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Good, Bad, and the Ugly: Arsenal 2015-16

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There was certainly a lot of all three this season.

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Julian Finney/Getty Images

Say what you will about the 2015-16 Arsenal season, but it definitely happened. Since we usually do a Good, Bad, and Ugly for individual games I thought it would be good to do one for the season as a whole, because why not? So here we are.

Good

  • Mesut Özil. He wasn't able to catch Thierry Henry's Premier League record of 20 assists in a season, but his last one against Aston Villa moved him ahead of Frank Lampard and Cesc Fabregas for second all-time with 19. He also had eight goals in all competitions, which is pretty good. Altogether, you'd have a tough time making an argument for anyone else as Man Of The Season.
  • Alex Iwobi. He's never been one of the most highly-touted prospects in the Arsenal academy, but he stepped up when his name was called. He bagged a couple of goals, and generally played well coming kind of out of nowhere. It's hard to tell what kind of role he'll play in the coming seasons, but this year he was a really fun bright spot.
  • Not finishing fourth. That's a joke, but...seriously. We got second place, which is Arsenal's highest finish since the 2004-05 season. That's good! Not quite what we were looking for in this dumpster fire of a league, but the devil and God themselves were conspiring on Leicester's behalf, so.
  • Beating Leicester City twice. Speaking of, while obviously we didn't beat them in the final table, at least Arsenal did their job in the head-to-head meetings. The 5-2 drubbing and Danny Welbeck's last-minute winner were both awesome.
  • St. Totteringham's Day (again). Arsenal haven't finished behind Tottenham Hotspur in 21 years, since the 1994/95 season. The last time it happened, not only was Jurgen Klinsmann still considered competent, but it was as a player. We're the only team that Spurs haven't finished above since Arsène Wenger took over as Arsenal manager. That's pretty good! And considering this was supposedly the Best Tottenham Team in like fifty years (and our worst in about twenty), it's even funnier this time.
  • The first 20 minutes of the home game against Manchester United. Three goals, an absolute blitzing. It's probably my favorite single Arsenal performance since the Barcelona game in 2011. It was made even better by the fact that United never managed to get back in it, so it's an unblemished memory.
  • Somehow getting out of the Champions League group. After losing the first two group matches (to Dinamo Zagreb and Olympiakos!) things looked dire. Three wins in the remaining four games got Arsenal into the knockout stage once again; they haven't been eliminated in a group stage since 2002.
  • Beating Bayern Munich. The 2-0 home win in October is good practice – we'll have to face a Pep Guardiola team again next year, this time in the league.

Bad

  • Theo and Gibbs' seasons. Theo Walcott and Kieran Gibbs have developed one of our favorite bromances of recent years, but this season wasn't particularly great for either of them. Consigned to backup duty by the brilliance of Nacho Monreal, Gibbs didn't get a ton of playing time, and when he did he was too rusty and not good enough to perform. Which led to even less playing time. Theo had a few moments, but overall did not look like the player he was before his last round of injuries. One or both is probably on the way out and for a pair of players who have served the club for a while, the end isn't a positive one.
  • Losing Arteta and Rosicky. On the other hand, Mikel Arteta and Tomas Rosicky will be mourned as they depart. Arteta's retiring and we have yet to see what Rosicky will do, but they're both definitely out. We have devoted more words to them elsewhere and will do so going forward, but for now let me just say that I'm really going to miss the both of them – a pair of players both integral to and symbolic of the era of Arsenal during which I became a Real Fan.
  • The midfield, most of the time. We just couldn't figure it out. I think we've mostly settled on the idea that Francis Coquelin isn't good enough to play for a title-winning team, while I maintain that he's a perfectly useful squad player and backup. His partnership with Santi Cazorla required two players to do a job that should be accomplished by one (for example, look at Mohamed Elneny). We couldn't find a partner that allowed Aaron Ramsey to play at his peak, though Elneny came reasonably close. Mathieu Flamini is bad. Jack Wilshere can't be relied upon in any sense of the word. Arteta was injured, then retired. Hopefully we'll have at least one addition to help fix this issue. But the whole area was a disaster area this season, for the most part.
  • Danny Welbeck's injury curse. Dat Guy missed about ten months with injury, then came back and was mostly really good. He scored a few important goals (the one to beat Leicester City was particularly enjoyable) and outplayed the rest of the strike force for a minute. Then his knee fell apart again, and he'll miss nine months at best. It's depressing and really annoying, for the person and the player. He seems like a good dude and he's fun to watch, and the team's less enjoyable without him around.
  • The defense? As a corps, I don't feel like they were that Bad. But thinking about individual performances, I'm not really sure how. Per Mertesacker appears to be on the decline; Laurent Koscielny may be as well. Gabriel didn't match the Reasonably Good performances from last season, and while he's still relatively young a lot of Arsenal fans have lost faith. Calum Chambers appears to be something, but didn't get the playing time to prove it. Nacho Monreal and Hector Bellerin were both really good, but they were really the only standouts in a pretty mediocre defense. On the other hand, we only allowed 36 goals in league play, which has us tied for third-best in the league. Some of that comes down to Petr Cech (and somehow, David Ospina playing relatively well as a backup for once). But I fear it may be the crest of the wave, which could crash next year if we don't take action.
  • That four-month period where Olivier Giroud didn't score a single league goal. Really don't think I need to say much more about that.

Ugly

  • Protests. God was this stupid. Thankfully it was a massive failure, but it still was not a good look for the Arsenal fanbase. After this season I can see the motivation to want a managerial change, but disrespecting the club's most successful manager, and probably the most important single person in the club's history, is just unacceptable. It was almost as bad as guy who wrote the song about Jose Mourinho.
  • Stupid points dropped. The first damn game of the year, a loss to West Ham at home. Two winnable draws against Liverpool. The Southampton Massacre on Boxing Day. Draws against West Ham, Crystal Palace, and Sunderland in April. There's more than enough points in just those games to have won the league. Plenty of other teams dropped dumb points – they always do – but it's still frustrating, and if we're going to finish the job this is something that needs to be sorted out.