The Arsene Wenger goodbye tour made its penultimate stop on Wednesday in Leicester, where the Gunners faced off against the 2016 Premier League Champions. Despite not having lost to the Foxes since 1994, they could not stave off defeat on this day, succumbing 3-1 to a motivated Leicester and a red card. The Gunners will move on to face Huddersfield in their final match of the season on Sunday, and they can lock up 6th place with a victory against David Wagner’s team.
Abysmal Away From Home
Arsenal are the only club in the English League system who have yet to earn a point away from home in 2018. There is no sugarcoating it, the Gunners’ away form has been abysmal since the turn of the calendar year, and the team seems at a loss to figure out how to solve the problem. Is it too large a focus on attack? Is it simply defensive woes? Is it a mental block? Whatever it is, if Arsene Wenger wins his final game in charge at the club, it will be his first away win in 2018. Naturally, fans have lost patience with the situation, and if Arsene Wenger hadn’t announced his departure already, the reaction from many would be mutinous. Now, supporters are simply hoping the next manager in can solve the problem, and that the Gunners can close out the season on a high, ending their points drought in the process.
Pierre-Emerick A Goal A Game
Look out Mo Salah and Harry Kane. Your cornering of the market on PFA Player Of The Year awards and Premier League Golden Boots is going to be challenged next season. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has now scored his 9th goal in just his 11th appearance of the season for the Gunners, to go along with 4 assists. The Gabonese striker has been simply immense since joining from Borussia Dortmund in January, forming a lethal partnership with Alexandre Lacazette up top and quickly integrating into the team.
After years of trying to replace Thierry Henry and Emmanuel Adebayor with a piecemeal collection of players, the Gunners will go into the 2018/19 season with their striker position comfortably set for the near future. If Aubameyang can contribute two thirds as much as he has this season for the next manager, he will easily be one of the best attackers in Europe once again. The loss may have given fans much to grumble about, but it seems that they can continue to look forward to the same thing Dortmund fans enjoyed for years: a goal a game from Aubameyang.
New Favourite Makes A Big Mistake
When the Gunners’ Europa League semifinal opponent, Atletico Madrid, went down to 10 men early in the first half of their first leg matchup at the Emirates Stadium, the Spanish giants put on a masterclass in how to defend following the loss of a player to a red card. They managed to frustrate Arsenal on that day, refusing to allow their flowing attack to break their lines and put more than one past goalkeeper Jan Oblak. Unfortunately for the Gunners on Wednesday, they could not pull of the same feat against Leicester, succumbing to another 2 goals following Konstantinos Mavropanos’ red card in the 15th minute.
The young Greek defender has been an instant fan favourite since earning his first start of the season against Manchester United 2 weeks ago. His physicality, size and strength are unique amongst his teammates, and his status as Sven Mislintat’s first young signing have given fans much to be excited for. However, he was forced to pull down striker Kelechi Iheanacho after he stripped the young Gunner of the ball and could have been away free on goal. While it appeared that there would be a defender able to make a play had he gotten away, Graham Scott wasted no time in reaching for the back pocket to send off Mavropanos. It was an unfortunate mistake for such a promising player, and it unquestionably hurt the team to go down a man, but it is all part of the maturation process for a young player who figures to play a big part in the future of the team.
An Audition For Mahrez?
Whether the whispers have been justified or not over the last 2 years, Riyad Mahrez has become one of the players almost guaranteed to be linked to the Gunners during every transfer window since the summer preceding the 2016/17. The 27 year old Algerian rose dramatically to prominence during Leicester City’s extraordinary title run 2 seasons ago, winning the PFA Player of the Year in the process. As a dynamic but mercurial player, Mahrez has been the biggest creative force in the Foxes’ team since his arrival, and his play has drawn interest from some of the best teams in the league, including Arsenal and Manchester City.
Some have said Mahrez would disappoint if he moved to a bigger team, becoming just one of many highly skilled players in his team rather than the most skillful. Many have concerns over his inconsistent performances, where he can disappear for entire matches at a time, but there is no denying his talent. However, in this humble writer’s estimation, at 27 and sharing many of the talents (and quirks) of players like Mesut Ozil already in the team, perhaps the Gunners would be better served spending the money on a younger option that they can groom into an Arsenal player. That won’t stop the perpetual rumours linking him to North London this summer, and we should expect them to continue until Mahrez inevitably moves on with his career.
One More For The Boss
Arsene Wenger might have already had his emotional farewell in front of the home fans, but his reign in charge of Arsenal Football Club will officially conclude on Sunday against Huddersfield Town, who have successfully staved off relegation in their first Premier League campaign. For Wenger, it has been a roller coaster 22 years at the helm, and the second half has been marked by increasing frustration and pain. The Frenchman has reportedly been inundated with offers all over the world following his announcement, so Arsenal are not the only party in the relationship who will likely be moving on next season. The Huddersfield fans will likely show plenty of warmth for the man who has not only changed Arsenal but all of English football, and it will be an emotional moment for the team that Wenger has poured so much love and faith into over the years. His time with the club is coming to an end, but his legacy will live on forever in the fabric of Arsenal Football Club.