Apologies for the lack of my weekly musings last week. Bank holiday shenanigans coupled with a serious bout of man flu have hampered my ability to do anything productive that week, followed by seeing a loved one leave this world. It’s had me thinking about the present moment a lot and how we can almost feel so encapsulated within it, that we forget it can be over in an instant. She was 68 years young and it was far too early for her to
leave us all and the pang of it is felt more so by the nearest and dearest to her simply because she was the most happy and pure soul I ever had the experience of meeting. The joy on her face as well as the laughter around her that followed will be a memory that I’ll never forget. This same feeling can be brought down to even the simple things in life, like the feeling of winning THAT trophy, signing THAT player, just about catching THAT train, waking up to THAT beautiful sunshine. They are all magnificent feelings in their own way but as I mentioned above, they can disappear in an instant. They are so temporary that
we should enjoy these moments fully in the now and not dwell so much on what could have been. In turn we should I guess prepare ourselves for events turning not so in our favour and try to come to terms with a bit of perspective from time to time. Anyway, that’s the deep and meaningful part of this post..back to the football.
This week it’s all about reflection and looking into what could have been as well as what has actually transpired. When looking back at this season, the brilliant events of the final weekend do mask what happened all of the weeks leading up to it. We managed to balls up a season that opened itself up in a way that we couldn’t have truly imagined, yet we, along with the majority of the other big boys, were not able to take advantage. How in hell did Leicester win this league? We are living in world where a team who sit back and defend well and hit on the counter. Now that’s not to say that I begrudge their style in any way, as with the resources they have versus the rest of the league why would they play any other way? But how did so many of us play such abject football for so long and not break down that Leicester side? Granted we did our job against them by taking 6 points off them, but we then succumbed to losing and drawing games to teams who played a similar way. Our style lacked any identity this season, which was a big reason as to why we were only able to finish 2nd (LOL 2nd!) but it’s still unbelievable that it happened this way.
Let’s forget the others and focus on ourselves. It all began with that fateful performance against West Ham. While we lacked identity and sharpness for game one, we let ourselves beat us rather than the Hammers. They did well to set up and come for a draw, which is wat they would have got if it weren’t for mistakes from Cech and Oxlade Chamberlain. But this game followed a similar pattern to the many that followed in similar vein.
It was clear from day one that we needed a midfield base of Coquelin and Cazorla, flanked by Ramsey and Sanchez and Ozil in the number 10 position as our midfield. Any other combination at the base of our midfield and we were lucky when we won and picked apart way too easily when we didn’t. The gaps in our midfield were far too easy to find and our lack of purchasing the right outfield player was indicative of this. Giroud at the spearhead of this attack worked quite well, but it needed Ramsey’s unpredictable runs from the right hand side to allow Alexis the space and guile to operate in his most effective manner. From the December win vs Man City we really didn’t play very well and rode our luck massively in any wins that we had and it looked as though Wenger stumbled upon a winning formula, largely down to the combination of Alex Iwobi and Mohamed Elneny integrating into the side. Even with Elneny, Wenger seemed reluctant to use him within the team, however finished with a combination of Elneny and Ramsey at the base of our midfield. Either way we ended the campaign with the final 10 games going unbeaten, some
good performance and some frantic ones, however we did end fairly strongly in comparison to our fairly erratic season.
What didn’t work
So much could be said of this category. We didn’t quite have a midfield base that we could properly rely on. Wenger seemed to try and go with Ramsey and Flamini A LOT at the base, which in some games worked ok for us but in others any semblance of a decent midfield tore through it. Neither of the two were ball players and we didn’t have anyone else within the squad who could fill the ball playing Santi Cazorla. Because of that our build up play was fraught and frenetic, leading to some really disoriented build up play. By the time that we got the ball up to anywhere near the final third any calmness and it lead to some quite rushed finishing. The harmony was missing from our football for so long this season and even when Elneny was introduced, while the play did improve because of his tireless running, it still lacked a little composure. This was a major concern for almost half the season, which is why it’s the area of the pitch that has been addressed first and foremost this summer with the signing of Granit Xhaka – The ball playing tough man that could finally be our answer to the departure of Patrick Vieria. No pressure.
The best moment of this season in person for me had to be Theo Walcott’s goal vs Man City at the Emirates this season. In a game where we were severely under pressure we scored a quite beautiful goal against the run of play to turn the game and create a quite incredible atmosphere. The best moment overall though would have to be the final day of the season as the Sp*rs score was coming in while we just about pushed forward to get a second goal. A quite hilarious end to a disappointing season. It didn’t mask our pitfalls but it did create a nice feeling going into the summer. A few special mentions need to go out to the home win vs Man Utd, the home win vs Bayern and the last minute Welbeck winner vs Leicester. All great moments.
The worst part of this season for me had to be the two games vs Man Utd away followed by Swansea at home. Those two games spelt the end of our title challenge (realistically anyway) and really highlighted that we didn’t quite have the balls to go ahead and win this league. And we really should have won this league. Those two games were our seasons in a microcosm. Promise. Hope. Possibility. Followed by a speed bump, leading to a car crash. The smallest of adversities that we faced sent us spiraling out of control and is the biggest reason as to why we didn’t go on to win it.
Goal of the season
My favourite goal this season had to be the Danny Welbeck one. Purely for the timing, celebration, the opposition and the player who did it. After being out for so long to come on and get the winner in the 92nd minute is what dreams are made of.
Player of the season
Created the most chances in the history of the Premier League and quite frankly could have doubled Henry’s assist record if we had a more clinical centre forward. This video might just give you an inkling into that. It’s 21 minutes long but if you have the time, take a look. Some seriously great football in it.
6/10 this season. For two reasons; firstly for not investing into the positions needed last summer, be it in or out of his hands the buck stops with a man who couldn’t bring in a player needed with funds available (as well as plenty of players available). Secondly for not being able to find a solution that worked in terms of a plan B. The base of that midfield was left far too open for too long and, while we didn’t have the personnel to plug the gap we might have been able to see a better tactical solution put in place to nullify other teams if we couldn’t play to our strengths (which we couldn’t for large portions of the season).
Granit Xhaka in. Mkhitaryan/Mahrez mooted. Vardy negotiations ongoing (I really hope we find an alternative to this racist man, I cannot stand him and don’t want such a ‘role model’ to be at our great club). It looks like a busy summer ahead and one where we are making strides already. A wide forward and centre forward are essential as is a centre back in my opinion. If we can address these 3 remaining areas we will be in the mix next season.
I’ll leave it there for now and properly discuss transfers next week as well as some Euros chat.
Have a great week folks, seize the day and live in the moment.
Follow me on Twitter @MiteshLakhani1.