Arsenal end of season review: Gunners miss out on European football amid cup success

Arsenal end of season review: Gunners miss out on European football amid cup success

The Gunners peaked just at the wrong time in 2017/18.

Matt Dawson

Arsenal are a club with rich history and tradition. However, the tradition at the moment appears to be missing out on European football.

Renowned for being one of the best women's sides around not too long ago, that mantle has been handed over to the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City - as both sides reached Champions League semi-finals this season.

Despite a managerial change in 2017/18 and a seemingly improved crop of players, the Gunners once again missed out on a spot in the top two. But there was another trophy to arrive in Arsenal's glittering cabinet - perhaps a sign of things to come for next season. 

Montemurro takes over

Arsenal's start to the season was largely similar to the Spring Series which preceded the change back to a winter season for the WSL.

They left it late to come from behind to beat Birmingham 3-2 in their opening game, before conceding five to Man City and then drawing 1-1 with Bristol City at home. 

It was those results which signified the end for Pedro Martinez Losa's spell with the club - having never really looked like taking them back to the levels of old.

But under new coach, Joe Montemurro, there are positive signs that Arsenal are heading in the right direction again. 

Losa left the Gunners in October, leading to Montemurro being appointed the following month after some inconsistent performances that rather summed up Arsenal's previous few terms.

The Australian's time at Arsenal started slowly though, with just one game in December, a 3-1 win over Sunderland marking his first game in charge. What followed was a defeat against Chelsea, before Montermurro's side embarked on a 13 match unbeaten streak in all competitions. 

No Champions League again

Despite the Gunners best efforts they would miss out on Champions League football on the final day of the WSL season, despite an emphatic 6-1 win over Bristol City - one of the sides who may have cost them a place in Europe after their draw earlier in the season.  

Arsenal pushed Manchester City close, who after their Champions League exit didn't enjoy the best of runs domestically.

Goals from Danielle van de Donk and Beth Mead saw the Gunners beat their closest rivals for second place, Man City, with three matches to spare. But it was poor performances against teams such as Yeovil, where only a 0-0 was managed which meant they had to settle for third place, just one point behind the Citizens.

Fans of the women's side have become restless in recent seasons over the team's inability to get back among Europe's elite and finishing third again won't have helped their agenda. 

Cup runs

Both Arsenal's men and women's sides seem to enjoy going far in Cup's at the moment and this was evident by Montermurro guiding his team to two cup finals this season. Both which had very different outcomes, though. 

There were shortcomings in the league, but they found a way to get over the line when it mattered in the FA Women's Cup and the Continental Tyres Cup - as they went on to win the latter. 

In the group stages of the Continental Cup Arsenal managed to score five against both Millwall and Watford, whilst also putting seven past London Bees. But a defeat against Reading meant the North London club had to settle for second spot in the group. 

Arsenal met Sunderland in the quarter-finals, where goals from Viviane Miedema, Jordan Nobbs and Mead sealed a 3-1 win. The same goal scorers all then netted again in the semi-finals as they got revenge over Reading, defeating them 3-2. 

In the final all it took was one goal, as Miedema's strike on 32 minutes saw Arsenal beat Man City at Adams Park, and seal Montemurro's first trophy with the club. 

It was the trio mentioned above who were up there as three of Arsenal's key players this season.

Miedema perhaps didn't live up to expectations but still managed seven strikes in 18 appearances whilst Nobbs' presence in the midfield was once again terrific as she cemented herself as one of the best in the country. 

Mead meanwhile enjoyed a breakout campaign. While her former club Sunderland were unfortunately not given a WSL license for next season, she enjoyed a terrific term in front of goal - ending the season with 14 strikes and as England's young player of the year. 

Despite her excellent season, she couldn't help Arsenal to a cup double success - as the Gunners lost the FA Women's Cup final in front of a record crowd at Wembley, 3-1 to Chelsea.

Miedema scored another cup final goal but two goals from Ramona Bachmann and an excellent strike from Fran Kirby ensured the cup went to the blue side of London. 

Looking ahead to next season

There should be plenty of reasons for Arsenal fans to look forward to next season. There will be a slight changing of the guard as long serving defender Alex Scott has retired, whilst Heather O'Reilly's spell with Arsenal has come to an end. 

However, there is a new deal for Nobbs which will be crucial, whilst the Dutch trio of Sari van Veenendaal, Dominique Janssen and van de Donk have all agreed new contracts. 

There has been one confirmed new signing since the season ended, with Austria skipper Viktoria Schnaderbeck arriving from Bayern Munich.

Arsenal have the squad to challenge next season, and will be guaranteed goals with the options they have going forward. But if they are to qualify for the Champions League defensive stability and a better mentality will be key.