Managing Expectations

The morning after the morning after the night before feels little better than yesterday in many respects. Defeat is never easy to stomach and the manner of losing to Manchester City rubs salt into wounds. And there are plenty of them, each weakness a cat o’ nine tails on the flesh this season. Every time they are repeated, the lash cuts deeper.

No-one expected us to win at City but a better performance would have softened the blow. Not shooting ourselves in the foot eases the sting losing brings but my goodness me, we took it a step further at the Etihad by chopping our own feet off with a blunt axe.

Yet, by every statistical measure which matters, e.g. the league table, we’re better than the same point in last season. We have more goals, more points, are closer to fourth and the top of the table. Despite an apparently increased capacity for error, we’ve conceded the same number of goals.

On the surface, after successive seasons where we slipped down the table, it is – at the moment – on course to halt that slide. After 20-odd years with one man in charge, the seismic nature of change is being rapidly forgotten, as is the decline which set in. Without significant funds, we expected improvement from the same players who spent years insulated from criticism.

We’re seeing improvement from some, most notably Hector Bellerin and Rob Holding. The latter is from playing regularly in the first team but as much, he is living up to expectations. The remainder of the team who were here before Emery? I’m not convinced anyone is necessarily better; Aubameyang and Lacazette are shoe-horned into the XI without a plan for this being evident. Maybe there is one and we don’t see it.

If We Don’t See It, Does It Exist?

Expectations are the most difficult thing for Emery to manage, particularly ours. There is such a broad range of aspirations, from returning to the top four to beyond. Someone somewhere is always going to think we’re underachieving. With the wealth of the majority of clubs above us, the Premier League built an expectation that we would spend, spend, spend.

Sadly, we did that last winter. Not just with transfers but also contracts. It was in essence, Ivan and Arsene’s Viv Nicholson moment. The money was there and spent unwisely in some cases. All of which left the ‘new regime’ stymied in the recently closed transfer window. This isn’t how it is supposed to be.

How it is supposed to be isn’t quite clear. Stories this morning of a summer transfer budget of £45m are coupled with tales of bids and targets totalling ten times that amount. It’s tattle which is an instinctive part of the game for fans; you’re either moved by it or detest the very essence of the transfer rumour. It’s hard to be ambivalent about them.

There’s also a sense of misplaced empowerment. The rage over the past few seasons of Arsene’s reign is quick to surface once again. Seeing others ‘make their name’ in those circumstances led to a lot of shouting from those hoping to tread the same path.

Manchester United sacked Moyes quickly into his reign when it was obvious that he was out of his depth. Van Gaal is probably a more accurate comparison. The Dutchman lost the crowd and the club hierarchy, to some extent the players as well.

Show Me The Way

There’s no sense the latter pair of ‘audiences’ is gone but there’s genuine bewilderment in the majority as to what Emery is trying to achieve. Flitting between four at the back and three; not using Ramsey or Ozil in big games; whatever seeds of confusion can be sewn, are.

What he wants to achieve, I think, is relatively easy to see. High-pressing, attacking down the flanks; he’s hamstrung, however, by players who are ill-suited to the formation and injury, as well as personal preference.

He doesn’t rate Ozil; we can see that. The club and he didn’t think Ramsey was worth the money offered, or I suspect more pertinently, the FFP price we would pay when it comes to renewing the squad. Until we get shot of Ozil, the wage bill is hampered. Adding Ramsey to that is another constraint and one too many.

But to return to expectations, what did people expect from Emery’s first season with Mustafi as a defensive lynchpin. Not all our mistakes are Mustafi’s but when a twitter thread of his video nasties gets as much attention as this, you know there is something fundamentally wrong with the player:

Click on the “people are talking about this” to see the full 16 – 17 clips. It’s instructive in how a centre-back shouldn’t play.

A Final Thought Or Two

So, this rambling post comes to its’ end with a suggestion, plea, demand, whatever you want to call it. We’ve just had 22 years of one manager and the ship needed steadying. We’re doing that right now – just, there’s no point in claiming otherwise – and we may finish better off at the end of the season. Maybe May’s judgement is the one we should be waiting for?

Oh, and Denis Suarez. I know you’re not excited by him, but FFS, can we give the man a break. Twenty minutes in an already beaten XI is hardly a fair performance upon which to base your assessment, is it? I know he’s not the central defender we need or the midfield powerhouse to play alongside Guendouzi and Torreira, but he deserves better than the immediate dismissal he’s receiving.

’til Tomorrow.

18 thoughts on “Managing Expectations

  1. Jonnygunner says:

    May’s judgement…..c’mon YW….no more Brexit 😬

  2. Pete the Thirst says:

    Mustafi is an enigma. He should be the lynchpin of this defence but his positional play is shocking.

    We have a coach on the bench (Steve Bould) who was part of one of the most miserly defences in the history of the game. They perfected the offside trap, pressed as a unit and provided a base for attacking play. Is he not working with the players? Is his position purely ceremonial?

    Maybe the older players are less open to coaching? Holding and Bellerin seem to have improved this season.

  3. HenryNorrisDialSquare says:

    Great post YW. Can’t disagree with any of that. Mustafi wasn’t having as many brain farts when he had Holding next to him. I think he’s a confidence player and needs a leading man next to him in order to get the best out of him. Agree with the Bould comment PtT. Maybe it’s an ode to defending years gone by.

    Who these muppets already laying into Suarez!? Give it a rest lads!

    May I just add, I’m enjoying watching Wolves play this season. They show tenacity, doggedness and aptitude. I’m a big fan of NES and what he’s doing at Wolves. UE I hope you’re watching!

  4. LSG says:

    I am not thrilled by Suarez signing but my negative remarks about his play v City was not so much about him than why Emery played him. I don’t think he is a bad player but he doesn’t as directly address the evident weaknesses as I would have hoped. He’s on loan. Maybe he helps us, maybe he doesn’t but if top 4 is the priority, I hope Emery uses his resources, limited though they may be, better than he has the last month or so.

    In general I am hopeful because we have the easiest run in of the three teams fighting g for 4th. We ought to be close to achieving that to the end of the season. Maybe we can go on a similar run as we did early in the season. If Emery doesn’t stay close from this point forward, he’s list a good opportunity in the league.

  5. Paul says:

    Can’t remember who the guy on the right is but if memory serves the guy on the left is the assistant pilot relaxing in the scene prior to the airplane going into a nosedive. Appropriate picture selection?

  6. Paulie Walnuts says:

    Fair point on Denis Suarez, YW.

    I was rather too quick to (negatively) judge on Sunday when he really was on a hiding to nothing.

    Having said that , he doesn’t have long to impress so he’ll need to show something quickly or else he’ll become another Kalstrom.

    If he does sign permanently he may well be the replacement for Mikhi …. on lower wages.

  7. ferkov says:

    Paul,

    last few days have been on the affective money .
    I did have a little poke at Suarez in the post match red wine sunday remarks. Just a poke tho. Said he looked like he wants to be Ozil. Well, if Emery is prepared to play him, as opposed to Ozil, then we need him. certainly not writing him off.

  8. lari03 says:

    Honestly, if we can replace Mustafi or use him in low-pressure matches against perceived weaker teams, that would be the perfect solution. May to August is key because if we do manage to make top 4, we need to purge this team of overpaid sissies.

  9. Totteridge man says:

    It has been clear for years that Wenger did not believe in defence and specialist defenders, and the concern now is whether the current coach recognises that defence is very essential . High pressing forward works if we have players for it, and our back 4/3 is very solid. We have leaked a lot of goals.
    £45 million availability is not merely tattle, but seemed to have suggested by Josh Kroenke during dinner talks, when the coach threw a dinner where Josh and Raul were invited. Not surprising at all. Yes, Gooners should manage their expectations and live with a mid-table team for years , I suppose. This is not negativity but reality.

  10. YW says:

    Well, others have it as low as £40m. All of them agree he was told it on Sunday night after the Manchester City game, which I find hard to believe as the Kroenke’s were at the Super Bowl. Given the logistics, I sincerely doubt they were at dinner together.

    To put it into context, Manchester to Atlanta is 4k miles. He’d need a jet which flew at 3k knots per hour to reach Atlanta, have dinner and let Kroenke fulfil his duties as LA Rams owner. Not happening.

  11. YW says:

    Also just seen this which makes some sense in that respect:

  12. Bill says:

    Great post Yogi

    I said this yesterday but expectations for Emery were raised way above reasonable levels when we heard about how he was going to make all of our players better and the underperformers from the last couple seasons just needed to be coached up. That was never realistic. Then the 22 game unbeaten streak really compounded the over expectations. Now I think we may have gone to far the other direction.

    Regarding Suarez he did not look good in that first game but I hope he can give us some sort of spark. I think Emery made the best call he could when he brought Suarez into the game. The other options were Elneny and we know with 100% certainty he is not going to bring any sort of spark to the game. The other option was Ozil and for all his former greatness its pretty clear that he is no longer a difference making game changing player. That left Suarez who was at least an unknown quantity and we had no idea what he might or might not be able to do. He only has a 1/3 season on loan to test drive him and it made sense to get his feet wet. The fact that he did not help does not mean that putting him in was a bad call.

  13. G4E says:

    The Professor of Fraud?

    “José Mourinho Spain tax fraud settled in multi-million deal.”

  14. victor Fenech says:

    With our shambolic defence – I cannot imagine Mustafi and Lensteiner ever getting any better, though they are just two out of a bad lot – I can only see us stuck in our present position, sixth at best, for quite some time. That definitely is not Arsenal. Above all we had the misfortune of being sold to an American owner who just is not interested in the game (thanks to our past English owners who had stated that they don’t want his sort and then changed their mind when the final offer came). Crowd pressure payed a role in forcing Wenger out; what price a repeat performance ?After all Kroenke is pure businessman. He can gauge a falling asset when he sees one. But must we all pass through a second hell to have our club back?

  15. Luc B says:

    After playing minimum minutes with the Barca reserves and the lightweight Spanish Cup games, this was Emery showing Suarez what the next 4 months are going to be like. Get up to speed or back to Barca B you go.

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