It’s been a bit of a rocky road for Unai Emery and his first ever Christmas crush. Dropping two points against Brighton felt like a bit of a disaster considering the defeat of City. The result also ruined the Spurs three points, and it’ll certainly take the edge off of any treasure we take from Liverpool tomorrow.
There are a number of things going at the moment that don’t look great.
Firstly, our starting 11s are being constantly challenged by the fact two of our potentially most effective players are either leaving or the club want them gone. The Brighton game was a prime example where you really could see a need for both players. Aaron Ramsey should have started, instead we rolled out with three defensive midfielders and the game was suitably uncreative. We dropped over 600 passes and managed only 4 shots on target. That’s not decisive, that’s an orgie of sideways passing.
Then you have the enigma of Mesut Ozil, the manager once again opted to start him, only to yank him at halftime for Alex Iwobi of all people. To me, it felt like Emery was making a statement to the board with this move. I felt like he was telling them he needed shot of both of them and he needed a replacement if he’s going to make a charge at top 4.
Our defence is absolutely atrocious. We’ve all witnessed it this season, but kind of let it slide because the results have looked good. However, after watching Brighton cut through us and have the better chances, it’s time to hold our hands up and say we have a really troubling problem here. Which is odd, because we finally solved the defensive midfield issue and everyone like Sokratis. So what is the challenge? Why can’t we deal with simple balls over the top? Why is it so easy to get in behind us?
We’re by no means in a crisis, and we’re sitting roughly where we’d expect to be. We’re the 5th best team in the country and I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. I just think a lot of our issues are of our own making. Arguably two of our best players are unusable and defending is a coaching issue.
I know this final point might not sit well with people, but I do think the team are struggling to craft out a defined style of play. It’s very robotic to watch and I think some of the joy we’ve had in the past playing through defensive blockages has gone. I don’t know whether there’s a phased approach to what Emery is trying to do, or whether it just needs better players, but it’s a lot of possession without an awful lot of output. You kind of hope if your defence is struggling, then maybe that’s because of expansive attacking football, but it’s not.
The Liverpool game is going to be interesting, because if we play like we did at Brighton, we’ll be chopped to pieces. I’m hoping there’s a big game mindset and that the adrenaline takes over, because we’re going to need to be on fire if we have a chance at winning that game.
Onwards and upwards.