A recent blog on another site accused fans of suffering from ‘one bad result syndrome’ in their perception of Unai Emery, which paved the way for further analysis of the current situation at Arsenal.
Are Arsenal supporters being unfair ? has the Emirates become the home of the irrational knee jerk fan, who has totally misunderstood Emery’s craft and intentions ? Or is Emery the victim of bad luck, which has resulted in a hostile backlash ?
The blog frivolously said that Arsenal fans had a spring in their step a few weeks ago after reaching third, one point behind Manchester City and went on to hint that fans were fickle in their reaction to the 1-0 loss against Sheffield United.
I agree that Arsenal fans can be fickle, Arsenal fans more so than most but there are a few things that the article failed to explore in depth.
Win, lose or draw, it’s the nature of the performances that fans are finding hard to accept. As grateful as supporters were at a result that misleadingly put them within spitting distance of last years premiership winners, their performances so far this season have been patchy, lacked sparkle and have generally consisted of one good half in a full 90 minutes.
The fact that paying Arsenal fans haven’t been fully rewarded for paying good money to watch this incarnation of Arsenal at home or away has definitely soured the palette and as a result, Emery’s own performance and choices have come into sharp focus.
If the performances have been hard to accept, then the Arsenal starting lineups have been even harder to digest. At Sheffield United, the Spaniard insisted on playing a defensively weaker side with Chambers on the right and Kolasinac on the left. No Bellerin, Tierney or Holding. No Ozil ( is there ever) No Cabellos or Torreira.
Against one of the best defences in the league, Emery decided to play his worst, only Mustafi’s appearance would have made the night complete in this respect.
Emery explained the high profile absences by saying he wanted to utilise all of his defenders. There’s a time and a place for experimentation and that’s normally the training ground. You won’t see Liverpool replacing van Dijk with ‘Tommy Stumbs’ in a champions league game to give him a run out.
Another glaring error is Emery’s insistence on playing out from the back which is doomed with his current personnel, it simply doesn’t work. It’s like giving snooker ace Ronnie O’Sullivan a scaffold pole to pot the black.
Emery also needs to forget the rotational bollocks and go with his best and strongest Arsenal side if he is going to achieve anything this term. That’s if he knows what that side is !
If he thought that the midfield was good enough to create an endless ocean of chances against Sheffield United, he was mistaken. If he was of the opinion that Chris Wilder was oblivious to Arsenal’s defensive weakness’s, he was naive. If he assumed Aubameyang would save the day again for him and Arsenal, he should have provided him with the creativity to make it happen or at least help him out.
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As the night wore on and Sheffield got their nose in front, it became increasingly clear that the array of millions of pounds worth of talent were unable to find a way to level the match, let alone win it. United’s squad worth a modest £82.31m was up against Arsenal’s £570.3m of talent, with one player, Pepe, nearly accounting for the entire Sheffield spend.
Yet, it’s not the figures that are important. The blades outperformed Arsenal, fought hard for every ball, showed a desire and willingness to work for each other and had the ambition to fashion an upset. Arsenal appeared to be listless, unimaginative and lacking energy and penetration, almost like a lower division side.
Emery’s own contribution saw him persist with captain Vanilla, Granit Xhaka, who repaid him by switching off to allow Mousset a simple tap in. Emery’s substitutions were, in my opinion, questionable. He waited far too long to change things up and by the time they happened, they were of no consequence.
Pepe should have made way earlier and Willock shouldn’t have started ahead of Ceballos and he contributed little for the opening 45 minutes. That’s not a criticism of this talented youngster, it’s one of his coach for putting him in a game that could damage his confidence.
Emery’s treatment of certain players is also something that causes concern. Ozil has been treated like a rabid dog and although I agree that he has underperformed, the situation has become embarrassing. It seems that Emery is now looking for another player to isolate and his name is Lucas Torreira.
If anyone is going to tell me that Xhaka deserves a starting place ahead of the ankle snapping terrier Torreira, they may need to question what they know about football.
Whether it’s persecution or ignorance, Emery is a man who enjoys walking the plank whilst setting it on fire behind him. He appears happy and untroubled to go to the nearest volcano and lean over the edge, just to check if it’s active or go bungee jumping with a wet and frayed cable.
Emery’s arsenal reign is under scrutiny because of these decisions, not one result but this season as a whole, even at this early stage. He is under the microscope because of choices and performances and don’t talk to me about the Europa league excursions, because Arsenal’s priority shouldn’t be in a cup that they completely embarrassed themselves in last year.
A second tier trophy for those that aren’t good enough for the top prize and which has offered the best of the worst in the Champions league a second bite of the cherry.
The premiership is the priority for Arsenal, not a cup Emery has claimed as his own over recent seasons. If that’s the level of ambition for Arsenal, the FA, EFL and Europa league cups, then Raul Sanllehi needs to think long and hard about the game plan.
The Arsenal board may see success in these competitions as progression but supporters will see it differently. The ability to compete in the premiership should always be the goal and by the very nature of winning or going close, champions league status is assured.
Having to win the Europa league last season to qualify for the CL was nothing short of desperate, after having squandered various opportunities to legitimately make the cut by finishing third or forth.
As the article suggested, one bad result is not enough to vilify Emery but one good result will not win a top four slot or get him a knighthood either. Arsenal fans, on the whole have been quite supportive in his first season but with new a host of new signings, expectations became inflated and possibly unrealistic.
However, Emery does nothing to help himself by making decisions to play lesser players or leave them at home in the sofa whilst looking through their bank statements.
Arsenal fans are looking for performances which suggest that the future is in good hands, they are looking for a level of excitement after having dined well in the mid 90’s and early Noughties on the best football dish in Europe.
They are looking for an Arsenal team that has endeavour, desire, creativity and ambition and a coach that understands how to achieve results in the most demanding league in the world.