A Long Road Ahead

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.

’til Tomorrow.

27 thoughts on “A Long Road Ahead

  1. I’m looking forward to the next set of matches to see how we manage. Too bad yet another interlull will break up this season’s momentum after Fulham.

  2. Emery has some decisions to make:

    Iwobi added some width and drive to the midfield when he came on. He provided balance covering Bellerin when he switched to the right. He must be close to starting.

    Holding looked very assured at the back. Mustafi looked the junior partner. Holding and Sokratis at the back?

    Ramsey & Ozil together ain’t working. One needs to be dropped.

    PEA out wide is wasted. He needs to play closer to Lacazette, or replaced by Welbz who can hold the ball up better.

    Leno
    Bellerin Sok Holding Nacho
    Iwobi Torreira Xhaka
    Ozil
    PEA Lacazette

  3. It does somehow feel a time for a reflection, to take a step back, and take a view of how Emery and Arsenal have started the season.

    The recurring theme around imbalanced starting line up, summed up perfectly as “square egos”! Well put YW.

    Overall, defensively I would say I can see about 10% improvement. Improved intentions rather than improved understanding of collective defensive responsibilities. From an attacking perspective, without over stating the Arsenal side of the last few years, I would say we have maybe regressed 5-10%. Fluidity and control against weaker opposition less forthcoming.

    That these are major edicts of Emery’s press musings, sugggest it is not to be taken as a element of his own management style.

    I do take confidence that his in game management, has appeared to tackle this shortcoming.

  4. Greetings to all. I’m actually enthused with our number of points at this stage. We might surprise ourselves if we have the consistency to continue grinding out results. 4 points off the 1st position and the game against Liverpool becomes a must win game.

    We need to win games against the top 6 clubs while picking maximum points against all others. I know we need to temper our expectations as we’re not yet as fluid as we should be, but now’s the best time to aim for consistency.

  5. Good stuff there Yogi!

    Ramsey to Liverpool, well thats a good joke because he isn’t getting in that midfield ahead of Keita, Milner or Wjanidumn. Selling makes the most sense, it did in the summer and really does now because he simply doesn’t fit and is a saleable assest to bring in more width.

    I actually think that bringing in Iwobi will actually help Aubameyang as well becuase with Iwobi, we have that winger who will run at defenders while Aubameyang can use his pace, quickness and brilliant movement to compliment Iwobi, Lacazette and Ozil. Right now, it seems we are using Aubameyang in that role but you saw the difference when Iwobi came on, it freed Aubameyang up for more movement and less time being the dribbler.

  6. About the Ramsey situation – it appears that we simply can’t afford his increased wages as the total wage bill remains way above the safe limit as a % of total income. This is because of drastically reduced money from European competition. The Mail on Sunday yesterday had an article that confirmed this. Arsenal are likely to announce an operating loss in their next financial results – only recent player sales will help the overall result, but that isn’t sustainable. Arsenal’s financial plan is based upon CL qualification 2 seasons out of every 3 – so that’s gone out of the window now and we’re certainly not guaranteed a 4th place finish this season, despite the reasonable start. It would be ironic if financial matters off the pitch scuppered improvements on it!

  7. Afternoon all,

    Unfortunately the Ramsey situation feels like another case of a player getting one over the club. He’s completely in the driving seat as regards where he goes and it sounds very much like it will be in the summer. It just seems ridiculous that it has come to this with yet another player. I can get that Emery had a high regard for Ramsey and therefore wanted to see how his team would work out with Ramsey as part of it, but the contract situation surely needed to be sorted first? He should have been given an ultimatum in the summer, accept what is on the table or we sell you now. What is disappointing is that there is no loyalty from a long-serving player. Ramsey knows he can hold out for a free transfer, but he doesn’t do the club any favours by refusing to move in January. I can understand that players have to look out for themselves financially, but it leaves a sour taste in my mouth that a player can happily sit out the rest of the season knowing that he is off in the summer no matter what. Do we get the best out of a player who is out the door next June? Only if he is trying to put himself in the shop window. As soon as he arranges a pre-contract deal all bets are off. In fact, his new club will be over the moon if he suddenly develops a run of little niggles which keep him out of the side for periods of time during the season. They’ll want him to avoid any risk of injury at all costs.

  8. Wavey,

    Would you drop him then?

    We have Mhkitaryan, Ozil, Guendouzi, Torriera and Iwobi with Smith-Rowe coming through along with Maitland-Niles returning.

  9. C,

    I just don’t think we can rely on him. I’d happily demote him to the reserves as it seems fairly clear he’s on his way out on his own terms. I’d like to see the club swing that back into our favour a bit. It feels like we have caved in to player demands one way or another in recent years and it would be nice for the club to take control for once. We probably need to play him until January so that he can be in the shop window for us to sell, but otherwise I see no merit in playing a player who doesn’t fit into our plans going forward.

  10. Wavey,

    I used to feel that players should show more loyalty, but I guess if you look at it from their perspective, if they get bad injury problems or fall out of form for an extended period, the club will waste no time in offloading them (with the fans blessing); so it’s hard to expect them to be a bastion of loyalty when they know the favour wouldn’t be returned.

    Tbh I’m just bored of talking about contracts, if he leaves on a free or for a fee in January I care not at this stage – I just want to have a season without all this BS looming over it constantly. So with no anger or vitriol, I want our entire team to commit or go to pastures new, and stop this seemingly never-ending purgatory of will he/wont he contract renewals.

  11. Droppiny Ramsey, should be a far simpler decision based on the unbalanced nature of our play and that front 4. Something has to give. No natural wide man. No natural dribbler. First half ineffectiveness until mid game changes.

    Would be some effort to sell Ramsey in January. Taking Alexis as an example. Would he be at City had he not signed for United in January. Even as a remote possibility, Ramsey will likely only move to a club, that match his summer opportunity.

  12. Wavey,

    With Sanllehi now in charge, I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see Ramsey sold in January, no way he was as successful as he was at Barca for 10 years if he didn’t know how to deal with situations like this. I also think with the style we play, maybe use Ramsey in the Cups and use Iwobi and Mhkitaryan more to provide width more regularly that way Ramsey stays in the shop window but on the clubs terms.

    I think the other problem that we may face is what sides actually want or need him. I don’t see him getting into any of the clubs ahead of us midfield, maybe Everton or send him abroad to Milan with Ivan.

  13. Slartibartfast,

    Not sure which article you’re referring to but this is also from yesterday’s Mail:

    The Gunners are in the midst of a drive to reduce the club’s huge wage bill – but it is unclear whether budgetary constraints are playing a factor in this instance.

  14. Pete the Thirst,

    Or possibly the fact that Sanllehi and Mislintat know that there are better players that are more consistent that can be had or other areas of the pitch that can be improved.

  15. Completely agree. You have to question the business acumen of Gazidis presiding over this mess.

    The best position to start with players is to expect no loyalty. Sort the contracts out then see how loyal they are.

    Wavey:

    Unfortunately the Ramsey situation feels like another case of a player getting one over the club.

    What is disappointing is that there is no loyalty from a long-serving player.

  16. There’s no doubt there will be better players available, but we will have to pay big money for them. A Ramsey sale in August would have brought in far more cash than we will get in January.

    So frustrating, I hope the Sven & Raul combo is more effective than the Ivan & Arsene comedy act.

    C:
    Pete the Thirst,

    Or possibly the fact that Sanllehi and Mislintat know that there are better players that are more consistent that can be had or other areas of the pitch that can be improved.

  17. Pete the Thirst,

    We may have to but not necessarily, for instance there are plenty of players in the Bundesliga or Serie A that could be had. Maybe we add a player Brozovic or Zielinski who we may not have to pay over the odds but both are top players. I also think the Bundesliga and La Liga have plenty of players both in midfield and outwide that would fit in our system.

    I would bet that Mislintat and Sanllehi are improvements over Arsene and Ivan.

  18. Pete the Thirst,

    With that said, I also think the return of Maitland-Niles along with the continued development and consistency of Guendouzi, Iwobi and Torriera could see us have better players that fit in our system. No longer do we need a CM to get us goals but instead, we need our pivots to boss the midfield and allow our front 4 to attack.

  19. Another top post Yogi

    7 wins in a row is better then I would have expected. During the Wenger era we always had at least one good run of form every season and there were seasons when we regularly won most games against weaker teams. We even had a couple times when we took the most points in the league over a calendar year. Perhaps the Emery era will bring some consistency in our form and hopefully a challenge for 4th place this season.

  20. Bill,

    7 in a row is definitely a pleasant surprise. How often in the past have Arsenal failed to win games they were expected to win.

  21. Getting something for Ramsey in January is preferable to losing him for nothing in the summer but, either way, he seems certain to be leaving. We can’t wring our hands over what could or should have taken place and the fact remains that his style of play doesn’t fit in with the present Arsenal structure.
    There’s a maxim in sports that it’s better to sell a player a year too soon than a year too late and it’s to be hoped Arsenal will adopt some of that thinking from now on. To do so, they should have an effective date in mind by which a player re-signs or plans commence to move him. Sorry, but it is a business.

  22. It’s becoming clearer now, that he was going to leave whatever, but as has been said by a few of you , that’s on Arsene and Ivan. Without a mega money offer from a big hitter over the Summer, he’s just doing what’s is likely to give him best wage/ playing options. Go on or near a free. Can’t see anyone offering much for him in Jan really. He’s just not showing enough.
    I expect Emery was being hopeful in his early assessment. It is telling that he has persisted with Rambo, when it’s clearly been dysfunctional and hindering our transition play. He’s brought a much better Ozil out of the shell. New Wheels!, and I recon he thought the old Ramsey might emerge.
    Too late now I recon, after his shun on Saturday.
    Shame, but I think we’ll be better without him even if we buy no one.

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