It’s only five games into the new season and already the furore around Arsenal Football Club underachieving has sprung to the forefront of the football headlines once more. An awful second half showing versus Watford on Sunday reopened a unhealed wound that has been gaping for at least a decade. Yet despite the familiarity of the criticism thrown at Arsenal’s defence in particular, the problems from the latter years of Arsene Wenger’s time at the club and Unai Emery’s reign so far seem to be fairly unique from each other.
In Emery, Arsenal clearly have a manager of high intensity and energy, who demands a lot from his players. Something that many felt was lacking in Wenger’s final years at the club. Despite Emery’s broken English he clearly communicates his passion for management and getting the best from his players when watching him on the sidelines week to week. However, a growing tendency to switch personnel and tactics more often than many would recommend is starting to cause those who backed Emery to doubt whether he is the man to lead Arsenal to the heights they reached in Wenger’s prime years.
A hot topic to discuss in regard to Arsenal’s issues is of course the fact that for some unknown reason the club do not have a solidified club captain. Instead deploying an EU summit style group of captains who each take the armband at different times through the season. The main choice for captain at present is Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka, who to say the least, divides opinion in regard to his eligibility to be in the first eleven let alone lead that eleven. A utterly reckless tackle inside the box in the recent North London derby once again showcased Xhaka’s inability to channel his aggression. There’s no doubt Xhaka possesses the fire in his belly that a good captain requires but he clearly lacks other key attributes needed to lead a team that seems to lack cohesion at the best of times.
Another key issue relating to Emery’s management of the club is his persistence with swapping the starting side around. It’s a well worn cliche but the majority of successful teams, in recent history at least, have a manager who played consistent first elevens. Emery though seems intent on chopping and changing his side, and has even apparently conceded that he feels playmaker Mesut Ozil isn’t suited to playing away from home. Only for Arsenal’s Spanish boss to then play Ozil away from home versus a side that has historically gone about roughing Arsenal’s players up when they visit Vicarage Road. Ozil once again was patchy in his performance and was substituted off well before the ninety. As was Real Madrid loanee Dani Ceballos who had been one of Arsenal’s better players in a game that was spinning out of control. Externally curious looking subs of this nature have become a defined feature of Emery’s time at the club.
Of course with less than five hundred minutes of league football played this season, it’s premature to say Emery is under any severe pressure as Gunners boss yet it’s clear that his grace period as Arsenal manger is over. And Arsenal fans won’t easily forget that their side picked up just seven points from their last seven games of last season, practically handing fourth spot to Chelsea in the process. So clearly the recent outbreak of frustrations towards Emery and his side were founded not on Sunday but back in the spring.
The issue for Arsenal fans is that Emery (like so many modern managers) seems rather stubborn in his approach and more worryingly many might not be entirely sure what that approach really is. Some might describe Emery as quite conservative yet his bold and often instinctual substitutions suggest otherwise.
Looking from outside the palace gates, it’s seems like Unai Emery needs to show the Arsenal faithful what his philosophy actually is and stick with it over a significant stretch of time. As at present his mind appears like it’s in constant flux in regard to his best eleven, formation and approach to winning football matches. In other words, he’s needs to settle down if he wants to settle in North London for the foreseeable future. Oh and sort that defence out well before the Christmas adverts kick in.
If you enjoyed this article or any others on thesixyardring feel free to like/share/RT them or alternatively mention them to friends as wonder if Ozil should get 175k a week now he can’t play away from home (unless he gets picked away after all!)