It’s been a good week for Unai Emery with two of the frontrunners to replace him finding gainful employment elsewhere. I admit relief at both Jose Mourinho and Luis Enrique joining Tottenham and Spain respectively. I didn’t want either at Arsenal.
Enrique for all his success at Barcelona has glaring holes in his CV at Celta and particularly Roma but more than that, I don’t believe has the tools to be a successful Arsenal boss.
As for Mourinho, the most hateful of managers at the most loathsome club is a match made in heaven if he destroys them from the inside. A match made in footballing hell if he makes them successful.
There is something very ‘Spursy’ in the appointment. Mourinho has won more major honours since 2002-03 than the club has in its’ 137-year history. That’s not even limiting it to the Premier League. One manager has won more than a 137-year-old ‘big’ club.
The worst of it is that he might actually do something in the next eighteen months; a major trophy. Not the league but Mourinho knows how to win cups. Big ones as well, with unfancied teams. It’s a frightening thought.
It is a sign, however, of a club willing to act decisively. Whether the decision is one which only history decides is good or bad.
The sacking of Pochettino – it’s worth noting that George Graham won more trophies at the Swamp – puts the Arsenal hierarchy into the spotlight. Spurs have taken 24 points from the last 25 games with one win in six. We’ve done better in the longer term – 39 points from 25 games – but we’re in the same hole this season.
Let’s not beat about the bush. Emery has us in the same boat on that creek and we’re rapidly losing grip of the paddles.
Spotlight on Raul
What of Arsenal? The run of immediate fixtures is the footballing gods throwing ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ cards around like confetti. Emery has the genuine prospect of putting together a five or six-match winning run across all competitions.
Do that and Raul is handed the statistics to say Unai has turned things around. Of course, when it all comes to pieces in our hands over Christmas and January, it’s the fixture list from hell. That’s if Unai hands him the breathing space.
Pressure will mount if Mourinho gets off to a good start as Tottenham boss. Emery doesn’t have any margin for error with three points the gap between the two clubs in the Premier League table.
The top four ain’t big enough for the both of us and we’re the ones who are under the most pressure! This despite the reality that we’re not good enough to claim a spot in the Champions League places. Not with the hierarchy determined to avoid a decision which must be taken.
Their show of faith would be understandable if we were playing good football and unlucky with results but we’re getting what we deserve. Only the Palace game falls into the ‘unlucky’ category; the rest of them were a case of most definitely getting what we put into the matches.
The key difference between Emery and Pochettino is the dressing room. Spurs was a club fractured by reports of affairs and loss of faith from the ‘Golden Generation’ – GG again; subliminal messaging that George Graham won more honours with a distinctly average side than the Argentinean did with the best squad for 50 years.
Now the axe has fallen. Pochettino has no managerial honours but still some want him at Arsenal, holding him up as some sort of ‘banter boss’.
We’re Not Much Better
We’re hardly a model of decorum though. The captaincy has twice proven a poisoned chalice; a player who doesn’t venture north of Watford didn’t want to venture onto the pitch at all and the coach was happy to accommodate those wishes; a right-back who likes Italy and a defensive midfielder played out of position wants to return there because he hasn’t settled in London, his sense of displacement exacerbated by his unhappiness at the club.
That’s before we start on the £72m winger turned into a Europa League misfit by an oh-so-talented coach. Look, hands up, I thought Emery was a good signing as a coach, a far better fit than Arteta. It’s proven wrong in that the problems which bedevilled the end of last season remain unabated.
We’re at the point of the season where we should have acted. Quickly and ruthlessly at the start of last week. We didn’t. Now, we’re going to hear about how Emery has turned things around after a series of good results but we know it’s flannel; we could win the next six and still be as bad as we were in winning one of the last six.
The reality is that Unai isn’t going to deliver the top four. We’re eight points off City and while Leicester may be overhauled eventually, there is a genuine prospect that it won’t be us doing that. New boss at Tottenham, a long-coveted one now available for Manchester United.
Both clubs could receive external impetus whereas ours must be self-generated. Let’s be honest, it’s hard to see that happening, if not impossible.
Club football is back and for once during an international break, I haven’t missed it a bit.