It’s like an episode of Soap! without the humour. The situation at Arsenal is deteriorating with the most noticeable absentee being leadership. Off and on the pitch, we are a shambles.
Yesterday saw, I hope, the nadir reached although I fear we are currently crashing through the bottom of the barrel to dig into the earth below. Arsenal’s hierarchy held a staff event – long planned we’re told – at which Unai Emery received the dreaded ‘vote of confidence’.
It wasn’t a public event as such but the club decided to brief the content:
We are as disappointed as everyone else with both our results and performances at this stage of the season.
We share the frustration with our fans, Unai, players and all our staff as they are not at the level we want or expect.
Things need to improve to meet our objectives for the season, and we firmly believe Unai is the right man for the job, together with the backroom team we have in place.
We are all working intensively behind the scenes to turn things around and are confident we will.
We never take our fantastic support for granted and we hope we can all stick together and get behind the team in this challenging period, as together we are stronger.Vinai and Raul give their backing to Unai
Pitchforks and torches can be cast aside, there isn’t going to be anyone burnt at the stake any time soon.
It was powder-puff PR that Hiss would be proud of.
Mind The Reality Gap
Without offering any shred of anything tangible, the twin-engined hierarchy are backing the head coach. It’s a twin-turbo ‘Vote of Confidence’, with fuel-injected ownership backing.
After a summer where they claimed to be ‘in tune’ with supporters, the hierarchy is playing hopelessly off-key.
It hasn’t been a good week for the leadership. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s friendship with the AFTV crew hasn’t gone down well to the extent that the club felt it necessary to brief against the striker to Ornstein. The dressing room isn’t, it is claimed, happy at having someone from AFTV in their midsts, which happened when PEA invited one of them into the ‘family and friends’ area recently.
So much for Granit Xhaka’s claim that the fans abusing him was damaging team spirit. From where I sit, the players are doing a good job of that all by themselves.
In isolation, neither Xhaka or PEA’s situations is particularly worth the effort of noting. However, added to Emery, they add more fuel to the fire that the club’s leadership is not dealing with the crisis which is developing.
Private media briefings are the coward’s way out. If Raul, Vinai or Junior has anything to say about the manager that they want fans to know, come out publicly and say it. Back him to the hilt and be the shield.
Instead, it’s the coach who is front and centre, protecting the hierarchy from fans. This time however he doesn’t have a decade of trophies as an invisible barrier.
What we’re left with is a fire burning fiercely around Unai and leadership fanning the flames.
When the football resumes, the fixture list is relatively kind. Southampton, Frankfurt at home; Norwich, Liege away followed by Brighton (h) and West Ham (a).
Bounce Then Deflation
Those are games which even with our wretched form, we should do well in. There will, I’m sure, be disappointments along the way and I’m looking at Norwich and West Ham with that in mind.
A new coach could build some early goodwill for the difficult games which follow those matches. The Arsenal hierarchy will portray eight out of 12 Premier League points as Emery turning things around. But it won’t be.
If he is turning things around, he’ll need to lose just one of the games between 15th December and 21st January. To save you the time, it’s City (h), Everton, Bournemouth (a), Chelsea, Man Utd (h), Palace (a), Sheffield Utd (h), finishing with a trip to Chelsea.
We’ll be lucky to get two wins out of those games; the board will point to it being a tough run and it is. However, if Arsenal are to finish in the top four, we can only afford to lose to City. Which we will, as well as at least once to Chelsea and Everton.
The reality is that Emery’s philosophy isn’t translating well which is a continuation of our form following the 20-odd-match unbeaten run last year. We aren’t confident, we embrace timidity; talking a good game on PowerPoint is keeping Emery in a job, not results on the pitch.
Weak leadership from Raul & co is damaging the club. We are stuck in a sea where mediocrity is us punching above our weight. Emery’s mindset is that of the underdog but we are The Arsenal are not the underdog. Until that is resolved, we will never rise out of this mire.
The question is at what point will the hierarchy see that?