As you know, I’ve been quite interested in Unai Emery’s attack on some of the entitlement that goes on at Arsenal. We all knew there were a few areas he was going to have address this season. Ramsey’s lack of discipline, Xhaka’s ineptitude, the overall lack of giving a fuck at Arsenal… then there was Mesut.
A sublime talent that no one in Europe would take a punt on last season, even when he was in the last year of his deal. A player who takes sick days like he’s being bullied at school. A player who floats in and out of relevance. A player who divided fan opinion at a club that was desperate for a megastar.
Yet we still gave him the mother of all contracts to avoid losing him for nothing last summer.
Whether that was CEO ego, or football strategy, one thing is for sure… right now, the deal doesn’t look like good value for money.
The big question I have sits around his power in the dressing room.
How big a personality is a bonified member of the Bling Bling Gang when it comes to the Arsenal dressing room?
I ask, because Emery really is biting off a lot of meat this season. He’s gunning for anyone who can’t work out his system, and he’s taking no prisoners. He’s imposing himself in the club at a rapid pace in order to make sure there can be no excuses for failure this season. The big question is how will the rest of the squad react?
Has Emery hedged his bets that most of the squad find his salary repugnant? Does he gather that most of the boys think he’s a bit of a passenger? Is he guessing that this sort of equality of expectations is going to stand him on good footing?
I hope so. The simple fact of football management is there is a hierarchy. There is no such thing as equality in sport. The way your position is defined in football is usually through talent. You can have a big personality, but if you’re shite, no one is going to pay attention to you. So that begs the question, how much sway does Mesut have with a dressing room that must know he’s a vital part of them getting back in the Champions League this summer? An achievement inextricably linked to their bonuses?
Mourinho is a big fan of rolling into a club and dominating a favourite. He did it to Juan Mata at Chelsea, Rooney at United, Cassilas at Madrid and a little bit of Joe Cole when he was at Chelsea the other time. He goes in, swings his dick, shows the rest of the players unequivocally who is the boss. It works when you’re Jose, because the reality is, he IS the biggest persona in the dressing room and that’s the way he rolls. Not just that, he has the titles to back his credentials.
Emery is a different breed of manager. He tried similar things at PSG in his first year, working his hardest to control big names like Neymar, and it failed. He tanked the one-horse race, then spent the second season being a bitch to the big names. He even said as much in his GFFN interview where he spoke about just letting genius be genius.
Tell that line to Guardiola who will laugh at you.
So here’s the thing, it sounds like Emery is going to war with Mesut Ozil. If he wants to make this work, he has to pray to the footballing gods the football backs up playing hardball with the number one chance creator, space maker, shadow defender the world has ever seen. Because if it goes wrong, it will impact the managers judgement.
Arsenal players knew they couldn’t oust Wenger, so working on a go-slow was never an option, but these players know there’s little connection between Emery, the fans and the board. If they want to end the manager, they can do that now.
It’s also a tough spot to be in. How much of a protest can you make with a player who costs you £1.5m a month? That sort of carryon can only go on so long, because it’ll piss off sponsors and it’ll embarrass the CEO and the new backroom team. Targetting Ozil is absolutely the correct thing to do, but it’s also the most politically charged when you think about it.
Most fans will respond like the players. I’m happy to see the manager throw his weight about, but really, the hope for me is that he inspires people like Mesut to play for him. Reality is the German was NEVER going to be able to track Jorginho, because he’s just not built that way. We’re going to have to find a role for him that he can thrive in, and one that comes with less defensive duties. It’s a chance for Emery to get creative.
Ivan Gazidis and Raul made a cataclysmic mistake spending £350k a week on a player we all knew had commitment issues… but now it’s done and we have to make the most out of it. Motivating a player who doesn’t give a fuck about Arsenal is Emery’s biggest challenge. Making him fall back in love with a game that rejected him so brutally over the last year could cement his legend early on and it’ll go a long way to helping us crack the top 4.
Let’s see where this lands…
See you in the comment, and we’ll be back tomorrow with a podcast. x