It’s Finally Over

Online Editorial – Arsenal lose at home to Eintracht Frankfurt in what will surely be Unai Emery’s final game

It’s Finally Over

Will someone finally put this man out of his misery?

It was the 2019 version of the famous midweek evening match at Highbury in May 1966. 4,554 turned up to see Arsenal beaten 3-0 by Leeds United, although the Arsenal board waited for the conclusion of the season before giving manager Billy Wright his cards. After the game last night, Sky Sports reported that “senior figures at Arsenal will meet on Friday morning to discuss the club's worst run of results since 1992”. The only thing they need to discuss is who will be in charge on Sunday at Carrow Road and whether that will be on a temporary or long term basis. That will depend on how much work has been going on preparing for Emery’s departure behind the scenes (hopefully plenty) and whether or not their chosen candidate is ready to start immediately. One outcome that is surely off the cards is Emery taking charge of another game.

It was always going to be an odd atmosphere last night, with no away fans admitted (although once Frankfurt equalized, they showed how easy it had been to get through Arsenal’s supposedly strict ticket checks). It seems it didn’t matter where you were from, as long as you had a valid ticket, you were fine to get in. Additionally, a lot of club level seats had been purchased by Eintracht fans, and you cannot rule out the possibility that the club were happy to sell these due to anyone due to the income they generated. Certainly they were all congregated in an area where I believe there are very few club level season ticket holders. Perhaps they were purchased by touts and then sold on, en masse, without the club smelling a rat. You don’t need to be a member to buy seats for individual games in club level, so no fear of getting banned.

However, even if there were around about 1,000 away fans in various parts of the ground, the actual attendance was between 18,000 and 20,000. 45,000 of the seats are season tickets. Let’s be generous and say 1,000 silver members and junior gunners bought seats, which means a maximum of 40% of season ticket holders bothered to take up their paid for seats. It wasn’t a good look, and certainly the powers that be won’t want a repeat against Brighton next week, which would be the case were Emery to retain his job, which looks highly unlikely now.

The #WeCareDoYou statement last Sunday evening compared the club to a rudderless ship. And to run with the analogy, right now it's like a boat that is slowly sinking into thick mud. Going nowhere except, slowly, inexorably, down. It’s been happening for many years. Arsenal’s last full tilt title challenge – by which I mean one that had legs on it after the end of February – was in 2008. At times, it feels like the club have never psychologically recovered from that season, in spite of the change of personnel at all levels.

The irony of last night was that the draw between Vitoria and Standard Liege pretty much confirmed Arsenal’s progress to the knockout stages of the competition. Due to the head to head rule, Standard would need to beat Arsenal 5-0 in a fortnight to progress. Cue the gags on that happening if Emery is still in charge, but he won’t be. In a sense it was an experience to be at his final game. And we saw the same old problems.

Emery did try something new, by playing David Luiz as one of his two holding midfield players, in a 4-2-1-3 line up. Luiz was crocked in the first half and replaced by Guendouzi. Granit Xhaka returned to the starting eleven. There were a few boos when his name was announced pre-match on the PA, but it was interesting to see him applauded as he limped to the sideline after getting treatment from the physio. So that wound seems to have been healed then, and Xhaka returned to the field to complete both the half and ultimately the game. Shortly after he did, Arsenal took the lead in first half injury time. The team did put a few attacks together in the opening 45 minutes and restricted the visitors’ opportunities. But it took time for the deadlock to be broken, a Martinelli cross being converted by Aubameyang.

Joe Willock played in the Ozil role behind the front three, and both he and Saka on the left side of attack saw plenty of the ball, yet were not composed enough to finish their chances. As the second half progressed, Arsenal paid for that as the visitors’ Japanese striker scored twice with decent long range efforts. The lack of spirit in the Arsenal team as the game drifted away from them was culpable. This is a team without belief, and it seems without a fixed notion of how they should play beyond the attempt to build from the back and minimize the percentage football. But when confidence is low, the plan needs to be based on territory and second balls – so at least not to leave yourself vulnerable near your own goal. Emery doesn’t seem to get this. Eintracht had lost their last three matches and should have been low on confidence themselves, but Arsenal once more conceded a lead and let their opponents back into a game they had control of. It’s happened too often and it’s no coincidence.

So we wait the announcement of what happens next – Freddie Ljungberg will most likely take charge at Norwich, and might be given a few games if the club have not prepared for this moment. The other names being bandied around are generally worthy of consideration (Pochettino, Allegri, Arteta, although please not Nuno Espirito-Santo because of the Jorge Mendes factor), but who knows how advanced talks are. In fairness to Freddie, the job required at the club is probably too big for him at this stage in his coaching career, but who can really say? Pep Guardiola took a similar route at Barcelona, although he had far more quality to work with.

It feels like a season has been wasted. I wrote after the Europa League final back in May, in an editorial titled “Arsenal Have To Bite The Bullet And Understand Another Year Of Unai Emery Is A Waste Of A Season":
What Arsenal fans need to ask themselves though, and more particularly, what the club’s decision makers need to do so, is whether or not things are going to improve under Emery next season. I don’t see it. The 22 match unbeaten run that ended in December papered over the cracks. Arsenal got lucky in putting that sequence together. Unai Emery will get another year in all likelihood. Arsenal will fail to make the Champions League again and we’ll wonder why the club waited. Just as they should have called time on Arsene Wenger in May 2017, they’ll make the wrong decision now. They may be ruthless with minor cost-cutting, but shirk the big decisions.
Emery cannot do defence. Put a better coach in and you’ll get a more organised resilient Arsenal than the flaky display we saw in Baku, and on so many other occasions this season. The club need to focus on results now. The winning of the points, the return of consistency and confidence. That is not going to happen with Emery. He’s not suited to the Premier League. Time to admit they gave him a try and it hasn’t worked out. Send him and his team away with a modest pay-off (in comparison to the £17m received by Wenger and his yes men) and give someone else a go. Someone with a reputation for drilling a defence.

The powers that be saw it differently, brought in some new faces over the summer, including a club record signing, but Arsenal are even worse than last season. They failed to see what was obvious from the last months of Emery’s first campaign – he cannot deliver results consistently enough in the Premier League. He chops and changes personnel and formations so much that there is no familiarity, no understanding, no definable (positive) pattern to the team’s play, no sense of identity. It is spiritless and random. The quality of the forwards will generally see the team score, but the chaotic nature of the defence isn’t good enough to actually win many games. People compare Emery to Bruce Rioch, but the latter had a structure and was consistent in selections. I could name his first choice eleven now. He inherited a team that was on the slide having gone stale under George Graham and Stewart Houston and made Arsene Wenger’s job somewhat easier by converting them to a passing team built around Dennis Bergkamp.

What Emery’s successor will inherit is far worse. But there are some decent players in the squad. They simply need some organizing, some defensive drilling, some belief and a consistency in first team selection. It’s probably too late to salvage this season, but the sooner the re-build starts the better. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but I think most fans would have been willing to see a change last summer, and certainly there isn’t anyone left who wants Emery at the club now. Given the compensation he will get, he is not going to resign, so as an individual, I have some sympathy with him being in the position he is now in – vilified by so many. He was due to give a talk to students at the University Campus of Football Business at Wembley today, as part of a "masterclass" series on football coaching, and dealing with prejudice in the game. However after his appearance was announced on the UCFB website last week, it was met with some abusive online messages, which have led to university bosses cancelling the event. That’s just plain sad, although that is the world we live in.

You can criticise Emery’s unsuitability for the Arsenal job, but if fairness to the guy, he’s been hung out to dry by Raul Sanllehi if you believe the press stories that the latter does not want to admit he got it wrong with his lobbying for Emery to get the job back in 2018. Who knows, but Sanllehi’s own reputation has sunk dramatically since the summer transfer window, and if the press are reporting accurately, then he’s brought that upon himself. His job, along with Edu’s, is to advise the owner of the major footballing decisions that need to be ratified. We just do not know if it has been Sanllehi or Stan Kroenke keeping Emery in a job, but one thing seems certain. Emery will surely be clearing his desk at London Colney before the club’s next first team fixture.

Recent home Arsenal matches have had the feeling of visiting a dying relative in hospital, knowing the end is near, but never knowing whether you are seeing them for the last time. Yesterday evening felt terminal. At least, when we said farewell at the Emirates to Arsene Wenger, it was a sunny feelgood day with a win. Last night, it was cold and wet, and Arsenal lost. The sooner we can all move on, the better for everybody.


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  1. markymark

    Nov 30, 2019, 8:46 #115666

    Hi SK - I do get it about Simeone he’s a serious act. But he should have been the Wenger replacement . Language issues could have been managed far more easily if the Arsenal had been really turned around. With everything pointing to Unai’s dreadful communication. Arsenal I reckon won’t go there simply because execs don’t want the risk if it gets pointed out again . It is a shame. BTW this issue is also important with Bayern who I understand will only go for German speakers now.

  2. itsRonagain2

    Nov 30, 2019, 7:23 #115665

    Morning RK - Bastogne mate. Very well known area for any WW2 history enthusiast. Some very serious and bloody fighting occurred there for the US as I m sure you ll know. Yes, I heard Willow. I love that guy. Met him once at Villa Park about 10 yrs ago. It was an open day thing and I went there with a Bank Of Scotland mate at the time . He was with big Ron Atkinson and I had a good chat with both. Big Ron s a seriously funny guy. Very witty and very open when he talks of teams and players. Cyrille Regis was there too. Nice guy Cyrille was. Bob loves our Club. A true gent isn’t he. I m sure he s hurting right now. I hear what you say of the bikers. Footballers are pathetic. It’s probably not good to say it but I wil anyway , but for me a great many of these PL footballers have taken with a silly precious attitude , high and mighty etc as result of the money rewards they have that they believe has elevated them socially with all the celeb status the fame confers upon them. They’re in the main typical working class people who are given wealth they cd only dream of and they then act like entitled idiots as a result, not knowing how else to behave due to their poor education and often even poorer upbringings. Not all of them by any means but certainly a large proportion. Managing these mestheads today for the Coaches must be a nightmare.

  3. Seven Kings Gooner 1

    Nov 29, 2019, 22:33 #115664

    Sorry lads meant to post - I see Simeone as the manager whose style is nearest to Arsenal's historical natural game.

  4. Seven Kings Gooner 1

    Nov 29, 2019, 22:27 #115663

    Sorry Simeone

  5. Seven Kings Gooner 1

    Nov 29, 2019, 22:23 #115662

    Markymark. I just see Simone as the manager nearest to Arsenal's historical natural game.

  6. markymark

    Nov 29, 2019, 20:21 #115661

    SK I get it but if results started turning bad the lack of comms kills it far quicker. Piss takers will start and before you know it’s downward spiral albeit Simione is top dollar. Ultimately I think he is Latin based and appears to show little interest in giving the Anglo Saxons a go. Allegri in contrast is taking English lessons

  7. Radfordkennedy

    Nov 29, 2019, 19:07 #115660

    Ron...funny you say that, last month I took a group of people to a place called bastogne , and in the hotel bar back in liege I do a Q+A session afterwards this woman told me she works for the British superbike team where the team owners go toe to toe with the rider's calling each other all the F 'n' C's in the world, then all have a beer together after the race! Compare that to players bursting into tears.....did you hear Willow being interviewed today, my God I'm sure he stands up when he says our name, that's real love for Arsenal in his voice.

  8. RobG

    Nov 29, 2019, 18:29 #115659

    Let's see...What is required ? Some organisational nous, particularly in defence. Some one who understand the Prem' - that is, has some experience of it. Can communicate to the players ; the press and the fans. Is ambitious. I'd like to see Eddie Howe as the next Coach. But it won't happen.

  9. itsRonagain2

    Nov 29, 2019, 16:14 #115658

    SK - that made me laugh. His message would come across im sure both to players and to Kroenke, the latter being the reason why he d never get that job! Tony - You mean Gary Neville, the finest defender of his time and greatest Coach ever to grace La liga with the honour of his presence dont you? And Jamie Carragher, the greatest ................oh , hang on. Right with you Tony, its hard to see them really getting in the right man whos fit for purpose to put the fire out at Arsenal. You can trust them to find the cheapest though. It needs other sackings, starting with the Raul guy and the support staff to Dick. As McNulty has said on the BBC site, its far from being all Dicks fault. I suspect when things go wrong at clubs, it never is just the coach. Most of them have the ground cut from underneath them.

  10. John F

    Nov 29, 2019, 15:36 #115657

    Just read on the forum that Freddie does have the necessary badges and the club doesn't know where that rumour came from.

  11. Seven Kings Gooner 1

    Nov 29, 2019, 15:22 #115656

    markymark. I think the players would understand what Simeone wanted - English or no English

  12. TonyEvans

    Nov 29, 2019, 15:19 #115655

    Hope so, Ron. There's going to be no end of speculation until an appointment is made. The media circus, led by the odious Sky Football, is going to be in full flow. I expect Neville will conveniently forget what a managerial disaster he was at Valencia! I don't trust this Arsenal Board to get it right, but they simply have to this time.

  13. John F

    Nov 29, 2019, 14:42 #115654

    The person who signed Luiz should get the sack as well.

  14. itsRonagain2

    Nov 29, 2019, 14:28 #115653

    The Nuno talk i think is paper talk Tony. I agree with you. Hes not done enough to show hes a better prospect than Dick has he? Hes done well there of course, but it could all as easily blow up overnight couldnt it. 2 or 3 injuires and i always feel that Wolves could dive bomb.

  15. itsRonagain2

    Nov 29, 2019, 14:20 #115652

    AM - It must be a nightmare job now mate. Interesting what you say there and im not surprised at all. Pathetic really isnt it. Its the prima donna stuff thats turned me well off football as one of the factors anyway. As an eg of other sports, i know 2 guys who work for the Mercedes team in F1. People think Lewis is a prima donna yet the stand up rows they ll have with him is eye watering and Lewis and them do it all in the open. He then laughs it all off afterwards as do they and then they win the GP!! Footballers in that PL are so up their own backsides now. Agree re Martinelli. He seems that way inclined doesn't he.

  16. John F

    Nov 29, 2019, 14:12 #115651

    So much for me thinking the board were going to drag this one out even further because of money.From my understanding Freddie can only do it for three months for the reason Mark said.I would be really tempted to go for Ten Hag if Simone is a non starter.On the radio today it was claimed contact has been made with Allegri and also what made me laugh was some one claiming Maureen has a clause in his contract that allows him to leave for a bigger club like Arsenal.

  17. TonyEvans

    Nov 29, 2019, 14:00 #115650

    What about Viera? Could he be the George Graham type we are looking for? Big gamble obviously but then so was GG. Certainly would prefer an ex Arsenal icon to the Nuno feller from Wolves; and if Arsenal can't get someone in like Allegri, Rogers or Simione then why not?

  18. markymark

    Nov 29, 2019, 12:57 #115649

    Simeone does not speak English. After the disastrous communications from Emery it’s very important that the next guy can communicate in English and has presence. I see Allegri (who’s been taking English lessons ) is now at 2-1 odds. One thought about Freddie I understand he doesn’t have full coaching qualifications so I’m not sure if this is a bar to him taking on the role permanently?

  19. ArsenalMagna

    Nov 29, 2019, 12:47 #115648

    True what you say Ron: re footballers not accepting criticism from coaches. If you didn't see it already, Carragher said that Mourinho told him and other people that players don't accept being criticised in front of their team mates nowadays. I also read an article on the BBC which looked at Pellegrini's success at West Ham (a couple of months back, mind!) which said one of the reasons the players liked him so much is that he met with them individually, in private, to address anything he wanted improving. Add in the fact that most footballers are made for life aged 22/23 and not obliged to turn up, and you have a real challenge in being a good motivator. I think the psychology of players is more important now than it has ever been, as you really need players who are personally ambitious. Martinelli strikes me as another Cristiano Ronaldo - hungry to be one of the greats of all time, not just to make huge money. Laca and Auba too, plus a few others in the squad. As I have said before though, I actually think our squad is very good, and that you could only add in CB and DM slots (if Luiz doesn't move to the latter). Defence is crucially important, and all we need is a coach who cares about that and I think we'll get top 4 and win the EL and/or FA Cup. I've said it so many times, but when Bould first joined we played the best football we had since the Invincibles. His brief influence showed us how well we can play if we focus on defence again. On that basis, I hope and pray we get Allegri or Pochettino.

  20. itsRonagain2

    Nov 29, 2019, 12:32 #115647

    SK - agree mate. I always think the goal keeper is the most important player in the team. Simeone would be a good bloke. I dont think he d work with this lot whove been with Emery though. He d have his own coaching team and that lot would need to go. He would cost a lot and that rules him out i feel. The chances of the club really reaching out for such a top coach are negligible id say.

  21. Seven Kings Gooner 1

    Nov 29, 2019, 12:14 #115646

    RadfordKennedy : The 70 million spent on Pepe is as a direct result of this club, my club, your club, being sucked in by the hype and bullsh*t of the Premier League. The teams that win the top trophies have they DNA based in a solid defence first and foremost. City's wobble (compared to last year) is because Kompany has gone and the first name on Liverpool's team sheet is Van Dijk not Salah. The best present Arsenal could buy themselves is Simeone, he is made for us and please god someone in authority gets this man - DS would certainly give us our defence back and better still we would all get our Arsenal back.

  22. Goonhogday

    Nov 29, 2019, 12:12 #115645

    Had to be done. Just hope the owners / board have a plan in place for a replacement and are prepared to be more hands on moving forward.

  23. Goonhogday

    Nov 29, 2019, 12:12 #115644

    Had to be done. Just hope the owners / board have a plan in place for a replacement and are prepared to be more hands on moving forward.

  24. itsRonagain2

    Nov 29, 2019, 12:10 #115643

    Kev makes a great point about the 2008 season never having been recovered from at the club. I think it goes back further to be honest, to 2004- the infamous game 50. The rot started there. For me, the firs time i ever contemplated sacking Wenger was by about 7 -8 games after game 50 when it was clear he was consumed by that loss to Utd and allowed the players to enter the big sulk. They were unlucky in game 50 but Wenger disregarded the luck they had in so many of those 49 games, which is always essential in a long undefeated run.

  25. itsRonagain2

    Nov 29, 2019, 12:02 #115642

    Note sure as there are any disciplinarian, hard nosed, aggressive coaches out there now. The players in the PL are a lot of prima donnas and touchy feely, snowflake society we now live in means that those type of coaches are moribund. A new coach needs to be tough enough and more importantly be given the permission to get shot of the shirkers at Arsenal now. Theres hardly a player there who have any room to criticise any coach, in c Emery. Theyre nearly all never beens themsleves.

  26. TonyEvans

    Nov 29, 2019, 11:36 #115641

    Paulo75 - solid defence, disciplinarian..... seems like it's the mid 80s all over again, and boy don't we desperately need a George Graham, mark 2. The new manager has to go right back to basics; get a solid defensive platform to build from and take it from there. Emery never did, and that is why I have no sympathy for him: just like the bad old days of Wenger's latter years, Emery stuck to his flawed plan and just seemed to keep his fingers crossed it would all somehow come good! Not good enough by a long chalk - just a shame he wasn't sacked after Baku.

  27. Made Up Stat

    Nov 29, 2019, 11:32 #115640

    A drawn out shame. Honestly thought him to be a good choice on appointment. Agree totally with Kev in regards to our unbeaten run last season. We really were Lucky Arsenal. Emery last night muttering away to himself on the touchline reminded me of Unlucky Alf from The Fast Show: 'There's nowt I can do about this. I bet t'other side bloody well score soon...Oh bugger...'

  28. Radfordkennedy

    Nov 29, 2019, 11:15 #115639

    Seven Kings....absolutely right mate we could do with a Sgt Major type up at Colney to put them through defensive drills over and over until it sinks in, draw a line in the mud and say ' that's it finished all that went on before is over we are now going to do it this way '.I don't know if Freddie gets to choose his own team or has to go with who's there, but it will need a strong personality to raise morale through discipline and training,which leads me to the question does anyone know how much an Uber would be from Leicester to Drayton Road

  29. Ernie71

    Nov 29, 2019, 11:09 #115638

    Kev Arsenal only kept Billy Wright for one more game in 1966. Lets be honest Emery should have gone after Bacu.But as with what happened with Wenger when we kept him on way too long we did the same with Emery.For some reason we are afraid to sack a manager.And by appointing the wrong man to replace Wenger we are now going down the Man Utd route after Ferguson. The best manager out there is Allegri will we get him?i doubt it.Our board will go for a second tier manager. Who wont cost as much as a world class manager Allegri or Ancelotti.The difference couldnt be any more stark at the way Spurs got rid of Poch and had a new man in within 12 hours.We dont even have anyone lined up even though Arsenals form has been diabolical all season.We cant afford another dud appointment

  30. Paulo75

    Nov 29, 2019, 11:09 #115637

    Tony Evans - agreed. A Manager with a track record for coaching a defence has to be the major criteria. A no nonsense disciplinarian wouldn't hurt too. Interesting to see if the players suddenly produce a response on Sunday. Several of them are massively culpable for this shambles too.

  31. hibeegunner

    Nov 29, 2019, 10:54 #115636

    Good lick to you Mr. Emery I hope you find a club that suits you next time and yes Ron he's had a bum deal hung out to dry by Raul Sanllehi another Gadizis type. The club supporters now need to focus on the Kroenke's and hound them out plus the ageing board that is a waste of time then perhaps with the right owner in place the last of the cobwebs of the Wenger area will finally depart this once proud football club.

  32. TonyEvans

    Nov 29, 2019, 10:51 #115635

    Emery had to go - he was never the right man for the job and I have no sympathy for him at all - so glad the club acted now and didn't let things slide any further. Just hope the powers that be get it right this time. Getting that bloody awful defending of ours sorted out has to be the number one priority - could do a lot worse than Benitez for that, maybe. Not another Wenger clone though please. A specialist defensive coach wouldn't be a bad thing either.

  33. Seven Kings Gooner 1

    Nov 29, 2019, 10:43 #115634

    I hope we have someone in the backroom staff who is able to put together decent coaching sessions because that is now what is desperately needed to eradicate our long list of bad habits that we take on to the pitch every time Arsenal play a match.

  34. Don Howe

    Nov 29, 2019, 10:37 #115633

    Let's hope that Fred picks up the phone to Martin Keown this morning. Shore the defence up and the attack should take care of itself. Pleased that we can try and enjoy the games again. No hard feelings with Emery. He wasn't up to it. I still want to smack Wenger for the long term damage he has done to the club.

  35. itsRonagain2

    Nov 29, 2019, 10:28 #115632

    Well, Goodbye to Dick then. I still feel sorry for him despite him getting a decent pay off i suppose. Hes had a bum deal in many ways. I be hes relieved deep down. Time for Mick McCarthy to pick up the phone!!

  36. Pauljames

    Nov 29, 2019, 10:18 #115631

    Blimey he’s gone ! A few on here that said he’d get this season regardless cannot of been watching our games recently,let’s pray we get the right man this time.

  37. Pauljames

    Nov 29, 2019, 10:05 #115630

    In full agreement Kevin, and as one of the few who bothered to attend last night my overriding emotion is one of sadness that our club has been allowed to sink this low , losing rather limply at home in the Europa league in front of a sub 20,000 gate. I can just about remember the dark days of the 1981-86 period , and boy do we need another George Graham to rescue us from this nightmare.

  38. Desert_Gooner

    Nov 29, 2019, 9:33 #115629

    An honest and accurate appraisal.