It’s human nature that some individuals, when subjected to intense examination and relentless pressure, manage to intentionally or unintentionally, throw someone else under the bus. Unai Emery is feeling the pinch as the reality of being Arsenal’s head coach sets in amid the endless expectation and continuous judgement in only his second season.
The atmosphere has soured recently, with fans starting to become restless as they wait for the promised land that incorporates the type of expressive football that wins silverware with style and gains admiration.
Emery made supporters believe again in his first season as Arsenal went on a 22 match unbeaten run and things really took off when the gunners came back from 2-0 down to beat Spurs 2-4 at the Emirates but football is never that straight forward.
Arsenal then unraveled chasing a top four position, eventually one point away from qualification but the Europa league final defeat to an average Chelsea side exhausted any good will left over.
The summer lead to a spending spree that was totally unforeseen and the mood lightened briefly. Arsenal had reinforced, they’d managed to rid themselves of some average and injury prone players and hopes were high.
The season has so far shown Arsenal to be a rather bipolar side in many ways. Entertaining in the Europa league, frustrating and underwhelming in the premiership and the consensus seems to be that Arsenal are no further on than the day Wenger closed the door on his Arsenal tenure.
The difference being that Wenger provided years of entertaining football and unparalleled success on the way to establishing himself as a legend.
It was therefore unexpected that Emery should mention the problems he inherited from Wenger and even if it was somewhat lost in translation,
“When I arrived here, the creativity is more or less good, but being competitive was worse. It was not enough. I think last year I started to improve being competitive, also more or less creativity with some very good matches playing with that creativity.”
Some fans will see that as a dig at Wenger but to be honest that’s not really Emery’s style but it’s clear that Emery is frustrated and has decided to dish out the home truths.
Was Emery right ? Well, in a way yes. Wenger’s last two seasons were pretty awful, with only the odd sparkling display but the criticism would be more relevant had Arsenal qualified for the Champions league or won the Europa league cup under the Spaniard. That was a fairly unrealistic ambition in his first season and he failed in both and as a result, in the game of evaluation, Emery has nothing in the bank and should be mindful that Wenger had and still has, his die hard fans.
One high profile former player, that was fairly unforgiving on the jab at Wenger was Robin Van Persie. When asked if Arsenal had improved under Emery, he said,
“I don’t think so, I don’t think that Emery really connects with his players. I think they are still weak on set pieces, which was a problem at my time, to be honest. But everyone should feel responsible. Arsenal lose 12 to 15 points per season by set pieces. That should stop.”
The figures tend to support the lack of progress and show that Arsenal’s last 47 games under Wenger produced 26 wins, while the first 47 under Emery produced 25 wins.
Hardly a victory for Emery’s revolution but if you put it in terms of football eye candy, Wenger at present, wins that one by a considerable margin. Emery needs to keep that in mind.