Unai Emery survived to take charge of Crystal Palace this weekend – there’s an early preview here. The knives are out and Hession sacks filled with bricks to weigh it down in the Regent’s Canal.
It wasn’t good against Vitoria on Thursday and nobody is claiming it was. That is now behind us and I’m sure (hopeful) it included a hangover from Monday’s defeat, the international break and a dodgy lasagne.
Nonetheless, the performance contained elements which are persistently evident every time we play. Vulnerability to counter-attacks, lack of dynamic possession, ceding territory and supine defence in the face of danger. All things Unai is not addressing and repeatedly witnessing in first-team games.
It’s systemic and as ingrained as the failings which ultimately ended Arsène’s reign. If Unai doesn’t get to grips with them soon enough, the axe is going to fall; it will keep us out of the top four, which at present, is the staging ground we need to reach.
Hector Bellerin said after the game that there were “loads of things we’ve got to improve as a team.” You cannot disagree that “football keeps evolving and there are different rivals, different things that you’ve got to do in different games.”
However, he knows our failings. We’ve got to “keep the ball better”. He went on to talk about our “style of play” and “DNA” but what is that?
The successful Arsenal teams were built on a solid defence. You don’t need a fantastic goalkeeper behind a strong defence just a good one. John Lukic is the best example of that.
However, this Arsenal side has a decent goalkeeper but there’s no way the back four as fielded in the Premier League is a strong defence.
Defending the Indefensible
Of course, it isn’t just down to the defence to defend. As I’ve typed that heading, it’s dawned on me how appropriate a nickname ‘The Indefensibles’ is for Emery’s Arsenal.
Which is where the apparent perversity of Unai’s midfield team choices come into play. He, you presume, knows what he wants, that he isn’t making this up on the hoof. Maybe he is.
I think it is telling that Bellerin talks of “different things you’ve got to do in different games.” He is speaking personally but if he understands the chameleon concept Emery wants, then surely the rest of the squad do.
If that’s the case, something is being lost in translation between the training pitch and Premier League fields. Of course, if you’re not getting it right on the training pitch, you’re hampered if not.
In this, what we hope is short, rough patch, our failings are exposed as others play well.
Leicester’s 9 – 0 win last night saw Brendan Rodgers stock rise while Jose Mourinho’s appearance at the Emirates in close proximity to Raul meant speculation over Emery’s future is rife.
The only thing I’m envious of is the ruthlessness Leicester displayed. It’s something we’ve lacked in recent seasons but let’s be honest, that was a freakish performance. They won’t enjoy such dominance or shooting accuracy again and they will have to wait a week or two to face supine opposition like that again.
It’s not healthy for that situation to exist so Unai needs to turn things around. Winning is the obvious way to do that. The last thing he wants is a public show of support from Raul or Junior; the vote of confidence always precedes the axe.
Below is a message from Jake Coare, which I should be grateful if everyone would read and if possible, attend the walk:
Walk and Talk
Please join us on a walk to raise awareness of mental health & male suicide, which is the biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK, Equating to around 84 men a week.
Fans will walk and talk along the way from Selhurst park to Emirates Stadium on match day, including rest stops. Everyone is welcome to do all or part of the walk, whoever you support. Last year we had over 120 people on this walk and we are aiming for even more this year.
It’s good to walk and even better to talk. Remember you are not alone. #WalkAndTalk