Arsenal’s 2016/17 Premier League campaign will be remembered as the one in which Arsene Wenger failed to qualify for the Champions League for the first time since taking the managerial helm in north London in 1996.
It’s rather incredible considering the positivity that surrounded the club at the start of the season, when many claimed Wenger had assembled arguably his strongest ever Arsenal squad following some exciting recruitment during the summer and was in a unique position in the title race as the Premier League’s longest-serving manager.
Barring an opening day defeat to Liverpool, a gripping 4-3, Arsenal started the campaign strongly. But once again, as injuries mounted and the must-win fixtures began to pile up, the Gunners’ season inevitably capitulated. From mid-December to the start of April, Wenger’s side went from being top of the Premier League table to sixth place.
Switching to an Antonio-Conte-inspired 3-4-3 has provided a less debasing end to Arsenal’s season, instigating a run of eight wins in nine across all competitions, and away from the Premier League, Wenger’s boys have an FA Cup final with Chelsea to look forward to.
Nonetheless, that run hasn’t been enough to secure the north London outfit Champions League football for a twentieth consecutive season and another FA Cup win won’t be able to truly gloss over what has been an incredibly frustrating top flight campaign.
It could well be what calls time on Wenger’s Arsenal career, with the Frenchman’s contract due to expire this summer and updates on his future few and far between, as the fans continue to grow increasingly restless with a lack of progress at the club since their last Premier League title win in 2004.
Regardless, for the statistics enthusiasts out there, Arsenal’s campaign has produced some intriguing numbers. Although they’re often accused of lacking leadership and strength of character, the Gunners have actually scored the most stoppage time goals (both first and second half) of any Premier League side this season. They’re also the second deadliest team in the top flight, with 19.9% of their shots beating the goalkeeper.
At the other end of the pitch, however, the numbers don’t make as jolly reading. Arsenal are second throughout the division for own goals with four, whilst they’ve also committed the sixth-most defensive errors – albeit, only three actually leading to goals. The north London outfit will have to improve upon that next season, but is Wenger the man to lead the club forward?