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(another long read)

Serious contenders or a flash in the pan?

Last week we left Arsenal as very unexpected leaders of the Premier League as we moved inexorably towards 2023. When football resumed after the World Cup could they maintain their incredible form? Christmas 2022 gave us the first indication.

After the interlull

The break in league football from the 12th November to Boxing Day 2022 was an interlull like no other. Arsenal’s squad participation in Qatar was not as extensive as other clubs but we still, typically, suffered an injury blow more severe than most teams when Gabriel Jesus sustained a serious knee injury. While the goals had dried up for Jesus in the League after an exciting start, there was clear evidence that his all-action play made other players like Martinelli and Ødegaard more productive. Given the likely length of his absence there was genuine concern that Eddie Nketiah was an appropriate understudy.

Saka was the only Arsenal player who was involved with England regularly. Ben White returned home early after an alleged spat with Steve Holland, the England coach. Ramsdale presumably spent most of the tournament training and listening to podcasts. Saliba went to the final with France but was (amazingly) well down the pecking order behind Varane and Upamecano. Partey’s Ghana had a shocker and Martinelli was a bit-part player for Brazil. Granit Xhaka’s Switzerland did not go deep into the competition either.

Trev speculated last week about what I might say about the impact of the World Cup on the season. It was not what I expected it to be. I had expected more long-term injuries but the side who dominated the season, Manchester City sailed into the critical part of the season with no significant  injuries whatsoever. Our long-term casualties this season were Jesus, who was injured in Qatar, Saliba, who was there but scarcely played and Tomayisu who is regularly injured anyway. ESR wasn’t fit for much of the season but that had nothing to do with the World Cup I can’t say from a physical perspective that it had as significant an effect as I expected it to. We may see knock-on effects next season if players do not get sufficient rest in the close season but I had expected squads to be decimated by April and it didn’t happen.

I did find that the last part of the season dragged for me, but that may be because our form fell away and I lost a little interest. The season may have been a ordeal for players who were involved in the tournament (for example, I thought Saka’s form dipped towards the end but it didn’t appear to have as serious an impact as I expected). For many players it provided a mid-season break of sorts.

Back home speculation was rife that Arsenal would wilt when football resumed after Christmas because of the toughness of their immediate upcoming fixtures. When they trailed 1-0 on Boxing Day to West Ham it appeared these fears might be well-founded but sparked by a brilliant performance by Ødegaard we ran out comfortable 3-1 winners. Nketiah replaced Jesus seamlessly. On New Year’s Eve we travelled to meet the exciting Brighton side and in a brilliant first half dominated them. Running out 4-2 winners we were relieved that a late Mitoma goal was disallowed but this was nevertheless a substantial victory. We then ran into a very cynical and negative Newcastle side who double parked the bus and wasted time from the get-go. It earned them a 0-0 draw and the contempt of the red half of North London.

We then moved on to the Toilet Bowl for the return NLD. Our first half performance was one of the highlights of the season. Ødegaard dominated midfield. His characteristic low drive made it 2-0 after the kind donation of an own goal by agent Lloris. The Spuds, completely outclassed in the first half, rose from their slumber and found Ramsdale in imperious form. So frustrated was one Spud fan that he kicked our keeper in the back (classy move) after the game in which Richarlison fell out with everyone and Granit Xhaka was rescued from a developing ruck by Arteta’s quick thinking. North London was unequivocally red and the Spuds were aware that they had the wrong manager (again). It was significant that we had progressed so much in the seven months since we last played them or had the Spuds regressed under the negative Conte? I suspected it was a bit of both.

The following week the third Holic pre-match gathering took place at Il Pappagone before the game with Manchester United. We must have more of these because for the third time this season an absolute classic followed. Rashford’s brilliant opener was cancelled out by Nketiah and early in the second half Saka, who tore Shaw a new one all afternoon, scored with a brilliant curling shot only to see Ramsdale flap at a corner and Martinez head home. We then saw a reprise of the game at Old Trafford where Partey and Ødegaard put a lock on midfield and Zinchenko produced an extraordinary performance so that United (albeit without Casemiro) just could not get out. In the last minute Eddie Nketiah flicked home from close range and after an agonising wait VAR confirmed that the goal stood. In a season of outstanding performances Saka’s magnificent skewering of one of the best full-backs in the country was quite outstanding. It was the finest performance I’ve seen from Bukayo and that boy sets a high bar. Things were getting serious! We had emerged from a testing period in remarkable shape and we were being regarded much more widely as genuine contenders for the title.

The transfer window

The January transfer window will forever be remembered as an example of the maxim that nothing exceeds like excess as Chelsea tried to buy up anyone with a pulse on a long-term contract for extraordinarily inflated sums of money and put them on ridiculous wages. As one of these signings was Mudryk, who was on the cusp of joining Arsenal, there was much ill-informed rubbish about Chelsea being a more ambitious club than Arsenal. Arsenal seemed to be willing to pay north of £80 million for a player that would probably not have been an immediate starter. Some of us suspected that Chelsea wanted to do some chest-beating and indeed some of the Neanderthal element of their supporter base crowed about the drive of their new owners and compared it to Arsenal’s apparent lack of ambition (or what we might regard as financial commonsense). How little they realised what a mess was being created at the Bus Stop.

Arsenal pivoted from Mudryk to sign the much cheaper and more experienced Leandro Trossard of Brighton who hit the ground running. They added Jakub Kiwior, a Polish centre back from Serie A’s Spezia, and on deadline day (having no luck in signing Moises Caicedo from Brighton) added Jorginho from Chelsea. Never having been a Jorginho fan before I have to admit his quality and temperament stood us in very good stead at times during the season. Edu’s dealings deserve scrutiny but it has to be said that there is a very clear plan emerging and one senses that there is excellent communication between Edu and Arteta. Better than Chelsea’s anyway.

The blip happens

Arsenal were now holding a significant points lead over Manchester City, although City had games in hand. Nobody at Arsenal seemed to be getting carried away but it was impossible not to fantasise about the possibility of a wildly unexpected title success. Bookmakers were making us favourites and we were all doing calculations about how many points we might need.

City deposited us out of the FA Cup in a tight game, but more significantly Everton with the new manager bounce of a Sean Dyche appointment beat us at Goodison. In our next game we took a 1-0 lead against Brentford only to see VAR official Lee Mason fail to do his job properly and disallow an Ivan Toney header that was clearly offside. It cost him his job but it also  cost us two valuable points. When City beat us at home a few days later in a game where we had surprisingly dominated possession the media began to write off any Arsenal title challenge.


Arsenal next travelled to Aston Villa facing their first mini-crisis of the season. Partey had missed the City game and Jorginho had replaced him and went in against Villa. Arsenal twice went a goal down and entered the second half 2-1 down but an inspirational second half in which Jorginho, Ødegaard, and Zinchenko were magnificent saw us run out 4-2 winners. That our last two goals were scored due to Emi Martinez first unwittingly heading in a rebound, and then being marooned upfield as Martinelli ran the ball into an empty net following a corner; this added immensely to the enjoyment. No phallic celebrations from Emi on this occasion!

That battling victory revived our spirits and we went on a run of victories over Leicester, Everton and Bournemouth. This latter victory was remarkable as we trailed within seconds of the kick-off, went 2-0 down and went into the last minute of the match at 2-2. The Reiss Nelson winner from our final corner was one of the most ecstatic moments in the history of our stadium and it was a marvellous strike in the most dramatic of circumstances.

A number of Holics travelled to Fulham for a small pre-match celebration and a comfortable 3-0 win. Trossard recorded a hat-trick of first half assists and towards the end of the match Gabriel Jesus returned. While we went out of Europe in the next match, of far greater significance were the injuries to Saliba and Tomayisu which ended their seasons. We lost the first penalty shootout ever staged at Ashburton Grove but our focus was now very much on the league. We despatched our next two opponents Palace and Leeds, both by 4-1 scorelines. Jesus had returned in goalscoring form and Ben White decided to channel Cafu and become a goalscoring full-back!

We begin to falter

I missed the start of our game with Liverpool at Anfield arriving home as Jesus gave us a 2-0 lead. We were in total control but the concession of a goal by Salah just before half-time radically changed the mood and despite a missed Salah penalty and a brilliant Ramsdale performance a late Firmino goal earned them a draw. Liverpool’s form was at least reviving but West Ham, our next opponent, were not showing any great signs of improved form. When we again went into a 2-0 lead through Jesus and Ødegaard we looked in complete control. A Partey mistake saw him mugged by Rice leading to a penalty which Benrahma put away. When Saka had the chance to extend our lead from the spot he sadly fired wide and we were punished just after when Bowen fired home. It was the most annoying and unnecessary concession of points since our game with Southampton in the autumn. And Southampton were next up. Bottom of the table what could possibly go wrong? A Ramsdale howler in the first minute and then a Theo counter-attacking goal was the answer.  Martinelli pulled a goal back immediately but they extended the lead in the second half. Only another late, late show with goals by Ødegaard and Saka saved our blushes, but they could not save two points. We had now dropped six points in three games and City were looming very large in the rear view mirror.

The guillotine falls

I watched the pivotal game with City from a hospital bed. It didn’t improve my mood or my condition and for me our realistic title challenge ended there. City had gone through the gears and were playing superbly; on the night we played they reached the sort of heights they latterly reached against Real Madrid. Without Saliba to handle Haaland our task was hopeless and we were outplayed. It was a very comprehensive 4-1 defeat and although Sky tried to propound the fallacy that there was still a title race going on it ended at the Emptihad that night despite the fact that in our next two games we played two excellent matches. We turned over a hapless Chelsea with Ødegaard netting twice and our Norwegian captain led us to an encouraging performance in the bear pit that is St. James Park. Ødegaard got the first goal and Martinelli forced Schar into conceding an own goal in the second half. Again in a big game, in a febrile atmosphere Ramsdale played superbly to earn a magnificent clean sheet. Leaving City aside we had proved that we could deal with the sides who had hampered our Champions League chances during the previous season – Newcastle, Palace, Tottnumb, and Brentford.

But the feeling that our title charge was over was heavily compounded by a comprehensive defeat by a Brighton side who were as skilful as they were physical. Arsenal, for the first time this season might be accused of lacking the appetite for a battle. This was even more evident the following week in a turgid 1-0 loss to Nottingham Forest. The  early concession of a goal to Anowiyi was a step too far and a very lateral and uninspired performance followed. That loss handed the title officially to City so we’d taken the battle technically to our penultimate game of the season which was a sight further than anyone else did. In our last game we had a party. Ironically Arteta picked exactly the side that had played so poorly at Forest and they thrashed Wolves 5-0! Granit signed off with two early goals and our last goal of the season was scored by Kiwior. Trossard racked up two more assists. Interestingly no player scored more than 15 goals this season but we had four regular scorers and Granit emerged as a pretty regular scorer last season.

The lessons of an epic season

I thought long and hard about using the word epic in the heading but I think it is justified. As I was writing this article I received a phone call from a Chelsea fan. He commented that I must be delighted to have had such a wonderful season. Lest we forget we finished nine points ahead of the team in 3rd place ( ManUre)  and 13 ahead of Newcastle in fourth, 17 ahead of Liverpool and 24 ahead of our North London neighbours who just pipped us to the fourth Champions League spot last season. We actually reached the total to qualify for the Champions League on April 1st! The maths is too difficult to calculate the gap to Chelsea! We scored at least 3 goals in 12 of our home matches and in total scored 88 goals. We did concede 43 but 17 of these came in the last 10 games which Saliba missed; we conceded only 33 in the previous 28. Overall, this was probably at least 8 too many. Interestingly, we were the strongest team in the league away from home but only had the fourth best home record where we conceded 7 more goals at home than we did away and only recorded four clean sheets. But this still constitutes real progress in cold, hard terms and also underlines that the Premier League is fiercely competitive.

There were reasons why we made this progress. Firstly we strengthened the team. Saliba, playing at last was a revelation and is one of the best young centre backs in Europe. Interesting that the more experienced Gabriel clearly lost confidence when Saliba was injured. We very much need William to commit his future to the club. He will be a serious target of predators as he could play for anybody although he definitely found Ivan Toney a handful! Gabriel Jesus made a tremendous impression with his skill and effort but reverted slightly to type as the goals dried up, although post his injury he scored more freely again. Zinchenko endeared himself to Arsenal fans with his skill, attitude, versatility, and amazing aerial ability. He became our first inverted full back but also made some defensive rickets, especially towards the end of games. He is also regularly injured. Frankly I think I prefer Tierney as the starting left-back in games where we face quality wide men. In the winter window Jorginho was a canny acquisition and ultimately pushed Partey out of the first team midfield.  £12m for his experience and quality is a good deal. Trossard began brilliantly and created assists for fun, including three in one half at Fulham. Although he faded slightly towards the end of the season he possibly suffered because his versatility can sometimes mean that he finds it difficult to hold a fixed place in the team. Kiwior has just made his way into the team. Personally, I’m not yet totally convinced by him but it is early days and he has real potential.

Another area carefully neglected by the media was our discipline. Arsenal had four players sent off in the previous season but they did not receive a red card in 2022/3. We also received 9 fewer yellow cards. The early Arteta days were notable for a plethora of red cards with Xhaka to the fore but the improved discipline of the team meant that we did not have a suspension during the season. That is not an accident and does the team great credit. You can be sure if the figures had moved the other way it would have been highlighted!

In Edu we trust?

We had a lively debate in last year’s off-season about our ability to move players on for money. Edu is well-respected at the club, seems to have great emotional intelligence and has excellent contacts in certain markets. But we can’t keep paying top-dollar for players coming in while failing to raise serious fees for players we want to move on. I shudder to think that we might be contemplating sales of Balogun, Patino, Tierney, and possibly Partey. I hope we aren’t because that would leave holes in our squad that we will struggle to fill. But if we did sell them we’d need to raise £120 million for that much talent. Let’s say I’m not convinced Edu would raise 60% of that figure. Yet we will be expected to pay £80 m plus for Declan Rice, £70 m for Caicedo and if we are interested in Maddison we’d need to shell out at least £70 m. Other clubs seem able to extract giant fees…

But there’s another thing. We’ve bought well, superbly in some situations but we’ve also had our share of duds. It happens to every club (except Brighton). On the plus side we’ve bought exceptional talent in Saliba, Ramsdale, Gabriel, White, and Martinelli who are all worth much more than we paid for them. But we’ve also added Nuno Tavares, Sambi Lokonga, and Fabio Vieira. Tomayisu is a fine player but is very fragile. The jury is inevitably out on Marquinhos, and Trusty may never play for us (although he looks worth serious perusal). Cedric and Mari were stop-gaps who largely washed their face but it would be wrong to assume every player we sign slips seamlessly into the first team squad. Sadly I feel we vastly overpaid for Vieira, a player who is too frail for English football. But we have no chance of selling him back to Portugal for anything like we paid for him so a loan is probably the best outcome we can achieve.

What is the point of Hale End?

If Charlie Patino wants to move on this summer and if Balogun agitates for a move it will underline how hard it is to integrate young players who have come through the system  into the first-team squad. Smith Rowe hasn’t started a game all season. Will Brooke Norton-Cuffy or Lino Sousa be considered good enough for the first team? Of our Youth Cup finalists who will have a career with the club that nurtured them? Frankly what is the point of running an Academy where none of the graduates, however talented are considered good enough to play in our first team ? If Hale Enders stop following the path forged by Bukayo Saka we will lose a huge amount of the tradition that has fuelled great Arsenal teams over the years. Bukayo is exceptional, a wonderful ambassador for our club and a magnificent player (if overplayed by Arteta). But when will we see his like again? I’d rather see BNC understudy Ben White and Charlie Patino replace Elneny while ESR competes with Ødegaard rather than you know who. Arsenal need to breed talent that plays or Hale End will become a white elephant.

Arteta is better

The dynamo that drives Arsenal is Arteta. His appointment was a brave and far-sighted move and he has clearly received and appreciated the support he has had from the Kroenkes. We could have sacked him at least twice but we are not Tottnumb and we are in an immeasurably better place for keeping him. Jogo de posicion, his favoured style of play, requires intelligent and skilful players and coaches but it works. Our football is not only successful, it is exciting and attractive and we’ve seen some stunning performances this season including some wonderful home matches. Arteta is far from the finished article and he is still an inexperienced manager. Lest we forget he began at Arsenal by winning the FA Cup with a rag, tag, and bobtail unit left by Unai Emery. Arteta has driven the club forward and realises that success requires fans to be taken on the journey and for a family atmosphere to thrive, hence the chocolate Labrador at the training ground and the promotion of North London Forever as the club anthem.

Arteta will get better and let us pray that  he reaches his peak with us. He is not perfect. He doesn’t rotate as much as I  would like but maybe he doesn’t yet have the squad to do so. We concede too many cheap goals especially at home and noticeably our record in defending set pieces deteriorated over the season. But I am massively impressed with Arteta and we should ensure, as far as we can, that he has the right tools with which to work.

Players of the season

I’m conscious that if this were a podcast you might be running out of battery life but I did want us to have a wide-ranging debate on a remarkable season. I will end by trying to pick our player of the season. The possible candidates are, in my view, Ramsdale, White, Saliba, Saka, and Ødegaard. Others were at times magnificent, in bursts: Xhaka, in his valedictory season, Partey until his form fell off a cliff, Gabriel whose confidence has recently plunged, Martinelli, a huge and growing talent, and the two City imports Zinchenko and Jesus who aided us enormously but also illustrated why a side at City’s level felt able to sell them.

Ramsdale excelled often when we needed him most and is superb (usually) with his feet. White is a quality Steady Eddie who never lets us down but occasionally took a chasing from a fleet-footed winger (Mitoma, Rashford). Saka is such a delightful boy it’s hard to resist giving him the prize but I felt he suffered at times from being overplayed, receiving double coverage, and often being kicked to death. Saliba had a magnificent debut season and the drop in our defensive efficiency was obvious when he was no longer there. But my choice is Martin Ødegaard. He proved a conscientious and committed captain and helped us dominate games with his passing, industry, and intelligence. The accusations are levelled that he goes missing in big games. Well, he didn’t go missing at Newcastle or Tottnumb or Old Trafford or Anfield, and he has a huge ceiling. He is my choice.

So there is my review of an epic season, and one that in years to come may be viewed as one of the most significant in Arsenal history. Something special happened in N5 this season, and I’m delighted that many of us were there to experience it. Enjoy your summer and prepare for season 2023/24. It could be very special!

42 Drinks to “The Season Where Pride & Belief Were Restored – Part Two”

  1. 1
    OsakaMatt says:

    An epic review TTG!
    Much to unpack TTG, Ode was named player of the season a day or so back so it seems most fans agree with you.
    Anyway, I will have a ponder over the rest of your many excellently made points before I say anything else but thanks for such a great effort!

  2. 2
    OsakaMatt says:

    Ok, here goes my tuppence worth….

    Epic is spot-on, it was a brilliant season and I loved it! I completely agree with TTG’s view on MA and also the many excellent candidates for player of the season. It was our captain for me too.

    It is right that the guillotine fell in the away game at Shitteh, however I feel we lost the league because we didn’t put City away in the first half of our PL game at our place. A gross over-simplification I know but if I had to pick one moment that would be it. We could have be two or three up quite easily by half-time. Do that and play out the second half and I think we win it. Still, live and learn I hope. If we continue to progress as we have this season then we will beat them in 23-24 and take the title. I might have mentioned before that I am an optimist. But is it really optimism to expect a team that has improved in each of the last two seasons to improve again?

    As to the academy, to me the point of Hale End is to produce footballers, same as is the point of all the other clubs academies. All the players in our squad have come through one academy or not I believe. Of course the more we get from Hale End the better but realistically as a top-tier club it is never going to be many. Not sure if that is the question TTG is asking but just giving my view of the point of Hale End. It is basically our responsibility as a top-tier club to provide opportunities for young footballers to develop. Of course I think that because I see it as a kind of civic duty or CSR if you like and I recognize others may see it as a financial issue.

    I left Edu to last because I think he has done an excellent job and I, very unusually, completely disagree with TTG, but he might not have read this far down my lengthy waffle 🙂

  3. 3
    Ollie says:

    I thought it might be hard to relive the end of the season, but this is a splendid write-up, TTG! We lived the same season! Cheers!

  4. 4
    Trev says:

    Absolutely Superb, TTG ! My battery easily lasted the distance and, like Matt, I’m going to read again before commenting.

    But I am sure that, as you suggest, your review in years to come will be regarded as one of the most significant in Arsenal history.

  5. 5
    Countryman100 says:

    A superb two part review of a truly memorable season TTG. I take a somewhat emotional view of football, not being one for intense tactical analysis. I prefer to watch my football live rather than on TV. The beauty of the football played by our team this season has brought me enormous pleasure, especially the way our goals were scored by numerous individuals rather than one dominant striker .

    But the biggest factor in my enjoyment of the season has been the way that Arsenal supporters have given so much love to our team. The way that every home game started with North London Forever. The roar of support if we conceded or someone made a mistake (so different to some previous seasons I could name) has been so heartening, and I really felt the team heard it and responded. So many songs about the players: Ramsdale; Zinchenko; Saliba; Xhaka; Odegaard; Jesus; Martinelli and Saka, forever linked with Emile Smith Rowe. I’ve probably forgotten a few. Many of these songs were first heard at away games. Tickets, home and away, have been as rarely available as rocking horse droppings. This only happens when the team are seriously good. The intensity of the support in the Liverpool, United and Spurs games was as loud as I can remember, and I’ve been going for a very long time (but not as long as Clive or TTG).

    I and my son were lucky enough to go to 32 games this season, 24 at home and 8 away. The home moment of the season has to be Reiss Nelson sweeping in the winner from the edge of the box against Bournemouth in the 98th minute. Walking out of the ground felt like that night in 2011 when we beat peak Barcelona. Broad smiles everywhere walking over the Danny Fizman Bridge. Away highlights had to be Villa, where the Emi Martinez late late show was just bloody hilarious, and Newcastle, where the skipper silenced the white hot atmosphere and we avenged that awful night last May. Lowlights were again losing to City at the Emptihad and then hitting roadworks on every motorway in the North West. It was midnight and we were still only 10 miles from Manchester! We eventually got home at 3.30. I shall miss going to Leicester next season, always enjoyable. I shan’t miss Southampton.

    Finally adding to the pleasures of the year were the pre match gatherings of fellow holic’s. Scruzgooner coming over from California. Osaka Matt coming from Japan. Ollie getting to most home games despite living in Paris. Many others who live slightly closer to Islington. We patronised numerous establishments from Finsbury Park to Holloway Road and Canonbury. The look of excitement on the maitre d’s face when TTG steps through the door of a restaurant, or Bathgooner calls for the wine list, is memorable. The Guvna, in his final seasons when the football wasn’t good and the atmosphere was toxic, used to say that it was only the social side that got him clambering onto that train from Reading. Well when you add great football and a great atmosphere to great social companionship you really are blessed.

    It’s been a wonderful season. We all love the manager and the players. The team is going forward.

    Next stop August, when I hope to be at Wembley for the Community Shield.

    North London Forever. Come on you Gunners!

  6. 6
    bt8 says:

    TTG you have raised the bar again, and I doubt the internet can offer any Arsenal season review that is as astute and comprehensive. Bravo, and as to your point, “We very much need William to commit his future to the club” — well, just a few hours after your review was published here, Ornstein announced that Saliba agreed a new four year contract, which fits nicely with the new contracts signed by Saka, Ramsdale, Gabriel, and Martinelli. Saliba signing that contract before the CL final is played makes it an outstanding early start to the summer after what was indeed an “epic” season. Thanks TTG for your outstanding work.

  7. 7
    Ollie says:

    Good stuff, C100. Looking forward to next season.
    The social side also got me sticking around for a few of the dark seasons, though even that had been lessened at some point, so this season was a pleasure on so many levels.
    Let’s hope the new ticket lottery system will not be too damaging for my attendance.
    Wolves this season was pretty much the first time in donkey’s years when I could not go to a game purely for ticket reasons (though the initial work situation made me not look too hard for a while).

  8. 8
    Bathgooner says:

    Bravo maestro. Un tour de force! Ottimo!

  9. 9
    Goonersince54 says:

    In the immortal words of the permanently inebriated Patsy,
    ” Absolutely Fabulous. ”
    Coupled with Magic Mike’s brilliant 3 part season review over on Gunnerstown, this would have to be the GOLD standard of football supporters websites anywhere.
    They are so good, that as someone who hasn’t allowed any alcohol to pass his lips since he looked Death very closely in the eye at the callow age of 16 and survived, I seriously contemplated raising a glass, but a lifetime vow tapped me on the shoulder and I settled for a cup of tea instead.
    Coupled with Bath’s news about Big Willie signing on for another 4 yrs, even the odious Oilers CL victory wasn’t going to spoil the weekend.

  10. 10
    OsakaMatt says:

    C100, yeah, that was my personal highlight too, a first that I hope we can repeat next season though I am not sure if the new ticket system will allow. A hollering of holics is a great day out that I can happily recommend to one and all!

  11. 11
    OsakaMatt says:

    That’s not a complaint about the new ticket system I should add, I recognize there is a serious problem for lots of gooners.

  12. 12
    OsakaMatt says:

    Good to see Saliba signed up if the stories are true.

    I noticed Tielemans went to Villa, I guess we were interested in him but seem to have changed our minds for some reason. I remember reading complaints from some Leicester supporters that he was phoning it in.

  13. 13
    ClockEndRider says:

    Superb review, TTG. Captures so much of the sheer joy of the season. Personal highlights are the pre-match meet ups, especially the meeting of the clans in October with representation from California, Japan and France as well as deepest Kent and Cambs. I felt quite the fraud, only coming half a dozen or so stops down on the train. Can’t wait for next season so we can do it all again.
    The other personal highlight, other than slaughtering Them both home and away, was the single away trip 21CG and I got to this season, away at the (alleged) financial dopers in the cup. Yes we were well turned over, but the away crowd is so full of energy and so much fun is had before during and after that. And in some ways, that’s the point. I take my hat off to C100 for his sterling away efforts. If you can get a ticket, I urge anyone to go.

  14. 14
    Goonersince54 says:

    Re CL,
    I just read article on ESPN by Dale Johnson, re CL next season, confirming the seeds having been set for Pots 1 and 2, and we apparently are in Pot 2.
    I thought when we discussed this previously, the Monks advised we would be in Pot 3 due to our poor co efficient from non participation in CL in recent years.
    Can they confirm this apparent good news. ??

  15. 15
    bt8 says:


    Looks like we are indeed in pot 2 according to Spanish publication AS Clive, although the article is naturally enough more concerned with the prospects of Real Madrid, and it labels the pots as provisional for what that’s worth.

  16. 16
    Bathgooner says:

    I think it was as a result of Riyad United supplanting the Dippers and a similar event of a higher seeded club failing to qualify elsewhere that we are being bumped up from Pot 3 to Pot 2.

  17. 17
  18. 18
    North Bank Ned says:

    First-rate review, TTG. Well worth the wait from part one. Agree with you 100% on Arteta. He is still a work in progress but with such a potentially high ceiling. May he bring us many trophies before he moves on, Guardiola-like, to another top club.
    As for Hale End, all elite clubs have difficulty bringing through their youngsters. Such is the standard required of a first-team player now, that a youngster probably needs to be a generational talent to make it, like Saka. Finding and developing those has to be the goal of all elite-club academies, which requires casting a wide net to start with. A production line of players who will have decent professional careers once sold to other clubs will fund it. It would also make sense for elite clubs to have B teams or be part of a multi-club model to provide attractive career paths to academy prospects.
    Clive@14: re CL seedings. The monks said that as things stood when you asked the question, we were destined for pot three, but there was ‘an outside chance we could sneak into group two, but it would depend on a lot of results going our way’. They did, notably the Barcodes qualifying and ‘Pool and the neighbours failing to. UEFA won’t confirm the final seedings until after the 2023-24 qualifying rounds are completed. Still, as we have the sixteenth-highest UEFA coefficient ranking of the clubs involved, we have definitely snuck into pot two in the eighth and last slot.

  19. 19
    Ollie says:

    I think Juventus’ points deduction is what truly got us in pot 2, the rest was more likely after that.

  20. 20
    Goonersince54 says:

    Thnks for confirming.
    That is the icing on the cake and a massive bonus to top off a great season.
    Cannot underestimate how important that is for our return to CL.
    I don’t think too many teams ever qualify from pots 3 or 4, and we have dodged some very good teams that we could potentially have played if we were in pot 3.
    Every chance we can now get to at least round of 16 if we get the right reinforcements and play like we have this season.

  21. 21
    OsakaMatt says:

    @19 thanks for the information Ollie. Made me smile over my morning coffee.

  22. 22
    21st century gooner says:

    Encapsulates my exact thoughts on what was ultimately a successful and thoroughly enjoyable campaign. In terms of transfer news, it appears a breakthrough has been made. According to Jacob steinburg from the guardian, we are close to agreeing a deal worth over 100 mil for rice. He seems reliable but who knows. But it seems likely Arsenal are about to spend over 10% of a billion pounds on a human being. Whichever way you look at it, that is remarkable. Of course there have been numerous deals considerably more expensive than this but when you consider our transfer record was £15 mil just a decade ago, it’s pretty incredible. It’s quite difficult to comprehend that amount of money and how it gets spent so regularly in this industry. Of course we operate as a business just like any other business does but it’s quite dystopian that football clubs spend hundreds of millions on people because they’re good at football and no one questions it anymore. I’ve been a football fan for a lesser amount of time than everyone else here and even I find it difficult to make sense of it all. Even when I was born at the beginning of the century the world transfer record was already as much as £46 million (zidane) so I have only ever known of sickening amounts of money being thrown about in football at the highest level. Nowadays you would struggle to get a half decent player for what would have afforded you the world’s best player 20 years ago. So where do we go from here? Does the money just continue to inflate at its current trajectory indefinitely? Are we really going to see a 1 billion pound player one day in the not too distant future? Football is in dire need of a government regulator although I fear the damage may be irreversible. Still, good news about Declan Rice.

  23. 23
    Ollie says:

    I see the club has published more info about the ballot process (see membership e-mail). Still doesn’t feel me with glee.
    I’ve never won the biggest prize in the lottery….
    still not clear in terms of what tickets you get too. So might end up a lot more upper tier etc for whenever application is successful.

  24. 24
    TTG says:

    I much appreciate the kind comments and hope people enjoyed the season reviews. If you can’t enjoy a season like that you never will.
    We are now in the silly season for transfers with the window opening tomorrow and the fixtures out on Thursday . I indulge in less speculation as seasons go by but it’s hard not to believe we will be welcoming Declan Rice to the Home of Football . It will be a disruptive close season as we are likely to wave goodbye to several players . Pepe, Sambi, Cedric , Xhaka and now Kiwior are linked with moves away . I would be sorry to lose Tierney , Patino , Balogun , Jorginho and Holding but they are all very possible leavers . That creates a big hole in the dressing room and ensures next year’s team has a very different personality and feel.
    What fascinates me is that we may break the British transfer record- when did we last do that? Alan Ball? And we are being linked with some very exciting players with big reputations . Financially we’ve been transformed but more than anything players see us as a very credible option for winning trophies . If you want to assess KSE and above all Arteta, ponder that

  25. 25
    scruzgooner says:

    ttg, thank you for two wonderful pieces. it was indeed a season for the ages, regardless of our final placing. as it has been said, it’s coming in 2nd against lance armstrong in the TDF. i am so glad we’ve resigned saliba, and i hope we can get in our new signings early so i can see them next month in los angeles. another common observation i agree with is that the loss of saliba is what derailed our season (and to a lesser extent that of tomiyasu). and the moment at anfield when they drew from two goals behind, i think, was the moment the needle was slipped gently into the balloon. aside from having to change the way we played with saliba absent the confidence and fortitude with which we played began to seep away (certainly not helped by the results of the next two games).

    i have to say the best part was twofold. one in person, one moment of insanity. my visit in october, getting to meet cer, baff, stevet, osakamatt, btm, getting to see c100 and ttg again, and meeting up with uply in the spring were the in-person highlights of my arsenal year; thank you trev and cer for sorting my tickets. the dinner with don carlo and assembled (including adult children of baff, c100, and stevet, and mrs. scruz) at il pappagone was joyous and celebratory, and that was *before* the pool game. meeting with uply in the aptly named town of beer, and sharing an afternoon of incredibly pleasant company, discussing bowls, arsenal, arsenal, beer, family, and bowls. meeting you people filled my heart to overflowing, and i am thankful to carry that regardless of how the arsenal are doing.

    the moment of insanity: watching us struggle all game long against bournemouth, slowly getting back into it, and then reiss. alone on the couch in california, screaming and jumping around, in an utter frenzy. disbelief mixed with joy mixed with exultation and relief. very similar to the moments after saka buried his penalty in front of us to beat liverpool, but there were still minutes left to play in that game. the bournemouth win was simply to be marvelled at. it still makes me verklempt with joy when i think about it, moreso when i rewatch it for the hundredth or thousandth time (i can’t count it anymore).

    year three of a five year project. god-DAMN, that was good. let’s bring the same supporter energy and spirit to year four, and it can be as good or better. here’s to it being like watching a jet fighter fly in low over your head, point its nose skyward and kick in the afterburners…and with a *boom* it’s gone into the stratosphere.

    finally, i have though a lot of dave this year, especially. he would have loved it, the spirit at the stadium, the social gatherings, and the results on the pitch. i have to believe he is working for us behind the scenes (along with holicdad and holicgrandad, the lineage) but i surely wish i could read his takes on these, written in his truly inimitable style. we do a great job here writing with his spirit, and i am so proud to be part of the writing crew: thank you for a year of absolutely top-notch writing. we’re none of us dave, but we do raise his aspect with every post. so here’s to dave, may his spirit ever linger!

  26. 26
    North Bank Ned says:

    Scruz@25: Amen to your ultimate paragraph, with a glass raised.

  27. 27
    North Bank Ned says:

    21CG@22: We first paid a record transfer for a British player in 1928 when we bought David Jack from Bolton for £10,647. We broke our record when we bought Bryn Jones from Wolves in 1948 for £14,500. The next time we broke the record British transfer fee wasn’t until 1971 with the £220,000 we paid Everton for Alan Ball.

    The £7.5 million we paid for Denis Bergkamp in 1995 was a new record for a transfer fee paid by a British club, and the £22.5 million we got from Real Madrid for Nicholas Anelka in 1999 was a new record for a sale by a British club.

    The record for a sale by a British club now stands at £105 million (Liverpool’s sale of Coutinho to Barcelona in 2018), and for a buy by a British club at £106.7 million (Chelsea’s purchase of Enzo Fernandez from Benfica). The record sale of a British player is the £85.3 million Real Madrid paid the neighbours in 2013 for Gareth Bale.

    Our record transfer is the £72 million we paid from Nicholas Pepe in 2019. The most expensive British player we have bought is Ben White, who cost £50 million from Brighton in 2021. Acquiring Declan Rice would smash multiple records.

  28. 28
    North Bank Ned says:

    Bellingham to Madrid for £88.5 million, going up to £115 million with add-ons, sets a benchmark for Rice.

    21CG@22: Your raise a couple of interesting questions about transfer fees, do they continue to inflate at the current pace (I will skip over your ‘indefinitely’ as a rhetorical flourish), and will we see a £1 billion pound player soon? My 2 cents would be that the latter is some way off because UEFA’s new version of FFP aiming to hold clubs’ annual squad costs (wages, transfers and agents’ fees) to 70% of annual revenue will create some sort of ceiling for transfer fees, although I don’t doubt for one minute that the richer clubs will be hiring some very creative accountants.

  29. 29
    OsakaMatt says:

    RIP John Hollins
    Mostly of Chelsea of course but he put in an honest stint in this parish once we’d signed him from QPR.

  30. 30
    OsakaMatt says:

    Talking of Chavski, according to the Grauniad they want 70m from us for Havertz. I would want that too if I was them and had lost all grasp on reality.
    Not confident that story is true I should add. Though I am more confident Boehly has lost all grip on reality.

  31. 31
    Goonersince54 says:

    Sad to hear of the passing of John Hollins.
    Legend at Chelsea where he won several trophies in a very good team back in the day, and also plied his trade at QPR and finally at Highbury back in the early 80’s, where I think from memory he won player of the year once.
    Gone at 76.
    I’m sure the Monks can flesh out his career.
    Why do so many of the older brigade of footballers die in their 70’s. ??

  32. 32
    bathgooner says:

    A superb drink @25, scruz. There’s a glass of your favourite poison sitting waiting for you on the virtual bar.

    It was indeed great to meet up with so many far flung Holics in the flesh. Here’s to Dave and his legacy! 🥃

  33. 33
    bathgooner says:

    Thanks Ned @27 for reviewing the history of the Arsenal’s financial splurges. It would be nice once again to feel that our biggest outlay had proved to provide value for money! Time will of course tell.

  34. 34
    Trev says:

    I don’t get involved in debates about prices for players. Dennis Bergkamp cost us £7.5 million and, from memory, Thierry Henry was about £11 million. That makes the values of all current players, even allowing for inflation which ran at record lows for a number of years until last year, completely ridiculous. Beyond that, the prices are nothing to do with me.

    Mr Kroenke is a billionaire and knows how these things work. I am not. and I don’t. It’s interesting that as soon as Arsenal bid for a player, the fan base divides roughly in two. One half say, “that’s crazy money for him – he’s crap – comes from club X, so no thanks – I’d rather play my dog !”, while the other half bemoan the stingy Arsenal and can’t understand why we don’t just pay the demanded £75 squillion and get the job done !

    I don’t have a camp to lie in because it’s not my money, I have no idea how the deal is structured, what the calculations are that suggest that outlay might be recouped etc etc.

    However, does anyone else think that £110 – £120 million is a bit toppy, so to speak, for Declan Rice ? 😳

  35. 35
    bathgooner says:

    Que sera, sera. I really don’t think we will sign either of the ‘two top midfield targets’ with whom we have been linked for weeks. I am sure that Rice will go to the Oilriggers and Caicedo will go to the Chavs. And yes, it’s all about money (and the perception that each alternative offers a better chance of medals to leave to the grandchildren – which I don’t think is necessarily true for the Chavs but, for reasons best known to the UAE accountants, is true of Abu Dhabi Citeh. I do hope we have a Plan B, and Plans C, D and E too.

  36. 36
    TTG says:

    The window is now open and it seems that we are active in trying to sign Rice and Havertz. The latter is a player who leaves me completely cold. He lacks personality, presence and he performed further below his Xg than any other forward in the Premier League last season . That’s a terrible statistic. I don’t know of a Chelsea fan who rates him and I know plenty of them .
    Rice seems to want to stay in London and that’s a deal I’m very much in favour of although the price us eye-watering! I’m told our alternative to Caicedo who is going to go to the Chavs is Lavia of Southampton who will be much cheaper .Shades of Mudryk and Trossard methinks.

  37. 37
    Noosa Gooner says:

    Thanks TTG (belatedly) for a fine review.
    I’ll happily take second with a tinge of disappointment that we couldn’t manage first.
    The reasons for our fade-out have been well canvassed and our lack of depth could not be argued as a primary cause. I’ve said previously that the title was conceded at Anfield, much in line with Scruz’s post above. However, I also recall that MA talked about complacency at some point and whilst it has received little mention lately I believe this was also a significant factor in our approach to a number of games during the season.
    Hopefully this will be high on the list of learning lessons for the players (and coaches) that will be taken from the season.
    A deeper squad and more ruthlessness for next time around please.

  38. 38
    North Bank Ned says:

    There is no intrinsic price for footballers. A transfer fee is a free-market negotiation between two clubs — one a willing buyer, the other a willing seller — to strike a price for the rights to a player’s registration and to compensate the selling club for breaching the player’s contract. (There are no transfer fees for out-of-contract players.)

    Both clubs will have their list of priority factors that will go into their assessment of what that price should be. These include the length of time left on the player’s contract (the key variable), the player’s age, career progression, position and recent performances and level of competition (PL, CL, internationals, etc.), impact on the wage bill, value of depreciation to the balance sheets, first-team squad’s needs (unloading deadwood or plugging vital gap, etc.), player’s ability to shift shirts and other merchandise, social media presence, whether selling to a rival, the economic situation of buying and selling clubs, recent comparables with similar players, player’s injury and disciplinary records, his character and whether the player wants to move clubs.

    That is a long list but far from exhaustive. The statistical models that predict the transfer fee for a particular player use dozens of variables. The morality of paying enormous fees for star players is not one of them.

  39. 39
    OsakaMatt says:

    The official announcement for AMN.
    There’s been some chat we should have sold him a couple of years
    back for 15-20m and also that he has not made full use of his potential
    though lack of determination, motivation, hard work etc etc etc

    But he joined us at 7, played more than 100 times, won an FA cup,
    played for England and made me laugh out loud when he took a penalty.
    Personally, I wish him the best of luck and appreciate the good

  40. 40
    bt8 says:

    Agreed with OM about AMN. I wish him nothing but the best. Too bad his Arsenal career fizzled but it’s a moment to focus on the good he gave us.

  41. 41
    ClockEndRider says:

    Ned@38. To my mind, what you have outlined as the valuation methodology or at least some if the inputs are the classic definition of a bubble – inputs ever more tenuously linked to the underlying value the asset can yield. Because there is an intrinsic value to a player, just as with any other asset. This is the value at which the player at least breaks even in terms of the added value to the purchasing club. Any fee paid above that is made up of factors you have mentioned, with a premium for intangibles. Isn’t what we are seeing just an ever widening gap between the two, brought about through Oil and VC/ Hedge Fund money being brought to bear in apparently irrational ways?

  42. 42
    Bathgooner says: