Unai Emery’s revolution claimed a major casualty early on; there’s no place for egos at Arsenal. The willingness with which he is prepared to omit or hook players, irrespective of reputation, was the jolt the squad needed. No-one is assured of their place, no matter their fee.
Which is fine when you’re winning but in the matches where things go awry, it’s bound to be a bone of contention on and off the pitch. Mesut Ozil was the initial focal point this season, now it’s Aaron Ramsey.
The Welshman’s contract situation remains a talking point. Did it fuel Saturday’s substitution? It’s possible but overlooks the lack of width which was a fundamental problem. Iwobi’s introduction solved the problem.
The latest suggestion is Ramsey strung the club along and made the decision to leave some time ago. Arsenal got wind of this hence the withdrawal from talks.
Speculation currently claims Liverpool are the team, fuelled by Ramsey turning up at the Ryder Cup with Oxlade-Chamberlain.
The reality is we don’t know, many never do. Speculation fills that gap and completes a narrative. Fiction becomes fact and irrespective of what emerges at a later day, today’s narrative becomes the truth. No wonder politicians endure.
Whatever the case, it doesn’t matter. The reality Emery faces is that selling a star player boosts his transfer budget. It’s a familiar scenario, one he was very used to at Valencia and Sevilla. One he will once more embrace at Arsenal, where the formation and shape dictate who will play.
It’s evident we need more width. When the club’s own analysis on the website says we lacked width, you know this is true. At the moment, we are fitting square egos in round holes; we need to find rounded players to do that instead.
Talk About a Revolution
As I mentioned recently, the fag packet economics works when it comes to selling Ramsey. So be it; that’s a case we can make for a number of players in the squad. Those who are indispensable are few and far between. Actually, I struggle to name one who can’t be replaced.
Is the largesse of the past to be replaced by pragmatism now the two architects of those schemes are departed? The Ozil experiment of playing obscene wages failed but shows signs of a brief revival. Change the formation to bring the best out of the man; will he drive deliverance of more silverware? Is that enough to consider his contract value for money?
The answers are, as always, subjective.
Some players are blooming under Emery’s tutelage. Iwobi shows signs of regaining consistency while Bellerin’s adaptation to the adventurous full-back role continues. His swash is buckled and against Watford, found a balance between attack with defence.
The Spaniard’s critics point to the gaps behind him when he is pushing forward, but that’s a team failing. Bellerin can’t attack and defend at the same time. It’s one reason why natural width is so important ahead of him.
Let us not forget that we’re still a work-in-progress. Change was always going to be somewhat evolutionary rather than revolutionary. With a restricted transfer budget, the half-dozen players we need to strengthen the club were always going to come in over multiple transfer windows.
Winning seven of the spin cannot be underplayed but they were games on paper we expected to win. What would a good side do to us? It’s hard to know beyond looking at the Manchester City and Chelsea games. But if we get the balance of the team right from kick-off, surely we will be better than those two matches?
All the Fun of the Fair
The shape of the squad will change. Several players are at the tail-end of their Arsenal careers through a combination of age and ability. New signings in January and the summer will see us in a better place to move on.
Undoing the past decade was always a tall order. It was never going to be a smooth transition between the two eras. Indeed, we expected a rollercoaster ride. What constitutes success or failure on Emery’s part this season will be subjective. Some deem the top four a benchmark. The very thing we used to lambast as a benchmark for success is now a widely-accepted benchmark for success.
Can Emery deliver? The way the top four is shaping, the fight is for fourth already and we’re right in it. Fixtures over the next couple of months will dictate whether we have the stomach for that fight.