Unai Emery has always reminded me of Dracula. It’s something to do with the way he slicks back his hair, his sallow complexion, his thin angular face.
Oh, and the fact that he’s sucking the lifeblood out of Arsenal right now.
I was going to suggest, as per the headline, that yesterday’s limp display and scrambled point at home against the most out-of-form team in the Premier League was another nail in his coffin.
But the analogy doesn’t hold up, does it? Vampires like coffins. Hammer another nail in Unai’s casket and he’ll probably be quite happy – it just makes him a bit more snug.
Perhaps it would be better to say that a 2-2 draw with Southampton at the Emirates is another clove of garlic in the eventual ousting of Count von Emery.
I feel mean even writing this. Unai seems like a decent bloke, even an honourable one. He doesn’t have a rampant ego and narcissism issues like the new man at N17. He’s not a footballing Neanderthal like the Allardyces and Pulises of this world. And he certainly can’t be blamed for his physical appearance: none of us gets to choose how we look (when I was younger I was known as “Rodders” because of my apparent similarity to Rodney Trotter from Only Fools and Horses. We all have our crosses to bear. Except for Unai Emery because he’s a vampire and doesn’t like crosses).
But the facts (and the garlic cloves) are mounting up against the Count.
I mentioned in comments after the game yesterday that, in their last four Premier League outings before facing Arsenal, Southampton managed a grand total of 16 attempts on target. That’s 16 attempts in FOUR full matches (or an average of four attempts per game). Yesterday they had 21 attempts on goal in ONE game against us (we had 12).
This can’t go on.
It’s not in my nature to pile in on a manager when he’s down and join the chorus of people clamouring for him to go, but recent performances have left me no alternative. You’ll now find me in the tenor section.
The Count has been a successful manager in his career, winning significant trophies at Sevilla and PSG, but for whatever mysterious reason he just can’t do it with this team in this league. And the longer we resist facing up to that fact, the more damage will be done.
It’s time for the people who run our club to hand him his cape, say fangs for everything and get him out of N5 like a bat out of hell. The stakes are too high (sorry).
And so to the game.
As usual, our team looked great on paper, but sadly someone decided to play the game on grass and at that point it all went wrong.
We had some good moments and some OK individual performances (as well as some poor ones) but I can’t be bothered to do a blow-by-blow report. Instead I’ll mention a few things that stuck in my mind.
- Our midfield under the Count just does not function and the more I watch it and try to figure out why, the more baffled I am. Hopefully some of you more tactically literate types can explain in comments. Yesterday I thought Guendouzi and Torreira put in plenty of effort, did some good things and generally looked OK. Yet Southampton were able to breeze through our middle like Moses parting the Red Sea (no, not Remi Moses, you Phillipinos).
- Ozil had good moments but also had moments where he seemed disinterested and lacking in anticipation. Not sure what’s going on with him.
- Pepe was unlucky not to get his first goal from open play (he hit the crossbar) but it also looks like his confidence is shot. At one point he was through on goal, one on one with the Saints ‘keeper. Any confident striker would have shot. But Pepe made a half-arsed effort to square the ball to Ozil in the area (despite there being a big lump of a Southampton defender in the way).
- The Saints penalty was as soft as you’ll ever see. And worse, the VAR review seemed to show an offside in the build-up. But this being Arsenal and that being VAR, the decision inevitably went against us. (Can I use my “all’s not fair in love and VAR” gag again?).
- How utterly Arsenaly was it that when our ‘keeper finally saves a penalty (which we never seem to do) the opposition score from it anyway. Grrrrr.
It’s almost impossible to separate the players’ performances from the way they are being asked to play, which is just not working. Nevertheless, with that in mind, here goes:
Did well to save the pen, even though the rebound went straight back to the penalty taker. Was generally OK. 6
Struggled in defense, didn’t really get forward and seems to be lacking in touch and confidence. We need the old Hector back in the house. 4
Overall was OK, but almost gifted another goal to Saints in the second half by trying to dribble in his own penalty area. 5
Did OK until subbed at half time. 5
Missed a headed half chance. Was strong on the ball and tried to get us going forward a bit faster at times. 5
Unlucky to be penalised for the (very harsh) penalty. Was really good going forward and delivered a terrific cross for our first goal. Struggled defensively with his fellow Scot, Armstrong, at times but worked hard all game. 7
High energy, plenty of commitment. A decent player in a system that doesn’t work. 6
See Guendouzi. 6
Good moments, indifferent moments, a very Ozil performance. 5
Was more in the game in the first half than the second. Always looks good on the ball and always a willing runner, but not much came off for him yesterday (partly because of poor service). 6
Our best player by far. Two well taken poacher’s goals, but he is also tireless in his willingness to chase lost causes, track back to get the ball and harry opposition defenders when they’re trying to bring the ball out. 8
Always looks skillful and tricksy but he’s just not contributing enough at the moment. He doesn’t currently look like a £72 million player. 4
Came on late and tried to make a difference with the little time he had. Did well to get the ball into the box for our second equaliser. 6
Didn’t have long but made an impression. Had a header on target and cleared one off the line. 6