Sheffield United Review: Dismal. Just Dismal.

Sheffield United 1 – 0 Arsenal

Before kick-off, my youngest son asked whether Emery would be sacked by Christmas. Confidently, I told him that won’t happen. Indeed, he needed to buckle up and settle down for the ride: Señor Emery won’t be leaving until next summer at the earliest.

It’s funny how the world looks a little different this morning. Nobody would bat an eyelid if he departed before 2020 and there would be some relief.

Arsenal in the final years of Arsène Wenger’s reign became lost in a slough of indecision. Emery took that willingness to pass ourselves into blind alleys, adding timorousness into the mix.

We’ve become lost in the cult of possession, afraid of our footballing shadows and unwilling to take the risks which bring footballing rewards.

Last night was a classic example of that. The famous cannon melted and an army of crabs replaced them on the club crest, more befitting for a team which passes sideways, sideways, back, back, forward, sideways, sideways. One which rarely exercises the opposing defence.

This is the result of Unai Emery’s footballing chameleon philosophy. Whereas Arsène would wing it, let the players think for themselves, the Spaniard runs them into channels, binds them to his own clever web. A web where he has become too clever for his own good, outthinking himself and turning himself inside out.

In short, Emery is beating his own team. Baffling them into mediocrity.

And they are willing accomplices.

I’m paraphrasing but both Emery and loyal captain Granit Xhaka felt we deserved to win last night. It’s a basic error but just because you have the lion’s share of possession, doesn’t make you the better side.

Chris Wilder organises his team far better than Emery. He coaches their strengths to cover their weaknesses, something Emery could never countenance.

Bad Case of Crabs

United’s back three became five with protection from the midfield. It takes hard work to maintain that for 90 minutes but they did just that. Effectively; the crabs in yellow shirts lacked the individual sparks of ingenuity.

I’m all for Unai Emery demanding more out of Mesut Özil but if he is fit, he must surely be on the bench. It’s lunacy to have fit players who, on their day, are better than the individuals on their pitch.

The club and Emery deserve credit for promoting youth but just as with Chelsea, let’s not laud them unnecessarily. Arsenal must promote young players because of the financial straitjacket in which we find ourselves.

Saka, Willock, Nelson and co all earned their chances. However, expecting them to change the game, to rescue us when all else fails, is unrealistic. They are in their first full seasons in the side, where substitute appearances are replaced with starting line-up places. They earned that but saviours? Even Messi was made to wait for that status.

The reality is that we have a decent group of players and they need to take responsibility for the match actions as much as Emery. There is an evident lack of leadership, to the point that nobody noticed Granit Xhaka’s half-time withdrawal from that perspective.

Last night underlined how deep-seated our problems are. Holding, Tierney, Bellerin; they aren’t going to improve us overall nor stop goals like the one we conceded when Xhaka sat deep to keep Moussett onside. Nor are they going to provide the attacking spark.

They might deliver better crosses but when your central strikers are surrounded by burly stereotypical English central defenders, there is precious little point in making that your plan of attack.

Systemic Failures

Playing on the counter exploited the space behind the trio of centre-backs. Had Pepe converted his early chance, the outcome might have been different. By his own admission, the winger’s confidence is damaged and playing in this Arsenal team, Emery’s Arsenal, isn’t going to solve that quickly.

Aubameyang too had the chance to improve our first-half standing. He was slow to reach the penalty area for Pepe’s cross but that’s no surprise. Carrying this team is bound to slow anyone down.

This was a performance we have seen many times under Emery before. Clueless, devoid of hope: lacking in every quality needed to succeed at the highest level.

I know we need Champions League football financially but from a footballing perspective, there is little point in our participation. We have no chance of winning the competition and are just one match away from humiliation.

That was evident last night. Freddie Ljungberg, the people’s champion, showed more fight and determination on the touchline in receiving a caution than many on the pitch.

However, he is not absolved from blame for this sh*tshow, along with the other coaches. Is nobody challenging Emery, pointing out that this persistence with his failed chameleon philosophy is damaging the club, wrecking another season?

How can you go from being a supine coach to leading the show? How can anyone have confidence you will transition between the roles successfully, especially in your first head coach job? Hearts are ruling minds in the clamour for his appointment.

Where’s my placard? I’m joining the mob.

Or Are They Devo?

With the season crumbling before our eyes, is Junior getting a sense of deja vu? Nothing has changed from the end of last season when we were the team Ikea built. One brush with trouble and the whole house of cards collapsed back into the flat-pack box, ready to be returned to the shop.

More immediately, Raul and Edu must be questioning Emery intensely. They are footballing men, less prone to mood swings than supporters you’d think, but nonetheless very aware that whatever the Spaniard is trying to do, isn’t working.

This is why the stat about conceding so many shots on goal matters. It’s indicative of the systemic failure of the managerial plan.

To not bring him to heel over this is a dereliction of their duties as well as being an act of rank cowardice.

The question is, are they men or are they mice?

’til Tomorrow

37 thoughts on “Sheffield United Review: Dismal. Just Dismal.

  1. Pete the Thirst says:

    That was a pathetic display last night and the knives are being sharpened. The Wenger Boyz are throwing those toys with glee.

    The only solution I am reading is ‘change the manage’. Can’t see it happening this season.

    The defending for the goal was woeful. Are the defence being drilled? Doesn’t look that way. Surely Holding can provide some more leadership back there than Luiz?

    I was very surprised that Tierney didn’t start too. He’s looked a lot more accomplished than Kolasnic.

  2. Ras says:

    Morning YW… Your paragraph… We’ve become lost in the Cult of possession ……Says it all. No further words needed.

    Need to get rid of the Man. It’s quite obvious.

  3. Michael says:

    After last nights display, there has to be questions asked of Emery, by the suits it was a shocking display. The players, even the kids are capable but they need direction. I don’t see any.
    I try not to knee jerk, but he has to go, we aren’t even trading water.

  4. Paulie Walnuts says:

    UE is reminding me of Bruce Rioch. Taking over from a manager with a record of winning things & just not being the right fit.

    In the same way that Rioch knew best by dropping Ian Wright , Emery takes on the fans by making Xhaka undroppable.

    We’re utterly bereft away from home & now look like we’ve lost some verve at home.

    Somehow we need to get things to change & quickly.

  5. victor Fenech says:

    Just managed to see the second half. I wish I hadn’t. I thought Wenger had left; this was more of the same, pass pass pass with Emery looking totally lost as he paced the touchline throughout. And when are we going to shed this idiotic thing of the goalkeeper passing the ball to defenders inside the area or just outside? All it achieves is giving the opposition time to reorganise at the back. When the ball finally reaches our attackers (?) they are all well marked by a massed defence. Also, when is Pepe going to justify his transfer at the cost of losing Zaha? Seeing replays of the Sheffield goal made me cringe. That huge gap in front of Leno was unpardonable. Nobody seems to know his proper role. One more lost season – how many more can we afford?

  6. Paulie Walnuts says:

    I thought Pepe was good last night. I finally saw something. He showed good work rate & desire & plenty of trickery. Unfortunately for him he’ll be judged on goals but I’m more confident now than before that he will come good. Early days.

  7. Bufallo says:

    but both Emery and loyal captain Granit Xhaka felt we deserved to win last night.

    stupid is as stupid does, the tale of our manager and captain.

    there has never been an arsenal player i like less than xhaka.
    please please can this rubbish continue and emery be sacked before xmas.
    the captain will then likely be off the following summer as no decent manager would indulge him, let alone make him captain. and as for the ozil situation, emery does not have this luxury. we are not good enough to not have ozil playing some part.

  8. Bufallo says:

    i too thought pepe was good and v.promising and rather oddly emery made a big point about him missing the chance. looks like emery has given him no
    confidence, would pepe be playing better under arsene…..yup 99%.
    indeed it was Aubameyang who tried to lift him by giving him the pen as he
    clearly recognises the problem
    but don’t worry guys we have ‘possibilities’……

  9. C says:

    Paulie Walnuts,

    Agree with you (though I never doubted he would come good), he was the one player who looked most likely to make something happen. Why sub him off and leave Saka on, doesn’t make sense to me.

  10. C says:

    Good stuff Yogi!

    The thing that bothered me most about the goal is that Xhaka just stands there and as a defender or defending a corner….some of the first couple things you learn is never let anybody sit on your GK and stay on your toes, Xhaka did neither.

    Our midfield must be Torriera/Guendouzi or Willock/Ceballos or Ozil. Something has to change, we have attacking talent that is waiting to explode but our midfield is holding us back….well that and Lacazette just getting fit.

  11. Bufallo says:

    ‘We have to stop talking about [the mental side of the game] and b******* like this,’

    ‘I’m sorry to say that, but for me it’s the same whether you play at home or away – you have to win and show big character and not look for the same excuse.’

    2 in 24 Granit, sit down baby.

  12. Ras says:

    If You were PEA or A Lacazette this morning You would be asking yourself the serious question of whether their is any sense in committing to Arsenal with Emery in charge.

  13. JersiBennyman says:

    Ras:
    If You were PEA or A Lacazettethis morning You would be asking yourself the serious question of whether their is any sense in committing to Arsenal with Emery in charge.

    FACT

  14. Paulie Walnuts says:

    C,

    He hasn’t come good yet. It’s still early days & he certainly looked better last night but the jury is still out (as far as I’m concerned) for now.

  15. C says:

    Paulie Walnuts,

    He looked good last night, it is early days and wr have to be patient with him. Being subbed up and not playing with Lacazette or a midfield isn’t helping though. I watch him and more often than noy, he is picking the ball up from our box and then needing to beat and run the whole pitch.

    I know I will defend Ozil even when he is playing poorly but he needs to at least make the bench. He has the ability to provide Pepe and Aubameyang with that pass. Ceballos can do it too.

  16. JonJon says:

    what more to say…

    there are game changing, momentum swinging moments in every match..
    the penalty that never was on sokratis and the abysmal pepe miss were those moments, kinda knew we were fucked from there.

    but the problems are deeper than one match – as you say YW, wenger trusted his players to work it out for themselves, emery tells them to play that way and the whole game management sucks.

    why the fuck would you sit back and give the midfield to sheff utd to hit them on the break? and then wait until we are losing to pass it around with no playmaker to make the plays?

    hes a donut – theres nothing more to see here or gain with keeping him until summer. same thing every game and if PEA doesnt hit the net we fucked.

    the tactics are shite….give up the midfield, cover the wide positions and invite them in – ideally to shoot from distance, win it back, give it to xhaka, ping it wide and hit them on the wings.

    great – if your fucking stoke.

    then when we are losing – keep the ball and try play it through…with no playmaker. and dont get me started on the passing it out from the back shite – if youre going to play it out dont play it to the corner flags where our players end up boxed in and have to hit it long anyway…

    dickhead.

    worse battle plan since olaf the viking ordered 80000 battle helmets with the horns on the inside..

    its like a mishmash of GGs and AWs last years – just fucking get rid of him.

  17. DALM says:

    Too much fence sitting in these comments jonJon – what do you really think?

    My hope such as it was, the two proper full backs would men that we’d play out faster and have pace on the wings – but they still aren’t ready…

    BUT for that to work we need them on the pitch and a changed mindset and some risks with personnel

    Xakha probably had excellent stats re ball retention yesterday but almost every pass was back or sideways. And slowwwww.

    Kola does one thing well – the overlap…which he doesn’t use this season..

    Luiz and Sokratis simply not working.

    Passing out from the back – simply ridiculously poor execution.

    Cebalos – jury out – but last night was coming to collect the ball from the back when we needed him up front.

  18. Blue Yonder says:

    Why Emery persists in something that has not worked, is not working and will not work is baffling. Ditto on why he sticks with the same underformers regardless of their performances.
    He has to know he’s tying his Arsenal future to these twerps. And getting booted from Arsenal will likely mean goodbye EPL.
    How is he not getting this?

  19. Bill says:

    Great post Yogi

    I have defended Emery’s tactics in the past and I stand by that. We had almost 70% of the ball possession but just like during the Wenger era, tippy tappy football just does not work. I simply don’t believe the plan is to ping short passes endlessly between our midfielders and the back 4 and they wait around for a chance to counterattack. Emery is not a stupid man and I am sure what we saw yesterday is not his plan but its clear we don’t have the talent in this squad to effectively execute his plan. There comes a point where you have to accept that the club needs to move in a different direction and if things don’t improve quickly then perhaps mid season and I certainly can’t imagine Emery getting a 3rd season.

  20. Paulie Walnuts says:

    I genuinely believe Emery has been surprised by the week on week intensity of the EPL. There are no givens , certainly not away from home.

    You would think his first season would have prepared him for games like last night, but he seems content to be a ‘home’ manager who has an obsession with the Europa League.

  21. Blue Yonder says:

    Arsenal’s performance was the exact opposite of everything Emery said pre-game. As his English improves, it becomes increasingly clear that he is delivering motherhood statements that are contradicted by everything that takes place on the field.
    Arsenal and its fans deserve more.

  22. SV says:

    @Bill

    I said Emery should played the cup team in the league. I did not mean the results would necessarily improve. I think the youth would buy more time with the fans, and Emery’s position would be more stable.

  23. Sheffy says:

    DALM,

    Disagree, I’m no fan of Xhaka and our midfield is usually pretty uninspiring, but his passing is definitely his biggest asset.

    I watch Xhaka intensely when he plays – I’m as baffled as the next guy as to why he is such a key part of the team.

    Now I am in no way making a case for his inclusion or trying to rate him but Xhaka does pass the ball well and usually forwards. Sure its sideways rather than headfirst but it’s usually a pass that feeds the ball forward to whomever is our free player or ‘outlet’ (usually a full back or a cm pusher wide)

    This is the style of football Emery has them playing, again not saying I’m a proponent of the style but Xhaka executes it brilliantly. He makes himself available for the pass and already knows where the free player in our formation is – ready to exploit spaces in the opponents formation. I think the phase following this and the decisions made there onwards are our downfall.

    Watch Xhaka’s passing – he punches the ball into feet with a bit of whip, always great technique and making it easy for the next player to take the touch to move into the gaps and supposedly beat a player or do a one two. It doesn’t look slow as you say.

    Xhaka is clearly doing his job when it comes to being the base of our attacks and moving the ball across the pitch. That is clearly his instructions and he executes it consistently. The shame is that the instructions are not benefitting us in building deadly attacks and other facets of Xhaka’s game are often severely lacking as we all know!

  24. Sheffy says:

    Sheffy,

    I should clarify when I say sideways I really meant diagonal – I should read what I write before I post.

  25. Ferkov says:

    After 2 weeks without a fix, and a 3 day weekender, I was so looking forward to being lifted a fraction . Instead I got tailspun and sent back to late Wengerball.
    Utter utter hopelessness. Pepe and Saka, and later on Ceballos were the only ones that looked to move forward with purpose.
    I even slipped back into Wengerism, and still think Saka should have had that pen. Bloody Ref!!. Get real .We got what we deserved. Humiliated. Expect more of the same sadly. Everyone will scent the blood . We need to step up and fast. Fucking Xhaka. Didn’t even get a yellow.
    Hope this hangover lifts soon.

  26. Ferkov says:

    Sheffy,

    I get what u say about Xhaka. Last season I was banging that exact drum to my nephew, who just hates him in the team.
    Those passes tho are only effective if the recipient is in a position of threat or not telegraphed and intercepted.
    Keep banging it across to isolated Chambers. It’s just sideways with extra time lost.

  27. Anderslilya says:

    Sheffy,

    Yes Xhaka can make some long passes to the wings and yes he also usually makes himself available for a pass when his team mates get pressured. Unfortunately though, 50% of the times he plays the ball back where it came from, now putting even more pressure on his team mate and there we have the panic long ball or worse, an interception.
    He just can’t make the half turn forward to save his life, he’s too slow and have no clue what is happening around him.
    Are you actually Emery using Google translate?

  28. Sheffy says:

    Anderslilya,
    Hahaha maybe I am covering for those tapes…..seeing as making him captain hasn’t tricked anyone, I thought I could convince everyone online by slowly infiltrating the fanbase and feeding them semi-positive Xhaka comments.

    Honestly though do you really think Emery even makes sense in Spanish??

  29. Sheffy says:

    Ferkov,

    Glad you somewhat agree, just all I hear is that the man has no talent. Just think some of the subtleties are missed by people (oh dear, sounds like I’m talking about Ozil) and it just irked me reading someone slate his passing. I cant disagree with what your saying but I think much of that comes down to the system and management.

    In regards to your previous comment – it’s like we lived the same weekend. Spot on with what you say, especially the yellow card bit!

  30. C says:

    My oh my, Nketiah scored another goal.

  31. Papa Bear says:

    Our two best strikers should be optimized.
    Pepe needs to sit on the bench.
    Luiz is better as a sweeper, Holding and Chambers have to play, so back to the back three as the defence is shit and the donkey Xhaka must be dropped, and Ceballos must play as the creative midfielder in 3-5-2 formation. (if Emery is serious to save his job, but his stubborness won’t surprise me, as he is as deluded as Wenger).

    Emery had no choice than to revert to the back three to accomodate our best resources.

    3-5-2 Formation :

    Leno

    Chambers Luiz Holding

    Bellerin Torreira Ceballos Guendouzi Tierney

    Lacazette Aubameyang

  32. Betting Hits says:

    Why isn’t Dani Ceballos starting? and while I am a fan of Zhaka passes, his performance overall leaves something to be desired. Emery is supposed to be the tactician but didn’t this game have the Wenger feel to it. Just a terrible all-around game and if we continue with this kind of play forget the top 4…

  33. Ras says:

    Interesting reading…. We have to ask the question was due diligence truly taken into account when appointing Emery..

    Mhttps://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2017/mar/09/unai-emery-psg-barcelona-thiago-silva

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