One thing that we have learned in Unai Emery’s era is that he will do everything in his power to shift the narrative off from him. From laying it all out on players after a horror show to telling fans that they should be grateful that he has made us more competitive, the list is long. So, when the Spaniard decided to strip Xhaka from the captaincy, it was not something new.
Another off field matter decided entirely in a way that makes a section of fan base happy while the on field matters are entirely swept underneath.
Xhaka cannot deflect from poor performances
I will not delve much into how that decision shows an utter lack of class and support for the player who has been abused for quite sometime and his only crime was that he had enough. Abused to the extent that he is even given death threats but club and Emery finds it better to reward those abusers rather than to support a man who was chosen as a leader by the team. What precedence are we setting?
While Xhaka seems to be approaching the end of his time at Arsenal and Aubameyang takes over the reign, last night once again showed that these off field matters are just a way to deflect attention from things that actually matter for Arsenal Football Club which is our performances on field.
But even then everything has its limits. You can survive for a bit but can’t last forever. This is why when Mustafi rose above others in the penalty box to head Pepe’s another set piece into the back of the net in 80th minute, hardly anyone really celebrated it and hardly anyone was surprised either.
The reasons are not hard to digest. It was Arsenal’s first shot on target and that too from a set piece in a game in which Vitoria absolutely dominated in terms of chances created. This is a team that sits bottom in our group and was knocked out by a semi-professional club last month in their domestic cup.
Arsenal dominated possession but on the ball they looked like a team that had been just thrown in together and didn’t knew each other. Our passing was as slow as a turtle and our imagination was simply non-existent. There was NO PLAN!
And if it had not been for the later flurry by Vitoria, I don’t think this game would have been even worthy of a discussion on any level. Vitoria were so dominating in the last 10 minutes Arsenal had to put every man behind the ball in order to hold on to a lead. But not every day is a lucky day and when Bruno Duarte’s overhead kick found it’s way into the back of the net, no one in the Arsenal section was complaining. In fact, we should feel lucky that we even got a point to begin with. We have become competitive? Yeah, I hear you loud and clear.
Change in formation
Earlier, Unai Emery for the first time this season had decided to go with a Back 3 and put out a team that cannot be in anyway regarded as a backup because it did include Sokratis, Tierney, Ceballos and Pepe to name few. Last season it can be argued that even though this formation brought it’s own issues and limitations, it was by far the most stable formation that the Spaniard was able to deploy.
But last night was anything but stable. One of the biggest criticism of Emery’s style is his emphasis on cutbacks. But even though it is a pathetic style of play, one can argue that at least it is a plan. Last night that plan was a giant fail. Arsenal didn’t knew how to get the ball back, didn’t knew how to build it from the back, didn’t knew what angles should be made or what runs should be made to open up spaces and advance forward. It was boring without a plan and as a fan who is a strong believer of the Arsenal way, it was frankly embarrassing to watch. Next up is Leicester and God knows what is in store for us.
Vitoria on other hand looked to have started from where they were abruptly by those Pepe free kicks in Emirates. They pressured Arsenal early on and produced enough chances to be sitting 2 clear by the time the first quarter came to an end and if it had not been for Matinez (who was the only player who could held his head up high) and Vitoria’s finishing, it would have become even more embarrassing.
Now, one can simply just say that it was Europa League without our main players and that the match was not that important. But was it something new? Was this match not the continued deterioration of the performances under Emery? Was it not another miserable afternoon where Arsenal head coach looked out of his depth and where players looked confused as to what they want to achieve on field?
We can pretend that Unai Emery can go little longer but at what price?
The writing is on the wall. When will the club act?