@ShardGooner gives his “uncensored” verdict on Arsenal’s new head-coach. Part I of a Series.
When Unai Emery came in, he had an opportunity to unite a divided fanbase, desperate to move on and have something to get behind. Of course there will always be some who only like to moan. But for the rest of us, this was a chance to look to the future and dream.
Unfortunately, there is division again. This time, more severe I believe. Because it isn’t based around a tall figure in the club’s history who can be the lightning rod for any and all ills. While some hold out with stubborn patience, or blind optimism (not sure which), others just see a bleak future.
Some say any coach needs at least 3 transfer windows. This is a reasonable policy. However every policy must also be flexible to deal with unforeseen circumstances.
Emery made all the right noises
When he came to Arsenal, Emery made all the right noises, said all the right things, and endearingly, said them in (broken) English. However, the longer the season went on, the more apparent it became that his words meant nothing. He’s not implemented any of the things he said he would. No passing, no pressing, no possession based game. No youth development. Demanding more in the transfer market.
He got the job on the basis of a detailed presentation outlining his knowledge of every player in the squad and how he’d use them. There is no way Gazidis and Mislintat would have ever given him the job if his vision for the team was to use the likes of Ozil and Ramsey merely as shuttlers and Kolasinac and Bellerin as the prime creative forces. It is completely not how this team was constructed. Which is where all the problems stem from. Problems of identity, problems of division – both in the team and in the stands – and problems of budget too.
To now craft this team in Emery’s image would mean a waste of the resources spent on Ozil’s new contract, would close the window of opportunity for others in the squad, and will necessitate a hard rebuild, which will cost a lot of money, and/or lead to a reduction in quality.
The football is not fun to watch
The money is not the issue though. At some point, a rebuild isn’t all bad. What is problematic is what comes after? Forget what Unai Emery does or doesn’t deserve. Is Unai Emery’s brand of football what Arsenal deserves? Is this the brand of football we would like to present to our fans and to the world? The football is just not fun to watch. Ultimately, no amount of beating around the bush, looking for reasons or excuses, can hide that fact.
Speaking of excuses. Unai Emery has done a lot of that in his short time at Arsenal too. Only in the last few weeks of the season, he’s taken potshots at Mkhitaryan, Ramsey and Wenger. There was no need for him to say Arsenal lost their ‘competitive edge’. He could have just kept it complimentary and said we now work to the future. If he really wanted to say something, he could have just said the results dried up. But no, he made it about ‘competitive spirit’. This is not behavior I would like to see from anyone in a position of responsibility, let alone someone who represents Arsenal.
Let me explain why. The reason he speaks of ‘competitive’ is twofold. One, because he knows that is what the accusatory narrative against Wenger was. Two, because he wants to take attention away from a focus on results and the quality of performances. He even said he was hired for his competitiveness, which is a misrepresentation if not an outright lie. We were told why he was hired. He himself told us what his plans were. Competitiveness, whatever that means, is a cop out and trying to pull someone else down.
Pattern of blaming others
This is also a pattern we see when he blamed Ramsey for getting injured and for not playing well because his head was turned. Again, using the false narrative he knows exists against Ramsey. Similarly with Mkhitaryan. I know many other Arsenal fans have a different opinion than I do. But whatever be the case, Emery once again threw Mikhi under the bus rather than take it on the chin and keep it about the collective. He was getting in his excuses early.
This pattern of blaming others to protect himself lies beyond Arsenal. At PSG he blamed their club culture, certain players, he blamed the referees, a LOT, for their collapse. Even the collapse itself is a pattern with him, as is the boring brand of football.
He’s picked fights with his team’s best or most technical player before too. While creating conflict is a legitimate motivational tactic, (eg Mourinho used it effectively) you have to be able to deal with the consequences of it. Emery seems to not take ownership of that.
Blaming Ben Arfa, Neymar and Ozil is convenient, especially because there might be some truth to it. But if the coach exhibits a pattern of such behavior, surely it ought to be telling us something about his attitude too.
Emery is not representative of the club’s values
This goes beyond the end of season collapse. It goes beyond the inability to play a brand of entertaining football that Arsenal is known and loved for. It goes beyond the fact that somehow our defending has gotten worse than even last season. That we don’t have a footballing identity which the players too seem confused by. It goes beyond the transfer market and money. It isn’t something that is a function of time.
Emery’s real failing has been is that he doesn’t know who he represents. He’s not an Arsenal man. In this he’s not alone among people currently employed by Arsenal. But Emery is not a representative of the values which define this great club. Emery has not only failed to reach the results target of making the CL, of the 4 expectations that were put in front of him for how he’d go about it, he has failed in each and every one of them. Such an abject failure deserves no more time. It can only prove more harmful.