It hurts. In a year’s time, it will still hurt. Following a disastrous two months at the Emirates Stadium, Arsenal’s title challenge is finally over, and Manchester City have been crowned champions once again, for the fifth time in six years.
Mikel Arteta’s young Gunners have led the English top flight all season long. At the start of April, platforms, which allow punters to explore sports betting Canada, finally installed the North London club as favourites for the title. Back-to-back 4-1 victories, firstly over Crystal Palace and then over Leeds United, gave Arsenal an eight-point lead over Pep Guardiola’s Blues on April 1st. Admittedly the reigning champions had a game in hand on their title challengers and the pair had to face off at the Etihad Stadium, but The Gunners’ lead at the Premier League summit was looking insurmountable.
With fixtures on the horizon against the likes of relegation strugglers West Ham United and Southampton, surely a first English title in almost two decades was just around the corner. Well, unfortunately, we now know how the story ended. Arsenal conspired to throw away two-goal leads, firstly at Anfield, then against the Hammers at the London Stadium, before a 3-3 draw at home to the rock-bottom Saints all but halted the title challenge in its tracks.
A 4-1 drubbing at the Etihad was the final nail in the coffin, and anything that has happened since that painful night in Manchester on April 26th has been irrelevant. But those that are saying that Arsenal have bottled the title this season couldn’t be further from the truth. And here’s why.
Punching Above Their Weight
Last season, Arsenal finished down in fifth place, and the end of that campaign was the definition of ‘bottling’. The Gunners lost two of their final three games to squander a chance of returning to the UEFA Champions League for the first time since the days of Arsene Wenger. And to make matters worse, arch rivals Tottenham Hotspur took their place at the most elite dining table in European football.
As such then, it goes without saying that the current campaign has been a massive success across the board. If you’d have told any Gooner at the start of the season that their team would qualify for the Champions League for the first time in over six years, they’d have bitten your hand off. If you’d have told them they would be genuine title contenders and would sit at the Premier League’s summit for 80% of the campaign, they’d have told you that you were delusional.
But that is exactly what came to pass. Arsenal are indeed back and they are a force to be reckoned with once more. This season, they have picked up victories over Liverpool, Manchester United, and Spurs, as well as doing the double over Chelsea. They have secured their best finish in the English top flight for some seven years and it’s just the fourth time in the last two decades that the club has finished second or better.
No Shame In Losing to Manchester City
Yes, Arsenal had the title in their hands. Some may say that they even had one hand on the trophy. In the end, it wasn’t meant to be, but let’s face it, there is no shame in losing to Manchester City.
Pep Guardiola has created an all-conquering monster in the North West, a team that looks set to win the treble for just the second time in the history of English football. He has created a side so impressive that they can happily ship off their best fullback, João Cancelo, and still somehow improve. It’s a testament to the legendary Spanish manager that he has created a winning machine that shows no signs of slowing down, and there would be no shame in anyone losing out to the Etihad club, never mind a team that finished down in fifth last year and hasn’t played in the Champions League since 2017.
The Citizens were the odds-on favourites for glory when the campaign got underway and Arsenal weren’t even considered contenders. Fast forward nine months and The Gunners have unexpectedly against all odds pushed City all the way, while the Manchester outfit have simply done what was expected of them.
Arsenal’s Young Gunners Will Come Again
And last but not least, Arsenal’s young gunners will come again. Of that, there is no doubt. Mikel Arteta’s side had the youngest average age of every team in the Premier League this season, and they managed to put their inexperience to one side and perform better than anyone could have ever anticipated. The stars of the campaign were Bukayo Saka and captain Martin Ødegaard who are aged just 21 and 24 respectively.
If you take a look through the rest of the starting eleven, you will see youngsters aplenty. Only Thomas Partey and Granit Xhaka out of the starting eleven are aged over 26, and the future is certainly bright at the Emirates Stadium. This Arsenal team will come again, and despite the disappointment of the last few weeks, Gooners the world over need to see the bigger picture and as Mikel Arteta has always said, trust the process.
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