GONNA MISS U xArsenal bowed out of the top 4 race to rapturous boos. The days of a good old Glorious Failure™ are long behind us, yesterday marked the crescendo of one of the meekest season finales since Lost. A total bottle job.
We couldn’t beat 17th placed Brighton. Say the Premier League has no easy games, tell me we were unlucky, you can make all manner of excuses, reality is, Unai Emery has taken 4 points from 18. That is appalling.
Before I get into this, there are two elements to the demise. Part 1: is that the manager isn’t good enough. There’s no hiding from this reality. I will absolutely not accept that it was an insurmountable challenge to improve the areas set out by the manager himself at the start of the season (better defence, be the protagonists, entertain the fans, mental strength). Part 2: we are clearly broken from a structural perspective. That also has to improve. However, I don’t want to wait a year to fix part one. Get a good coach in place and make sure next year isn’t shaped in a pricey manner by someone who isn’t the standard required.
Part 1: Emery has somehow managed the feat of regressing the team as the season has worn on. He has no real track record in the upper echelons of elite football. He’s a Europa League specialist, and that, unfortunately, is exactly what the football has looked like.
Unai Emery didn’t tank in an unfair fixture pile-up against Premier League powerhouses. He dropped points against Everton, Palace, Wolves, Brighton, and Leicester. Teams which he couldn’t motivate players he’s had a year with. Teams he couldn’t effectively strategise against.
When the early season celebrations of a 22 game unbeaten run (best since 2007) were being hyper-analysed, the general consensus was analytical coaching, no-nonsense beasting of fragile minds, and elite tactical genius. 5 months on, I’m struggling to re-up ‘the players have to hold their hands up’ excuse so many afforded Wenger. The squad wasn’t ever going to challenge for the title, but it was always top 4 capable, hence the undeniable fact that we were in it as of yesterday.
How do you look at the mess of Brighton and not wonder what we bought into? Where was the organisation? Our formation shape-shifted so much it was hard to grasp what the plan was. Once again, at the back, no one knew what they were doing. Brighton got in behind us with ease, if it weren’t for Leno, we’d have lost (RIP Cech, glad you didn’t start).
Going forward, our elected strategy seemed to be to attack from wide positions and whip balls into two extremely dominant centre backs. We hit 41 crosses into their box. We had 16 corners that all went nowhere. Why didn’t Emery switch it up?
The commentator mentioned that the manager and his team stay up regularly until 2am watching videos for analysis. What the fuck are they watching? Is he bingeing Ken Burns war docos, because I’m struggling to see the output on the pitch.
If he has a whole team studying back catalogues, why does he keep playing into the strengths of the opposition?
Did he not know Crystal Palace was a monstrously powerful side of bully boys? Why did he play a teenager and a journeyman in the middle? Why did he play a Championship player that wears Arsenal pyjamas to the office? Why did he offer up ZERO intensity for a tough but fairly standard Premier League game?
Did he know that Wolves counterattack?
Why did he give Leicester so much possession when they have highly competent players who can unlock defences?
‘But these are Wenger’s players!’
Let’s look into that.
Mikhi: Been with Emery longer than Wenger
Auba: Been with Emery longer than Wenger
Lacazette: Player of the season
Iwobi: Emery had greatly improved him (apparently)
4 of the starting 11 are his. 2 of them have been with him longer than Wenger. One of them is a player of the season that’s being linked to Barcelona. One was supposed to be the kid he developed into a real boy.
Outside that, are you telling me it’s beyond the realms of possibility to hope that the manager could have worked out a way to do something to coach the players? If we’re reducing the argument about him down to spending a bucket load of money, why did we hire him? Was that Emery’s pitch? ‘Give me cash.’ If it was, we should have hired in a better big club coach, or, you know, had some money.
If it wasn’t, where is the coaching? Which players are better? As a collective, why are we so limp wristed? Why aren’t we more intelligent? Why are we not moving the needle in defence, attack or from an artistry perspective? Watching Arsenal is like dealing with a thunderous hangover after 3 nights on the town with late 1970s Berlin Bowie. Our football should be the Bowie after party. It should set my heart racing on a Sunday, not have me dual screening ASMR videos of iceberg lettuce, enjoying the lettuce more.
Only one player up until today has started 30 league games this season, Mustafi.
Granit Xhaka has been an absolute joke for 3 seasons now. If you had watched 4,000 hours of Arsenal for a job interview, prepared a presentation for the ages, would anything you saw of the Swiss convince you he was the future of our midfield? Well, it seems he was integral. What was the plan for a player who can’t run, is immensely weak, and has the habit of dropping assists for the opposition when he’s bored? Why is anyone entertaining the idea of him being a worthwhile asset at 26 years old? He’s a fucking disaster. He’s the footballing equivalent of William H. Macy in The Cooler. You don’t stop being a dunce after 99 league appearances.
It has been clear for 3 years+ that the pair of them are not good enough. If you were a ruthless monster of a manager, why would you not go out in January and loan in two players to help? Could have been Gary Cahill. Could have been Tielemans, a player that started his career in a deeper midfield role. He’s athletic, talented and he’s been a revelation (11 starts, 3 goals, 5 assists for Leicester).
Who did Emery absolutely insist on?
Suarez. Giving Barcelona £2.5m and covering the wages of a player who looks like he’d have a breakdown if he heard you use the wrong gender pronoun at a party. It’s unforgivably bad.
Even worse, we spent the whole of January trying to shift on a player Emery had passed on from an ability perspective (Aaron), only to bring him back in from the cold to find out he was, in fact, our best player. Emery yanked that deal, he didn’t fancy him, that is what I heard from a very good place. Don’t believe me, answer me this, why did he drop him at the end of September? If Raul wanted to move him on, and Emery loved him, he’d play him, no doubt. Raul does not pick the team. I can see the merit in saying the Ramsey injury killed us, but at the same time, the same manager dropped him out of his 22 game unbeaten run. Also, do you really believe our collapse is related to one player? Naive, fam, real naive.
Part 2: Arsenal is in a precarious position. The club has been left with Raul, who looks like a total hack if I’m honest. We have a manager most people could see was an unambitious hire from the start. No sauce, no balls, no progress. We are basically on track to be a midtable team next season according to our xG points total, which sigh all you like, has tracked the demise of OGS and Emery, and has us in 7th this season. We don’t have a head of recruitment in place to course correct a ship that is veering towards the rocks, though I suspect we’re getting closer to a new TD.
There appears to be no love for the club at exec level. There is no leadership. There is no vision or plan to escape the mess.
But fear not, we aren’t Sunderland who dipped and never came back. Arsenal has everything needed to climb the heights again, however, it might take a few years before we realise the club is stocked with a lot of bad actors that have shite ideas and no talent to see them through.
Spurs might have lost 19 games this season, but they made top 4 without spending a penny, they are in the Champions League semi, and their wage bill is £80m less than ours. Dortmund has an electric setup and they keep making it better by being the best place for young players from around the world to develop. They keep the club funded by sourcing youthful gems and flogging them for massive fees. Outrageous that they sold Pulisic for so much, with Sancho easily looking a £130m player. Ajax… just look at Ajax, look at the beauty, it’s no accident, it’s a visionary plan that was executed with precision by people that give a fuck.
Arsenal has more to offer than both of those clubs. We have prestige, a heritage of winning, unreal facilities, we have class, a massive stadium, a London postcode and more money than any of the clubs doing BIG things on a budget. Remember, Atleti has spent £79m net since 2012, we spent that last summer. They have been to two CL finals, won a super cup, and the Europa League.
We just need someone to come and unlock the Arsenal HOT sauce cupboard.
We need to be led by a bold, forward facing visionary that didn’t win the lottery by landing at Arsenal. No, we need someone who feels they won the lottery and has a massive chip on their shoulder about success and legacy. Raul must have struggled to comprehend his luck when he met the softest CEO in world football and was offered a job. The equivalent of a Sultan opening his pockets at Covent Garden station and inviting the street urchins to plunder them.
He seems happy to plod along, not pester the owner, and make as much cash-money before he ducks out the back door for another desk job at Barca.
We need someone to reposition a new Arsenal. The fans don’t need gassy Ivan-like promises that have no substance, are weak enough to falter upon the interrogation of a 12-year-old lemonade stand entrepreneur, with no one accountable for delivering. We need to hear an honest appraisal of the club, a vision for who we want to be, and a realistic 3-4 year plan of how we’re going to get back to the top.
Arsenal basically has unlimited resources when it comes to hiring the best talent in the world. We just need someone who knows what sort of talent is required, and how to find the best of it in the darkest crevices. I don’t want someone coming in and bringing all their mates. I want a leader that knows the sort of football they want to play, then goes on the hunt for the right sort of team to deliver it.
I want best in class when it comes to pressing. Someone who has a visionary philosophy of what it should be and how to implement it. I want the best minds when it comes to defence, attack, and goalkeeping. Let’s take an NFL approach, it’s not like the Premier League hasn’t consistently borrowed from America, why not create specialist roles for areas that need specialist thinking? Charge those people with improving the output of the club. Bonus them.
‘Concede less than 50 goals and we’ll give you a Nando’s gift card’
‘Increase the number of balls we win back in the opposition half by 20% and you can take the training ground guinea pig home for a week, DON’T FEED IT TO A SNAKE YOU BEAST’
Let’s look at the support staff. Who is looking after the minds of the New England Patriots (John Sullivan)? Who is working with the All Blacks (Gilbert Enoka)? I want that person as our in-house psychologist. Fuck motivational posters on the wall. Why are we be rolling with the guy who helped Wenger crash the mental aptitude of this squad over 3 years? If Unai is high performance, can he please tell the fans what this guy offers?
Who are the best scientists in the world working in innovative new sporting fields that can help train our kids to think better on the pitch? What are we doing in VR? How well is our data being used? What the fuck is up with video analysis, someone take Pornhub off Emery’s PC and make him look at the actual games.
All of these challenges and opportunities can be addressed by understanding the real problems and designing our way out of them with the best bodies on the ground. But my key ask here is this: Do not hire in someone who is going to look at us like Sevilla. Do not hire in someone who is going to look at us like Barcelona-lite. Hire in people who are talented enough to look at our history, assess the tools and resources they have at their fingertips… and task them to create something epically beautiful.
Leadership. Vision. Talent. PLUS the hard work and the energy to see things through.
Arsenal is on life support even if we do make the Europa final. Champions League eases the money worries, but it doesn’t solve for the future. We’d simply be kicking the managerial can of reality down the road for another season.
We have chronic structural issues that if left to fester, will leave us an irrelevance in the world football for years to come. The owner has to act now, compounding bad decisions with more bad decisions will take Arsenal to a place that is going to be too hard to recover without massive expenditure. There are inexpensive options that can save us. We just need a vision and the right team of experts to deliver it.
The on-paper plan from Ivan was good. It hasn’t worked. Let’s hope Josh opens his eyes and makes some ballsy decisions this summer before it’s too late.
See you in the comments xx