Thursday nights are party nights. Unai Emery has turned a pub level competition into a feast for the eyes. He’s taken Wenger’s post-2004 model for the League cup and amped up one of the least glamorous nights in the game. He’s turned Jumpin’ Jacks into an 80s night or decadence on the French Riviera.
Last night, we learned a lot during a brutal dismantling of a very average Standard Liege side.
This kid is electric. A livewire. A striking talent as clinical and exciting as Nic Anelka from 1997.
The Brazilian didn’t care about the rain, he just made it happen for himself. He scored his second header of his Arsenal career when he nodded a near post Tierney pass across goal. It looked simple, but my word he had a lot to do there. His second was all about archetypal Brazilian footwork, he shuffled his feet, created half a yard and stroked a simple strike across goal.
He was more than just goals, he helped gift Ceballos an easy finish with a dinked cross for our 4th. He nearly assisted a penalty when he eased Reiss Nelson into the box with an Ozil like piece of passing craft.
When Unai Emery bizarrely brought Auba on late in the game, Garbriel switched out to the left and managed to deliver more crosses to feet than Kola did all last season. I’d imagine he’s going to get the early days Thierry treatment, start out left, learn the trade, own the centre when it’s time.
Overall, I am VERY excited about this guy. If this is Edu’s magic, I implore you all to pen him a handwritten thank you letter, like those your mum made you send circa 1992.
Another game, another goal. The Englishman did himself all the favours with a very strong performance. He’s an all action hero. He passes well, he doesn’t dither, he has incredible instincts for sniffing out dangerous areas to stand. He also works really hard, he never stops running and for me, he gives us an edge when he’s on the pitch.
It’s tough for Emery, because he’s deeply in love with Xhaka and it’s hard to blood too many kids at the same time. The Swiss might have more experience, he might be less rough round the edges, but a good game from Willock gives us so much more than the rarity of a good game from our captain.
Emery opted for something that looked normal and ambitious. When the Spaniard is up against meek opposition, he makes smart choices. LT the deepest in the pivot. Ceballos, picking up the Ramsey sort of role. Willock marshalling ahead of LT. That’s balance. It worked. We looked good. We weren’t rattled.
The manager might not be able to roll with that midfield at the moment because of experience, but long term, that’s where it has to go. We have to prioritize energy and we have to let players do what they’re good at. We have to stop thinking Xhaka is going to come good.
The last myth of Unai Emery… the fullbacks. If we’re to believe some of the staunch believers, the whole system is broken because of two players. We knew tonight the team would have fun day out whoever played, so I’m not surprised Tierney and Hector made the managers last excuse look like a good one. Kieran T was immense, a chance creation machine. He’s fast, direct, aggressive and his delivery is elite. Hector was a little off comparably, but still gave us a better presence on the right. These two aren’t going to save Emery long term, but they’ll give a terminally ill patient a kick of life that’ll convince people Emery can fix Arsenal (like that unbeaten run). We have a lot of easy games coming up, those two coming back will make mincemeat of teams, but it’s not enough.
He put on a great show in a competition Raul called his comfort blanket. He’s still making bizarre decisions. Bringing on Auba when you’re 4 up against a pub team is negligent. Our season depends on him, mad that we’re taking risks AGAIN. Second worry is the inconsistency of his messaging on ostracized players. He gave Ozil one of the captains armbands. He didn’t even pick him in the squad. I am not fan of Ozil, but I am a believer in clarity of leadership. At the moment, what he’s doing looks like it’s spite driven.
‘Ozil deserves this’
Sure, as a fan, you have the right to think that. But players in a working environment likely do not see Ozil as the devil. He has status because of who he is in the global pecking order of football and what he can do on the training pitch. Good players want to play with great players. Emery picking on him might not bite him now, but it will at some point.
Consistency is a leadership virtue, if you are ostracizing someone because they wouldn’t leave in the summer, don’t put Mustafi in the squad. If you’re giving someone the captains armband, have them in the squad for a Europa League game. If your leadership lacks basic principals, whispers will start and you’ll let the demons into the camp. Big names can cause big problems. Emery had this at PSG and it killed him, it is shocking to see him make the same mistakes again, especially after the mess he created with Ramsey last year… and remember, before you go off at me on this one, none of this would be relevant if he didn’t give the armband to someone who has NOT been a leader. One of the most confusing contradictions I’ve ever witnessed in sport.
Right, that’s me done, see you in the comments.xxx