He did it, he totally did it. Unai Emery finally bit down on the bullet he’s been hiding from for 3 months and made Granit Xhaka his captain.
What a joke. Arsenal fans, for once, unanimous in condemning the decision as calamitous.
What made the whole debacle even crazier is the charade around the decision.
Where are the 5 captains? Not that I believe in that method, but it’s indecisive to tell the world you’re delaying your 5, then you deliver a huge pivot.
Secondly, why leak to the press you’re running a vote? I’ll tell you why, he’s sharing the wrath of the fans with the players. He bottled making a decision on his own because he knew it’d go down like soiled nappy to the face, so he’s co-sharing the calamity. It’s as transparent as a Boris Johnson political strategy. Meeker than inviting your wife’s side piece over for Christmas dinner.
Unai Emery is a poor leader. This decision will be the death of him. The moment is symbolic because it perfectly captures the essence of his tenure. Confused, indecisive and bland.
Granit Xhaka is a poor choice. This move has been made purely on the basis that he’s popular in the dressing room. That’s amateur hour selection criteria. Arsenal football club is not in a situation where we can be making decisions based on likability. Don’t give me ‘there are no leaders’ because if that’s the case, why was it not a top priority this summer? Did Raul and Edu sign this off?
A leader has be able to command respect with performances as an absolute basic. Xhaka is not a steady player. He is an error machine. He is a one-trick pony. He’s a delicate orchid that needs perfect conditions to perform. Even when the weather systems align with the soil PH, he is still always a moment away from letting off a mistake grenade under no pressure. He has so many limitations, he’s become a tactical opportunity more ripe for the picking than the short goal kicks. Not even for good teams, I’m talking Watford. Just pressure him and wait for him to break. Sometimes you don’t even need to pressure him. His off the ball work is bad enough to gift you opportunities.
The clear learning from the weekend, when we were overrun by Aston Villa, was that our best midfield does not include him. The Premier League demands power, pace, and high levels of concentration from a midfielder. Xhaka has been a clear weakness for us and now he will be an automatic starter for the rest of the season.
Bigger picture, my problem is this.
The club is trying to build a high-performance culture. That is a Huss Fahmy thing from Team Sky. It is the creation of a perfectly timed Swiss watch. If there is a single cog, anywhere in the machine, that is even slightly off… it doesn’t keep time. At the centre of our high performance culture is a player that the fans boo at half time for good reason. This decision is not a serious one. It runs counter to the clubs longterm aspirations. It sets an incredibly bad tone to the rest of the club.
Defective cogs impact the whole machine. They pollute the culture. They make perfectly good parts of the machine underperform. I simply cannot believe the exec team at Arsenal does not see this.
I can’t blame the players. Who’d pick someone that’d give them a rough ride? They’ve picked comfort, which is exactly the mindset I thought we were moving away from.
If Holding, Hector, and Matteo weren’t ready, give it to someone inoffensive but elite, like Auba. I would even take Luiz over Xhaka, at least he has pedigree at the highest level. There is no excuse for this. It’s not a future-facing decision. It doesn’t help with leadership. It fucks us tactically. It sours the mood of fans who won’t accept it. It is a damaging blow to Emery’s already sagging credibility with the fans.
What a disappointing turn, but I repeat, not unexpected.
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