The 2016/17 Premier League season has finished and although there were some promising moments, it wouldn’t be right to ignore the worst ones that hurt Arsenal and their supporters alike.
Opening day disaster
August’s 4-3 defeat to Liverpool at the Emirates highlighted our frailties, and while far from a fully-strength side, that shouldn’t be an excuse to concede four in the first fixture of a new season – especially considering Arsenal took the lead.
Arsenal started brightly and Aaron Ramsey had plenty of chances to break the deadlock before Theo Walcott slammed home on the half-hour mark. Philippe Coutinho’s excellent free-kick from range beat Petr Cech and Liverpool used that goal as momentum in the early stages of the second-half.
Sitting far too deep and ball-watching with no press, Liverpool were enjoying themselves as goals from Adam Lallana and Coutinho saw them take the lead.
Sadio Mané’s solo run saw him burst past the Gunners backline as if no-one was there to make it 4-1 and a chorus of boos could be heard around the ground as the Senegalese forward raced away to celebrate with Klopp and his team-mates.
It was embarrassing as the home team, allowing Liverpool to control the tempo.
Naturally, only at 4-1 down did Arsenal get themselves back into proceedings – but it was too late to salvage a result.
Defeats to Everton and City within a week
After going on a 14-match unbeaten run in the Premier League before they travelled to Goodison Park to face Everton on a Tuesday evening in December, Arsenal would have been feeling quietly confident they could get all three points.
Alexis Sánchez’s free-kick opener boosted hopes after just 20 minutes, but the tide soon turned. Everton increased the intensity and Arsenal struggled to handle them. Goals from Seamus Coleman and Ashley Williams ended the unbeaten run but it was the manner of this 2-1 defeat which really stung.
Defensively sloppy and far too static at times, the Gunners’ backline was unconvincing and Everton used this to their advantage. Alex Iwobi did have an effort blocked off the line and Hector Bellerín had a penalty claim turned down but the result is all that matters in the end and Arsenal didn’t get it.
A trip to face Manchester City was the perfect opportunity to respond after that forgettable defeat. But Arsenal once again let themselves down and lost 2-1
Theo Walcott broke the deadlock after a well-worked passing exchange but that was as good as it got for the Gunners, who once again seemed content to sit deep and allow City large spells of possession without much pressure on the ball.
Kevin de Bruyne, Leroy Sané and Raheem Sterling made them rue that tactical decision soon enough.
Hornets sting sloppy Arsenal
Many are still struggling to get their heads around this result from the end of January – Arsenal 1-2 Watford.
Aaron Ramsey’s half-hearted attempt at a block backfired and he failed to touch the ball from a throw-in which allowed Etienne Capoue to run into the box and watch his effort bundled home by captain Troy Deeney.
Sloppy, slow to press, riddled with mistakes. The visitors could’ve easily been three or four goals ahead at the interval if they had been more composed in-front of goal.
Arsenal responded with a spirited comeback in the second-half and gradually started to show flashes of the team that we all know and love. But with a two-goal deficit to overturn, the players knew it wouldn’t be easy with Heurelho Gomes making a string of fine saves in the Watford goal.
Alex Iwobi bundled home with an effort from close-range to halve the deficit but it was too little, too late.
Embarrassment at the Bridge
February’s trip to face Chelsea was billed as a must-win game with Arsenal’s title-hopes fading. What better challenge than the league leaders who were keen for revenge after losing 3-0 at the Emirates in September?
Arsenal struggled to create much of note in the 3-1 defeat to the Blues as their attack-minded players found themselves isolated by Chelsea’s structured formation, designed to stifle their creative threat and starve the visitors of possession.
Without the presence of Granit Xhaka, who was serving a suspension at the time, Arsenal’s midfield metronome was Oxlade-Chamberlain and to his credit, he performed fairly well given the circumstances.
Hector Bellerín was forced off early after a nasty-looking collision with compatriot Marcos Alonso, who seemed to have fouled him moments before breaking the deadlock.
Chelsea’s early goal fired them up further and they ran away to a 3-0 lead, before Olivier Giroud’s late strike handed Arsenal a consolation goal. But former Chelsea goalkeeer Petr Cech had a moment to forget after a poor pass out from the back when to former Arsenal man Cesc Fabregas to score from range late in the game.
Francis Coquelin didn’t cover himself in glory in the game either, failing to challenge Eden Hazard who scored a solo goal after picking the ball up on the halfway line. Supporters were incensed with his performance and are keen to see him sold this summer.
More defensive mishaps at the Hawthorns
Defensive mishaps were a common theme for Arsenal last season and their 3-1 defeat to West Brom in March came as a result of poor planning from set-pieces. Albion dominated dead ball situations and capitalised on Arsenal’s poor marking and weak tackling.
Despite some individual moments of magic from Granit Xhaka and Alexis Sanchez, it was yet another shock defeat for Arsene Wenger’s men. Still the Londoners hadn’t learned from their mistakes but instead, the same issues kept occurring with worrying frequency.
Etienne Capoue’s bursting runs forward were mirrored by Allan Nyom of West Brom, and it seemed there was no plan B in place to try and get back into the game. No wonder the Albion players looked so happy.
There’s plenty of work to do ahead of next season if Arsenal truly want to progress…