Unai Emery is a quick learner if nothing else. His English is improving to the extent that he can spot a media trap a mile off. He did so with ease yesterday, stopping their attempt to drag him into a war of words with Arsene following Emery’s interview earlier this week. “on if things didn’t change whether it would’ve got worse…” was met with a straight bat.
“I didn’t say
Emery once again focused on the last three drawn games.
We are okay, 16 matches where we haven’t lost, but also, in the last three matches we’ve drawn. This is two situations. Our ambition is to take another victory, but we know it is very difficult in each match.Unai Emery on the unbeaten run
Of the three, it’s the last which will cause Unai the most concern. Wolves were well-organised and took points from both Manchester clubs, as well as running Tottenham close. It was never going to be easy.
However, our lethargy was a concern. Maybe it is still, especially with the international break. We’re by no means unique in being slow out of the traps every time the club season is so rudely interrupted.
That, if football’s rulers get their way, will become more intrusive. Proving FIFA isn’t the only cesspit of bad ideas, the CONMEBOL chief wants a World Cup every two years. Or to expand the Nations League to include South American nations.
Which ever way FIFA goes – Infantino will follow the votes and the money – it’s sure to impinge on club football. All the talk of FIFA looking after players welfare goes out of the window when it comes to a quick buck being made.
Cheery stuff, eh?
Defensive Holding Pattern
Emery’s focus is on the defence. His ‘rock’ at the back is out for at least three weeks. He didn’t say ‘at least’, that’s my emphasis; we all know what ‘three weeks’ means.
Laurent Koscielny is gradually being reintegrated. I’m not sure if I detected relief in Emery’s words but he was positive about the Frenchman nonetheless.
The plan is Under-23s and getting match sharp. Is the target Qarabag or the Carabowowow Cup quarter-final? What then? Is it the time when Mustafi makes way? It certainly seems unlikely to be Rob Holding. When Sokratis is fit, that is another story.
And this is where the ‘but’ comes in. Holding observed that last season we didn’t talk on the pitch. Koscielny, as captain, was there most of the time and part of that problem. A willing participant in the quietness or as bewildered as the rest? I think a hint of both; he’s a naturally quiet person and if a leader, one by example. That suited Arsene but not the team.
The question is whether partnering Koscielny and Sokratis is the right answer at any point? Plenty of experience but a very short-term outlook. Let’s not forget that Koscielny was going to leave last summer; will it be the same next summer as well?
However, the biggest aspect of this is form and Holding not only learns quickly, but also provides great defensive cover. With makeshift left-backs such as Xhaka in situ, he is their support, covering when their inexperience is found wanting.
Holding isn’t the finished article and doesn’t claim to be. However, he can become one of the best English central defenders around. That will weigh into Emery’s thinking about his best pairing. Koscielny is a better defender than Mustafi but is Sokratis the best defensive partner for Holding?
Which leads onto one of his predecessors. Mr Arsenal. Tony Adams interview in the Times this morning is another honest delve into himself.
Adams attracts derision for his determination to become involved at the club down the years. That dream is over, he says. He saw Gazidis a couple of times before he left but if you look at the club now, who knows Adams to the extent of offering a job out of friendship? Bould may be the only one who Tone worked with previously.
If they don’t think I can contribute . . . I think I can. It doesn’t look like it’s my path. I’m not sitting here for the rest of my life, saying, ‘Oh I want to get back to Arsenal, please, please.’ I’d be in daily turmoil if I lived like that.
It’s like an ex-girlfriend: 16 years trying to get back with a girl, get the message, mate, move on. It doesn’t hurt me.
I just wish my ex-girlfriend all the luck in the world!Tony Adams on working at Arsenal post-playing career
His would be a popular ambassadorial tour, I suspect. However, that isn’t what he wants. It’s clear from his words that he has more to offer football, in his own mind at least.
Maybe he has but I guess not at a club like Arsenal. He lays the myth about players being fans well and truly to bed.
I was never a fan, so it was different, I worked there.
Help Is At Hand
But he made an observation about the changing nature of football support
The game’s changed. A lot of fans today go to see their team win when back in the day when I played they used to go to support the team, win or lose, it didn’t matter, that’s your local team and you supported it. It’s a different animal today.
Adams honesty and willingness to take a very public journey through his addiction and return commands respect. He talks about the work of Sporting Chance and that which he carries out on their behalf. Nobody has the right to knock that.
But there’s a wider aspect to it. By putting his problems out in the open, by talking about them, Adams helped chip away at the macho facade society demands on men. No longer is it a shameful act to ask for help. It’s no tawdry secret to keep in the attic.
‘Man up’ is one of the worst phrases ever conceived; if you need help, please seek it. People are willing to listen and to help you. That first step is one of the hardest to make but taking it is a life-changer.