Arsene Wenger Is Helping Unai Emery Keep His Job

November 5, 2019

Arsene Wenger was probably Arsenal’s greatest ever manager (and certainly the best since Herbert Chapman).

And his influence on the club persists long after the man himself exited the building stage left, fiddling with the zipper on his puffer jacket.

Indeed I have a theory that the ghost of Arsene is currently playing a significant role in keeping Unai Emery secure in his position, even though our head coach has a recent record that’s patchier than Wayne Rooney’s hair transplant.

How so?

It’s all about psychological conditioning. Cast your mind back to the time when Bruce Rioch was let go as Arsenal manager and replaced by a man of whom few if any of us had heard.

It wasn’t “Arsene Who?” for long. In quick succession he became:

“Arsene Wow” (winning the Double in his second season).

Then “Arsene Knows” (as he piled success upon success with a team that was a joy to watch).

After that it was “Trust Arsene” (when the money dried up after the stadium move but he somehow kept us competitive for years while spending net zero on transfers).

Finally it was “Arsene Why?” (as the money taps started flowing again but the long awaited success in the Premier League did not).

His time at our club was like a marriage: a long-term relationship filled with love, togetherness, shared triumphs, crushing disappointments and, finally, a cooling of ardour and a parting of ways.

But the important thing in today’s context is not the emotions, but the sheer length of time the relationship lasted. As Arsene’s tenure rolled deep into its second decade (almost unprecedented in the modern game) we fans took great pride in the stability of our club.

Not for us the casual casting off of managers as if they were fashionable training shoes: one minute a must have accessory, the next dangling by their laces over a telephone cable on the Holloway Road. We could laugh at the shenanigans at clubs like Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and the N17 miscreants, not to mention Manchester United after Fergie’s retirement.

Those other clubs displayed characteristics we were glad not to share: disloyalty, capriciousness, impatience, ungratefulness, a type of mercenary shallowness. While the likes of Ancelotti, Rogers, Di Mateo, Hughes, Pellegrini, Hodgson, Redknapp, Hiddink and Benitez came and went through the revolving doors, Arsene Wenger remained a permanent fixture. And that’s something we were proud of (rightly so).

Many younger fans grew up knowing only the Arsenal of Arsene and for us older ones, the days of George Graham (and his playing style) seemed an age ago.

In psychology there is a concept of conditioned behaviour. When things have always been a certain way, we have a tendency to believe that that is how they will (and should) always be in the future. We have conditioned ourselves to close our minds to change.

in our case, we have become so used to being a club that sticks with managers through thick and thin that even now we are more reluctant than supporters at other clubs to call time on a head coach who is just not cutting the Colmans. Loyalty to our manager has become a virtue we’ve embraced and now we feel duty bound to embrace it further.

The serious doubts about Emery should really have started during and after the capitulation at the end of last season, but for most of us the instinct was to make excuses: “He hasn’t had a proper transfer window yet… these are not really his players… it’s his first season in a new league… he’s just beginning to get to grips with the language…”

They are all legitimate points, but they were influenced by the fact that we just don’t see ourselves as a club that might sack a manager after only a season. We would rather rationalise away obvious shortcomings than see our club behave in a way we have criticised at other clubs.

If Emery’s first season at Arsenal had been replicated at, let’s say, Chelsea or Manchester United, he would likely have been out on his shell-like in the summer. Just look at what has happened at Bayern Munich this week.

But that’s not the Arsenal way, so here he still is, making the same mistakes, continuing with the same brand of joyless and shapeless football, persevering with players in roles that don’t suit them (Granit Xhaka being Exhibit A).

The tide is beginning to turn against Emery among supporters now, although it’s clear that we are doing it with a heavy heart. We don’t want to be another Chelsea but, reluctantly, many of us are coming to the conclusion that we would rather change the habits of a (recent) lifetime than see things descend into a vicious spiral where results and performances continue to deteriorate, causing us to miss out on the top four and for our world class players to up sticks and leave.

I take no pleasure in saying that it’s probably time for change and time for a new head coach.

As I said in comments the other day, if the club sticks with Emery and he proves me wrong I’ll be all over that humble pie like Phil Dowd in a doughnut factory.

There is a French saying that goes “le plus ca change le plus c’est la meme chose.” It means “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” But like many things French, it’s all cockeyed. The real problem is that “le plus c’est le meme chose, le plus c’est le meme chose,” (“the more things stay the same, the more they stay the same”).

As another Frenchman once said: “At some clubs success is accidental. At Arsenal it is compulsory.”

The speaker was Arsene Wenger of course. And If he’s right, then the time for the club to act is fast approaching.

RockyLives


Emery’s Inability To Solve Our Midfield Problem Will Be His Downfall

October 29, 2019

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.

GoonerB


The Blind Leading The Bland? Arsenal v Palace Preview

October 27, 2019

It’s time to get some answers about this Arsenal team.

The near constant sense of frustration, argument, false dawns, rare highs and frequent lows are taking a toll on us supporters and they have to stop.

We face a real challenge from an in-form Crystal Palace, who sit just one point and one place behind us in the Premier League table.

Unai Emery’s critics say he has no idea of what his best team is or how to deploy his resources to maximum effect; that our playing style is cautious and dull with a predictable effect on our results.

In other words “the blind (Emery) leading the bland (his dour team).”

However, not all fans have given up on the head coach. See yesterday’s Post by LB and the ensuing lively discussion to get both sides of the argument.

But going back to my opening line, it’s time to start coming to some conclusions: are Emery’s limitations entrenched to the point that he will never get Arsenal properly competitive again until he’s replaced? Or are things about to start coming together?

If we’re going to get things back on track it has to start today, but it won’t be easy. Palace have beaten Manchester United away already this season and have several good results under their belt. There was an early setback against Sheffield United but since then they have lost only to Manchester City and the N17 Delinquents.

And they have weapons to hurt us with: we know how dangerous Zaha can be (in a sliding doors universe he might have been turning out in an Arsenal shirt today).  His goal touch has been missing so far this campaign – let’s hope he doesn’t find it against us.  Meanwhile Jordan Ayew also poses a threat. Roy Hodgson had his critics at Liverpool and as England manager, but he has done a good job at Palace.

I expect a typical Emery Premier League team with returning players still rested and lining up as follows:

 

If the Arsenal Board sack Emery this morning and turn up at my door begging me to step in as caretaker manager, I’ll go with this line-up:

 

When I look at our squad I keep thinking we have the talent to comfortably finish third in the Premier League this season, but when I look at our performances I find myself doubting we’ll make top four.

I am willing Emery to prove the doubters wrong and to find a way of making our team purr.

We really, really need to go on a run of good performances. We need to release Le Handbrake (or is it now El Handbrake?) and dominate the weaker teams in the league.

Confidence would have been dangerously low if we had lost or drawn on Thursday night after the dismal showing against Sheffield United on Monday, but Pepe’s late cameo saved the day and will hopefully have lifted spirits.

You know what they say about people in glass houses? Well let’s get inside a glass palace this afternoon and start throwing some stones around.

As for a prediction, well, I’m going to be glass-half-full to keep LB happy: I have a feeling that a few gears are about to click into place and we’ll win 3-1, with goals from Auba, Ceballos and Martinelli off the bench.

RockyLives


Emery v Solskjaer … Which Manager Will Get Their Game Plan Right?

September 30, 2019

This evening we travel to Old Trafford for our seventh fixture of the season. Our away form is terrible so this will be a big test of character. Old Trafford is still Old Trafford, Fergie left a long time ago but their supporters will expect a win against us.

Going into the game we will still be without Lacazette and the talk is that Man U will be without Pogba, Rashford and Martial.

Unai Emery has had a full week to plan who is going to be in his team this evening. After great performances from Chambers and Holding during mid-week can he afford to leave them out of his starting lineup?

With Xhaka named as club captain this week he will now be the first name on the team sheet. I expect to see Guendouzi and Torreira alongside him. Maybe Joe Willock has done enough to start instead of Torreira?

Up front we have the magnificent Aubameyang with Pepe and Ceballos either side.

Back to the choice of defenders. This game comes too soon, sadly, for both Bellerin and Tierney to start so I expect we will see Maitland-Niles and Kolasinac. Fingers crossed, Holding will play alongside ……. meh, I can’t decide which other CB to play. Sokratis, Luiz or Mustafi??? I think Emery with play Luiz.

So here’s my thoughts on the team …..

 

We haven’t managed to beat a poor Man U side at Old Trafford in recent times. There is huge history between these clubs and the Wenger/Fergie years produced a great rivalry in which we won the league at their ground in 2002. Oh happy days.

I’m not convinced that either Emery or Solskjaer are the right men to lead these great clubs but this is where we are.

Both sets of supporters will be hoping that their teams don’t make silly mistakes. It’s too early in the season to say it’s a crucial game but a win puts us back in the top four. COYG

peachesgooner


No Lacazette – but Welbeck is back

September 15, 2019

Finally, the Premier League is back, after the oh so boring International break!

Our 5th game of the season, is a trip to Vicarage Road, to face a Watford side, who are bottom of the table. After 3 losses & 1 draw, they decided to give Javi Gracia his P45 & reappoint Quique Sanchez Flores – who managed them during the 2015-16 season.

Unai Emery is familar with him, having both managed in La Liga. This will be their 8th meeting and what makes it even more interesting is QSF has 3 wins to UE’s 1… with the other 3 draws…

Since Watford’s return to the PL, after an 8 year absence, we have faced them 8 times – winning 6 & losing 2, GF – 18  GA – 5.

They also beat us in the 6th round of the FA Cup with QSF as their manager!

Watford team news – Troy Deeney is still recovering from knee surgery, so will not face the team his son supports.

Etienne Capoue is a doubt, through illness.

Rob Holding is back in full training, but doubt he will feature, what with being absent for so long.

Tierney & Bellerin are closing in on a return..

Willock had a calf problem, but is expected to be ok, as is Xhaka & Torreira.

As we all know, Welbeck was released at the end of last season and Watford signed him, so I’m just waiting for him to come back and haunt us, just like many others have previously.

Danny Welbeck made 88 appearances for us, finding the back of the net 16 times. One of my favourites was the last gasp winner against Leicester! But who could forget his goals against the Mancs – brilliant!! Will always think highly of him. He’s now played twice for Watford, but has yet to score…….

Watford are desperate for points & having changed managers, performances & results usually improve.. we need to get back to winning ways, after a disappointing loss & draw in our last 2 games. So it’s all set up to be a very interesting encounter!

Lacazette has been ruled out until next month, due to an ongoing problem with his left ankle. This is a huge blow, having scored 2 goals already this season…….. this will make for an interesting line-up.

Peaches here – I would start Reiss Nelson on the wing and put Aubamayang up top ……….. let’s see what Emery chooses.

The team I’m expecting to see is : –

Ref – Anthony Taylor

Assistants – Gary Beswick, Adam Nunn

4th Offical – Peter Bankes

Var – Chris Kavanagh Ass Var – Daniel Cook

Not going to predict a score, as I’m usually pants at it. I just hope we play well, Pepe scores & we win COYG

By Mrs Kolasinac


This Is Unacceptable From An Arsenal Supporter

September 7, 2019

You call yourself an Arsenal supporter.

You love the club, you’re proud of our history and achievements. You’re desperate for the current team to achieve its potential.

But is there anything you could say or do as a Gooner that would be beyond the pale? Anything that would just be plain wrong coming from an Arsenal fan?

I have to thank GoonerB for the inspiration for this Post. His excellent idea of asking whether it was time for Arsenal supporters to rethink their antagonistic attitude towards Ashley Cole (a former Invincible, after all) prompted a lively discussion.

Some readers were minded to forgive and forget; others would not be budged from the view that Cashley is a wrong ‘un and would never be welcome back at The Arsenal (among the many eloquently argued points I couldn’t help but smile at Bernard’s short but emphatic: “Ten men went to bed, went to bed with Cashley, ten men and his mobile phone, went to bed with Cashley. I rest my case.”).

The discussion set me to thinking about whether there are certain opinions that no self-respecting Arsenal fan should hold or actions they should do.

I reckon 10 years ago, when we were still in the doldrums of the new stadium austerity and Cashley was winning trophies for fun at Chelsea, it would have been almost unsayable for an Arsenal fan to express admiration for our former Number 3.

With the passage of time it seems views have mellowed somewhat. But what are the other taboos for a Gooner?

I’d love your ideas in the comments, but here’s a list of potential no-nos for starters: would any of them be a step too far?

Is it acceptable for an Arsenal fan to say any of the following?:

“You know, I really quite like watching this Spurs team.”

“Manchester United have been the best team of the Premier League era.”

“I really miss the mint-coloured away kit.”

“People are being very harsh about Harry Kane. I don’t think it was a dive.”

“I hope we lose because…” (insert cockamamie reason here, eg:“…it will help us get rid of the manager”).

“In fairness, Mike Dean is a really good ref.”

“Roy Keane was better than Patrick Vieira.”

“We should get rid of Emery and appoint Mourinho – he’s a proven winner.”

Is it acceptable for an Arsenal fan to do any of the following?:

Go to Totteringham home games and sort-of support the Totts when Arsenal are playing away.

Boo one of our own players during a game.

Leave more than five minutes before the end of a game (except in the case of an emergency).

Miss an Arsenal cup final because you’ve been invited to a wedding (including your own).

Sit down during “stand up if you hate Totnum.”

Withdraw your support because you don’t like the manager/team selections/results.

Wear an Arsenal shirt with “van Persie” on the back.

Feel you’d rather England win the World Cup than Arsenal win the league.

RockyLives


Do We Just Blindly Trust Unai Emery?

September 4, 2019

The “Opinion” Connundrum

We had a fantastic discussion yesterday on the question of Unai and Granit Xhaka related to how fans feel about them. FGG and I went back and forth, many others chipped in and in the end it seems there’s a fairly broad spectrum of opinion. Obviously that’s what a blog is for and on this particular site, almost always discussion and differences of opinion are respectful. So it seems discussion wise we’re on the right track. So what about the subjects of our discussion? Some of the points raised in the discussion were along the lines of:

“Should we be criticizing our own players/manager?”

“At what point is it disloyal as fans to criticize our players/manager?”

“Do we back them through thick and thin, even if we see an issue with their performance?”

All of which are legitimate questions. It got me thinking, when was the last time I felt like being critical of our players/manager (before Sunday !!)? I came up with during the last 2 years of Arsene’s reign when I got to the point of despair with his blind belief in his players’ ethic which it seemed obvious to most everyone else, was severely lacking. Anyone who watched Adams, Bould, Vieira, Parlour, Freddie, Santi but to name a few will know what I’m talking about.

I got to the point where I just couldn’t trust AW anymore because I believed he was too close to the technicalities of his management to see the more simple picture, which was – play your best players who will do the job you tell them to, no matter what their name or “status”. Also find a Captain that will lead by example and demand those players do what they need to. I think most people would agree that this was in fact the case and the reason he had to go.

So here’s the question: Do we just blindly trust Unai and not take our players to task. I think everyone would say no to that so where is the line? At what point is it ok to question, criticize, hold accountable? Obviously I’ve reached my tipping point with Xhaka and yet, although Unai keeps picking him, I am not there yet with the manager. It will probably take a while for that but I feel it’s ok to question him at this point.

I know we’re just fans and we don’t have all the technical information, nor see the players in training every day so is there a point that allows us to voice our opinion if it’s not necessarily positive or even downright negative. I’ll not be a hypocrite here and admit I had a few choice words for people who have criticized Wenger, Fizman, the Kroenke’s over the years because I always thought there was more to the picture. So what do you all think? Are there rules for this or do we just have to agree that we all see it differently?

Mike M