Just another meek Arsenal surrender on the road

Online editorial: Gunners pointless in Sheffield

Just another meek Arsenal surrender on the road

Saka - Dive or penalty?

Even though we are not even out of October yet, it already has the feeling of being a fag end of a season, marking time to give Unai Emery another chance to fall short of delivering Champions League football.

So far under Emery’s tenure, his record away from home in the Premier League is as follows -
2018/19 – Played 19, Won 7, Drawn 4, Lost 8 – 25 points from 57
2019/20 – Played 5, Won 1, Drawn 2, Lost 2 – 5 points from 15
Two clean sheets in those 24 games. This is a club that celebrates a history with defenders like Joe Mercer, Frank McLintock and Tony Adams to the fore.

Is this good enough to improve Arsenal from when Emery took over? No.
Is it going to get any better with Emery at the helm? No. We’ve had long enough to establish that.

The game hinged on four key incidents in the first half.
1 – The failure of Mike Dean to give a penalty for an obvious shirt pull on Sokratis (not certain what VAR is supposed to be used for if Dean was not informed of that… even though it did happen right in front of him)
2 – Pepe’s miss in front of goal
3 – The lack of a marker on the scorer for the Sheffield United’s goal from a corner
4 – The decision of Mike Dean that Buyako Saka played for the penalty when he was booked for (presumably) unsporting contact. I thought he was clipped by the Blades’ defender and lost his balance, but only Saka knows the truth.

So two debatable refereeing decisions – but Arsenal often suffer with scouser Dean – and two moments of poor play.

Sheffield United are hard to break down, no doubt about that, but in fairness, Arsenal had so much of the ball, they should have created more danger. That they failed to do this was a consequence of a lack of drive mixed with too many safe balls simply to maintain possession. This allowed United to settle at the back before attacks were mounted.

The delivery from the flanks wasn’t good enough, so often finding an opposition player. It raises a question about the selection of Kolasinac over Tierney, and the decision to leave Bellerin in London. Maybe they wouldn’t have done better than those picked, but if these players are fit enough to play on Thursday against Vitoria Guimaraes, it's a valid question as to why Emery did not pick his best full backs for the more difficult game.

There was at least one isolated memory of better days, when Freddie Ljungberg was issued a yellow card. Sadly, the Swede’s fighting spirit was not out there on the pitch, and this is why Sheffield United won the game, in spite of – theoretically – having a weaker side. Quite simply, it mattered more to them. Hence their determination in defence, so patently lacking when Arsenal conceded from a corner. Gunedouzi did not even get off the floor, leaving his opponent a free header which then fell to the unmarked Mousset to tap in.

After the interval, Ceballos replaced the ineffective Joe Willock and added a sense of purpose to Arsenal’s play, but the team needed 10 more players of his urgency and quickness of thought. The Spaniard couldn’t do it on his own. There is something fundamentally lacking with the Gunners at present, and there has been for several seasons, hence campaigns like 2015-16 where Leicester won the title for the simple reason they wanted it more. Arsenal are lesser than the sum of their parts, even allowing for some of the below par players they are having to get by with.

What is the solution? A fresh approach from a coach that will drill the importance of defensive responsibility into the players, and improve the way they are set up. Arsenal give away opportunities too easily, hence the mere two clean sheets in 24 away matches. It’s a self-imposed handicap, and no wonder they struggle to gain sufficient points away from the Emirates given that. Emery's side aren’t exactly exciting most of the time, so to actually focus on solidity won’t actually make a lot of difference. They need to become hard to beat. There needs to be a foundation to build on, and right now, it feels like they are trying to construct a future on quicksand.

If the club were seriously ambitious, they would be talking to Massimiliano Allegri now to persuade him to cut short his sabbatical. Get him in and shake things up a bit. The problem is that Arsenal, as a club, have historically been very conservative. The only occasion on which they have got shot of a manager quickly was Bruce Rioch – and that only because David Dein couldn’t wait to get Arsene Wenger in – although that was certainly a good decision until the stadium move gave AW too much power.

So Arsenal will chug along for the next few months. Always just about in contention. Chelsea look to be improving, so top four is reliant on Manchester United not getting a better manager in, and Spurs remaining in their current stupor. And of course Leicester not maintaining their good start. With Arsenal’s firepower, they will win plenty of home matches, and the odd away one. But they are brittle. They have been for years. A culture shift is required, and sadly Unai Emery is not the man to deliver it. Last night was testament to that.

Arsenal had the vast majority of possession but failed to do anything with it. A familiar story, one that people have got bored with. Hence the cries for the club to try someone else in the dugout. Emery still has his supporters, but they are dwindling in number. I wonder what Raul Sanllehi and Edu make of it, and what the line they take with the Kroenkes is? Arsenal are still in contention to achieve their aims this season, the table tells us that. But somehow, it all feels real flat at the moment. Just going through the motions. It’s like a relationship that you know has run its course, but you are still in it. You remember when it was all new and exciting, but it didn’t last. You got complacent and in your heart of hearts you know this isn’t going to be for the long term. So the rots sets in until someone has the balls to call time on the arrangement and admit it’s best for both parties to move on.

Who said romance is dead…?


The October edition of the monthly (original) Gooner podcast can be listened to and downloaded here

You can follow The Gooner on
or subscribe to our
YouTube channel (where you can find the GoonerFanzineTV weekly podcast)


Buy the new issue of The Gooner

The current issue of The Gooner can be bought from our online store on this page

Subscribe to The Gooner

If you wish to subscribe to receive every issue of The Gooner by post, UK and abroad options are on this page.

Save The Gooner Subscribe to the printed version to help keep us in print for the 2020-21 season Save The Gooner

NEW! Subscribe to our weekly Gooner Fanzine newsletter for all the latest news, views, and videos from the intelligent voice of Arsenal supporters since 1987.

Please note that we will not share your email address with any 3rd parties.

Article Rating

Leave a comment

Sign-in with your Online Gooner forum login to add your comment. If you do not have a login register here.


  1. Wengerballs

    Oct 23, 2019, 9:14 #115193

    What did the Board expect hiring this Spanish joystick manager who thinks he is a sideline theatrical matador. He went a whole season never winning a single away game at Valencia and coached a PSG team to a 6-1 defeat by Barcelona. Nuff said, end of! He doesnt coach defence!!! Hes a Spanish Wenger!

  2. markymark

    Oct 22, 2019, 21:22 #115191

    Cornish - I wouldn’t bother with the cost of SKY. The way footballs going it’s going to be multi channel and I’m sure Amazon will get involved. Pop down the pub have a nice pint of Sharpe’s or something similar and watch it their or do old school Radio 5., There you go , you’ll be far happier and as Gooner Admin mentioned hopefully it’ll be new manager soon!


    Oct 22, 2019, 19:45 #115190

    If the Club ARE really ambitious then they should have that "conversation" with Dick now & handover to Freddie whilst talking to the likes of Allegri, maybe Enrique if he is over his personal problems, or any other "A" Lister that others could think of. Clearly nowt is going to change otherwise. Can't really think of any positives &, as others have said, I no longer have sleep interrupted nights over AFC. I can't believe that as a poor, impoverished Cornish guy, I am giving fortunes to Sky & BT every month for this dire fare. I will probably finish up like Eddie Murphy in "Trading Places" propelling myself on a little handcart around Liskeard, begging for contributions at the next price increase. The sick joke is that I can currently watch a proper team, hardworking, with a do or die attitude & more than a Plan A for bugger £. But that's the England rugby team unfortunately!

  4. markymark

    Oct 22, 2019, 19:14 #115189

    ArsenalMagna - one thing you didn’t mention was the away dressing room. A good place to check this out as it’s relatively easy to visit is the Coventry stadium . Compare home and away. They play phycological tricks on the opposition even playing with lighting and they are usually cramped and poor in comparison to the home changing room. Unsettle that’s the idea. Anyway that’s not the reason why Arsenal lost yesterday to quote a title of a very good film it was “lost in translation”. Save Freddie needing to learn Spanish . Sack Unai !

  5. GoonerRon

    Oct 22, 2019, 14:29 #115188

    Walking to the ground with a mate and asking for his prediction, then we very quickly got onto how this is still a team that can’t be trusted - the score could be 3-0 either way or something in between and it wouldn’t have been hugely surprising. For me the lack of something tangible to get behind in terms of style of play or structure is hard to take at the minute. After 16 months, we should be seeing a semblance of something consistently identifiable as to what we’re trying to achieve but it’s just not there. We don’t press with any conviction, we’re no longer a team that will pass the opposition to death, we don’t have intensity off the ball, we’re not particularly disciplined in defence. Kevin’s right in that we are less than the sum of our parts. For me these are the facts: we have two full backs more comfortable going forward than defending, we don’t have a strong CB pairing, we don’t have the right balance in midfield, we don’t have two high quality wingers and we have two elite level forwards. To get the best out of all that we need to play three CB’s (I’d go Holding, Luiz and Chambers), play Tierney and Bellerin as WB’s, play Torreira and Guendouzi centrally and have Lacazette and Pepe as two ‘inside forwards’ behind Aubameyang.

  6. itsRonagain2

    Oct 22, 2019, 14:21 #115187

    AM - thats really interesting. Thank you. Ive always been fascinated by the psychology of sport and this home and away conundrum has ling been central to football hasnt it. Im sure that Directors and sports psychologists and people in the back ground of these clubs are fully aware of this cultural impasse and know that theyre battling against an immovable object, made worse by the readiness of massive wages whether players 'put it in ' or not these days. We can only look to our own personality traits cant we. For me, playing away at a big hostile venue when the homers are full 'we hate the visitors' mode would be the ultimate. Nothing better than getting into the home team and ruining their day in front of their own support! I d also want 10 others of the same mindset of course. Quite where the problem is with that ive no idea. Would i be the same if i was getting 180000 a week? Yes, i would. Its about honesty isnt it and knowing i was justifying the enormous sums of money and faith the club puts into me. I absolutely hate this insipid, 'cant be bothered , i ll leave if things dont get better'culture that (to me anyway) is rife in football. I dont think we see it in other team sports either, largely because the money isnt there but also because of the types of people that football attracts in the main. Fans today are truly getting a bum deal and its the mass wall to wall coverage and its only the hype thats masking the reality of it for many, hence they keep going and hoping things will alter. As they say, its the hope that kills you in the end. Dreadful to say or think it after a lifetime of following the game, but the best thing for it is for the game to fall flat on its face in general so to cleanse it and for AFC in particular for the decline and failure to become chronic, both enabling a reality check to occur. Just my view. i know many disagree.

  7. Redshrtswhitesleeves

    Oct 22, 2019, 14:14 #115186

    Looked at the result at 10pm last night, shrugged my shoulders and went to sleep without giving it much of a second thought. Years ago it would have eaten at me all night and long into the following days. That’s where I am with football and Arsenal these days. The clubs and Sky don’t give a monkeys about fans. They have taken our game and destroyed it in the name of greed. Wenger and co have eroded my passion for the club to the point where, win or lose, I no longer can be bothered to be bothered about it

  8. ArsenalMagna

    Oct 22, 2019, 13:34 #115185

    @Ron yes it's really across the board in truth, there are exceptions but it's a solid rule. Even a top team like City have pulled up no trees in Europe and I suspect that's because, when push comes to shove, they're just a bunch mercenaries - highly talented but lacking the heart to deliver when the going gets tough. Liverpool have that tribalism, probably reflecting Klopp's character, a few gems they've unearthed in the transfer market and possibly the culture their fans so avidly embrace of theirs being an especially important football club, but these factors are few and far between in modern football at large. I actually watched a video breaking down 'home advantage' in football, very relevant to Arsenal's woes. It showed that it's not just home support - though that is important - that gives the home team an advantage. Players also instinctively view home turf as a patch of their 'territory' and testosterone levels measured in players' spit shows the home team have higher levels than the away team. Obviously there's familiarity and comfort of environment at stake too. Jamie Carragher said he earned his wages playing away from home. Our poor away form is symptomatic of Arsenal's particular experience of the malaise in the culture of football that you have often spoken about so articulately. This team does well when comfortable at Ashburton Grove; the crowd gives them an impetus they feel somehow encouraged by - either through duty or temporary excitement - but there's no more to it than that. They don't have in themselves - by themselves - the mettle and love for Arsenal that you need to deliver regularly, especially away from home. Same problem at United, hence they're trying to rebuild with young English players - one of their last hopes of salvation. Jury's still out on the viability of that one, however.

  9. Ham

    Oct 22, 2019, 13:24 #115184

    Chambers was a disgrace at the corner, just letting his man wander away from him, and then the first to put his arm up in the air appealing for who knows what

  10. Rob Admin

    Oct 22, 2019, 13:19 #115183

    Everything from the performances on the pitch to behaviour on the touchline is making this all feel like the end of Wenger era. Time to cut Emery loose, or keep him as coach for Thursday nights in the EL? Positives are that unlike the previous reign there is light at the end of the tunnel and Dick will be gone at the end of the season save for a miracle. Already I'm looking ahead to games like Palace and defeat doesn't seem like such a bad idea.

  11. ArsenalMagna

    Oct 22, 2019, 13:03 #115182

    Looked at Pepe's touches compilation on Youtube - yes he lost the ball a too much, but he was the only one - bar Martinelli - actually trying to take on players and drive the play forward. Missed a sitter but he created that whole move, one of the few chances of the evening. Plus, he put in a perfect ball for Auba which should have been a tap in. Pepe's dribbling is excellent, it's just his final ball that is lacking, and you can see that's because he's not getting as much space as he's used to, but he'll overcome that. It takes 12-18 months before you can judge a player as they need that time to adapt. The key point here is bad defending: Guendouzi and Chambers had SQUARE body shapes on that corner so of course lost the first ball, and no one picked up the SU goalscorer - comically bad.

  12. TonyEvans

    Oct 22, 2019, 13:02 #115181

    It hasn't taken long to be in exactly the same position we were in at the fag end of Wenger's tenure - namely would CL qualification just cement Emery's position, and would we be better off, long-term, missing out and hopefully waving Emery bye bye. Awful truth for me now is that I don't really give a monkeys either way. So many of us long-term Arsenal fans have had our passion for the club drained from us, and Emery is just continuing the trend. Oh for a team and a manager you could really get behind again and be proud of. That result last night is just so typical of the namby pamby and half-hearted approach to so many matches (especially away) we have had to endure, and Emery is quite obviously not the manager required to change that anytime soon.

  13. itsRonagain2

    Oct 22, 2019, 12:58 #115180

    AM - very good and comments about attachment to football. To be honest i think many other clubs fans have gone the same way, its not just us. This is probably why Sly football ramps the hype to ever greater levels. Personally, i think in becoming detached its permanent. As you say, these days we all do many different things and for me, i wouldn't ever want to be 'committed' again. The half cooked product today is across the board isnt it and its not going to alter. AFC are just an extreme eg of it. Ive often expressed the pity i feel that the younger supporter will never experience the feeling of unity with their clubs and players, real or imagined, that once existed. There are no heroes for the kids to admire now, just players passing through wearing a shirt that means little. The end result is a clutch of insipid teams of which Arsenal are but one.

  14. Exiled in Pt

    Oct 22, 2019, 12:55 #115179

    Colonel Blimp , i think you may be right he looks far more like another Gervinho but lets hope it is just time he needs . Have to say tried to make excuses for Dick but cannot see him making this team any better. If the board are as committed as they say , then shove him out the door now and get Alegri in. Or give the job to Freddie at least he has some fire in him and a recognition of what the club once was . Why Tierney did not play last night i will never know at least he would of offered an outlet down the left and we know he can cross the ball. It really sums it all up when the captain is taken off during the game and not due to an injury ! Surely that is supposed to be the leader of the team the man the team looks too when the going gets tough ...oops forgot we haven't got a player that fits the description

  15. Colonel Blimp

    Oct 22, 2019, 12:08 #115178

    I've said it before and will say it again, Pepe is a colossal waste of money. A fifth wheel at best.

  16. Cyril

    Oct 22, 2019, 11:53 #115177

    Comments below sum it all up. I suppose the only silver lining is that they seem to have committed themselves to get top four. Purchase of players and wages etc will mean they have to turn things around rapidly. I am pleased they have this conundrum as they been winging it for years. I wish them well up to a point but like as stated I don’t get the buzz of a victory or the sadness of a loss anywhere like I used to. When we score these days, it’s a polite clap and no more than that. It’s a combination of age and the gradual slow creep of the decline of the Arsenal DNA in all areas that has led to this. It comes to something when being with your mates some of whom wear the Arsenal gear gives me more of a connection and warmth then walking inside that stadium and watching these imposters. However, well done to the Blades -a thoroughly deserved win.

  17. Paulo75

    Oct 22, 2019, 11:30 #115176

    A truly woeful performance but all too familiar for Arsenal on the road in the last ten years or so. That the space being provided to their unmarked goalscorer was so obvious before the corner was even taken is really damning, if not laughable. Was raging at the amount of time spent in our own half attempting (but failing badly) to play out from the goalkeeper and defence into midfield. Fail to understand what Emery's gameplan really is. 18 months after his arrival and are there noticeable signs we are making improvements and heading in the right direction? .......... Absolutely none. The absence of Tierney and Holding yet another line up mystery. I think Raul Sanllehi has a pretty no nonsense approach to matters so unless this improves maybe we will see a change at the top before long.

  18. ArsenalMagna

    Oct 22, 2019, 10:56 #115175

    Well that was abysmal. I have to say though, I know Pepe missed a sitter but I actually thought he played very well overall. He created a gilt-edged chance for Auba, did some great dribbles and passes and maintained that even when he cut in to the crowded inside. Martinelli also did himself credit but needed more time to embed himself into the game. Anyway, even if we'd got the penalty we deserved, I think a draw or unconvincing win was the optimum result here. Yes Emery is Wenger mark II, but look on the bright side: no CL football this year means he will be gone by next year. If he were to get CL football and stay we'd only fall out of the competition later and not address the underlying problems of defence/culture. Sad we're in an identical position to the end of Wenger's reign but there you go. The EPL is weak bar Liverpool and City, and we've got great youngsters coming through, so there may be more chances yet to break in to the top 4 long term (just look at Chelsea's successful new approach). On a more philosophical note, I share many on here's increasing detachment from football, and perhaps my approach could help others categorise their uncertain feelings towards fandom. At aged 27 I got the tail-end of football's real tribal culture - apart from Carl Jenkinson I haven't seen examples of it at Arsenal since the Invincibles. I watched parts of some early 2000s games on Youtube we played and it was wonderful to see such passion, fight and finesse all rolled into one. I feel more and more that it's unwise to invest too much of your life in something you have no control over. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying just be a fan of a successful club - aged 8, I cried for three days after we lost 6-1 to United, but I saw beauty in my love for Arsenal moving me to such an extent. But it is better to take a more detached approach when the club flounders in a malaise of apathy, as you can always rekindle your love of Arsenal later, should we rediscover our identity. I find I take more enjoyment in things I am personally involved with now, and that's a much better approach than letting a group of mercenaries - most of whom I wouldn't like if I met anyway - dictating my happiness levels for any period of time.

  19. Pauljames

    Oct 22, 2019, 10:53 #115174

    Spot on as usual Kevin, and I’d be hugely surprised if we don’t finish 5th or 6th and win nothing.... let’s just hope the board don’t prolong the agony by giving this chump a 3rd season.

  20. Sarflunden

    Oct 22, 2019, 10:14 #115172

    Shall I go down to the pub and watch it? No. Shall I turn on the radio and listen to it? No Shall I keep refreshing the BBC football live report? Just about & very occasionally. Something interesting on Netflicks? Yes Season ticket holder for 29 years and my own team are so boring, predictable and half-hearted away I've lost interest. Started under Wenger. Now I have the same sense of ennui after two season of Emery as I had after ten seasons of Arsene.

  21. RobG

    Oct 22, 2019, 10:00 #115171

    Really awful. That Pepe miss was a shocker. Any contact with his right boot and we were 1 - 0 up. So he uses his left and misses the ball. The sign of a player whose confidence is on the floor. I've tried to back Emery up till now but that was as flat fortnight old lager, it really was. The possession stats were shocking because how many crucial saves did their keeper make ? One ? Maybe two. We're a team that does very little in their final third, however many times we play it out with short passes in our own penalty area. The case for pulling the plug on Emery is getting very strong. Although I doubt they will - and will almost certainly call time next May.

  22. Colonel Blimp

    Oct 22, 2019, 9:38 #115170

    Villa? Sorry meant Luiz.

  23. Colonel Blimp

    Oct 22, 2019, 9:37 #115169

    Absolutely pathetic performance but we shouldn't be surprised by now. To see Sokratis and Villa play the ball between each other on the 18 yard line in the 92nd minute beggars belief.

  24. markymark

    Oct 22, 2019, 9:25 #115168

    All very true Kevin. You could also add that your pissed off talking to your partner using sign language after nearly two years as they can’t be bothered to learn the language. The cultural differences once quirky are now a complete pain in the arse and you are starting to think perhaps someone sensible who you can put in front of your parents might be the way to go. In short the relationship is doomed. We are in a false league position. Whilst this holds I’m not sure he can be shifted . However if anyone is a bastard in that hierarchy it’s probably Raul so perhaps he’ll have a good think about shifting him. For Unai I see a job with Real Betis or some such club. I think he’s going to do an Andre Vilas Boas and descend back down to his natural position