Arsenal: 2015/16 Season Review

Mario Rivas hosts the Full90Gooner podcast. In this piece he tries to sum up Arsenal’s disappointing season, and asks the two big questions.’ Why?’ and ‘what next?’.

Well here we are. The Premier League season is over. It feels like so long ago that August 9, 2015 came and I was so excited for a new season. Like many Arsenal fans we always come into the season with such high expectations and a sense of optimism that “this season will be our season”. Of course, as we all know, that did not happen.

First things first, would I have sat here writing this article at the beginning of the season telling you that Leicester City would be crowned champions? Absolutely not! To be honest I barely knew who Leicester were, who the hell Jamie Vardy or Riyad Mahrez were. Would I be saying that Chelsea would be sitting 10th place after winning the league so convincingly the season before? No! I actually chose them to win the league again. Would I be sitting here telling you that Arsenal would finish above Manchester City!? No. You get the picture.

I must say though, congratulations to Leicester for creating history with such a relatively small budget team. Oh  and by the way, Happy St. Totteringham’s day! But back to the point. Leicester’s team cost around £54.4m give or take. So where did it all go wrong for Arsenal – a team that cost around £251.9m to put together?

Let’s take this way back to the summer transfer window. When Arsenal announced the signing of Petr Cech on June 29th 2015 I was buzzing. Signing a “world class” goalkeeper was a massive show of intent by the manager.

Arguably one of the best goalkeepers in the world, Cech brought a sense of stability at the back that we have not seen since the days of Jens Lehmann. Or dare I say Manuel Almunia. Just kidding. We also signed him early which meant that we would see more signings, for sure. July came and went, no signing. August came, we heard a lot of buzz about potential signings…but nothing. I was thinking “nah man we are getting at least two more signings…”.

Then it was August 31 and the transfer window closed. With Welbeck injured for most of the season and no strikers other than Giroud, we were hopeless if he got injured. Not only that, we also had no extra cover in defensive midfield other than Arteta and Flamini, but the manager was confident with what he had. It was only when Francis Coquelin got injured on November 21 that he decided we needed to sign another midfielder. In came Mohammed Elneny in January. Poor decision on not reinforcing over the summer, instead.

Moving along this wonderful Arsenal season merry-go-round. Injuries, injuries and more injuries. Let’s take a look:

  • Jack Wilshere: Was out for 240 days
  • Tomas Rosicky: Was out for 211 days
  • Aaron Ramsey: Was out for 63 days
  • Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: Was out for 91 days
  • Francis Coquelin: Was out for 64 days
  • Santi Cazorla: Was out for 141 days
  • Alexis Sanchez: Was out for 53 days
  • Mesut Ozil: Was out for 18 days
  • Petr Cech: Was out for 30 days
  • Danny Welbeck: Was out for 258 days

I know these aren’t all of our injuries but I am focusing on the players who were playing and who would have likely played if available. Injuries really hurt us this season, none more than Santi’s absence. Before Cazorla was injured on November 29, 2015, Arsenal had lost just three games, drawn three and won eight. After that, Arsenal lost four games and drew eight.

I am not saying that Santi was the be all and end all of the team, but he was a very important factor. He and Coquelin had a very solid relationship last season and who knows what could have been this season. Injury also played a big part this season with Alexis being out for 53 days and Jack Wilshere for the whole of the season. All key players in my opinion, and all the more disappointing given the appointment in 2014/15 of Shad Forsythe – Head of Athletic Performance – who had seemed to make a positive impact last season.

Now we come to games in which we dropped points that we really shouldn’t have. I don’t care what people say, our second game against Chelsea should have been a win and all the while people were saying “it’s ok, still a lot ofgames to go.”  Nonsense. Games like that Arsenal should have won. The loss to Southampton on Boxing Day was a mess as well. But the games that really got me were the cheap draws. Games like Liverpool 3-3, Stoke City 0-0, Manchester City 2-2 , Norwich 1-1 just to name a few.

When Arsenal play the traditional top teams I always feel like we show them way to much respect or we are just scared of them. But this season, Chelsea finished 10th, Liverpool finished 8th and both the Manchester clubs finished 4th and 6th respectively. We finished above them all, but we failed to gain much from these games, bar beating the Manchester clubs once each. Why? I think we play to the whole David and Goliath bit.

This season saw a much-divided Arsenal fan base as well, with  WengerIN and WengerOUT brigades fighting each other verbally and occasionally physically. This surely did not help. With social media playing such a big part in our lives players are bound to see what’s going on out there. This may or may not have affected players, but it’s not to ask whether the divided fan base may have played a role. I see both sides of the story.

Do I agree that the manager has to go? It’s a big question, one sees what he has done for the club in his last 20 years but you also have to see what he has failed to do. He has failed to adapt to the changes the game has gone through. The days of buying young prospects are not completely over, but waiting for them to develop is not feasible anymore. Teams now are buying ready-made proven talent and yes, Arsene has in the last few years bought Ozil, Sanchez, Cech and now Xhaka, but this is a recent development.

To be completely honest though, I think now is not a good time to get rid of the manager. I say to the WengerOUT brigade, give him one more shot. I do feel that he is changing his views and starting to piece together something special.

Overall I cannot tell you what went wrong this season. Could or should we have won the league? Perhaps. Could we have finished 3rd or 4th? Easily. But we didn’t, we finished 2nd, above Spurs and most importantly in a Champions League spot. Which is probably why we closed the Xhaka deal so early, and with promising weeks to come with possibly more signings. So the 2015/16 season is done, let’s get over it and concentrate on the 2016/17 season and a new beginning, a beginning to something great.

Liverpool FC: 2015/16 Season Review

Norwich City: Klose but no cigar

Athletic Bilbao: A season to remember

Manchester City: 2015/16 Season Review

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