MIKEL ARTETA, his Arsenal players and the fans cannot wait to see the back of 2020 after the club’s worst start to a season since 1974.
However, we must not forget that the elongated and disrupted 2019/20 campaign has offered us some highlights this calendar year.
Mikel Arteta is under pressure at the Emirates following Arsenal’s shocking start to the seasonCredit: Getty Images – Getty
After all, the year saw Arsenal win their fourth FA Cup in seven years.
A fourth major trophy in seven years of apparent bad luck for the Gunners, in which our noisy neighbours have, of course, won nothing.
But with Arsenal sitting in 15th spot after 14 games played, there are few things to smile about for supporters.
Here Dave Seager gives his thoughts on Arsenal in 2020…
Player of the Year for 2020 – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Whilst it would be simple to dwell on his slow start to the 2020/21 season, having signed a lucrative contract extension, we must not forget Aubameyang’s remarkable contribution to the end to a disrupted campaign.
The Gabon marksman took over the captaincy, served three coaches, played in at least three formations, and saw numerous partners and creators come and go, and yet he simply never stopped scoring.
His form on the run-in and his part in defeating both Manchester City and Chelsea to win Arsenal the FA Cup, was the stuff of legend, which makes his current slump even more remarkable.
He earned the bumper new deal he was offered and signed and surely as soon as the manager finds the correct blend Aubameyang will find his shooting boots once more.
Without a doubt, Auba is Arsenal’s player of 2020 and we need him to rise again in 2021.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang starred for Arsenal last season, but he has struggled this campaignCredit: Reuters
Young Player of the Year for 2020 – Bukayo Saka
Bukayo Saka began the 2019/20 campaign in the last season of his Arsenal contract and none of us really knew whether he would be making a consistent breakthrough into the first team.
At the end of 2020 I suspect Saka is the first name on the team sheet, with his current maturity and leadership on the pitch in adversity beyond his 19 years.
The young, now full England international, like his skipper has played in multiple formations, but Saka has also had to adapt to playing varying roles.
He has played on the left and right wings, at left full-back and wing-back, and also in a midfield three and in each role he has offered effort, consistency and creativity.
This season so far, along with Kieran Tierney and Gabriel, he is the only outfield player who can hold his head high as we approach the end of 2020.
Whatever 2021 holds for Arteta’s labouring team, Bukayo in a short time has gone from exciting potential to integral to Arsenal’s fortunes.
Thank goodness the club convinced him to put pen to paper on a long-term deal in the summer.
He is without doubt the Arsenal Young Player of 2020 and I sincerely hope he will be our Player of the Year on many occasions in the future.
Bukayo Saka has been a shining light in an otherwise disappointing season for the North LondonersCredit: AFP
Hopes, expectations and what would be a successful league finish?
I feel we must be realistic as we sit 15th in the Premier League.
Of course, this question is inextricably linked to the future of Arteta.
Success in the league for a club the size of Arsenal should mean Champions League qualification and yet we are miles from this aspiration.
Will Mikel Arteta be at Arsenal at the end of 2021?
The young Spanish manager began so well but, in this campaign, to date has been found wanting and whilst there is no indication that the powers that be are close to losing patience he needs to engineer a change in fortune swiftly.
In the short-term he needs to inject impetus by finding a formation that elicits the best from the resources he has at his disposal and that MUST mean selecting players on form and attributes not reputation and experience.
Arteta spoke eloquently about the non-negotiables for players to pull on the Arsenal shirt but he has, for some reason, waivered from these high standards.
As I suggested last week, I would like him to play Ainsley Maitland-Niles in midfield while Thomas Partey is out and if he thrives, then perhaps with the Ghanaian when he returns, and Emile-Smith Rowe at No 10.
The older, slower players, who do not need to be named have had their chances and I hope he will give the younger players with Arsenal in their heart an opportunity.
Arsenal – who crashed out of the Carabao Cup on Tuesday – sit in 15th spot in the Premier League tableCredit: Reuters
This in turn will assist to make Arsenal look an attractive place to potential signings who will have no wish to a sign for a manager persisting with older, out of form players.
They are not our future and reliance on them may cost Arteta his.
With the young square pegs in square holes playing well, I believe Arteta can still turn our fortunes.
Partey, Aubameyang and Bernd Leno blended with the talented youth, including the exciting return of Gabriel Martinelli.
With one or two new additions in January and far more of the surplus sold or loaned, success in 2021 could well be a cup triumph in the Europa or FA Cup and a healthy momentum in the Premier League.
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