Oh come on people, I’m starting Monday morning on a HIGH.
Arsenal turned around a one goal deficit twice against Aston Villa with 10 men.
You can’t knock that, you really can’t. That’s finding a next level that feels very much born of last seasons 22 game unbeaten run.
Matteo G was an absolute monster. I’ve always been a fan of his, but I was unsure what his special sauce was. We’re starting to see that. He’s a leader. He drives games forward, he makes elite passes, he’s a beast when he wants to be, he’s a goal threat… he’s the player other players more senior than him look to for answers.
He is captain elect.
To slip back into misery for a second, we were predictably dross in the first half. Our midfield was there to be bypassed, there was no real leadership from our captain, and our defence was typically ponderous. We went a goal down to McGinn, he ghosted in after a ball bypassed about 6 players, his grazed touch easily sailed past Leno.
To make matters worse, AMN, who complained midweek about playing as a right-back made a stupid challenge for his second bookable offence and found himself taking an early shower. It was dim, but honestly, this right back experiment has been awful and it’s clear the player hates it so much he’s willing to break plates in a dishwashing disaster just to rid himself of the burden.
The second half saw Calum C introduced for Saka (who was good). With 10 men, we still looked a threat, but Villa were probing. We won a penalty, Matteo powering into the box, forcing Engel to shove him to the ground. Auba let Pepe take the penalty, the largely impressive Ivorian slotted it calmly down the middle for his first goal.
You’d have hoped Arsenal would hold their nerve, but we didn’t, we let Villa in, before attempting another embarrassing short goal-kick that saw a poor touch from Calum eventually lead to a Wesley goal. We’re such a mess on the pitch, that sort of carry-on is inexcusable.
Emery pushed the nuclear button and subbed his captain and Ceballos off on 72 for LT and Willock. It was an inspired decision. He invited athleticism and hunger onto the pitch and it created an entirely different vibe, even with one less man.
We clawed our way back on 81. Matteo fed a teasing ball to the back post, Chambers didn’t do well with his first attempt, but he poked a looping shot over the keeper at his second go and made it count. Superb work, and the perfect remedy for his earlier mistake.
The second goal came from an incisive Auba freekick. He really is worth his weight in gold, his experience in front of goal is absolutely invaluable to us at the minute. As someone said on the Twitter website, he’s a success key, when he’s in your side, you always have a chance.
The players celebrated the win like we’d just won the World Cup. I could be petty about the levels here, but to be honest, after the last few weeks, it’s nice to know they still care.
WHAT DID WE LEARN:
The team were booed off at halftime, Granit was booed off as a sub. Terrible. Awful. I hate to see it. But really, I don’t. He’s not our captain. He’s a joke. He is the single worst decision Emery makes each week without fail. I don’t care that it’s not nice, I don’t care that Arsenal class seems to generally be geared around beta males celebrating mediocre ideas and hearting cute Wenger allegories on Twitter, the reality is, Xhaka is a poor player and we need him to take gardening leave.
Bellerin would be a better captain… so would Matteo.
Emery has a weird thing with hierarchy in his squad. Everyone could see that Saka was a better prospect than Reiss, but Reiss starts. We’re opting for Xhaka in our midfield despite three years of average. Let’s just call a rabona a rabona… our best midfield is Willock, LT and Matteo. It lacks experience, it’ll have bad days, but that’s the most explosive we can be. Emery needs to wake up to this. We need hunger, pace, power and output. Those three made a statement today in a short space of time, let them have a crack at United. Could it be a worse idea than 31 shots against Watford or getting shoved around by Villa for an hour?
I’ve been getting a mixed bag of messages on the manager from people that know. Some think he could be in danger. He’s clearly not connecting with the players, his ideas are average and though the table is telling a story… the story is a fucking lie. The table lies all the time, and if you think where we are now is a true reflection of what we can be, we’re OVER.
Others that I speak to say there is no chance of him leaving.
The rationale? He’s where he needs to be. The table is all that matters to Raul and Edu. The gut feel amongst a lot of people is this: We’re a better shade of shite when you look at the others. United are a mess, Chelsea are not a worry until next year, Spurs are having problems, and Leicester is a mirage.
The leadership team just want top 4 and they’re going to gamble that those around us are so bad, Emery will come out where he needs to be.
Hard to argue the logic.
We have a lot of easy games coming up, if Emery can shake things up, we will no doubt be in a threatening position when December lands. If we’re within spitting distance, he’ll keep his job. I think he’ll comfortably be in the mixer by then, because we have a lot of very, very good players.
Today’s turnaround was in spite of him… not because of him. I know that sounds petulant, but I think most get what I mean. Emery spent most of the second half rooted to that bench, twitching out like someone had dropped 2Gs of MD in his WKD at a Carl Cox Space reunion. That is not a good look. He has fear in his eyes, but I think the players are good enough to work around him, just like they did at PSG in season two when he basically gave up.
That doesn’t mean the inevitable fail won’t happen
… but that will only last so long, sustaining it until May is a longshot. But the club is risk-averse, Raul was a big part of Emery’s hiring, and things aren’t bad enough on paper yet to make a move.
I can see the rationale, but for me, the sooner we move him on the better. Skanking your way to 4th is not progressive. Betting your future on an average manager with conservative ideas will not take you to the promised land. The longterm damage a top 4 Emery will do to Arsenal is unthinkable, but there’s every chance it’ll happen.
That said, don’t underestimate Spurs and their ability to bounce back. Chelsea has a lot of good players, I think you’ll see a strong finish from them. United are a disaster, but they have good players, so a clever caretaker could be a threat.
I will celebrate the win today. I am very excited by the players we have but I cannot abide by this manager. He’s rank average and the win cannot disguise the performance, the decisions, or the consistency of bland we’ve seen over a season and 7 games.
On reflection, if the brief to replace Arsene was a pragmatist that could improve the defence, we really should have hired Conte. If that’s still the brief, then we should look at Allegri who now has a good grasp of English. Rip the plaster now… because no amount of tinkering will save us in January.
We won’t though… and that worries me.
See you in the comments.