Opinion: Arsenal's shambolic Sunday was a measure of how far the club hasn't come
Photo: Getty Images - Clive Mason

Opinion: Arsenal's shambolic Sunday was a measure of how far the club hasn't come

Arsenal's top four hopes were all but ended on Sunday.

Matt Dawson

In four swift meaty blows, Arsenal's Premier League season was done.

Unai Emery had been doing so well. The fact the Gunners were even in the conversation for a top-four place was a testament to that.

However, as Arsenal players were slumped on the turf getting ready for what in the end was a rather farcical lap of 'appreciation', they should have been celebrating Champions League football, not bemoaning a season that could have been.

Full of frustration

After defeat to Crystal Palace, it was still in Arsenal's hands. Yet, that result was catastrophic, leading to another three straight Premier League games without a win.

That loss on Easter Sunday, therefore, might well prove to be the catalyst for not only disappointment this season, but a feeling of bitter regret going into the new campaign too.

That, of course, depends on whether the Islington club fails to win the Europa League as well.

Somewhere this season, though, it seems as though the club has lost a host of its values. The changing of the guard from Arsene Wenger to Emery was never going to be a smooth transition. When is it ever with Arsenal Football Club?

But there was something telling about this draw with Brighton. Try as they might, Arsenal lacked creativity - carried once again by their two most expensive signings.

At the end of the game, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang's faces were a picture. So often this season we've seen them buzzing and full of life. This was anything but the case.

As Aubameyang's best goals this season were played over the big screen, he and Lacazette sat in the dugout motionless, in disbelief at what had just happened. Their pairing would be enough to win you a Premier League title, maybe even a Champions League. But as it happens, those behind them are simply not good enough to help them achieve it.

It's absolutely bewildering, therefore, that the only productive player behind them in Aaron Ramsey is leaving.

Thanks for the memories, Aaron

The nature of his farewell at the Emirates as Arsenal had missed out on top four was bizarre. There was a surreal feeling to it. This time last year, an emotional Wenger bid goodbye. A year on, one of the few players who actually cares about the club is packing his bags too.

Ramsey was presented with a gift, not that it mattered much. The Welshman is guaranteed bigger presents with Juventus. Arsenal look someway off achieving anything close to what the Old Lady can in the coming years. His departure will probably come as a relief to him in a years time.

Arsenal's hero of two FA Cup finals was stood there in tears at full time. "One Aaron Ramsey" were the cries from the Emirates faithful. How the club managed to get themselves in a situation where their best player in 2019 is leaving for free is beyond the minds of many. Not even the most studious of brains out there would have an answer for you.

In amongst that, Danny Welbeck was also presented with a gift. The PA announcer read out that he'd be a huge miss in the dressing room. And that was that. No more Welbeck. In one of the most bizarre announcements in Arsenal history - the forward was out of the door with nothing more than a quick handshake from Sir Chips Keswick.

There were no sentiments from Emery either, merely uttering in his post-match press conference: "The decision is that he's going to leave."

Compared to Ramsey's send-off, this was of incredibly poor taste. Welbeck hasn't had the greatest of Arsenal careers but it rather summed up what the club has become this season.

It's felt lost. Emery has spoken about doing things in "our way" time and time again this term but it's difficult to understand what that way is.

Season will be determined in Baku

The consolation from this drawn-out end to the campaign is the possibility of a Europa League final and a trip to the capital of Azerbaijan. How glamorous. Win there and the season will have been a success. Lose and it will have been a disaster.

Arsenal would have a potential war chest ahead of next season to improve the squad if they find themselves back among Europe's elite. If they don't qualify then their summer plans will take a monumental hit.

One of the most poignant moments from this indifferent season were the chants of "We've got our Arsenal back," when the club beat Fulham 5-1 back in October.

It's ironic, therefore, that the club is now almost completely unrecognisable from what it was once. Perhaps this is just the reality of what Arsenal are now. No longer a big club, but a distinctly average one. There are not many other ways to put it.

Arsenal's Head Coach will have a colossal rebuilding job this summer.

It's over to you, Unai.