For most of us, this evening’s trip to Leicester is a tipping point in the season. Defeat leaves, most likely, nine points away, with little sign that we are going to find the form to overcome that kind of deficit.
Even a draw, probably the best outcome we’ll get this evening, leaves a six-point gap. Still a tall order on current form and certainly not impossible as anyone who has watched football for more than five minutes knows.
Of course, it could all be academic when we pull off an unexpected win.
Unai Emery gave a defensive performance in a Sky interview. His ‘public’ view of the team is that we’re “still in construction, trying to be competitive”. One minute we’re an attacking tour de force, cultivating football from the back. The next we’re a pressing machine, turning over possession and countering opponents with pace.
At least we know what he’s after. Indeed, Emery gave an example of each: the first half at Watford and then in Frankfurt. Noticeably, neither were home games. But the counterpoint to the first half in Hertfordshire was the second-half collapse, a performance which has been repeated ad nauseum since.
The King Power used to be a happy hunting ground but in the past two seasons, the ten-man Arsenal sides capitulated. Those are the sorts of performances more akin with those seen in recent weeks. According to Emery, it’s because we haven’t found our “emotional stability”. I sympathise with that view. I’m quite stable most of the week but when Arsenal play, I tend to lose my sh*t quite easily.
His comments about the various incidents this season were red herrings. Koscielny rumbled on and was resolved before the season began; Kolasinac returned to training after only a week passed from that incident.
Unai Emery: Architect of his Own Downfall
The Xhaka incident ought not to affect the performances of the squad. If they are put out of their stride that easily, they are too weak mentally to be footballers; they can’t handle the pressure of playing for a big club.
Which really only leaves Mesut Ozil, to which most of his absence is directly laid at the door of the club who were – maybe still are – trying to force him out of the Emirates. The same Ozil who was all but accused of being lazy and demotivated has suddenly found his mojo in the eyes of the coach.
In no way should anyone believe that Emery’s desperation led him to backtrack very quickly to a previously discarded option.
A point Emery was keen to emphasise was that on Thursday we closed off counter-attacks quickly. Well, that was the second string. Against the Premier League, we’ve been vulnerable and a cast which suffers repeated outbreaks of first night nerves.
That is down to the lack of clarity in the coaching. If players don’t understand their roles they will not deliver. Either his instructions are too complex or they are delivered badly? It might be that the players are crap but that’s a different matter entirely.
Thursday night might give us a hint to what to expect today. That Bellerin didn’t feature puts him in the frame for a start which is harsh on Callum Chambers unless of course, he is featuring in a back-three.
Certainly, with Bellerin and Tierney as wing-backs, there is every opportunity to provide strong defensive cover in midfield and accommodate Ozil in a rare trip north of the capital.
Which Means The XI Is:
The youngsters are plateauing, it’s fair to say. The initial burst of enthusiasm from breaking into the team is mired in the lack of confidence of the collective. That impacts on new players settling in as well.
But for this afternoon, a more cautious approach will, I think, be evident:
Leno; Chambers, Luis, Sokratis; Bellerin, Torreira, Guendouzi, Tierney; Ozil; Lacazette, Aubameyang
Leicester are in a good run of form and a point is a good return. As difficult as it is too see it happening, a win would be even better…
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.