We’re 3rd, 1 point behind Manchester City.
This should be a joyous occasion, but it’s not.
The table is a liar, she did it to us last season and she’s doing it to us again. We’re not very good, but we’re falling up the stairs. The ‘on-paper’ monkeys can point to ‘the only reality that matters is points’, but as a casual reminder, this is what happened last season.
You cannot continue to ignore what your eyes see week to week.
Unai Emery cannot find a performance. He cannot find a balanced starting 11. His in-game decisions lead me to believe he doesn’t actually see what we’re all seeing.
Winning ugly is not a sustainable strategy for a club that can’t defend or create chances.
Bournemouth are a terrible side. Their position in the league is also very kind to their reality. They don’t press, they don’t create meaningful chances and they leak shots. Rounding up, they’ve conceded about 17 shots a game this season. They are relegation fodder unless Eddie finds some magic. Perfect opposition for us.
The first half saw exactly what we all expected. A bad team struggling to find confidence away at a big club. They didn’t press, they looked nervous and they offered us up oceans of space to enact whatever the Emery vision supposedly is.
We offered up very little. Arsenal were comfortable, some fans celebrated that as a positive, but if we’re honest, Forest would have given us more of a game. We managed 2 shots on target in the first half, one was from a setpiece. There was no magic in our attack, we played like there was no real plan, and there was a real lack of energy in the middle of the park.
At the half time mark, I kind of hoped the manager would remember the Villa game and react, but he didn’t. We stuck with the same players, we created very little, but we allowed Bournemouth to get a foot in the game. They were bad in the final third, but they certainly created dangerous moments.
So what did Emery do? He subbed off Nicolas Pepe on 60 minutes. I understand that his performance wasn’t up to much, but the lack of attempts on their goal wasn’t really in his responsibility domain. The decision was a stinging rebuke, and really, not smart management. He’s our most expensive signing, he was playing against duffers, he should have been given the minutes to play his way back into the match.
… that’s not to takeaway from Gabriel, the kid deserved to play, I just think the signal the sub sent wasn’t a confidence builder and I think it was a misdiagnosis of the problem.
Things didn’t improve anyway, even with the electric Brazilian on the pitch, because the problem wasn’t the front three, it was what sat behind them. The manager took off Ceballos for Willock, which added a little more energy, but not much purpose. Again, rotating like for like wasn’t going to shake the game.
It also didn’t stem the flow of Bournemouth, we ended up forming deep banks to protect against their growing confidence… then the icing on the cake, Emery took Saka off for Lucas Torriera. Hard to work out what he was doing there, was LT a DM, a #10 or an auxiliary winger? Either way, it didn’t do much for our structure. We only started getting chances again when Bournemouth threw everything at landing a point, that created counter-attack chances and we did manage to hit the post late on after the impressive Cal Chambers put Auba in.
So at home, against one of the leakiest teams in the league, we managed one shot on target in open play. That is as strong an indictment of Emery as I can muster. Edu, sitting in the stands, did not look happy. How could he be after sanctioning such a big spend this summer, we have not moved forward.
A lot of fans will point to the omittance of Mesut Ozil as a glaringly obvious fix. Again, I cannot repeat this often enough, he’s really not my cup of tea. However, it’s hard to argue that the German couldn’t have influenced a game like today. The players will know that, and this sort of treatment will build pressure on Emery.
The manager is making a martyr out of the German in the same way he did with Ramsey last season. The longer the player sits in metaphorical prison on hunger strike, the louder and more appealing his silent message becomes. None of this would matter if Emery had made this decision in preseason and not shown the player to us. None of this would matter if he hadn’t given him one of the five armbands. None of this would matter if the alternative was 20 chances a game and electric ‘I DON’T MISS OZIL’ football.
To make matters worse for the manager, the pregame Twitter banter has a magical moment from Ozil at training. It also has a damning video of Xhaka gifting Auba a goal after a mistake in training.
If Ozil is a political prisoner, then Granit Xhaka is a sham President after a stolen election. He doesn’t speak the language of the people and his football policies stink. He was mostly ok today, but that’s all he ever is. His best trait is arguing with the referee. He doesn’t drive the team forward, he doesn’t inspire and his presence flattens the energy. Today offered up perfect conditions for him to thrive and he still couldn’t muster a worldy.
Unai Emery is a bad artist. He has the water paints, the canvass, a perfect view on the Amalfi Coast, and he’s out there painting dick pics and wondering why his funders are pissed. The perfect conditions for his system to flourish appear to be Championship sides or Europa Cup ties. We’re 11 games into the season, there’s no style and the philosophy seems to be ‘hope to nick a goal then defend like we’re in the last minute of a Sunday League Cup Final.’
There is no excuse for drab football this season. There is no excuse to defend a 1-0 lead at home against Bournemouth with defensive subs in the last 10. What we are seeing on the pitch is bad… but as I said last week, Emery can point to the table, that’s his safety blanket until things get tasty in December.
Roll on another week.
Enjoy the win, savour being 3rd in the league a point behind City… but don’t count your chickens just yet, because until performances start to arrive, this is all a big lie that will correct just as you start to believe.
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