The wheels have well and truly come off the famous cannon and I think Arsenal fans could lay the blame on the doorstep of one of Britain’s most infamous muck-raking publications: The Sun.
Many people questioned the timing of the ‘Hippy Crack’ story, which featured photographs of the first-team squad in various states of intoxication. When the story was released, Arsenal had just drawn at Old Trafford following a comprehensive drubbing of Spurs. Arsenal looked to be, at the very least, a top-four side once again.
Fans questioned the timing of the revelations, as the photographs were taken in August, four months before they were published. The publication of them coincided with an impressive unbeaten run that demonstrated the new unity at the Emirates Stadium.
However, The Sun’s article sewed the seeds of disharmony so successfully that Arsenal have won just two games since the story went to press. Those victories were far from convincing, despite being against lowly opponents: Huddersfield and the Carrier Bags (as I like to call them).
In other words, Arsenal have not performed well since the story. Not only that, but the so-called star player, Ozil, has hit new career lows.
Emery, at least, unlike his predecessor, does not seem ready to indulge the sulky German playmaker, who was promptly left out of the line-up for ‘tactical reasons’.
Maybe the Ozil problem would have happened even if The Sun had decided not to release the story, but you have to say that matters have now come to head: the elephant in the room is now trumping loudly and it’s not in triumph.
Now it’s going to be huge test of Emery’s managerial skill to see if he can use the story to get the players energised again. Perhaps Emery can take a leaf out of George Graham’s book. In times of bad publicity, the canny Scot would make the players think they were hard done by. Subsequently, they’d come out fighting.
I can’t help suspecting that Emery has castigated the first-team for their antics on that night in August and that now the relationship between management and players isn’t as strong as it was.
Nevertheless, aside from a couple of selection errors of late, Emery seems to be a coach capable of bringing glory back to Arsenal. As long as he can learn from the recent defeats (for example, it’s not always the best policy to play the ball back to the keeper, who is usually in the worst position on the field to make a difference in an attacking sense), you’d have to think that the Spanish boss can turn things around. We’ll soon see this weekend, when Arsenal take on Burnley if lessons have been learned or ignored.