This is certainly the most difficult article I've typed up so far, it's hard to find the right words after last nights result. I am as gutted and disappointed as all of you are today, it was a tough one to swallow.
Whether you've read my previous article or have been watching or listening to anything Arsenal related in the last few weeks, you will know just how much a breath of fresh air Arteta has been since he walked through the door seventy days ago. To lift the heads of players who were at their lowest and to unite a fan-base which was suffering, all in such a short period of time, has made me feel that sense of optimism once again, regardless of what's just happened.
However, because of the above, because everything surrounding the club has been so positive recently, it made last nights Europa League exit feel more like a cup final loss. The manner and style in which we crashed out was, well, sickening.
Do I think Arteta got it wrong? Do I think the team selection was bad? No, not at all. I don't put it down to any of that, I just put it down to the overall quality of the players on the night, it was nowhere near the required standard. The tempo wasn't there, nor was the aggression and individual brilliance. We were often sloppy in possession and the end product within the final third was missing, apart from Aubameyang's cracking overhead goal of course, but it was too little too late. His miss towards the end summed it all up didn't it? It just wasn't to be.
Mikel fielded a strong team, one that is more than capable of getting a job done, the Spaniard said after the game that the players knew it would be a very tough match and that there wasn't any complacency amongst the squad. "My team selection is always based on what I see in training, the workload of the players and what we want to do against the opponent. That is how I will select the team tonight", Arteta explained in his programme notes.
I guess he could have made one or two substitutions sooner, especially the Martinelli one, but of course that doesn't necessarily mean it would have made the ultimate difference. Looking away from that though, I genuinely think the team was burnt out. Four games in eleven days is far from ideal, all of them were high intensity too. It doesn't matter who you are, that is difficult for any team.
The likes of Inter Milan, Bayer Leverkusen, Roma and Wolves all remain in the European competition, even if we did manage to scrape a win against Olympiacos last night, would we have been able to do the same against stronger opposition? I don't think so, not at the moment anyway.
As I've been saying, although we appear to be getting back on the right track, there will still be stumbling blocks along the way and this game was one of them, that's football. As much as it hurts right now, we have to look onwards from here, I think the future has the potential to be an exciting one with Arteta at the reign, I truly believe that. It is his first managerial job, he's learnt a lot already, but he still has a lot to discover as a Head Coach, it's part of the process and we have to support him along the way. For me, it's vital that we back him and the players whilst we go through this transitional period.
It may be difficult to see or feel it right now, but we have got things to look forward to. There's some exciting young players coming through the ranks - Saka, Martinelli, Nelson, Willock etc. Not forgetting we have one of the biggest prospects in football with William Saliba arriving in June as well.
It will also be a big summer for us I feel, one in which the continuation of rebuilding this squad is absolutely critical. Where do the futures of Aubameyang and Lacazette lie? I'm not sure. However, you can't help but feel that they won't be at the club for much longer if we remain without European football. Hopefully we are all pleasantly surprised, that would be nice wouldn't it? If it does come to the worst case scenario and we lose some big players, it will of course be imperative that we replace them.
Meanwhile, Arteta will have his first pre-season with his players and staff. This will be a big plus for everyone after a very busy and exhausting 2019/20. It will be a time to work on everything which has been learnt and uncovered since Mikel took over. Hopefully the players will be better physically and mentally when next season arrives.
Overall, this season has been one full of disappointment and it is essential that the club's preparation prior to the next campaign is one which prevents that bitter disappointment making it's presence known once again. I think us fans have suffered quite enough.
Keep your head up folks, sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together!