Thanks Mikel for making us believe again
Arsenal didn’t win the Premier League title this season, but boy did they give it a good go, creating so many amazing memories along the way.
Completing a league-double over Tottenham, Eddie Nketiah’s last-gasp volley against Manchester United, victory at Stamford Bridge, a 3-2 win over Liverpool and the demolition of a hapless Chelsea.
In any normal season, all of these would be the outstanding moment, but this was no normal season.
Equally, Emi Martínez’s diving header was undoubtedly the most hilarious moment of the campaign, but nothing comes close to a comeback victory over Bournemouth, with Reiss Nelson’s last-gasp volley cementing his place in Arsenal folk-law.
At that moment, and having taken 50 points from the first 57 available, everyone believed, and that’s the word of the season for Arsenal: believe.
In the end, Mikel Arteta’s team came up short, squandering leads at Anfield and the London Stadium, before paying the price for slack defending against an otherwise wretched Southampton.
This sequence of three draws was followed by a 4-1 mauling at the Etihad, that emphasised the gulf that still exists between Arsenal and the team they endeavoured to dethrone.
In the end though, the Gunners finished second, a mere five points below Man City, meaning a victory in either of the top two’s head-to-head meetings would’ve been enough to take the title.
But Arsenal have now lost 12 consecutive Premier League meetings with the Sky Blues, the longest sequence of defeats any one side has endured against another in the competition’s history.
In recent years, they’ve managed to end long waits for wins over Spurs, Chelsea, Liverpool and Man United.
But, if they are to be champions any time soon, there’s still one mountain left to climb, and it’s the steepest and most treacherous of them all.
To think Arsenal were going to win the title despite losing both meetings with Man City was always going to require something quite remarkable.
Only once since 2009 have then champions lost both encounters with the runners-up and that was Leicester, beaten home and away by Arsenal themselves, in 2015/16.
Arteta’s team did break all sorts of club records this season, scoring 88 league goals, the most Arsenal have managed in a top-flight campaign for 59 years.
It’s worth remembering, because this was lost amongst all the title talk, they have qualified for the Champions League for the first time in seven years, which was the aim at the start of the season, and is a serious game-changer going forward.
Now, for the Gunners to kick on again, they need another comfortable top four finish and, if the title does remain illusive, a cup win would be massive, as Arteta seeks to further create a winning culture.
The 5-0 win over Wolves on the final day could’ve been the day Arsenal’s 19-year wait to be champions of England.
Instead, even though the game was generally inconsequential, all supporters in attendance were determined to celebrate the team’s achievements, remaining optimistic that this is the start of something special.
A summer of strengthening required ahead of Champions League return
Ahead of their first Champions League campaign since 2016/17, it’s set to be a summer of spending in North London.
Gabriel, Aaron Ramsdale, Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka have all committed their long-term futures to the club, although William Saliba’s contract, he has just on year left, remains a bit of a concern.
Midfield could see a large overhaul, with Granit Xhaka on his way to Bayer Leverkusen, while Thomas Partey has been attracting interest from a few of Serie A’s “sette sorelle”.
Moisés Caicedo, who they made a huge bid for in January, and Declan Rice are on the club’s wishlist, although the cost of bringing in both would be substantial.
There are players who, between them, could bring in decent funds, namely Auston Trusty, Albert Sambi Lokonga, Cédric, Nuno Tavares, Nicolas Pépé and, most of all, Folarin Balogun, who’s excelled on loan at Reims in Ligue 1, scoring 21 goals.
Kieran Tierney also looks set to leave the club, meaning defensive reinforcements will be required.
On the flip side, Reiss Nelson, who was out of contract, and Emile Smith Rowe both look likely to stay, meaning Arsenal are pretty stacked in forward areas, in terms of quantity at least.
When asked if the current squad could compete in the Premier and Champions League next season, Mikel Arteta emphatically answered no, highlighting that he expects quality editions to be made.