If Emery goes will Arsenal really suddenly get much, much better?

By Sir Hardly Anyone

The fact that Arsenal are fifth in the league and not challenging for the title raises many questions, most notably concerning the abilities of the manager and his future with hundreds of commentators calling for him to resign or be sacked.

Among the headlines yesterday we have had in the last couple of days are…

  • Arsenal already know who could replace Unai Emery if Gunners board sack him (The Express)
  • What is Unai Emery’s best Arsenal XI and why isn’t he playing it? (Metro)
  • Mesut Ozil sends timely message to Arsene Wenger following another Unai Emery snub (Football.London)
  • Raul Sanllehi and Edu face their first major test as Unai Emery goes against Arsenal ideals (Football.London)
  • “Would be the dream” – These Arsenal fans identify 42 y/o as their preferred choice to replace Unai Emery (Read Arsenal)”
  • “Vieira to Arsenal: A defensively sound manager who has learned from the best – What’s not to like” (Sport Witness)

What is missing however is any attempt to answer the most fundamental question: what will happen if Emery is sacked, or simply says, “With fans and media like this, what’s the point?”

And yet despite the fact that removing Wenger and replacing him has clearly not brought the future the anti-Wengerians wanted, they same people as wanted Wenger out, continue as before.     Thus as with the fanatical and continuous media and blogger campaign to get rid of Wenger there is still a sort of generalised assumption that removing the manager would remove  the final block to the glorious uprising of Arsenal, and the title would automatically be ours.

A major part of the problem is that there is an assumption that if Arsenal ask someone to join the club that man would be falling over himself to say yes and sign.   But there are many reasons why such a manager would not join Arsenal.

For example, he might not like the salary, or the fact that only a two year contract is on offer, or the smallness of the transfer fund, or the antagonism of the media, the constant sniping of fans through the blogs, the state of the current squad… and so on.  Why, if you are a really good manager would you want to face a media and supporters who are this antagonistic?

So rather than just swap the names of possible managers as most websites are doing I thought it might be more interesting to ask what could happen if Emery were to go now.   Here are just a few of the possible answers…

1: A new manager comes in and manages the existing squad in a much better way, taking Arsenal back into the Champions League and challenging in the way that Arsene Wenger’s team did around the turn of the century.

2: Yes a new manager would accept the job and have the chance to buy new players and sort out the squad, and we’d see what happened over time.  If he did not make a serious improvement within 18 months then he too, like Emery would be chopped.

3: Again a new manager would come in, and would realise that Arsenal could be challengers for the title if only the tactics were changed.  His view could be that the players are fine, only the style of playing is wrong.

4:  It turns out that Emery is a turnip, and two vegetables could do better than one.  Arsenal bring in a new manager and even though he is of modest ability he does much better with the squad because no one could be any worse.

5:  A new manager is identified but he says the media and blogs are right, the squad is full of dolts and needs refreshing but the owner won’t put up another £100m, so the new man is not appointed as the owner doesn’t want to spend another £100m.

6:  A new manager is appointed but from the off he is attacked with vile rumours about his private life, just as Wenger was when he arrived.  Only he lacks Wenger’s media skills, and the new man allows the story comes out and the media rejoice as they successfully scupper Arsenal’s plans as they tried to do with Wenger, but failed.  The new man resigns and the media lick their lips ready to do it again.  And again.

7.  Several managers are approached, but each agrees that without a budget the size of Manchester City’s, and a PR team the size of that operating around Buckingham Palace, nothing much can be done to improve on Emery’s results.

8:  The chosen manager says no, on the grounds that he has seen what Arsenal blogs say about the club’s manager, and what the media did to Wenger.  “I want to manage a team that has supporters, not denigrators,” says one candidate.

9.  The potential candidates laugh at the offer saying, “Until the PGMO is sorted there is no point in managing Arsenal unless you have a slush fund in the tens of millions.

10.  No one wants the job.

Of course if you believe that any of options one to four are right then you’ll believe we can bring in a new manager and things will be better.   But if any of the other results are right, changing the manager will either make no difference or will simply result in matters getting worse.

Remember in terms of the percentage of games won, Emery is the most successful Arsenal manager and all the candidates will know we are getting rid of our most successful manager.

22 Replies to “If Emery goes will Arsenal really suddenly get much, much better?”

  1. Very valid points.
    As for Emery, have a feeling his future will sort itself out one way of another this season.
    A new manager might not want to manage a team that will have been refereed by Atkinson four times, Dean and Taylor each twice in the first ten games, yes, it’s Atkinson again the weekend. A new manager might not like the fact Arsenal concede plenty, but don’t get given the most blatant of penalties.
    That said, I suspect there would be no shortage of candidates, especially amongst ex players, maybe even, heaven forbid, a special candidate

  2. OT slightly:

    I noticed yesterday that Whoscored does an analysis/comparison of all the teams in the top five leagues in Europe. On the subject of the PGMO. Out of those five leagues, we find that 84 teams commit more fouls than Arsenal i.e. the vast majority by far. And how many have received more cards than Arsenal would one think?

    Six. Yes just SIX!!!

    Unsurprisingly, the six teams commit more fouls than Arsenal. That’s reasonable. But the number of fouls they commit is much higher at between 42% and 72% more fouls than us. I haven’t had chance to look at many of those below us but on average the teams with the 8th, 9th and 10th number of cards, also average 39% more fouls than us.

    So there we have it. Not only are we being treated harshly by comparison with other Premier League teams, we’re being treated abominably by comparison with every big team in Europe. On that basis I’d say point number 9 above is quite a critical one (although so are several others; number 8 is quite high on my list!)

  3. Whoaaa! Now hold it there. This thing about Unai being our most successful manager is being pushed a little too far. Are we really comparing like with like? After 64 games he has a 59% win ratio. Not bad. What was Arsene’s win ratio after 64 games or Graham’s or Mees’, or Chapman’s, or Neill’s or Whitaker’s, all after the same period? When you have refreshed your data based on the need to limit our population size to the same for all past AFC Managers let us them see if Unai is still ahead of anyone.

    Mind you, my take is that he should be allowed to retain his on-going role, and that he is also fast losing the Arsenal fan base. Mob behavior lack any rational approach and when the baying for his blood gets to a very high pitch there is nothing any reasoning or ‘solid evidence’ can do to save his neck. This is no time to allow him to lapse into any zone that suggests the fans are only being unreasonable for he is doing a ‘great’ job. He has got to do very very much more.

  4. As a longtime reader of your blog, I first have to say that I barely can remember an article that I did not 100 % agreed with. You do an amazing job and your positivity is a welcomed and needed counterpart to all the negative and needless bull**** out there from the so called news outlets.

    But this time it is the first time I absolutely and fundamentaly disagree with your opinion, at least with most of it.

    I was never a Wenger-out idiot, I never attacked players after a bad game or anything like that. But Emery is a different case. He is destroying Arsenal’s identity and its creativity. He freezes out our best players and after 16 months there is not only no improvement, but also no game plan it seems. You are always saying that he is our best manager according to some numbers, but in others he is really, really bad. Though Manu, Tottenham, Chelsea and even City (in some way) are struggling, we are fifth – with tons of luck. We had not one convincing performance in the pl this season. We create less chances, less attempts and score less goals than under Wenger but we concede the most shots (or nearly the most) in the league. We look a mess all over the pitch, with no balance. The hardest part for me to swallow is the boring football we play under Emery. And our goal difference is a joke for a big club. And instead of giving players a chance, who are lighting up the el and the league cup, he sticks with the players who had not a single convincing performance in the prem this season. Emery is the problem this time. And he needs to go as there are no signs of improvement, instead we are declining and getting worse. He was never a good coach in the first place, not even at Sevilla and clearly not at PSG.

    You are right that changing manager is never easy and it never is a solution that works for 100 %. There are tons of risks. But the risk is thousand times bigger if we stick with Emery and keep declining.

  5. @Dominic Slater, as the adage goes: “The supporters till will always win, because it never plays, but the manager’s team will lose, as it does play.”

  6. I read quite a few non Chelsea’s blogs and forums I tend to limit my comments mainly because the predicable backlash just isn’t worth the effort.

    On another Arsenal blog I ,as an interested but not impacted observer, made two comments first those wishing rid of AW really did need to be careful what they wished for and secondly I did and still do wonder if AW was getting all that could be obtained from the then Arsenal squad ,indeed I wondered if he was squeezing more out players than any potential replacement manager would be able to get.

    I got pelters!

    Of course AW was at some point always going to be replaced and just like SAF at Man Utd your club and indeed AW didn’t really put in place any sort of true succession planning, To be fair it would have been as much as a challenge getting such a plan right but at least there might have been some sort of continuity or perhaps more evolution as opposed to the revolution that seem evident at both Man U and indeed Arsenal.

    It’s important to remember UE got the gig mainly on his presentation which committed him to improving the players already at the club yet that plan to a degree seems to have been abandoned Indeed just in three transfer windows 11 players have been signed and it seems that around 15 of players who very much featured in AWs last squads so anyone that points the finger at AW really is not looking at the situation objectively.

    Its fair to say that in terms of league position that Arsenal supporters shouldn’t be too disappointed but that in itself isn’t the whole story indeed watching your game against Sheffield Utd had the screen not advised me that Arsenal were playing then I have to say the pattern, structure and indeed energy that were always evident in AWs Arsenal were sorely missing. What I did witness was a group of clearly skilful group who were lacking something that turns skilled individuals into a winning team and that I am sorry to say is attributable to to UE.

    I would be surprised if any decisions re another change are imminent that said I would not be surprised if the powers make such a change if CL qualification isn’t achieved if such a change is made there is absolutely no doubt that there will be a queue of candidates for the vacancy.

  7. Mikey 8.56, wish I knew, but with our recent ref appointments, and the PGMOL pretty much refusing to use VAR to overturn blatant penalty mistakes, to punish shirt pulling etc, I suspect we are seeing Mike Riley having been given the power to do just as he, and others want, a complete lack of scrutiny and accountability.
    They club should be complaining about getting the same ref 4 times already this season, a recipe for corruption and bias, which , lets face it, is what the PGMOL are about

  8. Mike i would humbly suggest that to say a manager who won 3 Europa Leagues with Sevilla is “not a good coach” is quite frankly balderdash. Especially as he has won far more trophies than many of those who the fans want to replace him have ever won. I am neither Emery in or Emery out; the club will do what it feels is best at the end of the season. However if fans hadn’t driven Wenger out a season early maybe there would have been more time to do due diligence on a successor. Despite the anointing of “Don Raul” over the summer i think the playing squad has a long way to go before it can challenge for titles whoever the manager is. However i fully anticipate seeing some planes and banners at an away game soon because that sort of thing seems to be in vogue.

  9. @ Mike T

    I’m not necessarily disagreeing with what you say but I think there’s a different perspective to be considered here.

    You claim, “UE got the gig mainly on his presentation which committed him to improving the players already at the club yet that plan to a degree seems to have been abandoned.” Whilst one might argue that some first teamers are no better than they always were (I’m ok with that), it’s also possible to argue that some are as good as they’ll ever be and in the case of some e.g. PEA, Lacazette etc., that’s maybe not a problem.

    I’m not terribly familiar with your “improving players” claim, however, but I’m not for one moment suggesting you’re wrong. But as I say, you don’t specify that it was regular first teamers he suggested he would improve. In that case, I give you Smith-Rowe, Saka, Nketiah, Willock, Holding, Chambers, Nelson & Martinelli. Even the dissenters among us would find it hard to argue that they haven’t all improved. In fact, I would suggest that we probably have the finest crop of young players coming through that I’ve witnessed at the club in over 50 years of attending games.

    I think that it’s also reasonable to say that the Acadaemy and these young lads were AW’s succession planning given how little cash he’d had to play with. And as someone who is planning the succession in my organisation for when I retire in about a year, I am acutely aware that my successor will want to do things his/her own way and thus one has to take this into account. However, if one is prepared to accept that the players listed above are AW’s legacy, it’s very difficult to complain about that and just shows that yet again the great man has been under-rated by many.

  10. At the rate we are going, to wait until we know if we have qualified for the Champions League or not is almost suicidal.

    Why would we want to qualify for a tournament that, on current form, we will be embarrassed by the minnows of Europe?

    Are we really going to be happy to see a team built around Guendouzi for the rest of the season?

    The people controlling our club clearly got rid of AW without having a clue as to who they would get instead and landed us with someone who is clearly totally unsuitable and inadequate.

    I see no reason why they will not do the same again.

    AS far as I am concerned, the sooner the better.

  11. Mikey

    Here’s the comment from Gazidis that appeared on Arsenal.com at the press conference following UE s appointment.

    “He came in extraordinarily well-prepared, with a detailed knowledge of Arsenal Football Club. He had an analysis to share with us, not just of his ways of working and of his ways of coaching, and the team of people he works with, but he had an analysis of all of our individual players, their qualities and how he feels he can help them develop individually and collectively – in detail.”

    I don’t doubt that some academy players would indeed have been included in that dossier but the point I was trying to make was that Gazidis was talking about the players at the club at the start of 2018/19 season but from that point in time Arsenal have moved on quite a number of players and indeed signed quite a few. Interestingly of the 14 players who featured Monday the 6 were at the club 9on the day that AW left.

    In terms of AW and succession planning I am talking about who was going to replace him . I don’t dismiss your comment re the academy players who were developing under him but I would tend to term that more as a legacy and to be fair his legacy was far wider than that.

  12. One approach to team management with resultant improvement is the notion that one should concentrate on the process rather than just the result. Get the process right and the result(s) will follow! Developing a particular process or a range of processes that appears to bring desired results do take time. One could argue that this is an approach that Mr Emery is/has adopted. Alternatively one might conclude that if the process or range of processes do not seem to be yielding desired results over a particular time frame then either the process (es) must change or the personnel implementing the process should change within the realistic time frame set. Contrary to local belief, Mr Wenger did not leave Arsenal in a terrible state in my opinion! Most football supporters in the UK would have loved their clubs to have achieved what Mr Wenger had achieved with Arsenal and indeed to have their clubs left in a similar financial and physical state as Arsenal. Mr Wenger introduced a process and culture within the club which I found a joy to behold and which I preferred to the process and culture of Mr Graham. Mr Graham’s process and culture that was introduced was one that, at the time, I thought was also magnificent and brought me great joy, only to be superseded by that introduced by Mr Wenger. I was somewhat disappointed with the corruption issues surrounding Mr Graham.
    Not too sure how I regard the present system that I am observing, both on and off the pitch. I assume that particular targets have been set within a particular time frame, but have such targets merely emphasised results or are the actualities as to what is happening on the pitch being monitored and evaluated by those who have the power to effect change? I paid good money to follow the work Mr Wenger and Mr Graham. I paid bad money to follow the likes of Mr Swindin et al. I am no longer prepared to pay any money to follow Arsenal, as I am somewhat unsure as to the processes and resultant culture that is being built within the club by all concerned. This now also includes the moral and ethical issues underpinning financial ownership and business sponsorship. Hopefully all will become obvious to me and any other like minded supporters in the not too distant future.

  13. @Mamdy now i get it we dont have to blame the referees anymore, what is happening is that when a foul or incidence occurs on the ground the refs are not allowed to look at the TV nope a certain goon sipping on a cup of tea somewhere decides for the refs of what to do. For Christ sake this is coruption of the highest order.its betting at its best money laudering its broad day robbery. Where is the FBI?

  14. @ Mike T

    Thanks for the additional info. Given that Gazidis quote, you make some very fair points which I will certainly reflect upon. It also makes one wonder about the quality of the inetrview panel!

  15. Mikey

    Prior to his appointment at Arsenal I had heard bits and pieces about UE but nothing that suggested to me he would be a natural fit for you.

    In terms of the recruitment process it was never going to be easy to replace AW as much as anything the club was very much in his image.

    In truth that’s one benefit we have in that changing our head coach on a regular basis the organisation of the backroom , the academy , the scouting etc isn’t within the head coach’s remit . When they move on you don’t have to look at the whole club the structure is the constant.

    You see at Man Utd just how difficult it is to get it right and I wonder if Arsenal will be brave and bite the bullet if things don’t work out

  16. I wanted to back Emery, but there are things worrying me. The style of play, the contrast in playing European teams vs British teams, and the handbrake applied most times with the latter.
    But what I really do not get is the way the squad is being handled. Of course I am only an outsider looking in, there may be any number of mitigating factors, but:
    Ozil- he is not a athlete, he doesn’t run marathons, swim the channel, or bench press giant redwood trunks in trainingot see,s, but he does unlock teams like Sheff Utd, Watford, Wolves, Leicester, Everton, Palace, Brighton. And he is under contract and going nowhere. Maybe there are mitigating factors we don’t know about, emery and Ozil don’t seem to rate each other, but I firmly believe Ozils absence from certain games ultimately cost us a top four place last season.
    Ramsey – was one of our best,might not be Emerys fault , in mitigation, an expensive and injury prone player, who knows what happened in contract negotiations, but emery seemed in a hurry to dispose of him, until he realised how vital AR was to the way this team play. Again, I would point to his absences , ultimately, due to injury costing us a place in the CL.
    Xhaka….we know what he does well, superb passing, setting up attacks with his vision, and what he doesn’t do so well…exposed on his own to pacy runners forcing him to the last ditch, not his strength, especially with Riley’s gimps. Our lack of possession and attack over exposes Xhaka and highlights his limitations rather than his strength.
    Mustafi….a decent player, and World Cup winner, but a confidence player. Emery threw him under a bus this summer, why???. Yet one of our best in the air and at set pieces, but like Xhaka, not at his best when exposed to pacy runners. Racking up clean sheets and win bonuses in the cups despite it all.
    There are mitigating factors, we don’t know what goes on behind the scenes, maybe players coming in will really help things, the specially appointed refs ….Atkinson for the fourth time this weekend…often kill us, Emery is , to his credit, introducing young players who have massive potential. Maybe Emery looks to a future not yet clear to many. Maybe he is doing what those above tell him. Perhaps injuries to key players have really set up back from promising times last season. Maybe he does need time. Maybe the guy after Wenger was always onto a loser.
    I really want Emery to succeed, but I suspect change is coming between Jan and June unless things pick up, for better or worse, and chopping and changing managers is often for worse without Chelsea levels of investment.

  17. I sincerely hope that our Gooners will give Emery time to develop his plans at AFC before screaming for his head. Tony has written a lot about how changing managers at Spuds and Chealski didn’t produce success until Poch arrived. Other rotating door clubs have changed managers and eventually been relegated or passed very close. Emery is different than Wenger but is trying to adapt the Arsenal to a new philosophy and approach…..he needs patience and time. Let’s give him that time!

  18. Unai Emery has taken a huge gamble. He has taken Ozil out of the squad as the creative ballplayer who can open a tight EPL defence, and replaced him with players and a style of play that he reckons will do the trick.

    The problem – he is a few yards up a very steep learning curve. That learning curve is called, ‘How to be a success in the EPL.’ If he has also been ordered to build a team without Ozil, or just doesn’t get on with him, or cannot handle him, then he still has not recognised, on this steep learning curve, that EPL teams, who rarely win trophies, are however, still rich enough to buy good defenders, good coaches, train well, and have enough nous and footballing acumen, backed with wholehearted fan support, to decode the style of play he is trying to get Arsenal to play.

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