This could have been worse. It should have been worse. Then we might have more confidence that the club would do the right thing. Unfortunately, there might have been just enough in this game for Unai Emery to retain his job. It’s a shame; we’d have benefited by being more clearly thrashed. Then there would be no more reason to waste time with our B- coach.
Unai Emery, a man perfected to manage a mid-table Spanish team is well on his way to replicating that at Arsenal. He has had ample time to improve this club. For example, look at our opposition. In less than 9 months Rogers has had a material impact on Leicester. He’s taken the elements of their team, reshaped it and extracted more from the same players. Can anyone say that about Emery? If anything, with even better players at his disposal this year he’s managed to find a way to extract less.
Our team has no obvious shape, no identify and certainly no personality. Today was no different from any game bare the first two this season. There is no progress. We might win a few games here and there but this team will never compete for the Champions League. It’s inconceivable that this team can finished above 5th. And that might be a reach. Eventually ManUre and Sp*rs will fix their teams and then overtake us as well.
Unfortunately, the club might think there’s just enough development to justify retaining Emery for the balance of the season. A more clinical display by Leicester would have helped enforce the outcome that is predictable and obvious. Emery won’t be our manager next year. The only question is do we have the appetite to ditch him now – mid-season – and start the rebuild. Or do we waste the balance of the season.
This depends on a couple of factors. Do Arsenal have an alternative in mind and is that alternative available now. Would the club be OK with a transition manager while we wait for the ideal manager? Because this one, Emery, is neither transitional nor ideal. I honestly can’t see any progress that’s been made in the last 18 months. He’s had 50 games now and, aside from this daft fetish with playing out of the back, that our defense is no better, we have no defensive midfield and we can’t leverage our attacking players, what has improved? Actually, there is one area of clear improvement. The first and second team kit. You have to love Addidas. Maybe we can appoint Addidas as our manager. We would continue to look the nicest team in England.
I sometimes hope that Emery is our Bruce Ricoch. A stepping stone to something serene. Currently he feels like our Moyes. Our Sherwood. A stepping stone to despair. Except this team – player for player – is better than either of those two teams. Emery is incapable of balancing the team nor instructing them. This team is neither one thing or another. It is neither a team than can defend resolutely and counter-attack. Nor is it an all-put attacking team that could not defend. That would be the Wenger team left behind. Now it’s no longer a team but a disjointed collection of individual players. Albeit it players that are better than the ones Wenger had.
If I believed there was any progress that could be made with Emery or even, just a little more time for him to adjust and adapt I’d be happy to be patient. But, honestly, it’s not going to happen. Not after 50 games. I know there’s a fear that we’ll become a revolving manager door team like to many others. But, in truth, this was inevitable after the miracle of the last 22 years. That was such an unnatural period of stability. That experience reset our expectations. The manager after Wenger was always going to be the fall-guy. And, boy, do we have our fall guy. Waiting until the end of the season will just allow the rot to set in. And, worse, it sends a message to players coming to the end of their contract, that the club is not ambitious and lacks leadership. This season has already passed us by. I knew that before the season started. I was merely hoping for progress and development. We won’t get that either. So let’s suck it up, put on our big boy pants and firer the fucker. If we have to hand it over to Freddie while we wait for our Messiah, then so be it.
As for the actual game today. We weren’t entirely awful in the first half. We had one or two breakouts where Lacazette should have done better; should have scored. But through the balance of the game I don’t remember Schmichael having a save to make. Chambers was good today but Guendouzi failed to track his man on multiple occasions, Torreira looked positional lost and Ozil barely received the ball. Bellerin was rusty – which is not surprising – and Holding was exposed too often and made poor decisions. The only forward movement came from David Luis. Most of the time we played the ball backwards and square. Ironically our best moments came before they scored the first goal. We seemed to be growing into the game. But every time we start to dominate possession we leave ourselves open at the back. It’s the lack of balance that has been our Achilles heel for 18 months. The majority of their penetration came down our left hand side. We could not track their players. And when Grey came on it descended into a joke. Too often they had a spare man that we could not track.
Leicester aren’t a bad team. They played good football but we found ways to make them better. But, to their credit, they are improving as a team. They have a style of play. And they have passion and commitment. Not exactly a description you can apply to us.
Poor Pepe. What must he be thinking? When he come on he looked lost. And why wait until we’re 2-0 before making any changes? We should have switched from 3 at the back right away. But, even then, we could not create any chances. There was so little interplay between our creative players. There is just nothing going on. We played a holding game in the first half and then once we fell behind could not create chances in the second half.
So now it’s over to Edu and Saul. Do they have the believe and determination to make a change that the entire fan base would support? Do they have the leadership and vision to accept that this is not working. There should be no recriminations. Most people thought it was a good decision at the time. I, for one, did not want Arteta. That was too risky for me. But now it’s too risky to persevere with Emery. I can’t take another one of his interviews; his dreary drivel in pigeon English where he stumbles along in broken clichés and says nothing.
We have a two week break. Let’s use that to break away from Emery. Let’s not waster more time and opportunity. Let’s start building for next season now. It was a good idea at the time but it did not work. So, please, let’s move on. It might take a time to get it right. All we know is that what we do have is wrong.