This is, I think, a version of The Truman Show. Somewhere, there is a television audience sitting on the edge of their seats at the daily implosions of Arsenal Football Club and the fanbase.
This weekend has been gripping viewing but there’s a danger that the denouement may not be so explosive.
Granit Xhaka met with Emery to discuss Sunday and it ends one of two ways. The Swiss will be fined and stripped of his captaincy or there will be a mea culpa Captain’s Notes prepared for Saturday’s Wolves programme. In the latter case, I doubt he would even write them and if he did, the fingerprints of the PR department will be all over them.
Most curiously, Unai reportedly consulted with some of the squad over the stance to take with the Swiss. While you might argue it is good to find out the players’ thoughts on the matter, with Emery there is always a sense this will guide his own thinking. It’s too much to ask for him to make a decision and then inform the squad.
That, of course, backs up the notion he has lost an element of the dressing room. It was something which yesterday’s media repeatedly said. The Torygraph went so far as to attribute it to “a source”. We should not assume that is code for something Ornstein wrote in The Athletic but…
Nonetheless, it isn’t hard to see there will be disgruntled factions in the dressing room. With former star players and first-teamers fallen from grace, the cabal of malcontents – supposedly popular – maybe wondering if Xhaka is joining their ranks.
Emery will hope to avert that. Xhaka is a player he likes and whom he knows to be popular in the dressing room. Sanctions must be handled with care.
Patience: A Virtue or the Hallmark of Cowardice?
If the players aren’t convinced by Emery, creating a fracture with the linkman between himself and the dressing room isn’t going to help. The reports this weekend didn’t point to longevity on Emery’s part.
Players, we were told, were confused by his instructions and dubious about his decision-making. Maybe that’s true and it’s certainly credible if viewed in the context of team performances.
This is where the frustration with Xhaka boiled over. He is seen as Emery’s ‘poster boy’ and in that role serves as a lightning rod for dissent with the manager. He won few friends earlier in the season for his comments after the North London derby, compounded by similar bizarre utterings after the Watford game.
His biggest crime, however, is keeping Lucas Torreira out of the side. Now, Emery is trying to fit the Uruguayan into the XI in a more advanced role. That is until now.
It would be wise for Emery to follow Wenger’s lead on Eboue. The Ivorian had a three-week break between his nadir against Wigan and the next home game against Portsmouth.
If Emery follows suit and drops Xhaka against Wolves, will the Emirates be more welcoming for him when Southampton hit town in a month? Autocorrect wants me to put “hit the town” but after their home defeat against Leicester, I doubt there will be any chance of that.
That problem parked, attention turns to Emery himself.
Had we taken six more points from the last three games, we’re third, clinging onto Manchester City’s coattails. Instead, we’re frightened of our own shadows which is brought on by a failure of leadership from the top of the club downwards.
A Man for all Seasons
To expect Enos or Junior to be proactive is as naive as the senior management’s contentment is astonishing. Despite the changes at that level, almost unfathomable patience remains abroad. It’s laughable the club considered a new contract for Emery but they did.
Some say sacking Emery now is a knee-jerk reaction but it isn’t. However, they are running out of time to do so before the end of the year and get someone new in before the next transfer window.
You don’t back the coach in January, spending millions then axe him. It’s an expensive and futile exercise.
If Raul and Edu are backing him for the remainder of the calendar year, they back him for the season and live with the consequences. Five months remaining in the season gives the newcomer a chance to turn things around. Five weeks and it’s ciao to whatever ambitions you had.
Who steps in is a tough choice. It has to be an experienced manager in my view although let’s be honest, the only managers available at the time of year have been sacked for incompetence.
Freddie Ljungberg? As an interim, fine but you write off this season. Get the team playing again and believing in themselves but do not set targets. It could be done and maybe hitting the pause button is what Arsenal needs.
Whether he wants to tarnish a well-earned playing reputation with being a head coach at Arsenal is another matter.
I can see the incentive for him. His spell at Wolfsburg with Andries Jonker didn’t end well. Maybe Freddie wants another bite at the cherry. Does a caretaker role sate that ambition or whet his appetite further?
Meanwhile, In The Wings Awaits A Genuine Leader
However, Ornstein reports little inclination among the footballing men on the leadership to follow that route. Junior and Enos may point to Sean McVey at the Rams as an example of what can happen. True but they weren’t that keen on Mikel Arteta.
And to bring it full circle who will they entrust the captain’s armband to? It’s a poisoned chalice at present and has been for a number of years. Tears, tiaras and tantrums; for the past decade, the incumbents invariably kiss their careers at the club goodbye in a far from satisfactory manner.
I’d suggest Hector Bellerin who displayed more leadership than anyone else in the club with this tweet.
My gut feeling says he’ll choose Aubameyang instead but I’ve been known to be wrong.