Cup football comes to Unai Emery’s rescue in the shape of this evening’s trip to Liverpool. It gives him a 24-hour respite from questions about Granit Xhaka, at the very least.
The club has yet to make a statement of note about Sunday. Granit is sorry but not enough to apologise. He’s probably sitting at home waiting for fans to say sorry first.
Arsenal has not fined him. That’s the presumption as no mention of disciplinary action was made in yesterday’s press conference.
He hasn’t been stripped of the captaincy because Emery evaded the question as usual. “I don’t want to speak about that” suggests it is very far from his mind.
And to some extent, it is a decision he should not be making. In the ‘good old days’, this was the manager’s remit. However, we don’t want managers any more; we want coaches. In that case, discipline falls to the director of football.
In many respects, Edu and Raul stepping in saves Emery’s bacon, certainly with the squad. His stance in that situation is “It is not my decision, the management of the club decided” is his stance. There will be criticism, for sure, but he’s getting hit with that anyway. Why pour petrol on a fire?
Once again, the leadership at Arsenal is distinctly noticeable by its’ absence.
Maybe it is rose-tinted glasses but in the days before Kroenke, we always seemed quicker to act. Certainly when Hill-Wood, Dein and co were around and long before the invertebrates took hold in the boardroom.
Is it the ownership of Enos and Junior, a malign influence or is it a lack of incentive to do anything by Raul or Edu? Let Emery hang himself in trying to sort out this mess.
Out of the Frying Pan…
As if his problems with Xhaka weren’t enough, Unai is hell-bent on making another one. Mesut Ozil returns to the squad this evening and most likely starts. In that case, he is surely captain being one of the original quintet.
Emery spoke to him this morning and for once the conversation wasn’t “Don’t bother turning up; you’re not playing.” This time, it was more positive. Unai waffled a lot and then got down to the nub of the matter:
We need his quality, his skill and his consistency. We need his positive mentality and then he will help us on the pitch. That’s the next step. I think he’s done the steps before, and now I want the steps like in pre-season and one month ago to help us on the pitch.Unai on his best mate, Mesut.
Based on what we’ve seen in his two appearances so far, there’s a lot of wishful thinking involved. However, I’m all for redemptive evenings in this competition. Julio ‘The Beast’ Baptista had been a puddy-tat for the most part prior to his explosive Carling Cup night at Anfield.
Can Ozil do something similar? Not score four, obviously – although I am open to the notion – but wreaking mayhem and havoc? Why not?
The match is recognised as important for Arsenal by Unai. “It’s an opportunity for us to recover confidence,” he said before adding almost in lament, “and our way.”
It’s a tall order given how poorly we played for most of the matches since the last international break. Maybe Vitoria is the wake-up call most of tonight’s XI needed?
We need a vast improvement on the performance. Liverpool will likely field a second-string side and I do think our ‘stiffs’ stand par with most other Premier League clubs similar XIs.
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The rest of the line-up almost picks itself with the only question whether Alexandre Lacazette starts or comes from the bench. It might seem ludicrous to think he might be in the XI but this is a coach who played Aubameyang in Frankfurt.
Which leaves the line-up:
Martinez; Bellerin, Mustafi, Holding, Kolasinac; Torreira, Willock; Smith Rowe, Ozil, Martinelli; Laczette
It is going to be an interesting match and more than anything, one where I hope we aren’t left rueing another Arsenal team which didn’t turn up.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.