The Graham Cummins column: Arsenal have been awful this season and could get worse before they improve

The Graham Cummins column: Arsenal have been awful this season and could get worse before they improve
Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang reacts after the Premier League match at Turf Moor, Burnley. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire.

ARSENAL supporters were rightly unhappy towards the end of Arsene Wenger’s time as manager. The Frenchman was content that finishing in the top-four was success.

This was a manager who had revolutionised the club and had created history by going undefeated in the league in the 2003/04 season, yet, by the end of his time in London, Wenger wasn’t demanding the best.

What must worry Arsenal fans is that those last few years under Wenger, when they consistently finished in the top-four and won numerous FA Cups, might be the best times they will see for some time. Arsenal are in decline.

The Gunners are not only not able to compete with the best clubs for the title, but not for the best players, either.

However, now, instead of challenging teams like Manchester City and Liverpool, Arsenal are fearful of Wolverhampton Wanderers and Everton.

A year ago, if a player had a choice between signing for Arsenal or Wolves, that player would have been on the first flight to London, but now, I’m not too sure.

Yes, Arsenal are a bigger club than Wolves, but they aren’t a better team.

The midlands club are showing more ambition than Arsenal and are on the up, whereas the Gunners are in decline.

There’s no sugar-coating Arsenal’s league campaign this season: they have been awful.

They sit 10th in the table, with only six wins in the league.

They have won fewer games than Aston Villa and have only won four out of their last 23 league fixtures. A top-four finish being a disappointment for Arsenal fans now seems like the glory days.

Yet, there’s hope.

It’s just over a month since Mikel Arteta was appointed Arsenal manager and although the former City coach has won just one of his seven league games, there have been signs of improvement.

Arsenal are 10 points behind fourth-placed Chelsea, which might seem an impossible margin to claw back, considering there are only 13 games left.

Arsenal's Mesut Ozil (left) is substituted off for Arsenal's Joe Willock. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire. 
Arsenal's Mesut Ozil (left) is substituted off for Arsenal's Joe Willock. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire. 

However, most teams have been so inconsistent that if the Gunners were to continue to improve under Arteta and turn draws into victories, it would not be impossible for them to make up the gap.

Arsenal have season-defining weeks ahead of them.

They play three home fixtures in succession, as well as a Europa League tie, against Olympicas, and a fifth-round FA Cup fixture against League One side, Portsmouth.

Were the Gunners to win all three league fixtures and progress in the cups, then supporters would be in for an interesting finish to what has been a terrible season.

The problem is that you never know what you are going to get with Arsenal. They can be brilliant (like they were against Manchester United in Arteta’s only league victory as Arsenal manager), or they can be lucky to get a draw (as against Burnley).

Result’s haven’t gone Arteta’s way, but Arsenal fans are happy with what they have seen since his return to the club.

What has probably impressed Gunners’ supporters the most is that their team is putting in the effort in every match. You wouldn’t have been able to say that about Arsenal players a few months ago and that’s sad.

Teams go through difficult periods, but that’s no excuse for players not giving 100%. Arsenal’s players looked like they were going through the motions before Arteta’s appointment.

They were the soft team everyone expects from Arsenal, the team that would give up when games got tough. Arteta has instilled a grit and toughness that has been missing for some time. The team look more organised and players know what they are supposed to do, whereas under former manager, Unai Emery, they seemed lost.

The new Arsenal manager has improved the side, but still has issues to fix. But Gunners supporters must be patient with Arteta.

The Spaniard must be given a lot of time and has a very important summer ahead of him. This summer, I expect a large turnover of players at Arsenal and I don’t envision Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang being at the club at the beginning of next season.

The striker clearly wants to leave and you can’t blame him. Aubameyang is one of the best finishers in the league, yet he has to play out of position to accommodate Alexandre Lacazette, who is inferior to the Arsenal captain.

The Gunners should cash in on Aubameyang in the summer, because the striker will be 31 at the beginning of next season and will only have a year remaining on his contract.

But Arsenal won’t be able to attract the top players and will have to rely heavily on their scouting system to uncover hidden gems.

These are uncertain times at Arsenal and Gunners fans need to prepare themselves for a lot more years of not competing for the title.

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