Monday, May 20, 2024

Long read: Arsenal’s incredible 2019-20 season – Part 1

Arsenal’s 2019-20 season is one which will live long in the memory. It ended with FA Cup success, but between managerial comings and goings, on and off field shenanigans, player issues, and boardroom upheaval – played out in part against the backdrop of a global pandemic – it’s one that few will ever forget.

If you think you remember every little bit, think again. We’ve put together this blow by blow account of the key events, beginning with pre-season 2019, all the way through to the present day.

You can find the link to part 2 at the bottom.

July 8th

The Arsenal first team return to London Colney for pre-season training. 41 days have elapsed since we were beaten 4-1 in the Europa League final by Chelsea.

July 9th

After months of speculation, Edu is confirmed as the club’s new Technical Director.

Raul Sanllehi says, “His arrival is the final and very important part of the jigsaw in our development of a new football infrastructure to take us forward.”

July 11th

Seemingly out of the blue, club captain Laurent Koscielny refuses to travel to the US for the pre-season tour. The club release a statement saying, “We are very disappointed by Laurent’s actions, which are against our clear instructions.”

The rest of the squad jet off to the US for a pre-season tour that includes games against the Colorado Rapids, Bayern Munich, Fiorentina and Real Madrid.

July 12th

Edu flies out to the States and is caught on camera in deep discussion with Raul Sanllehi and Vinai Venkatesham as the first team are put through their paces in Los Angeles.

July 13th

French outlet TF1 reports that Arsenal have made an €80m bid for Lille star Nicolas Pepe. Despite excitement at the possibility, it is generally seen as an unlikely deal due to the size of the fee.

July 15th

A collection of fan groups, websites, and Arsenal related signatories release a statement expressing concerns at the way the club is being run by KSE. Under the umbrella of ‘We care, do you?‘, the movement gains major traction across traditional and new media.

“In his takeover document, Stan Kroenke said: ‘KSE’s ambitions for the club are to see it competing consistently to win the Premier League and the Champions League.’


We see little evidence of how this is to be achieved.”

The Gunners beat Colarado Rapids. Carl Jenkinson plays and debutant Gabriel Martinelli scores.

July 16th

Josh Kroenke responds to the criticism with an open letter to fans. In it, he says, “Be excited”, when it comes to transfers, and insists the club are “are putting processes in place to ensure we are stacked not only with talent, but talent with the proper mentality to help us achieve our highest goals in the future.”

July 18th

Former Head of Recruitment Sven Mislintat shares some of the reasons behind his departure, suggesting the current leadership were eschewing a rounded approach to recruitment for one more closely based around agents.

“Previously we had a strong systematic approach to transfers, a mixture of watching things live as well as quality data and video analysis – Arsenal actually owns their own data company. That meant that we acted independently, we knew about all markets and players in all positions that came into question.

“However, the new leadership work more strongly with what they are offered from clubs or agents through their own networks.”

July 24th

The Gunners land back in London with three wins under their belt. It might have been a full house but for a shootout defeat to Real Madrid. Several of the players now have bleached blond hair.

July 25th

Dani Ceballos and William Saliba join Arsenal. The Real Madrid man arrives on a season-long loan. The young French defender is recruited for £27 million and is immediately loaned back to Saint-Etienne for the year ahead.

July 26th

Mesut Ozil and Sead Kolasinac are involved in a frightening incident in which they are threatened at knife-point in an attempted carjacking. The Bosnian international chases off one of the thugs before the players and their partners take refuge in a Turkish restaurant in Golders Green.

July 27th

David Ornstein drops an Ornshell on the fanbase by revealing Arsenal have agreed an €80m fee with Lille for Nicolas Pepe.

In a summer when Arsenal’s very public pursuit of Wilfried Zaha has played out, the club decides not to sign the left-sided, right-footed winger Unai Emery wants, and instead looks set to splash out on a right-sided, left-footed player.

August 1st

Nicolas Pepe officially joins Arsenal in a club-record £72m deal.

“I am convinced that Arsenal is the right choice,” says the Ivorian international.

Unsurprisingly, the signing has the fans buzzing.

August 4th

Arsenal lose 2-1 to Barcelona in the Nou Camp in a final pre-season run out. Luis Suarez grabs a 90th-minute winner after some tragi-comic defending by Shkodran Mustafi.

August 5th

The issue of the Arsenal captaincy is raised as the departure of Laurent Koscielny draws closer. Nearly a month has elapsed since the Frenchman went on strike but Granit Xhaka, one of the leading candidates, reveals that Unai Emery has yet to make up his mind about who should have the armband.

August 6th

Laurent Koscielny joins Bordeaux. In a statement, he says discussions over his desire to leave have been going on for ‘months’. With the transfer window closing in two days, Arsenal have little time to find a replacement.

August 8th – Transfer Deadline Day

Arsenal make the long-awaited signing of Kieran Tierney, paying Celtic a fee believed to be close to £25m. Injuries mean he will have to wait for his debut.

David Luiz signs from Chelsea, for a fee of £8m, despite the fact he’d recently just signed a new contract with Chelsea. His agent is Kia Joorabchian, someone with whom Edu has had a long-standing working relationship.

Alex Iwobi leaves for Everton in a deal worth £35m – Joorabchian is tasked with representing Arsenal despite having no connection with the player previously.

Eddie Nketiah joins Leeds on loan.

August 9th

Unai Emery addresses the captaincy issue, saying, “At the moment we have three captains: Xhaka, Mesut and Nacho, and I want to take two more because my opinion is the same as it was in the pre-season with five. I want to be with my squad clearly to have two more.

“At the moment we have three captains and I think they have the capacity to give us possibilities as captain.”

Meanwhile, Ozil and Kolasinac are to miss the season opener against Newcastle due to ‘security concerns’.

August 11th

Arsenal start the new campaign with a solid but unspectacular 1-0 win at Newcastle United. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang grabs the goal at a soaking wet St James’ Park.

August 16th

Despite not being officially named skipper, Granit Xhaka provides the ‘captain’s’ notes for the match-day programme for the first home game of the season against Burnley.

Two days earlier he admits it would be a ‘dream’ to be handed the armband.

August 20th

As he maintains a higher profile than his father, Josh Kroenke does another interview in which he says the ambition is to win the Premier League, and he backs the current squad to give it a try.

“Our ambitions are the same as the fans,” he tells the BBC. “We want to win and we want to win as much and as often as possible. And doing it a fun way, where they’re seeing some really entertaining football as well.

“I think we’ve got the group to do it.”


August 24th

David Luiz concedes his first penalty in an Arsenal shirt, hauling down Mo Salah in the 3-1 defeat at Anfield.

Afterwards, he suggests that his blatant foul was not really that blatant, going on a bizarre ramble which features referees, VAR, a lack of power, and extra-large shirts.

August 31st

Just ahead of the North London derby, Arsenal sell fan-favourite Nacho Monreal to Real Sociedad for just £250,000.

Mohamed Elneny also exits the club, joining Besiktas on loan.

September 2nd

The day after playing a part in a 2-2 draw with Sp*rs, Henrikh Mkhitaryan joins Roma on a season-long loan.

He says, “The last month at Arsenal I was not getting pleasure, so that’s why I said it was better to come to Roma and to get happy and to get the pleasure from playing football again.”

September 12th

Young midfielder Joe Willock signs a new long-term contract.

September 13th

Unai Emery again references the captaincy issue, but it’s still not sorted after more than two months.

“Next week we are going to take the decision on the five captains,” he says. “We spoke about that with the team this morning and I am going to decide to make it official in the next week.”

Something that shouldn’t be a big deal, suddenly feels like a big deal.

September 15th

A 2-2 draw at Watford causes grave concern. Giving away a two-goal lead, Arsenal are at sixes and sevens, playing out from the back via the new goal kick rule causes panic and Sokratis makes a serious mistake to hand the Hornets a goal.

Watford finish the game having had 31 attempts on goal, the most they’ve ever had in a Premier League game. It’s also the most Arsenal have ever allowed in a Premier League game.

David Luiz concedes his second penalty of the season. Granit Xhaka says afterwards the team were ‘scared’, drawing condemnation from some fans, but it’s clear he’s referencing the fact the team are badly organised more than anything else.

Unai Emery reveals he withdrew Sevilla born and bred Dani Ceballos because it was ‘very hot’, but does get the backing of Managing Director Vinai Venkatesham who says, “We are very comfortable with him and his coaching staff. We think he is doing an excellent job, so we are very happy.”

September 18th

The captaincy decision is delayed again.

“I will propose to do that next week after the match on Tuesday,” says Emery.

September 23rd

In a remarkable game at the Emirates, 10-man Arsenal recover from Ainsley Maitland-Niles’ first half dismissal to beat Aston Villa 3-2. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang nets a late free-kick winner.

There are rumblings of discontent throughout though, not least when Granit Xhaka is substituted during the second period and subjected to audible jeers as he makes his way off the pitch.

September 27th

Emery finally makes his captaincy decision, handing the armband to Granit Xhaka, while Mesut Ozil, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Hector Bellerin and Alexandre Lacazette make up the rest of the captaincy group.

The Spaniard acknowledges that some in the fanbase have doubts about the Swiss, saying, “His challenge, and our challenge, is to change that opinion and above all, show personality and improve in each match and give us his help every time.”

This is a literary device known as ‘foreshadowing’.

October 2nd

Emi Martinez says he believes he can become number 1 at Arsenal, but the form of Bernd Leno means that this is an unlikely scenario and the Argentine will most probably remain the cup keeper at best.

This is a literary device known as ‘foreshadowing’.

October 4th

Mesut Ozil is an absentee from the Arsenal squad for the second successive game. There is no injury.

Emery explains, “When I decided he shouldn’t be in the squad it’s because I think other players deserved it more.”

October 6th

Arsenal beat Bournemouth 1-0 thanks to a goal from David Luiz. As it turns out, the Gunners won’t win another league game until December 9th.

October 10th

Head of Football Raul Sanllehi insists that a top-four finish is what’s expected of Unai Emery.

He also addresses the Ozil situation and says there are no barriers to his involvement beyond demonstrating he deserves to play ahead of others.

October 25th

After losing to Sheffield United in the league, Unai Emery says Ozil’s absence is an ‘agreed strategy’.

The German hasn’t featured since playing 71 minutes a League Cup game against Nottingham Forest. The head coach clumsily explains: “Here we have one agreed strategy as a club and a team, because the most important thing is the club, the team and finding a performance.

“Previously we were all speaking between us to take that decision. I know all the supporters want to know something, but now is not the moment.”

Whether it’s a quirk of Emery’s English, or something else, even the idea that team selection is being dictated by the boardroom is a worrying one.

October 27th

Arsenal draw 2-2 with Crystal Palace at the Emirates. The tense atmosphere between fans and players sparks an extraordinary second half incident involving Granit Xhaka.

With his number shown by the fourth official, the Swiss, clearly disappointed, slowly trudges from one side of the pitch to the other. The lack of urgency irks large swathes of fans who barrack him to hurry up. He responds by throwing the captain’s armband at Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, cups his ear, mouths ‘f**k off’ at the stands, and storms off down the tunnel.

Afterwards, Unai Emery says, “I want to listen to him and be calm. But really he was wrong in this action.”

There is no self-reflection from the head coach about how his handling of the captaincy situation and the abysmal form his team is showing might also have played a part.

Arsenal are denied a late Sokratis winner by a ludicrous VAR decision which adjudges Calum Chambers guilty of a foul that wasn’t.

October 28th

The players back Xhaka by visiting his house in the aftermath of the incident and want him to remain captain. Emery says the midfielder is ‘devastated’ but refuses to say whether he’ll keep the armband.

Xhaka’s agent flies to London for talks with his client and the club. Arsenal want the player to apologise, and brief sections of the media that they will offer him ‘counselling’.

This does not go down well with Xhaka. He later releases a statement in which he details social media abuse from so-called ‘fans’, and calls for everyone to get back to a place of ‘mutual respect’.

There is no apology.

November 2nd

Arsenal draw 1-1 with Wolves at home. The pressure is mounting on Unai Emery, but he says he’s happy with what he’s getting from the players in spite of the scoreline.

“The result is a bad result, but tactically I think we worked how we wanted,” he says.

November 5th

Arsenal announce that Xhaka has been stripped of the captaincy, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang now made skipper.

Xhaka receives the public backing of Hector Bellerin ahead of a Europa League clash with Portuguese minnows Vitoria.

“For us, it’s just to give him our love and care and for us, he is one of us, so we’re just helping him get through it as well,” says the full-back.

The game against Vitoria is memorable only for how forgettable it is. Arsenal stumble to a draw.

November 8th

Ahead of what he deems a ‘must-win’ game against Leicester, Emery says Arsenal fans ‘must have patience‘ and says, ‘in some circumstances they did not help us’.

November 9th

Arsenal lose 2-0 to Leicester. The run is now one win in seven games. The head coach says, “My message to everyone at Arsenal would be to stay calm.”

November 10th

In The Athletic, David Ornstein writes of board support for the beleaguered Spaniard.

“With 26 games to be played, Arsenal’s powerbrokers feel there is plenty of time for their fortunes to be reversed and a run of positive results to transform the atmosphere. They are preaching qualities such as patience, confidence, belief, focus, resilience, togetherness and consistency.”

Few of those qualities are apparent in the team or its performances.

November 14th

It is reported that Raul Sanllehi has vetoed an attempt by the traditional board, now merely ceremonial in the wake of KSE’s 100% ownership, to have David O’Leary appointed to the executive committee.

It’s believed Arsenal’s record appearance holder could provide some oversight into the way the football side of the club is being run.

November 21st

Granit Xhaka hints strongly that he wants to leave Arsenal, stating he ‘can’t accept’ what has happened in terms of losing the captaincy and his treatment by fans.

Speaking during the Interlull, he says, “I have a clear idea as to how things should proceed, and Arsenal know this as well. Although I still have a contract with them, I will be glad to return to the club so we can finally sort matters out. There will surely be a solution, as I can’t accept what has happened with me.”

Meanwhile, Unai Emery says he knows how to improve performances as we get ready to face Southampton.

November 23rd

A last-minute equaliser from Alexandre Lacazette rescues a point as Arsenal draw 2-2 with Southampton at the Emirates. The Frenchman doesn’t even bother celebrating his goal.

The run is one win in eight. By mid-November, the Gunners have just four Premier League wins to their name.

November 24th

Rumours about Emery’s departure see the names of Mikel Arteta and Max Allegri mentioned as possible replacements.

We care, do you?‘ issue another statement. Even Robert Pires, the world’s most positive man when he talks about Arsenal, admits things are bad.

November 27th

Concerned with the direction of the club, and the fact that Champions League qualification seems a slim possibility, The Times reports that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has put talks to extend his contract on hold.

November 28th

Granit Xhaka returns to the Arsenal team for the first time since the incident against Crystal Palace.

The Gunners lose 2-1 at home to Frankfurt in the Europa League. Technically, due to a UEFA ban, there should be no visiting fans in the stadium. In reality, a huge chunk of Club Level is taken up by lagered-up Frankfurters having the time of their life. Arsenal’s fans are morose. It feels like things can’t get any worse.

Afterwards, Unai Emery says, “Now our moment is not good. We need to win and we need to gain confidence.”

November 29th

Unai Emery is sacked as Arsenal manager. Josh Kroenke says, “Our most sincere thanks go to Unai and his colleagues who were unrelenting in their efforts to get the club back to competing at the level we all expect and demand. We wish Unai and his team nothing but future success.”

Freddie Ljungberg is appointed ‘interim head coach’, and he says he wants to put smiles on faces again.

November 30th

Josh Kroenke backs Freddie’s Arsenal DNA, and is present at the training ground to speak to the players.

He reveals the search for the new manager will be carried out by ‘Raul, Vinai, Edu and Huss.’

December 1st

Freddie’s first game in temporary charge sees the run without a win continue, as Arsenal draw 2-2 with Norwich at Carrow Road. With all Emery’s staff gone, Academy Manager Per Mertesacker is drafted in as the Swede’s assistant, with goalkeeping coach Sal Bibbo also there to make sure the bench doesn’t look too empty.

December 5th

Patrick Vieira’s name is added to those of Arteta, Allegri, Marcelino, Niko Kovac, and Nuno Espirito Santo as potential front-runners for the job.

December 9th

Arsenal win their first league game since October with a 3-1 win at West Ham. Nicolas Pepe, who has struggled for consistency since his £72m signing, scores a cracker.

Kieran Tierney, however, dislocates his shoulder and requires surgery that will keep him out until March.

December 15th

With Mikel Arteta sitting on the opposition bench, Arsenal go down meekly 3-0 to Man City at home.

Freddie urges some alacrity when it comes to appointing the new head coach, saying, “I’ve said to them [the board] they need to make a decision.”

Rather than discuss matters with Arteta in London, Vinai Venkatesham, and chief contract negotiator, Huss Fahmy, follow the Man City team bus back up north.

December 16th

Venkatesham and Fahmy, are pictured leaving Mikel Arteta’s home in Manchester; the clearest indication yet that the 37-year-old Spaniard is being lined up for the vacant head coach role. 

Snapped by tabloid press in the dead of night, it’s said they were holding talks with the ex-Gunner for a couple of hours. 

Back in London, Freddie Ljungberg promises to deal with Mesut Ozil after the German throws a strop when substituted in the City game.

“How he reacts is up to him and we will deal with it later,” he says. “I’m here on a day-to-day basis but of course we want players in the right way. He should be annoyed when he comes off.”

UEFA also pitch Arsenal against Olympiakos in the Europa League; a draw that looks straightforward enough. 

Something something foreshadowing.

December 18th

Pep Guardiola says Mikel Arteta has been honest about his interest in the Arsenal job but he’s less than impressed by the fact the Gunners hierarchy have yet to make a formal approach.

“We were there two days ago,” he says, referencing the recent match. “They were talking with our sporting director, the CEO and they didn’t say anything. I don’t know if the meeting [with Arteta] was because they didn’t want to make it public, but in the end it was public.”

Asked about the prospect of Mikel Arteta taking over, Arsene Wenger, newly installed as FIFA’s head of global football, insists that the Spaniard has what it takes. He also praises interim coach Ljungberg.

“He (Arteta) is intelligent, he has passion, he has knowledge, but Ljungberg [does] as well,” says Wenger.

“I believe that Arteta has certainly a great future, he has certainly learned a lot in his first position as an assistant coach and after that as well he will have to deal with the fact that he has no experience at that level and he will have to get surrounded well.”

December 20th

After reaching an agreement with City, Arsenal confirm Mikel Arteta as the club’s new head coach.

The Spaniard is unveiled at a press conference at London Colney and immediately lays out his ambitions and what he expects from the first team squad.

“This is a huge honour,” he says. “Arsenal is one of the biggest clubs in the world.

“We need to be competing for the top trophies in the game and that’s been made very clear to me in my discussions with Stan and Josh Kroenke, and the senior people from the club. We all know there is a lot of work to be done to achieve that but I am confident we’ll do it.

“I’m realistic enough to know it won’t happen overnight but the current squad has plenty of talent and there is a great pipeline of young players coming through from the academy.”

“We met several top-class candidates and Mikel stood out to every single one of us as the perfect person for us,” says Raul.

With comic timing, Unai Emery reveals that Arsenal had wanted to extend his contract earlier in the season. Then things went sour.

December 21st

Mikel Arteta continues to make a positive first impression. After watching the club disintegrate from afar, he knows he has to change the day-to-day mood when he lays his foundations.

He says: “We have to create the right culture around the club that’s going to make a good living out of the players, create an environment where everybody respects each other, a humility and people have to be accountable for what we want to achieve. That’s the basics and then after we can grow from there. Then we can create an identity that I have in my head for this football club. But we have to start somewhere to try to build that up.”

On the same day, he watches from the stands as a young Arsenal side play out a very drab 0-0 draw with another of his former clubs, Everton. Asked why Ozil was absent, Freddie Ljungberg says the midfielder was injured but that he wouldn’t have played him anyway.

He also reflects on his short spell in charge, saying it’s been a challenge working with such a small coaching set-up.

“It was from one day to another – and I think we had six people leaving,” he says. “You try to fill the gaps and do a lot of jobs yourself. I learned a lot about myself and tried to organise things, to get it done. It’s been a big honour but as well it’s been a challenge to try to sort those things out.”

December 22nd

Mikel Arteta takes his first training session.

December 23rd

Having inherited a lot of issues on and off the pitch, Arteta lays out his philosophy from the start, insisting everyone will be given a fair chance.

“With me, they have a clean slate,” he says. “I told them that. You’re not going to be judged on things you’ve done in the past, whether they are negative or positive.

“If you do that, you’ll have a chance to play. If you don’t, you won’t.”

December 24th

Christmas Eve brings the gift of coaching staff. Freddie Ljungberg, Albert Stuivenberg, Steve Round and goalkeeping coach Inaki Cana Pavon are the men who will be working alongside Arteta who says, “I am delighted to have this talented group of coaches alongside me. They bring a great mix of experience and fresh thinking.”

December 26th

Arteta’s first game in charge sees the Gunners draw 1-1 away at Bournemouth. Having fallen behind to a Dan Gosling strike, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang levels in the second half, but the size of the overall task is obvious as Arsenal struggle to find the desired performance levels.

Meanwhile, Granit Xhaka’s agent tells the club that the midfielder wants to leave to join Hertha Berlin. However, a meeting with the manager mends some fences as he tells the Swiss international he wants him to stay.

“I told him how much I like him and what I expect from him,” he reveals.

“How important he is for the team. I am here to help him, I want him to feel that we are right behind him. Not just myself but the whole club.”

There are reports that Eddie Nketiah could be recalled from Leeds with Bristol City leading the chase to house in him in the second half of the season.

December 29th

Arteta’s first home game in charge is going very well, with the Gunners 1-0 up late in the game, before an uncharacteristic Bernd Leno mistake hands Chelsea an equaliser. That’s compounded by a late winner by Tammy Abraham set up by Willian.

There were encouraging signs in the performance, but the result is a kick in the teeth given the circumstances.

There’s also a bad injury for Calum Chambers who, it later emerges has ruptured his ACL.

Arteta expresses some concerns about the team’s overall fitness afterwards, saying the way he wants the team to play is more demanding than the previous set-up.

January 1st

2020 begins on a positive note as goals from Nicolas Pepe and Sokratis give us a 2-0 win over Man Utd. It’s Arteta’s first win in his new role, and he is delighted with the ‘commitment and desire‘ shown by his team.

He also reveals that Granit Xhaka is set to stay, having convinced him he can put the unpleasantness behind him. He also makes it clear to the club that he does not want the midfielder to be sold, the first sign of him flexing his managerial muscles, so to speak.

January 3rd

Arsenal reject a £10m offer from Roma to make Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s loan move permanent.

January 6th

Arsenal beat Leeds 1-0 in the FA Cup 3rd round thanks to a goal from Reiss Nelson. It’s always nice beating Leeds.

Alexandre Lacazette reveals a listless first half performance resulted in some choice words from Mikel Arteta during the interval, which in turn sparked a much better second period.

January 10th

Mesut Ozil, who had ongoing issues with Unai Emery, is loving life under his former teammate, saying, “I am really happy that he is here with us at the moment because this is the right time.

“It is basically getting us back to the old Arsenal virtues. Having the possession, being in control of the game, having the ball all the time. Everyone is smiling, laughing, enjoying their time.”

Something something foreshadowing.

January 14th

Arsenal are overtaken by Sp*rs in the annual Deloitte Football Money League, and for the first time since 2001 find themselves outside the top 10. It’s something of a worry.

January 16th

There are strong links with PSG left-back Layvin Kurzawa, with David Ornstein reporting that the French international could join before the end of the transfer window. The player has recently changed his agent to team up with Kia Joorabchian, and it suggested he’ll join now – rather than at the end of his contract with French champions in June.

January 20th

Having returned from a loan spell at Leeds, it had been widely expected that Eddie Nketiah would be loaned out again. However, Mikel Arteta decides to keep the young striker in-house, saying, “We are very short of numbers at the moment and we’ve got a player that has a lot of quality and can can help us.”

January 21st

Arsenal draw 2-2 with Chelsea, showing character to respond to David Luiz conceding his third penalty in red and white, and being sent off after a dreadful pass back by Shkodran Mustafi.

Arteta’s men play with 10 men for most of the match, and the coach eschews a defensive substitution – moving Granit Xhaka to centre-half. Gabriel Martinelli breaks from deep to score what is later voted the club’s goal of the season, and although Chelsea score again, Hector Bellerin’s left footed strike earns a worthy point.

January 22nd

Media reports in Spain claim Dani Ceballos is unhappy and wants to cut short his loan spell with Arsenal. He is worried about playing time ahead of Euro 2020, and despite the fact he’s been sidelined with a serious hamstring injury, feels he’ll be better served at a different club to increase his chances of involvement with the Spain national side.

Mikel Arteta responds to those stories by challenging his compatriot to work his way back into the team.

“He needs to get back to fitness, fight for his place like in any other team, and after that, I’ll make the selection that I think is fair with what I see on the pitch,” he says.

January 25th

Somewhat out of the blue, we’re linked with a move for Flamengo’s Spanish centre-half Pablo Mari. He arrives in London for talks and a medical, met at the airport by Goal’s intrepid Arsenal correspondent Charles Watts.

“Yeah, of course,” says the defender when asked if he’s excited to sign for Arsenal.

January 27th

Pablo Mari returns to Brazil after complications in the deal put things on hold. Surely it’ll all work out though, as the player is represented by a good friend of Raul Sanllehi, Arturo Canales – the same agent who looks after Unai Emery.

Arsenal beat Bournemouth 2-1 in the FA Cup 4th round with goals from Bukayo Saka and Eddie Nketiah.

January 29th

Clocking up the air miles, Pablo returns from Brazil to London and his loan signing from Flamengo is announced.

Arsenal will pay a loan fee of around €5m, and it’s believed there is a commitment to make the deal permanent in the summer for around €9m on top of that.

Mikel Arteta says, “Pablo is an experienced player who will provide us with additional defensive quality.”

The player himself sounds very pleased to have joined a big Premier League club, having flitted around the Eredivisie and Spanish second division before catching the eye in Brazil.

“This is one of the best clubs in the world,” he says, “so I’m absolutely delighted to be joining.”

January 31st

Strange loan moves in January seem to be a habit Arsenal can’t break. After bringing in a half-fit Denis Suarez from Barcelona last year, this year’s ‘Really, him?’ signing is Cedric Soares from Southampton.

The right-back has six months left on his contract with the Saints, but the Gunners are willing to pay them a significant loan fee and his full wages rather than just bring him in for free in the summer.

Hector Bellerin is fit again, while Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Sokratis are capable of playing right back, so it does feel like an odd deal until you notice the involvement of Kia Joorabchian who looms over the Portuguese international like a creepy uncle at his signing.

Eyebrows are raised further when the Portuguese arrives to complete his deal wearing a knee brace. Somewhere in Sweden, Kim Kallstrom lets out a rueful chuckle.

February 3rd

Arteta is looking forward to getting away with the team on a warm-weather training camp in Dubai. He’s keen to give the players a bit of distance after what he calls a ‘tough’ two or three months.

He also wants to use the time away to forge some togetherness in his squad, as well as to do some training.

“I wanted to take them a little bit away from here and I want us to live together a little bit more,” he says.

During their time away, Matteo Guendouzi is involved in a bust-up with Sokratis, and then has an argument with Arteta and the coaching staff which sees him left out of the squad for the game against Newcastle.

Arsenal win 4-0.

February 14th

As worries about the spread of the coronavirus grow, and as sporting events across the Far East are postponed, the Arsenal boss says the club’s medical staff are aware of the issue and putting in place plans to deal with it to the best of their ability.

At this time it’s widely reported the chances of it spreading to the UK are ‘slim’, but Arteta says, “We have great doctors here and people who are looking after our health. They have been putting a plan together to try to keep everybody in safe hands.

“We have some protocols we have to respect within the training ground. As far as I know, everything is under control but we have to be very aware.”


February 16th

Dani Ceballos’ start in the win over Newcastle is his first since November 9th, and despite looking a little leggy, the midfielder plays well. Coming just a few short weeks after reports he was keen to cut short his loan, the door is opened by Guendouzi’s absence, and his attitude impresses his manager.

“When he started to train I didn’t think he was fit enough,” Arteta tells the BBC.

“He completely changed his behaviour and trained like an animal. I thought he was the best player on the pitch.”

February 20th

Arsenal face swaps 2020 are inflicted upon the Arseblog News readers who, frankly, deserve greater consideration.

Arsenal beat Olympiacos in the first leg of the Europa League Round of 32 thanks to a late goal from Alexandre Lacazette. Maybe this will be the year to break out trophy drought in Europe?

February 27th


After a 3-2 win over Everton between the two legs, Arsenal are eliminated from Europe after an extra-time defeat to the Greeks.

Youssef El Arabi scores in the 119th minute to break red and white hearts, but even after that there was a chance of redemption. Somehow Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang misses from a couple of yards out – the kind of chance you’d expect him to score in his sleep.

“I feel very, very bad,” says the skipper afterwards.

It’s a blow for Mikel Arteta and his team, a chance at a trophy gone, and now there’s only the FA Cup left to achieve tangible success – as well as the desire to finish as high up the league as possible.

February 28th

As the club posts a financial loss for the first time since 2002 – a £27.1m deficit compared to a £56.5m profit the previous year – Mesut Ozil’s agent says there is ‘no chance’ his client will leave before the end of his contract.

“He still has 15 months to go,” says Dr Erkut Sogut. “Until then, he will stay at Arsenal, for sure. He will stay until the end of his contract. There’s no chance he’ll leave.

“He is going into the end of this contract, he will be 32 years old, he will be a free agent, and it’s not a bad situation.

“And he will have probably a hundred million followers on the social media side at that time, his marketing will be bigger by that time.”

March 2nd

Arsenal beat Portsmouth 2-0 in the FA Cup 5th round, with goals from Sokratis and Eddie Nketiah coming from two Reiss Nelson assists.

Pablo Mari makes his debut for the club, but Lucas Torreira suffers a worrying injury after a hefty challenge from a Portsmouth player.

March 3rd

As a result of our exit from Europe, it’s confirmed, at very short notice, that Arsenal will face Manchester City on Wednesday, 11 March. A match previously postponed from the last weekend of February due to City’s participation in the League Cup final. Mikel Arteta doesn’t have long to prepare his squad for what will be his first return to the Etihad since leaving in December.

March 4th

Arsenal are drawn against in-form Sheffield United in the FA Cup; a match scheduled for the third week of March at Bramall Lane. As a result our game against Southampton is postponed.

March 5th

Arsenal confirm that Lucas Torreira suffered a fractured ankle against Porstmouth and while he won’t require surgery, he faces a race against time if he’s to feature again this season.

March 6th

Ahead of Arsenal’s game with West Ham, Mikel Arteta admits it’s hard to call whether Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will extend his contract or not.

He makes his intentions clear: “I want to keep him under any circumstances.”

March 7th

Arsenal beat West Ham United courtesy of a late goal by substitute Alex Lacazette, awarded by VAR after an interminable wait. The strike, assisted by Ozil, was originally ruled out for offside. It feels like an important three points.

March 8th

Rumours surface that Arsenal are interested in signing Chelsea’s Willian. The Brazilian, another Kia Joorabchian client, is out of contract in the summer at Stamford Bridge and is on the hunt for a three-year deal somewhere.

March 9th

Mikel Arteta faces the press ahead of his reunion with Pep Guardiola at the Etihad. The subject of coronavirus comes up as countries across the world start to batten down the hatches.

He says: “Hopefully, it won’t affect us but I don’t know how realistic that is. We’re just following what the government has told us, what the club is saying and we just have to adapt to the situation.”

On what the club are doing to protect the players, he adds: “It’s just a few routines that we have to be more careful about; minimal contact and things like that but for the rest we are acting normally.”

March 10th

Italy’s prime minister Giuseppe Conte announces that the entire country will quarantine as coronavirus cases and fatalities start to mount in the north of the country. All domestic sport, including Serie A, is temporarily postponed until April 3rd.

Elsewhere in Europe, it’s confirmed that the Champions League clash between Paris Saint-Germain and Borussia Dortmund will be played behind closed doors at the Parc des Princes.

In Ireland, all St Patrick’s Day parades are cancelled.

March 11th

In the early hours of the morning, Arsenal’s match with Manchester City is postponed. The news comes less than 24 hours after Olympiacos owner, Evangelos Marinakis, confirms a positive diagnosis for coronavirus.

Having had contact with several Gunners in the tunnel at the Emirates after his side’s Europa League win 13 days previous, there’s a risk of infection spreading through the camp.

In line with government advice, Arsenal tells at-risk players to self-isolate at home for 48 hours until the 14-day period since contact with an infected individual passes.

In a statement, they say: “As a result, the players are unavailable for tonight’s match against Manchester City and the Premier League has decided the game should be postponed.

“The players will remain at their homes until the 14-day period expires. Four Arsenal staff – who were sitting close to Mr Marinakis during the match – will also remain at home until the 14 days are complete.”

Later in the day, Brighton say that Saturday’s game at the Amex will still take place.

“The risk is considered extremely low,” they say. “Saturday’s match remains scheduled to go ahead with the self-isolation period for those players ending tomorrow, as we continue to follow government and medical advice with regard to the coronavirus.”

March 12th

Following an update from the government, the Premier League reiterates that all its weekend fixtures will go ahead as normal with supporters present although it warns of possible disruption ahead. In Spain, matches are postponed for two weeks.

Later in the evening, things take a dramatic twist. Arsenal confirm that Mikel Arteta has tested positive for coronavirus after feeling unwell.

London Colney goes into lockdown and our head coach is told to self-isolate for 14 days. The club predicts matches will be postponed.

A statement reads:

Our London Colney training centre has been closed after head coach Mikel Arteta received a positive COVID-19 result this evening.

Arsenal personnel who had recent close contact with Mikel will now self-isolate in line with Government health guidelines. We expect this to be a significant number of people from Colney, including the full first-team squad and coaching staff, as well as a smaller number of people from our Hale End Academy which we have also temporarily closed as a precaution.

We expect those who did not have close contact with Mikel to return to work in the coming days. In the meantime our Colney and Hale End training centres will undergo a deep clean and our other club sites are operating as normal.

We will work with Public Health England on the next steps in regard to our facilities and staff, and with the Premier League, Football Association and relevant clubs around our forthcoming matches in the Premier League and Emirates FA Cup.

It is clear we will not be able to play some fixtures on their currently scheduled dates. We will update supporters who have tickets for forthcoming games with more information as soon as possible.

We are now working to trace any other people who have had recent close contact with Mikel. We will let them know what has happened and they should follow the NHS guidance which is likely to recommend self-isolation.

Not long after, Brighton confirm Saturday’s fixture at the Amex is now off and it’s reported that the Premier League will convene an emergency meeting in the morning to discuss next steps.

March 13th

Unsurprisingly, the Premier League announces the suspension of all games until at least April 4th. Arsenal are not the only club dealing with players testing positive for coronavirus; Chelsea, Everton, Bournemouth, Watford and Leicester also have cases.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters says: “In this unprecedented situation, we are working closely with our clubs, Government, The FA and EFL and can reassure everyone the health and welfare of players, staff and supporters are our priority.”

“Despite the challenges, it is the Premier League’s aim to reschedule the displaced fixtures, including those played by Academy sides, when it is safe to do so. In this fast-moving environment, further updates will be provided when appropriate.”

On a positive note, Mikel Arteta communicates that he’s already starting to feel better.

On Twitter, he sends a message to the fans: “Thanks for your words and support. We’re all facing a huge and unprecedented challenge. Everyone’s health is all that matters right now. Protect each other by following the guidelines. We’ll come through this together. Well done [the] Premier League for making the right decisions.”

March 16th

Having been set to join Liverpool at the end of the season, Arsenal’s Head of Medical Services, Gary O’Driscoll, performs a dramatic u-turn and reportedly decides to stick things out at Arsenal. It feels like a win for Mikel Arteta who formed a close relationship with the doctor during his playing days.

March 17th

With domestic leagues suspended, Uefa postpone the 2020 European Championships – due to be a pan-continental tournament climaxing at Wembley – for 12 months.

March 19th

English football’s governing bodies confirm that there will be no professional football in England until at least 30 April. While they reiterate their collective determination to complete current campaigns at all levels, no date for a resumption of action is set.

Arsenal reveal that Mikel Arteta is in regular contact with his players and that “detailed planning with the coaches” is taking place.

March 23rd

Arsenal say “Stay at home and save lives,” while making a commitment to paying all matchday and non-matchday casual workers until April 30th.

The club also confirm a donation of £100,000 to local charities and organisations that are supporting those most in need during the crisis.

March 26th

Hector Bellerin is one of the players involved in the #FootballUnited initiative, which aims to raise cash to support elderly and vulnerable people during the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

March 30th

Arsenal Women goalkeeper Pauline Peyraud-Magnin reveals she contracted Covid-19, saying, “All the doctors told me that I had contracted Covid-19. I have had a lot of symptoms related to this virus: fever, cold, constant headache, respiratory issues, severe fatigue and loss of taste and smell. I checked a lot of boxes.”

Ready for part two of our 2019/20 season review? Step this way…

Part 2 >>>

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This is awesome .. Nice summary (so far)

Glenn Gomes

Arseblog!! A legend of sorts


‘Trained like an animal’

Public Elneny

JFC, January 3rd…


“August 4th. Arsenal lose 2-1 to Barcelona in the Nou Camp in a final pre-season run out. Luis Suarez grabs a 90th minute winner after some tragi-comic defending by Shkodran Mustafi.”

And people wonder why I was relieved when he was ruled out of the FA Cup Final. The guy is a disaster waiting to happen on repeat.


Wow. Packs in so much and didn’t even mention things like the club statement referring to fan sentiment as “noise” (which is not meant as a criticism because) – what a packed, loaded, chaotic season it was.

Tierney Henry

Or Arsenal releasing a statement distancing themselves from Ozil’s comments about Uighur Muslims


Perhaps there was a remit to limit the Ozil content as it’s largely non-playing stuff, but yeah, that’s a big one.

Martinelli's belly

No mention that “Ozil throwing a strop” (kicking gloves as we were getting hamered and humiliated) was 2 days after Arsenal had made that statement distancing themselves from him and he’d been cancelled in China.
Also no mention of Arteta then describing Ozil’s attitude as “incredible” and about how he was giving “everything he has physically in training and it’s no suprise to me as I know him well.”

Agenda’s gonna agend.

Nice. I can’t wait to get stuck in

Arteta-tinted Glasses

Emery was such a bad fit. He was the wrong guy at the wrong time. I wish him well at Villareal.

A Voice in the Noise

Wow, I’d forgotten how bad November was…


Emery on the captaincy situation. Just incredible. “At the moment we have three captains: Xhaka, Mesut and Nacho, and I want to take two more because my opinion is the same as it was in the pre-season with five. I want to be with my squad clearly to have two more.” Got that?

Scott Buchan

And don’t forget we scored 5 goals at Anfield and still managed to lose

Dragoon Noir

Amazing record of the season as well as the tragic and historic year this has been.

larry Gold

Fantastic read, Andrew, it reminds me of something you read about, in a war situation. We are all going to laugh at the Spurs doc on Prime, but the Covid episodes will be interesting to see how a little team in the Premiership handled the situation

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