Emery fails squad management test

Online Editorial – Arsenal suffer potentially costly home defeat to Palace

Emery fails squad management test

Ed’s note - My thanks to Gooner contributor Ian Henry for covering for me to write the piece on yesterday’s game. Normal service will be resumed when Arsenal travel to Wolves, but in the meantime, I hope you have enjoyed some different perspectives on the matches.

In my preview of this game I suggested, none too subtly, that Shkodran Mustafi was a possible risk. And so it came to pass. A generally hapless performance was capped with his failure to deal with Wilfried Zaha for the second Palace goal; he may or may not have been at fault for the 1st or 3rd goals, and I haven’t seen highlights when writing this. But that doesn’t matter; sorry to labour the point, but Shkodran Mustafi is not good enough for Arsenal; he never has been and never will be. If he plays again this season, he will more than likely contribute to our downfall again.

The other key point I raised in the match preview was how Emery decided to manage the squad and rotate players would matter; and it was not a test he passed. We started with a much-changed team; Leno for Cech was fine; no Sokratis meant the hapless Mustafi came back in; and with Monreal rested (rather than Koscielny), Mavropanos made his home debut. Jenkinson came in, with Maitland-Niles dropped to the bench, or presumably rested. With Xhaka and Ramsey injured, and Torreira also benched (carrying an injury we have to assume), our midfield was the curly haired duo of Elneny and Guendouzi. Neither met with the approval of my second half of the match companion Mustafa Goldstein (the man with more aliases than Arsenal have clean sheets); and Ozil was recalled, presumably to provide the bullets for Auba and Laca to fire. Well, like many of the best laid plans which do not include playing your best team, it didn’t work out too well.

A Palace freekick on their right was followed by ball watching and a free header for Benteke. Yes, the chap who hadn’t scored for a year apparently. Arsenal huffed and puffed but didn’t create much in the first half; Ozil was fairly anonymous (again) and neither of our £50m strikers had a shot on target of note, or even a shot not of note. Zaha was causing a lot of problems, and Wan-Bissaka seemed to prevent Kolasinac from wreaking havoc. He will be at Abu Dhabi City next season I expect. In fact, the most havoc was in our own penalty area, with Leno making a double or maybe it was triple save when our defenders failed to do the basics, namely finding row Z or even a team-mate. We could easily have been two or three down at the break.

It was clear from the half time activity on the pitch that changes were afoot. Off went Jenkinson (to be fair, I don’t think he was any worse than anyone else on the pitch) and Mavropanos (who had acquitted himself well, but was on a yellow); so a flat back four for the second half and Maitland Niles and Iwobi on to provide more penetration down the flanks. Initially it seemed to work, with Ozil equalising within a few minutes of the restart. But the momentum was soon lost and then Mustafi had his moment of madness and ineptitude; 1-2 down and not long after it was 1-3 when our defence collectively went to sleep at a corner. And to think this was supposedly an easy game. At kick off, my other match companion, the newly bearded Highbury Spy, had been confident of a record 11 game winning home run; I was worried, mainly because Mustafi was on the pitch.

Eventually, Torreira came on for Elneny and that seemed to energise the team a bit; Auba pulled one back after a mazy run and a deflection and Iwobi shot tamely at the keeper on 90mins when he should leathered it. The 10-game home winning run was over, but Elneny memorably had a real water carrier moment on 80 mins when he brought a couple of water bottle carriers to the touchline for a thirsty Lacazette. It was probably the most constructive thing he did all afternoon.

Apparently, Emery told the press afterwards that Mustafi had been consistent this season. Well, if being generally rubbish is your idea of consistency then ok. But if your idea of defensive consistency involves knowing how to defend, then I beg to differ. As for where this leaves us, the answer is in need of a) some defensive discipline and b) a team selection which excludes Mustafi on a regular basis.


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  1. Bard

    Apr 24, 2019, 11:24 #113584

    The interesting question here is why would Ashley put a load of money into Newcastle ? So they could challenge for 8th or 9th spot ? Arsenal are a level above but the same argument stands. The money Wiggy would have to put in to challenge properly is a fortune. Liverpool's success is off the back of selling Courtino for £100m +. Arsenal have to find another way. It can be done, look at Ajax. Anyway tonight is the season defining game, lose to Wolves and its all over bar the shouting.

  2. John F

    Apr 23, 2019, 20:38 #113583

    I think Ashley is a spuds fan and Wiggy is his own fan but surely the worst owners are the BLackburn Rovers the Venky's.


    Apr 23, 2019, 19:36 #113582

    This new game of choosing the worst owner for AFC is fun isn't it? Me, I'd go for Ashley every time as he reminds of that Toon fan back in Gazza's day - Jimmy 5 bellies wasn't it? Thoroughly horrible man but clever & shrewd because I can see him supping a few ales with the fans & them saying things like "he's not that bad is he? Very approachable"!! Can't see see Stanley doing that sort of thing EVER - much happier socialising with The Donald.

  4. Exiled in Pt

    Apr 23, 2019, 17:15 #113581

    Not sure Wiggy is any better than the owners of Man Ure or City only he is not putting any money in . Abramovich and the Sheiks have at least helped build those clubs and improved their history . Has the Yank not been taking a nice little consultancy fee every year !! Would also put money on him shipping us off to where ever it suited him given the opportunity , after all he is very popular in his own country for that sort of thing ...........

  5. Don Howe

    Apr 23, 2019, 15:56 #113580

    Of the two owners, Ronald, me old fruit, I would rather have Wiggy. There is nothing inherently wrong in living from our own means. Our basic position is financially healthy and it will be more so once some of the Creature's more ridiculous expenditure is flushed from the system. The £200,000 plus a week wage is beginning to be unpalatable to all but the most oil rich clubs and there is a limit to how many players they can buy (PSG and Citeh). There is also a limit to the number of TV viewers to whom the Premierships ( mostly) dreary product can be sold. So we aren't in bad nick. Wiggy won't spend any of his valuable money but he doesn't seem to want to pinch any either. Not yet at least. Mr Emery will know a few guys who can do a job and in general he has a plan. We will never be the richest club again, and we were only that in the 1930's and 40's. Do we want to be owned by middle eastern potenates or oligarchs? Not me. I regard City as having lost their soul. Perhaps we should encourage the sheiks and the Glazers to achieve synergy by having the same stadium with a view to eventual merger and participation in the Euro League. They could move to Dallas or Des Moines or Dubai and play in green and beige.

  6. itsRonagain2

    Apr 23, 2019, 14:06 #113579

    Don - Transfer window? Mate, theyve as good as said that he must use what cash he gets from sales and who in the right mind is going to pay much for Arsenals flotsam? If they get top 4, there may be a bot of extra cash but really, hes going be juggling and taking chances again on players. The media love to gang up on Ashley at the Toon, but he is any different to Kroenke? I don't think so apart from the fact that MA is here and able to listen to the bile they throw his way and SK isnt.

  7. itsRonagain2

    Apr 23, 2019, 13:53 #113578

    I agree with CG. hes given precedence to the EL. In fairness though that side ought to have had enough to beat CP. Mustafi is a great trier in every game he plays but just not good enough at the level hes at. Had other players have given what he has in the time since he joined though, things would be far better now. Emery does chop the team up too much. Fitness issues aside he ought to have just picked his best line up and told them theyre all playing the last 6 games. Problem is with that squad i dont really think hes knows what his best line up or system is. He has to make up and mend and improvise here and there every week so to mask all the teams and individual players inadequacies His acid test will be next Season. I think he need s a good old trolley dash!!! What fun that was in 2011. Emery was never going to pull up trees in a Season following on from 12 years of abject neglect at the Club. Hes done OK and none would have done better in my view. As said by somebody, i cant see them winning the EL.

  8. Don Howe

    Apr 23, 2019, 13:50 #113577

    I'm going to criticise the manager, which I don't like to do, but it was obvious after 20 mins that we were playing Wengerball. You know, that phantom state of limbo where they pass and pass and never make anything happen. The substitutions which needed making were Ozil (we could have had Fabregas back for goodness sake) and Elneny. Ozil adds nothing. Nothing. All Palace had to do was to maintain a stout defence and keep the ball away from our two strikers. Torreira and Mkhtarian should have been on after 20 minutes. Iwobi did help but inexplicably switched flanks and was ineffective again. He came back to the left once Mustafi has screwed up twice. Why Jenks was removed I have no idea. Ainsley is always a welcome addition however, but a lack of push in midfield is an understatement with Ozil anywhere near the team. Hopefully he will be offloaded in the close season. The majority of the crowd still believe in him, but then they thought that the Creature could still hack it. Excuses? 3 games in 7 days told on us. WE have to work really hard for our position given the state that the Creature left us in. For the most part Dick has done really well so this was forgivable. No more mistakes however or we will be in the Europa again. It will be really interesting to see what he can do in the transfer window.

  9. Exiled in Pt

    Apr 23, 2019, 13:17 #113576

    Poor team choice by Dick but he does not have a lot to pick from lets be honest . In my opinion 4th place should of been the priority over the EC , especially when we had the opportunity to put daylight between us and 5 th place and rise above the scum . The only ray of light is the other 3 are all bottling the chance to pull away also ( come on Brighton tonight ). Mustafi has always been a hit and miss player one week looks reasonable the next he looks like... well take your choice of poor buys by Le Fraud . Stepanovs has to be the worst in my opinion !! Agree with you chaps with regard to the youngsters but they are not going to get thrown in the deep end now otherwise the 2 boys in Germany would be strutting there stuff and we would not be wasting our time with Suarez !!! When we could of got Cahill on loan for the rest of the season ...

  10. peter wain

    Apr 23, 2019, 10:23 #113575

    Why pick Mustaphi? Worse Wenger buy ever. £35 million who negotiated the fee? Need to get rid of him for free we cannot charge people a fee for this player.

  11. ArsenalMagna

    Apr 22, 2019, 22:03 #113574

    So Burnley draw with Chelsea! Just as I said, the mid-week games could be the biggest factors in the final matches. Pretty good actually, because if City beat United but United beat Chelsea, we only need two wins and a draw from our last four games to virtually guarantee fourth place. However, it's ultimately best just to wait till the end of the season to know for sure where things stand.

  12. GoonerRon

    Apr 22, 2019, 21:51 #113573

    A proper horror show that should be a nail in the coffin for Mustafi’s Arsenal career. Sod all this chopping and changing - we need our key players to commit to 6 Cup finals in the next 3 weeks and the coaching staff need to set the training and recovery schedule to enable them to get through it. If Burnley hold on we’ve partially got away with it, but it means we cannot take any more liberties with team selection from now on.

  13. Bard

    Apr 22, 2019, 18:44 #113572

    Dick gambled and lost. He thought he could get away with Mustafi and a piss poor midfield. To ship 3 goals at home is abject. It made me think about our hopeless Jan transfer window. Was it absolutely impossible to find a half decent defender on loan who could do a job. Instead we went with Suarez a proper Kim Kallstrom number. As Nos89 suggests dont we have any decent u/23s who could do a better job ? What is evident is how many of the current squad arent up to it and need moving on. With our away record you would have to think that we are done and dusted for the season and only have the Ropey cup to look forward to. The game was an absolute shocker no two ways about it.

  14. Nos89

    Apr 22, 2019, 15:27 #113571

    I've no doubt Emery meant that Mustafi has been consistently mediocre this season, but of course he can't say that. We do have quality players at U-23 level in defense that have stepped up and performed when required in the cup competitions, Medley springs to mind. Why not give them a crack at it alongside Koscielny who seems to be in good form. Next season Holding will be back and Chambers has done well at Fulham. I know they were relegated but he was one of their better defenders. Alongside Holding he will be better on play him in the DM role which he has occupied at Fulham. But I get consistently flummoxed by Emery decision to chop and change the defence. He should know that the defence needs to be stable and not messed about with to get some consistency. That's what makes every successful team, successful.


    Apr 22, 2019, 14:15 #113570

    "Fails squad management test". What squad!! A paper thin squad with significant injuries & others carrying knocks. Our remaining away days are difficult & although Dick will talk endlessly about "big" ( his favourite english word this season) performances, attitude etc. I think he is now gambling everything on the Europa - that's if he can keep the likes of Koz, Torreira & Xakha in one piece. Can't see above 5th now as yesterday was always a "must win".

  16. ArsenalMagna

    Apr 22, 2019, 11:31 #113569

    As I said before, the mid-week game can be a killer for the weekend. If you're like City/Liverpool and have lots of world class players, their dips in performance are relatively less to most of the lot we have, and they have better squad depth to make rotation viable in any case. The sad thing is, yesterday marked the start of a 21-day period in which we have 7 games, so expect to see more of Mustafi, Elneny and Jenks in the premier league matches. Credit to Emery for making us in contention for 3rd/4th place and winning the Europa League; it's just sad that we could end up sixth and knocked out by Valencia or Chelsea, because now would be a great time to deny Chelsea and Utd CL football - it would make their squad rebuilding much harder and ours much easier.

  17. markymark

    Apr 22, 2019, 10:02 #113568

    ANL* meant AMN whoops

  18. markymark

    Apr 22, 2019, 9:59 #113567

    Emery has won 32 of his first 50 games in charge – the most by any Arsenal manager - I thought I’d post this as a balance to genuine criticism of the rotation. I genuinely can’t get my head around switching ANL as surely at his stage of career you need to play as many games as possible. Torreira should be starting even if he needs to come off after 65mins. Mustaphi is not up to playing with anyone less experienced than him. Obviously unable to lead a defence, he only plays adequately when others can guide him. This is a major problem and needs to be sorted end of season with his transfer. Guendouzi is a playmaker but cannot boss a midfield at this stage and in fact will he ever? A Torreira is always needed for this role. So a rotation too far. As others said in the previous post. Play the best team you can.