Emery looks to be out of his depth in the EPL. I find more fault with him than with any individual player per-se. All clubs at all points in their history have a player or two that you initially thought would be something very good, but then turns out to either not be quite good enough or not quite the right fit.
It is up to the manager to ensure that appropriate changes are made to ensure progression in a different and better direction, and also to ensure that their is no major fall-out as we see now. The players need the protection of the manager in that sense as well, to not unnecessarily expose them either firstly at a level they are not good enough for and/or secondly in a team system that doesn’t compliment them. Interestingly I generally feel that we are more guilty of the latter than the former.
I have a major disagreement with the booing fans but also I have a major disagreement with Xhaka’s reaction. Perhaps more damning is that once the immediate dust and anger had settled, that he hasn’t opted to send a message and apology to the fans. It is this rather than the spur of the moment reaction that will likely now seal Xhaka’s fate.
I do have some sympathy with him though because he was what he was before he came to us. He never was a holding midfield type player and was used to playing with a more rugged positionally disciplined player tucked in behind him in the Bundesliga. Xhaka was more a deeper defensive midfield play-maker not the invisible wall, that was someone else.
All Xhaka has done is remain what he was, so really the fault is in the managerial recruitment and assessment of what role he should play, and how to balance a midfield with him in it if he was deemed an important player in the first 11.
The problem is that, arguably Torreira aside from our listed midfielders, all the other midfielders are also players that need a more rugged positionally disciplined midfielder tucked in behind them, so when we play two of these midfielders together no-one completely accepts the responsibility for this role.
I get the argument for the pivot shift in a modern game but we just look confused as to who does what so I think it is still important to have players with certain characteristics that compliment and get the best out of each other. We don’t have that 1 midfielder (among our listed midfielders) who has that one specific characteristic or skill set, arguably Torreira aside, who inexplicably seems to have dropped down the pecking order.
You could still play Xhaka if you had that specific player just in behind him but then that would remove a place for our other midfielders like Douzi, Willock, ESR, Ceballos, Torreira and, should he still be a consideration, Ozil; that one baffles me and also makes me seriously question the managerial handling of him.
The problem is actually fairly identical to what we had under Wenger in his third trimester, that we have too many midfielders who favour similar positions in the midfield and lack balance despite looking individually strong on paper.
The EPL is a very specific league with very specific characteristics, and what I think we are finding out, not just with Emery but also with other overseas managers, that sometimes a manger with a reasonable C.V coming in from abroad just doesn’t quite get what is required in the EPL.
More than in any other league you need to at least match, but preferably better, the opposition in the physical aspect of midfield. You need power pace and dynamism to match the mid to lower table teams and then, as a top club, also have the superior technical ability to go with it.
Without matching up with those clubs in the athleticism in midfield you can lose that midfield battle and surrender dominance to a team boasting less technical players. How often have we looked good on paper but not in practice? How often do we feel we look like a collection of good individuals rather than a smoothly balanced machine that connects throughout the team.
Match them physically but in addition with the better technical players then we by and large will not slip up with these teams that don’t have our resources. We will once again look like one of the top sides to be feared. We are not doing this right now and haven’t for quite a few years.
We look lackluster in attack, despite boasting some excellent attackers that many clubs would love to have. The defence could be improved in individual quality somewhat, but for me the more worrying aspect is how exposed our defence is to wave upon wave of attack rather than the individual quality of each player in our defence.
Those teams have to come through our midfield to get to the defence in the first place. Our midfield is not dominant enough to win the battle and control the play, all of which would stop many of the frequent attacks form getting at our defence, but also would provide a better platform from which to feed our attackers.
Our central fulcrum is not solid enough so everything that surrounds it, despite its quality is compromised. For an analogy I see it as a steel devise with a central core or fulcrum (midfield) with levers springing off from there to the font back and sides. All the levers could be of the most advanced and solid mettle that NASA has available but if the fulcrum is weak and bendy it makes not a jot of difference about the strength of everything that springs off it.
We have good individual midfielders but as a combined unit we are poor. Emery hasn’t got this, or at least worked it out yet, and certainly hasn’t tried anything to change it. It is as if his experience to date just hasn’t prepared him for this league, and it doesn’t look like the penny is dropping, and I tend to feel he should only have till the new year at best to show he has the ability to make the changes that improve us.
We may still need to recruit and offload to improve the midfield balance, but even before this I don’t believe that we can’t set up stronger with what we already have. Right now I don’t see that Emery is anywhere near having his Eureka moment and suddenly get it, so it seems more than likely we will have to look elsewhere, fairly imminently, for someone with that better ability and insight of what it takes to develop a top EPL team.
I do hope that if we do have some high level departures with certain players and / or the manager that it can be done with a sense of decorum and decency from all concerned with the club, including the fans.