As a child, back when Bertie Mee was the Arsenal manager, early Saturday evening television was often kicked off by an episode of Dr Who.. The music alone could have youngsters of a nervous disposition hiding behind the sofa. Several decades later, here I am again, almost afraid to peer through the gaps in my fingers. Only this time, I am relying on Stan Kroenke, rather then Jon Pertwee, to save the day.
I don’t seriously consider that there is anyone who knows a thing about football who believes the situation at Arsenal is retrievable under Unai Emery. Surely, even Raul Sanllehi and Edu realize this, which leads us to conclude that, for budgetary reasons, it is the Kroenkes who are keeping Unai Emery in a job. Remember, the owners don’t really understand football – they probably don’t see what the supporters do. There is a disconnect between the owners and the fans, and indeed now probably the owners and those advising them at the club – they simply cannot be listening if Emery remains in the job beyond the end of today. There is not one footballing argument to retain the head coach. The team are consistently conceding way too many chances to the opposition and needs tightening up. That can only be done by a different coach.
As for yesterday’s game, Emery retained the three at the back formation from Thursday, with Holding and Chambers either side of David Luiz. A midfield line of Bellerin – Torrieria – Guendouzi – Kolasinac played behind a front three of Aubameyang, Ozil (in the centre) and Lacazette. The system added little in the way of solidity, even if at times we did see three distinct lines, but it didn’t prevent Leicester playing the ball around, and Arsenal lost possession frequently. They played too much passing football in their own half, which put them under needless pressure. When a team is low in confidence, this isn’t a good policy.
The rain tipped down relentlessly, as it always seems to when Arsenal play these days. Early on VAR favoured Arsenal as for some strange reason, Guendouzi was not judged to have fouled Soyuncu, in spite of the evidence, and a penalty was avoided. A shame that subsequent events didn’t make that decision even out the non-award of a spot kick for the shirt tug on Sokratis at Bramall Lane. Then again, VAR might have deigned that an Ndidi handball prevented Aubameyang’s shot going in at the other end, but I’m not even certain it was looked at. Regardless, there was no getting away from the reality that far more efforts were coming in the direction of Bernd Leno’s goal.
There was a paucity of efforts from Arsenal – who knows whether playing the two orthodox strikers wide was the reason for this, but at the end of the 90 minutes, Arsenal’s attempts count was eight to Leicester’s 25. That kind of ratio tells you everything you need to know about Arsenal this season. Not creative enough in possession, not solid enough when the opposition have the ball. At times, it felt like a hot knife through butter when Brendan Rodgers’ team were on the attack.
In Premier League matches, Arsenal have won four out of their last 19 away fixtures. It was the home form that made last season a near thing. This season, not so good. Three draws at home out of six, they are currently sandwiched between Sheffield United and Bournemouth in sixth place. The last ten Premier League matches have seen just two wins. Both Spurs and Manchester United are lower, and will either improve or get a new manager in. Arsenal need to act quickly before they are overtaken.
After the interval, Aubameyang found the net but was plainly offside, after Arsenal’s best move of the game. The opening goal against eventually came halfway through the second 45, almost inevitably, from Jamie Vardy. Within ten minutes it was 2-0, as Emery’s players failed to cover the gaps. Switches were made but to no avail, Pepe and Saka introduced for Holding and Torreira. But where once you’d have expected to see a rally from an Arsenal team, at least some conviction, it felt like the belief wasn’t there, it was just a case of going through the motions until the final whistle was blown.
The art of management in the Premier League these days is the ability to motivate millionaires, and I’m not seeing much motivation here. A lack of focus and team spirit is all too obvious. The commentators on Sky alluded to a disconnect between Emery and his players. That adds to the one between the supporters and the head coach, the owners and the now demoted captain. This isn’t good for the club.
There is a story going round that Raul Sanllehi has sounded out Luis Enrique to replace Emery, and although that is certainly worth considering, if for no other reason than he can’t do any worse, and a new manager bounce should lift the mood at the club, it was only a short time ago that Enrique suffered a family tragedy. The former Barcelona and Spain manager might want to take more time out. Maybe next summer, it’s possible, but for now, it's more likely a caretaker manager will be appointed, with Freddie Ljungberg the obvious choice.
That of course, depends on the appetite of the Kroenkes for necessary change, and the related expenditure. Emery though, even if he survives the next 48 hours, is a sitting duck. It’s only a matter of time now, and my prediction is that he won’t get the chop until the panto season is in full swing. It should be sooner of course, but Arsenal have a history of waiting too long to make decisions of this nature. The day to day running of the club may have seen a change in personnel, but the owners are the same, and the board has not changed too much lately either. We’ll see.
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