The 2016/17 campaign could have been summed up in many different ways for Gunners fans this season. Somewhat inexcusable maybe, slightly laughable perhaps, captivating to watch on the odd occasion – but yet again for the most part it seems, largely predictable and distinctly lacking in fresh ideas.
Arsenal began the recent league campaign in electrifying form, before crashing out of the Champions League in less than defensible circumstances and subsequently losing much of their previous fight and gusto among the English top-flight. Many of the Emirates faithful were left calling for the manager’s head, with the whole ‘Wenger-In/Wenger-Out’ debate casting great division and discord among the Gunners ranks.
The Black Eyed Peas have now appeared in the same number of Champions League finals as Arsenal.
— Tim Bolton (@timbolton1) June 3, 2017
Despite Antonio Conte’s title-winning successes within his debut campaign amid the Premier League, Arsene Wenger easily became the most talked about manager in and around the English top-flight this season. Never before has the Gunners community been so rife with such obvious disharmony, such lack of certainty in their main man in the dug-out, as well as all the unnecessary tantrums of short-lived YouTube infamy than most of us just can’t seem to escape.
Yet without the added ‘burden’ of Champions League football – which remains something of a outwardly questionable phrase even at the best of times – Arsene Wenger and the despondent Gunners supporters can now arguably begin to witness that ever-elusive light at the end of the tunnel.
Imagine if Bayern came 3rd in CL and meet Arsenal in Europa League it would be some legendary stuff.
— Jack (@Jackinho666) May 28, 2017
Although Arsenal remain far from a club in crisis at this specific juncture, particularly after claiming their third successful F.A. Cup triumph in as little as four years, the upcoming 2017/18 campaign offers a new kind of challenge that Gunners fans have been waiting for. It’s an opportunity for restoration, for reconstruction, for some much needed reinvention of their increasingly dated approach within the modern game.
Whilst no title-contending side ever wants to lose out on top-flight European football these days, Arsenal will benefit from avoiding the Champions League as they simply aren’t good enough to truly compete among it’s highly coveted ranks in the first place. The likes of Bayern Munich and co. have schooled the struggling Gunners so god-damn ardently in recent years, it’s almost becoming somewhat awkward at this stage.
There was a time when Arsenal clearly represented one of the most exciting sides to watch on the whole continent, but not anymore. There must come a moment where change becomes inevitable – and although Arsene Wenger looks set to remain at the Emirates for at least the foreseeable future – much of that change can now come about without the added pressure of Champions League football weighing the club down.
— Football Vines (@FootballVines) May 30, 2017
We all saw what happened down at Stamford Bridge throughout the previous 2016/17 campaign of course. Chelsea had it all to prove after failing to restore their status as a worthy Champions League faring side, and prove it they most certainly did – with an array of fresh tactics, personnel and newfound belief sweeping through the club right when it really mattered most.
Arsenal obviously have the Europa League to contend with next term, which admittedly arrives with its own set of testing trials and tribulations. But as this current Gunners side remain more than capable of winning the second-tier European club competition at the first time of asking, success among the Europa League could actually install a brand new sense of confidence and spark within the Emirates faithful.
In the end, Arsenal should have arguably parted ways with their long-term manager if they really wanted to begin the new league campaign on a fresh leaf of optimism and renewed hope. Yet with Wenger reportedly keen to hold onto his most potent attacking talent this summer, with a supposed £100 million war-chest locked firmly under his belt, now is no time for Gunners fans to fear what the future may soon have in store.
Now is the time for Arsenal to really step up and reclaim their once undisputable place among the upper echelons of the English top-flight, with or without the added bonus of Champions League football. To finally make some real meaningful strides among Europe’s very best clubs, Arsenal must first remind fans of the Premier League what it is they have to offer, and what it is that stands them apart from the rest of their domestic competitors.