Unai Emery continued his assault on the culture of entitlement at Arsenal when he dropped Mesut Ozil from the squad. The official line is that the German was ill, the smokey rumour is he found out he was being dropped and decided he wasn’t going to show for the squad. Either way, it says a lot about the challenges our new manager has with our most expensively remunerated player.
If he really was ill, that’d be the 7th time in 20 months. A quite staggering amount of sick days to pull when you don’t ride public transport, are fed and watered with outrageous precision, and you exercise almost every day of the week. Healthy adults who are athletes simply don’t get sick that often. The manager went all in on quashing the rift angle.
“This information isn’t true. I don’t know who started telling this information,”
“You ask me or the doctor of the club – he was sick.
“I spoke to him and the doctor and we decided he would not play. He left training to go home because he was sick. Today, I said to him come in if you feel better and today he feels better.
“Before the match he was speaking with me and the team. There is no problem with the player – ask the doctor and he will explain it.”
The manager has to deny the rift, he doesn’t want to be seen throwing players under the bus, but at the same time, he doesn’t want players leaking to the press that Mesut gets special treatment. My big question is this… if he’s too sick to play, but not sick enough to be at the ground in the dressing room, what sort of illness is this?
The game was a real mixed bag again. Arsenal went a goal down early on, our defence was utterly shambolic, and West Ham were taking great joy with the ease they were having getting in behind our unstructured high line. Their goal came when Anderson drove through our midfield from his own half unchallenged, he set up a one-two at the edge of the box with Arnautovic driving home with precision.
No one can say the game wasn’t entertaining, there was a real end to end battle going off, just a shame we looked so disorganized every time the ball came into our half. Hector Bellerin might be finding joy moving forward this season, but his defending has regressed to dangerous levels of awful. Time and time again, average players breeze in behind him. On a different day, the final score could have been very different.
Thankfully, we did pull a goal back very quickly, Hector broke in behind down West Ham’s right side, he drove a low cross into the six-yard box, with Monreal at the back post ready to take a touch and squeeze his shot in.
The second half came with Emery’s customary preseason-like realisation that he’d made a starting 11 mistake. Lacazette was once again needed to help Arsenal have any edge in attack. The Frenchman has the ability to bring people into the game as well as ferret out opportunities in and around the box. The goal was all about him, Aaron Ramsey fought the sun to head a loose ball back into the box, Lacazette brought the ball down on his shoulder, turned and crossed at Issa Diop who bagged himself an unfortunate own goal.
The manager also brought off the exciting, yet error-prone Guendouzi, replacing him with Torriera. It added a little more stability to the midfield, allowing Xhaka a bit more freedom to float the ball around like the distribution wizard he is.
We weren’t finished. The ghost of Arsene Wenger haunted the players for the last ten minutes, in a moment of madness, we’d committed all our players forward leaving Anderson to make a powerful driving run at our box, fortunately for us Lucas Perez was the recipient of his pass and he gashed the ball wide.
Emery gave WELBZ a little run-out, the Englishman fresh off the back of scoring a training ground goal from behind the goal, took time out to pick the ball 6 yards out, pirouette, and smash home for our 3rd of the afternoon.
The scoreline was a touch undeserving, but I’m not really in the mood to care, Emery has his first three points on the board and the players can take confidence in the methods and move onto the next game with a smile.
Emery was realistic about what was served up.
“It was very important to win, and we showed that we can win in difficulty, after 1-0 in the first half,” Emery told BBC Sport.
“We suffered with the transition in the first half, but we improved in the second half and controlled it more like we want.
“We need to improve in this transition to get the balance.”
I think the balance came in midfield, having Torreira on the pitch gave us bite in midfield and a bit more focus. Xhaka was free to cause problems without having to do the dirty work. I also thought Auba out wide with the more industrious Lacazette through the middle helped change our fortunes.
The big worry for me is that we don’t really have the players to carry out the manager’s dream. We don’t have much in the way of pace or directness to be a true counter-attacking threat. We also have a number of round pegs in square holes. Ramsey isn’t a number 10 for me. He’s great to lead the press, but he’s not really suited to creating the way we want. I also think Bellerin is becoming a huge problem for us, namely that he seems to be our only attacking outlet going forward, whilst being a huge liability at the back.
Our defence overall is a huge disaster at the moment, we have slow players trying and failing to implement a high line and something that looks like an offside trap. I appreciate this is all new to them, but it needs to improve and fast if we’re to break top 4 this season. Sokratis made some strong tackles yesterday, but he also looks off the pace. Oh what I’d give to have Koscielny back in the mixer.
All in all, a good day for Emery. I think the fans are fully behind passengers like Ozil being shown the bench when they deserve it, and I think everyone is enjoying how the side is starting to shape up. I don’t mean to be a gloater, but it does feel good that a new manager has come in and all the things we thought we were seeing with the German are the things Emery is fighting hard to address. Just a shame Ozil isn’t fighting for a new deal this year, think his behaviour might be a little less bratty.
The biggest takeaway: Ideas need to sink in a little faster and the defence needs to get into shape quickly, because if West Ham can open us up on demand, Liverpool are going to obliterate us in 7 games time.
Right, that’s me done. See you on the other side. x