Arsenal’s loss to Leicester may not have been the best way to enter the 2 week long international break. One could choose to stew in it, but I think the majority of supporters treated it as a welcome break from all the drama around the club. Things seemed to have calmed down, even regarding Emery’s future. For me personally, I had an eventful fortnight. Got sick, spent some family time, and applied for a new job.
One person who finally got a new job this week was Jose Mourinho. Was a bit of a surprise move from our neighbours. Pochettino had got them to the Champions League final after all. Thankfully, it was the history of the Tottenham which prevailed and they were left empty handed again. It did also leave them disheartened with nowhere to go. At least that’s how it appears from the outside. Strange as the change is, even in financial terms, I think Spurs have made the right decision here. It’s no knock against Pochettino’s ability as a coach either. Sometimes things just get stale.
Spotlight shifting from Spurs to Gunners
One of the side effects of this move is it shines the spotlight on Arsenal a bit brighter. I watched Emery’s press conference, and all the zen from the international break left me. So much in fact that I have to write about it, more than the football, which literally hasn’t been much to write home about anyway.
Southampton – He genuinely perked up talking about how great they are away from home. To illustrate this he said they beat Sheffield, and then listed their narrow losses to ManCity and Spurs. Later, when asked about the 9-0, he said his focus is to think of them at their best and to prepare accordingly. That’s a sensible stance to take, but I was reminded of the Wenger quote ‘It is the media’s job to imagine the worst and a manager’s job to imagine the best’ (I am paraphrasing). I think Emery prepares so intensely for each game, he starts imagining the best….from the opposition. I even noted this on Twitter a few days ago. That I’d just realised Emery had had 2 full weeks of watching tapes of Southampton and this must have left him terrified. I predicted #Respectball.
Spurs – Emery was not shy of his praise for Pochettino. I wouldn’t have thought much of it if it were once. But he repeated how great a job Pochettino was doing (even calling his last season ‘perfect’) and tried to distance the Arsenal Way from Spurs. He also praised Mourinho but I found it interesting he didn’t mention that he’d earlier named Pep and Jose as two of his coaching inspirations. No wonder he’s so confused about identity.
Xhaka – This might have been the most infuriating aspect of the presser. He talked about how Xhaka seems more mentally ready to come back into the side. Said he’s been training well, but then says he’d also been training well before the break. Says he had a good conversation with Xhaka and he’s feeling like Arsenal is his team again. Says his (Emery’s) objective with Xhaka is for him to connect with the supporters again and let them see he’s giving his best in his ‘short…or long future with us’. WTF is that?! You’re ready to bring a player back into the fold again, want his full commitment, say he is fully committed and then for no reason at all, mention it might be a short career with us? I swear Emery is a boss from hell. (Or from SanHELLi)
Anyway, connecting with supporters was a big theme for Emery. Playing better was almost an afterthought, though he said the two things together like a mantra.
He also said we’re 5th in the table. That surprised me. Does he not know we are 6th? Did he forget? It seemed like he didn’t want to acknowledge Sheffield being ahead of us on Goal Difference.
When talking about bridging the gap to top 4 he brought up last season as some sort of model to follow. We started with 2 losses last season and came back. We have experience from last season. What experience? How to throw away games and bore people?
Honestly, whatever little confidence I had was once again destroyed by watching Emery’s press conference. Initially I was hoping that the players would be recharged to some extent. Some of them, like Xhaka and Torreira for instance, had very good games with their national teams. But now, I think all of that will be for nothing. You can call me defeatist and I wouldn’t even fight you. Emery makes me not care.
I don’t know what’s left to say. Southampton are 19th in the table with 8 points from their 12 matches, and a GD of -18. They don’t pass it around much, don’t take a lot of shots, and don’t score a lot of goals. But, because Arsenal do all of those things only marginally better than them, I am not confident of a win, even at home.
Pepe came back late from his travels, and didn’t train with the team on Thursday. Saka, Kolasinac and Holding didn’t train because they have minor injuries. They should all be fit for Saturday though.
I doubt we’ll see this front 4, but I’d go with a team of
Starters: Leno, Bellerin, Sokratis, Luiz, Tierney, Torreira, Guendouzi, Pepe, Ozil, Auba, Laca
Subs: Martinez, Chambers, Kolasinac, Xhaka, Ceballos, Saka, Martinelli
Whatever team plays, we know we have the talent to not just win, but really put Southampton to the sword. I’m sure no one’s expecting that though. Not even Mr Raul ‘we’ve got the right man for the job’ Sanllehi. I’d be delighted with any sort of win.
Head: 1-1 draw.
Gut: 2-1 loss to Arsenal.
My fear we’re going to lose is undoubtedly a reaction to the press conference. Since this isn’t an exact science, and it’s my match preview, I think I’m entitled to go with my gut.
Am happy to be proven wrong of course. But, one thing is for certain, we’ll have more corners and would have played to our game plan. Enjoy!