Emery Hanging On By A Thread

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.

’til Tomorrow.

41 thoughts on “Emery Hanging On By A Thread

  1. Dukey says:

    Not sure about the character of Emery. He comes across as the type of guy who would take 30 minutes ordering a bottle of wine in a restaurant where he keeps changing his mind and not being able to decide which one will best go with his steak or his fish or pork or chicken..

  2. Spike says:

    We need a quick short term fix. To see us through to the end of the season. Freddie may well be up to that.

    Longer term, the club need to go for someone with a bit more than a snazzy PowerPoint presentation.

    Oh and good morning!

  3. Adebanjo says:

    Good morning all. Arsenal are drifting at the moment and so am I. By the way until things improve May I suggest that the announcer at the Emirates just announce the club as Arsenal and not as The Arsenal. In my view we are currently Arsenal and not The Arsenal.

  4. nicky says:

    I have conflicting thoughts about Unai Emery. Last season, the general view seemed to suggest he needed more time to express his ideas on the field. We finished 6th in the EPL and losing finalists in the Europa.
    This season so far, despite a number of blips, we lie 5th in the EPL and are top of our group in the Europa.
    We still await the permanent return of our chosen back four.
    My question is “Is this the right time to consider changing horses in mid stream?” Have we even reached midstream?

  5. Michael says:

    Morning all
    I can’t think Emery has much longer, unless not only the results but the performance improve significantly. It looks like we have mortgaged the house to get 4th at a minimum. It makes good sense to protect your investment.
    This is where it can get messy, who could they get or want? We are on paper a big club, which brings it’s own problems.
    Although I don’t get to choose, I’d try for Rafa, he ticks a lot of boxes.

  6. Jonnygunner says:

    It would appear from the ‘reports’ in many of the rags today that Granit isn’t about to back down,and his team mates have sympathy for him,as well as support for him.
    Unai’s in rather a spot of bother here.I can’t see how he’s going to sort this one out to be honest.

  7. HALF TIME LEMONS says:

    Dukey,

    Nothing terrible about half an hour choosing while the food’s prepared – providing you get the right bottle of wine!

    To continue the analogy – it seems we get a jug of wine with samples from 3 or 4 wines mixed together – ruining them all and wasting money…..

  8. Wailesy says:

    Morning,

    I can’t see Emery going until the year of the season when we’re out of top 4 contention. Unless of course this Xhaka situation really gets messy quickly. Who knows Xhaka may be our saviour yet.

    Hi C,

    Yep I’d take Lacca as captain. I think we have a few in the making in Holding, Tierney (think Braveheart) but I do like a strapping centre half or an 8 as captain.

  9. Pete the Thirst says:

    Emery made a really stupid decision making Xhaka the captain. Maybe he thought it would be the making of him. Well that back-fired badly.

    Xhaka needs to develop a mystery illness and join Ozil & Mustafi on the naughty step.

    All three of these players are legacy Wenger & Gazidis expensive purchases. They were never good enough and are paid too much to shift to another club.

  10. Bufallo says:

    Granit isn’t about to back down

    given Granit’s general post match comments and ill disciplined play, compounded by rowing with the fans while waltzing off the pitch recently i have come to the only conclusion possible…….he is rock stupid.

    there is zero doubt he should be removed as captain. had it been a different player with a different profile he could have apologised, even turned it around, he could have survived. as things stand he should be on his way out of the club never mind retain the captaincy, very worrying reports about Emery consulting the squad……actions of a weak leader and someone who apparently doesn’t understand british football. if ozil’s behaviour in the final
    was considered unacceptable, xhakas was far far worse.

  11. Bufallo says:

    the oddity the ozil vs xhaka situation is having one on the pitch increases our chances of scoring, the other increases our chances of losing. one is paid about 5x the other. guess which one starts every game ?

  12. JonJon says:

    have to feel a tad sorry for xhaka

    theres a good player hiding in there somewhere, strong, sweet left foot, eye for a pass, good technique – unfortunately – due to crap tactics over the past 3-4 years, our midfields been total bereft of ideas and hes suffered greatly because of it.

    also, he gets named captain of the club and has to bare the brunt of the managers shite, shit scared, bollox, tactical gameplan of nullifying the other teams strengths before we impose our own strengths (even if its a shit side with fuck all strengths) and we run ourselves in circles relying on set pieces as the other side pepper our gk with shots…

    but…..but…..but….

    he should have ran off that pitch….

    you pay me 100k a week and you can call me a cunt as much as you like.

    he has to run off that pitch… everything that came after was his own fault and i expect him to remain captain as much as i expect emery to remain manager.

  13. C says:

    JonJon,

    I think that’s the part that isn’y being discussed enough, the booing and jeering really didn’t start until he decided to walk slower than a newborn’s crawl off the pitch. We had a chance to go get something when the match is 2-2. As captain, you run off the pitch or even as a player wanting to give your team as much time as they can.

    The othet thing for me is, Xhaka is Captain of the Swiss national team, he knows what comes with the job and the armband.

    I don’t approve at all of booing your own players, but at the same time, I don’t approve at all of the Captain having a go at supporters, stripping off your kit, throwing the armband and walking down the tunnel and not staying out to support your mates.

  14. C says:

    All signs pointing to Ozil starting or featuring with Emery confirming he is in the group for tomorrow.

    “That conversation this morning was because I wanted to listen about how he was thinking now to help us tomorrow.

    “It was a very good conversation. Tomorrow he is in the group.

    “We need his quality, his skill. We need his consistency.

    “We need his positive mentality. Then we need him to help us on the pitch.

    “I want now like in the pre-season, like a month ago, for him to help us on the pitch.”

  15. Paulie Walnuts says:

    He may have a nice left foot but Xhaka has to be the slowest player in the EPL. James Mcarthur burnt him off on Sunday ! This lack of mobility is behind a lot of his indiscipline – he’s simply not equipped to play at the highest level in the EPL.

    You can get away with it in other leagues or even in International football but there are some real athletes around & & he can’t handle it.

    If Emery sticks with him he’ll alienate the fans….if he doesn’t he alienate the players. Tough call Unai !

  16. Two Owls says:

    It would be fine with me if he were thrown to the Wolves this very day. His selection was a travesty and the people involved in the selection should also be wolf meat.

  17. thrillbo says:

    Hello all, thanks for the chatter. Yes Xhaka should 100% ran off the pitch. A ‘captain’ would just accept the poor performance, get off the pitch, cheer on your teammate about to replace you. Xhaka sulked off like a teenager. Maybe you expect Martinelli to throw a little hissy fit if he gets hooked but the captain? Show some professionalism? Set example for all your mates?

    Just get off the pitch, keep your head down and accept the bad performance. Emery is right , the fans wouldnt be jeering Xhaka if we saw him giving 100% every match. We dont see that though we see jogging, lazy, slow to cover, give away cheap needless free kicks, penalties.

    You dont need to put on a messi like performance to win the crowd. Everyone (mostly) has a good feeling about Guendouzi right? He is up for a bunch of awards i’ve heard? What has he really done this year other than get about the pitch, make tackles, play physical, play with bravery, and make a few key passes? It just shows that the fans love and appreciate hustle and hard work.

  18. C says:

    Wailesy,

    I also think Bellerin is just the sort of character and Leader that I woulnd’t mind but I may be in the minority there

  19. Blue Yonder says:

    At any point, a new captain has the challenge of leading by example and setting an example (among other things.) And that’s when it’s a normal transition (due to retirement, transfer, etc.) In the present environment, it’s an even bigger challenge and not one for the paint of heart. That’s asking too much of a young player, I think.
    A veteran player who performs consistently well and sets a good example is needed here. Aubameyang or Lacazette would fit the criteria.

  20. Woolwich Freddie says:

    Paulie Walnuts,

    So much truth in this. Xhaka’s problems all stem from a lack of pace and reaction time. They are only compounded by a lack of tactical understanding and coaching, which might help mitigate them. The frustrating thing is, he could actually have fetched a decent fee in the Summer – that price is only going down.

  21. Blue Yonder says:

    Ideally, I’m not keen on someone being named captain because he’s the highest scorer. I prefer to see someone further back, marshalling the defence, etc. But you have to pick from who you have so either Aubameyang or Lacazette.
    There are several potential candidates for down the road, however, and I think Arsenal are well-served in that.

  22. Woolwich Freddie says:

    A few of the younger players have put themselves into competition for the captaincy but they all already have too much on their shoulders (Guendo) or need to concentrate on fitness for now. Bellerin is young but has been at the club for a while and shown some professionalism. I can’t see further than Laca, though: up for it, gives a shit, drags the team kicking and screaming when it struggles, has the experience at his previous club, can be conciliatory but not afraid to be demanding.

  23. consolsbob says:

    Ozil back. after a chat about how’he was going to help us’?

    GG would be turning in his grave.

    Get the fuck out Emery and let a man take over. I am not excluding a woman per se, of course.

  24. consolsbob says:

    Oh, that’s the last two captains who have pissed on the Crest, by the way.

    Not counting the one who deosn’t play, unless consulted, and the others whose names I can’t remember.

  25. C says:

    Blue Yonder,

    Normally I would agree but in Lacazette you have somebody who leads from then front and is known for not only pressing and hurrying CB’s and GK’s alike but tracking back and helping in midfield and being a natural leader. He not only fights for the badge, but leads by example and has been groomed to be and has been a club Captain.

  26. phil says:

    You shouldn’t pick a captain who isn’t a clear and obvious choice in the team.
    Xhaka isn’t the right choice of captain, however replacing him as captain less than half way through the season is absurd. Sends a terrible message to the dressing room, and the supporters.

  27. Ti Southgate says:

    Watching Emery spend five minutes waving a piece of paper and giving last minute instructions to two substitutes during the Vittoria home game, it is no surprise that the players are confused about what the manager wants. Players of this level don’t need written instructions and if the manager’s ideas aren’t clear after training, they’re not going to be made any clearer at pitch-side during a match! Bring in somebody who is clear and can make his ideas clear to the players.

  28. thrillbo says:

    consolsbob,

    Arsenal FC only team in the premiership with a female manager I would enjoy that. Also the other day during the Europa league match my feed had a female color commentary lady. She was amazing and I thoroughly enjoyed her honest color & analysis. Much better than the well paid suit-wearing white males who churn out the same sorry cliches and statistics each week.

  29. Paulie Walnuts says:

    consolsbob,

    I hope Ozil was genuinely sincere….I’m expecting a humdinger of a performance from him at Anfield.

    On the skipper, it’s Lacazette for me. Bellerin is more of a follower than a leader, Guendouzi is too young & Luis too shit. As for a striker being captain, if Harry Kane can do it then Lacca can.

    I’m also up for a female manager. Cherie Lunghi, Alex Scott, Sagna’s wife or Beyonce would be on the short list.

  30. Woolwich Freddie says:

    Spike,

    I think Holding will get there. I’d give him this season and maybe another to get fit and nail down that place, though.

  31. phil says:

    Agree re a Holding.
    A captain in waiting.

  32. consolsbob says:

    A woman in charge, if there is an able candidate, would be welcome. Good women are bloody good. Ask consolslel.

  33. Wailesy says:

    Ti Southgate,

    I thought the exact same thing. Guendouzi and Cellabos not understanding what Emery wanted as half time subs when he’d had the break to explain it to them!! I saw Emery say “no you sit and he goes” or something that effect to Guendouzi who was hoping to get the advanced role. I would love to read a transcript of Emery’s interview for the job. He can’t of applied in English surely.

  34. Wailesy says:

    C,

    I like Bellerin in the team but he doesn’t have the presence on the pitch for me to be captain. Lacca or Sok are the only two worth considering at this point of time. Too many managers throw the arm band around willy nilly. It’s a big role and can ruin players careers if they’re not up to it.

    Emery didn’t have a deep pool of players to pick from but no manager ever does. Xhaka’s always been a fuck up so it was a poor choice and it’s why the push back from the fans existed before the flash point on the weekend.

  35. Blue Yonder says:

    C,

    Lacazette would definitely lead by example and certainly wouldn’t let the team down.
    And perhaps a new criterion for a captain at Arsenal should be: mustn’t let us down and mustn’t publicly embarrass us. I can think of more than a few Arsenal skippers who must be turning in their graves.

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