I wonder how Unai Emery surveys the room at his press conference? Sitting behind the desk, earnestly giving his views but refraining from saying anything controversial, does he look at the assembled hacks and wonder about them? Does he view John Cross with horror as if he encountered Geoff Woad?
His head must weigh fifty pounds on its own! Imagine the size of his balls… imagine getting into a fight with the f*cker! “I’m going to pull your head off.” “Oh no, please don’t pull my head off.” “I’m going to pull your head off, because I don’t like your head.”
If he’s thinking along those lines, I’ll have a cup of whatever he’s drinking.
His body language doesn’t betray those thoughts no matter how fleetingly they cross his mind. Instead, it’s Newcastle, Özil, and Monreal. And where he leads, dear reader, we follow. The question is do we start low and build a crescendo or come thundering in before fading into the wind? Let’s see where the caffeine takes us.
The stragglers returned to training ahead of the trip to Tyneside. Granit Xhaka received plaudits for his performances for Switzerland. Can he perform in the same vein for Arsenal? He hasn’t been at his best for Unai Emery, has he?
Subbed at Chelsea to save himself a red card, he is some way off being the player he can be. Partly because, like the rest of the team, he is adjusting to the new demands but also with his country, Xhaka has someone to take on the defensive duties. Were Lucas Torreira in the side, I’d hope we would see more of the good Granit. The one we know is in there screaming to get out. The one which is frustrated, bringing snarky Granit to the surface.
Let’s Just Wing It
The simple solution is to play Lucas Torreira alongside him. So far, the Uruguayan’s impact is mixed while he ‘adapts’ to England, Arsenal, and a new style of football. This week will see him unleashed, either at St James Park or in the Europa League.
While the latter will be a gentler introduction, I’d prefer to see him in tomorrow’s XI. The issue is where? Guendouzi is the answer in midfield at the moment but we’re disjointed between defence and attack. Putting Torreira with Xhaka and the Frenchman doesn’t have to leave us with a narrow focus on attack; 4 – 3 – 3 or 4 – 5 – 1 allows two wide players to slot in without hurting the XI.
It comes at a cost, however. Özil isn’t at his best and shifting him to the flanks marginalises him before kick-off. Which means the reality of our situation, for tomorrow at least, is a choice between Torreira and Guendouzi. At any other club with top four ambitions, the answer to midfield problems is not a 19-year-old from Ligue 2. It just goes to show how one size does not fit all.
Emery was pleased the German didn’t travel for international duty this week:
“Mesut is important for me also, this focus every day with us, a relaxing three days off at the weekend.
“Like other players, works very well here and also working the ties and also together to improve things. Mesut, I look at him with the focus totally here.”
Whether there is a benefit in missing the internationals becomes clear tomorrow. Has this break been the catharsis for him? No German media scrutinising his every move or questioning his motives? Just coming into work and training, preparing for the match? If that doesn’t improve his performances, I struggle to see what will.
Emery certainly thinks the break did Özil the world of good:
“The first time, maybe, he could feel different but every day with us in the work, I look at him and he looks well and happy, working with our demands every day.”
No such questions over Nacho Monreal. Emery wants him to have a new contract ASAP:
“After two weeks, after two months and now, I can say that I am very happy with him because he is 32 years old but I think physically, with his performances with us in matches, he is playing with a very good level.
“The rest of that, for me, is very important. I think we need to find a new contract with him to stay with the Arsenal team.”
Sign da ting, indeed. Not that we expect Arsenal’s contracts team to deliver quickly. Are they still overwhelmed by it all or are we heading for a mass signing? Another photo of the new Arsenal core with Aaron Ramsey, front and centre? Not British this time, just a core of players who want to do well with the club.
They’ll do so without Ivan Gazidis and Unai kept schtum on that one. I understand the concern about new personnel coming in and having an unsettling effect on Emery, Mislintat, and Sanellhi. But this was the kind of void the new set-up was designed to avert.
The fears being aired suggest we’ve swapped one all-powerful man for another. Personally, I don’t care whether he goes to Milan or not. If he does, good luck to him but never forget, he’s just the CEO. When you start worrying about the suits as much, if not more, than the players, it’s time to step back and take a deep breath.