You are awful, Mr Emery
Watching Arsenal’s most recent debacle against Southampton, I was reminded of Dick Emery character’s catchphrase: ‘You are awful, but I like you.’
Other characters came to mind: Count Dracula sucking the remaining blood out of these already lifeless but talented players. No wonder the performance was anemic. It was worse than trying to watch Captain Ahab trying to catch Moby Dick against Leicester before the international break. It was truly insipid and hopeless, although by some miracle Arsenal drew. Emery seems to have lost the dressing room, judging by these dispirited displays.
The truth is while there is something truly likeable about Emery, his team is performing awfully and that can’t be ignored for much longer.
Fans don’t need reminding that Spurs have recruited arguably the best manager in the world in Jose Mourinho, while Arsenal decided to be patient with a manager who, for all his qualities and experience, can only get his team to play in fits and starts.
Starting with three at the back was a disaster. I could see why he did as, against Leicester, there was a slight improvement defensively. However, Southampton began on the front foot pressing the dithering Arsenal team, who couldn’t find the right angles for a pass, from kick off.
As I’ve mentioned many times, playing from the back doesn’t suit Arsenal at all. That is strange given Leno is reputedly (although I’m not always sure I agree) good with his feet and David Luiz can hit a decent long pass. Usually, what happens is Arsenal gift the ball to the opposition in their own third, which is a cardinal sin. As usual, the Gunners were guilty of this against Southampton, who were made to look like potential champions.
Part of the problem appears to be motivation. When teams increase their work rate, their chances of success go up alongside. Emery’s team look tired and that needs to change.
Although ex-Arsenal lady Karen Carney calls Ozil’s perceived laziness ‘game intelligence’, I call it lack of motivation. I don’t want to pick on Ozil, as Arsenal also have others who are almost as guilty of not tracking back. Even Luiz seemed to be jogging back rather than sprinting when Southampton scored their first. I like Luiz, but I was shocked by his lack of desire to get behind the ball.
Another thing that shocked me was now that Arsenal were a goal down, Ozil took a short corner. The ball ended up at the halfway line, before the opposition won it back. I really can’t understand this. Do Arsenal really want to squander opportunities to get the ball in the box? Ozil’s delivery is pretty good, so why take a short corner? It doesn’t make sense and I very rarely see goals materialise from this tactic.
In fact, there are more questions than answers generated by this struggling team.
The burning question is why were the goal celebrations so low key? It was as if Lacazette had scored against his old club, the way he reacted. The official perspective is a draw is not enough and that’s undeniable, but there was a shocking lack of passion in this display.
It got me thinking about which players have possibly improved during Emery’s reign. With the exceptions of Guendouzi, Willock and Martinelli, and maybe a couple of others, most of the squad have gone backwards. Whether that’s because of communication, tactics or motivation is hard to determine. It’s probably a combination of all three.
Whatever the reason, something must be done to arrest the slump. The Arsenal hierarchy are not known for their Levy-like knee-jerk reactions. However, Spurs have stolen a march on Arsenal by appointing one of the most successful managers of all time.
Everyone knows that Mourinho has a good relationship with Ozil, Arsenal’s best paid player. As Emery has failed to get the best out of the most expensive asset, surely it makes sense to bring someone in who can do just that.
Now it seems Pochettino could be the man for the hotseat. Perhaps he could improve the work rate of team and make them more organised. The only reservation I have about him is his lack of silverware.
Now all Arsenal fans can do is hope the next manager comes in soon enough to rescue this season and is more suited to the job, as something has gone dramatically wrong with Emery in charge.