Arsenal 2 – 2 Crystal Palace
Unai Emery’s reign at Arsenal descended further into acrimony and recrimination as for the second time this season, a two-goal lead was thrown away.
It isn’t the Spaniard’s own work, of course. VAR overruled the referee twice and twice Arsenal paid the price.
Martin Atkinson, a matter of feet away from the penalty incident, felt Zaha dived and cautioned him. Not so, said Mr Stockley Park. A defensive leg was dangled and the Palace winger fell over it so that is a penalty.
Emery’s afternoon got worse. Granit Xhaka was distinctly unimpressed at being the fall guy once again. He let his displeasure be known and then turned the tension up one louder.
The armband was flung in disgust, fans were told to ‘do one’ in response to jeering and catcalls. The Swiss continued his amble to the touchline conducting the chorus of abuse. Arsenal were drawing 2 – 2; there was no need to rush, to show a sense of urgency.
Granit was going to sulk and nothing was going to stop him.
He finished it all off by taking off his shirt, in a final act of petulance which must see him removed from the list of five captains. Take Mesut Ozil with you as well; no point in having a player there who doesn’t play.
As a first XI player, a spell on the bench would do Xhaka good as well. It would remove him from the firing line to a certain extent although his reception at coming on will be muted at best and probably a lot worse.
Xhaka is a lightning rod for the frustration felt at Emery’s reign. Managers rate him but few fans do in my experience. There won’t be much sadness felt when he leaves which I presume he will.
Overcompensation is no Excuse for Failure
To finish it all off, salt was rubbed into our wounds. Yet again, Mr Atkinson was overruled as Mr Stockley Park deemed Calum Chambers guilty of shoving in the usual penalty area shenanigans. Or was it for forcing a defender to trip him up? I couldn’t work out which.
The problem is that for the pushing, there ought to be five or six penalties every game. It happens all the time and remains unpunished most of the time. All we want is consistency and we don’t get it.
Perhaps when Granit goes, he can take VAR with him. English politicians cannot agree on the best route for Brexit but even they look sophisticated and competent compared to the PGMO/Premier League introduction of VAR.
In some sense, I feel sorry for Atkinson. He endured an awful match but in two big calls, he got the decision right and VAR got it wrong. He, however, is the one who endures the shame in the moment as prejudices against him are reinforced.
Some claim VAR is overcompensating for previous mistakes. It’s this part of VAR which is baffling. How can a man looking at a screen get decisions wrong? It defeats the object of the exercise if they cannot get it right.
Disturbingly, these are men entrusted with the whistle in Premier League matches. If they cannot get it right with TV monitors and replays aplenty, how can they be trusted otherwise?
Still, it came as no surprise to find Mike Dean was the first VAR to send a player off. What was a surprise is that he got the decision right.
But it is easy to use the VAR decisions as distractions from the real issues affecting Arsenal. And that can’t be allowed to happen.
Stand By Your Man
The club is, at the moment, standing firm with their man. For how much longer is a different question. Change is going to come but not just yet. I believe Emery will be given to Christmas at the very least.
The afternoon began so differently. Palace had the first chance, naturally but by the tenth minute, we were two-up. Not only 2 – 0 to the good but both from set-pieces and both scored by centre-backs.
From there on, it was a distinctly average performance which sums Emery up. Palace were unadventurous and well-organised while we were content to wait for the moment to pounce. And wait. And wait.
We wait for things to happen. We lack aggressive creativity and are easily baulked. Whatever Emery’s gameplan is, it hasn’t been working for at least nine months. Yet we are resolute in our determination to prove Einstein right. It genuinely is insanity.
This was Crystal Palace at home. It’s dismissive and disrespectful, but this is a team we should be bullying. We should be hemming them into their own half, compressing play into their defensive third, forcing errors.
I cannot recall us ever doing that under Emery and honestly, I am struggling to remember a decent performance from us in the Premier League at all this year.
This afternoon encapsulated us as a club. We are in disarray with a coach incapable of man-management. One of his captains is permanently benched with the club’s acquiescing to Emery’s wishes, his main captain is in disgrace.
Unai Emery lurches from one crisis to the next. Every game exposes the same weaknesses to the extent that even a two-goal lead leaves us squirming uneasily.
It’s got to end otherwise it won’t end well and there will be more casualties.
Fireworks or Damp Squibs?
Emery is our David Moyes. He is in way over his head and with a squad which while it is playing for the coach, doesn’t look like it would be bothered if he left. That’s probably a sweeping generalisation but in much the same way Johnson is running out of MPs, Emery is running out of captains.
There’s no sense of coherence about the club. Replacing Arsene Wenger was a huge task and as with Manchester United, the first man who came along was a bad fit. I had high hopes for Unai but it is evident he cannot mould this squad into the team it could be.
And it is a half-decent squad. Too much of its’ efforts are panic-driven. We lose possession too quickly and are too susceptible to the counter-attack, even when we’re playing on the counter-attack in a home game.
Frequently we’re told Liverpool were patient with Klopp. If someone can point to the bit where they were a complete shower during the second year of his reign, I’ll happily retract criticism of Emery.
They weren’t so don’t waste your energy.
The players cannot be let off the hook either. They are under-performing and it was they, after all, who conceded two goals today and frankly didn’t look like scoring from open play.
Emery’s man-management is the root cause of the problem. He mishandled Aaron Ramsey’s final season with the club last season and we’re now talking about Lucas Torreira playing almost as a #10.
There may be method to his madness but to this outsider, Emery is flailing around making snow angels, hoping to find a pretty pattern. Except when he stands up, he was lying in sleet and everything has turned to water.
Point of No Return
And that’s where we’re at, for me. I cannot see Emery guiding us to the top four without considerable help from those above and around us.
If he achieves that target I shall be surprised. Genuinely amazed. I will probably be more surprised if he lasts that long.
Emery isn’t going to abandon his philosophy, it’s too embedded in everything he planned for and everything he has trained for.
He isn’t going to abandon Granit Xhaka either. He likes him as a player and probably doesn’t want to discipline him although he has said they will talk about it.
There’s nothing to talk about. Fine him, drop him and let’s move on. Liverpool Wednesday night and the Carabao Cup. It will be something of a relief; the lesser sides are more fun than the Premier League XI this season.