Mikel Arteta had a NIGHTMARE start, fell out with the captain HE picked and failed to replace him, while his players lacked discipline and imploded… how Arsenal fell to pieces – with Amazon watching
- READ: Arsenal’s Champions League hopes are all but over after Newcastle loss
- The Gunners were well beaten and have capitulated in their last two matches
- Across the campaign they have shown poor discipline and focus in big games
- Sportsmail takes a look at where the Gunners went wrong in a turbulent season
Arsenal’s season started with a whimper and ended with one too. Monday night’s chastening defeat at St James’ Park will sting for the team, who know Champions League football was within their grasp and is now all but lost.
Players collapsed to the turf at full time following their dismal 2-0 loss to Newcastle with a collective feeling that they had blown their shot at returning to Europe’s elite for the first time in six years.
All Arsenal can do now is do their job – by beating lowly Everton on the final day and hope that Spurs lose to already-relegated Norwich City at Carrow Road. It’s possible, but it’s a longshot, and Mikel Arteta will be extremely frustrated that their fate has been taken out of their hands.
Just weeks ago Arsenal looked to be cruising in the race for the coveted fourth spot. After beating Aston Villa 1-0 in March they were four points clear of Man United with a game in hand and six clear of Spurs.
But their inconsistencies have come back to bite them. They’ve won four and lost five games since then, and are now two points off Tottenham ahead of their final day match against the Toffees.
Sportsmail has taken a look at the crucial moments in Arsenal’s turbulent season that the club will look back at with regret as they prepare for another campaign of bitter disappointment.
Arsenal’s Champions League hopes hang by a thread after their dismal 2-0 loss to Newcastle
The Gunners were second best for 90 minutes despite needing to win to boost top four bid
Mikel Arteta has watched his players cave in under pressure on a number of occasions
They say you should start as you mean to go on, but the way Arsenal kicked off the season was a sign they could get sucked into a relegation battle.
Indeed, three straight losses without scoring a single goal left the Gunners rock bottom of the table heading into September’s international break – with a 5-0 hammering by Manchester City leaving the team bruised and searching for answers.
Arsenal were given a tough start to the campaign, but it was the manner in which they performed that was most shocking. Tasked with giving Brentford a Premier League welcome on the opening day, they were bullied by the Bees at the Brentford Community Stadium and were well beaten 2-0.
Arsenal endured the worst possible start to the season – losing three in a row without scoring
They were hammered 5-0 by Man City to ensure they were rock bottom at the end of August
A team who has just come up from the Championship should be given a stern reminder of the level required in the top flight, but instead Arsenal rolled over and were taught a lesson.
The next two games were daunting – a home clash against Chelsea before travelling to the Etihad to face City, and they duly lost both.
The three consecutive defeats left Mikel Arteta as one of the favourites to be sacked first in the Premier League, before he managed to secure two nervy 1-0 wins against Norwich and Burnley after the international break.
AUBAMEYANG SAGA AND TRANSFER WOES
Arsenal’s transfer business was a mixed bag, you could say, at both ends.
The club spent around £150million on new signings last summer, and fans were initially left happy with the majority of their dealings.
Midfielder Martin Odegaard had impressed on loan and came in for £30m. Ben White and Takehiro Tomiyasu both looked like solid additions to the back four and Aaron Ramsdale went on to claim the No 1 jersey from Bernd Leno.
But Albert Sambi Lokonga’s displays have left a lot to be desired after arriving from Anderlecht with much promise while left-back Nuno Tavares has largely had a season to forget and was infamously hauled off at half-time during their 3-0 loss against Crystal Palace.
Arsenal spent £150m last summer but some signings – including Nuno Tavares – were misfires
Arteta fell out with captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang after three disciplinary breaches
And in December, with Arsenal finally looking to get a grip on fourth spot and putting some form together, the squad were hit by an unwelcome distraction.
Captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang began to butt heads with Arteta, which deflected attention away from their positive results on the pitch.
After failing to return to the club from a trip away and being dropped from the squad to face Southampton, Arteta took the decision to strip him of his armband, claiming he had not shown ‘passion and commitment to the team.
Just weeks later, he signed for Barcelona on a free transfer, despite having 18 months to run on his £350,000 per week deal that he had only signed in late 2020.
Aubameyang left for Barcelona, but Arsenal failed to bring in a new striker to replace him
Aubameyang’s relationship with Arteta was clearly at breaking point following a second disciplinary breach under his leadership, and although he began banging in the goals for the LaLiga giants soon after his arrival, it was clear the two parties needed a divorce.
But Arsenal’s failure to sign a replacement striker in January was most baffling, as Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah were left as the only recognised strikers at the club, both having three Premier League goals between them and both on course to leave the club on free transfers in the summer.
That lack of top quality striker has hurt Arsenal in their top four race – while the quality of Harry Kane and Son Heung-min has put them on the brink of pipping them to the final spot.
LACK OF DISCIPLINE
When your own captain is flouting the club’s code of conduct and failing to set an example, you know there is an issue.
Ill discipline at the Emirates has been an outstanding problem for many years, and one Arteta has not yet managed to find an answer to.
Arteta was supposed to transform Arsenal from being a soft side into one that can regularly compete for a top four spot, trophies and eventually titles.
Arsenal have 13 red cards under Arteta since 2019, and four of those have come this season
While they may no longer be seen as ‘soft’, the team has managed to go to the other extreme and lose their cool on the pitch.
After Rob Holding’s red card in last week’s crucial North London Derby, Arsenal have now received 13 dismissals since Arteta took charge in December 2019. It’s that poor composure and loss of focus that has really hurt them in this campaign.
Four sending offs this season is the second highest behind Everton.
IMPLOSIONS IN BIG GAMES
Holding earning an early bath against Spurs in such a crucial match summed up Arsenal this season. He had only received a yellow moments earlier and had made a total of four fouls during his 33 minutes before his elbow on Son.
Arsenal have shown a nervy side to their game this season and in the North London Derby – by far their most important test – they lost their nerve and surrendered the game to Spurs, giving away a penalty before Holding got himself sent off.
Just a minute after the interval, with the team already trailing 2-0, Son made it 3-0 to put the final nail in their coffin. Who knows what Arteta said in his half time team talk. Whatever it was, it fell on deaf ears.
Arsenal collapsed in some of their biggest games, conceding a penalty and then going a man down in their pivotal North London Derby against Tottenham
And they were nowhere near at it as Newcastle outplayed them at St James’ Park on Monday
They have capitulated in a number of games, including against Man City when they surrendered a lead, went down to ten men and conceded a stoppage time winner
HOW ARSENAL BLEW THEIR TOP FOUR LEAD
The Premier League table after 28 games had Arsenal four points clear of Man United with a game in hand and six clear of Tottenham.
The Gunners had just beaten Aston Villa 1-0 away from home and were in pole position to return to Europe’s elite, until they lost three games on the bounce against Crystal Palace, Brighton and Southampton.
They managed to keep 11 men on the pitch when they travelled up to St James’ Park seeking to leapfrog Spurs with a win against Newcastle – and still picked up three yellow cards.
They had no answer to Newcastle’s relentless performance and they were second best from the get-go.
They went in at half time level but were lucky not to be behind, and just ten minutes into the second half Ben White put the ball into his own net.
Earlier on in the season, Arsenal found themselves 3-0 down at Man City by half time and Granit Xhaka had already been given his marching orders before they ended up falling to a 5-0 loss.
In the reverse fixture, Arsenal led the champions 1-0 through Bukayo Saka, and it was all going rosy until the 57th minute – when Xhaka hauled down Bernardo Silva in the area.
Riyad Mahrez slotting home the penalty, before Gabriel Magalhaes received a second yellow – then Rodri popped up with the winner deep in stoppage time.
We’ve also seen Arsenal thrashed 4-0 by Liverpool in the first part of the season, and down the road at Everton they lead 1-0 before the struggling Toffees scored twice in the final ten minutes to stun them with a comeback win.
An inevitable low point of the season was losing to Championship outfit Nottingham Forest in the third-round of the FA Cup at the beginning of the year.
‘Dressed like Tottenham, played like Tottenham,’ despaired Arsenal fan Piers Morgan as he slammed their ‘dreadful performance’ in a special all-white kit to campaign against knife crime.
But while it was a worthy cause, Arsenal players looked as unrecognisable as their new-look shirts and all at sea as Forest rallied to nick an 83rd minute winner from Lewis Grabban to dump them out of the cup.
An obvious low-point was a third-round FA Cup exit to Championship side Nottingham Forest
Arteta was damning of his side and claimed they were ‘nowhere near the levels required’ to beat a team in the second tier, hitting out at the ‘hunger’ of his players.
‘We were not good enough and we have to apologise for it,’ he told ITV.
‘I don’t want to use excuses, I expect the team I put out to do better and when you don’t in the cup you are out.
‘Today showed we were not capable of winning against Forest away from home and didn’t put in the level to win the game. It’s a collective issue and today we have not done it. What we have done today is nowhere near the level and standards that are required.’
Arsenal played in an all-white kit and looked as unrecognisable as their shock new design
‘We needed more drive, more hunger to win at any cost in every single action, much more. We were not at our level.
‘I’m really disappointed with the performance, first of all. Not with the attitude but how much purpose we have and what determination we showed to change the game when it’s difficult to play against and the way they play.
‘I have played in games like that for the last 18 years and I know how complicated it is to come here and it’s no surprise the difficulties you are going to face. But when we do that, we have to face it in a different way.’
AND IT’S ALL ON CAMERA
News that the Gunners’ season was set to be captured in Amazon’s fly-on-the-wall documentary All or Nothing was met with a mix of excitement and anxiety after seeing their rivals Tottenham have a mixed season with cameras in the club’s most intimate environements.
Did the media presence hurt Arsenal’s campaign? It’s impossible to know. Man City had the same treatment from Amazon in the 2017-2018 season and managed to register a record 100 points as they cruised to the league title.
The drama from the season will be captured by Amazon’s cameras on their All or Nothing doc
Arsenal stars may have been distracted by the extra publicity and spotlight behind the scenes
But for a club like City – boasting near-endless financial resources and a team used to winning silverware, having a few cameras in the dressing room was unlikely to have a real impact on morale.
For Arsenal – a club who have suffered a handful of years in the Champions League wilderness and have been struggling for form and identity, having the extra spotlight put on them is hardly a huge help.
Club legend Thierry Henry even admitted it could be ‘too much’ for some players to handle, claiming he would not be able to cope with it if he was still at Arsenal.
‘For the fans it’s amazing to see what is happening behind closed doors,’ he said.
Fans will be intrigued to learn more about the club from the series but it should highlight glaring issues at the Emirates
‘For some players it may be too much. But I think it’s good for people on the outside to have an insight.
‘Thank God they didn’t have that when I was playing… it would’ve certainly been entertaining.’
Arsenal fans will get the inside scoop on what really goes on behind closed doors and it’s certainly been an entertaining season to have filmed.
From that woeful start to the season to the Aubameyang row, the FA Cup exit and then the late season collapse, it should make for an interesting watch.
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