This is part 2 of our recap of Arsenal’s remarkable 2019-20 season. We assume you’re here having already read part 1, but if not, it’s preferable to start at the beginning, so follow the link below and come back here when you’re finished.
The Premier League release a statement outlining aspects of their Covid-19 response, including the issue of player wages.
They say, “In the face of substantial and continuing losses for the 2019/20 season since the suspension of matches began, and to protect employment throughout the professional game, Premier League clubs unanimously agreed to consult their players regarding a combination of conditional reductions and deferrals amounting to 30 per cent of total annual remuneration.”
The PFA reject the proposal, saying pays cuts for Premier League players would actually be ‘detrimental’ the NHS.
Elsewhere, Health Secretary Matt Hancock shines a light on football by telling footballers they have to ‘play their part’. Ignoring the many other profitable industries and highly-paid professions, he says, “Given the sacrifices people are making, including some of my colleagues in the NHS, who have made the ultimate sacrifice and gone into work and caught the disease and have sadly died, I think the first thing Premier League footballers can do is make a contribution; take a pay cut and play their part.”
It’s a cheap piece of false equivalence from a government whose response to the spread of the Coronavirus doesn’t stand up to a great deal of scrutiny.
Hector Bellerin is front and centre as the ‘Players Together’ initiative is launched to raise money for NHS Charities together.
A statement reads:
“#PlayersTogether is about we, as players, collaborating together to create a voluntary initiative, separate to any other club and league conversations, that can help get much needed funds to those that need it right now.
“To try and help, along with so many others in the country, make a real difference.
“Our prayers and thoughts go out to everybody affected by this crisis. By sticking together, we will get through this.
“Stay Home. Protect the NHS. Save Lives.”
Meanwhile, as the spread of pandemic grows, and it becomes clear the shut down is not going to be a temporary one, FIFA address the issue of player contracts – which usually expire on June 30th – and the transfer windows.
“It is now obvious that the current season will not end when people thought it would,” they say.
“Therefore, it is proposed that contracts be extended until such time that the season does actually end.
“It is also necessary to adjust the normal regulatory position to the new factual circumstances.
“Accordingly, Fifa will be flexible and allow the relevant transfer windows to be moved so they fall between the end of the old season and the start of the new season.”
It is reported that Arsenal have written to the first team squad, asking them to accept a 12.5% pay cut for the next 12 months. On the back of the recent financial losses, it’s clear there is some pressure from on high to make savings.
The structure of the proposed cuts is as follows:
- A 12.5% pay cut for 12 months from April 2020 to March 2021 (players paid in final week of each month so to start this month)
- The full amount is then refunded if Arsenal qualify for the Champions League
- If Arsenal do not qualify for the Champions League, no money is returned back
- If Arsenal fail to qualify for the Champions League, but qualify for the Europa League the cut becomes 7.5%
- If the season does not finish and/or Arsenal does not get full money from broadcasters then they will ask the players to find a “further solution”.
Arsenal also ask the players to donate a week’s wages to help pay staff.
Initial reports suggest the squad is split on whether or not to accept the club’s proposal.
Arsenal confirm that the executive team have committed to a 33% wage reduction for the next 12 months.
The club provide an update about all employees, saying:
We are in ongoing contact with our employees through video conferences, newsletters and team meetings. We have made it clear to them that we are not considering redundancies, and we are fully focused on protecting their well-being, jobs and salaries. All our employees are receiving their full salaries and we plan to continue this. We are not currently intending to use the Government’s furlough scheme.
It is rumoured that owners KSE are to put money into the club during this difficult period, but details on exactly what that means are thin on the ground.
Reports emerge that after Mikel Arteta becomes involved in the discussions with the squad, almost all of them agree to take a pay cut based on various clauses:
- Qualification for next season’s Europa League will reduce the pay cut from 12.5% to 7.5%.
- Qualification for next season’s Champions League will secure a full rebate.
- Qualification for the 2021/22 Champions League will secure a full rebate.
- Players sold during this period for a profit will secure a full rebate.
Some seem more achievable than others, for example:
- If Arsenal qualify and win the 2020/21 Champions League each player will be eligible for £500,000 bonus.
- If Arsenal qualify and win the 2020/21 Europa League each player will be eligible for £100,000 bonus.
Arsenal confirm they have reached a ‘voluntary agreement’ with first-team players, manager and coaching staff to ‘help support the club at this critical time.’
In doing so, Arsenal become the first Premier League side – barely a month into the shutdown – to have agreed pay cuts with their playing staff. Other clubs have reached deferral agreements, but not wage cuts.
The rumour mill is in overdrive regarding three Arsenal players who did not agree to the pay cuts. Only one of them is named: Mesut Ozil.
The German’s agent is critical of the process, telling The Athletic, “It is not enough for a club to present a proposal to one member of the first-team squad and then ask them to go to the rest of the squad and get their consent to do it.
“That is not how individual contract negotiations should take place.”
Granit Xhaka says he’s had a ‘new start’ under Mikel Arteta, saying the influence of the Spaniard is what made his mind up about staying.
“I had very good conversations with him right from the start, in which he showed me what he expected of me, how much he needed me in the team and how much he valued me as a player,” he says.
“It was very motivating and convincing for me.”
Analysis of Arsenal’s finances by the AST (Arsenal Supporter’s Trust) predicts that Arsenal will register a £19 million loss for the year to the end of May if the rest of the current campaign is played behind closed doors.
Depending on how things improve, or otherwise, they suggest losses could reach as much as £144m over the next 12 months as Arsenal seek to cope without gate receipts, ticket revenue, commercial and match-day income, as well as having to contend with possible broadcasting refunds, no European football, and more.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan makes clear his desire to stay in Roma and urges Arsenal to do a deal with the Italian club. His agent dismisses quotes attributed to the Armenian as ‘fake news’, which just makes more people believe them.
The first pictures of next season’s home kit are leaked – there’s just the small matter of completing the present one.
Whispers around the implementation of ‘Project Restart’ suggest that a provisional date of June 13th has been earmarked for the resumption of football behind closed doors.
Mesut Ozil’s agent again insists the midfielder will see out his contract with Arsenal.
“Mesut has one year left on his contract,” he tells beIN Sports. “There will be no change in this regard.”
The one thing you could never accuse the good doctor of is a lack of consistency.
Top-level athletes, including footballers, are allowed to return to training with immediate effect under new guidelines released by the government.
Arsenal are expected to set-up a drive-through testing centre at London Colney for the first team squad and backroom staff in the coming days.
The first phase of training will see 75-minute sessions restricted to groups of five.
Tackling will be banned for the time being and everything from corner flags and balls to pitches and cones will need to be disinfected during and after each session.
The FA says with respect to the Women’s Super League, “there will be significant challenges in completing the 2019-20 season.”
With the resumption of football to take place without fans, providing viewers with a recognisable ‘product’ sees talk of technological innovations from broadcasters.
CGI fans, audio effects and more are being considered by Sky, BT Sports and the Premier League.
Meanwhile, as Man Utd activate refunds for season ticket holders, Arsenal supporters remain in the dark.
A club spokesperson tells Arseblog News, “We will issue details in due course.”
Dani Ceballos reveals the entire Arsenal squad have tested negative for Covid-19, and lets slip the resumption date of the Premier League: June 20th.
Arsenal announce that they will implement a scheme of credits/refunds for the games that will be played behind closed doors when the Premier League season resumes.
As for season ticket and membership renewals for the 2020-21 campaign, they say, “Information regarding season ticket and membership renewals for next season will be updated as soon as we have more clarity on future possible timings of the 2020/21 season.“
Players return to group training at London Colney. There is a lot of focus on who has a hair clippers at home or not.
The Women’s Super League season is cancelled. Arsenal are still involved in the Champions League, but details have yet to emerge as to how and when that competition will be resolved.
Following Gary O’Driscoll’s decision to stay at Arsenal rather than join Liverpool, Florence Newton is promoted to the position of first team doctor to work alongside the Irishman.
Premier League clubs unanimously vote to move to Phase 2 of the return to football protocols, which will allow full contact training.
It also emerges that David Luiz only signed a one year contract when joining from Chelsea, but there is an option for another 12 months if the club chooses to take it up.
Premier League clubs have until 23 June to offer temporary extensions to players in the final year of their contracts through until whenever the 2019/20 season is completed.
It’s reported that Arsenal will resume their Premier League campaign on June 17th with a trip to Man City.
The league also confirm that every single game will be made available to TV viewers in the UK as fans will not be allowed inside stadiums.
Sir Chips Keswick announces that he is stepping down as Arsenal chairman, now a merely ceremonial position following the 100% ownership by KSE.
He says, “It has been an honour to be the chairman of this great football club. Arsenal has always held a special place in my life and that will remain the case in the future.”
A provisional FA Cup schedule is released, all going well Arsenal will face Sheffield United at Bramall Lane in the quarter-finals on the weekend of June 27th/28th.
Meanwhile, we are rumoured to have signed 19 year old Norwegian winger George Lewis after he impressed during a trial in March.
Denying well-sourced reports that David Luiz’s first season at Arsenal saw the club’s outlay come to around £24m with wages, transfer fee and intermediary fees, agent Kia Joorabchian says he expects the Brazilian to stay with the Gunners despite the fact they have yet to take up the one year option.
“David will sit down with Arsenal before the season begins, have his conversations and they will both decide if he will stay or not,” he says. “That will come before the season starts. The chances are very high. There is no desire to leave.”
The Premier League confirm that teams will be allowed use up to 5 subs per game, extending the number allowed on the bench for each match to 9.
The Women’s Super League is decided on a points per game model, which means Joe Montemurro’s side finish in 3rd pace. Chelsea are ‘champions’ with Man City runners-up.
After months without football, Arsenal play a behind closed doors friendly, scoring six times against Charlton with Eddie Nketiah scoring a hat-trick.
In an extensive interview with an American golf coach called Trillium Rose (surely that’s the name of a Star Wars character?), Mikel Arteta’s assistant Steve Round goes into some detail about the work the Spaniard and his staff are doing at the club.
He says, “There is group training almost every day and we will train skill set, skill acquisition and technical every day. They still go through skill sets every day, whether that’s in the pre-training or after training, say for example, we might bring the two centre forwards back to do extra work on scoring. We may decide we want to do penalties.
“Every day there’s a theme around some form of skill acquisition.”
In another warm up game, we lose 3-2 to Brentford at the Emirates. Arsenal Twitter takes it in its stride and doesn’t at all overreact despite only having very brief highlights to go on.
Mikel Arteta insists his players are the ‘driving force’ behind support for the Black Lives Matter campaign. Before kick-off against the Bees, players and staff take a knee, a symbolic stance, made famous by NFL star Colin Kaepernick, that has become synonymous with anti-racism.
“The thing that I liked most is that it came from them,” says the manager.
“I think it was a really strong message and it was powerful because it comes from them. They were the ones who felt they had to support these causes.”
Hector Bellerin tells Prince William on a Zoom call – as 2020 gets ever more surreal – that the Arsenal players have had ‘tough conversations’ over the issue of pay cuts.
However, he insists that because of the greater good for the club’s wider employees, they are feeling positive about it.
“We all did this for the good of the club and the people that work for the club,” he tells the Duke of Cambridge.
“I think, and I don’t just speak for me and Auba, but many of the players and the coaches, we got many messages from the staff saying they now feel safe and that they can still work and get paid.
“They are situations that could build negativity but we found something positive in it and it’s brought us together as a family.”
Yep, a lot of foreshadowing going on this year.
Worries about the future of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are exacerbated when he tells French outlet Telefoot that he’s at a ‘turning point’ in his career.
He insists he has had conversations with Arsenal, but there has been no offer of a new contract. However, he puts the ball in the club’s court, saying, “They have the keys. It’s up to them to do their work and after that we will see how things go.
“I still have not decided and we will see. It will maybe be the most important decision of my career.”
Fans are worried, but Mikel Arteta sounds positive when he conducts his pre-Man City press conference over Zoom.
“We’ve had many discussions with Pierre, his family and agent, and I’m pretty positive that we can find the right agreement for all parties,” he says.
He talks about his desire to keep David Luiz, saying, “I like what he produces on the pitch, I like his influence around the players and around the club. I would love to keep him.”
And also references his desire to strengthen the squad and bring Arsenal back to where he feels it belongs.
“If we stand still obviously that gap will get bigger and bigger,” he declares. “I haven’t come here to accept or to do that.
“The challenge for all of us, is first to improve the players that we have and then to improve the squad in the right positions in order to give us the best possible chance and tools that we need to compete at that level which is getting higher and higher each year.”
Hector Bellerin makes public his support for a tree planting charity, pledging to plant 3000 trees for every game Arsenal win until the end of the season.
Football is back at last and Arsenal take on Man City at the Etihad. It’s a return to his former club for Mikel Arteta, and things get off to a bad start when Granit Xhaka picks up an injury in the opening minutes, followed on the 20 minute mark by Pablo Mari.
His replacement by David Luiz results in one of the most abysmal cameos in recent memory. The Brazilian is culpable as City take the lead just before the break, and within four minutes of the restart he has conceded his fourth penalty of the season and received a red card in the process too.
City run out 3-0 winners, and although few expected anything other than defeat, it’s hardly ideal preparation for a trip to Brighton, especially with the injuries.
Luiz fronts up on TV afterwards, taking the blame for the defeat and suggesting it was somehow down to his contractual situation.
“I should have taken a different decision, in the last two months and I didn’t,” he tells Sky.
“It’s about my contract, if I stay here or not. I have 14 days left to be here. And that’s it. So today was my fault.”
Mesut Ozil’s non-selection for a big away game is hardly big news anymore, but his complete omission from the squad when you can name 9 subs raises eyebrows.
Arteta is asked about it in his post-game press conference, and says, “It was a tactical reason. I needed players in other positions as well and that’s why I decided to leave him out.”
Deja Vu, anyone?
It’s barely minutes since anyone has heard from Kia Joorabchian, so it’s a welcome relief to know he’s doing fine as he talks about David Luiz’s future.
“What I can tell you, is that the situation from Arsenal’s point of view will be resolved this week,” he tells TalkSport, before cryptically adding, “It’s not just Luiz’s situation, I think there are several issues within the whole structure that will get resolved.”
Nobody’s quite certain what he means, but an agent talking about the structures of the club does not sit right with many Arsenal fans.
Meanwhile, Mikel Arteta again touches on the Ozil situation, saying he’s looking for the playmaker to respond and show he’s ready to play.
“Since I joined I thought that he was fit and he was willing and he wanted to perform at the level he can do,” he says ahead of the weekend trip to Brighton.
“He has played every game with me I think. So that is it. The moment I see that he is ready again to do that, I will treat him like anybody else.
“I think I have been more than fair with him and I think he has responded in many games the way I want.”
Having previously challenged Ainsley Maitland-Niles to show he’s ready to fight for a place, Arteta is pleased by the response from the 22 year old.
“He has changed a lot of things, a lot of positive things,” he says.
“He has all the attributes and qualities to become a really important player. It’s up to him.”
The trip to Brighton ends with a last minute 2-1 defeat, via a goal scored by Neal Maupay. It’s a sickening blow, not least because the French striker had earlier been involved in an incident where his unnecessary foul on Bernd Leno saw the Arsenal keeper stretchered off with what appeared to be a very serious injury.
At the end of the game, Matteo Guendouzi grabs his compatriot by the throat and faces an FA investigation.
Former scout Gilles Grimandi is critical of the signings made by Head of Football Raul Sanllehi, saying, “There’s a lot of incoherence in the choices. We’re not able to read the project that’s in the hands of the directors and Sanllehi right now.
“There have been some debatable signings and it’s not possible to totally see from the outside what they want to do.”
You can see his point, but this is a man who let a golden generation of French talent slip through our fingers but brought us Yaya Sanogo.
Meanwhile, the club have to make decisions over the futures of four players – Dani Ceballos, David Luiz, Cedric Soares, and Pablo Mari – whose contractual situations have to be sorted out.
Matteo Guendouzi escapes punishment from the FA for the incident at Brighton, but trouble is brewing for the young midfielder.
It’s a busy day at Arsenal and it starts badly with news that Gabriel Martinelli has suffered a serious injury in training, along with news that Pablo Mari will be sidelined for months as he requires surgery on the ankle ligament problem he picked up against Man City.
There’s some good news regarding Bernd Leno, however, as his injury turns out not to be as serious as first feared, although he is unlikely to feature again this season.
The club then announce decisions for the four players whose contracts demanded them. David Luiz is given a one year extension; Pablo Mari’s loan from Flamengo is made permanent; Cedric Soares is handed a four year deal even though he is yet to play since his loan move from Southampton in January; and there is agreement with Real Madrid which will allow Dani Ceballos stay in London until the end of the campaign.
Granit Xhaka returns from injury as goals from Eddie Nketiah and Joe Willock give Arsenal a 2-0 win over Southampton – the first victory after the restart.
There is no place in the squad for Matteo Guendouzi though. Arteta explains his absence as ‘squad management‘, saying, “Whatever internal issue we have, we deal with it privately.”
Things move fast in football, and from France L’Equipe report that in an internal meeting Guendouzi tells Arsenal he’d be open to leaving when the transfer window opens, citing what he feels is a lack of trust in him from Mikel Arteta.
For his part, the manager again insists on keeping things in-house, but as he has with other players, leaves the door open for reconciliation, saying, “All the players that are here, I am counting on them. If they want to jump on the boat, they are more than welcome, and that is always my mindset.”
Gabriel Martinelli and Pablo Mari both undergo surgery for their injuries.
A late winner from Dani Ceballos secures a 2-1 win over Sheffield United in the FA Cup, and sets up a semi-final against Man City.
In the fourth away game in twelve days, Nicolas Pepe puts the Gunners ahead, but after intense pressure, McGoldrick equalises just minutes from full-time.
The balance of the game shifts to the home side, but after good work from Eddie Nketiah, the on-loan Real Madrid man slots home the goal that will send the Arsenal to Wembley.
Brazilian physio Bruno Mazziotti, well known to Edu, is linked with Arsenal after it’s revealed the club’s Head of Physiotherapy, Chris Morgan, is to join Liverpool.
Lucas Torreira returns to full training after his ankle injury, while Mikel Arteta thinks it would be good for William Saliba to play in the French Cup final. Saint-Etienne are due to face PSG on July 24th, but there are issues over his contract, signing a temporary extension with his former club, and financial implications if he plays one more game for the Ligue 1 outfit.
Nevertheless, having played a part in Les Verts reaching the final, Arteta says of the young Frenchman, “We have an agreement with Saint-Etienne, he’s been there all year, and he’s earned his right to play that final if the manager wants to do that.
“I think we have to give him the opportunity to do that, to enjoy that, and we can have him after that.”
The boss then insists that Mesut Ozil’s wages have no bearing on his selection, or lack thereof. Asked specifically if the German’s earnings have any bearing on how he picks his team, Arteta says, “Never. That’s an agreement that the player and club were really happy to do, to move ahead.
“That’s never a question. Players are paid what they deserve. There are both parties here and that I should never have to be something that I’m judging him about.”
Roma announce that they are extending their loan for Henrikh Mkhitaryan until the end of the Serie A season, and that there is a ‘preliminary agreement’ between the various parties for the 2020-21 campaign also.
Saint-Etienne slam Arsenal in a statement over the William Saliba issue. The French side accuse Arsenal of imposing ‘absolutely unacceptable sports and financial conditions’.
The Gunners hit back with a statement of their own, saying that while they have been willing to find a way to let Saliba play in the cup final, they are concerned about an unwillingness to follow a specific training plan, as well as making it clear they expect ‘not to be financially disadvantaged by extending the loan’.
“We know this is a disappointment for William,” they say, “but he understands we are working to protect his long-term interests and those of Arsenal.”
The issue is reportedly over a payment Arsenal would have to make if the 19 year makes a certain number of appearances during his loan spell there, and this would put him over the threshold.
There’s good news later in the day however, as Bukayo Saka puts pen to paper on a new long-term contract. The 18 year old has had a breakthrough season and with just 12 months left on his current deal, securing his future is hugely important.
On the pitch, two goals from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, one from Granit Xhaka, and a goal on his debut for Cedric Soares give Arsenal a 4-0 win over Norwich.
Neither Mesut Ozil or Matteo Guendouzi even make the bench.
In between, Arsenal confirm that corporate lawyer Tim Lewis – a lifelong Gooner – has joined the board as non-executive director of Arsenal Holdings Limited and Arsenal Football Club plc.
In a statement, Stan and Josh Kroenke say: “We are pleased to announce Tim’s appointment. He will bring additional experience and skills, starting with our work to come out of the current situation in as strong a position as possible.”
Gabriel Martinelli signs a new long-term contract with the club, a reward for his excellent start to life in English football.
Arteta is asked what exactly he means by players being ‘on the boat’, framed around the continued absence of Guendouzi. How can he climb back aboard the HMS Arteta?
“Players that respect the values that we want to implement, that are 100 per cent committed to our culture and players that are accountable every day for what we demand from them,” he explains.
“Players that are ready to help each other, fight for each other and enjoy playing together. That’s what I mean by being on the boat.
“You behave like this every day, you are very, very welcome here and we want to get the best out of you and help you to enjoy your profession with us.”
The Athletic report that Matteo Guendouzi has been training alone, the clearest evidence yet that there has been some kind of disciplinary issue behind the scenes. It’s his second bust-up with management in a matter of months, having previously argued with Arteta and his staff during the training camp in Dubai.
Reports earlier in the lockdown about KSE putting money into the club to ease the financial burden never tallied with the fact players were so quickly asked to take pay cuts.
Now, details emerge of how the ownership have paid off £184m of stadium debt/high interest bonds, plus penalties for early finalisation. The debt still needs to be repaid, this is still a loan, but terms are more favourable and it’s a move which will reportedly save the club £20m in interest payments every year.
It also frees up some of the club’s cash reserves, held in a ‘a bondholders’ debt service reserve account’. It’s not a transfer kitty windfall though, as the monthly operating costs of almost £28m still have to be serviced, and without the £70m or so season ticket money brings in at this time of the year, it’s more about keeping things ticking over.
With games against Liverpool and Man City to come, Arsenal are looking for a good result in the North London derby.
Sadly, despite going ahead through a sensational Alexandre Lacazette strike, Sp*rs take advantage of an Arsenal mistake and sucker punch late in the second half to run out 2-1 winners.
It’s Arteta’s first derby as manager, and it ends with the same scoreline as the first one he played in too.
Arsenal are linked with a loan move for Barcelona’s Philippe Coutinho, another player represented by Kia Joorabchian.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles is reportedly ‘resigned’ to departing in the summer.
Mikel Arteta insists that Arsenal can’t afford to be left behind, urging those on high to invest in the team.
“You have to make a decision,” he says, “whether I want to aim to make that gap closer and go for it or I stay where I am.”
It’s a not too subtle reminder to those on high that there are issues in the squad that have to be fixed.
Details of the transfer window are revealed. It will open for 10 weeks from July 27th until October 5th. There will also be a further domestic window from October 5th to 16th which will allow Premier League clubs to trade with EFL clubs, but not with each other.
Arsenal somewhat surprisingly beat Liverpool 2-1. It’s pretty funny.
Dinos Mavropanos signs a new deal with the club, before joining Sven Mislintat’s Stuttgart on loan for the duration of the 2020-21 season.
Alex Lacazette reveals that he doesn’t want to annoy Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang so he’s stopped asking his pal whether he’ll sign a new contract or not. Mikel Arteta says he doesn’t want to lose either player in the summer, praising the Frenchman’s tenacity on the pitch.
Ahead of the FA Cup semi-final, the boss says: “He’s a massive competitor, he hates to lose, he goes for every ball, you see in every challenge how he is ready to go, how hard he works and he’s a very intelligent player. I am really happy with him.”
Arteta also insists that Ainsley Maitland-Niles has a future at the club. A hint at something to come.
Maitland-Niles is the surprise name on the team sheet when Arsenal face City at Wembley. He has an impressive game at left wing-back as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s brace and a masterful defensive display seal a 2-0 victory that puts us into an FA Cup final against either Chelsea or Manchester United.
In the centre of defence, David Luiz puts memories of his gaffe-ridden 21-minute cameo at the Etihad to bed with a leading role.
“I understood during my career that football is about survival,” he says afterwards. “Every day you’re going to defend your team and the other people are going to support different teams. So it’s about surviving. It’s what I did. I was working hard every single day after my mistakes. I took the blame. I was mature enough to understand that and I was humble to work more for the team.”
As the dust settles on the win, attention turns to next season. Reports surface that Arsenal are in talks with Real Madrid about extending Dani Ceballos’ loan. Arteta also sounds quite positive about keeping Aubameyang.
“Obviously if he can see the success and direction that we’re taking is the right one, I think he will be more positive about staying,” he says.
At Wembley, Chelsea ease past Manchester United with a 3-1 win. We will play the Blues in the FA Cup final for the second time in three years.
Having been subbed off with a hamstring injury at Wembley, it’s looking increasingly likely that Shkodran Mustafi will miss the rest of the season. He’s ruled out of the upcoming game with Aston Villa.
Having watched his side patiently work the ball from Emi Martinez to the back of the City net, Arteta reasserts his belief that the Gunners should be playing out from the back more often.
He says: “I get nervous when we kick the ball long! The quicker it goes there, the quicker it comes back. I’d rather do that with the right structure, the right timing and using the right spaces. It’s something that we have to do more often.”
The boss also takes a moment to praise former teammate Santi Cazorla who has announced he’s leaving Villarreal to play in Qatar. Talk of an Arsenal reunion is premature. But never say never.
“About the coaching role and the future, we will see what happens. Right now, he’s just finished … so let him enjoy that moment and we’ll see what happens in the future.”
Arsenal’s hopes of qualifying for the Europa League via the Premier League are killed off by relegation threatened Aston Villa who seal a 1-0 win in a drab encounter at Villa Park. Despite dominating possession, the Gunners look tired, leggy and devoid of imagination. The wave of good vibes come to an abrupt halt.
“At the end of the day, the league table doesn’t lie and we know the gap that we have to fill in,” says Arteta.
“It has to hurt and we have to suffer because it is not good enough for this football club. That’s why we have to put it right, we have a challenge that is really big and we are facing it and we are really excited about what we have ahead of us.
“We need to transmit this enthusiasm and passion because they’re going to be some ups and down, unfortunately. Today is a down but sometimes it is good to see the reality and then go again and move on and improve.”
Arsenal launch their new home shirt for the 2020/21 campaign and, in the process, reveal that Bukayo Saka has been handed the number 7 shirt. The shirt will be worn against Watford on the final day of the season and in the FA Cup final.
William Saliba speaks for the first time since it was confirmed he won’t play the Coupe de France final for Saint-Etienne. He promises to watch from the stands as he bid farewell to his boyhood club. He also makes it clear he holds no grudge against the Gunners for denying him a first cup final appearance.
“Arsenal has not been at the top of its game for the last three, four years. But, like St Étienne, its badge, its history and its fans made me want it,” he says.
“I have a crush on Arsenal. I had no hesitation. I am discovering another world.”
Arsenal’s lack of creativity is hammered home by data which shows the Gunners are 13th in the Premier League table for “Big Chances Created” – and 16th for shots taken over the course of the season, trailing even bottom club Norwich.
Arteta says, “I have my reasons that I don’t want to make public, but it’s clear those stats don’t lie. When you relate them to Arsenal, it’s not good enough.”
The final game of the Premier League season sees Arsenal run out 3-2 winners over Watford, who are relegated to the Championship.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scores twice, while Kieran Tierney gets off the mark in red and white. David Luiz sets a new record by conceding his 5th penalty of the league campaign, an inauspicious achievement, but at least he escapes a red card this time.
It means the Gunners finish 8th, the lowest league finish in 25 years, and outside the European places for the first time since 1994-95. The upcoming FA Cup final is not just a chance at tangible success and silverware, it will also have a massive impact on next season, our transfer budget and more.
Shkodran Mustafi is officially ruled out until October due to the seriousness of his hamstring injury. For the second time in three years, he is ruled out of an FA Cup final against Chelsea. Is it a good omen based on what happened last time?
Freddie Ljungberg is linked with the manager’s job at Swedish side AIK. In the end they go for former Swedish U21 coach, and former assistant manager, Bartosz Grzelak.
Just in case anyone is in any doubt, Mesut Ozil’s agent again reiterates that his client will stay at the club until his contract expires.
“I don’t think there will be any change with Mesut Ozil until the summer of 2021,” he says. Nothing changed. He will stay in Arsenal.”
With the permission of the club, Ozil spends the week of the final in Sweden and Turkey, is not selected in the squad, and is not at Wembley to watch his team take on Chelsea.
The most bizarre, surreal and elongated season in Arsenal’s long-history ends on a real high as two goals from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang seal a 2-1 win over Chelsea to win the club’s 14th FA Cup.
Having fallen behind early, Mikel Arteta’s men show real character, and on the day the captain leads the way – slotting home a first half penalty, before scoring a sensational winner in the 67th minute.
It feels fantastic, even without fans in the stadium, and it means that European football is secured for the 2020-21 season, increasing our chances of keeping Aubameyang, and finding ways to invest in the team.
At the presentation, the skipper drops the cup, resulting in one of the pictures of the season.
It’s been a roller-coaster ride, to say the least, and a delighted Mikel Arteta says afterwards, “Everybody worked so incredibly hard. I am so proud to represent these players and this club.
“I had only one mission when I came here and it was to make the players and the staff believe that we could do it. We had to change that energy and that mentality.”
There is still plenty of work to do, but it’s a wonderful start.
Willian turns down the offer a two year deal from Chelsea, leading to increased speculation that his future lies in North London.
Just three days after winning the FA Cup, Arsenal announce 55 redundancies. In a statement titled ‘An update from your club’, they say that the job losses are necessary in order to maintain investment in the team.
It reads: Over recent years we have consistently invested in additional staff to take the club forward but with the expected reduction of income in mind, it is now clear that we must reduce our costs further to ensure we are operating in a sustainable and responsible way, and to enable us to continue to invest in the team.
It’s hard to marry the fact hard-working employees are made redundant during a global pandemic, with the fact Arsenal are about to hand a lucrative contract to Willian, and are hopeful of signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to a deal worth £300,000 a week.
It also comes to light that aside from these cuts, the club have parted ways with the highly respected Head of International Recruitment, Francis Cagigao, as well as Peter Clark, the Head of UK Scouting, and Brian McDermott, another key man in the UK scouting setup.
There are more reported departures in the scouting department with the head man in most key European markets dispensed with. The South American operation remains untouched for now.
These appear to be the structural changes referenced by agent Kia Joorabchian earlier in the summer, raising further concerns about how much influence or insight he has to internal club operations and his brazen willingness to speak about them in public.
It’s also reported that despite the fact he is a player that Mikel Arteta likes, Ainsley Maitland-Niles is told he is up for sale.
Lucas Torreira hints at a departure during the transfer window, saying, “This year has been more complicated: I have lost continuity and confidence. I do not like this. At this age I need to play to be called up for the national team.
“I have a contract with Arsenal, but if I have to change in the future it will be a decision I make for my own good.
“Every player looks for a team where he feels important. We will see what happens in the future.”
He is linked with AC Milan, Roma and Fiorentina as a return to Italy seems most likely if he does go. The club are reportedly open to him leaving.
Arsenal’s hopes of bringing back Dani Ceballos take a blow as Real Madrid don’t look kindly on a reported offer in which we don’t pay them a loan fee and only a percentage of his wages. The Spanish press then report the midfielder will be called up for pre-season with the La Liga title winners, but is it just a ploy to force Arsenal’s hand?
Mesut Ozil gives an interview to The Athletic in which he makes it clear he has no intention of leaving the club.
“I’ll decide when I go, not other people,” he says.
“I didn’t sign for two or three years, I signed for four and that should be respected by everyone. I don’t want to leave, so that’s it.”
It remains unclear if he is in Mikel Arteta’s plans for the new season.
Meanwhile, Kia Joorabchian goes on national radio to slag off former Head of Recruitment Sven Mislintat.
32 year old Willian is handed a three year deal as he joins on a free transfer after his contract with Chelsea expires. He becomes the latest Joorabchian client at the club, along with David Luiz and Cedric Soares, and now three of the last four permanent signings have shared the same agent. The photoshoot for Willian’s official pictures takes place at Joorabchian’s house.
Mikel Arteta is happy with his arrival, saying, “I believe he’s a player that can really make a difference for us.
“We have been monitoring him for the past few months, we had a clear intention to strengthen in the attacking midfielder and the winger positions – he is a player that gives us a lot of versatility, he can play in three or four different positions.”
The Brazilian says, “I’ll always train hard and go on the pitch 100% to help this club win games and titles.”
During the day, ESPN report that Arsenal are conducting an investigation of the Nicolas Pepe transfer.
After rumours circulating online from an anonymous Twitter account named ‘The Arsenal Gerbil’, Arsenal announce the departure of Head of Football Raul Sanllehi.
It comes just six weeks after Tim Lewis is appointed as a non-executive director, but all sides paint the decision as amicable, with the former Barcelona man blaming Covid-19. Not everyone is convinced.
Arsenal later tell the media no “investigation” into the Pepe transfer has taken place.
A statement reads: “We want to be clear to you all that there has been no investigation by the club into the Nicolas Pepe transfer. To suggest there has been an investigation is grossly inaccurate and unfair and we request you remove it from your coverage. We have informed our lawyers and will take further action as necessary.”
ESPN reword the original article, re-title it “Arsenal review £72m Pepe transfer” and the word “investigate” is removed throughout to be replaced with “re-examine” and “review”.
Mikel Arteta is given greater influence over transfer business, working in tandem with Edu, while Managing Director Vinai Venkatesham is announced as the person who will ‘lead the club forward’ from an executive point of view.
Fixtures for the Premier League season 2020-21 are released, the Gunners will kick off the new campaign away at newly promoted Fulham.
Pre-season begins in a few days time.