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Sunday 24 November 2019

Dead Man Walking?

Arsenal fan
 Too soon? Arsenal’s ‘hapless’ manager is under fire. Photograph: Harriet Lander/Copa/Getty Images

           My litmus test, when Emery first arrived at the Arsenal was always how much time it would take for the penny to drop in respect of Xhaka. Just how long would we have to wait, for it to dawn on Unai that, playing in such a pivotal role, sadly Granit lacks both the mental and physical acuity to build a team around.

           It didn't bode well, when at the start of the season Emery accepted his charges choice of Xhaka as club captain. Yet as someone who's hardly Granit's no. 1 fan, it shows you just quite how enraged I've become with such a soft-centred Gunners side, who couldn't keep a clean-sheet if the opposition were playing with their eyes shut (and at times on Saturday afternoon it felt as if the relegation fodder Saints were so profligate in front of goal that they were playing with this very handicap!) that I actually wonder if we can currently afford to be leaving Xhaka out?

           The Gunners seem to be so powder-puff in the middle of the park that even Hassenhüttl's confidence shot Saints can come to our house and monopolise the sofa. Sure, perhaps we might go on to nick a result at Norwich, or put the brakes on our slide at home to Brighton. Maybe we'll heap more woes upon Pellegrini and a Hammers side who appear to be in even worse shape than us? Nevertheless, despite the possibility of some momentary respite offered by a rare positive result, from here on in, as far as I'm concerned Emery is already "a dead man walking".

           The question is just how bad will our circumstances have to become, before the Arsenal's laissez-faire suits pull their collective fingers out, cut their losses and throw the switch. Moreover, it's questionable just how much faith we should have in their ability to chance upon a suitable alternative candidate. After all, who on earth was it who sat down with this prosaic Basque bodger and somehow drew the conclusion that here was a man with the strength of personality and the footballing nous to fill Wenger's shoes. Surely they were having a laugh? No matter your views on Wenger, it's blatantly evident that Unai's not fit to lick Arsène's boots.

           I suspect part of the attraction was based on the board's belief that they were employing a "yes man", who could be relied upon not to ruffle any feathers. As a result, it should come as no real surprise that Emery is not the authority figure that was required. Unai is a beta, rather than the alpha male, new broom that the Arsenal needed, in order to thoroughly eradicate the pervasive air of slipshod complacency, amongst a squad that merely appears to be "clocking on" at their job of work. But then this has been a perennial problem at the Arsenal because the suits are never going to risk upsetting the apple cart of their well run business, by employing the sort of confrontational manager who's capable of taking names and kicking arses.

           Personally, I'd prefer to see Ljungberg take the helm for the time being, until we land Emery's replacement, as at the very least I fancy that the players might be motivated to play for Freddie. If anything symptomised Emery's inability to inspire the troops to be sufficiently switched on, it was the way in which the likes of Bellerin, Sokratis and Torreira were all caught on their heels, when Ward Prowse pounced, to stab home Leno's penalty save.

           Admittedly, my colander-like memory might be to blame, but I actually can't recall the last time an Arsenal keeper successfully saved a spot-kick. Thus it was extremely disappointing to finally see our goalie lay a glove on a pen, only for Soton to capitalise on the rebound. OK, with his head start as the taker, Ward Prowse probably would've reached the ball first, even if all of our players were on their toes, but I simply can't put into words my sense of dismay over the inexcusably sedentary attitude evident from the Gunners.

           Despite the limitations of his tractor like pace and Papa having the lumbering turning circle of an oil tanker, he's often deserving of a bit of free pass for his faults because he at least offers some solace, by seemingly playing with his heart on his sleeve. Nevertheless, just how many times do we have to suffer the ignominious sight of Sokratis being clumsily caught on the ball, before Unai is forced to accept our Greek centre-half's blatantly obvious inadequacies and the fact that Papa patently ain't good enough to play out from the back.

          FFS it's not rocket science! I watched Shamrock Rovers win the FAI Cup Final the other week and they were more composed playing out from the back than we are. Einstein defined madness as repeating the same action and expecting a different outcome, but it's blooming' obvious to my mind that if we we weren't so sodding predictable and varied our tactics, we might even enjoy more success playing out from the back because the opposition wouldn't be able to risk pressing high up in quite such numbers, if there was actually a risk of Leno playing it long. Whereas at present it feels as if our keeper is in fear of being fined, should he ever dare putting his foot through the balll.

         And yet Sokratis is far from being the Gunners most infuriating Achilles heel. When David Luiz arrived at the club in the summer, I was of the opinion that, at his best, the Brazilian might prove a useful stopgap. However, much to my chagrin, Luiz is not only a long way from being "bang at it", judging by the insouciant attitude demonstrated in his displays thus far, it would appear as if Chelsea's Trojan horse has rocked up for a season at N5, solely for the purpose of topping up his pension.

           We've witnessed several equally disgusting instances to date, but where my anger has been appeased by a headed goal, or some other positive contribution. Yet watching on Saturday and seeing Luiz languidly ambling back, even after the Gunners' fatally delayed reaction to the opposition's quick thinking, with the free-kick that resulted in the Saints opening goal, I was left in such a fury that frankly I wouldn't have the lackadaisical Luiz anywhere near our first XI, doubtless infecting the dressing room atmosphere with his apathy.

           Similarly, the pocket rocket, Lucas Torreira, who was covering every blade of grass when he first arrived at the Arsenal, would be one of the first names on my teamsheet. But it seems to me that Torreira is the sort of player who is only effective when performing at maximum intensity. Ever since the rumours of Lucas wanting out, he's not been 100% "at it" and with his dampened "garra charrua" spirit, sadly Lucas just ain't worth a light.

           Then again, with three centre-halves on the pitch Saturday, one might have thought Lucas could've put his feet up? What on earth was Emery thinking, lining up on home turf, against a relegation threatened Saints side with five defenders out on the park? 

           Could it be that Unai was reacting to the increasing clamour from the media and the criticisms of the fickle Gooner massive about his incessant tinkering with both formation and selection. Was the beleaguered Basque hoping that a win against Southampton might afford him with an opportunity to stick with a formation, thereby answering his detractors by finally achieving some semblance of continuity?

           If so, then this is merely confirmation that the club's in big "schtuck" with a manager who's no longer his own man, but is instead making feeble, sticking plaster decisions, in a misguided effort to appease his many critics. When those of us on the terraces scent the foul odour of gangrene and we all know that an urgent amputation is required, before all the other limbs become necrotic and the patient expires on the operating table!

           Frankly we were fortunate yesterday that Southampton are so crap, otherwise it could've been seriously humiliating. Albeit it would've been worth a drubbing, if this was likely to precipitate Emery's P45. Unfortunately, I fancy that our situation will have to become a lot, lot worse to force a reaction from our spreadsheet obsessed board.

           With even Auba not being his customarily clinical self, remarkably Mesut Özil was about the only Arsenal player to come away with any credit. Aside from Mesut offering momentary solace, in the odd glimpse of genuine class, there was the rare sight of our mercurial playmaker tearing around, at least trying to kick the opposition up in the air.

           In the past, the sight of the fourth official holding up a board showing a whole SEVEN minutes of time added on, this would've been the cue for me to jump out of my seat and spend that entire amount of time, bellowing myself hoarse, in my efforts to encourage the Gunners to snatch an unlikely three points, from the jaws of defeat. Yet such was my level of exasperation at the complete and utter lack of urgency demonstrated in the dying throes of Saturday's match that I couldn't even muster more than a damp squib, limp high-five reaction to Laca's last gasp equaliser.

           Snatching a point at the death would normally feel like a win and would usually provoke an eruption from the comatose Library. Yet such is the spoiler effect of constant VAR interventions that on a day like Saturday I was half-expecting Laca's goal to be chalked off. And when the goal was allowed to stand I was left feeling thoroughly cheated of an all too rare rush of euphoria. As it stands at present, the introduction of VAR has transformed "the people's game" into a pitifully pale shadow of the passion play of yesteryear. While we're at it, demanding our Arsenal back, is it too much to ask of the authorities to give us back our beloved beautiful game!

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GoonerBish said...

the points don't lie.