The weekend did not go for Arsenal at all. We’ve gone from an outrageous unbeaten run with dreams of the promised land, to being level points with United inside a month. Our next three Premier League fixtures are Chelsea, Cardiff and Manchester City. 6th place isn’t worst case scenario, it could be looking very appealing if the aforementioned games go poorly.
The things we loved at the start of his tenure have gone from strengths to looking distinctly like weaknesses. He’s going to have to adapt and move the team. I think Arsenal fans were all expecting a turbulent ride this season, but I don’t think anyone was expecting outright regression after investing £70m in 5 players that are regulars in the first team.
The manager has a huge fight on his hands. If we tank and there are no signs of improvement by the end of the year, serious questions have to be raised about the idea of giving cash to fund an unclear vision. In the short term, he has to prove he has what it takes to guide the next 2.5 seasons. He needs to get the players back on message, he needs to excite the fans and he needs to make aggressive inroads on the basics.
Areas for Improvement…
The real litmus test for me this season was the Liverpool game. Could we go up to Anfield and give the best team in the country a real game of football. We’ve been used to watching Wenger take a battering for years, trying to play the beautiful game with ugly players. I expected Emery to have a better plan than the open borders strategy he enacted. Emery needs a better plan if we’re to survive the next two top 6 games. He has to find a way of tightening our backline, whilst simultaneously crafting a system that gives our attacking players more options. We cannot take a hammering from Chelsea and Manchester City like the one we took at Liverpool.
Emery made it a priority to address the defence. We have three clean sheets to our name. Leicester, Everton, Wolves, Brighton, Palace and Newcastle have all conceded less goals than us. We bought a new keeper, a center back, 2 holding midfielders and a right back. We should be doing better. You cannot pass off bad defending as a Wenger issue. It is a coaching problem. He needs to work out how to shake things up defensively, especially as we’re creating less chances. There is no excuse that will rub when poverty teams are out defending you.
The Problem Children:
When Emery benched Ramsey and Ozil in the beginning, it felt like it was for the good of the system. As we’ve moved seamlessly from bliss to crisis, it’s increasingly clear we’re being masochistic in not playing them, and sometimes, not even bringing them into the squad.
The manager has to utilise the tools he has at his disposal better. He can’t just wash his hands of a player who will believe he can outlast the manager. We can’t pretend that Aaron Ramsey, a player picked off by Juve, is of no use to a team that’s joint 5th in the league. If the system you are operating has you conceding more goals (3 clean sheets all season), creating less chances, and playing uglier football, maybe the system is not a good one?
I have flip-flopped on Mesut Ozil because the outlook on who we’re looking to replace him with is grim. I also don’t think he’s going to leave us. If there were no takers when he was a £140k a week player with 3 months left on his deal, who the fuck is going to buy him now? Surely there is another roll of the dice. If we get him fired up like he was against Chelsea in the league cup last season, he’d be an asset.
Emery was supposed to be able to enact creative strategies to maximise our player’s talent. He needs to get his thinking cap on and work out how to get the most out of two names who can bring finesse to our final third. Picking a battle with your best players only looks smart if you’re winning. The club is currently pleading poverty, there’s no chance of a permanent signing in January, so why not bring them in from the cold?
Halftime subs were my drug of choice for the first 10 games. A manager who could admit when he was wrong, make devastating changes and win games was all I needed. Now we’re in January and he’s led at halftime once, it’s clear that this isn’t clever management, it’s shocking indecision and a lack of understanding about how to get the most out of his squad. He needs to get better at team selection and he needs to stop using halftime subs, because it makes him look amateur and it cannot be good for the squad to see the same thing happening game after game.
Those are three areas he has to gun for. I didn’t want to have a section for players, but it does seem clear to me that he’s grossly underestimated the need for energy in the middle of the park. I really can’t understand how any manager can look at the contributions of Xhaka over the past three seasons and think it’s ok to persist with him at the base of our midfield. His passing contributions might be electric, but no outfield player has been the cause of more goals from errors than him (in the entire league). This isn’t out of the norm, it’s happened every year. We need to ship him off the Italy, because he’s an absolute liability.
An interesting observation on how odd this season has been is looking at the captains selected at the start of the season.
Koscielny: Too old
Just give it Sokratis and be done with it. Is that not a move we could all agree would be good one?
Finally, I thought this comment from Valentin was interesting. He’s a French Arsenal fan who followed Emery at PSG.
‘There will be a massive difference between what will be said before he start working, and what the fan will see in reality. Brilliant at explaining how he wants in team to play in interview, mediocre tactician in reality. Breath of fresh air with his early substitutions, clueless initial setup and then change for the sake of change without actual long term strategy. Excellent management and will alienate most of the players. Strong leader not afraid of confrontation, petty control freak ready to isolate his best players. Europa League winner, Europa League manager not Champion’s league manager. Will make good use of the youth team, will misuse the youth team and not properly bed them in lesser competition. Have a small group of trusted players, Will not rotate a small number of players until they physically broke down.’
Let’s hope Arsenal isn’t a rinse and repeat.
Right, I have a BANGER of a post dropping at 0930. Tune in, it took me ages to write and it’s full of hope.