Arsenal’s 2020/21 campaign in review
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 23: Mikel Arteta, Manager of Arsenal claps the fans following the Premier League match between Arsenal and Brighton & Hove Albion at Emirates Stadium on May 23, 2021 in London, England. A limited number of fans will be allowed into Premier League stadiums as Coronavirus restrictions begin to ease in the UK. (Photo by Alastair Grant - Pool/Getty Images)

Mikel Arteta began the 2020/21 Premier League season with some key signings under his belt including promising Centre Back Gabriel MagalhaesWillian, and eventually, on deadline day, activating the release clause of midfield general Thomas Partey to bring him to Emirates Stadium

Positive start: 

Life back in the Premier League for Scott Parker's newly promoted Fulham got off to the worst of starts as Arteta’s Arsenal saw off the Cottagers 0-3 at Craven Cottage

The Gunners' went their first three games unbeaten, also seeing off West Ham 2-1 and knocking Leicester out of the Carabao Cup at the King Power

Thomas Partey burst onto the Premier League scene with a blockbuster display at Old Trafford where the Gunners turned over Manchester United 0-1.

The good form and high-quality performances were however short lived as Arteta’s side would go on to taste defeat on numerous occasions in the following months. 

Unacceptable home form

Arsenal really struggled to find their form at Emirates Stadium this season with the players clearly struggling without their home supporters routing for them in the stands.

Four disappointing defeats to Leicester, Aston Villa, Wolves and Burnley took place before the new year and, some Arsenal fans began to question that despite the triumph in the FA Cup and Community Shield that summer, was Mikel Arteta really the man for the job?

Star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who had been so lethal for the Gunners' since he signed in 2018 suddenly looked a shadow of his former self and struck a lonely figure often isolated in his position on the pitch.

A lack of creativity became the clear issue and with Mesut Ozil not getting any game time under Arteta, something had to be done. 

Positive changes

Boxing day 2020 marked a significant day for Arsenal as a moment from which the season would begin to pick up and change for the better. 

Bukayo Saka had worked tirelessly and endlessly for the opening half of the season but with Gabriel Martinelli returning from injury, a newfound optimism was discovered and alongside the Brazilians reintroduction, Arteta gave a big chance to youngster Emile Smith-Rowe who was given an opportunity to start alongside Saka and Martinelli and eventually be an important factor in beating Chelsea 3-1 at Emirates Stadium. 

This positive form continued into the new year with the Gunners going unbeaten in the league throughout the entire month of January, only losing one game in all comps to Southampton in a tie which saw Arteta’s side exit early from the Emirates FA cup.

 Martin Odegaard was also added to the squad in January to share the creative burden with the Hale End graduate Smith-Rowe.

A bizarre defeat took place at Molineux Stadium where Arsenal saw both Bernd Leno and David Luiz sent off for equally bemusing incidents.

Luiz’s knee caught the trailing foot of Willian Jose in the dying moments of the first half and then well into the second half, Leno came out to claim a ball over the top and in doing so, handed the ball outside of the box and became the second Arsenal player to see red in the same tie. 

Arteta’s side remained hot and cold for the remainder of the season, still struggling to find form at home but beginning to get vital away wins, something that Arsenal sides had struggled to do for so long.

Impressive away wins against Leicester, Sheffield United, Brighton and Newcastle accompanied a North London derby victory at Emirates Stadium and progression to the Europa League Semi Final to face an old friend in Unai Emery. 

Europa League exit

Arsenal travelled away first to Villarreal to face the Yellow Submarines and a frustrating performance saw them go 2-0 down but a vital Nico Pepe penalty kept them in the tie with lots of work to do in London.

What happened in the return leg at Emirates Stadium can only be described as a disaster as the Gunners crashed out, failing to even score as the match finished 0-0 on the night. 

With the season now seemingly over and nothing to play for, Arsenal simply had to win their remaining four games to have any chance of qualifying for Europe. 

Too little too late for Gunners

Arsenal came out victorious in their final four ties, beating West Brom, Chelsea, Crystal Palace and Brighton. These victories were all impressive displays however, Arsenal fans were left shaking their heads as to why these performances couldn’t have happened when it mattered on the European stage.

In the final Fixture of the season, Tottenham narrowly beat Arsenal to the final European place finishing above them by one point and confirming their place in next seasons UEFA Conference League. Arsenal would spend next season out of Europe for the first time in 26 years. 

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