This season, Arsenal fans have soared with optimism, full of belief that the impossible could have been possible, only for those dreams to come shattering to a bitter end last month.
Brighton’s 3-0 victory on Sunday was merely the final straw, but the league was lost when Arsenal dropped points against West Ham and Southampton.
But, this season, Arsenal have beaten 17 of the 19 Premier League clubs, failing to beat Man City, who beat us home and away, and Southampton, who we drew with home and away, and are on track to pick up 87 points.
Last season, Arsenal finished the season with 69 points, and missed out on top 4 by a single point, leading to many ‘football experts’ predicting that we would finish fifth or sixth at best this season.
What many failed to recognise was the growth of the youngest squad in the league. Experts like Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher genuinely believed that players like Saka, Martinelli and Odegaard would stop developing and Arsenal would fizzle out.
Carragher quickly changed his mind, admitted he got it wrong and moved on. Neville, by contrast has clung to everything, and with Arsenal ultimately missing out, has declared himself a prophet.
Whilst Arsenal’s season has fizzled out, it has not been as a result of a lack of leaders as Rio Ferdinand is saying, or because we’ve bottled it. Bottling it suggests a team were clear favourites and spectacularly threw it away, and completely fails to take into account injuries, burnout or the opposition.
Arsenal have never been in this position before. These players are in this position for the first time and are competing with a team that has won four titles in five years, and are about to make it five in six, along with reaching the Champions League final and the FA Cup final.
The reality is, they will probably win the treble. They tore apart an incredible Real Madrid squad, toying with them, and sucking every bit of life out of the second leg, before finishing it with a 5-1 aggregate win.
That’s who Arsenal, the second youngest team in the Premier League, are competing with. They are a winning machine, who have won every league game since their draw at Forest on 18th February, which was one of only four games they have failed to win since the World Cup.
A big part of this is down to Pep Guardiola’s ability to rotate. He currently has 20 players who can come in without reducing the quality on the pitch, with the likes of Phil Foden, Riyad Mahrez, Kalvin Phillips, Julian Alvarez and Emeric Laporte sitting on the bench.
By contrast, Arsenal have made the fewest changes to their starting 11 this season, with Arteta having around 14 players he trusts, and many of them are nowhere near the quality or experience of the Man City 20.
Give it time. Arsenal will add again this summer. Recruitment has been fantastic to date, and Edu and Arteta will go again this summer. Everyone else will grow as well, but what Arsenal are adding to is balance and stability. Only Man City, and possibly Liverpool, can truly offer that right now, and we will very much be in the mix next season.