Emery’s Xhaka-less Arsenal No Better Than Before

Online Editorial: Home draw v Wolves as Gunners fail to defend another lead

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Dejected players prepare to kick off after Wolves' equaliser

So let’s start with the matchday programme and the captain’s column. It was – as usual this season – from Granit Xhaka, but rather than greater reflection on the week that has gone, it was simply a reproduction of his Instagram post explaining the reasons behind last weekend’s antagonistic substitution. It looked like a bit of a cop out to me, but maybe it means that the decision over how to relay Xhaka’s demotion from the role – which is the only possible outcome given he told the supporters to “f*** off” – has not yet been made.

Pierre Emerick Aubameyang – the player Xhaka tossed the armband to last Sunday, captained the team, and after an iffy opening spell, his team found their groove and a David Luiz cross was played on by Lacazette to Aubameyang, who placed it low into the corner of the goal.

Arsenal’s formation was different without Xhaka, as only Matteo Guendouzi sat deep to pick up the ball off the defenders and Bernd Leno. In front of him were a line of three with Ceballos, Ozil and Torreira supporting a front two. It was nice to see a variation, but truth to tell, ultimately it made little difference to the potency of the attack.

Not only that, but over the course of 90 minutes, Wolves, in spite of enjoying less possession, created more than double Arsenal’s shot tally – 25 in total. Way too many, and although Leno pulled off a couple of excellent saves, he was beaten once by a header, as Callum Chambers and Sokratis were outjumped by Raul Jiminez after Dani Ceballos lost his man at a throw-in.

It was another unconvincing performance, typical of many we have seen under Emery. Ozil didn’t stand out, but in fairness to the number 10, nobody really did, with the exception of Leno. Torreira was replaced by Buyako Saka shortly before the Wolves goal. It was a strange switch, given the team were trying to hold onto their lead, although perhaps Emery felt a second goal was required. Who knows? Martinelli came on for Lacazette, a more orthodox substitution.

It was a draw that felt more like a defeat. The hard fact though is that, in his last 16 Premier League games, Emery has delivered five victories and six draws. So 21 points out of a potential 48. That form, over the course of a season will give you around 50 points. This season, 11 matches in, the team have 17 points from a potential 33. This in spite of the new players that arrived in the summer. There are too many draws (five so far), and a draw is two thirds of a defeat. Three of those have come in the home matches against Spurs, Palace and now Wolves. The only reason the Gunners remain in fifth place is the inconsistency of the teams below them, but a defeat at Leicester next Saturday evening could see them start to drop out of the top six.

There can’t be too many people that have faith in Emery to turn around the club’s fortunes on the evidence of last season and this, and indecisiveness over what to do in the light of the Xhaka incident (which echoes the prolonged decision to officially announce him as the club captain) may give the powers that be enough rope to hang him. Would Arsenal be any worse under a different coach? It’s difficult to believe. Could they be better? It would be interesting to have a man in the dugout who fields a more disciplined team, one that keeps its shape better and doesn’t allow so many chances to the opposition.

Granted, there would be compensation to pay, but the cost of not making the Champions League for a fourth season running is far greater than the cost of letting Emery go, and at least it gives the chance of the necessary turnaround taking place the earliest possible start. This squad of players needs drilling. On one level it’s entertaining to see David Luiz creating a goal from the right wing, but should he really be up there? Is the best use of Torreira in a line alongside Ozil and Ceballos?

However, one suspects the club will bumble along for a while yet, with Emery picking up just enough points to delay his dismissal. There is a good chance Xhaka will return to action on Wednesday afternoon in the Europa League group match in Guimaraes, away from a potentially fractious atmosphere at the Emirates. It will be interesting to see how the away supporters respond to him. It’s a relationship that will have to be rebuilt if he is to remain at the club, but on a footballing level, there are too many who don’t think he cuts it, which hardly aids the possibility of that happening.

However, the bigger picture is the head coach. It’s come down to a matter of when, rather than if, the plug will be pulled on Emery. If he continues to give Xhaka the captain’s armband, it will make the decision easier, because the supporters will simply not accept it. Emery was given the Arsenal role because he did an excellent interview, and his record at Sevilla indicated he could win trophies. His approach was more thorough and promised to shake up the culture of complacency at the club. And yes, there have been changes, but on the pitch, it just feels like the mess he inherited, and it feels like it will get worse the longer it continues. Time for someone upstairs to make a decision that should have been made after Baku. Because I can’t see where the turnaround is going to come from under Unai Emery.


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  1. itsRonagain2

    Nov 5, 2019, 17:19 #115377

    Marky - him losing the players if thats right is the laughable part. Im assuming you mean all those serial title and FAC winners, World Cup and European Cup winning legends in that dressing room have deemed Emery not up to scratch to match their own wondrous exploits in football and as such hes unfit to harness their brilliant talents? Football eh matey. You couldn't make it up. The sad part is that Dicks such a seemingly likeable bloke. All this state of ineptitude wouldnt have been half so bad had they have just gone and appointed Moyes as quite a few on here thought a good idea at one stage.

  2. markymark

    Nov 4, 2019, 19:57 #115374

    We’ve got a hard December coming up after failing to pick up the points in a relatively benign run of games. If Arsenal keep him on they really are gambling as he appears to be losing the changing room as well. The Bayern vacancy I wonder may cause us to jump for a new manager

  3. markymark

    Nov 4, 2019, 19:57 #115373

    We’ve got a hard December coming up after failing to pick up the points in a relatively benign run of games. If Arsenal keep him on they really are gambling as he appears to be losing the changing room as well. The Bayern vacancy I wonder may cause us to jump for a new manager

  4. itsRonagain2

    Nov 4, 2019, 10:29 #115360

    Enormous problem for AFC once Emery goes. He ll be there until May though im sure of that. 'Gettable' (by Arsenals rationale) candidates dont appear to be out there, so brace yourselves for some hyped up lesser light to take his place. Eddie Howe would be brave choice by the owner i think. Hes very likeable but whether Eddie would feel hes up to the frenzied and frosty climate at Arsenal right now is the issue isnt it. Its a big jump from Bournemouth to AFC at the best of times. I think hed be very popular though and it would be good for the club to again have a British Coach.

  5. Radfordkennedy

    Nov 3, 2019, 22:26 #115359

    Anyone with any doubts about Eddie Howes credentials as a top coach should watch a DVD of the manure game, an absolutely magnificent defensive display,two banks of four nice and tight everyone knowing exactly what's expected of them.....them were the days

  6. Pauljames

    Nov 3, 2019, 20:52 #115358

    I’ll pass on Jose thanks, would take a serious look at Eddie Howe I think.

  7. John F

    Nov 3, 2019, 20:25 #115357

    The manager my son keeps going on about is Erik Ten Hag, he did very well with a young Ajax side.


    Nov 3, 2019, 19:46 #115356

    I think we all agree that Dick is done for - so what will our "ambitious" club do. I suspect that as long as the Krankies are in charge it won't be anything ambitious or radical. Just protect the "business" without anyway understanding why the fans of the big PL clubs won't accept mediocrity - and rightly so, paying shed loads of money for the current rubbish. I have been a bit of a nerd today & had a look at the stats of the replacement names in the frame - in particular JM & Allegri. Jose has outstanding win percentages wherever he has been - even his Man figures would be wonderful for Dick. Allegri would worry me - totally unproven outside of Italy, known to be yet another who favours playing out from the back & SLOWLY, sound familiar? And his stats aren't that great. Rafa brought back from China would be a "safe pair of hands" though. I don't see why Jose would be a problem with the fans, more likely is Jose falling out with the unambitious mediocrities that own our club.

  9. John F

    Nov 3, 2019, 18:16 #115355

    I was looking into Emerys time in Moscow and it appears that he lost the dressing room after 5 months with the senior players having a private meeting to complain about his training methods just before he got sacked.I thought yesterday's game turned on the Torriera substitution, why when we our 1-0 up did he take off a defensive midfielder and put on a rookie winger.

  10. Bard

    Nov 3, 2019, 16:17 #115354

    Good article Kev. That's exactly where I am on this one. Emery is done, the real question is what the board do about it. With Utd and Spurs having a difficult time it is easier that it has been to get into the top 4 for whats that worth. In which case the board need to move sooner rather than later. We have some good players but they are all over the place at the moment. But of course this is Arsenal, it took them a decade to summon up the courage to get rid of Wenger so I dont suppose we will see anything remotely decisive from them. On the hopeful side its clear that Emery is/has lost the fans. Wenger got an easy ride because of his legacy and what he had done for the club but I dont feel any such attachment exist towards Emery. Its a bad look on TV and for the brand to have fans booing on a weekly basis. I hope someone puts Dick out of his misery asap.

  11. GoonerRon

    Nov 3, 2019, 14:33 #115353

    Our last 18 league games: L - Everton away W - Watford away L - Palace home L - Wolves away L - Leicester away D - Brighton home W - Burnley away W - Newcastle away W - Burnley home L - Liverpool away D - Spuds home D - Watford away W - Villa home D - Man U away W - Bournemouth home L - Sheff U away D - Palace home D - Wolves home P18 W6 D6 L6 F23 A27 3 clean sheets To average just over a goal a game in those fixtures and at the same only keep three clean sheets suggests a massive, huge issue with the balance of the team. No part is functioning correctly.

  12. Paulo75

    Nov 3, 2019, 12:22 #115352

    "This teams needs drilling" - Exactly. It has done for over ten years but still we wait for what should be a primary concern of a manger, to be implemented. I disagreed with a lot of pundits last year when they said Emery had done well in his first season, and this one appears to be getting worse. It does seem he is reluctant to use Torreira in his natural role as a defensive midfielder so why did he sign him? As for Xhaka, the indecision continues - how very reflective of the Club as a whole these days.

  13. RobG

    Nov 3, 2019, 11:26 #115351

    He was supposed to reshape it post Wenger but it just feels like more of the same, I'm afraid. If they dismiss him it comes with a cost and almost certainly means Allegri - if he wanted to come - or appointing FL as Manager until the end of the season. As Utd did with OGS. (!). Or - and I think this is more likely - we stagger on ; activate the break clause in May and make the new appointment then. If it is Allegri, they really should move now. If they are looking for a UK based Manager with Prem' experience - like Howe - they will wait until May. But whoever comes in - and whenever it is, they have some serious tactical organising to drill into the whole squad.

  14. ArsenalMagna

    Nov 3, 2019, 11:24 #115350

    I see that we set a record of 25 shots conceded yesterday - the most ever at Ashburton Grove. I'm very detached from this regime now so may not even watch further matches with Emery as manager, or comment, but have to say I felt pretty relieved to see Wolves equalised, as a bad run of results is the only thing that could see Emery leave soon. If we get top 4 he'll stay and it'll just further delay the rebuild we need to go undergo, so us slipping up is good long term too. Emery only earns around £6m per year, so paying him for two more years isn't that big a loss - even a £8-10m salary per year would be worth paying him off for. We'd save money on a cheap interim coach, and even if the board calculate that his sacking is no guarantee of CL football this season, they should see that it increases our chances of CL football in subsequent seasons. Sadly the board/owners aren't ruthless or ambitious enough.