Tag Archives: emery

Moving Machinery At Club Needs Time

The managerial merry-go-round that has beset Unai Emery and Arsenal is something we have not been privy to as Gooners.

With Arsene Wenger’s tenure being far longer than the average club manager, for more than two decades we watched on as the men at the helm of Europe’s top clubs were put under intense scrutiny from the moment they arrived at the training ground.

The window’s given to new appointments were made smaller and smaller. The margins for error shrunk as the money being offered for success bloated. Some spells at clubs lasted about as long as the equivalent as a period of probation does at a regular job.

We were lucky, but we all knew it would end and we would have to strap ourselves in to the ride. Unai Emery was the man tasked with seeing us through the choppy waters of transition between the old regime and the bright new dawn.

The Spaniard seemed to have all the tools at his disposal. He had enough coffers to purchase who he needed. He had a nucleus of a good squad that could compete. He had the experience necessary to oversee success.

Arsenal though, are a club in flux.

With the many new faces at the club that have arrived in the last eighteen months, it means that processes are still being ironed out. Ways of working, relationships between different facets, they are still being ironed out.

The likes of Raul Sanllehi, Vinai Venkatesham, Josh Kroenke, Huss Fahmy, Darren Burgess, Edu Gaspar, Freddie Ljungberg, Per Mertesacker – all of these, plus a raft of departures – constitute change, and a requirement for trial and error. A bedding in period to smooth off the rough edges.

When we recruited Sven Mislintat, we rejoiced. The man known in his country as ‘Diamond Eye’ was a real coup and because of the breaking down of his relationship with Dortmund, Mislintat was available and we struck while the iron was hot.

It was the right move. Anyone with Mislntat in their ranks stood the chance to find some very important players. The German though, was to find that boundaries were still being drawn behind the scenes and Mislintat’s ambition would have to be kept in check if he was to stay at the club.

Mislintat wanted to be responsible for more than just talent spotting and he was thought to be favourite for the role that Edu now sits in, but it didn’t transpire.

Instead, Mislintat left the club after a very short period of time. It didn’t work out simply because things between the men who pull the strings at Arsenal are still being decided, regimes and processes need to be refined.

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For a machine to work seamlessly, the cogs that comprise the inner workings need to be aligned.

We have many cogs in our machinery. They are the right fit for Arsenal – but at this moment they are not quite in synch.

Each of the men who have been hired were recruited because they have skills we wanted.

In order for us to unwrap those skills and put them to use, we need to wait for the dust to settle and for them all to communicate. Time is the only thing that will allow us to see Arsenal operating as we – and they – know it should.

It’s frustrating, but it is something we need to endure.

Regardless of Emery being sacked and now having Freddie at the helm, we need settled regimes behind him in order to gain the best from the resources we have.

After twenty three years of serenity, changing the direction of the ship we are on was always going to take time.

Emery Sacked! Why Now And What Now?

The club could endure no more it seems.

After another defeat and the seventh consecutive failure to win a game, it seems that the loss to Eintracht Frankfurt was the last straw for the now departed Arsenal Head Coach, Unai Emery.

His tenure ended in strangely eerie circumstances. Ticket restrictions for home fans and a ban on away fans gave The Emirates a suitably soulless atmosphere, for what was yet another abject performance.

A failure to inhibit our opposition whether home or away, constant erroneous performances and our inability to recreate even a portion of the style we are branded for, accumulated on Emery’s shoulders and with every dropped point, his knees buckled further.

The club were rumoured to want to give Emery until the end of the season, but it became abundantly clear to all that Emery would have been incapable of turning around our season, so Raul Sanllehi, Edu Gaspar and Vinai Venkatesham were left with a dilemma.

Either sever ties with Unai and bring in Freddie Ljungberg on an interim basis, or stay with Unai and see how bad things could get.

Luckily, they saw sense and Emery is now a former employee of Arsenal, just 18 months after signing for the Gunners.

It seems to have been a rapidly made decision, as players were unaware that the decision had been made this morning – and so was Emery who headed training this morning as usual. The squad were called for a meeting after training to announce the decision, and the only way is up in terms of results.

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Arsenal and Freddie now face the task of resurrecting our season, but the first step for the Super Swede will be to find our character that has made us a global brand. Coming from possibly the best team we have ever had, it should hopefully come naturally to bring back the good football that the Gunners are accustomed to.

 

 

So Emery is no more.

 

Who next for Arsenal?

The Ozil / Emery Dilemma

How far does a manager go to instill his values and rules upon his squad?

The parameters that the man at the helm puts in place will ultimately define the team, but what happens if one stray sheep doesn’t conform, and strays from the herd?

In an effort to stymie attempts from other players to follow suit,  does the manager lay down the law in the form of punishment, to show that the rules must be followed?

Unai Emery is in between a rock and a hard place. It has become apparent through comments made by the Spaniard that Mesut Ozil has not met the desired standard in the training regimen that has been set.

The result?

The German has been omitted from the entire squad for around two months of the season.

Even if you are not a fan, it is plain to see that our fortunes on the pitch in terms of style, have been severely hampered by the lack of a playmaker.

Chances have dried up, the pace of the ball being pinged around? Pedestrian. Our star strikers have been feeding off of scraps or creating openings themselves through their excellent set of skills.

The moment that Ozil was reinstated to the line-up was our Carabao Cup exit to Liverpool – and we scored five goals.

Yes, Liverpool were a weakened side, but the form we were in during that spell would have meant that if Ozil wasn’t in the eleven, we would surely have struggled to reach that amount of goals.

Our number ten kept the ball moving, stretching play, popping up in pockets of space and sprinkling in moments of genius, like his no-look backheel from the byline to the only player who could have received the ball.

This isn’t meant to indicate that Emery has made the wrong choice though. The words in this article are pointing towards a choice that Emery couldn’t possibly hope to pick the correct one – because there isn’t a right choice.

Ozil and Emery

Include Mesut Ozil in the side – and player power has won.

Leave him out of the side, and at the merest hint of a struggle, critics will point to the megastar left out of the side.

Emery had a power struggle in his time as PSG manager, as Neymar has a little more sway than a player normally would. The Brazilian is seen as indispensable to the eleven – or was – and there was only going to be one winner.

Now, we have arguably our most talented player flitting in and out of the side, and posting cryptic images on his Instagram in an apparent act of defiance. It leaves the unity of the squad frayed – and our performances compromised.

Mesut Ozil will obviously impact our team on the pitch. His end product went missing last year but in terms of keeping us on the front foot and always playing the right pass, there is no one better.

Star players shouldn’t have things their own way though. If we put them on a higher pedestal, it means they will define the rules, and the values of the club will be broken as a result.

No one player is greater than the team. We have had far greater players in our midst than Ozil and they have never rocked the boat – even if they did, the rock-solid rules of the club would not show a crack.

The moment this changes, then Arsenal FC as we know it, and have known it since its birth – will be completely undermined.

The solution to the Ozil – Emery predicament?

I’ve no idea – I don’t get paid millions to figure it out!

 

How Long Is Too Long For Emery?

The rumours persist, the names keep coming like a torrent.

As long as Unai Emery continues to struggle, then the likes of Mikel Arteta, Freddie Ljungberg, Jose Mourinho and Maximiliano Allegri will be tacked onto stories emanating from the media, revolving around the beleaguered head of Emery like a flock of hungry vultures.

The Spaniard would, on paper, appear to be on borrowed time. A run of no wins in five games has seen Arsenal slump down the table, creating a chasm between our club and the hallowed berths of the Champions League.

It isn’t only results that have set us fans frothing and seething, as well as set the assorted media into a frenzy.

Arsenal have lost their identity too.

Even in the lean Wenger years, we had an identity. We were just as likely to concede five goals in one game as we were to win at times, but we always played in a manner that was a joy to behold. Even when the squad was more threadbare than a Poundshop welcome matt, we still managed to put together moves that often bewitched the opposition.

Under Emery, we appear to be lost at sea. It could be a combination of our players reportedly being unclear on instructions, being played out of position like Lucas Torreira, or simply lacking the conviction that comes from having belief in the man leading the club.

If a player doesn’t think the manager is the right man, if there is an inkling of doubt, then that will shine through in performances.

Pressure Emery

Emery has been given a vote of confidence by Vinai Venkatesham and Raul Sanllehi, and according to reports, he will not be sacked anytime soon – but if this run continues, then surely there can be only one way to go?

Our rivals and neighbours, Tottenham, have just sacked their long-time incumbent Mauricio Pochettino. This was because of a sequence of results that saw them slump to a position and points total eerily similar to ours.

It prompted chairman Daniel Levy into action. Does that mean that the club that was forever in our shadow, now hold themselves to standards higher than our own?

If Sanllehi and Venkatesham believe that patience is key to Emery bedding down his methods and seeing the results blossom, then after a whole season, shouldn’t we now be seeing this in some form of improvement?

Last season, Emery can be excused for what was a mighty close call to being a successful first season. Yes, our squad flopped over the line when it seemed easier to succeed, and the Europa League final will forever haunt us in terms of being one of our worst performances in quite some time.

But two matches away from finishing in the top four and winning the Europa League? That would have constituted a good debut season for Emery.

So that whet the appetite for what we would see this coming campaign.

Instead, we have been the footballing equivalent of driftwood. No identity, floating instead of heading somewhere. Aimless.

The alarming stats regarding Bernd Leno making more saves than ANY OTHER keeper at this stage of the season. The amount of shots we are giving away per game is higher than ANY OTHER side at this stage. The number of shots on target we are registering? In the last three games, we amounted six shots on target – cumulatively. That is one less than Leicester City registered in their 2-0 victory over us in just one game.

Emery has left us rudderless. Have there been any signs that this is going to be turned around?

Pochettino built up plenty of patience and goodwill in his time at Tottenham. Yet that counted for nothing when it came to the team struggling. With mounting debt and the Champions League money fading away should they miss out this season, Levy acted quickly.

Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea and Leicester are walking away with the top four spots with no fight from us or Tottenham. Our neighbours have pushed the button to remedy their situation, in the belief that a change at the helm will get the best from the current squad and that Pochettino was no longer capable of turning it around.

Emery has had time to do the same. Sanllehi and Venkatesham have the belief that it is only a matter of time before Emery’s way will shine through and that we will begin to claw the deficit back.

With the likes of Mikel Arteta, Freddie Ljungberg, Mourinho and Allegri being possible candidates and seemingly easy to get hold of, Emery must know that in three or four results time, his number must be close.

How long before we blink?

O Captain, My Captain

The game has changed massively over the years. In fact, blink and the version your eyes see will be different to the one pre-blink.

Perhaps not, but season after season changes the sport we all enjoy. Just look at this latest incarnation of the Premier League. VAR has transformed how we view all instances, and even how we celebrate goals, a hush falls over player and fan alike as we wait for the permission to celebrate or commiserate.

Surely though, the values that embody a captain of a football club haven’t changed, have they?

Maybe they have. As the sport changes, does a role within a team have to change? Take a midfielder for instance. It used to be that a man in the centre didn’t have to be a presence in both areas of the pitch and have a skillset reminiscent of an elaborate Swiss Army Knife.

There are still roles on the pitch that demand a very ‘boxed-in’ set of talents, but as the pace in the Premier League speeds up and the technical quality increases exponentially, it means players must rise with it, or fear being left by the wayside and plying their trade in the lower leagues.

A captain though, what does it mean to lead the team out week on week?

That is how you pick the right man for the job. The Skipper predominantly is the middle man between the manager and the team on the pitch. Relaying dynamic instructions from the sidelines, and picking up when those instructions slip.

The man wearing the armband is also the mouth for the team, when decisions require a quick convo with the man in black he is the one who must offer his side’s argument, or try and appease the ref if he is thinking of reaching into his pocket.

Both require a cool head, a temperament that can remain literate even when the red mists have descended.

So, from our pool of five captains, do any of them tick these boxes?

The first choice who will be the skipper for the majority would have been Granit Xhaka – before Monday’s events.

Xhaka Capt

This has been a major point of consternation in our fanbase. The Swiss man divides opinion in a big way, and his high profile errors have stained his copybook with many. Can a player who is letting the side down, then expect to pick up his teammates and squeeze out an extra five percent of effort from them?

Alternatively, Xhaka is one of the few players we have that does attempt to keep his teammates on their toes. After we score, you often see Xhaka point to his head in an attempt to show his comrades that THIS is the time that demands concentration.

It would be good if he could take his advice of course…

You need the man wearing the armband to be the arm round the shoulder in times of crisis or duress. You need the skipper to be the man stepping up when his men need them to. The old-school version of a skipper may well be a thing of the past, but some of the attributes are still highly relevant.

His actions after being booed now mean that we need someone else to stand up. His tenure with the armband is over, his temperament is not suited to lead the team.

We do have some prime candidates for the armband, such as Hector Bellerin and Rob Holding. These boys seem to be well stocked in heart and cold hard sense when it matters most, but is it too soon to name players of their age?

No, not really.

Because there is one facet of wearing the armband that is more important than anything else. We have had captains that have lacked it and the results were expectedly poor.

A captain should above all else, love the club that they represent. They should see the captaincy as a privilege.

Can we say that about Xhaka?

Because we can certainly say that about Bellerin.

What do you think?

This Is The Voice We Need

Some saw it as a shameful publicity act, aligned with certain Arsenal social media-affiliated names that use airtime to push their own celebrity agenda.

But the #WeCareDoYou movement was done with the club firmly in mind.

It was almost holistic. How could we as fans band together and make those who run the club, see that the direction the club is going in is filled with peril and needs a course correction to amend the alarming slide we seem to be in?

The powerhouses of Arsenal Twitter joined forces. Those that push articles on a daily/weekly basis. Crucial parts of the fanbase that circulate the Arsenal message worldwide, essentially the ripples on the water of football news.

The message was clear and avoided the inarticulate chuntering that has followed previous ‘protests.’ It pleaded with those involved with Stan Kroenke that this model of ownership has done nothing to align itself with the manifesto that was used when Stan was in the throes of purchasing all shares of Arsenal FC.

That manifesto said that they were in it to make Arsenal a European giant, a perennial contender.

Now, just like the #WeCareDoYou message states, we are further away from that than ever.

We are about to embark on our third successive Europa League campaign.

We are a huge gulf away from competing for our own domestic title, never mind battling with the big guns for the Champions League trophy.

This is far removed from what we were promised when we moved to The Emirates. This is in stark contrast to the painting that KSE Holdings showed us – a supposed vision of our future under the Kroenke’s stewardship.

Do we have a right to voice our displeasure? Damn right we do, and the #WeCareDoYou movement made their first step in the most erudite way. It garnered such a  response with their fellow fans that it prompted Josh Kroenke to issue a statement on behalf of the ownership.

WeCareDoYou

This statement made promises again, one surrounding expensive signings. The use of the word ‘expensive’ was the wrong choice, as it peeled back the veil a little on the attitudes of the sterile Kroenke clan. They think that we just want them to spend money. They think we want them to shake fistfuls of currency at the club in a glib manner, just as long as the cash is flowing.

Wrong. We want our club to compete in the transfer market, but we don’t want to be over-reliant on the Americans, nor any other. We just want what was promised to us, and what is justified for a club on our scale.

A scale that will soon start to shrink in terms of modern football powerhouses.

The #WeCareDoYou statement said that further steps would be taken should this abject approach continue, as we skate blithely toward ignominy. It is quite infuriating as we see our rivals go out and throw their weight around, and we continue to avoid strengthening to such a degree that weaknesses in the team remain even when they stare us all blankly in the face.

We want an ownership who cares, much like the hashtag infers. We want to be ushered into this new generation we all envisioned with an enthusiasm, rather than the coasting nature that we have all been privy to.

Even in our biggest matches, we see hide nor hair of Kroenke. We seem to be a mere trophy on the walls of Kroenke’s office, ignoring us as he plays with his precious LA Rams. His collection of sports teams is quite extensive, but most currently tread water. It is quite terrifying how we seem to be circling the drain to obscurity in the last few years, much like they did too.

The Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche, Colorado Rapids and a few more are currently in his pocket. These clubs, LA Rams aside, have not been near a trophy for quite some time.

We are dealing well with the loss of the lucrative Champions League revenue, but when our rivals are proactively strengthening their teams whenever weakness is perceived, it then sees us lag behind even more, rather than aiming to catch up.

The #WeCareDoYou movement is a shout from the fans that we aren’t happy with the current direction we are facing in. Instead of craning our neck to look up, we are staring flatly across at a hard-baked desert, with nothing of note on the horizon, just the shimmer of a promise – a mirage.

This is more than a hashtag, it is a chance for us to unite for once instead of being divided over the trivial. We all represent The Arsenal and this banner we are now flying could well make an impact on the ideals of Kroenke and co, if the first step is anything to go by.

Let us all make this voice louder than any before it. The manner in which this hashtagged group made their first move is the right one, and together we can make leaps and bounds in the new direction that we want to.

Emery’s Second Season

It eventually came down to the finest of margins.

Our last two matches in the Premier League and the Europa League final.

After more than fifty matches throughout the season, it boiled down to how we would perform in 270 minutes.

If we won all three?

It would mean a return to Champions League football at the first time of asking from Emery – and a big shiny European trophy to boot.

We would be competing in the summer for the European Super Cup, we would have banished our European hoodoo and announced our comeback to the big stage in the best possible way.

Instead, we were treated to an insipid 1-1 draw at home to Brighton, followed by a win over Burnley (too little, too late by this point) and then a calamitous performance in Baku where we were sent back to London with our tail between our legs by Chelsea.

From where we sit now, looking back, hindsight really does bring things into focus.

We could be remembering what constituted to be a wonderful season, culminating in a win over our London rivals on a European stage, lifting the Europa League.

We could be looking forward to a return of that famous Champions League anthem and more importantly, the extra clout and transfer budget that comes with inclusion of the European Cup.

Unai Emery would be looked upon as taking us in the right direction, instead of doubts on whether he is the right man for the job.

Never mind a little common sense – we missed out on all of the above because of our own failings!

It would be fantastic if everybody could take the equivalent of a mental cold shower, and look at things from a different perspective.

Yes, it is our own fault that we are in what is now a compromising position thanks to missing out on the Champions League.

However, have we not closed the gap?

Has Emery not made progress on where were when he took over – with largely the same squad that Arsene Wenger had?

 

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Woah there, gib me a shance!! 

 

We missed out on the top four by a solitary point. We missed out on the top3 by two points. Despite us picking up just one win on the home straight, we still only fell short by the finest of margins.

Jurgen Klopp, the buck-toothed, bespectacled coach heralded by all as a genius, finished in eighth spot in his first season.

Granted, he was then awarded a wad of cash to spend to revitalise his squad, but it shows what margins a new coach can bring. Klopp didn’t manage to do much in his first season, other than probably the most important factor – one that isn’t instantly tangible.

The roots of his tactics, his famous press, the demanding fitness ability that all players had to adhere to? That was instilled in that disappointing first season. The window of transition from where they were, to where they can now adapt their formation and tactics dynamically? That takes time.

Emery too, needs the time to ensure his tactics are bedded in. That press we saw in the games we flickered to life? The wins over Chelsea, spurs, United? That is what we can now expect next season, albeit a lot more frequently.

We dropped off constantly last season, our defence struggled to adapt to new instructions, plus last season began with two tough fixtures, which in turn put pressure on subsequent games.

Emery will be under no illusions regarding who he needs in and shipped out in order to strengthen and carry out his formulas into battle. The list will already be drawn up, and pre-season will see us again begin to hit the cardio emphatically in order to maintain the lung-bursting orders from Emery. The very same orders that will see us improve once again.

Our fanbase needs a dose of realism. Emery, nay, all coaches, need a window of time to instil their own virtues. Even the mightiest of oaks still need years to flower.

Yes, our transfer activity may not be as it should be for a club of our standing, but as we are self-sustaining, we can only spend what we make. We cleared around £40m last season?

Well, that’s how much we’ve got to work with.

Fear not though. Emery’s expertise will start to show next season. His excellent pedigree wasn’t obtained in a cereal packet, he earned it and if given time, he can show us how.

We have to support, rather than call into question everything.

At the end of the season, when the dust settles, let’s see where we are.

 

Emery and His Summer Plans

It is irrefutable that Unai Emery has helped us make progress this season.

It is also undeniable that he has made errors that have cost us.

The Spaniard is not infallible, and our suspect away form and some questionable decisions when it comes to rotation have been the difference when it comes to certain results this campaign.

It is very important that Emery isn’t hung, drawn and quartered by his mistakes, and while the jury may be out for some, his approach has certainly added more than it has subtracted.

How does Emery help us go one step further though? Next season should see us go into the season with a top 3 position firmly in our sights. With Manchester United still rebuilding and unsure of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s long-term suitability, it should put us on a firmer footing than the Red Devils.

Then there are Chelsea and spurs.

The Blues will be suffering from a transfer ban so cannot strengthen. They have Christian Pulisic to come in and perhaps some of their loanees could come in to fill a gap, but with Eden Hazard’s head turned by Real Madrid and no avenue to replace such a talent, Chelsea could easily be weaker than this season. Then there is the small matter of Maurizio Sarri and if he will even be at Stamford Bridge next season.

Spurs will be thankful to keep hold of Mauricio Pochettino, but transfer funds will need to be freed up if they want to continue their upward curve. Despite all of the brass band sounding and the fawning from the media, they are further away from the title than ever and their trophy cabinet is still emptier than Chris Sutton’s IQ.

The stage is set for us to move up and re-establish ourselves amongst the elite, perhaps even put some pressure on the top2 – although the gap is a sizeable one.

It all hinges on what Emery does in the transfer market – well, he and his new Director of Football that will be coming in.

His first summer at Arsenal saw more success than failure when it came to additions. For every Stephane Lichtsteiner, we had a Matteo Guendouzi, Lucas Torreira and Bernd Leno. Sokratis too, has enjoyed a solid first season.

We need more though.

 

Xhaka and Iwobi

We have the large aperture created by Aaron Ramsey’s departure to fill. That requires an intelligent attacking midfielder who has a wide range of passing and is blessed with a deft touch for intricate link-up play.

That won’t be cheap.

Then there is the small matter of our defence and midfield.

Our club captain is in his latter years, as is Nacho Monreal. That is two integral parts of our first choice defence with a significantly lower chance of contributing the same amount of matches next season.

Yes, we do have Rob Holding returning, and with Calum Chambers coming back into the fray, we POTENTIALLY have the makings of a solid core. It is still untested though, and Emery will run the rule over them as a duo in pre-season.

If it doesn’t work, then that is another dip into the transfer coffers – an amount that according to hearsay, is not sufficient enough for two world-class additions.

In midfield, in Torreira and Guendouzi we have our near future looking decent, but two midfielders doesn’t make a midfield. We need alternative options to enable Emery’s famous switching of approach, we need able backups as the season wears fitness thin and inflates fatigue.

In that regard, we can see that Mohamed Elneny isn’t quite up to scratch, and Granit Xhaka has already made noises about seeking new pastures. Much will hinge on Champions League qualification on whether the Swiss star stays, but he isn’t the complete player we need.

So we could maybe need two central players to come in, one more established to push the first team and another prospect that can help our team in years to come.

Our attack is in decent health. If we had players like Henrikh Mkhitaryan hitting the heights their obvious talent allows them to, then we would be all set for next season. But the Armenian and Alex Iwobi now need to step up and make a difference far more frequently than they do currently if we are to push on next season. If they fail to do so, then Arsenal is a stage that isn’t best suited to them.

 

Furious Emery

 

The potential for quite a busy summer looms large on our horizon. One that involves deeper pockets than our short arms can reach, and some tough calls on players futures.

If we are to move up and get back into contention, Emery and his backroom team will have their phones on during their summer break. Excellence doesn’t rest.

Emery, Wenger and the Blame Game

We all knew this would be a work in progress.

After such a long time at the helm, every fibre of the club would have been tailored for Arsene Wenger, so when his inevitable departure actually materialised, the new incumbent was always going to need a period of acclimatisation.

Patience is pretty thin on the ground when it comes to supporting a club these days though, and with our club making errors on and off the pitch, the long road back to contending for not only the Champions League spots but also title contention has never seemed so arduous.

 

Firstly, we have an owner who has forgotten where his pockets are. Stan Kroenke has reportedly forked out nearly two billion dollars on his LA Rams franchise in the ten years he has been involved with Arsenal. In that same period he has invested precisely nothing into our club.

 

This has come to a head during this Winter transfer window, where Unai Emery confirmed that he would be shopping in the Bargain Bin of the window, scouring the shelves for loan deals only. This is because of a combination of the new wage bill rules that came into effect in 2017, meaning that the bill cannot rise above a certain rate, and thanks to our spending in the previous two years, we may be skirting close to that limit.

 

The other reason is because we have an owner that could pump what would be the equivalent of chump change into our coffers to enable Emery to chase his vision.

 

There is a certain school of thought that this season could match last season’s mediocre league finishing position because of the mess left by both Wenger and Gazidis.

 

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While Wenger can be blamed for his slipping standards, the squad that was left was far from terrible. The one area that needed revitalising was in defence, but that could have been said for the last ten years.

 

Gazidis though? The fact that players have been sold for far less than their worth, biting hard into our available wealth and therefore, our ability to reinvest into where it is so desperately needed? Contracts left to dwindle down so players can leave for free?

 

Yeah, Gazidis has a big part to play.

 

The initial optimism surrounding Emery dissipated for a while, but positive results against United and our doggedness in pursuing a top4 place has shown that the Spaniard is maintaining us on the right path,

 

Emery is not blameless and should never be treated as such when the time for critique is right. He has made some strange decisions at times, his handling of the Ozil problem could yet reap more negativity, and his insistence on imprinting his tactics on the side was always going to bring about teething problems.

 

For there to be doubt though, at the halfway stage of his first season? That’s on our fans.

 

Like the truth or not, but our squad is pretty much achieving on par when compared to the strength of our rivals. We may have a world class attack – Laca, Auba and Ozil are genuinely upper crust and are giving us the delusions of grandeur we sometimes suffer from.

 

Our midfield though? Torreira aside, we have a mixture of promise and inconsistent brilliance. We hit heights, but plummet just as deep at times. For every wonderfully dominant display like against tottenham and Leicester, we have a complete disappointment, a la Liverpool, West Ham and Brighton.

 

We are also too reliant on the fairweather Ozil for creation. Without the German, playing below par or otherwise, we have nothing else that comes close. Iwobi is a cause for optimism, despite what a large portion of fans think, but he is far from the finished article. We also have Mkhitaryan, who has only started to hit top form since his arrival.

 

Emery arrived with a club desperately needing a spring clean. The backroom staff is still being assembled – we recently made a position of Loan Manager, and about time – and with a squad jaded from methods that needed adapting.

 

These things take time.

 

In the meantime, we have to endure the turbulence, and resist from finger pointing while we grow. And we are growing. We are adapting to newer tactics, we are aiming for the top, but this trajectory is not the steepest incline, and it’ll take us a while.

 

What is mandatory is improvement. We can wholly expect a better season than last. Then next year? We should be aiming for top4. Season after that? Title contention once again.

 

Emery isn’t infallible, but he is what we need right now.

 

Keep the faith.

 

Hector On The Rise

Hector Bellerin is far more effective than people give him credit for.

The Spaniard wasn’t the only one to fail to reach their best last season, as the wheels came off in what was Wenger’s final season.

Yet, the defender was labelled as a poor defender, a liability. Bellerin had hit the wall, he wouldn’t progress further.

This season, under new boss Unai Emery, Bellerin has risen to the occasion and played out of his skin thus far, in both defence and attack. Despite this, Bellerin has still had his critics, throwing the same barbs as before.

What isn’t highlighted, is that Bellerin is doing the work of two men, and performing near-miracles on the right hand side.

Unai Emery seems to prefer a 4-2-3-1, but has shown he can vary his approach. His favoured formation though, is leaving Bellerin wide open to salvo’s from the opposition, yet the Spanish defender is on the money and giving everything to keep the leaks to a bare minimum.

With the new regime, we are obviously suffering some teething problems at the back. Playing out from deep, in the face of an effective press, will require more practice and time. The new instructions and pairings are gelling together slowly but surely.

So a drought of clean sheets is to be expected. However, if it wasn’t for the engine of Bellerin and his vastly improving defensive skills, we would have conceded far more – and scored a fair amount less too.

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Our manbun-sporting defender has been a huge asset in our attack, linking up at nearly every opportunity with our attacking quartet. He is grabbing assists and more often than not, testing the opposition keeper every game.

If you check social media or newspaper ratings though, you could be forgiven for thinking you watched the wrong player. A raft of 5’s and 6’s, labelled weak in defence, Bellerin apparently can’t escape the mediocre tag even when he’s playing well.

There is a lot of focus on Bellerin simply because there is a lot of possession going down his side, and with Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Aaron Ramsey and/or Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Bellerin is receiving zero cover.

Considering Bellerin is defending his entire flank by himself, it means that his forays forward need to be timed better than ever, otherwise he will – and the team will – be horribly exposed. So for Bellerin to have his best start to a season as an attacking player is evidence that he is using his footballing brain – he has evolved.

He is doing double the work, and is having his most effective season thus far. It is easy to forget he is still only 23. Ask any other right-back in the Premier League to put in his miles, make as much impact in the attacking third and also keep it as tight as he has?

I am convinced that none of his positional cohorts could manage what he has done.

Is it the arrival of an established rival that has pushed him on? In Stephane Lichtsteiner, Bellerin has massive pressure to keep his performances optimal, as he will be well aware that Lichtsteiner can stepin and keep him on the bench for an extended time.

Perhaps it is the threat of losing his place, maybe it is the fact he is learning and simply improving.

Either way, we have a right-back that is one of the best at both ends of the pitch – no matter what experts and some fans say.