There was an emotional send-off for Aaron Ramsey final evening on the Emirates, and a heat farewell for Petr Cech, however essentially the most memorable sight got here earlier than the lap of appreciation, earlier than the parting presents for Ramsey, Cech and Danny Welbeck, and earlier than the applause for the profitable under-18s and girls’s groups.
It was the sight of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandere Lacazette and Sead Kolasinac slumped within the Arsenal dug-out after the ultimate whistle. Kolasinac was leant ahead, elbows on knees, propping up his head together with his hand, staring emptily into the gap. Aubameyang sat again, arms glumly crossed like a truculent schoolboy. His 26 objectives for the season have been about to be proven on the large display however his physique language was projecting something however delight.
The Arsenal gamers regarded overwhelmed. That they had drawn this game with Brighton but it was still one of their worst results of the season. As a result of it meant that they’re now desperately unlikely to complete within the high 4. The one manner they play Champions League soccer subsequent season is that if they win the appropriate to take action in Baku on the finish of the month.
And that represents a failure from Unai Emery and his crew.
Sure, Arsenal got here sixth final 12 months, and so fourth was all the time going to be an bold goal this time. However no person might have anticipated the utter poverty of the opposite groups round them. A Manchester United crew who had half of a Mourinho season, briefly loved some new supervisor bounce earlier than falling again down once more. A Chelsea crew in transition, the place the followers have turned on the supervisor and their finest participant is seemingly off. After which a Tottenham crew working on empty, who’ve taken simply 10 factors from their final 11 league video games.
Provided that dramatic Spurs collapse, and the weak challenges from Chelsea and United, fourth turned a much more attainable goal for Arsenal than they may have anticipated. The door was open for them, and so they have didn’t stroll by means of it. Initially of the season, fifth and a very good Europa League run wouldn’t strictly have been seen as a failure. However given how issues have panned out, some tougher questions have to be requested.
There have been remoted dangerous outcomes during the season however the deadly harm, when fourth place was up for grabs, has come within the final month. They’ve received simply considered one of their final six league video games, shedding 4 of them. And people 4 losses – to Everton, Crystal Palace, Wolves and Leicester – have been 4 of their worst performances of the entire season. Video games the place they’ve confirmed so little combat, ability, organisation or perception that it’s exhausting to image how Emery has been working with these gamers for nearly one entire 12 months.
Emery was not within the temper for evaluation afterwards, saying that it was “higher to deal with Thursday in opposition to Valencia” fairly than trying into what has gone flawed this 12 months. And in a single sense he’s proper: if Arsenal win the Europa League then that can overshadow their league struggles, take them into the Champions League, and no person will a lot thoughts that they didn’t benefit from Spurs’ collapse.
However the Europa League ultimate is greater than three weeks away and there’s no assure that they’ll win it, and even that they are going to be there. Three weeks to evaluate this season – the primary of the post-Wenger future – and take into consideration why they’ve struggled to place any actual type collectively. To consider the unbalance of the squad, the query mark over the function of Mesut Ozil, the defensive errors, the flimsy midfield, and the unhealthy dependence on their two sensible strikers.
These should not Emery’s errors as such, however they’re his issues. They’ve grown out of a scarcity of path and management that has left the membership to float all 12 months. There are many issues flawed at Arsenal on and off the pitch, however Emery and the gamers are nonetheless people who bear the brunt. As bitterly annoyed as they’re about how their league season has gone, they need to know that the answer doesn’t solely lie with them.