Gunner Thoughts

Mid-year Mayhem: Season prediction assessment

At the beginning of the year I made some “way to early, ill informed predictions”. As we hit the midseason mark, let’s assess how I did!

With Arsenal’s win over Newcastle, the Premier League season is officially half over. Arsenal have played 19 of their 38 matches and the first half of the season has had plenty of moments to bury deep, deep inside your subconscious, never to reemerge, and some really splendid moments recently that will give every fan bits of hope to cling onto.

The second half of the season inherently brings a lot of dramatics with it, and if we are lucky, Arsenal will continue to put themselves in positions to offer us that as fans. With the Europa League picking back up in February and Arsenal somehow only seven points back of the top four at the moment, Arteta and the boys will look to keep their six match unbeaten streak running.

Since we halfway through the year, I thought I would look back at the predictions I made before the season even began from my Too early and ill-informed season predictions and see how many I got right, what I got wrong, and where a few of the predictions currently stand.

Feel free to have a read of that blog linked above for the actual predictions, but I will try to summarize my thoughts below


Aouar or Partey?
In the initial prediction I guessed that Arsenal would only end up getting one of Aouar OR Partey — sorry to dredge up that hurtful ‘or’ phrase again — and I sided with Thomas Partey being the one if that were the case! I thought Arsenal may get priced out of Aouar unless they did a good job selling and would turn to Partey. Pretty close!

Goalkeeper situation
When it came to the goalkeeping situation, I speculated that it would be Emi that ended up leaving the club. Not sure this ended up being quite as “hot” of a take as it felt at the moment, but I suppose I was right. Mostly, the thought came from Martinez’s small amount of match time to judge from and the fact that the market for Leno seemed non-existent. In the end, Martinez went to Villa and Arsenal fans are left still trying to figure out if they made the right choice or not.

They got their £20m and Leno has been pretty good this year, so I guess it hasn’t been all that bad, even if you were #MartinezIn.

Ozil’s fate
Well, this one I got wrong. I predicted that we would see Arsenal look to favor Willock and Emile Smith Rowe given the fact that their futures lie with the club where as Ozil’s was winding down and done after the season. Not entirely wrong given where we are at, but I speculated that we would still see Ozil feature in cup matches and the Europa League — very wrong.

We haven’t had official confirmation from the club of Ozil’s departure to Fenerbahce but the deal is as good as done. It was far from a fairytale ending, but Ozil does deserve to finish his career at a club filled with fans ecstatic to see him wear their shirt and Arsenal needed to find a way to move on. May both parties have bright futures.

PL Results: 68 points
I looked at Arsenal’s schedule, considered how the Gunners were coming into the match and guessed that Arsenal would end the season with 68 points. It would be a 12 point increase over last year and at least put them in contention for top four.

At the halfway point, Arsenal are only on 27 points. Ouch! Not only that, the league leaders are only on 38. Could the Premier League winner end the year on less than 80 points? Less than 75?

I think it would take a lot for Arsenal to finish the year on 68 points, but if they did, I it’s fair to say that would put them in a great place to finish top 3. Don’t think it’s happening.

Quickfire section: Yikes!

  • Lead Goal scorer: Aubameyang with 20 in the Premier League: Halfway through the year Auba is on 5… ouch. Definitely not out of Aubameyang’s reach as a prolific scorer, but another 20 goal season is going to be a tough feat. I DO still back him to finish as the team’s leading goalscorer.
  • Pepe will have 25 G/A on the season:
    At this point, Pepe has 8 G/A, mostly in the Europa League and things are not looking good. A large amount of my predictions were based on Pepe turning things around but that doesn’t look likely. Things are look bleaker by the day and bleaker with each Saka performance.
  • POTY & YPOTY: Aubameyang and Saliba (Sorry Saka):
    Well… I don’t have much to say. Certainly the Saliba aspect will be wrong after he was loaned out, and incidentally, Saka is lining himself up nicely to win this award, however, a strong second half of the season from Emile Smith Rowe could see him take home that honor. For that matter, the two could both win an award at this point. Saka has been the brightest spot of the whole season. Long may it continue.
  • Arsenal will buy 2 players in the Winter window:
    This doesn’t look likely. It came with the idea that Arsenal would be looking to leverage every window as another opportunity to step themselves toward a complete team overhaul, but given the large expenditure on Partey during the summer and the need to sell before they spend, it wouldn’t surprise me anymore if we see no purchases this window. If this prediction were to come true, it likely would be in the form of a backup goalkeeper and backup left back. Still would count right?
  • Elneny will not be sold:
    Hey, nailed it! Elneny has had some really bright moments, but seems to have worked his way down the pecking order. He does a really great job balancing out his midfield partner but may not be boosting the overall level of play in Arsenal’s midfield. There is plenty of time for him to recapture his form and no one can question that workrate, but at the moment, Ceballos and Xhaka look much more likely to partner Partey in the middle than Mo when it comes to the starting lineup.
  • Despite being outstanding, Saka will struggle to find a starting role but will sub in frequently:
    Read POTY/YPOTY blurb. Wow. Coming into this year I figured Arteta would still look to have Auba on the left wing, Pepe or Willian on the right wing, and Lacazette or Martinelli down the middle which would leave Saka on the outside looking in. It also considered Arsenal playing a 3-4-3 with Tierney as the left wingback, not the hybrid left center back role that probably only Tierney is capable of doing. It wasn’t totally far off, but Saka has outperformed all of them on the right wing and deservedly earned every second of playing time as the star he is. This could not have been MORE wrong.
  • It wont be until after the halfway point of the season that we see a Gabriel, Saliba back 4 lineup for the first time. Until then, we will still see a lot of David Luiz:
    Half-right, half-wrong. We still have not seen a back four with Gabriel and Saliba, so I was right about that, but definitely did not predict the initial rise of Gabriel, followed by the outstanding play from Rob Holding to clamp down the right center back role, nor the loan of Saliba. Luiz has started to work himself back into the lineup with his passing range, so we may seem him play more in the second half of the season, but Gabriel has been outstanding and I certainly hope Luiz is worked out of the lineup as his time as Arsenal starts to come to a close in preparation for his departure this summer.
  • Arsenal will have respectable runs in every cup competition they participate in, but I don’t think will win one (SUPER HOPE I AM WRONG):
    Tough one to call right now. They are out of the League Cup and likely out of contention for the Premier League, but still in the FA Cup and Europa League. Fingers crossed they make deep runs and fingers crossed I am very, very wrong about them not winning one!
  • We will concede 15 goals or less from set pieces/penalties – drastic improvements under Andreas Georgson:
    This is a prediction I am very excited about. Last season Arsenal conceded over 20 goals from set pieces. This year, they have conceded just 1. They haven’t been very good from their own attacking set pieces only scoring 3 goals, but their ability to keep opposition out has been incredible. It’s a really great start when it comes to this and it helps prevent some of the ‘weaker’ sides from sucker punching them when they don’t have much possession against the Gunners. Incredible turnaround. Bravo, Andreas!
  • Despite so many people putting it out there, we will never see Aubameyang as a central forward of a front 3:
    Well, this one was wrong, but it may have been better if we hadn’t. It didn’t go all that well, and I think it’s hard to say he isn’t more dangerous within Arsenal’s system on the left wing. From the left wing, Aubameyang doesn’t need to drop deep like Lacazette and can focus on staying high and closer to goal. All he has to do now is start tucking them away again. Newcastle was a great start toward regaining that form!
  • BOLD Prediction: Once healthy, Martinelli will make a run at the center striker role in an effort to move out of the wings:
    To be determined! Martinelli is just returning back to health, but Lacazette has proven himself as someone with a handful of skills that others like Aubameyang cannot offer. He drops into the midfield, he helps link the play really nicely, and he is finding himself on the scoresheet by hook or by crook.

    Martinelli has proven he still has that unreal engine and ability to press and pressure the opposition for 90 minutes, but had that brief setback. This doesn’t mean he won’t challenge Lacazette for that central role, should Aubameyang recapture his scoring form, but for the time being it looks like Martinelli’s spot is on the left. Still a lot of season left for that to change!

Alright! There were the predictions I made before the season began — some right, some wrong, some VERY wrong — but that’s why you make them early. There is plenty of aspects to this season I would not have predicted, and plenty of things that have pleasantly surprised me, mostly of late.

I had a really fun time making these to begin with and possibly a better time looking back at them. Truthfully, I made these and then put them away so this was fun.

Hope you enjoyed the read and are looking forward to the second half of the year! First up, Southampton in the FA Cup on Saturday and then Southampton in the Premier League next week!

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