably where he will stay for next year.)

There's been a lot of talk about Granit Xakha coming in, who is another midfielder, and also some about Kante from Leicester, but there will be strong competition for both so who knows. But 2 new midfielders seems to be a necessity.

Everyone wants a new striker but of course there aren't many available. Assuming one comes in (usual transfer blather about Alvaro Morata, Icardi from Inter and also the young Dutch guy Janssen) then Walcott and/or Giroud could be out.

There's been talk of Oxlade-Chamberlain moving on too, but with his latest injury it would probably be best to hold on to him and see if he can figure it out rather than sell him now for cheap.

In addition, it seems like Gibbs will be going out in search of more playing time (possible replacement candidates being discussed) and maybe Ospina would want out to get more playing time as well. Chesney is still on loan at Roma, so if Ospina leaves, he could be brought back.

I would love to see a new central defender coming in too, but I doubt it will happen. I think Gabriel is not good enough, and Mertesacker needs to transition into a third choice role. But probably nothing will happen there.

So there could likely be at least 3 midfielders, a striker, a left back and maybe a goalkeeper leaving this summer. If all were replaced, that would be 6 new players. Wenger always buys one less player than I think he will and usually two less than I hope he will, so it looks like there will probably be 4 or so new players coming in. 4 would be enough if they were good enough players of course.

Top, top quality you might say.
 

lars10

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Your point was that Arsenal's 'intent' was not to win trophies. Your one article does not prove your point. You're saying that Sanchez shouldn't waste his time at Arsenal because they are intentionally not winning trophies. Yet they finish in top four every season, go to Champion's league, etc.

Kroenke may not spend as much as the other big clubs, but Arsenal certainly intends to compete for trophies. Your wording in your initial post was incorrect based on reality. If you said 'Arsenal seems intent on not winning trophies' then we could agree to disagree...but your current statement is demonstrably incorrect..regardless of how much Kroenke isn't going to spend.
 

mikeford

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My point was the stated goal of our CEO and principle owner is, by his own words, not to win trophies. If trophies happen this isn't a failure of their design, but if trophies don't happen the season is not considered a failure by the owner or the board.

Why would a star player in his prime continue to play for a club that does not strive for trophies but instead takes an approach like "if they happen, great and if they don't, meh"

You'd rather get bogged down in grammar semantics than have an intellectually honest discussion though so whatever.


Hey we clinched the top 4 trophy today so JOB DONE for Arsene. Give him another 3 year deal, Stan.
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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Local German media say we bid 43m Euro for Granit Xhaka. I'm not convinced it's real but that would be a fantastic addition if true and pretty much sort central midfield. From what I've seen, he is very classy on the ball and also plays with a mean streak.
 

sachmoney

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They're really pushing that interest in Kante and Mahrez, but I'm not sure how much I'd put into it. The only rumor that sounds credible so far is Granit Xhaka. It's another case where Arsenal has been monitoring a guy closely (scouted like 30 of his games), so I hope that they actually pull the trigger. I do feel like if you're watching a guy that many times, you're looking for reasons not to buy him.

Silly season is bursting through the seams.
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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Terrible for Welbz. He seems like a good guy.

At least that simplifies the picture for Wenger. The Walcott as CF experiment was a total failure, which Wenger tacitly recognized by giving up on it. And once Welbz came back, Giroud went two months without starting a league match, which was another tacit admission that Giroud simply isn't the guy to build the team around going forward, especially since he'll be 30 soon. Wenger is stubborn and cheap and he still might not end up buying a top striker but there can be no illusions now about our need to bring in at least one, preferably two, strikers
 

mikeford

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It simplifies the picture alright. He'll be back when the January window closes, at which point he'll be "like a new signing" and give Wenger an excuse to do nothing in January.
 

mikeford

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As if there was any doubt that would happen.

Nothing the fans do or say matters. Stan loves Arsene and Arsene keeps the CL money rolling in at cut rate costs.
 

sachmoney

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I'm not sure I would say it's "cut rate costs," Mike. Sure they're not spending all of the money that is brought in, but they're also spending a lot of money in total.