by Tony Attwood
A big player turnover in the January window? Promotion of some of the very promising kiddies from the under 23 squad? A constant sniping, increasing to all out attacks on every player in the squad? Rumours of discontent among the players growing into talk of outright rebellion? Talk that the Emery is considering his position and is ready to resign?
The first is unlikely indeed, the second possible, and the rest dead certs.
Of course only very foolish people will tell you they know what will happen in the future – but since most people who write in seem to consider me so foolish it is remarkable I am able to get my own breakfast, we can take a punt at the chances.
Mr Emery has got this far without anyone seriously questioning him, but that can’t be far away. With all the wealth of PSG he let Monaco beat them to the league title, so how’s he going to do anything with less than 1% of their money? He won the League Cup – that’s hardly difficult. Etc.
The question then is, how fragile will his position get, as the attacks on all the members of the squad intensifies?
The footballing media would love another managerial change – it gives them something to write about without thinking for months on end, and the chance of saying “he was never going to make it at Arsenal” as if somehow they had predicted it before.
But the owner’s own plan for a club that generates him money, personally, means it is unlikely. The building of the extra row of seats at club level, even though large swathes of club level remained empty for yesterday’s game, suggests there are a lot of well-to-do people who don’t know what to do with their money. The seats become a trophy, not something to be used. “Yes I’ve got half a dozen, but I hardly go; the quality of the game is so poor. And last time I was there the waiter thought Merlot was a white!”
The likeliest route through the rest of this season is that Mr Emery perseveres with his “play out from the back approach” and ultimately the criticism spreads from just being aimed at the players who are getting used to it, to the manager, while allowing attendances to drop a little (meaning the press can renew their empty seats stories, the Telegraph can run its fake empty seats picture (taken at the Stadium when Arsenal were not even playing) and the pesky problem of the League position is handed forward to next season.
But… within this is a hope and a belief, and it is summed up by the headline from the Sun
“Manchester City cannot afford to play out from the back”
That appeared in December 2016, and it came at a time when every journalist was writing headlines that started “Manchester City cannot afford…” It was a fad and a fashion. Except the fact that in the eyes of many pundits playing out from the back was stupid, and the manager had lost his marbles. It was a product of the “EVERYONE ELSE SHOULD SEE THE WORLD LIKE I DO” school of punditry.
I think many would agree now that Manchester City can play out from the back – but it took a little while to get there.
The Manchester City “debate” (I use the word in its vaguest sense) started two years ago with the their manager being accused of odd tactics to defend against a counter attack. But now in retrospect there is talk of Manchester City’s “steep learning curve” and of ripping up the rule book, by asking players to do things they have not done before has clearly worked.
And the reality is that older players like Bacary Sagna were also being asked to play differently.
Thus the manager changed the approach, and as it eventually had success the criticism and notion that “the fans won’t stand for this” died away. Ultimately it became a system that simply meant players had to be in the right place at the right time. When they were, and were not drawn out of position by the game itself, it worked. At least judging by last season’s results.
So in trying to determine the future the issues are twofold.
One, do we have players who can develop the sort if positional awareness that the new approach needs? Second, given that during this adaptation period the assault on the players from the media will get to such a level that some players may start to feel that it really isn’t worth it, and a transfer to a quieter club would be their best move. Can we hold onto them?
“You can see at this level that one v one is difficult to play so you need to use the goalkeeper as a spare man every time you can,” said Petr Cech recently. “That is the role of the goalkeeper”.
I am not sure many people watching Arsenal have got this, or if they did, did not have any belief that Cech can do this.
So what can we expect from Arsenal? Angst, anger and turmoil. And that’s just the press box, the TV studio and the journalists. For the fans it is going to be a case of keeping calm and keep on going to the games. If we don’t the reforms could fail.
- Mykhaylo Mudryk now listed in 17 different articles as coming to Arsenal!
- Arsenal attacking problems… what attacking problems?
- Men’s football returns at last: Arsenal in action this afternoon
- Is the injury to Gabriel Jesus equivalent to the assault on Eduardo in 2008?
- Womens Champions League Arsenal Women v Juventus – the match preview