Five Highest And Five Lowest Moments In A Dire Arsenal Season
By Charlie Maywood
When the 2019/2020 Premier League season kicked off last year no one could have predicted what would unfold. For some clubs the prolonged football season was well worth the wait, for others (us lol) the back end of it was a welcomed sight. In what was a dire season for Arsenal football club, I am going to discuss the few positives we can take out of this season and the pick of the bunch from the dreadful moments we have had to endure.
5) Freddie's Spell as Head Coach
A slightly controversial one to begin with, and one that doesn't really come down to one particular moment, was the length of Freddie Ljungberg’s reign as temporary Arsenal manager. In no way do I believe his short time as head coach affected his legendary status within our club, I just feel it was an avoidable mistake to make him head coach for such a period of time.
During his time as Arsenal boss the gunners picked up a measly 6 points out of a possible 18, seeing us lose at home to Brighton and Manchester City, drawing away to Everton, Norwich and Standard Liege and picking up just one win in 6 away to West Ham. Whilst I believe it would have been a suitable decision having Freddie put in charge for 1 or 2 games as the final details of Arteta’s appointment were put in place, it was very costly in our league campaign to have him in charge for 5 matches where it was evident he was out of his depth with a lack of a coaching team around him.
The longevity in which it took for our board to get the Arteta deal over the line clearly cost us in the long run as it would have made the run in for the Champions League and Europa League places a lot closer if Arteta were appointed earlier and picked up valuable wins. The City defeat in particular came at a time when the club felt very broken and fractured.
4) Brighton Away Defeat
Following that, the 4th lowest point of Arsenal’s season was our 2-1 defeat at the Amex Stadium to Brighton and Hove Albion. Away defeats against relegation threatened teams are too frequently witnessed amongst the Arsenal faithful, although this loss stood out in particular. As a fan at full time I had to depart my living room where I watched the horror episode unfold and go on an hour long walk to reduce my anger and frustration.
In the first half a very much preventable challenge from Neil Maupay caused our number 1, Bernd Leno to be stretchered off in what seemed a gruesome injury. Fortunately, what us fans didn’t know is that back up keeper Emi Martinez would be one of our star performers in games to come. After a Lewis Dunk equaliser, a 95th minute winner from the villian Maupay followed to finish off a quite unbelievable nightmare for all associated with Arsenal.
What made the extremely late winner worse on top of the same man injuring our first choice
keeper was the fact that only 3 minutes of added time were awarded meaning it was 2 minutes over the designated amount of time. It was an undoubtedly must win game for Arsenal if any sort of champions league qualification hope were to remain but with the win in the hands of the Arsenal players they capitulated entirely and we left the Amex stadium empty handed with what would be a significant loss in Arsenal's final league standings.
3) Defeat to Chelsea at The Emirates
Now we enter the top 3 lowest moments in Arsenal’s season and in 3rd I have gone with our home defeat to 2-1 defeat to Chelsea at the emirates- a game we threw away in dramatic fashion. A Mikel Arteta side rejuvenated with energy were in search of a first win for their new head coach at the expense of London rivals Chelsea. An early opener by player of the season Pierre Emerick Aubameyang was well earned and the gunners eventually went into half-time 1-0 having lost Callum Chambers through injury mid way through the opening 45 which would prove to be noteworthy.
An uncommon Leno error led to Jorginho equalising, who would’ve been sent off prior to this if it weren't for incompetence from the officials on the day. Then right before my eyes the unthinkable happened as I was stood in the Clock end beside the Chelsea fans, Tammy Abraham snatched a winner in the 87th minute and Chelsea left the Emirates unworthy winners.
I know I can speak for all gooners that this was a very dark day in a dark season due to many circumstances involving the game and is deserved of a podium finish, despute the first 4r5 being largely positive. This win for Chelsea increased the gap between us and them causing the task to earn a Champions League spot more and more onerous for the gunners. It was a real 6 pointer and essentially put us out of reach of the top four.
2) North London Derby Defeat
Regardless of the context or how much is riding on the game, any NLD defeat is going to make it onto a list of lowest moments. In second spot was our North London Derby defeat to bitter rivals Tottenham Hotspur, also known as the scum from the lane.
Speaking of the lane, it was the first North London Derby at their new £1 billion stadium which in all fairness is quite nice but far inferior to the mighty Emirates. As it was the first Tottenham vs Arsenal showdown at the new White Hart Lane, it would have been so sweet to walk away winners from the game, and a dream which seemed possible for the Arsenal fans watching at home tensely after Lacazette sent a bullet of a strike into the top left. This came crashing down after an unforgivable defensive mistake from Sead Kolasinac and a late winner from a corner earned the scum all 3 points. What made the loss even more horrific, as if losing to them wasn’t enough, was the fact that Jose Mourinho was at the heart of it and it was an utterly undeserved victory. The 3 points didn’t only earn Tottenham fans bragging rights but also saw their team leapfrog Arsenal in the Premier League standings which eventually led them to finishing above us for a 4th consecutive season - an unbearable new normal.
1) Olympiacos Knockout Blow
At number 1 spot and taking home the gold medal for bringing Arsenal fans down to new types of low was our defeat at home to Olympiakos in the round of 32 of the Europa league. After a narrow 1-0 victory in Greece we were firm favourites to proceed to the round of 16.
However, Olympiakos had other ideas and pounced on an extremely lacklustre Arsenal performance going 1-0 up and sending the game to extra time. In the 113th minute, Aubameyang seriously pulled a rabbit out of the hat with an acrobatic goal to draw Arsenal level and put them back into the lead on aggregate. At this stage it most certainly appeared Arsenal would progress to the next round. Having said that, in the 119th minute, deep into extra time, El- Arabi popped up at the back post and squeezed home a last minute winner to horrify Arsenal fans worldwide. This competition was unquestionably one of Arsenal’s priorities to succeed in, as winning it would earn us much wanted European success, champions league entry which has avoided us for 4 years now and attraction from top players around the world. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be and we made a very early exit out of Europe, and in truly devastating fashion.
You may have noticed I didn't include any Emery moments when we were in relegation form, and that may be as a result of the apathy I had in the back-end of the Spaniard's tenure. I was sort of resigned to poor results and was hoping that at least when they did come, it'd put him closer to the exit door.
Now I’ve got past the low points I can shift the mood and discuss our highest moments and some real positives we can take out of this season. Enjoy.
5) Victory over Manchester United
In number 5, for my 5th highest moment of the season would have to be *that* first Mikel Arteta win as Arsenal manager against rivals Manchester United. The game saw us come out 2-0 deserved victors. The gunners came out the blocks instantly with aggression, passion and energy- we dominated the first half and could have been 3 or 4 up by half time. It was also Pepe’s best game in an Arsenal shirt, significantly against rivals United.
This game breathed new life into Arsenal football club and got rid of a lot of the toxicity surrounding the club during the period before that where we seemingly couldn’t buy a win. This win against a big opponent and also keeping a clean sheet showed us fans the capability of Mikel Arteta and foreshadowed things to come.
4) The day Kieran Tierney Arrived
Yes, I'm technically going back to before the season started but fuck it.
In the number 4 spot is the signing of Scotsman Kieran Tierney. With the first half of the start of his Arsenal career plagued with injury, us fans were limited to a fully fit Tierney display in an Arsenal shirt on few occasions. Whilst we knew about his capabilities, his lack of match fitness due to injury meant we really didn’t know how good this man actually is. A fee of just £24.3 million for his signature has proved to be a serious bargain. He emulates what Arsenal have needed for a long time, a player with pure passion, desire and ability.
We signed him as a left-back and he has spent the majority of his time on the left flank but when called upon he can most certainly do a job in a back three. His sharp awareness and tackling has been very impressive which has definitely made our last line of defence a lot more secure. In addition, his attacking work and link up with the midfield is equally as impressive. His accuracy and range of passing is tremendous, which was displayed perfectly in the FA Cup semi-final and final where he sent inch perfect over the top through balls from deep which assisted a goal and led to Aubameyang earning us a crucial penalty in the final.
Furthermore, his crossing ability mirrors this as on a number of occasions he’s played teasing balls across the face of goal making it very hard for defenders to intervene. Although it’s still relatively early days I am confident he will be a major success at Arsenal and lead us to great things as he already has done.
3) City Delight at Wembley
In third spot I’ve put in our FA Cup semi final win against Manchester City where a hard working gritty performance earned us a 2-0 win. Whilst it wasn’t vintage Arsenal, our resolute defending and excellent counter attacks impressed equally, particularly due to our lack of world class defending ability in comparison to our opponents who have spent hundreds of millions on their back line.
Although the stats suggest otherwise, it has to be said we were deserved winners on the day despite being out of possession for the majority of the game. This was down to a tactical masterclass from Arteta, who understood we lack that world class ability City possess but with well drilled defending and concentration throughout it would earn us entry to the final. In the first half possession was relatively equal, we had all the big chances and had the City defence on ropes for periods of the half.
The second half was a different picture, we sat deep and defended as a unit for the majority, frustrating a very attacking City side. A delightful over the top ball from Tierney sent Aubameyang through on goal and we all know what happened next. Our chance of the half was taken swiftly and allowed nerves to somewhat settle. We limited City to just 1 shot on target all game. The performance was criticised by rival fans but this is totally invalid as we are significantly worse than City in every department so if we were to take the game to them and approach it with an attack minded approach we would have been ripped apart just like we did at the Emirates in the December. Arteta’s tactics were spot on and the performances from the players were faultless. A win to be admired and I’m sure one that will live long in the memory for all Arsenal fans.
2) More Delight at Wembley
In number 2 I have selected our Heads Up FA Cup Final victory over Chelsea. We started woefully and were 0-1 down after just 6 minutes. Flashbacks of Baku from the previous year were flooding in at this point. An Arsenal side a calendar year ago most likely would have capitulated and lost in embarrassing fashion - just like last in the Europa League final. However, this Arsenal side has been reignited with fight, togetherness and passion under Arteta. After the 15th minute Chelsea did not register a single shot on target and the majority of the game following this was dominated by the gunners.
A cool penalty from Aubameyang and a delightful dink for his second won us the game. It was simply written in the stars, our captain, number 14, winning us our 14th Fa cup. It was truly a sensational day for those involved with Arsenal. Not only was the ecstasy of winning a major trophy, the underlying factors made it a particularly special event.
The journey Emi Martinez had to endure to get to this stage was incredible and seeing him reduced to tears after winning the trophy as our first choice keeper in the competition was incredibly heartwarming. Furthermore, us fans have been through a torrid time this last 12 months watching our beloved team play and winning the FA Cup was the exact thing we needed. Not only did it earn us much needed European football it also allowed us to endure some sort of lengthy celebration after a year filled with misery.
1) The Appointment of the Messiah, Mikel Arteta
In number 1 spot taking the crown for the best moment of the season was the appointment of our head coach Mikel Arteta. With a depleted Arsenal team with little going for them, a new young manager with bags of energy and enthusiasm was the precise thing needed at the club to get us going again. From the start it was evident the change Mikel had implemented. He brought in new excitement to the club amongst the fanbase due to performances on the pitch which we have been starved of.
Although we have still had poor results during his reign, the manner in which we now win, lose or draw games is a lot more positive. With the severe lack of ability within his squad he has worked wonders to form a much more secure defensive structure and fast flowing football which we were seriously lacking towards the end of Emery’s tenure. Within his first 8 months at the helm, he has guided us to our 14th FA Cup despite us being serious underdogs in the latter stages of the competition - something he and Arsenal fans should be proud of. Whilst his appointment at the time didn’t have the same amount of short term ecstasy and excitement surrounding the announcement as our FA Cup success did, the long-term excitement I have with this man at our club is unmatched and has given me and all the other Arsenal fans new hope for the future.