No Arsenal supporter can fail to be impressed by the startling improvement in the Gunners between 2022 and 2023. After struggling to come 5th in 21-22 with spate of insipid, mind-numbing performances which tested the faith of even the most blinded of fans, this past year Arteta was able to pull it together and lead his team to a very credible title challenge for eight months out of nine over a world-cup broken season. The irony is, after spending £250 million in transfers, both the club’s management and the most fervent pro-Arteta fans had in pre-season spent all their energy talking down the chances of the club making a leap forward and challenging the big boys for Top-4. Under-promise, over-deliver?
It is blindingly obvious to me that, just as the club and Arteta sandbagged the fans when projecting for 2022-23, they decided to play the same “trick” card after running out of steam and crashing out of the title race in a matter of 5 games, causing much disappointment in the Goonerverse. In the aftermath of crushing defeats to Brighton and Nottingham Forrest it was verboten for anyone close to the the club to admit that the team and, by implication the manager, had “bottled it”. A week ago, the Technical Director, Edu Gaspar, in an interview with ESPN–Brazil made it crystal clear:
“Saying Arsenal ‘bottled’ is a word I wouldn’t use, we created our own frustration. Nobody expected us to fight for the title.
“You being frustrated about not winning the title is a change of mind. It could even be considered, let’s say, positive, considering times ago.
“In the past, we celebrated the fourth place, the third. Today, we are frustrated with the second.”
In my opinion, fans should be concerned the club is focussed on PR and spinning the failures of April and May as merely a matter of the mind. Instead, as Edu proclaimed, we should celebrate coming 2nd rather than 3rd or fourth. Conveniently Edu omitted that in recent years we came 8th, 8th and 5th. Another example of playing the “trick” card. Works every time apparently.
Clearly the club wants us to forget how diabolic and shambolic was the run-in to the title. No way must fans ask questions of Arteta and the management team.
To be fair Arteta has banked a lot of credit for taking us so close. Very few fans are willing to publicly criticize him for what he got wrong during the season. No wonder he was the pitchman in that slick 5 minute video released on 28th May, right before the ultimate game of the season vs Wolves. Striding like a colossus through the Emirates with wafts of clouds and music levitating him off the ground Arteta first praised himself for the “club returning” and then gave consolation prizes to everyone else. In culmination he declared:
Now we focus on what’s in front, and if we keep moving forwards, we can achieve anything. Because we know what’s behind this club, behind this feeling.
After a season when almost everything went well for the 1st team with the notable exception of long-term injuries to Saliba and Gabriel Jesus, isn’t Arteta reversing his stance of last year; this time over-promising with no guarantee of delivery?
In the Positively Uncensored Arsenal podcast with me, Blackburn George and Seebs we did the unthinkable; offer a critical analysis of the 2023 campaign and look forward to our prospects in the future. Hopefully it is food for thought, at least.
This is our final podcast for the season. Thanks to all those who stuck with us through thick and thin. We couldn’t have done it without you. Hope to see you next season!