by .

The Unai Emery rebuild has been drab; a touch like watching builders plaster your walls. Except it never ends. You’re waiting for the paint to go on so you can think about new furniture and all the sexy Ikea artwork you’re going to put up, but it never happens. The plasterer is still pointing out the mold, blaming Arsene Wenger for not looking after the basics from way back when. The Watford showing felt like us revisiting a familiar damp problem that never really went away.

The game was par the course for Emer-enger. We created very little. Our defence was porous. Our midfield couldn’t match up physically and didn’t offer any cover. Our transitions moving forward were fleeting and stingy. There was no leadership on the pitch. There was no style to speak of.

It was very Unai Emery, the ultimate footballing plasterer.

I am trying to offer up more balance to the way I report on him, but it’s tough. As you know, I was highly sceptical of the search and select process. The owners clearly didn’t do their due diligence / the job spec was wildly off. Emery struggled to control egos at PSG, he was painfully pragmatic, had no pedigree for building a defence, and couldn’t speak English in his interview. His hiring was about as rational as a petrol station birthday present run… NOW 47 in a plastic bag type scenes.

That said, I have to be fair, he had an excuse last season. He was picking up the pieces of a legendary manager that had lost his mind. The club lacked a winning culture. The professional footballers he inherited needed tactical education, they needed fitness, and they needed focus.

… he found the cure immediately and we all celebrated it. We went on a 22 game unbeaten run. The real issues came when Emery’s ideas settled and he’d beaten the last of Wengerball out of the squad.

It’s now been over a year. We can’t continue to make those excuses anymore. We have to judge what we see and we have to hold the manager accountable. So far, it’s very hard to excuse what we’re watching. Yesterday was a dark day.

Arsenal has conceded 96 shots so far this season. That’s the most of any club in the top 5 leagues. We shipped 31 shots against a team that was rooted to the bottom of the league. We have NEVER conceded that many shots in a game. Sure, many of those were speculative, but the reality is, no club should feel comfortable enough to rifle off that many attempts at your goal. No midfield should be gifting so much freedom to below-average players.

We created very little moving forward. Emery’s system lacks imagination and the players don’t seem to know what they’re doing. The brilliance of Auba continues to rescue us. That is not a sustainable plan. If it is the plan, then we need to be brutally solid defence so his goals from nothing count for something.

Arsenal were bullied physically. We couldn’t out-fight Watford for the full 90mins. It’s so simple to get at us, just pressure our defence and midfield. We struggle to play out of the back, our transitions are wildly inconsistent, and when things start going wrong there are no leaders on the pitch to drive us out of the mess.

We are still making individual errors. David Luiz had another poor performance, but look, how can you critique him, the midfield in front of him has no shape or structure. They let Watford bypass them all day, how are centre backs supposed to mitigate zero protection? The midfield was either in the backline defending too deep, or nowhere to be seen.

We are an absolute mess at the minute. Emery has picked up this season where he left off. He has better players, but he’s just as confused about the system he wants to play, and he’s totally out of his depth on how to fix our chronic issues. The job is hard, yes. But what top job isn’t? Did we not hire a coach? Did we not hire a master tactician who could outthink the opposition?

The reality is this: Emery lucked out landing the job at Arsenal. He is not top class. He’s an above-average manager – Everton levels at best. He’s a Quique Flores, a Marco Silva, or an Eddie Howe. He is not an innovator, he’s not a charismatic leader, and he’s not the next level we hoped for.

There’s no philosophy behind what he’s doing. There’s no style of play. We’re moving from game to game just trying not to lose. There’s a view that Arsenal fans can’t cope with pragmatism and that anyone of Emery’s mindset would face the same harsh criticism… maybe that’s true, but the reality is we’re suffering all the blandness of a pragmatic manager, but we’re not reaping the any of the rewards. We play 3 holding midfielders and we leak shots and goals. Today, we played a more attacking line-up and played like we had 3 holding midfielders. We are being slapped with stale football with the defensive rewards of a peak Kevin Keegan starting 11.

Allegri might play dry football. Conte might drill his teams in a robotic way. Peak Mourinho was cancer of the eyes… but they answered the critics with progress and results. Their philosophies earned clean-sheets, wins and trophies.

We’re a year into the new manager who has some beliefs.

No one liked the playing out the back thing last year, Emery persisted, then gave up. We’re back to square one again this season and he’s introducing the 2.0 version. It has been a tactical disaster and it cost us 2 points today. He’ll give up on it after a while, I’ve no doubt, because he doesn’t know how to coach this idea to success. Same with the pressing. Where has it gone? We don’t do it. We’re meek. Characterless. It’s so tough to watch.

Take the coaching out of the equation, let’s talk about what it takes to create a high-performance culture. To achieve this, you cannot have a single bad egg in the mix. One average person brings the entire place down. Elite talent is highly sensitive to shite. If they can smell it, and if it’s tolerated, it destroys the whole culture. That’s in the backroom team, that’s in the squad, that’s certainly in the first team.

If we’re truly trying to create a high-performance culture, tell me this, why is Granit Xhaka anywhere near the captaincy? The most important person on the pitch is the most error-prone, the most likely to throw a teammate under the bus, and the most likely to say beta male things in the post-match interviews. He’s even getting sideswiped by our best striker. Auba had this to say.

‘You could say that us attackers could have killed the game off and score a third goal, so I’m not going to say it is someone’s fault. It is a shame to concede goals like we did’

That is as subtly veiled as turning up to a Tinder first date wearing a condom on your face. When your captain and your best player are taking jabs at each other, it’s hard to believe the training camp is in great shape.

Xhaka is a mistake junkie, his skills are unsuited to the Premier League, and he is so far from high performance it aches my soul.

We still have the psychologist at the club that has overseen a cataclysmic decline in mental strength, we still have the motivational bus driver on the bench, the one that was banned for fighting at Palace, we still have all the bad apples at the club that were there last season. We collect average.

Having a good attitude and loving football does not make you elite. We need new ideas, we need an identity, we need someone that can communicate a vision, and see it through.

The start of the season has been bad. Objectively bad. Everyone excused Liverpool, but the warning signs were there. No one paid attention to Burnley having 18 shots because we won, but that was footballing equivalent of hearing rattles in the Utah lowlands (snakes Terry, snakes). We cannot continue to pretend that what Emery is doing is normal or transitional, because it’s just plain fucking bad. We’re struggling in a nice 26-degree heat to a bottom of the table team. If we don’t sort out our problems now, they will be amplified to a far more dangerous level when the cold sets in. This has to be addressed.

We’ve apparently spent next years money on delivering Champions League football, nothing else is more important than making top 4, the consequences for failure are unthinkable.

Over to Unai. See you in the comments. xx

490 Responses to “NEW LOW FOR EMERY”

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  1. Cesc Appeal

    It would have been nice to rest a lot of players on Thursday, but it isn’t the easiest of games for a Europa League group stage and also given our situation I actually think we need to field a decent team and start to build some consistency in some areas.

    I guess that Martinez will be played in goal but I’d go with a Chambers, Holding, Luiz, Kolasinac back line and then just hope that Bellerin and Tierney aren’t too far away.

    I’d go with the preferred midfield 3 of Torreira at CDM, Guendouzi at CM and Dani Ceballos at CM/CAM.

    Then a forward line of Pepe, Aubameyang, Martinelli.

    Rest would be great but this team needs to step it up and some players need to find form as well as the larger concerns of system and approach.

    The rest will come with easier Europa League games.

    I mean, WE said it after Luiz was signed but you could even use the game to try Luiz at CDM and put Chambers at CB next to Holding.

  2. KAY Boss

    Bati, plz no to Mourinho. He’s a living carcass of a dead coach. Guy now can’t coach to save his ego. A big fat NO to Mourinho.
    Ishola, I disagree on your take on the purchase of Pepe. We needed a quality wide player and he fits the bill. He’ll definitely come good. Though we could have gone for a quality defender. Sorry, I remember we already have Saliba in the bag albeit next season.
    Gooners, calm down. All ain’t lost. We shall surely come better.

  3. Ishola70

    The club have said before that they want to uphold certain Arsenal traditions.

    What traditions would that be then?

    I don’t think they are George Graham traditions do you?

  4. Gentlebris

    You guys talking so seriously about Eddy taking the role for the rest of the season as if any of us actually believe Arsenal will suddenly grow the balls to be rightly ruthless.

    Emery will still be saying good EBENING to us all next May.

    We are the Arsenal!

  5. Valentin

    Anybody who has seen Pepe in Ligue 1 last season knew that he would struggle in a different setup. He has been coached at length by Galthier and Bielsa before to play efficiently via some effective well coordinated movement. Those movements are designed to make use of transitions and turn-over.

    He is finding it difficult because Arsenal has no coordinated movement. Most of our goals have off the cuff individual movements. Also our attack is slow ponderous . Basically he is a counter-attacking player in a team that does not counter-attack.

  6. China1

    I don’t subscribe to us needing Eddie this season

    We have two elite CFs and an elite WF who can play CF. We also have martinelli whocan play CF I believe

    If the manager is smart with team selections and rotation, there will be more than enough cover. If he just does a wenger and picks the same 11 with all saidnplayers involved each week then that’s the managers fault rather than squad depth

    Eddie is going to get 3x more minutes at Leeds. Then by next season he’ll be clearly more developed. We already know at arsenal he’s be restricted to cup games and cameos. The season has barely started and he’s already got lots of minutes at Leeds and we can see the rewards in his confidence

    Young players need to play. Also the environment you play in matters. Do you think the irritating and unconfident arsenal style at present is an ideal environment for a kid to be thrown in? The arsenal fans are already edgy and jumping on every mistake, he will get slaughtered with us right now

    So far guendouzi has been one of our best players this season, but he was poor against Watford and overnight half the fans here think he’s a useless wanker with no ability or future. Eddie would be a casualty to this environment right now. 100% sure of it

  7. Trask

    Why hasn’t Emery been sacked… it is pointless to waste this year with him. Just pointless.

    Sack him now when the season can still be still be saved!

  8. salparadisenyc

    Just came out of a chat with some compadres this was the consensus :
    Emery’s Arsenal is bad at the things Wenger’s Arsenal was bad at, whilst also being bad at the things big Wang’s Arsenal was good at.

    A great combo for banter, no more a recipe for pain.

  9. jwl

    Leno comments –

    The inquisition began immediately after the final whistle in Watford and the German stopper said it took Emery’s calming nature to keep things under control.

    ‘Everybody was angry and disappointed after this game. The manager is a very positive guy,’ Leno continued. ‘He wants to be positive and he said we will analyse this game with time.

    Now everybody was with emotions, very mad and crazy. ‘But that is normal after the game. He said “calm down and then on Tuesday we analyse this game and then on Thursday we have another game.”’

    Read more:

  10. Tony

    Our boys throw their toys out the pram in the dressing room after the fact. That fixes nothing and Emery is a soothing mummy saying while dishing out pacifiers, “there there I’ll review the game to see where we went wrong tomorrow”

    Seems the Villa boys do it on the pitch with each other where problems can potentially be rectified.

  11. Emiratesstroller

    Arsenal will not make progress until and unless they put their Defence in order. That requires the Manager/Head Coach whoever that may be to ‘prioritise’ that department.

    A solid defence requires 4/5 competent players who play as a ‘collective’ and not as too many at Arsenal do by playing as individuals.

    Arsenal under both Wenger and now Emery have a history of playing wing backs who are more interested in playing upfield and poor in the defensive
    department of game. Both Maitland-Niles and Kolasinac are weak in defensively and that creates “stress” in centre back positions.

    I accept also the criticism that Xhaka lacks the pace and mobility to play in
    Defensive Midfield Role.

  12. Leftsidesanch

    ‘Why hasn’t Emery been sacked… it is pointless to waste this year with him. Just pointless.‘

    Well, the season is still young and we all know that he won’t be sacked after a capitulation that led to a draw. The ownership will look at the table 5 games in and see us level on points with our main rivals this year (Spurs, Chelsea, United, Leicester).

    Also, the ownership will come to realise that many Arsenal fans are a parody of themselves. All it requires is a response of a victory or three and all will be forgotten. Emery isn’t the man to take us forward but he’s not going to be shown the door from Sundays showing. He’s been given a rope and what he does in the next months will decide his fate.

  13. Leftsidesanch

    And Emerys stubbornness and consistency in trying to be too clever and shooting himself in the foot will likely see to it that his long term future isn’t here.

  14. China1

    Words or being angry and disappointed are cheap. You don’t need to wait until Tuesday to analyze what happened because the writing had been on the wall with this kind of play for ages

    You don’t do something badly 50 times then when the camels back finally breaks say ‘let’s have a look at what happened’. You should notice the creaking knee joints, and sounds of strain long before the back actually breaks

    Sort it out arsenal that’s some wenger bs right there

    Leno also said that emery is insisting we keep at this dumbass defensive passing game because it leaves loads of space for our strikers. BUT WE DONT UTILISE IT. We just struggle at the back with the ball. That’s all that happens.

    How many times have you seen us lure out an opponents midfield and attack then sucker punch them? How many times? For every time we’ve actually done that, we’ve had 20 times where we just had slow ponderous build up play amongst the CB and FBs or worse yet actual mistakes got made around our own box

    Use your eyes emery

  15. China1

    When there is nothing on, go long. This is low risk low reward.

    Insisting on going short is high risk low reward.

    On what planet does high risk low reward seem like a genius idea?

  16. Un na naai

    Spot on China
    This has been an issue from day dot under emery and he’s failed to address it
    Not only that but he’s taken our better qualities and destroyed them at the same time.

    He really is not up to the job of improving arsenal fc
    He’s clutching hard and it’s been clear to anyone with a set of eyes that this was on the cards way back in feb/march

  17. Pierre

    Tyrone Mings showed tremendous maturity in not responding to his team mate thrusting his head in his face.

    The slightest retaliation from mings would have resulted in a potential red card situation for both players as it could have turned ugly.

  18. Pierre

    “Eddie is going to get 3x more minutes at Leeds. Then by next season he’ll be clearly more develop.”

    I’m not sure if you are aware but in the next 3 weeks we are playing Frankfurt, forest and Leige.
    Nketiah would have started all of those games and also be on the bench for the up and coming league games v villa , United and Bournemouth .
    He would probably get minutes in the league games as well due to the fact Arsenal will no doubt be chasing the game after conceding early.

    During this 3 week period Leeds only have league games, in which Nketiah has failed to start any as yet.

    So I’m not sure where you get him having 3x more minutes at Leeds as they have no cup comps up and coming.

    The only way Nketiah will get more minutes is 1) the Leeds striker is injured or 2)Nketiah plays so well with his limited time he has on the pitch that the manager can’t leave him out .

    Let’s hope this happens .

  19. Dark Hei


    Sorry my fellow AKB.

    But I don’t think the current team is a condusive place for a young player to learn anything.

    He is better off at Leeds developing his confidence instead of getting it shot to bits over here.

  20. Pierre

    Thanks for posting the links every day Tony , your contribution to Le Grove is always welcome , and your quips , what can I say …ingenious .

    Looking forward to your next edition of wish you were here, Tony.
    Your excellent analysis on which places to go or not to go is always worth a read .

    Judith Chalmers cannot hold a candle to your knowledge of holiday destinations.

  21. Un na naai

    Dark hei

    Took the words out of my mouth
    He’s throwing players like guendouzi, AMN and Nelson into the lions den among a highly confused bunch of successful senior players. If they can’t carry out his instructions and provide a safe frame work then how can we expect our younger players to get a foothold regularly

    The tactics employed by emery on Sunday put so much undue negative pressure on Guendouzi and our defence it just cracked again and again and again.

    He tried this this time last year and was forced to abandon it because he just cannot implement this idea effectively. So why stick to it? It’s costing us points. If it’s not this it’s the ultra high line. This man just loves to give the opposition forwards open space to play
    Wether we are too deep or too high he’s always got us too something and it’s always bad for us.

  22. Ivan

    Instead od trying to implement various formations (going 4-4-2 to Watford is abysmal btw) Emery coupd try to train action building from the back.

    For instance forwards movement and Leno booting it out when opposition comes to our box to press.

  23. Un na naai


    Why not use the cb as a decoy inside the box and clip to a cmf? Then we have acres of space in which to spring an attack or fuckin “transition” 🤮

    Or go to the full back? Why are we passing it straight down the throat of their press?

  24. Valentin

    The reason why we don’t clip (not hoof) the ball to a free midfielder is because that would require repeated orchestrated movement from the midfield. As our midfield changes game by game. Constant personnel and tactical tinkering means that Our players can’t learn their part.

    I have also severe doubt about the quality of our training session. Training session may be physically more intense than under Wenger, but looking at the result they seem less organised because we have no pattern in defense or attack.

  25. jwl

    Arsenal stats from Football365 –

    – Arsenal have made the highest number of errors (14) that have led to opposition goals in the Premier League since the start of last season. That is three more than Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool combined.

    – The Gunners also hold the record for the highest number of errors leading to shots. Their total of 33 is almost double that of Newcastle (17).

    – Arsenal have allowed the same number of shots on their goal (96) this season as Chelsea and Manchester United combined (48 each). The Gunners faced as many shots on their goal on Sunday at Watford as Manchester City have all season.

    – Arsenal have now allowed opponents 96 shots on their goal this season – the highest number of any Premier League team.

    – No player for any of the Big Six sides has been dribbled past more often than Matteo Guendouzi (10).

    – Only Aston Villa (38%) and Norwich (37%) have taken a greater percentage of their overall touches in their own defensive third this season than Arsenal (35%).

  26. Pierre

    I’ve mentioned before, if he going to persevere with playing out from the back why not put our best player at receiving the ball under pressure as the deep lying midfielder. …Ceballos.

    He can switch the angle of the play in an instant, he is stronger on the ball than he looks , and most importantly, he is confident with a great technique.

    There are drawbacks of course but Chelsea use Jorginho in this way , it may be worth a try as passing to Guendouzi or Xhaka facing their own goal is a recipe for disaster as they struggle to take the ball on the half turn ,unlike Ceballos.

    Let’s face it, we cant do any worse trying Ceballos there …..failing that ,it will be a case of playing it long.

    Home to villa this week will be interesting as I will imagine that the emirates crowd will be crapping themselves whenever we have a goal kick …

  27. Bojangles

    Will attempt to get through what I was trying to say yesterday, I’ll need to change it slightly otherwise it will be deleted again no doubt.

    I agree with many of the comments about Emery that have been posted here since after the game.

    I will not however allow the players to get off Scot free. The second half on Sunday was the most insipid, unprofessional display I have ever witnessed in all the years I have been watching Arsenal in particular and football in general and that takes in all football on 4 continents. Every player, with the exception of Ceballos and Leno, should lose a week’s payment for such a display. And none should be allowed to wear the Arsenal shirt with any sort of pride.

  28. Gentlebris

    Good morning you all.

    I must say it would be interesting to see what happens in the next games, maybe Emery will abandon his unreasonable tactics or maybe he continues with his horror comedy.

    But then whatever happens, Emery will be here in May as Arsenal consider necessary ruthless decisions as inappropriate and a lack of class. Then Raul and Unai are pals.

    We now know hiring Emery was a mistake but it’s a mistake that could easily be repeated. That’s why I say……JOSE.

  29. Gentlebris

    ‘Every player, with the exception of Ceballos and Leno, should lose a week’s payment for such a display. And none should be allowed to wear the Arsenal shirt with any sort of pride.’

    Aubameyang should lose a week pay too? No wonder your comments are being deleted.

  30. jwl

    Bojangles – I too think players should receive much more grief, we have accumulated too many weak links who seem to make simple errors that cost team considerably and Emery, or anyone else, can’t coach their idiocies out of them.

    I also think other players are aware who make most errors, and other players will try to compensate, so they not focused only on their game because they wondering what Xhaka or Sok are going to do next.

  31. Un na naai


    I get what you’re saying but it doesn’t take a lot to chip a ball into an area 25-30 yards from goal and we had those options aplenty at Watford
    It’s certainly less dangerous than the route emery chose which is a short pass to the edge of our box.

  32. Valentin


    A few weeks ago you stated that the training was buzzing and was more happy that it had been in a long time.
    I did not want to contradict you, but I was told something slightly different. The squad was excited about the new season, but it was more fractioned than before.
    A lot of cliques were starting to form: the French speaking one, the Muslim one, the young ones, the untrusted and disappointed one and the loners. Xhaka our captain was said to be firmly in the loner camp.
    In the midst of all that the only player who would bring everybody together by his friendliness and smile was Lacazette. He took under his wings the young players. He went out of his way for Ceballos to feel welcome.

    As that info came from one person (and she had been mistaken before), I did not give it credence. However when I see the veiled dig at Xhaka by Aubameyang, I wonder if there was not some truth in there.

    I wonder if you could check with your source which description is closest to the truth.

  33. Valentin

    In na naai,

    Throwing the ball to a midfield player 35 yards away from goal was mostly frown upon by most coaches. If the player is not under pressure yes, otherwise it was a big no.
    If the ball is intercepted, the opposition player has a direct unopposed run through the midfield. It was viewed as too risky. The irony is that the new decision to play from the back is even more risky.
    Teams can counteract that pressure by orchestrating specific run and the goalkeeper releasing the ball at an angle which means that even if manmarked the ball bypass that first pressure line.
    It is a tactic that has been perfected in Germany to counteract the gegen-pressing. Hence Liverpool, Southampton and Norwich as demonstrated against ManCity are very good at it. All managed by coaches who are used to that approach via their time in Germany.

  34. peanuts&monkeys

    Excellent post, Pedro. late comment because couldn’t bring myself up to thinking or reading anything about Arsenal for last 40 hours. in fact, didn’t feel like thinking or reading anything to do with football.

    Emery has run his course. His main contribution remains he was the alibi, he was the baton bearer from the start runner to the last sprinter. had he not been there we could have still been under Wenger.

    Thanks Emery. Please leave.