The fixtures for the 2021/2022 season have finally been announced. Mikel Arteta’s side ended last season in a very poor manner, failing ti qualify for a European competition for the first time in 25 years.
With new boys Brentford, Norwich and Watford now in the Premier League, the fixtures have been announced.
Depending on Arsenal’s progress in the remaining two competitions, the League Cup and the FA Cup, the fixtures are subject to change, as well as their opponents’ progress.
Looking at Arsenal’s opening three matches, the need to strengthen in the transfer market is more pressing than ever.
August 2021 14th: Brentford (A) 21st: Chelsea (H) 28th: Manchester City (A)
September 2021 10th: Burnley (A) 11th: Norwich (H) 25th: Tottenham Hotspur (H)
October 2021 2nd: Brighton & Hove Albion (A) 16th: Crystal Palace (H) 23rd: Aston Villa (H) 30th: Leicester City (A)
November 2021 6th: Watford (H) 20th: Liverpool (A) 27th: Newcastle United (H) 30th: Manchester United (A)
December 2021 4th: Everton (A) 11th: Southampton (H) 14th: West Ham United (H) 18th: Leeds United (A) 26th: Norwich City (A) 28th: Wolverhampton Wanderers (H)
January 2022 1st: Manchester City (H) 15th: Tottenham Hotspur (A) 22nd: Burnley (H)
February 2022 8th: Wolverhampton Wanderers (A) 12th: Chelsea (A) 19th: Brentford (H) 26th: Liverpool (H)
March 2022 5th: Watford (A) 12th: Leicester City (H) 19th: Aston Villa (A)
April 2022 2nd: Crystal Palace (A) 9th: Brighton & Hove Albion (H) 16th: Southampton (A) 23rd: Manchester United (H) 30th: West Ham United (A)
May 2022 7th: Leeds United (H) 15th: Newcastle United (A) 22nd: Everton (H)
Arsenal have been announced as one of the 12 forming members of the European Super League, which was announced in a statement on Sunday evening.
A European Super League has been in the offing for a while now, with Europe’s top clubs having been disgruntled with the officiating from the top leagues, FIFA and UEFA for a while now.
The other founding members of the league are:
Arsenal released a statement late on Sunday revealing their part in the organisation of the league. In the statement, Arsenal announced their hope for discussions with the football governing bodies FIFA & UEFA in order to find an agreement.
What is the European Super League? The European Super League is a league that contains the biggest clubs in Europe for a mid-week competition, which is governed by the founding members of the league.
In a statement released by the European Super League, “a further three clubs will join ahead of the inaugural season, which is intended to commence as soon as practicable”.
How will the league work? In addition to the existing fifteen, there will be five other teams who will qualify for the league every season. The games will be played midweek in home and away fixtures, and are expected to replace the existing UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League.
The league is expected to start in August, with teams playing in groups of ten, with the top three in each group automatically qualifying for the quarter-finals of the competition, while teams finishing in fourth and fifth will compete for the remaining quarter-final spots.
From there, a two-legged format will follow, which will then lead to a final in May played at a neutral venue.
It is also rumoured that the founding clubs will not be relegated from the league for a minimum of fifteen years.
Will Arsenal still be able to play in the Premier League? While the league’s founders have said that they plan to “…preserve the traditional domestic match calendar which remains at the heart of the game”, FIFA, UEFA and the official domestic league bodies have said that this will not be the case.
In fact, the blowout from the creation of the league could cause significant ripples throughout football. If such a league were created, Arsenal, along with the other fourteen teams, could see themselves kicked out of the Premier League, the League Cup, the FA Cup, the Champions League and the Europa League, as well as any European Super Cup games and the FIFA Club World Cup.
Another significant issue, is that players playing their football at one of the fifteen clubs in the European Super League, could find themselves banned from playing in any international competitions as well and will be served lifetime bans.
Whether or not these threats are followed through, remains to be seen.
Why is this league being created? The somewhat precarious nature of the founding member’s finances in recent years have forced them into action. Also, the prospect of more money is far too alluring to turn down.
For many of the founding members, there are a number of financial issues. Barcelona and Real Madrid both find themselves in dire straits financially as a result of poor investments and the COVID-19 pandemic, Tottenham Hotspur have only recently begun playing in a new stadium estimated to cost them anywhere between £800m and £1bn and AC Milan are still clearing up the financial mess of their previous ownership.
The aforementioned COVID-19 pandemic has likely accelerated plans for the league as clubs are beginning to see their bottom line grow smaller and smaller with each passing season.
Outside of the usual financial reasons, the European elite’s issues with FIFA and UEFA has long been a point of contention, with the soon-to-be announced Champions League reforms reportedly upsetting many of the Super League’s founding members.
The prospect of controlling a league/knockout-format competition, with more money and the guarantee of no relegation for founding members within the first fifteen years or so is another tempting offer.
Do any clubs oppose the idea? Though there has been no official statement from any of the clubs talking about the idea, it is thought that Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain strongly oppose the idea. Borussia Dortmund also confirmed in a statement today that they too will not be taking part in the Super League.
Though neither club has released a statement or made any comment in the press about the idea, their unwillingness to join is shown by their absence in the founding members list, though they could be in the list of the unnamed three.
Who has spoken about it? The notoriously quiet Stan Kroenke has so far been unavailable for comment on the situation, however, Florentino Pérez, President of Real Madrid believes that the league “…will help football at every level”.
Joel Glazer of Manchester United has echoed Pérez’s statement and has spoken about the impact of wider financial support for the wider footballing pyramid.
Meanwhile, Andrea Agnelli, the Chairman of Juventus released a statement of his own speaking of the league’s importance and has resigned as Chairman of the ECA (European Club Association) and the UEFA Executive Committee.
What are the clubs doing? At the time of this article being published, there are no concrete reports of anything happening beyond the initial statements being made.
It has been reported that Liverpool are the first team to depart from the ECA, which would mean that they could no longer participate in the Champions League or Europa League, though this is still unconfirmed.
What does this mean for Arsenal’s Europa League? For now, Arsenal will continue their Europa League journey until either the competition ends or until Arsenal are knocked out, whichever happens first.
It was thought that Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea, the only remaining English teams in European competitions this season, would no longer be permitted to complete their European exploits, however, it has since been announced by UEFA that they will be allowed to compete as normal.
How much would Arsenal make from the European Super League? While no figures have been formally announced, and likely won’t be, it is reported that the founding clubs will recieve around €3.5bn, which will be split among the fifteen clubs upon joining.
Now, it is unknown if this means that this will be €3.5bn each or if this will mean that the money will be divided equally. In this instance, Arsenal would likely be receiving €233,333,333 or £202,117,759.
Who is funding the league? Again, nothing formally has been announced by the league itself, but JP Morgan are the only people that have been mentioned in terms of the league’s finances.
JP Morgan will underwrite the league by debt financing and will then set this against any broadcast revenue in the future.
In fact, JP Morgan confirmed to Reuters this morning that they will be financing the Super League.
How will I be able to watch it? There have been a number of broadcast partner’s names bandied about at the moment, with no fixed answer revealed.
The rights for such a lucrative league will likely mean that companies such as BT Sport or Sky Sports will likely be priced out in the initial stages, however, the league may opt for a unified broadcaster, rather than splitting broadcasting among multiple companies.
It was thought that up and coming sports broadcaster and streaming service DAZN would be partnering with the league, however, DAZN have since distanced themselves from these reports, though an as yet unnamed global tech streaming giant could be announced soon.
What role will Stan Kroenke have in the league? The Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke, dubbed “Silent Stan” by fans and press alike, is thought to be at the very heart of the discussions and seems to have been pushing this idea along wioth Liverpool’s John W Henry and Manchester United’s Joel Glazer.
As for Kroenke’s role, it is thought that Kroenke will be given a vice-chairman role along with Henry.
What will happen with Arsenal’s standing in the ECA? With Agnelli’s departure, it is thought that many others will either follow suit or be forcibly removed from their position for their role in the creation of the league.
Vinai Venkatesham, Arsenal’s Chief Executive has, as of this morning, stepped down from his position on the ECA board. The move comes as something of a surprise, given that Venkatesham formally joined the ECA on the 8th of March 2021.
Is there no chance this can be sorted out? For now, the league seems fairly set in stone. The founding members have yet to formally discuss the proposals with FIFA, UEFA or their respective domestic leagues or FAs.
The resulting penalties may be enough to assuage the clubs from going through with the plan and the potential fan backlash.
The potential of losing star players may also affect the team’s decisions as well. Players like Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang being unable to represent their national sides could well mean that the teams are unable to retain their top talent.
What does this mean for the players? The players have not been consulted over this decision. For Arsenal, Vinai Venkatesham will today address the Arsenal players and will field any questions that they have over the European Super League.
However, in a more shocking development, Aleksander Čeferin, the President of UEFA has today announced that any player who partakes in the Super League, will be banned from international competitions.
This would mean that players are therefore unable to play at the upcoming EUROs in the summer, while participation in the FIFA World Cup would likely be similar.
This would be a particularly large blow for players like Kieran Tierney, Bukayo Saka and Dani Ceballos, all of whom are expected to compete at the EUROs this summer.
Such an idea has long been in the offing, with discussions dating back as far as the late ’90s, however, things began to really kick off around the mid-2000s.
Twitter users were quick to point to yet another prophetic statement by erstwhile Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger, who predicted the league’s formation in 2009, who believed that the league would be formed within the next ten years.
Though Wenger’s prophecy was perhaps only two years earlier than the reality, it is not tough to follow the Frenchman’s logic.
The Premier League has long been ahead in terms of financials, with the lucrative TV deals and the sponsorship deals often meaning that England has been well remunerated for the league’s premier talent.
The increasing frustrations with UEFA, who are expected to announce reforms to the Champions League for the start of the 2024/25 season, have finally worked as the straw that broke the camel’s back.
From here, it’s difficult to see what the next move is. The founding clubs seemingly hold all the cards with the league, as billions are expected to be spent on the league and the notion of dictating what does and what does not happen in their own league is a temptation that few are averse to.
On the flip-side, it’s difficult to see how the league can still go ahead. With clubs threatened with worldwide bans for football competitions and players looking at potential bans for international football, it could be very difficult for clubs to still go ahead with the idea.
Therein lies the problem. Can FIFA and UEFA realistically impose these sanctions on the clubs? The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) could well be forced to intervene.
The league’s formation has seen widespread condemnation, even Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer both strongly opposing the idea. Football fans seem to be divided on the idea, though the vast majority seem to be against the idea.
The formation of the league seems to be yet another example of the growing divide between football fans and the owners of the clubs. The league’s formation now means that football fans are expected to make long-haul trips in order to support their teams in the flesh, meanwhile other fans will likely have to pay premium bucks for a new streaming platform just to watch it.
It remains to be seen if this is just a power-play from the European elite or if the league is a reality, but one thing is for certain, this will get very bloody, very quickly.
For Arsenal, Wembley is fast becoming a second home. Over the past seven years, Arsenal have played there (excluding league games) no fewer than thirteen times, losing only twice and drawing (but going on to win) another two. It’s a remarkable record and one that was extended further with Arsenal’s 2-1 win over Chelsea in the FA Cup final, only three weeks ago.
Saturday brought about the traditional season curtain-raiser, the Community Shield. The Community Shield is usually played a week before the Premier League season, but given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the scheduling of the forthcoming international fixtures, the game was played two weeks before the season opens on September 12th.
Arsenal’s opponents on Saturday were Liverpool. Though the two sides had met previously in July, with Arsenal just narrowing out the visitors in a 2-1 win, Liverpool went into the game very much the favourites as the Premier League champions faced off against the FA Cup winners.
Liverpool undoubtedly had the advantage going into Saturday’s game, their season had ended earlier than Arsenal’s and had returned to training earlier. Though Arsenal had played a pre-season friendly against MK Dons, Liverpool were thought to be further ahead, having beaten VfB Stuttgart in Kitzbühel and drawn against Red Ball Salzburg in Wals-Siezenheim.
There were a few changes from the side that beat MK Dons on the Tuesday; Emiliano Martínez returned between the sticks in place of Bernd Leno, Héctor Bellerín replaced Cédric Soares at right-back and David Luiz replaced William Saliba in the centre of defence. For Liverpool, a full-strength side, though with the notable absence of Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Liverpool got the game underway and immediately began to dominate. Liverpool’s patented gegenpress system focused on overloading Arsenal’s defence from the flanks, with Andy Robertson enjoying several attacks down Arsenal’s right-hand side. Liverpool were able to draw fouls from the flanks and had the ball in the back of the net only to have the linesman’s flag raised.
Despite Vigil van Dijk’s disallowed goals, Liverpool’s efforts didn’t seem to trouble Arsenal too much. Martínez was called into action every now and then, but for the most part, Liverpool seemed to lack the final ball necessary to really punish Arsenal.
To everyone’s surprise, it was Arsenal who took the lead. A criticism of Arsenal since the departure of Arsène Wenger has been around the team’s apparent insistence in playing-out-from-the-back, a tactic that was humiliatingly unravelled under Unai Emery, seems to have been perfected under Mikel Arteta as Arsenal let rip a devastating counter-attack which started with Martínez. A clever ball down the right-hand flank from Bellerín released Bukayo Saka, who’s cross-field ball found captain, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who compensated for young Neco Williams’ poor positioning to curl a stunning effort beyond the fingertips of Alisson Becker to give Arsenal an admittedly undeserved lead, with the Arsenal captain celebrating with the trademark “Wakanda Forever” celebration in honour of actor Chadwick Boseman, star of the famous Black Panther films, who sadly passed away with colon cancer the same day.
Arsenal came close again with Eddie Nketiah’s effort being kept out by Alisson, though Arsenal never really troubled the Brazilian much beyond that.
As half-time came and went, it was very much one-way traffic. Liverpool’s extended pre-season definitely aided them more than Arsenal and the North London side’s tiredness began to show and Liverpool took full advantage.
But for all their pressure, Liverpool just didn’t seem to be able to put the ball in the back of the net, with Sadio Mané missing a number of guilt-edged chances. However, in the 59th minute, Neco Williams was replaced by Takumi Minamino, who began to cause Arsenal some real problems. The Japanese forward’s quick feet and incisive dribbles began to undo a lot of the handwork that the Arsenal defence had done up until that point and it wasn’t totally surprising to see Minamino equalise in the 79th minute.
Arsenal managed to withstand the subsequent Liverpool pressure, thanks in no small part to birthday boy Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who worked tirelessly to keep out Liverpool’s wingers.
As the final whistle blew, penalties beckoned. The Community Shield eschews traditional added time and instead goes for the jugular with a penalty shootout. After a coin toss, Liverpool went first.
The two teams were neck-and-neck in the penalty shootout until Liverpool youngster Rhian Brewster’s penalty skimmed the top of the crossbar. From then, Liverpool were waiting for Arsenal to miss, but Cédric Soares, David Luiz and Aubameyang all converted their penalties to give Arsenal the win.
Much like the game in July, it wasn’t the most deserved victory for Arsenal, but unlike in July, where Arsenal had very much been holding on for dear life, Saturday’s game looked like Arsenal were a little closer to perfecting the formula of what Mikel Arteta wants from his side.
In July, Dani Ceballos and Granit Xhaka had both been routinely bypassed by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Georginio Wijnaldum, however, Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny stood their grounds and frequently caused problems for Liverpool’s admittedly makeshift midfield, with Virgil van Dijk constantly berating Wijnaldum and Fabinho for careless possession losses.
In defence, Arsenal looked solid. Though David Luiz had only one day of training prior to the match, he lined up well with Rob Holding and Kieran Tierney, who managed to keep Roberto Firmino quiet. Firmino’s silence in the match is likely what aided much of Arsenal’s defensive performance. The Brazilian thrives on dropping deep to collect the ball and finding pockets of space to exploit, but David Luiz, Holding and Tierney kept the Liverpool number nine quiet for much of the match before his substitution in the 82nd minute.
The performance of Ainsley Maitland-Niles caught the eye as well. The full-back was able to nullify Sadio Mané’s threat in the second-half and was perhaps the only full-back capable of matching the Senegalese winger for pace. Maitland-Niles was assured going forward but knew when to stay back to protect the Arsenal shape and his man-of-the-match award was as well deserved as his subsequent England call-up just a few hours later.
Arsenal recently rejected a £15m from Wolves for Maitland-Niles, but with a man-of-the-match performance against the champions, another bit of silverware under his belt and a subsequent England call-up, it’s likely that his valuation has only increased further.
Though the Community Shield is perhaps not the same as winning a Premier League or any other competition for that matter, it is still a trophy that all teams want to win when playing in it and for Arsenal and Mikel Arteta, it extends the belief in the side that there is a quiet revolution brewing for Mikel Arteta’s side.
The performance has also solidified the need to confirm the signing of Gabriel Magalhães from Lille as soon as possible and an extension for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as well, as the Gabon forward once again proved his metal at Wembley, though thankfully, this time, he didn’t drop the prize.
Arsenal team: 26.) Emiliano Martínez 2.) Héctor Bellerín (Cédric 59’) 23.) David Luiz 16.) Rob Holding 3.) Kieran Tierney (Kolašinac 82’) 15.) Ainsley Maitland-Niles 34.) Granit Xhaka 25.) Mohamed Elneny 7.) Bukayo Saka (Willock 82’) 14.) Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (c) 30.) Eddie Nketiah (Nelson 82’)
Arsenal subs: 1.) Bernd Leno 4.) William Saliba 17.) Cédric Soares 24.) Reiss Nelson 28.) Joe Willock 31.) Sead Kolašinac 32.) Emile Smith-Rowe 47.) Tyreece John-Jules 54.) James Olayinka
Liverpool team: 1.) Alisson Becker 76.) Neco Williams (Minamino 59’) 12.) Joe Gomez 4.) Virgil van Dijk (c) 26.) Andrew Robertson 5.) Georginio Wijnaldum (Brewster 90+2’) 3.) Fabinho 7.) James Milner (Keïta 59’) 11.) Mohamed Salah 9.) Roberto Firmino (Jones 82’) 10.) Sadio Mané
Liverpool subs: 13.) Adrián 8.) Naby Keïta 16.) Marko Grujić 17.) Curtis Jones 18.) Takumi Minamino 21.) Konstantinos Tsimikas 24.) Rhian Brewster 67.) Harvey Elliott 89.) Billy Koumetio