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??
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.
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).
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.