Feed on

The story of Arsenal’s 2023/24 season 

My sense is that I am writing an article on a season that has not fully concluded. We have theoretically lost the league (for the second consecutive season) to a team facing 115 charges and they must soon face the scrutiny that those charges will bring. So any analysis of our season has an element of an unfinished piece of business. Certainly any assessment of our performance must be viewed in this light. I wrote a summary of our first half in January and should have added..… ‘to be continued’. 

So, let us resume our assessment of the season following on from that piece in January. When I wrote that, we had just lost three successive games. We had fallen from first on December 23rd after drawing at Anfield to fourth after a second successive league loss at Fulham. We had also exited the FA Cup at the third round stage losing 2-0 at home to Liverpool in a game that we dominated . 

Conclusions on our first half of the season were inevitably coloured by that dip in our form but there were other misgivings when we interviewed a number of GHF posters a few weeks before. There was a feeling that our form had not touched the levels we had reached the season before; there were serious reservations about the decision to replace Ramsdale with Raya; and opinion was divided about whether Kai Havertz would come good and what his best position was. But there was no division of opinion on Declan Rice who impressed everybody with his seamless transition to a new club and his ability to adapt to different roles – a  6 or 8 without a mis-step. What we hadn’t necessarily factored in was that Arteta had realised that to deal with the intensity of a full season you had to build up to your best form and that our performances would improve over the season whereas last term we had started like a rocket and struggled to maintain that form as the campaign wore on.

Mikel decided to take the team to Dubai in the mid-season break and whatever he did or put into the water or into our meals on that trip it had an incredible effect.

We returned with a home fixture against Crystal Palace. One assumes that we had been practicing set pieces (and certainly Rice started to take all corners on the left wing) and we brushed Palace aside 5-0. Two late Martinelli goals embellished our performance and Gabriel scored one and forced an own goal from corners in the first half. It was all too much for Roy Hodgson who disappeared from the Palace hot seat shortly afterwards. We followed this up with a 2-1 win at  Nottingham Forest, the late goal we conceded being the last conceded away from home until deep into  April. It was also the last time that Gabriel Jesus scored for us although his campaign was heavily disrupted by injury. 

When we welcomed Liverpool back to Ashburton Grove on February 4th it had the feeling of a very significant game. We played similarly to how we had performed in the FA Cup but Saka’s early goal gave us an advantage squandered by a bizarre defensive mix-up that allowed Diaz to level on halftime. That was not to be the biggest defensive mix-up of the game however as midway through the second half Van Dijk and Allison presented Martinelli with a gift in front of a highly grateful North Bank and a late Trossard goal confirmed an excellent victory. It felt like a Rubicon had been crossed as Liverpool were carrying all before them up to that point and it seemed to set off a confidence and flow in the Arsenal team that was quite thrilling. After match celebrations massively wound up Jamie Carragher so it was a highly productive day for us all! 

We started to illustrate our increased confidence with a 6-0 win away at West Ham, going 4-0 up by the interval. This was a team that had beaten us a few weeks before at home! Declan Rice capped off the performance with a majestic strike for our sixth goal. The following week we trounced Burnley at Turf Moor 5-0 with consummate ease and we began to see Havertz grow into the false 9 role in a highly effective manner.

Then the Champions League resumed. It was a rude shock to lose a tight game 1-0 with a last minute goal in Porto who proved themselves to be a very canny and well-organised team. That result underlined that even this Arsenal team was occasionally prone to moments of inexperience. More normal service was resumed in the League at home to Newcastle. A comfortable 4-1 win illustrated the increasingly influential role that Havertz was playing and the excellence laced with extreme diligence that Ødegaard brought to the team.

Our next game was away to the seemingly doomed Sheffield United. I only caught the second half live by which time we were 5-0 up! It represented the biggest mismatch I have ever watched in the Premier League. Ben White scored the pick of our goals illustrating how effectively he has reinvented himself as a right back with an ability to invert and get forward into scoring positions.

The following home game against Brentford saw the temporary replacement of Raya with Ramsdale as the Spaniard couldn’t play against the Bees. Unfortunately with Arsenal coasting following a Rice goal, Ramsdale allowed Wissa to close him down and charge down his clearance…into the Arsenal net. Ramsdale later redeemed himself with two superb saves and a late header from Havertz ensured Arsenal clinched the three points. Porto were our next visitors in the second leg of the Champions League tie. Trossard put us level on aggregate after a wonderful Ødegaard pass. But the sides had to settle things with a penalty shootout as no further goals were scored. Raya emerged the  hero on the night with two fine saves and we netted four quality penalties to progress to a last eight tie with Bayern Munich. 

We then travelled to the Emptihad for the summit meeting with C115y. With the benefit of 20:20 hindsight a number of people, including Rodri, are claiming that our 0-0 draw revealed a lack of ambition. I recall it slightly differently based on my recollection of the game a year before when we attempted to cross swords with C115y and came off worse. Our defensive performance was a masterclass and given that we had a better goal difference than C115y it left us at the end of the game in a better position than they were. It was also the most powerful illustration of how much progress we had made as a team in the last twelve months both in psychological and in  football terms. We returned home for a comfortable midweek win over Luton, the only game in which Arteta rotated in the likes of Smith Rowe and Nelson as starters. We followed this with another comfortable away win at Brighton, a team that had caused us problems last season. A Saka penalty and second half goals from Havertz and Trossard saw us win with very little stress, a good thing given our next game was a Champions League quarter final against Bayern Munich! The first leg was at our place and brought home to everyone what we had missed during our exile from the competition. We went into the game as marginal favourites and Saka’s early strike gave us a wonderful start . But Raya and Gabriel’s misunderstanding let in Gnabry to score and Sane’s pace, which was too much for Kiwior, forced a penalty, coolly despatched by Harry Kane. Arsenal rallied in the second half and Trossard slotted home to equalise. A late, controversial decision to ignore a penalty shout for a challenge on Saka by Neuer, was ultimately to prove very significant.

This was the moment when our form temporarily dipped. Our next game was at home to Aston Villa and it followed hot on the heels of a shock home defeat for Liverpool by Crystal Palace. Two late goals after Arsenal had dominated the first half gave Villa a victory that was so harmful to our title challenge. We moved on to Munich and played a sound, tight game against Bayern which was settled in their favour by a diving header from Kimmich, the only goal of the  game. It was a game that illustrated that we were not as dangerous in the crunch matches against top teams. We had scored freely against most Premier League sides and had a huge goal difference. But we drew blanks at Newcastle , Villa and C115y as well as in Europe against Porto and Munich. Yet, despite going out in the last eight, our performances in Europe had been encouraging and hugely educational and we looked excellent defensively during most of our European campaign. 

This was a crunch moment in the season.  Out of Europe and beaten by Villa would we see Arsenal’s league challenge tail off? The answer was an emphatic ‘No!’ We travelled to Wolves, winning a scrappy game 2-0 with goals by Ødegaard and much to the delight of Anne Hathaway, Leo Trossard. Three days later, we pulverised Chelsea 5-0 at the Grove. It was a dream moment for Kai Havertz who scored two and for Ben White who also notched a brace. Trossard had opened the scoring a few minutes in. 

This was great preparation for our biggest derby game, the North London Derby, at the Toilet Bowl. It was a supremely eventful game. Sp**s started well but found our ability at set pieces hard to nullify. We scored first when Højbjerg notched an own goal and then after Van de Ven had a goal disallowed and a weak penalty shout was dismissed, we caught them with a classic break and Saka finished beautifully from a superb Havertz pass. When Havertz headed in from close  range before half-time we looked home and hosed and probably would have been had Raya, under little pressure, not chipped a pass to Romero and then Declan Rice volleyed Sarr’s nether regions (accidentally!) for a clear penalty. We held out to win 3-2 in a game where we had clearly looked tactically and technically superior to our North London neighbours (not that they agreed!) but we had inflicted pressure on ourselves. 

We were now dependent on C115y dropping points and at the same time needed to be faultless on our run-in. This began with a home game against Bournemouth which we handled very well. A Saka penalty on halftime gave us the lead and Trossard and Rice clinched an important win. Our next game came after C115y had won effortlessly at Fulham and reduced our advantage in goal difference. The pressure was relentless but we withstood a deluge (of rain not football) at Old Trafford. That was more disconcerting than anything United threw at us after Trossard again put us ahead in the first half. Our hope was that Tottnumb would be able to  continue their excellent record at the Toilet Bowl against C115y. The build-up to the game revealed the huge inferiority complex that they have in relation to Arsenal. Over half the Sp**dz fans surveyed indicated that they wanted their team to lose and some claimed that they would prefer relegation rather than an Arsenal title success. In reality, their team performed decently and although falling behind, they missed a golden chance to give Arsenal a huge helping hand when Son, clean through, shot straight at Ortega. Their eventual 2-0 defeat was fatal to their chances of making next season’s  Champions League. Had they won, they would have qualified for the Champions League at the expense of Villa. Mr. Levy that’s about £50 million of income you’ve written off! Cry me a river!

And so, to the final games . The Emirates bouncing with atmosphere and emotion was flattened by the news seeping through from the Emptihad as Foden’s goals gave C115y a stranglehold on the title, but Arsenal recovered after trailing to a wicked free-kick deflection to take a last victory (their 28th of the season, a record for us in the Premier League) with goals from Tomayisu and Havertz. 

The pride in what was a magnificent effort was tangible around the ground. 91 goals scored, only 29 conceded, four points taken against each of our two main title rivals and we went unbeaten against top six sides all season. This  was a stunning campaign that compares to almost any in the rich history of our club. We await with considerable interest the outcome of hearings that may yet determine the outcome of the title and what may be the future for C115y in the next few years. 

Putting your best team on the field 

It was amusing to Arsenal fans to see Manchester United, the team that poached our Medical Director struggle with a season-long series  of injuries whilst we were able to keep our best team on the field for a large part of the season. Most notably we kept William Saliba fit, so fit in fact, that he played every second of every Premier League game. It does make one wonder how significant that injury was that he sustained last season and the effect it had on our final points tally.

It would be wrong to conclude that we had no injuries this season. We suffered a desperately important one in the very first league game when Jurrien Timber damaged his ACL in the first half and reappeared only in the final  minutes of the season against Everton. He looked capable of filling both full-back roles admirably. Ben White had an exceptional season at right back but we struggled to fill the left- back role optimally. Zinchenko inverts but isn’t a great defender and is injury-prone, Tomayisu is a fine one on one defender but is also very injury prone and missed several chunks of the season while Jakub Kiwior is a natural left-sided defender but lacks attacking flair and as Sane illustrated, he also lacks pace .

Thomas Partey began the season at right back but again succumbed to injury and was not able to resume his place in the team until near the end of the season. Watching him in Manchester and against Everton, it was hard not to feel that he doesn’t now provide the defensive steel that we need in the 6 role. He is certainly a player that there may be interest in moving on to be replaced by a more robust model. Fabio Vieira also missed several months with injury and was never really  seen back in the team in 2024. His lack of impact and physical fragility suggest he may not be with us next season although that may be because he is sent on loan. If that is to be the case it would be instructive to see if he can cut it physically in the Premier League. 

Gabriel Jesùs is the other injury prone member of the squad. He is a highly skilled player with a ferocious work ethic but worries about his recurrent knee injuries coupled with scepticism about whether he is capable of delivering the number of goals we need from someone in his position might threaten his future. Personally I like his flexibility, flair and ability to play so effectively in Europe, allied to his colossal work rate. He is arguably the best pressing forward in the Premier League. 

Aside from players who did struggle with injuries, we had a series of players who were ever present or virtually so. Raya didn’t miss a game through injury and the injury records of White, Saliba and Gabriel were excellent. Declan Rice was virtually ever present, Jorginho was regularly available as was Ødegaard and Saka also started regularly despite being kicked from pillar to post for most of the season. Havertz was always available as well, apart from suspension. Martinelli picked up some understandable niggles and was the one player who failed to recapture his form of the previous season although he showed no lack of effort or application.

One huge benefit was that we only had two players sent off last season. Tomayisu (in farcical circumstances) at Palace and Vieira against Burnley. We also had only one suspension (Havertz) from a totting-up of yellow cards which showed admirable discipline and continued a trend which began last season. It represents a big change from Arteta’s early days and reflects the fact that he is a manager who improves incrementally by absorbing knowledge and positive habits and imbuing his team with discipline and common sense . 

Player of the season 

This is a fierce area of debate. It is possible to make very valid cases for a number of players, all of whom have contributed massively. At the game on Sunday a number of us discussed this and cited White, Gabriel, Saliba, Rice, Ødegaard and Saka as worthy contenders. After chewing it over we reluctantly dropped Saka who we deemed less effective than he was last season. That’s harsh because he is a wonderful player but the bar this season is incredibly high. Ben White has been a revelation. He has improved and reinvented himself every season that he has been with us. He was one of the finest centre backs in the country and is now not only a fine defensive full-back but is a superb attacking one too. He is a consummate crosser of the ball and he earns merit points for undoing Vicario’s gloves and being a highly inventive irritant at corner kicks!! Saliba and Gabriel have been a magnificent partnership. Gabriel was out of the team at the start of the season but as soon as he returned, played consistently well. He is one of the most dangerous attacking centre backs and complements Saliba brilliantly. Saliba is an absolute Rolls Royce of a player. I cannot believe Didier Deschamps prefers Upamecano and Varane to him. Saliba has the capacity to become even better after two superlative seasons. He is mobile, a great footballer and has three times made Haaland look like a floundering , awkward Cabbage Patch doll. 

Yet he has (hopefully) still more levels to rise to. My choice for our player of the year comes  down to Declan Rice or Martin Ødegaard. I was thrilled when we signed Rice and it is fair to  say he significantly exceeded my expectations. He has played equally well as an anchor in front of the back four or in a box to box role. He has been a marvellous example of a mature and supremely professional player. He fits perfectly into the Arsenal brand. The song is right – we did get him half price! But notwithstanding all of that, I’m going to choose Martin Ødegaard as player of the season. He is a superb player, a brilliant passer, a fine, mature and committed captain and he has a marvellous work ethic. It is hard to believe that even a side like Real Madrid can part company with a player of his quality. As the players circled the pitch after the Everton game and despite intense disappointment his bearing was impeccable. It is also important to note that if Kai Havertz had begun the season like he ended it he too would have been in contention. I unreservedly withdraw my allusions to Nosferatu when describing his game, Arteta reinvented him and he became a massive attacking asset.  We are truly fortunate to have players of this quality. They have all been outstanding this season. 

We’ve got super Mik Arteta 

Recently searching for a post by our great leader I looked back at the debate about who should succeed Unai Emery. I then scrolled forward to some of the moments when Arteta came under pressure, particularly when we lost three games in 2021/22 at the start of that season. I am proud to report that this blog never lost faith in him. Although we harboured lingering doubts these were soon dispelled and since then season on season we have, pretty unanimously, rejoiced in his development. Not every part of the Goonerverse can say that . 

Arteta is, with the possible exception of his Basque friend, Xabi Alonso , the hottest emerging coach in world football. He has shown the ability to learn from his mistakes, he never ducks a tough decision (e.g., Ramsdale/Raya, Aubameyang and Ozil). But he is more than just a coach. He has built a marvellous connection with the fan base that hasn’t existed since the Invincible season. Perhaps most excitingly, he is aware that he can improve and I think Guardiola knows that he was very lucky to finish ahead of him this season. We are in very good hands. Get that new contract signed Mikel, there is no adequate Plan B! 

We also have excellent owners (something I never thought I would say while the Kroenkes were in charge). The emotional intelligence of Josh Kroenke has enabled him to recognise and support Arteta and Edu, who deserves great credit for the work he did in the summer transfer window. I hope he can orchestrate our sales as successfully this summer!

Tim Lewis appears to be a very safe pair of hands and most Gooners are more confident with Richard Garlick in charge as he takes over from Vinai. The balance achieved in the key appointments underlines the experience KSE has in running sports teams. Perhaps most significantly Josh Kroenke stated publicly that the jewel in their sporting crown is ‘in London’. I found that reassuring and satisfying in equal measure.

So what else do we need ? 

We are in an incredible position. We’ve made ground season on season and our Nemesis faces a very public examination of its credibility and integrity. No one doubts their quality but there are huge questions to  be asked about how they got there and how they can maintain that position given the League’s stricter governance rules  . 

We have a fine squad but some improvements might be made and with Arteta in charge, he will not be afraid to make them. While I have some reservations about Raya, I accept he is Arteta’s man although I suspect he won’t necessarily be the long-term goalkeeping solution. But Ramsdale will leave and we need an experienced number two. Szczesny would  be perfect and despite what I said before I would consider Jordan Pickford if Everton have a fire sale. He would seriously challenge Raya. Left-back has been a problem area but if Jurrien Timber stays fit he would be a great solution there. I’m not totally sold on Kiwior and should Diomande of Sporting Lisbon become available, he ticks the left-footed box and would give us three of the best centre backs in the world. If he is not available, then Guehi of Crystal Palace is a fine, flexible defender. 

We are strongly linked with a Turkish left back (Ferdi Kadioglu) who can play on both sides so he might be our defensive recruit this summer freeing up others to cover at centre back 

In midfield, I suspect Partey will leave and we will seek someone who can play the holding role. Zubimendi is affordable but seems reluctant to leave Real Sociedad. If he doesn’t come, I wonder if we could persuade Palace to sell us Wharton. I would prefer him to Onana at Everton. Gibbs-White of Forest is a fine young player but woud we use him. Rice would revert to a holding role if Gibbs-White came to the Arsenal.

I think we will buy a flexible attacker who can play wide or through the middle and I think we will look for a young player like Zirkzee or Sesko rather than Toney. Gyokeres is a fine finisher but is very expensive and we might lose the Havertz effect having just brought it to the boil. Those purchases will set us back around £170 million given that we must buy Raya,  but we might raise something like £120 million in sales and trim our wage bill. A number of our players will have to leave but I do hope we will keep Smith Rowe. I’d love to see him succeed at the Arsenal.

Arteta has understandably been reluctant to blood young players in a title chase but I expect to see Nwaneri, Lewis-Skelly and possibly even Martin Obi join the first-team squad next season.

Exciting times after a wonderful season, one that has filled every Gooner I know with immense pride and enjoyment. It’s tempting after a long season to sit back and forget about the game for a few weeks but I can’t wait for 2024/5 to start. I really do believe it can be a special season!

63 Drinks to “Pride, Honesty and One Heck of a team!”

  1. 1
    North Bank Ned says:

    A comprehensive and succinct review, TTG. You capture a wonderful season well, and your pick for Player of the Season is correct for all the right reasons.

    There is a risk that we take Saka’s consistently high level for granted. Being double and triple-teamed most of the season blunted his ability to burst spectacularly through defences, but I thought his absence against Everton was highly noticeable, and White and Trossard particularly missed his presence.

  2. 2
    Trev says:

    Superbly written and edited, TTG – and capturing all the most significant moments of the season. Your conclusions are also clear, concise and interesting.

    It’s not a criticism of the piece but there is one thing I personally don’t like – that is singling out a player of the season from a team whose unity has been the cornerstone of it’s success. I don’t disagree with any of your reasoning at all, I just don’t like the idea of elevating one player from a group where every single player has given absolutely everything in their own performance and support of their team mates.

    An excellent review though and a very enjoy read. Thank you !

  3. 3
    bt8 says:

    Whether it’s photographic memory, referring back to notes taken after each game, or because you just binged on rewatching every one of those matches, your recounting brings forth so many great memories in my mind including the highs and lows (which were brought on by setbacks against the most difficult opposition sides, rather than the earlier blips we suffered against the likes of Fulham and West Ham). I second what Ned saidin defense of Saka who is no doubt one of the very best players in the league and who is likely to get even better next season but I can’t argue with your choice of Odegaard as our player of the season due to his outstanding leadership as well as his consistently scintillating performances. Thank you TTG for your consistently brilliant reports and analysis!

  4. 4
    bt8 says:

    After saying that about Odegaard I read Trev’s drink @3. I cannot argue at all but players ofthe season are an artificial construct in any case and just the fact that TTG found it so difficult to choose between five or six players shows exactly how artificial in this year’s Arsenal team in particular.

  5. 5
    TTG says:

    This survey by CIES Football Observatory suggests we have the most sustainable squad policy in world football

  6. 6
    Uplympian says:

    An excellent synopsis of the season TTG – it was a pleasure to read. You have recollected all the salient points and your overview of events is very positive. It was a season our young team battled right to the end in their endeavour to overcome the 115ers. We have a superb bunch of players who know what representing The Arsenal means which has bought them and the supporters closer than many a long year. Next season is such an exciting prospect.

  7. 7
    Pangloss says:

    Make of this what you will: The Grauniad reports that ten Hag is history, whatever tomorrow’s result.

  8. 8
    Ollie says:

    Great stuff TTG, I enjoyed reading this and going briefly through the memories it brought back (ok some were not good memories, but very very few since January indeed).
    Basically what bt ) said at 3. I also agree in Ned’s Saka point.

  9. 9
    bathgooner says:

    Great piece, TTG. I am in awe at your ability to recall detail. Trev’s point about a single player of the season is appropriate but if we have to have one, I fully agree that Martin Ødegaard is that man by a hair’s breadth from Declan Rice, Willy Saliba and Big Gabby. I also agree with the points made about Saka’s impact despite the special measures taken by the opposition to stop him – I’m amazed the lad is still walking.

    It’s been a superb season from this squad and amazing progress on top of last season’s excellent work. If we can build further this summer with the addition of players with an impact comparable to Raya, Rice and Havertz, we can be optimistic that a further high level challenge will be mounted. Many congratulations also to Mike, Edu, the whole backroom team and Josh.



  10. 10
    Goonersince54 says:

    Very comprehensive and informative review TTG
    As for my own thoughts, I always felt the 2 losses at end of December could come back to haunt us.
    Knowing how relentless City always seem to be in 2nd half of season, we really needed a points advantage as a buffer from Jan onwards to counter it.
    The fact we got so close, was for the players and supporters alike, heartbreaking.
    Can we back up and find the same quality and excellence for a 3rd season in a row. ?
    It will be a tall order given the even heavier schedule players are facing for the new season.
    No pre season to speak of, with Euro and Copa America championships this summer, then the new format of Champions league, with the 8 rounds of the league phase running from mid Sept to the end of Jan 2025
    No mid winter break next season due to the new schedule of league and Cup games, and less midweeks available to play catch up games, the list goes on.
    Add to this the risk of players getting injured from extra heavy workload, means we will have to have experienced cover in every position to allow Arteta to rotate through the season.
    So our summer recruiting will need to be spot on, as well as offloading the players that just aren’t good enough at the new elite level we are competing at.
    I’ve already turned the page on the season just gone, an interesting summer lies ahead, I am sure like always we will be linked with about 50 players, and I have already circled the date of June 18th, when the new fixtures are released for the coming season.
    But having said all that, it is wonderful to be back at the top table after many years of frustration and disappointment.
    Let’s hope we can stay there.

  11. 11
    ClockEndRider says:

    Cracking season review, TTG. Many thanks. You’ve captured the feeling of the season perfectly.
    I was one of those perplexed by the strangely pedestrian approach to the first half of the season. I managed to rationalise this approach as Arteta learning from the pattern of the previous season. The manager is proving to be quite the general – understanding how best to deploy his limited resources – limited in comparison to Asterisk FC. Hopefully, by reducing the stock of redundant players and bolstering where necessary – for me left back, right wing, centre midfield – he can add the ability to rest and rotate players without impacting performances and results. I find it interesting that Asterisk FC have four outfield players who started in the Premier League more than 30 times in the season just past. Arsenal had 7. City did not have a single player who clocked up more than 3,000 PL minutes, Rodri having the closest with 2,931. Arsenal had 4, all outfield players, with both White and Saka being close with 2,988 and 2,919 respectively (stats from FBREF.com). No longer are we playing in a different league. We are now in the area of, relatively, fine margins determining the differences.
    Viva la revolucion. Viva Mikel.

  12. 12
    ClockEndRider says:

    For further colour, we can factor in Champions League games, the comparison being apropos given we got to the same stage before elimination. Data source as before. Arsenal had 4 outfield players – Big Gabby, Saliba, Rice, Havertz- who played more than 800 minutes out of the 900 with the first 2 playing 900+ each. Asterisk FC had none. Arsenal had another 3 – Saka, Odegaard and White- who played more than 700 minutes. Asterisk FC had two – Haaland and Dias.
    Big Gabby, Saliba, Rice and Odegaard were the Arsenal players with more than 3,000 PL minutes, with Saka and White, as above in drink 11, being close to that mark. By comparison, Haaland and Dias played 2,552 and 2,559 PL minutes respectively.
    It is easy to posit that City’s ability to rotate and rest without diminution of their threat and solidity ought to be highly correlated with their concomitant success. One more push, Boys…..

  13. 13
    Noosa Gooner says:

    Thank you TTG and, at the same time, thanks to all of the various contributors and technicians throughout the season who consistently and simply make this site a great place to visit, particularly for those of us unable to attend games live for whatever reason.
    Being here is close to being there.
    There’s only one team in London ……….

  14. 14
    Bathgooner says:

    Clive @10, you have, as ever, hit the nail firmly on the head. It’s tough enough to maintain top level performances and results without the additional pressures you list for the forthcoming season. That’s why our summer transfer business is so important – without a further boost of quality on a par with that brought by, in particular DR41 but also by Havertz, Raya and Timber, albeit, oh so tantalisingly briefly by the latter, we will not take a further step towards the titles we crave. As we get closer to the prize, those decisions on incomings and outgoings become even more critical. It’s a very big summer for Mikel and Edu – they have to get those decisions right. We cannot afford to spunk over £50m on a Plan B midfield addition after missing out on DR41 and then consign him after practically no game time, to the bin like a certain club with 115 charges and officials on their payroll.

    If I can take the liberty to speak for all the contributors to the site, seen and unseen, thank you very much for your sentiments, Noosa @13. It’s quite simply a pleasure to be involved with the excellent people who make this site a fitting memorial to Goonerholic and it’s alll the more gratifying to know it’s appreciated.

  15. 15
    Trev says:

    Noosa – what a lovely, kind comment @13 🙏🏼
    Please re-read what Bath said in response !

  16. 16
    Countryman100 says:

    Thank you for an encyclopaedic review of part 2 of the season TTG. These last two years have been such a joy to be an Arsenal supporter, especially in the ground. If I may make pick out one thing, it’s the superb quality of the defence, especially Saliba, Gabriel and White. Maybe it’s because I spent many years watching defences coached by George Graham, and far too long watching the likes of Squillaci and Mustafi. But if you don’t concede you don’t lose and it’s a fabulous base for doing the glamorous stuff at the front. I’m optimistic that adding Timber will make us even better next season. May the good Gunner in the sky protect them from injury!

  17. 17
    North Bank Ned says:

    What Trev said @15.

  18. 18
    North Bank Ned says:

    By the way, five players are still in with a shout for a co-share in the final GHF Predictathon award of the season — for predicting the FA Cup winner.

  19. 19
    Countryman100 says:

    United now in the Europa (and the Community Shield). Chelsea in the Conference League.

  20. 20
    ecg says:

    Glad to see the 115ers lose, sad to see Manure win. On the other hand maybe this will convince them to keep ten Hag.

  21. 21
    North Bank Ned says:

    C100@19: Man U may have to play in the Europa Conference League, not the Europa, under UEFA’s multi-club conflict of interest rules as Ratcliffe’s other club, Nice, also qualified for the Europa League and Nice gets preference by dint of its higher league finish, fifth in Ligue Un v United’s eighth in the PL. As Ratcliffe has a ‘decisive influence’ over both clubs, the conflict of interest rules should apply — unless UEFA does the spineless thing because it wants Man U in the Europa and determines that Ratcliffe’s less than 30% shareholding means he doesn’t have a decisive influence. But then when has UEFA ever done the spineless thing? Ah!

  22. 22
    North Bank Ned says:

    Congratulations to CER and GSD on picking up the final GHF Predictathon award for the season — predicting that the Red Mancs would win the FA Cup. The youthful trio of Poosker, 21st Century Gooner and Dr F Jnr were left looking blue and rueing what might have been.

  23. 23
    ClockEndRider says:

    Bottom of the predictathon but it’s the cup that matters!

  24. 24
    Bathgooner says:

    ecg @20, my sentiments exactly!

    Congratulations to CER and GSD for their Predictathon Cup victory.

  25. 25
    Trev says:

    Yep, well done CER and GSD ! A very surreal experience yesterday seeing Demento in the crowd and actually wanting him to win …. 😱
    Still, nothing a couple of hours in the shower couldn’t rectify afterwards. On a serious note, and credit where it’s due, what a player Cobbie Mainoo is. If he ever gets tired of the rain in Manchester………

  26. 26
    OsakaMatt says:

    Bit late but great stuff and many thanks TTG.
    Player of the season for me was Saliba, our first
    player since Lee Dixon many years ago to play every minute
    of the season and to play at such a consistently high level at
    a young age is exceptional.

    No doubt it will be goodbye to several players this summer
    and I expect MA and Edu to surprise me with a few new faces.
    Can’t wait!

  27. 27
    OsakaMatt says:

    The Saints have rolled over Dirty Leeds. Only Ipswich will be newish next season.

  28. 28
    bt8 says:

    So, trips next season to Ipswich and Southampton. I bet c100 is making plans already for both. And Leicester.

  29. 29
    TTG says:

    Indeed good news for C100 who will regale us soon with details of his season. Much anticipated.
    As men of Cambridgeshire the trips to Leicester and Ipswich work very well for the Countrymen but Southampton is less convenient. If only Norwich had prevailed in the play-offs !
    Southampton played a canny game against a very subdued Leeds ( bottlers?) but I don’t think any of the promoted clubs will find it easy next season- unless McKenna does stay at Ipswich

  30. 30
    Countryman100 says:

    FYI I hate going to Southampton and much prefer Leeds.


    1) we never seem to play well there.
    2) It always takes 2 hours to get out of that poxy city
    3) it always seems to rain.

    Very much welcome Leicester and Ipswich.

  31. 31
    OsakaMatt says:

    I didn’t really want Soton back either due to Reason No 1 in C100’s list, don’t know if the stats back up the feeling but we seem to struggle there.

    I am doubtful about McKenna (or anyone for that matter) being able to keep Ipswich up.
    Though he has done amazingly well so far to be fair and it’s nice they’re back.

  32. 32
    bt8 says:

    Cheers c100. Ipswich having been gone so long must clearly be the big promotion story now and when the new season begins so I hope you get tickets for that one in particular.

    Here’s the link to TTG’s fine first half review mentioned above at the end of his first paragraph: https://www.goonerholicsforever.com/?p=9068

  33. 33
    Bathgooner says:

    There is much truth in C100’s words @30. I’ve been to Southampton to watch us lose lamentably in the rain. Leeds didn’t show up for the play-off and Southampton along with Leicester will prove somewhat more awkward opponents than Sheffield United and Burnley did this season. I don’t expect Ipswich to provide anything but exuberance at their lofty status although Luton were a surprise – to me at least. Which brings us back to Clive’s sage observations @10.

  34. 34
    Bathgooner says:

    Thanks for that link, bt8. I’ve added it to the text.

  35. 35
    BtM says:

    A splendid review, TTG. I enjoyed it very much. Very many high points for me which offset the depths I sunk to personally while trudging home from Fulham home and away (the hole in the boat appeared irreparably ruptured on the latter) and Villa home games. Looking forward to next season and hoping to see some power house signings in the interim.

    Enjoy your summers, Holics.

  36. 36
    TTG says:

    News about our likely CL seeding next season

    Arsenal miss out on Pot 1 for Champions League draw next season

    It’s a very different style of competition and as the article explains the Pot you are in does not preclude you from playing giants in the last 36

  37. 37
    TTG says:

    Peter Wood on Le Grove about what awaits City
    ‘ They are also about to get slapped by the Premier League. Don’t buy all the ‘there’s going to be an agreement’ or ‘the UK doesn’t want to jeopardise relations’… if they are found guilty of half of the offences, they will not be a Premier League side in September 2025. The Premier League is doing a very bad job countering the ‘it’s gonna be great for City’ PR. It’s not going to be ok. If everything was fine, Richard Masters wouldn’t have been at The Emirates for the last game of the season. If the slap comes, it’s going to be absolutely savage, because it has to be. Formula One lost 10% of its audience because of perceived unfairness. There is too much riding on those charges for the punishment to be a softball. Cheating needs to be dissuaded at all costs ‘

  38. 38
    North Bank Ned says:

    TTG@36: That should not be a surprise. One of the goals of the new CL format was to provide more games between top clubs at an earlier stage, in part in response to the Super League, which I see the Spanish commercial court has ruled in favour of in a backhanded sort of way.


  39. 39
    OsakaMatt says:

    Each team plays two teams from each pot so there will be a degree of luck of the draw but basically the job will be to make the Top 8 in the new Super League and swerve the play offs for 9th to 24th.

  40. 40
    OsakaMatt says:

    I do like that teams just go out if they don’t make the last 16, it was nonsense that some went into the Ropey League before.

    I hope Peter Wood is right though I must admit that the F1 lost 10% of its audience thing doesn’t convince me.

  41. 41
    ClockEndRider says:

    I’m afraid I agree with Matt. It seems a bit tenuous to me to jump from a 10% decline in viewing figures for F1 to a spineless body like the PL having any regard for the end customer, not bowing to governmental pressure not to relegate Asterisk FC, with Masters not handing over the PL trophy as direct evidence.
    I want it to happen, but wanting it to happen is not sufficient.

  42. 42
    TTG says:

    I too think the F1 comparison is tenuous although both GSD and I were completely alienated from the sport by the awful Verstappen / Hamilton incident ( I must admit I wasn’t huge fan anyway) . But I do think the Masters gesture was very significant . It could have been pre-emptive but talking to a number of people my sense is Citeh have made a rod for their back by refusing to co-operate . 35 charges of this type won’t disappear and create a negativity around the rest of the judgment which won’t help them

  43. 43
    Trev says:

    I have to go with TTG on the fate of C115y. I’m sure they will mount all kinds of appeals and drag the process on as long as they possibly can but you cannot allow 115 charges of offences ranging from non-cooperation to fraud to simply be swept under the carpet and ignored.
    The league would lose all credibility and with it a significant number of its supporters – that’s to say it’s paying customers around the globe.
    Don’t believe it ? Well I’m hearing on radio that Premier League clubs are looking at ticket price increases of up to 20%. How many fans, who are struggling to keep up with prices already, are going to cough up even more cash to take part in a competition that is going to continue to be won by a team that everyone knows has cheated their way to six of the last seven titles ?
    And how many paying TV customers around the world will continue to pay to watch games in emptying stadia, abandoned by fans who can’t be bothered with a bent competition.
    So Man C115y are lawyered up to the teeth. There are a lot of very smart operators who own Premier League clubs who will also be lawyered up to the teeth – angry at the losses they have suffered over many seasons and seeking appropriate compensation.
    The Premier League would not have gone public with the news of these charges if they were not very confident of making them stick. Their mistake was probably in bringing all 115 at once, allowing C115y’s lawyers to take them down a labyrinth of legal confusion and misrepresentation.

  44. 44
    North Bank Ned says:

    Further to my @38, CL clubs will play two Pot 1 teams regardless of the pot they are seeded in, as per UEFA:

    Under the new format, teams will play eight matches in the new league phase (former group stage). They will no longer play three opponents twice – home and away – but will instead face fixtures against eight different teams, playing half of those matches at home and half of them away. To determine the eight different opponents, the teams will initially be ranked in four seeding pots. Each team will then be drawn to play two opponents from each of these pots, playing one match against a team from each pot at home, and one away.

    The draw for the league phase will be so complicated that it will be done by computer programme, not by hand as UEFA’s tests found that took many hours. Also to be noted is that the draw for the knockout phase will be based on seedings from the league phase and will look like a tennis tournament, so we’ll see everyone’s path to the final from the get-go. That will mean that the top two league-phase finishers won’t be able to face each other until the final, the third and fourth until the semis, the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth until the quarters.

    That is another reason that a top-eight finish in the league stage will be important.

  45. 45
    TTG says:

    Well summed up Trev.
    I think a number of very respected judges on this blog are not allowing themselves to believe that C115y will get their comeuppance. Mainly just because it seems too good to be true . I get that . But I’m sure they will be punished although what I can’t gauge is how draconian the punishment is going to be and whether diplomacy and expedience will persuade the Premier League to back off a little. But they just can’t let this pass because it could disillusion generations of supporters .
    Trev’s point about the armoury they will face is very important. Imagine how Newcastle’s owners feel trapped as they are by PS&R rules . Everton could have been relegated straightaway this season. Liverpool and Arsenal may be found to have been robbed of titles and are owned by shrewd Americans .United have no love lost with their noisy neighbours . Chelsea are not owned by shrewd Americans but have called a penalty on themselves ( I’ve heard rumours it is going to be significant ) and whatever you say about him I don’t see Daniel Levy or any other owners looking to be allies of C115y. They will be on their own .

  46. 46
    TTG says:

    Thanks Ned.
    It looks tougher overall as we have to play two teams from Pot 2 even if we are in Pot 2 ourselves . As you suggest if we finish 9-16 it gives us an extra round to negotiate . But we also get two potential glamour ties again equivalent to what happened in the old style competition if you are drawn in Pot2 .
    But we will need a deeper squad to maintain challenges on the two main fronts .

  47. 47
    North Bank Ned says:

    A better comparison for the impact of a potential punishment for City might be Juventus’s demotion from Serie A for its part in the Calciopoli scandal in the mid-noughties. Incidentally, bits of that case involving some of the individuals are still rolling on in the European Court of Justice, and the club did not give up on the legal battle until 2022.

  48. 48
    North Bank Ned says:

    TTG@46: The new format’s tough part is that it could mean three games, two of them away, against Madrid, Bayern or any other of the Pot 1 teams, although that could be true if we were in Pot 1, too.

    There will be all sorts of other twists and turns to the draws revealed once we see the detailed competition regulations.

    You are spot on about squad depth. This format is most beneficial, in terms of winning it, to the richer clubs who can afford to stuff their squads with the best players.

  49. 49
    Countryman100 says:

    You saw the story here first, via our very own North Bank Ned


  50. 50
    North Bank Ned says:

    C100@49: 👍

  51. 51
    North Bank Ned says:

    And an assist for the half ton: 👍👍

  52. 52
    Bathgooner says:

    An interesting discussion of the likelihood of C115y being held to account for their flagrant failure to co-operate with the PL enquiry – surely a precondition of membership – and their alleged blatant disregard for, flouting of the financial rules and misrepresentation of their accounts – surely, if proven, expulsion is the only fitting sanction for such recurrent offences and prolonged non-cooperation and obstruction. If you don’t play by the rules of the club, you get thrown out.

    Having been somewhat pessimistic that they would ever receive an appropriate sanction, the PL’s brisk sanctions against Everton and Forest, rumours of a 15-20 point penalty next season for the Chavs (presumably reduced because they fessed up), several threads on Twitter and TTG’s wise words have convinced me that their day of judgement will certainly come.

  53. 53
    TTG says:

    Excellent stuff Ned and C100. This is indeed the fount of knowledge and wisdom
    Imagine that C115y got a free pass. It would unleash a whirlwind. The PL board would come under incredible pressure from all sides- media , other clubs, politicians and the vast majority of fans . There would be no equivalence with the clubs who have been punished for far less . I think Ned’s suggestion of a one division relegation is quite feasible and that, would play havoc with the contracts of the star players , Abu Dhabi’s sportwashing
    notions , revenue ( no European football for at least two years ) and Pep would, if he is a man of his word , leave .

  54. 54
    bt8 says:

    Well in Ned. Who could have thought at the time that the biggest loser in the Everton and Forest points deductions might turn out to be Man c115y? Fascinating, how the worm turns, or may turn.

  55. 55
    North Bank Ned says:

    TTG@53: Pep’s contract expires at the end of next season, which is when any sanctions on City would start to kick in, I assume. I don’t see him managing in the Championship somehow.

  56. 56
    North Bank Ned says:

    An alternative sanction to a demotion might be a points deduction hefty enough to keep City out of Europe for a season (at least 40-50 points) but not so great that it doesn’t have a chance to play its way out of relegation in order to maintain the competitive integrity of its matches and avoid grousing from Championship clubs about having City foisted on them and probably denying one of them a promotion. The points deduction could be combined with a multi-year transfer ban.

    One problem with imposing footballing sanctions is that, while they would be a clear and public punishment and cause reputational damage to the club and its owners, they fall heavily on the current squad. They would not be a direct punishment of the owners and executives who perpetrated the alleged offences some years ago. That would demand separate criminal or civil charges against individuals for fraud, as was the case with Juventus in the Calciopoli scandal. Sadly, I can’t see any UK government allowing criminal charges against UAE citizens to be pursued, and the PL would probably not relish going through it all a sceond time by pursuing a civil case.

  57. 57
    Bathgooner says:

    I believe that the club and owners have to be punished by the PL, if only ‘pour encourager les autres’ and to demonstrate that cheating does not pay. Otherwise, if there is a token slap on the wrist, there are several rogue owners with deep pockets who will see ‘just a fine’ as merely part of the price for a place at the top table and a route to a large trophy haul (or indeed one rogue owner who explicitly owns the Mags and covertly bankrolls the Chavs’ front men). Trophies pillaged by squads built through alleged financial machinations should be removed from the record. I can’t see those trophies being awarded retrospectively to the clubs that lost out as a result of the advantage in team building that C115y allegedly gained. Nor can I see players being asked to return medals but trophies won by C115y during this period should be struck from the record as Lance Armstrong’s seven Tour de France championships were.

    Relegation to the championship or a points reduction simply do not wash as appropriate sanctions for the alleged infractions. The flagrant disregard of the rules of association both in terms of the club’s financial probity and requirement to co-operate with the authorities demands a swingeing punishment such as relegation to the fourth tier or indeed expulsion from the football league entirely.

  58. 58
    OsakaMatt says:

    Well thought out as ever Ned.
    With regards to your 2nd paragraph Ned couldn’t we just list the main villains from years back as ‘not fit and proper’ and kick them out with life bans? Obviously the issue with that solution is there are several others not fit and proper in the PL but just speaking as an average football supporter it seems perfectly fair. Actually the fact that this obvious sanction seems exceedingly unlikely in reality is depressing really.

    Personally, I am unhappy with any solution that allows 115ty to keep the titles won during the period under question and the charges if proven should result in an appropriate backdated points deduction to the season in question. If the points deduction is 8 points and they won by 5 points then the trophy should be returned (preferably returned by the owners in a televised ceremony). Of course this is just a natural realignment of irregularities caused by their cheating and not a punishment, which is a separate issue.
    However, it should be the first step in rebuilding trust.

  59. 59
    OsakaMatt says:

    Seems we were thinking along fairly similar lines Bath.

    I also agree with your 2nd paragraph regarding the punishment.

  60. 60
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Hi all.

    Just a quick note to say that I’m gonna take a break from the bar for some much needed rest and recuperation time, but I’ll be back in a few weeks, in time for the new season.

    Thanks to everyone who is involved here for making it such a great place to share our love of The Arsenal. It was a brilliant season, and I’ve loved it.

    We’ll go again next time.


  61. 61
    scruzgooner says:

    ttg, late to the party on this one, been out of town and i’ll. better and back, now. love the piece, and appreciate the effort. we came so damn close; if anyone tries to pull the “bottled it” card they can go straight to hell.

    i look forward to our summer moves, and to seeing the team two months from now in los angeles!

  62. 62
    TTG says:

    Some excellent posts looking at what might be the appropriate punishment for any proven wrongdoing by C115y . I too feel C115y have to be stripped of any titles they have been awarded if found guilty . They cannot be allowed to keep any trophies they have acquired in this period . I think it would be perfectly acceptable to award any league titles won in this period to the second team in the league eg Liverpool have amassed huge points totals and not won leagues in this time. Or you could take C115y out of the calculation and effectively treat the league as if C115y never played in it
    Cups are more difficult as C115y would have eliminated several teams directly en route to the final. Imagine if we were awarded the 2018 Carabao Cup Final . We were gubbed 3-0 and it would be a very hollow feeling to be awarded the Cup now . And utterly meaningless . But to be league champions has some real meaning .
    Leaving no winners in the record books for Cup competitions would remind everyone of C115y’s perfidy and completely destroy the legacy they are so proud of.
    The PL would then have to decide if they are going to investigate the years from 2018 onwards . We might acquire a couple more titles if they do!
    In my reference to Pep walking I reference an interview I saw with him where he said he would be out of the door immediately if those above him were found to have broken rules If he is a man of his word he would walk immediately . There might be a job going at Tottnumb!

  63. 63
    scruzgooner says: