By Tony Attwood
At the start of his second season Wenger bought Overmars. Emery at the same moment in his Arsenal career bought Pepe.
By the end of the season people were nodding very knowingly about Overmars who by the last game had got 12 valuable goals.
But here’s the thing: Overmars was a fixture in the 1997/8 side from the start, yet he did not score his first goal until the eighth game. By 6 December he had still only scored three. And yet he ended up as our second highest scorer.
Pepe saved us last night and we saw perhaps for the first time why he cost so much money. And we are reminded that quite often top players take a while to get going. Think of Bergkamp in his first season. Or Henry in his first 20 or so games, looking a lost soul playing on the wing when he should have been in the middle (or so we said) and not scoring.
So maybe, just maybe, we should stop judging Emery by a set of mythical standards, and give him a spot more time as the club chose to do with Mr Wenger and Mr Wenger chose to do with Overmars.
Were people making as much fuss about Overmars not scoring as they were with Pepe before last night? No, they were not. But that doesn’t stop people going crazy now. And that is the prime problem. The media and their blogging followers smell blood and sniff easy stories, so the knives are out.
Talksport this week came up with the idea of comparing the last 47 games overseen by Arsene Wenger and the first 47 by Unai Emery – that is the games up to last night’s outing.
It is a clever thing to do, and I am putting those results below, but I wondered if there was not a third column that should be added for comparison: the first 47 games of Arsene Wenger.
Mr Wenger came to power on 1 October 1996 and my figures follow from that date which gives us 36 games in 1996/7 and then obviously 11 in 1997/8.
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In 1996/7 Wenger got 16 wins, 12 draws and 8 defeats.
Moving on to 1997/8 up to and including the game against PAOK Salonika we had five wins and four draws plus two defeats. A total of 21 wins, 16 draws and 10 defeats.
So let’s do the comparing. Best total in each category is in red and the second best in blue, with the Wenger last 47 and Emery first 47 coming from Talksport.
Wenger’s first 47 games
- Wins – 21
- Goal scored – 79
- Goals conceded – 40
- Clean sheets – 15
Wenger’s last 47 games
- Wins – 26
- Goals scored – 90
- Goals conceded – 59
- Clean sheets – 17
Emery’s first 47 games
- Wins – 25
- Goals scored – 86
- Goals conceded – 63
- Clean sheets – 10
The most wins in these 47 matches came in Wenger’s last 47 games. He was one ahead of Emery’s first 47 games. So if Wenger was not good enough at the end, clearly Emery isn’t good enough at the start.
The most goals scored came in Wenger’s last 47 games with 90. Emery is four behind with 86.
The fewest goals conceded was 40 in Wenger’s first 47 games – and you will remember that defence of Dixon, Winterburn, Keown, Bould and Adams. Everyone told him not to touch the defence, and apart from adding Vieira in defensive midfield, he by and large stuck with that.
The most goals conceded was Emery in his first 47. He has conceded four more than Wenger in his last 47 matches in charge.
Emery is however the best with clean sheets. Better than the 15 with Wenger at the start and better than the 17 with Wenger at the end.
So comparing these three eras – the start for Wenger, the end for Wenger and the start for Emery we find that in two areas (wins and goals scored) Wenger at the very end was at his best. The best defence was Wenger at the start. Emery comes out top in one area – the most clean sheets.
Which means by and large that Emery at the start has done better than Wenger at the start but is doing worse than Wenger’s at the end.
And what does this tell us?
Basically that Wenger’s great achievements took a while to get going. We won the double in Wenger’s second season. And indeed after nine games in the 1997/8 season we were top of the league by one point
Forget the gap with Liverpool at the top – we can do nothing about that except in the two matches we play against them. But simply this season Arsenal are four points lower because Mr Wenger managed to get draws instead of defeats. That is the difference between the two managers at this stage. And who knows, now with the man who scored two last night, we can make up that difference.
Interestingly in Wenger’s opening nine of this season we scored 22 goals – more than the highly praised Liverpool this season. And equally interesting by this stage in that double winning season we had conceded just two goals fewer than this season suggesting our defence is not that bad.
Now maybe that is a key statistic. Everyone is screaming about how awful our defence is but in Mr Wenger’s second season – the one in which we won the double – at this stage we had conceded ten. And that with the famous back four plus one. This season we have conceded 12 and we are being told that the whole defence is a shambles.
Added to which we have not been playing our proper defence yet in league games – by which I mean the three injured players whom most of us expect to be the regulars from here on. And maybe we were right in that regard, as they were not on top form last night. They do need some games together.
So if we are going to get rid of Emery is it because he has a defence which is two goals worse than Wenger’s across nine games?
I suspect it is very likely that Mr Emery will leave at the end of the season when his contract is up, not because he is pushed, but because he knows the media and the Arsenal supporters are just impossible to deal with.
Emery’s team has won more games and scored more goals than Wenger’s did in the first 47, as Wenger headed for the double. But that is simply not good enough now because nothing is ever good enough at Arsenal any more.
And what lies behind all this negativity about Emery? An utter, total and continuous desire to knock Arsenal in order to destabilise the club, undertaken in the knowledge that as the media lead the charge, so the bloggers and their coat-tail hangers-on will do the same.
The media did everything they could to get Wenger sacked in his first couple of months in the club, and continued to knock him thereafter until he left. Now they are doing the same with Emery.
The enemy is indeed not at the gates and knocking them down, but inside the gates destroying the club from within, and the enemy will continue to run the club until supporters wake up to the way they are being manipulated. This is not the time to demand Emery leaves, but rather the time to recognise the game the media and bloggers are playing with out club.
I don’t know if Emery is a good manager or not, but I remember how badly Ferguson struggled at first at Man U, and how Wenger did with Arsenal at the start.