Well my darlings, here we are, JUDGE ME IN MAY has landed and the judgement is that we made a terrible mistake with the hiring of Unai Emery.
We have nothing to show for the season. No underlying improvement in positive statistics, no sense of style on the pitch, and no belief from the players.
Emery added £73m worth of talent last summer, mostly to the defence, and after a full preseason and a year with the players, we actually look worse.
For a manager that boasts of being the king of video analysis, I again find myself asking what the fuck he’s watching. We had no game plan for one of the most rigid managers in the league.
Emery regularly talks about passion and character, where was it yesterday? He couldn’t motivate his team to turn it on in a cup final.
He speaks of making big decisions, well, it seems like the biggest decision he made this year was binning Aaron Ramsey, but when it came to benching Chelsea’s new Sporting Director, a man that jibed the lack of pressure at Arsenal this week, he faltered. I love Petr Cech, he’s going to be a banging asset for Chelsea now, but that decision set the tone for the evening. Sentimentality over winning.
But be real people, Emery has said on two occasions this season that the reason he likes Arsenal is there isn’t the same pressure to win. He literally said it this week. That thought is a sporting atrocity that could only be said out aloud at Arsenal. I don’t like that anyone is comfortable enough to opine like that as a manager, to say it twice, the second time on the eve of a cup final is outrageous.
The game itself was bland. Both teams were shite. Yet somehow we were the team to concede 4 goals. The defence was utterly shambolic, we had no power in midfield, we created next to nothing for most of the game (two shots on target all game). Ozil hid in the shadows, not his worst game, but yet another example of how uninterested he is in playing for Emery, and how badly the manager has worked with him. Willock came on and immediately looked more dangerous. Chelsea seemed to let Xhaka have all the space he wanted, presumably because his searching balls were mostly feeding players not fit for the one-track system of findings players on the overlap.
The one highlight of the game was Iwobi who scored an absolute screamer. An unreal strike that deserved to be a winner.
So where do we go from here?
Emery finished 5th in the league. He bet it all on Europa glory, in my view, because winning four trophies on the bounce was more attractive for his resume. That adversely impacted our season. We blew games like Palace because of Europa. We took strong teams away to weak teams. We allowed Aaron Ramsey to play injured, because of Europa. We held our judgement on a poor body of work, because of Europa.
Now it’s all said and done, Arsenal have reaped what they hired. We shot for Europa League and we missed. We bottled our hiring policy last year, and we paid the price.
In football, there is no such thing as an interim manager. That’s a mythical crock of shit. You hire for what you aspire to do as a club. We hired in a supposed safe pair of hands that knows Europa League. When you aim low and miss, the consequences are thick, bland and tasteless. We should have hired someone with a vision, someone with ambition, some with charisma and firm grasp of the English language.
The only good thing to come out of yesterday is that Emery’s demise just took a shot of steroids to the arm. That failure was brutal. 4 points from 18 at the backend of the season was a world-class bottle job. 4-1 in a final to a team that’s been shite all season was hugely embarrassing. This was a Kevin Keegan-eque collapse. Tell me this, now the dust is beginning to settle, would any other club aiming to be the best tolerate what has happened at the tail end of the season when ideas are supposed to have settled?
Raul can talk about beautiful structures. He can point to a tepid vision of proudness. He can excite you with buzzwords. But the brutal reality of elite sport is if you fill that structure with average talent, you’ll always be average. Arsenal’s owners need to take a realistic look at what they are building and map Raul’s words to reality.
Do we have the best manager for what we’re trying to achieve? No.
Do we have a footballing vision anyone can believe in? No.
If stasis was acceptable, we should have taken a risk on a bolder hire.
If great football and results is what we’re aiming for, we should fire the manager right now and go all in on Allegri. He’s out of a job and nothing looks like it suits him right now. You’d be hiring in Juventus IP, a winner, a man of great charisma, a person that could address a defence inside a year, a manager that up until last year was making Champions League finals with free transfers and small transfer budgets.
David Dein would do it. This is our Bruce Rioch moment, except we’d not be moving on a manager that achieved his goals. We’d be course-correcting a mistake that’s been glaring since November.
Arsenal is at an important crossroads. We have no Technical Director, no Chief Scout, and an average manager we’re about to let loose with a small budget.
Decisive action needs to be taken, otherwise we’re heading towards a mediocrity that is going to become harder and harder to escape.
See you in the comments.