Arsenal 2017/18 season review: A poor campaign as Wenger finally bids farewell

The Gunners season fell well below expectations.

Arsenal 2017/18 season review: A poor campaign as Wenger finally bids farewell
Arsene Wenger was given a perfect send off despite Arsenal's poor season | Photo: Getty Images.

2017/18 will always be remembered for Arsène Wenger's last season in charge of Arsenal.

After 22 years at the helm the Frenchman finally waved goodbye, and with it, he leaves behind a fine legacy.

However, that will be all this campaign will be remembered for, because it was very much a season to forget for the Gunners. Their league form left much to be desired, whilst they felt desperately short in two cup runs. 

Transfer business 

Arsenal's first signing last summer was Sead Kolasinac who arrived from Schalke 04 on a free transfer. Considering no money was involved this was a low-risk move and it certainly worked out.

The Bosnian started the season in fine form, starring at left wing back as the Gunners continued their three at the back formation. His defending sometimes left a little to be desired, eventually losing his place later in the season to the ever consistent Nacho Monreal, but Kolasinac's attacking ability was fantastic - scoring five goals and getting four assists in 34 appearances in all competitions. 

The club's other summer signing was a club record acquisition at the time, as they moved to sign Alexandre Lacazette from Olympique Lyonnais. He scored eight in his first fifteen competitive games for the Gunners, but then endured a run of nine games without scoring. 

Lacazette was struggling, and then an injury would keep him out for the next seven weeks. It appeared to be a move that wasn't working out for the Frenchman. However, his return since returning from injury was exceptional, finishing the campaign with eight in ten games as he ended the season as Arsenal's top scorer with 17 in 38. 

Arsenal's January transfer business started by signing young Greek defender Konstantinos Mavropanos. Originally thought to be quite an underwhelming signing, the centre-back went on to impress as he played three times at the back end of the season. Despite being sent off against Leicester City he looked strong and good in the air - providing reason to be excited about the 20-year-old's future. 

The Gunners' winter window was closed out in some fashion, as the club agreed to exchange wantaway star Alexis Sánchez for Manchester United's Henrikh Mkhitaryan as the two players swapped places. The Armenian scored three times and set up five goals after his arrival in North London.

Wenger's final ever Arsenal signing was the club's most expensive ever, as they signed Mkhitaryan's ex-Borussia Dortmund team-mate Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. He was sensational after arriving in England, scoring ten times in just 14 matches. 

In terms of departures, a host of recognisable names around the club left. Arsenal sold Wojciech Szczesny last summer, whilst also agreeing to sell Kieran Gibbs, Gabriel and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. In January, as well as Sánchez leaving, Francis Coquelin, Theo Walcott, Mathieu Debuchy and Olivier Giroud all found new clubs. 

Domestic campaign

Until last season, Wenger had achieved a remarkable feat of securing Champions League football in every season he had managed for Arsenal. Fifth place was his worst league finish, that was until he went one worse in 2017/18. 

He couldn't seem to strike a regular winning formula and the signs of a more progressive slump in recent years was shown in grim fashion this season. The Gunners showed title winning form at home, losing just two matches, to both Manchester clubs. But away from home, they were abysmal, winning just four of their 19 games on the road.

They were so bad away from the Emirates that they had to wait until the final day against Huddersfield Town for an away league win in 2018 - picking up just three points on their travels so far this calendar year.

Arsenal did start their season with a Community Shield win over Chelsea. However, that did little to prepare the club for the season that was about to occur. Their 4-3 victory over Leicester on the opening day of the season instead showed a more accurate representation of how 2017/18 would pan out; good going forward, but still hugely error prone at the back.

That was no more apparent than in their bid to defend their FA Cup crown in January. Handed a relatively easy tie against Nottingham Forest, their inability to pick up results away from home, coupled with defensive mistakes led a third-round exit - being defeated in embarrassing fashion 4-2. 

It is easy to forget that Arsenal did reach a cup final this season though as they reached another Wembley appearance in the Carabao Cup.

The Gunners beat Doncaster Rovers, Norwich City, West Ham United and then Chelsea over two legs to reach the final against Manchester City. But in typical Arsenal fashion, they rolled over in the final, losing 3-0 without putting up much of a fight. 

Europa League journey

Arsenal's European conquest could have been the club's saving grace. A chance for Wenger to bow out with his first European trophy and an opportunity for an instant return to the Champions League by winning the Europa League

That was but a distant dream, as they were knocked out in the semi-final to Atlético Madrid despite being the better team over both legs.

They wasted chances in each tie that would have taken them through against an underwhelming opposition, and Laurent Koscielny's horrible Achilles injury at the Wanda Metropolitano didn't help their cause. 

But there was good to come from their run in the Europa League. A host of young players, including the likes of Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Joe Willock and Reiss Nelson were given chances to pick up valuable first team experience whilst there was an impressive win in the San Siro against AC Milan.

Player of the season

There weren't many stand out players from Arsenal's troubling season but the one to impress the most was Aaron Ramsey. The Welsh midfielder had his best season since 2013/14 and turned into a more mature player throughout the campaign. 

Ramsey spent some of the season injured and therefore played just 30 times. Despite that he found a great level of consistency, scoring 11 times in all competitions, whilst also providing nine assists. 

The 27-year-old is seen as a candidate to be Arsenal's new captain following Per Mertesacker's retirement but his future at the club remains in doubt with his current contract expiring next summer. 

Other worthy mentions this season have to go to Monreal, who had an extremely consistent season and despite Arsenal's defensive woes stood out at left back, also scoring an incredible six goals.

Lacazette meanwhile started to flourish towards the back end of the season and the enigma that is Mesut Özil also put in some excellent performances at times in 2017/18.

What's to come? 

After over two decades, 1235 games and 17 honours later, the club will finally be looking for a new manager, one that gives them a fresh direction and new ideas after Wenger's departure. 

It was originally thought that former Gunner Mikel Arteta would take the reigns, leaving behind his position as assistant manager at Man City - but at the time of writing Unai Emery is set to be appointed as Arsenal's new manager. 

Either of those choices for manager would be a gamble, much more so than the likes of Max Allegri and Luis Enrique who had been linked, but Emery boasts a CV that includes a domestic treble with Paris Saint-German in 2017/18 and three consecutive Europa League wins with Sevilla

Rather than Arteta who has no managerial experience, Emery seems a safer bet to replace Wenger, but he has an extremely hard job on his hands. 

This Arsenal side needs rebuilding next season. They need a new approach and patience in order to get back to the top. But if reports of a transfer budget of only £50m to spend this summer are true, the club will find it hard to compete next season. 

The Gunners need defensive reinforcements, that includes a goalkeeper. A holding midfielder would also be beneficial. But under a small budget, greater improvements will be difficult in 2018/19.