Unai Emery went on the record with an interview from yesteryear, leaning hard into a garbled narrative of someone looking to deflect attention away from the obvious: Things are getting worse.
“At Arsenal it’s maybe the first time I feel that I have the support to build up from the bottom in order to get where we want to be.
“That allows us to work more for the long term and supports the kind of work we want to do here. After my experiences in Spain, Russia and France, I believe that people at Arsenal see football from the heart in a very distinct way.
“The question of whether you win, lose or draw is still important but there is always a respect for the football beyond the result.”
“That means you can do a more progressive job building the club without thinking only about results, because sometimes a result can hide solid foundations.”
The Sun ran two puff pieces that were no doubt arranged by the club. The way PR defence works in football is very simple. A well-read tabloid is offered an exclusive with someone who will drive clicks and hard copy purchases. The interview is conducted by a friendly ear who will usually ask predetermined questions. This allows a professionally crafted narrative to be spoonfed to fans with all the relevant buzzwords that make people feel good about something shite. Remember, fans are not pragmatic, they are hopeful, they want to be optimistic. Arsenal are experts in feeding hope.
Step 2: A chief sports writer will drop an ‘opinion piece’ follow-up that sympathises with the said narrative as part of the deal. (here)
Emery essentially told the world that Arsenal is a little different to his previous clubs because they don’t put pressure on him to win. Which is exactly the opposite reason he was hired. He was supposed to bring an elite shift in mentality to a squad of pampered children. Here’s what said when he was hired.
Big players. Big ambition.
“This team is a big team, with big players, and we think we need to change little things – a few players.”
“The target is to be a candidate and to challenge for the title. It is very important for the club, after two years outside the Champions League, to work this way, to be the best club, the best team in the Premier League and also in the world.”
A focus on better attack.
“I want to create a team that know how to exploit the space, are able to counter-attack, or when there’s no space, calmly find a way to create openings. We are in that process: create an idea, a style, be competitive. We came to an Arsenal that hadn’t beaten any of the Top 6, and while we still haven’t done so yet, they also struggled to win away from home at all, and we have already improved in that area.”
‘You can only take care of technique and attacking freedom, losing your defensive structure. What I want to do is unite the two and become more competitive. Arsenal were falling. We had to stop that and start to lift them.’
A gym a smidge closer to the training pitch.
‘Only little details like putting a gym next to the pitch to make the transition from gym to pitch easier. Purely methodology. The same idea remains as before.’
Less juice for men who consume 4000 calories a day.
‘Together with the nutritionist and the fitness coach, we decided to get rid of juice with sugar, but that’s normal and what I do at home: eat without sugar, less fat, healthier food. That’s it.’
The foundations he referenced have gotten weaker across the board. The defence is porous, there’s no creativity, and the style is absolutely drab. Oddly, the gym and juice move appears to have worked against overall fitness.
I think Emery cottoned onto the mess he was creating for himself halfway through and tried to rescue things with a garbled stab at how he might get fired.
“As a manager, I have always put myself under the pressure of the necessity to win.
“You know that winning allows you to either continue what you are doing or find another project.
This is not what we signed up for. We were supposed to push for top 4, now we’re making excuses, and telling the world there’s more to Arsenal than winning. What was the point in sacking Wenger if the plan was another long-term transition where we’d excuse failure?
Sarri moved to Chelsea, a team that played 5 at the back for two years, before that they played under Mourinho, both offered drab pragmatic football. Sarri installed a style by October. Is it perfect? No. Can you see where it’s going? Yes.
Bielsa, a bat shit crazy manager, took an uninteresting directionless team from 7th, to 1st, playing the most outrageous and joyous football Leeds fans have ever seen (that from my Leeds supporting uncle (away days levels of fandom)). Sure, they have a big wage bill, but so do Arsenal.
You can compare Emery’s record to Poch, Klopp and Guardiola… but that’s spreadsheet analysis. Use your eyes. What do you see? A club on a path to better? Or a club regressing under a manager who looks out of ideas?
The manager continues to look inconsistent and indecisive on and off the pitch. After freezing Mesut Ozil out in the hope he’d leave, he’s now decided the give him another go. Here’s what he had to say:
“With Mesut it’s the same. He didn’t play the last matches but to me he’s just like any other player. This Saturday he can be with us if he’s OK. Now? He’s training consistently with his work over the past two weeks and I think he can be.”
This, paired with Ornstein’s chatter on the player makes for good reading.
“He has no desire to leave, Mesut Ozil, so he won’t be leaving in the January transfer window. I’m told he’s working extremely hard to get himself fit. Reports coming out of London Colney is that he’s now doing extra gym work and he has a positive demeanour. He’s determined to work his way back into the side.
“The word was he wasn’t doing a lot of the extra work most players were, and he is now. I’ve heard positive things about his behaviour, his commitment, his relationships with the teammates.
Commendable he’s now giving him another chance, but the whole episode reads like an ego-driven attempt at commanding respect. I also feel like bringing Mesut back at the weekend against Chelsea is as bad as dropping Ramsey into the starting line-up against Liverpool. It looks like a preplanned scapegoat move.
Anyway, it’s clear he’s been burned by his experience at PSG where he was bullied into handing over power to Neymar so he could stay in his job. This was penned last year by the GFFN folk for the Guardian.
‘Neymar demanding to be the centre of attention is hardly surprising but Emery’s passivity and his eventual solution of allowing the players to sort out the disagreement between themselves only played into the culture of player power. There is no fear of rebuke for poor displays or selfishness as a significant chunk of the first team will be picked no matter what. As a result PSG lack any semblance of rigour or discipline and players dally in possession and struggle to find any intensity.’
This is Mourinho on young people.
— beIN SPORTS (@beINSPORTS) January 17, 2019
A lot of Arsenal fans dismiss the idea that Emery can be critiqued for his time at PSG, but I’d disagree. You need to work out a way of dealing with big names if you’re an elite coach (Enrique did, despite massive issues with Messi at the start). Communication is a massive part of any job. Young people expect to be able to communicate with their managers. They don’t believe in hierarchy. They have grown up in an access culture. You have to show love and as Mourinho said, ‘share power.’
Peak Mourinho lambasted Drogba in his prime for meeting Milan behind his back.
‘OK, seeing as we are not kids we are going to talk.
“I trusted you – I’ve done everything for you and there you are telling me you’re going to the dentist in Paris when in fact you’re in Milan talking over your transfer.
“You lied to me. You didn’t keep your word. Have you been badly brought up or what?”
He benched him for a bit, brought him in from the cold, then watched a 34 goal season unfold. Jose knew how to deal with huge egos. The man had so much sauce in his prime. We need some of that. Think about it, our two best players are our freshest. A helluva weapon going into the next 5 months if we can make it work.
Back to the original interview.
The PR team at Arsenal need to understand that their strategies of appeasement won’t be tolerated by fans in the new era. There is no bond with Emery. Long-term plans and painful transitions won’t be tolerated unless there is clear progress on the pitch. That interview was a disaster. We cannot fall into the doomed trap of ‘more money’ being the requirement for progress when Spurs are ahead of us in the league after spending ZERO this summer, and we’re being out-defended by Palace, Brighton, Newcastle, Leicester, Wolves and Everton.
We hired a coach, time for him to start delivering. If not, we should find someone new in the summer. Simple as that.
Don’t fall for the dark arts of the Arsenal PR machine. We are better than that.
P.S. This is how you run a football club when you don’t have a sugar daddy. (LINK)