It’s a strange time to be an Arsenal fan. The club feels very different. By the end of Arsene Wenger’s time it became a chore to constantly argue over the manager’s future. But the tedium of the end of Emery’s time here comes from the football. It’s not that the narrative isn’t annoying. From the club portraying a destruction of its values as progress, to the coach praising his own competitive spirit, the club and fans picking out their favourite scapegoats, and even a few pro Emery holdouts among the fans. All of this is difficult to deal with. But it pales in significance when considering what we do out there on the football field.
By a quirk of fate, Arsenal v Leicester is once again the biggest game of our season. Unlike 4 seasons ago, when it was a title showdown, this is more a top-4 scrap which finds Arsenal already reeling from body blow after body blow. Or are they self inflicted injuries?
Arsenal once more proved incapable of holding onto a lead. No matter how late we score and how undeserved that might be. We play like a poorly coached lower midtable team now. Relying on set pieces to create chances, sitting back and hoping for a smash and grab, liable to allow a lot of shots even while trying to defend. This is no coincidence. That seems to be our coach’s gameplan, and frankly, his level. I wonder if the people at the club have come to the same conclusion and reached a decision. It is a huge game for the football club, but the result ought to be irrelevant when it comes to Emery’s future. The international break would give the club and the new appointment some time to get into the swing of things.
Speaking of swings, this game is a proverbial 6-pointer. Win and we go within 3 points of 3rd placed Leicester City. Lose and it’s 9 points behind them, and potentially lower in the table than the likes of Sheffield Utd, Bournemouth, Brighton and Crystal Palace. More jarring even than the gap in points is the goal difference. 11 games into the season and Arsenal have a GD of +1, while the Foxes have a GD of +19. They’ve scored 27 goals (Only ManCity have scored more) and conceded the least with 8 (tied with Sheffield Utd) They’ve taken a 151 shots out of which Jamie Vardy has taken 22, 14 on target, and has 10 goals in the 11 games. For comparison, Arsenal have taken 142 shots, Auba has taken 31 of them, had 13 on target and scored 8 goals.Clealry Jamie Vardy is their danger man in great form and we’d do well to keep him quiet throughout the game.
I must take the time to commend Brendan Rodgers for how he’s got Leicester playing. I’ll admit I turned up my nose at him when he was said to be in line for the Arsenal job. 16 months of Emery later, I’d gladly take him. His time at Celtic did enhance his reputation, which seems like a strange thing to say, but some of the football they played was really good. (I was paying some attention because of Kolo Toure) We fans tend to be snobs about the quality of the league, and to an extent it is true. But good football is good football. He may have made some weird man management choices at Liverpool, and fell short even with the vampire in lethal form as striker, but he’s a few notches above our own Count Emery as a coach.
Arsenal has a chance
I’m not confident at all going into this game. But, and this is how you know when something’s drastically wrong, I feel no butterflies in my stomach at the thought. My only vague hope is that it would be the most Arsenal of things to somehow end up winning the game. The players are clearly good enough. Also clearly, they are not performing, either for or under this coach. Maybe the new captain will step up and score a perfect hat-trick. I’m not sure even that will be enough.
Midfield is the key, and not only do Leicester have a better balance there, our tactics tend to concede the midfield altogether. Besides, who knows what is happening with our personnel. Will Xhaka play following his removal as captain? Is Ozil now permanently back within the fold seeing as he didn’t travel to Portugal in midweek? There were also some reports yesterday that Torreira isn’t happy at how he’s being used and might demand a move in January. Will he play?
I’m not inclined to guess a starting XI. It almost doesn’t matter under this coach’s system. No matter who plays we tend to play poor, soul crushing football. For once, dear reader, I appeal to you to pick your starting XIs in the comments section. I’m not up to the task of putting myself in Emery’s headspace right now.
Prediction: Leicester win 3-1
Sorry. I wanted to say we’ll win, but the pessimism won out. May the players prove me wrong.
That is a really good blog. Can’t disagree with a single letter, let alone a whole word.
But I spotted (too late) a letter out of place.
“Clealry Jamie Vardy is their danger man”
While Im in the mood, I hope you dont mind, but I just wanted to say a big thanks to you George for PA, and everything youve done to run that place that we might all meet up. Im sure its not easy running a blog for years and being a target. Youve done a brilliant job. Ive mostly been a reader, but even for that Ive been grateful, to you and everyone there.
And thanks to Shotta and to Shard and Omair and you guys who post on here. To me you are all heroes.
You hit the nail on the spot. We are in debt to George. He is strong and defiant in support of all that is/was good about Arsenal. I took inspiration from him when I created this blog and he has been our greatest supporter. “For positive, attractive football by a club with integrity and class.”
Nice piece Shard.
Ive just seen the bloke who came on here the other day and was getting all nasty. The banality of evil.
They poisoned the club and made this situation. But sneak out of it like Nazis after the war. It wasnt about Wenger out. The dumbest thing Ive seen in ages.
Starting to really hate football more and more. The culture and the bullshit on the pitch Which is really sad. Pundits paid to talk hyperbolic lies, the aftv liberation army, the blog bogheads who make a claim to be the authority on Arsenal. They dont care about anything except winning, and thats it full stop. Theres no deeper understanding of the game, as its just sensationalist reaction after reaction.Which way is the wind blowing? Hate him like him, hate him, like him. Man, footballs gone right down the kasi. You cant even enjoy the sport anymore. How can you?
All apologies, Im not really an internet man, I know its normal, but I find it abnormal.
Without this and PA I wouldnt bother anymore, just keep my own counsel, but where else can you meet good folk?
Wish we could all meet up.
Thank you for your kind words, Dave. You’re right to identify George and Shotta as the ones providing a refuge from the inane coverage of the sport of football, if it is even a sport now.
I’m not sure who you mean being nasty. Maybe he was removed before I saw it. Nowadays I try to ignore the idiots. Don’t always succeed, but it’s a happier existence. Happy to say I don’t watch Aftv. Never really have bar some clips people forward.
Hey, who knows, maybe some day there’ll be a PA and UA meet in the offline world. Until then, try to keep coming here and sharing your thoughts.
Shard, just waiting for me ship to come in and Im going to try and organise it. Will be a bit of coin spent, but thats what its for. Great preview as always! Many thanks.
It was a guy on Mondays blog. Got to learn to ignore, probably the key to my life if I could do it! Im always biting on the hook of injustice.
I really good read, can’t believe I don’t get this blog on my Bleacher app but PainintheArsenal somehow manages to be there all the time.
Shard I completely agree with you when you say that there are no butterflies regarding this match (although I would say that I can’t remember the last time I felt butterflies under Emery era) but even though when everyone expects only one result, the most Arsenal thing can be that we actually win. Now, I don’t know if that is a good thing or not knowing how our board will react completely differently to both scenarios.
Saturday will be an interesting match to see two coaches with entirely different concept of football game and how a coach with philosophy is doing a much better job with lesser talent than a man without one and actually feels proud of it that he can play dozen formations in 90 minutes.
Like you said, midfield is the key and it seems like we might be seeing a Back 3 with Torreira and Guendouzi as our midfield 2. In other words, we will be going full Unai at Leicester with 7 defensive players on the pitch and Ozil, Lacazette and Aubameyang playing up top and us fans wondering why they are not in the game when no one will be able to get the ball to them.
Like someone once said, Never Go Full Unai!
I posted this on Twitter a short time ago: “How are we going to get the ball to Laca and Auba without Xhaka? Or get the ball to Ozil? Guendouzi and Torreira can’t pass forward to save their lives. It’s frightening how fans underestimated Xhaka’s strengths.” We all know Emery can come up with a tactical formation to blunt the main strength of a good team (Spurs at home last season come to mind) but between him and Raul they have decimated all the great midfield options we once had. Ramsey coming off the bench allowed us to come back from 2 goals down vs Spurs and to win the game 4-2. I don’t see that possibility this year but with Emery you will never know. We can get a result but I doubt it.
I want us to win. I’m not convinced the board will sack him anyway. And they really should sack him no matter the result. It’s the performances that have been the real problem. Results simply began to reflect that the moment players couldn’t bail out the coach and his ridiculous ‘system’.
Emery actually blamed Koscielny for the issue with the captaincy. He is incapable of taking any responsibility. My read is that the players have seen through him and no longer play for him. They only play for themselves and a notion of pride. Maybe some sense of the club. That too must have been affected by how the club have handled the Xhaka situation.
Unless Aubameyang as captain really gets them fired up (doubtful) I think we’ll see more of the same. Patches of effort, but mostly going through the motions. If Leicester make the mistake of underestimating us, we have the talent to create a moment of magic and that can give us confidence. That’s the only real chance. Otherwise, our coach is pulling us down and Leicester’s coach is dragging them up, and I expect to see that reflected in the result.
Spot on. Every word.
Typical Emery. A formation and personnel designed to nullify Leicester’s strengths. Clog the middle to deny through-balls to Vardy and rely on Arsenal counter attacks to get behind the Foxes. While I doubt our midfield can get the ball forward often enough it could work.
Poor Omi to have to write a review on that.
Game turned out exactly as I predicted. Arsenal set up in a way that kept the game tight for the first 60 minutes until Leicester score. They bring on Demari Grey as a Wide Midfielder and this puts even greater pressure on our already besieged midfield duo of Torreira and Guendouzi who are literally unable to get the ball forward. They score 2 and we have one shot at goal after the 58th minute mark. Yes, one solitary shot with Auba, Laca and Pepe on the field. It seems close but they romped home an easy winner.
They had 19 shots, with 7 on target. We had 8 with 1 on target.
The midfield was a mess, being incapable of any decisive passes, too many of which went to the opponents.
Leicester, on the other hand were slick and decisive and tore our 5 man defence apart.
I know that I am getting boring, but I have to keep on asking the same question, what is it that Guendouzi actually does?
He is clearly a favourite with UE, no doubt, because he runs around a lot, but in the 60 or so minutes I watched, I saw nothing constructive or worthwhile and yet so many bloggists praise him to the sky as though he is the new Messi.
I fear the board are too weak to rid us of this mess and will continue to allow us to sink further and further into the mire.
As Finsbury stresses, most of these big blaggers,tweeters and vloggers know very little about football. At the minimum I have concluded they have no idea of the football being played by Arsenal. Most of them until recently refused to admit that the football has been horrible for months. It was the fans who were in uproar after that Watford game, when the worst club in the league outshot us by a 400% margin, that many of them started questioning Emery. They were too busy slaughtering Xhaka, showing their complete ignorance of what he brought to the team, and bigging-up Guendouzi, who brings very little in comparison.
[…] the same from him for Leicester but it was not to be. Everything that was written pre-match on this blog came true. Leicester dominated, Vardy scored, Maddison continued his brilliant form while the […]