For the first time since the 1995/96 season, when David Platt was playing in midfield and a young Welsh striker called John Hartson led the line with summer signing Dennis Bergkamp, Arsenal have missed out on a place in the Champions League. Next season, they will play in the rebranded Europa League for the very first time.
Arsenal’s season has been underwhelming and frustrating in equal measure, with the uncertainty surrounding Arsene Wenger’s future as manager of the club allowed to drag on until the bitter end, before he finally committed to a new two-year contract.
Here, we look at the five worst moments of Arsenal’s campaign.
Santi Cazorla ruled out for the season, 23 February 2017
With Santi Cazorla in their team, Arsenal’s win rate stands at over 60 per cent. Without him, that figures nosedives to a decidedly more modest 45 per cent. The Spaniard has long been one of Arsene Wenger’s most influential players and so the news that he was going to miss the rest of the season having suffered an ankle injury in October came as a hammer blow to the team.
Arsenal just weren’t the same team without him. Without his influence in the middle of the pitch, Arsenal scored fewer goals than the teams who went on to finish in the top-four, and when Mesut Ozil’s form dipped alarmingly towards the end of the season, the club appeared completely starved of creativity.
Champions League exit to Bayern Munich, 7 March 2017
Former Champions League finalists aren’t supposed to lose Round of 16 ties by eight goals. And yet Wenger’s team twice lost 5-1 to the German champions Bayern Munich in completely calamitous circumstances. This wasn’t a defeat, it was a humiliation, and Bayern’s subsequent exit to Real Madrid made the emphatic nature of Arsenal’s exit all the more harrowing.
The first defeat was hard to take and yet the second was perhaps even worse. Arsenal led 1-0 at half-time and, although they had no chance of winning the tie, it looked as though they were about to claw back some pride. Cue a Laurent Koscielny red card and yet another dismal collapse. The 10-2 aggregate defeat was the worst suffered by an English side in the Champions League.
Ozil and Sanchez contract talks shelved, 22 March 2017
The uncertainty surrounding Wenger’s future at the club eventually – inevitability – impacted his players as Arsenal’s form began to slide. The club had previously announced they had offered contract extensions to star players Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, but Wenger later confirmed negotiations had been put on hold.
“At the moment we have not got an agreement,” Wenger said when asked about the future of the pair. “It is the same situation with Ozil, because once you don't find an agreement and the negotiation lasts, it is not good. It is better you get it out and sit down in the summer."
3-0 loss to Crystal Palace, 10 April 2017
One of Arsenal’s worst ever Premier League performances. Relegation-threatened Crystal Palace took the lead through ex-Tottenham player Andros Townsend after just 17 minutes, with second-half goals from Yohan Cabaye and Luka Milivojevic leaving Arsenal seven points adrift of the top-four entering the final straight.
But it was the opprobrium of Arsenal’s travelling support that really made this defeat stand out. Wenger was jeered throughout. Hector Bellerin was singled out and mercilessly taunted. And the entire team departed down the tunnel to a furious rendition of: “You’re not fit to wear the shirt.”
Arsenal miss out on a place in the top-four, 21 May 2017
Arsenal’s season ended in suitably cruel fashion: they impressively beat Everton 3-1 despite playing the vast majority of the game with ten men, but Liverpool’s victory over Middlesbrough meant they missed out on the top-four anyway. It meant that Arsenal will now miss out on the Champions League for the first time in two decades.
During the match – potentially in a sign of things to come next season – loud chants of “Stan Kroenke get out of our club” began to echo around the Emirates Stadium. Arsenal’s supporters continue to grow increasingly divided.Reuse content