Unai Emery Has Work To Do

Online Ed: Arsenal disappoint at West Ham

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Just over a year ago, in last season’s corresponding fixture, Arsenal went to West Ham and played out a dire 0-0 draw. The team that day was Cech, Bellerin, Maitland-Niles, Koscielny, Monreal, Wilshere, Xhaka, Ozil, Iwobi, Sanchez and Giroud. Wilshere was the Gunners’ only bright light in an instantly forgettable performance.

Yesterday lunchtime, Arsenal started the game with only four of those names. Wilshere, now a West Ham player, was a pundit in Sky Sports’ box overlooking the pitch. Plenty has changed in 13 months, but the result was even worse, and the performance not dissimilar. Strange as it may sound, overall, I felt the Gunners’ defence actually had a better game than normal. They invariably concede at least a goal. West Ham’s winner came as a consequence of a poor clearing header from Xhaka. It felt like he was playing a header to try and find Kolasianc rather than simply get it out of the danger area. It was intercepted by Samir Nasri, who knocked it to Declan Rice, whose shot beat Bernd Leno.

The first half had been fairly even. Alex Lacazette came close a couple of times, as did Guendouzi, while West Ham had enjoyed a couple of very decent chances. West Ham’s goal came early in the second half, allowing plenty of time for the visitors to mount a comeback. They created some opportunities, but nothing gilt-edged. The change to a back four with the introduction of Aaron Ramsey from the bench helped a little, but for once, the Arsenal attack was impotent.

West Ham had worked out that a lot of Arsenal’s danger stems from the overlapping runs of Kolasinac, and countered this successfully with a tight offside trap. There were predictably calls for Mesut Ozil to return to the team to add creativity and unpick defensive locks. His standing rises with every game he is not available for as long as Arsenal’s patchy run continues. However, Ozil played in the 0-0 draw at the London Stadium last season, so it is not a given. Yesterday’s game was suited to him though. There was enough space in the midfield to play in. It was a generally open match with two teams going for the win.

I’d expressed in the preview piece for this match on the website yesterday that this was the kind of game Arsenal needed to take three points from if they are to return to the Champions League next season. I have now resigned myself to the likelihood that isn’t going to happen. Arsenal have ramped up their marketing to sell club level seats for the 2019/20 season, with a flurry of emails to those on the season ticket waiting list. The club know they are going to have to work very hard to shift the extra two rows they have installed over two summers, especially if they remain as non-participants in the Champions League. Now, that looks more and more likely, especially if there are no signings of substance in the current transfer window.

Some bad decisions have been made in recent seasons. Cash was left in the bank when players were cheaper than they are now. Players were on wages that did not reflect their talent. The club were able to justify it because the manager continued to get them into the lucrative Champions League. So they let him do as he wished with his transfer budget (including not using it), all the time seeing the club never genuinely challenge for the title. The Champions League was enough. Fourth place was a trophy, at least in financial terms. This didn't allow for Liverpool and Spurs to finally get their act together and recruit decent managers. It had to happen in the end, and so it has. Manchester United have been in a lull of sorts since the retirement of Alex Ferguson, but their revenues have remained high and they are able to spend big. As it stands, Arsenal are on the outside looking in, when it comes to the major prizes.

The real question is how long they will remain in this Europa League zone level. On that score, it’s ironic they have recruited a manager who seems to be an expert in that particular competition. One thing that does fox me though. To be successful in a European knockout competition three years in a row, as Sevilla were under Emery, don’t you need a good defence? Yesterday wasn’t too bad on that score, but over the course of the season, everyone can see there are problems. A change in personnel does not seem likely, so only a change in tactics can rectify this issue. It was perhaps significant that it was Xhaka who was hauled off yesterday for Torreira to come on. He was undoubtedly the main culprit for the goal. Arsenal need to stop trying to play quite so much possession football in their own third.

At West Ham though, it was the attack that really did not work out. Arsenal generally score at least two goals per game. It was the first home win for the Hammers against the Gunners since 2006-07. Gooners have had a pretty good run when it comes to this particular away trip.

There is understandable frustration at this defeat, and it means that the last four league away matches have seen one point gained out of 12 available. When you consider three of the teams faced were Southampton, Brighton and West Ham that is worrying. This run looks unlikely to improve given the next trip will be to Manchester City. Arsenal will look to beat Chelsea and Cardiff in their next two league outings, and a win over Manchester United in the FA Cup would bring some feelgood back to the club.

But in terms of the season as a whole, the outlook is a lot gloomier than it was before the visit to Southampton. The job of rebuilding from the wreckage left behind by the Wenger / Gazidis era is going to take time, and it is possible Emery is not the man to do it. He will be given another season, another summer transfer window. And if there is no progress by the summer of 2020, the club will try someone else.

The owner is not too fussed. He has other priorities. The key for him is that Arsenal remain in the cash cow that is the Premier League. Anything on top of that is a bonus. The club winning the major prizes is no big deal. Given the choice, Stan Kroenke would probably choose an FA Cup final sitting next to royalty than a Champions League final sitting next to the head honcho at UEFA.

The turnaround will be dependent on the club bucking the odds, turning a sow’s ear into a silk purse. That is why Sven Mislintat has been brought in, but it needs the combination of a top scout and a top coach to make it happen. Emery was getting results in the opening months of the season, but watching his team, there was always a feeling he was getting away with it. His attackers were bailing out the defence. Yesterday at the London Stadium, it didn’t happen. Teams are working out how to nullify Arsenal’s threat. It isn't complicated. A good offside trap will catch one of Emery’s players out much of the time.

I am not really sure how it will go from here. Arsenal could possibly lose three out of their next four matches. They need a reaction next weekend. Aside from Rob Holding, Emery will have all of his defenders fit. And he has a decision to make about how or whether to utilise Mesut Ozil. He has a week to come up with a plan for the Chelsea game.

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  1. peter wain

    Jan 17, 2019, 10:52 #112945

    but he did win titles and cups

  2. mbg

    Jan 16, 2019, 22:50 #112943

    peter wain, you better get used to a lot more like him then, and it's thanks to that other one before him who also wasn't fit to manage Arsenal.

  3. peter wain

    Jan 16, 2019, 13:23 #112939

    well if he knows tactics what was Saturday all about. Midfield was barren of creativity - the highest paid player in our history not on the bench. Three average centre halves played - why not use some of the youth squad? Kos not fit the greek to slow and Mustafi not good enough. No Dick is a not good enough to manager Arsenal.

  4. Moscowgooner

    Jan 16, 2019, 07:15 #112936

    Peter Wain - you have to be trolling right? Emery lacking tactical nous? Wenger didn’t even consider tactics: it was just stick his favourites out on the pitch and expect them to make it up as they went along! Emery has tactical nous in spades but needs two seasons at least to make this ‘his’ team. I am however really disappointed at the decision to let Ramsey go but the key problem is not Emery at all but rather Fat Stan. This is one issue that Graham and Wenger didn’t have to contend with in their early seasons. That said Chapman had to deal with Norris (with his prohibition on ‘expensive buys’) and that didn’t end up too badly...

  5. mbg

    Jan 15, 2019, 23:38 #112934

    I wonder what manager these idiots who are calling for Emery's head would give their support too ? When would it stop ? when wenger came back reincarnated ? LOL.

  6. mbg

    Jan 15, 2019, 23:29 #112933

    markymark, yes le grove had form for standing by wenger for years even through humiliation after humiliation waiting for him to come good LOL, and only changed their mind and jumped on the band wagon with everybody else when they seen and realised what was happening with wenger, now it seems their jumping on the band wagon again and not prepared to give Emery the same chance and support they gave TOF, Sad.

  7. markymark

    Jan 15, 2019, 20:44 #112928

    The Express is running a story that Sven Mstinlat is leaving after a bust up! He’s got form for being fiery. Well we’ll see

  8. markymark

    Jan 15, 2019, 17:26 #112925

    Peter Wain - currently you’re on the Le Grove train of thought that is turning rapidly anti Unai. Pedro has occasionally also defended Wenger which is very odd. What I can’t fathom was your constant going on about us hiring a hoof it manager. Whether pro or anti it makes no sense at all. We really should give Unai to season end at least and even that’s too early I think. Klopp got whacked a few times in his first season and was ridiculed for celebrating a drawer against poor opposition . He also truly f’d up their Champions League bid by playing a very shaky keeper ( remind you of anyone ?) the first season he finished 6th . Second season was 8th. Not very good is it? Pepe found the first year tough going as well. Unai is responsible for tactics and footballing brand on the pitch. There have been some errors and he is struggling to push the brand with he players we have . He is not responsible for the criminal salary problems . Previous poor recruitment and lacklustre owner. I think any manager would find us a real challenge . Particularly when buying your way out of trouble like Wengo did previously is not on the agenda .

  9. mbg

    Jan 15, 2019, 17:09 #112924

    Yes indeed he had to be sacked alright, and maybe if he'd have been sacked three, four, five, seasons ago when things were going down hill and the writing was on the wall and when a lot of us seen it and were calling for it we wouldn't be in this mess now and it would all be behing us, but no, AKB wengerites and his supporters were having none of it wenger was their man he'd make it right LOL, the WOB was castigated from all quarters until his luvvies took their head out of the sand (and other places) and realised it too, but it was too late, the damage was done, and no matter who he was replaced with was going to be left with an impossible job and have a hell of a mess to clear up, and the same will go for the next manager too if it were to happen regardless although and i'd bet this present manager will not be leaving his predessor with as much to do as the old fraud wenger did.

  10. peter wain

    Jan 15, 2019, 11:40 #112920

    mbg For information I am not a wengerite. He had to be sacked. But I am also not a fan of this comic we have as a manager or an owner who has no interest in our club. I would like them both sacked and replaced by people who are willing to invest in the first team squad and a manager with a decent amount of tactical nous which I think Emry does not posess. The Ozil situation is all of Gazidis making which makes you wonder why we paid him so much money. Still he has gone and his replacements better sharpen their pencils and get in some top quality signings or face a lot of empty seats and a relegation battle next season if this continues.

  11. mbg

    Jan 14, 2019, 22:58 #112919

    jj, good to hear from you again, some of them have their knives sharpened already and probably have for a long time and couldn't wait to tell/show us.

  12. mbg

    Jan 14, 2019, 22:41 #112918

    Peter Wain, 112908, welcome back would have expected nothing else lol, spoken like a true wengerite.

  13. Don Howe

    Jan 14, 2019, 17:53 #112917

    It's disappointing but not surprising. The shock was that we went 22 games unbeaten. I would get Martin Keown in just to do an organisational job with what defenders we have. There's no reason why this should interfere with the manager's balance of play. I'm in favour of Ramsey going. He's smeared in Wenger, but I'd much rather Ozil was removed. It's going to be a hard road back but I'm reasonably confident in the manager. I love the suggestion that the Wengerites are on his case. Priceless.

  14. jjetplane

    Jan 14, 2019, 16:45 #112916

    Also asking a lot thinking Dick can just pick up another Europa at the drop of a hat. Conditions were better for him when he was in the less frenetic Spanish league whereas now he knows there are no easy games. Like the guy a lot but already you can see the likes of Untold sharpening their knives while attending to their lord and master's shrine. Still - they make for a fun read. I am still watching 9th tier and we have 9 points and are rock bottom and yet we have a new owner and we are on youtube and so the only way is up. Still loving football and Emery is still the best we have had since GG. Fact!

  15. jjetplane

    Jan 14, 2019, 16:34 #112915

    Looks like SK's Rams may be heading for the superbowl and the new stadium costs are now running at 4 billion dollars which makes AFC very much a side project but handy cash cow. My bet is that Dick will not be sacked but may well walk of his own accord. His energy has already been sapped and there are so many teams below Arsenal who really are now AFC's equals and if Utd carry on it is they who will make top 4 with Chelski nicking 5th place. Think this season is good as over and the stadium will start emptying in earnest soon enough. As long as the LA Rams can cream off AFc monies everything is fine and dandy for the yanks. Personally lost faith a long time ago and the PL apart from Wolves (haha!) is of little interest to a lot of fans. The only thing keeping the Shitshow alive is the money made in the far east.

  16. John F

    Jan 14, 2019, 13:19 #112914

    Emery has to make a tough choice on improving the squad.The two main areas are lack of width and the defence.On the defence he has Mavropanos returning so I would imagine he is going to try and get by with him and is concentrating on getting Suarez who is available and can play on the wing.Of course he would like to improve the defence but does not have the option to do both unless he can ship players out this window.

  17. RobG

    Jan 14, 2019, 11:12 #112913

    Here we are. We all need cheering up. I am sure some of you have seen this. But even if you have it's well worth checking out again for very obvious reasons :- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-EqStFiuBn0

  18. GoonerRon

    Jan 14, 2019, 10:42 #112912

    Emery is displaying a fair bit of conservatism in his line ups - my thoughts are 3 CB’s plus two relatively safe midfielders in Xhaka and Guendouzi was a bit negative against a team like West Ham. It still doesn’t feel like he knows his best system or line up, my feel is he’s persisting with 3 at the back as we don’t have two CB’s good enough to cope with a back 4. Overall, with a week to prepare and no midweek match for the first time in ages, the whole thing was just disappointingly flat. That said, talk of Emery out is madness at this early stage. There is going to be natural evolution in the squad this summer with Ramsey leaving and I’d imagine at least Ospina, Cech, Lichsteiner and Welbeck following him out the door, so Emery will have the chance to continue the squad re-shaping.

  19. peter wain

    Jan 14, 2019, 09:01 #112911

    why are we loaning mid field players instead of defenders? It just does not make any sense. If we buy any more second rate rubbish like the greek centre half and an ageing swiss full back we will just go downhill faster. Kroenke get your cheque book out and buy quality.

  20. Seven Kings Gooner 1

    Jan 14, 2019, 08:59 #112910

    Many of us thought the 4 - 2 victory over the Spuds was Emery's Arsenal laying down a marker (myself included) it was no such thing - it was the moment this current team peaked. There are 4 or five players who will have to go before next season starts, we know who they are and we also know why they must go! Please give Emery a break, he has been left some real problems and it will take time for him to get his version of Arsenal into shape. Give Pellegrini some credit also - he shut of the supply to our wing backs and Noble and Rice took the midfield honours, plus the usual cock up from Xhaka and you have the recipe for another away defeat. RobG you are so right about the EL trophy - it will be that or nothing!

  21. peter wain

    Jan 14, 2019, 08:36 #112909

    dick and his squad of comediennes have produced another dismal performance. Emry must go now he has no idea of what to do and if he cannot persuade the owned to inject funds in the club whats the point of keeping him. Mourinho is available is a proven winner and will get the club back to the top. This guy we take us to mid table and probably lower.

  22. peter wain

    Jan 14, 2019, 08:36 #112908

    dick and his squad of comediennes have produced another dismal performance. Emry must go now he has no idea of what to do and if he cannot persuade the owned to inject funds in the club whats the point of keeping him. Mourinho is available is a proven winner and will get the club back to the top. This guy we take us to mid table and probably lower.

  23. mbg

    Jan 13, 2019, 22:12 #112907

    Bard, the wengerites certainly won't anyway.

  24. mbg

    Jan 13, 2019, 21:54 #112906

    RobG, great post, post of the week.

  25. KC38

    Jan 13, 2019, 21:53 #112905

    Of course Emery deserves time that’s a no brainier. He inherited a team that does not do defence and has so much overpaid ordinary players to ship out. He will require at least two to three transfer windows. But based on our current financial plan what will the point of these windows be if he goes into them with his hands tied behind his back. For Arsenal to compete at the very top we will require funds, sure not Man City or Man Utd money but also not a mid table budget and right now it appears that’s where we are heading, for Arsenal football club to not be able to make a permanent deal in a January transfer window when at least one is required is a very depressing message.

  26. mbg

    Jan 13, 2019, 21:41 #112904

    Your heading is an understatement Ed and it isn't going to help we still have players not good enough. We had a couple of good spells with chances to equalise and we'll never know what would have happened then, but it wouldn't have made much difference hard work and rebuilding would have still been necessary, how the fook has it got to this.

  27. Nos89

    Jan 13, 2019, 21:24 #112903

    West ham were due a home victory so it had to happen sooner or later. Disappointed, absolutely, concerned absolutely not. From the second half performance I saw a team playing good football and upping the pace to overcome a well organised defence. We didn't get a lucky break, like we did in a few games during the unbeaten run. It didn't seem like west ham were going to score again, I thought we would. We do need some players shipped out. Given Ozil's recent form, don't think he'd have made a difference. I also think he's not getting played in the hope he can be sold in January. If that doesn't happen then he will be drafted back into the team, injuries permitting. I still think we will make the top 4. Spurs have lost more games than us but haven't drawn a single game yet, and when they've drawn a few we are back in with a shout because Chelski aren't pulling away either. Ultimately, winning a trophy will help this squad and it has to be the Europa league, not simply because of the reward of the champions league but because they core of the squad have won the fa cup and will want a European trophy. Get in a player like suarez and or carrasco would give the forwards a boost but are we going to get a the defender we need in January? It's all gone quiet on that front.


    Jan 13, 2019, 19:41 #112902

    DJW nailed it - "Uncle Stan at the till", how true - usual english expression would be " at the tiller" but this is exactly what we have descended to, an owner who just doesn't "get" english football, isn't interested anyway , most damning of all, cannot see that unlike in the US of A owners cannot simply move their assets from town to town making new deals to enhance their sporting assets & where supporters & therefore the sponsors will not tolerate mediocrity in blue chip clubs as AFC are. Very sorry for Dick at the moment.

  29. John F

    Jan 13, 2019, 19:15 #112901

    George Graham in his 1st year after a promising start went on a run of ten games without a win ending in a 3-1 defeat to West Ham.I am not saying Dick is as good as George as i am reserving judgement until he is allowed to get his own players in like George did.It is a very similar to 86/87 because he too is going to have to change the culture of complacency that had infested the club and sort out a few underachieving players.He may turn out to be totally cra p and his defensive record from the past does worry me but he needs be given time.

  30. John F

    Jan 13, 2019, 17:11 #112900

    What may of been behind Emerys team selection is I think Torreira is one yellow away from a suspension which would of ruled him out of the Chelsea game.I am not an Ozil fan but when the other options are so limited he should at least get some time on the pitch.If we lose against Chelsea and our slim chances of Champions league are over i hope Dick starts playing a few of the younger players regularly in preparation for next season.

  31. DJW

    Jan 13, 2019, 16:59 #112899

    At last everyone can see Uncle Stan is just using Arsenal to prop up his other failing sporting enterprises. Those people who defend Wenger remember he took 8 million a year to take the fall for this mess and letting Ozil to do what he likes has well and truly come back to bite us on the Arsenal. While yet to be impressed with Emery and some of his team selections he at least deserves two seasons to see if he can turn this tanker around. Although with Uncle Stan at the till unless our youth system provides at least four stars fourth place is the best we can hope for.

  32. Bard

    Jan 13, 2019, 16:44 #112898

    We looked what we are, and have been for a while, a good mid table side. The idea of top 4 is delusional. We need a whole new back 4 and much more in midfield. The playing side needs wholesale changes and thats not going to happen overnight as we dont have any money. Rob admin's point about needing patience is well made. My worry is that we have already shown endless patience with Wenger, Im not sure the fans will stomach another bout of 'trust me' for 5 years. Stan may well be hands off and have very little interest but he sure will when he starts to see empty seats. Wenger took the brunt of the anger but I sense Dick has a lot of fan support. We arent like US fans. If he lets this project rot he will face a massive backlash. Interesting times. Rob G I dont think the alternatives to Dick are just Maureen, Sam or Pardew, there are plenty of other good coaches out there.

  33. Ian M

    Jan 13, 2019, 14:17 #112897

    Seeing Nasri fit and having such an influence on the game symbolised everything about Arsenal's decline since he played for us. Remember Fabregas and Nasri with Walcott knocking the ball between them and laughing with delight. Happy days, then. Crap days now.

  34. Rob Admin

    Jan 13, 2019, 14:02 #112896

    Arsenal are being pimped out by Stan to finance his new shiny stadium in LA. It will require a season of empty seats and flirtation with relegation (or worse) before he discards with us. We're simply too valuable an asset for his own vanity project.

  35. RobG

    Jan 13, 2019, 14:01 #112895

    Looks like all our eggs are going to have to be in the EL basket. Be kind of ironic if we have to beat Chelsea to win it - would it not ? No surprise that Unai is taking flack but I'm sure he'll ignore it. These are early days. And for the loonies out there, you're calling for who, exactly ? Pardew ? Mourinho ? Or is it a case of still being sore about the departure of the previous incumbent ? This is about the next three years, not the next three games - or months. And we have to stick with it, not unless you really are suggesting Pardew or Allardyce - and even if you are, the Board aren't. This is the first part of a three year rebuild. And people - if they haven't - have to wake up to that fact and buy into it.

  36. KC38

    Jan 13, 2019, 13:41 #112894

    Emery’s team selection is the biggest worry, Torreira surely has to start every game especially away games. How many more times do we have to discuss Xhaka being responsible for goals. Guendouzi was guilty of trying too hard he was trying to make things happen a sign of youth. The question for many of us is how much longer we continue to put our money into a club that is run by a horrible human being that does not care about competing. What is the point? The stadium will see another rise in empty seats. It’s sad to see us in this position how did we end up with the very worse type of owner, new stadium to compete what a joke! In some ways if his only wish is champions league football to pull in more cash then I can find satisfaction of not getting there. Supporting Arsenal has become soul destroying and frustrating, we were in the champions league for years have a new stadium charge excessive ticket prices and yet cannot buy a player, to keep paying up makes us guilty of bowing to this Anti football American, the very very worse type of capitalist.

  37. Wardy

    Jan 13, 2019, 11:55 #112893

    Stop playing out from the back as much with defenders who do not pass well enough (or run fast enough), Guendouzi needs a break, so give Ainsley a chance alongside Torreira, goodbye Mustafi & Xhaka and why not give Ozil a chance behind a front 2 of Auba & Laca ....... (why on earth was our best midfielder (Torreira) left out y'day) ........ we've gone backwards recently & the players don't look comfortable in whatever system we're trying to play (I don't see a system or shape developing) ....... 6th place seems likely so it will be a crucial summer of comings and goings ...... by this time next year, we'll know if Emery is making progress ...... I'm concerned but no need to panic yet as he inherited a mess & an overpaid underachieving squad.