As the club season 2021/22 draws to a close and Arsenal end up trophyless, it is time to review how good the season has been and what is needed to make a successful 2022/23 campaign.
It has to be said that a season without trophy means it was not a great season.
But the team went into the unknown with a managerial change and a very short preseason and players going straight from the Olympics into the Champions League qualifiers.
Let’s have a look, competition-by-competition, from the most important to the least important:
UEFA Women Champions League
P12 W7 L5 GF 29 GA 17
Returning to the Champions League with a quarter-final defeat to Wolfsburg was not a disgrace, but a clear indication that the team is not ready to compete with the best as seen with the two Barcelona defeats (1-4, 0-4).
There is a big gap in quality between Arsenal and the best teams and the only way to close the gap is to buy new players to raise the overall squad quality.
It means maybe one or two starters need to be replaced and better quality bench players to be called upon when they are needed due to injury/suspensions.
PL22 W17 D4 L1 GF 65 GA 10
A very good season with the best ever points tally for the club in the FA WSL.
They came up short in second place, but it was a big improvement from previous seasons.
Four draws and the Birmingham defeat cost us the title. The big dip in performance in the winter from 13 November to 27 February in all competitions, is the reason why the title was lost.
Injury to Leah Williamson and the lack of performances from her replacements led to a January window signing but it did not solve all the problems, sadly.
Again, like in the Champions League, it shows we need better quality to overtake Chelsea and the summer window needs to bring new players.
FA Women’s cup 2021/22
P4 W3 L1 GF 9 GA 2
Lost in the semi-finals against Chelsea.
Small margins decided this game with Arsenal getting close just minutes before Chelsea scored. And then it went downhill from there.
It showed there is a small gap in quality between the two teams and on the day Arsenal can beat Chelsea as seen in the league season opener at the Emirates Stadium
FA Women’s Cup 2020/21
P3 W2 L1 GF 8 GA 4
Lost in the final, outclassed by Chelsea.
It looked like one of the games under Joe Montemurro where the teams could not find solutions to beat Chelsea.
A disappointing outcome for sure and the closest we came from winning a trophy.
FA WSL Continental Cup 2021/22
P1 L1 GF 0 GA 1
The team was given a bye to the quarter-finals due to the Champions League and ended up being eliminated in the first game.
Very very poor.
Overall, there was a failure to win any trophy. But this is elite football and there is no margin for error, you get punished if you make mistakes or if you are not good enough.
That is the harsh reality for football players at the highest competition level. Margins are small, the frontier between success and failure is really thin.
What it means is work needs to be done on the training ground to improve the team level of play and also quality players need to be added to improve the football quality on display.
Tactical work and opponent analysis also needs to be better. Players’ injuries seem to have improved from the previous seasons, but they still cost us in the end.
As our opponents are getting better and faster, our players need to think faster, get their decision making and technical responses to complex situations up to a faster speed, too.
Better players, faster players, more football intelligent need to be added to improve the team as a whole.
One coach used to tell me: if you want to do better training sessions and exercises, you can’t have lower quality players who won’t be able to execute the exercises. Otherwise your team will not be able to improve and solve problems during the games.
Recruitment during the summer will be key, in my opinion, to be able to compete in the Champions League and to win the League.