Wenger’s legacy is fundamental. Free flowing, attacking football by a club with integrity and class.

WATvARS: Emery Seeks Defensive Balance

© Photo: Wikimedia

The international break is over and club football has returned. Personally, I enjoyed the break. I took the opportunity to just switch off from football and put my attention towards some things, both good and bad, in my life. I wish I could say I am now back recharged and raring to go, but that may not be entirely true.

Still, it beats having to deal with international football. Some people seem to enjoy and follow it closely. As far as I’m concerned, outside of the big prizes, there isn’t enough at stake to be worth following, the jingoistic faux pride is irritating, and the quality of football is generally low. Come to think of it, that sounds a lot like Arsenal these days.

Contrary to many of my fellow fans and friends, I wasn’t too low on Arsenal after our last game. Yes there were the same familiar failings, some frustrating errors, and the result wasn’t ideal, but at least we created a good number of shots and we weren’t pretending the middle of the pitch is lava. Improvement! Or a one-off more likely. But still, not as annoying as previous matches.

What was that interview with Emery?

However, Arsenal also decided to stick to their pattern of pushing me out just when I thought I was back in. I am referring to the recent 19 minute interview with Unai Emery. I’m not sure what was the purpose. About the only bit of information we got is how much Emery likes Guendouzi and views him as the role model for other youngsters to get in the team. He mentioned Willock, Nelson and ESR specifically. For the rest, he spoke what seemed like 10 minutes on ‘our way’ which was just a circular description of what match analysis and training is supposed to be.

Seems like Raul’s penchant for presenting the mundane as extraordinary is club policy now. I just came away with the impression that I’m being taken for a ride. The conveniently selected questions for Emery to answer too were met with insipid, manipulative responses. Best moment is playing in front of our fans. All the players (lists them out) are the same.

Of course, the absolute best part, by which I mean worst, was early on. When asked about the season so far, our genius Head Coach decided that it’s been a good display of attacking potential which we now need to balance with being more defensive.

Less shot creation than United

For the record, so far this season we’ve created 58 shots, 5 less than the offensive powerhouse that is Manchester United. 26 of these came against Spurs in our last match. I suppose that is too many for a coach who liked being outshot by Newcastle and Burnley.

Emery may or may not settle on a system/formation/tactic/plan/identity or whatever clever word we may use. But I have my approach to Arsenal games now set in stone. ‘Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.’

Needing luck and individual skill after spending £150m

So onto Watford, our training ground neighbors. The Cojones Club are reportedly missing their prize prick through injury (as well as their best defender, Cathcart). It may well mean Dat Guy, Danny Welbz, makes an appearance. We ought to be wary because he’s got the attributes to cause us problems, and we know he likes to score against his former clubs. Watford are also likely to have a new manager bounce in their hornets as they fired Javi Gracia and brought back a familiar face in Quique Sanchez Flores aka Austin Flowers.

It should prove an interesting challenge for Emery as he’ll now be reviewing tapes of Watford from years ago, as well as some of his matches against Flores in Spain. In keeping with my new approach I am presuming he will confuse the players with his instructions, Ozil won’t start, and we will try to outdo Watford in a tactic of sitting back and hoping for a moment of magic on the counter. If we’re lucky, one of our attackers will provide just such a moment, the defenders will deal with Watford’s threat, and the refs won’t screw us. Imagine after spending £150m, we need luck and individual skill to be our saviors.

Win, lose or draw, I am resigned to a season of drudgery with the All New Bench Cam and the walking meme providing the greatest entertainment of all.

Team News: Info trickled out late week that Lacazette has an ankle injury joining Tierney, Bellerin, and Mavropanos in the sick bay. Holding is back in full training. No official word on Xhaka but I’m seeing reports he has a chronic Achilles injury. Not sure how serious it is, but apparently he is trusted by Emery so odds favor him starting. Given that interview and everything we have learnt about Emery this past year I am skeptical he will start Ozil. Against the mighty Watford, who have one point to their name, there is little chance he will be more attacking than usual. Between him and Raul they have assembled a high energy squad  (contrast to Wenger being more technical)  and in his words the emphasis is now on defensive balance.


Starters: Leno, AMN, Sokratis, Luiz, Kolasinac, Xhaka, Guendouzi,  Ceballos, Pepe, Auba, Nelson.

Subs: Martinez, Chambers, Holding, Torreira, Willock, Ozil, Martinelli

On paper, Arsenal has the superior personnel, even with an injury depleted starting XI. Most PL clubs would give a right arm to have the likes of Joe Willock, Reiss Nelson and Calum Chambers chomping on the bit after losing their starting place two games into the season. But for all the reasons I have given before, it would take a very brave, if not foolish Gunnner to take a victory for granted. Apart from Arsenal’s well documented troubles on the road over the past two seasons, Emery’s failure to implement a coherent attacking or defensive philosophy over the past 15 months is now a drag on the full potential of this team. I foresee a tense 1-1 draw but would be ecstatic if we left Vicarage Road with a narrow victory.


  1. The title made me LOL.

    There is no more unbalanced coach in the league then Emery!

    Liverpool fight back at home against Newcastle after going a goal down 2-1 at the break:

    “Former England striker Dion Dublin on BBC Radio 5 Live
    That’s game over now. (Newcastle) had a good spell and scored a great goal. Liverpool have dominated. They have been in a 5-4-1 all afternoon Newcastle and you cannot win a game being negative all the time.”

    But to be fair to Steve Bruce 541 is more ambitious then 802:

    Given that he has inferior players compared to Emery, though I wonder how much hype Hayden would be getting if like Matteo, Daddy Montana had a stake/cut in his future.

    • The stat by Shard that left me flabbergasted was Arsenal has created 58 shots, 5 less than the offensive powerhouse that is Manchester United. 26 of these came against Spurs in our last match. But we need defensive balance. Watching Liverpool maximize their big-3 using Firmino as a false 9/10 in the absence of a dedicated #10 is in sharp contrast to the abysmal poverty of offensive ideas by Emery. Bet he and Raul start blaming the players when this campaign goes pear-shaped.

      • Even more fun fact. Watford have created just 3 shots less than us. Their forwards don’t seem able to score. I wasn’t paying attention but I suspect the decision to fire Gracia was taken because he wasn’t getting the most out of the players. Regardless of the media saying it was crazy to sack him. Watford have a history of sacking managers and yet retaining an identity. Strangely, they seem to understand how the modern managerial setup works better than Arsenal and our fans.

  2. Great preview Shard. An enjoyable read. Many thanks.

    “I foresee a tense 1-1 draw but would be ecstatic if we left Vicarage Road with a narrow victory.”

    Thats how low we’ve got! Instead of getting excited in expecting to thrash a bottom of the league team 5-0 we are all biting our nails/using our emery boards(boreds).
    Its a nasty little ground, and the Orns can make a bit of noise if they want to, and theyve learnt a few more songs since the 80s. I saw a few games there back then and we lost both times.It was pretty humiliating.

    Watford tactics: foul, hustle, block out the midfield and starve Auba, have a grabba for goal when you can.

    Arsenal tactics, erm, dunno. Maybe six in defence, or even seven? Maybe Mesut at left back to give it the hööf when he can. Raul Montana in the number 9 hero position.

    Makes you wonder what it would be like to see AMN playing in midfield?

    Cheers and thanks again.


    • How low have the mighty fallen? Imagine Arsenal going to Watford and as a Gooner being nervous at the real possibility of defeat.

  3. If all we can look forward to by way of midfield ingenuity is Guendouzi then the nervousness and doubts are well founded.

    To give credit where it is due, his pass to Auba agaonst the scum was excellent.

    However, that is the first such pass we have seen from him and, yet, Ozil, does plenty of such passes every game.

    In any event, no doubt UE warned him not to do it again, as it prevented him from running around more.

    I am afraid, after a year of UE, all I have left is cynicism.

  4. Oh my word , what a fucking miserable preview and comments section.
    I agree with everything being said.
    My enthusiasm for Arsenal is being beaten to death.

  5. 29 shots against us against 7 for.

    That says it all.

    We were extremely lucky to get a draw, against the team at the bottom of the league.

    An embarrassment.

    I fear it will get worse.

    • If Deuolefeu was clinical we would have gotten the embarrassment of our lives. Shard was spot on about how little we create. Thank god for Mesut Ozil’s creativity in the 1st half.

  6. Emery out.

    Shard was on the ball in the preview with what might happen.

    It wastes your time to hope, and to want, when you know its not happening.

    • Shard may have been wrong about the selection of Ozil but he was spot on that it would be a draw and the reasons why. This will be another long hard season under Emery, giving full meaning the adage that “It is the hope that kills you”.

  7. Abandon all hope….

    Did we enjoy this game? Even when we were 2-0 up the football was so slow and of poor quality. Only Ozil was forcing the issue with his runs. Was often ignored probably because instructed to play it safe. And the touches. He was frustrated because his reading of the game is superb and he knew it was there for the taking. Thanks to some good play and finishing we got 2-0 into the second half.

    I was confident we would invite pressure on in the second half. It is the Emery way. Exactly what happened. Individual errors, but that’s because they are put under constant pressure.

    Also, I think we look like we get more fatigued these days. Maybe sacking Burgess wasn’t such a good idea. Or maybe it is just the effect of Emeryball and being constantly defensive.

    Sack Emery. Or my motto will remain to abandon all hope…

  8. Daddy Raul won the transfer window according to his PR consultants by you and i and every Arsenal fan know it was Sven Mislintat along with AW who signed Auba,

    the same Sven that the PR consultants all slagged off hard when he called out Raul as an agents’ lickspittle:

    Imagine where the club would be without Auba these past 12 months.

    Where can I shove Daddy Raul Montana’s statue?

    Any suggestions?


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