For a club historically known to be part of the traditional top four teams in the Premier League, Arsenal Football Club seems to have lost its way.
They seem to now be a shadow of their former selves from their recent glory of the late 1990s and early 2000s. The Gunners were perennial title contenders alongside Manchester United and the rivalry made the Premier League a must-see.
Even after the North-London club stopped being the cream of the crop in England’s top flight, they found ways to ensure participation in Europe’s premier club competition. That itself seems like a distant memory as The Gunners have failed to qualify for the UEFA Champions League since the 2016-17 season. While manager Mikel Arteta, might have won two trophies in his first season in charge of the club, their disappointing outing last time out (2020-21 campaign) means the jury is still out on him, and things must improve at the Emirates if he’s to continue as club boss.
The goal for the entire Arsenal faithful, board members, and fans alike will be to secure a UCL place next season. Even the traditionally optimistic French betting markets are sour on Arsenal’s chances to secure a place amongst Europe’s elite clubs, for the fifth season running.
The recent transfer additions of Arsenal show that the club’s deliberate plans to reduce the overall age of the playing personnel. The Gunners have signed Nuno Tavares from Benfica and Albert Sambi Lokonga from Anderlecht ahead of the new campaign, but neither are expected to be starters with the team. Additionally, the recent departure of David Luiz and potential outs for players like Granit Xhaka, Willian, and Hector Bellerin, means Arsenal don’t have a great deal of experience in the dressing room. Arsenal is now made up mostly of players who haven’t finished in the top four or challenged for the Premier League title at any point in their professional career. While Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette are both above the age of 30, neither has shown the leadership required to get Arsenal over the hump. Also, both are coming off relatively poor campaigns in the 2020-21 season.
On the coaching front, The Gunners are also lacking in experience compared to other top six clubs. Mikel Arteta spent three years as assistant to Pep Guardiola at Manchester City before he was appointed Arsenal manager in November 2019. The former Gunners midfielder won the FA Cup and Community Shield with the Gunners in his first nine months. Alas, his inexperience came to the fore after losing to Villarreal in the semifinals of the UEFA Europa League and finished eighth in the Premier League; their worst finish in that league for more than 15 years. Compared to other top four or top six contenders, Arsenal doesn’t have the most experienced or proven manager and that might be a serious hindrance in the club’s quest to secure Champions League football next season.
Lack of Quality/Investment
If the reports are to be believed, then Arsenal is on the verge of making Brighton & Hove Albion’s Ben White the most expensive defender in the club’s history. Even that might not be enough to see the club compete with the other top teams. The need for proper investment in the playing personnel is required if the Gunners are to achieve their goals this season. Let’s face it, Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United, and Chelsea all have better players compared to the North-London club. Rumours making the rounds suggest Arsenal is interested in the services of Sassuolo’s Manuel Locatelli and Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Ruben Neves, suggesting that Stan Kroenke and the rest of the board realize the need for investment. Rome, as they say, wasn’t built in a day, but Arsenal must begin to invest more heavily in their squad or risk being left behind by the other top six clubs. And that’s something I don’t see them doing.
If the traditional top six clubs in the Premier League are Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, and Tottenham Hotspur, then where does that put Leicester City? The Foxes have secured consecutive fifth-place finishes in the last two seasons. Also, they look on course to give the top four another run for their money this campaign. This would seem to leave the likes of Arsenal and Tottenham in a dogfight for the league’s final position.
West Ham United secured sixth place last time out and will be hoping to build on such a successful season as well. Finally, Everton seems to have the financial power and managerial experience to be in the mix as well. Overall nine clubs will be in the hunt for just six positions. The Gunners must outperform these other clubs, who have lofty ambitions of playing in Europe, before setting their sights on the current top four sides. This seems like a daunting task without even considering Aston Villa who could be a wildcard. Keep an eye out for them as well.
Absence of European action
When Chelsea won the Premier League in the 2016-17 season, a lot of pundits credited their absence on the European stage as a positive. However, Manchester United and more recently, Villarreal have shown one of the best ways to secure UCL football is by winning the Europa League. The Arsenal faithful might see the absence of Thursday night football as a huge advantage. However, should the club fail to secure a top-four finish via the Premier League which looks almost impossible at this point, then there’s no second avenue into the 2022-2023 Champions League competition.