For months the mainstream media, pundits, bloggers and others have tried convincing us that Unai Emery is improving Arsenal. Over and over they lectured us, telling us that Emery simply needed more time and his own players for the club to surpass the achievements of his predecessor. By the way, have you noticed that the prior manager of 22 years is now a “man-who-must-not-be-named” by said same media-pundits-bloggers as they studiously avoid any serious analysis of Emery’s achievements compared to the recent past.
We have to thank @Orbinho for recently breaking with the mainstream and cutting to the chase when he tweeted:
“Unai Emery has won 78 points in his 43 Premier League games as Arsenal manager so far; the exact same amount as Arsene Wenger won in his final 43 Premier League games at the club as boss. via @OptaJoe”
Unai Emery has won 78 points in his 43 Premier League games as Arsenal manager so far; the exact same amount as Arsene Wenger won in his final 43 Premier League games at the club as boss. via @OptaJoe
— Orbinho (@Orbinho) September 22, 2019
Orbinho obviously was running up against Twitter’s 240 word limit, failing to mention this was Wenger’s worse period as a manager versus the magnificent new era of exciting football promised by Emery and the Arsenal ownership and management at the time of his appointment.
Not only has there been a stagnation in points earned, which is important as a measure of competitiveness, but a decline in the quality of football put out by Emery’s teams.
It was very apparent as early as last January that the football was dire with the rare exceptions. However this was masked by an unsustainable rate of scoring by Aubameyang who at one point had scored seven goals from 8 shots as Arsenal enjoyed a 22 game unbeaten streak. Five months later it all ended in tears when Arsenal finished 5th, one point outside of the champions league places due to a poor finish to the season; one win from our last five matches and a resounding loss to Chelsea in the Europa League finals.
Despite all the favorable PR that Emery has had for up to the start of this season, less than 6 matches into the season the dam of excuses has broken. That small minority is no longer like the lonely boy in the crowd shouting that the “emperor has no clothes.” Even apologists have had to criticize the Spaniard. But as expected their criticism are limited to aspects of his tactics. The Guardian is a typical example. Two recent articles exemplify this.
Jonathan Wilson’s piece focuses on whether “Arsenal’s strategy of playing out from the back too great a risk?”
A day or two prior to that they acted as a PR mouthpiece for Emery who in his “Blame me for Arsenal’s collapse against Watford” was simply trying to take the sting out of the universal condemnation of the poor team performance against Watford.
While Emery and the Guardian limited their concerns to playing out from the back, the fact is there are far deeper failures that they studiously avoided. Arsenal being outshot offensively and defensively by a team at the bottom of the tables is either a one-time exception or a systemic failure in both strategy and tactics, all of which is down to the coach.
For obvious reasons you wouldn’t expect Emery to admit to systemic failings on his part. But given the enormous resources the Guardian puts into their football coverage, surely one of their many well-paid hacks are aware of the flaws in Emery’s system and able to easily bang out something critical of his coaching. Instead they studiously evade the issue.
The fact is after 15 months of playing under Emery, there is lack of clarity about how Arsenal want to play. Week after week players are chopped and changed and the basic formation altered. Is it a far stretch to assume that there is similar uncertainty in players’ minds as they seek to implement the manager’s instructions on the pitch?
After nearly £200 million in spending on new players over three transfer windows the media narrative that he needs his own players is wearing thin. Not only are new players failing to improve the team but he is evidently unable or unwilling to leverage the talent of top-top players left behind by his predecessor. We had the spectacle last season of him refusing to select players of the caliber of Ozil and Ramsey, when they were fit. Somehow this manager could not set up a team that included one of the most creative midfielders in the world together with the PL’s best box-to-box player. Is it any wonder that fans are increasingly critical of performances and outcomes?
The figures don’t lie. While six games is definitely not a sufficiently conclusive sample size, most concerning to fans has been the unseemly number of Shots Against.
So far Arsenal have conceded 110 shots or 18.3 per game. This is a horrible statistic compared to our top-12 rivals in the league. The club is bottom place in shots conceded, yes dead last. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to predict that conceding shots at this rate will eventually lead to conceding a higher number of goals compared than our peers.
Of that top-12, already Arsenal have conceded the second highest number of goals so far. Only the young rookies of the Chelsea have conceded more (10 vs 13). Among those who have conceded less goals are defensive “giants” like Man United (6), Crystal Palace (7), Burnley (7), West Ham (7) and Tottenham (8).
Some people are under the illusion that, because of the quality of the players available to Arsenal, top-6 is assured. But it is a virtual certainty that allowing rival teams to fire shots towards our goalkeeper at a rate of 24 per game will eventually catch up with us.
The only reason Arsenal is in the top-4 is because our offensive output is the 4th best in the league. The table below demonstrates.
As a result we are the 5th best team in goal-scoring. Significantly Aubameyang is again our top goal scorer with practically a goal in every match. Apparently Emery is intent on proving Einstein’s definition of insanity which “is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”.
While Unai Emery may have blown a huge sigh of relief after last Sunday’s remarkable comeback by 10-man Arsenal to defeat Aston Villa, football-wise, there is no sign after 15 months of his leadership that the club is heading in an upward direction. While many fans are no longer drinking the media-driven Kool-Ade that performances are better than the worst years of his predecessor, there is still a large section of Gooners who reflexively defend the manager against any criticism and will stand with him to the last day of his contract. Many still hope he can eventually steer the ship afloat and at least grab that once derided top-4 trophy. One wonders where the management and ownership stand as they have been especially quiet, especially Don Raul, who is no longer hamming it up with the fans as results have gone south. That is perhaps the key data point.
Of immediate interest is how we perform in our next League game against once formidable rival, Manchester United, now floundering in mid-table. Very interesting days lie ahead.