5 Important Talking Points From The Europa League Final

I can’t describe how I’m feeling today. I feel like complete sh*t, I’m depressed, I’m gutted – I’m just down and out. 

The problem was last night was huge for Arsenal, and the future of the club. Obviously we are in a rebuilding process but last nights defeat has set us back 5/6 years. A win would have allowed us to play in the Champions League, win a major European trophy and give us the opportunity to build on some success – attracting players and giving us more money to spend in the transfer market.

As it stands, next season we’ll be playing in a competition nobody wants to be in – we have to contend with travel to some really obscure places in “Europe” (I’m sure half of these locations are more like Asia) and the Thursday / Sunday fixture list is a massive disadvantage to us in regards to Premier League form. It’s just horrendous.

You might be thinking I’m making out that the future is really bleak but the reality is that it is. Last night was a huge setback and could have more negative repercussions than the Champions League exit in 2004 and the Champions League final defeat in 2006.

There are 5 major talking points from last night (and this season) and they are highlighted below: 

The Penalty Decision

Even after taking off my Arsenal tinted glasses – that was a penalty. There was contact and Lacazette had every right to go down. That decision would have changed the game and being 1-0 up would have been massive for us, especially when we dominated the first half an hour and needed something to show for it.

And did they actually use VAR?! I’ve seen a few Champions League games and they have the VAR logo on the screen, then the referee goes over and takes 12 years to check a slow motion replay 2134 times, then they finally come to a decision. Last night, it was almost swept aside and you wonder if it was actually used?

The Formation & Tactics

As soon as I saw the line-up, I was worried.

Our success against Chelsea this season (which was well reported) was when Aaron Ramsey sat on Jorginho and stifled his influence. With Ramsey injured, it was important to replace him with someone who could do a similar job, and the right person was not Mesut Özil.

Alex Iwobi should have (and deserved to) start the final in my opinion, and he would have done a much better job of linking the midfield and attack (which was non-existent with Özil on the pitch). And when he came on, he changed the game – not as much as we would have wanted – but there’s only so much one man can do in half an hour, and without conceding penalty who knows.

But the fact was the change was too little too late. You only get one chance at a final and we don’t have a second leg to salvage things, so why Mesut Özil started his baffling to me. Iwobi has more endeavour, energy, pace and desire so him starting was a no brainer – especially when you’re starting both Lacazette and Aubameyang and need an attacking midfielder who actually tracks back??

Mesut Özil

He needs to leave. Now.

Özil’s time at Arsenal was coming to an end already based his non-performances this season which quite frankly have been scandalous. He’s the second highest paid player in the Premier League and doesn’t care. He couldn’t influence the game yesterday, like most games this season, and when he was taken off he left the pitch like a petulant school kid.

He gets paid too much, doesn’t perform unless we’re playing at the Emirates – it’s time to part ways.

Unai Emery 

For me, Emery needs time and I think he will get it. But while I’ve always said be patient and give him time to implement his methods, certain questions need to be asked.

Tragically, the way the Europa League final panned out mirrored how our season ended. We started the campaign strong, played some good football, but ultimately collapsed at the last.

Up until half time last night our Europa League campaign was pretty much flawless. Then at the last (the second half) we just crumbled. Just like our Premier League form, until the last 5/6 games we did really well, putting ourselves in a very good position. But then we again crumbled, losing to Crystal Palace and failing to beat Brighton at home, which in the end proved fatal. 

Did our team get worked too hard throughout the course of the season? Did Emery fail to prepare the team for the crunch games? Are we mentally weak? Can the squad just not cope when the season reaches an important time?

For what it’s worth, I think Emery has made improvements this season, and don’t forget he’s inherited a lot of rot from the Wenger era – but that being said there have been some worrying aspects to his reign so far which are less than encouraging (Premier League collapse and Europa League final second half).

Petr Cech

There was a lot of debate on whether Petr Cech should have started the game, considering he was offered a position at Chelsea and the fact that Leno is the better goalkeeper. 

For me, the offer of the Chelsea job summed up that club. Perfect timing of the “announcement” was enough to shed doubt on Arsenal’s preparations and cause a bit of sh*t, while their style of play was a lot to be desired (kicking our players, the highlight of which was someone stamping on Lacazette’s Achilles).

Personally, I thought Leno should have started. I completely understand that not starting Cech might have disrupted the dressing room and affected morale, and I understand that there might have been an agreement earlier in the season about certain goalkeepers playing in certain competitions. That said, Leno played the first few games in the Europa League remember so I don’t think it would have been that much of a shock. Added to the fact that Leno allows us to play from the back which is an important part of our game, whereas Cech only knows how to kick it long which would only work (ironically) if we had a player like Olivier Giroud.

 

Thank You For Everything You’ve Done For Us, Aaron Ramsey

Arsenal played against Brighton yesterday in their last home game of the season but the match and result for me were irrelevant. Our recently form meant that we had already called behind too much and therefore blown the Top 4 before we even kicked a ball, so the main focus is the departure of a man who has given so much to Arsenal.

There will be the obvious talk about how we’ve managed to pay a player like Özil £350,000 a week, who has contributed with 2 assists all season, and with that managed to let a player of Ramsey’s stature leave on a free.

He will be going to Juventus, to play along world class players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala, and I for one will be following his Italian adventure and the Old Lady will be the team I will be supporting in the Champions League next season – I would love it if Aaron Ramsey won the biggest prize in Europe.

Now we’ve got that out of the way, what about Aaron Ramsey’s Arsenal career?

He said it himself yesterday, he arrived a boy and leaves a man. In an emotional post-match interview yesterday with Sky Sports, he was clearly moved by the whole day and it is a big wrench for him to leave – making it blindly obvious if Arsenal offered enough money he’d still be in an Arsenal shirt next year.

He was a player who didn’t want or seek the limelight, but scored important goals big games, and always put in big performances. He scored the winner in our first post-Emirates move FA Cup Final, and did the same a couple of years later by scoring the winner against Chelsea. He scored some memorable goals against Liverpool, Norwich (twice), Chelsea, Hull City, Tottenham… in fact you can some some of his best goals here:

He was a player who was underrated and at times, under appreciated by the fans. He suffered the horrific leg break against that c*nt in a game at Stoke City and he had the mental and physical strength to come back from that a stronger, better player. I remember the whole thing like it was yesterday – and along with the Eduardo leg break against Birmingham City – was the most devastated I’ve been as an Arsenal fan. The club will always have ups and downs in terms of results and trophies, but when a player who has given so much to the club and is one of your own suffers a shocking awful injury like that, they are the moments that really hit you.

Unlike some other players who have left the club in the not so recent past, Aaron Ramsey will be one departure where every Arsenal fan will wish him all the best. He is a special player, a special man and someone who gave blood, sweat and tears for the club.

Thank you for all the memories Aaron, and I hope you go to Juventus and win everything there is to win there.

 

5 Players Arsenal Need To Sign This Summer (Including These Two Ex-Arsenal Men!)

Arsenal need to rebuild this summer and Unai Emery needs financial backing from the board to do that job. Whether that actually happens or not is a different question but after identifying 5 players which need to leave the club this summer, that should leave us with some money to go out and buy some new players and help improve the squad.

So below are the 5 players Arsenal need to sign to help us progress from the work done from this season:

Alexis Sanchez

For the 3 and a half seasons he was at the club, he was by far (and I mean by far) our best player, and if any Arsenal fan disputes that then they are simply deluded and blinded by his move to Manchester United because he was absolutely sensational.

His level of consistency was unreal and his level of performance was excellent in every single game. He is one of the few players we’ve had at the club who you could truly consider to be world class. He was the closest you could get to a player of Messi or Ronaldo’s level, he was that good.

He was instrumental in the two FA Cup wins he had with us and always gave 110% when he put on the Arsenal jersey. He knows the club inside out, and might respond well to Unai Emery’s emphasis on 100% effort from every single player, which was an issue under Arsene Wenger where certain players in the squad were going through the motions in matches.

If he can back to Arsenal, I have no doubt he would be a success once again and would push us up another level.

Olivier Giroud

His contact is up with Chelsea this summer so he would be available on a free (although there is an option for another year). He was a fans favourite and it was a strange situation when he moved to the blue part of London.

There have been games where we’ve struggled and Giroud has been an effective Plan B (and at times, a very effective Plan A) and he is a top top striker. He’s under appreciated at Chelsea and I’m sure he’d love to move back to The Emirates.

For me, bringing that sexy bastard back to Arsenal is a no brainer.

Harry Maguire

The England defender has gone on leaps and bounds and would relish a chance at a Top 6 club. At Leicester City his chances of challenging for trophies is limited and I’m sure he would succeed going up a level to a bigger club like Arsenal.

Central defence is somewhere we’ve struggled with this season and Maguire has Premier League experience. Rob Holding is the future of Arsenal’s defence and the only other top defenders we have at the club are Laurent Koscielny and Sokratis Papastathopoulos, players who are 33 and 30 respectively. Shkodran Mustafi and Stephan Lichtsteiner are awful defenders who aren’t even good enough to be backup players (as we have seen this season) and Nacho Monreal is better suited to left-back. So Maguire would be a good fit and Holding would benefit from his International experience and it could only help him in his crusade to break into the England squad. Maguire is only 26 years old so would be an excellent addition moving forward and can only improve.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka

The 21 year old has impressed at Crystal Palace this season and what catches the eye is his excellent attacking runs as well as his defensive intelligence at such a young age.

He would fit in well at Arsenal and with Hector Bellerin struggle for most go the season with injury it would provide good competition in that position (with hopefully the departure of Lichtsteiner this summer).

He is quick, direct and versatile, and could play alongside Bellerin on the right wing if required. At only 21, he would be an excellent addition to the squad looking to the future.

Neil Etheridge

With Cardiff looking like they’re going to get relegated this season, Neil Etheridge will probably not want to play in the Championship after experiencing a season in the Premier League. This summer, Arsenal will be bare in terms of goalkeepers as David Ospina looks like he’s out the door and understandably won’t want to be Bernd Leno’s understudy, and Petr Cech will be retiring come May. So a backup for Leno is a must.

Emiliano Martinez has impressed for Reading this season but with two goalkeepers leaving then it would be naive to just have Leno and Martinez as our goalkeeping options for the season.

Etheridge has impressed in a Cardiff side struggling at the wrong end of the table and would be an excellent addition to Arsenal, and he’s only 29.

 

Who Is The Worst Arsenal Defender Of All Time? Cast Your Vote Here!

These guys would struggle to get into anyones Dream Team, that’s for sure…

At Arsenal, it has been a running joke that our defending can be horrendous at times and that we regularly concede ridiculous goals. Part of that is down to being an attacking team, so our defenders are obviously more exposed, Arsene Wenger’s philosophy (or lack thereof) on defending, and the fact that we actually had one of the best defences the country has ever seen, when Tony Adams, Steve Bould, Martin Keown, Nigel Winterburn and Lee Dixon played week in week out.

However, on top of that we have had some just awful defenders at the club.

There’s that old wives tale that Dennis Bergkamp faced Igor Stepanovs in a pre-season friendly and was so impressed he told Wenger that he was one hell of a defender, which was enough for Arsene to splash out on the Latvian, who was then seen as the long term successor to Tony Adams (Yes, I know!). The highlight of his Arsenal career was the 6-1 defeat at Old Trafford in 2000, and things didn’t really get any better for him.

Amongst other defenders who have struggled at the club include Sebastien Squillaci and Pascal Cygan, both French defenders who were prone to mistakes at the back. And somehow amazingly, Squillaci was actually a French international…

To more recent times, and who could forget about the irrepressible Andre Santos? The Brazilian lived up to his billing, being a defender who didn’t actually defend. His positive outlook and style of play was welcomed at times but at others (when you know, he was supposed to defend?) it wasn’t so great. But with Santos you knew what you got with him, he was a free spirit and you knew he was an awful defender and he didn’t even try and make out he was a good one. And also, he scored a great goal against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge when we smashed them 5-3, so decent memories.

Then we come to the man we all love to hate. How has this man won the World Cup? The conundrum is up there with how Wes Brown has more trophies than Alan Shearer. I guess you just need to be in the right place at the right time, and it’s not what you know but who you know. The best way I can describe Mustafi is that he was probably the kit man for the German national side but then they had a few injuries and he was asked for fill in for a couple of training sessions. Then, people kind of forgot what happened and he was just “there”, and then he managed to stick around long enough to “win” a World Cup medal. That’s really the only explanation.

Anyway, after all that it’s time to cast your vote. Who do you think is the worst Arsenal defender of all time? It’s a hard choice as the quality of candidates is so high (or should that be so low) but you can only vote for one!

Cast your vote below and leave your thoughts in the comments section.

 

These Are The 5 Players That Need To Leave Arsenal In The Summer

There’s no doubt that Unai Emery is undertaking a massive rebuilding job at the moment and there’s no doubt that he is doing a great job, and on realistic expectations is having a successful season. However, there’s also no doubt that to have the best chance to succeed he needs to mould the team, squad and club in his image and that means removing some of the deadwood from the long lasting Arsene Wenger era.

So below are the players in the current squad that need to leave the club this summer:

Shkodran Mustafi

There’s only one place we can start isn’t there?

He’s one of those players you look at and just wonder how he actually became a professional footballer. He’s the player who you think just somehow managed to slip through the gaps during the scouting process and just kept moving up without anyone noticing – that’s the only real explanation for how he could be at Arsenal right now.

Alongside the legendary Pascal Cygan and Igor Stepanovs, he will always be regarded as one of the worst Arsenal defenders of recent times – which is a real achievement considering Arsenal are a side who aren’t renowned for having the best defensive recruitment.

It’s really too much effort to go through all the mistakes, cock ups, blunders and slips he’s made over the last few years and quite honestly you know all about them already. What every single Arsenal fan can agree on (and it’s probably one of the only things Arsenal fans can unite on) is that Mustafi needs to leave. Give him away, pay him off, just do whatever it takes to get him out of the club as he’s costing us vital points.

Stephan Lichtsteiner

There’s only one other defender at the club who is almost as bad as Mustafi and unfortunately, it’s Stephan Lichtsteiner. He was obviously brought in to being some experience to the dressing room and to be fair, only supposed to be a backup player. Sadly, he may be vastly experienced but the Premier League is too much of a jump for him after spending the best part of a decade in the slower, less demanding Serie A.

Arsenal should release him in the summer and try and bring in some younger reinforcements.

David Ospina

With Bernd Leno doing a fantastic job in his first season at the club, Petr Cech has become deputy and Ospina has spent the last season on loan at Napoli. He’s decent enough keeper for us to cash in and get some much needed money for Unai Emery to strengthen the squad this summer.

Denis Suarez

Does anyone else know why he’s at the club? No, seriously?

Mesut Özil

No-one divides the Arsenal fan base as much as Mesut Özil and personally, I am a fan. Unfortunately, it’s obvious Unai Emery isn’t and there have been several issues between them this season, and at the end of the day the man we all have to get behind if we want Arsenal to succeed and progress is the manager.

Added to this, Özil is our highest paid player on £350k a week and if he was moved on it would give Emery a lot more options in terms of specific players he wants to bring in to the club. With Lacazette, Aubameyang, Mkhitaryan, Iwobi and possibly someone else who Emery brings in, we should be well catered for in an attacking sense.

And finally…

But who do you think Arsenal need to sell / move on this summer? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below!