The green shoots of recovery at The Emirates appear to have been nipped in the bud after Arsenal’s recent poor results.
A 3-2 defeat at St Mary’s on 16th December ended a 22 match unbeaten run, engineered by Unai Emery, which had brought so much optimism to the red half of North London. A subsequent month of sloppy performances and poor results has left fans with the same old questions about the weaknesses of their team, as just seven points have been squeezed from their last five games.
During the social media meltdown which followed a first away defeat to West Ham since 2006, last weekend, one of the things that was pointed out by furious Gunners supporters, was that the club is only two points better off at this stage than they were last season under Arsene Wenger.
While it doesn’t take much for some fans to lose the plot, the grim reality for Arsenal is, that their club needs a lot of work. Any judgement of Emery cannot be passed on a two point advantage or 22 match unbeaten run in autumn. Patience will be vital if Emery is to be given a fair hearing. Despite their recent wobble, they still have a good coach at the helm, who can deliver them back to the kind of success they truly need.
In football, any manager, at any level, will know they are only ever a few bad results away from the a stinging public exit.
Emery, who has experience in the madhouse that is PSG, will know all too well that results will be crucial to his future. His team’s recent downturn will be a headache for sure, but he would have been under no illusions as to the amount of work he was taking on at Arsenal, when he agreed to fill the void left by Wenger last summer.
The cracks that were well and truly papered over, by the club’s impressive 22 match unbeaten run earlier in the campaign, are now painfully exposed once again. A clear lack of leadership, quality and depth at the back, are always going to hurt the club. Compounded with the ongoing uncertainty around his biggest name and highest paid player Mesut Ozil; the 47-year-old really does have a lot of things to fix at the Emirates if he is to restore them to anything like their former glory.
Emery’s experience and impressive CV should provide Arsenal’s beleaguered fan base with a degree of comfort, despite the painful transition period that they are confronted with. At Sevilla and particularly at Valencia, Emery had considerably modest budgets to work with. With Los Che, there was almost no money as the club battled financial difficulty and was forced to sell star players such as David Silva, Juan Mata and David Villa.
Despite being hamstrung and outspent by his domestic rivals, he was able to keep his side’s competitive, whilst also getting the most out of the playing staff at his disposal. With influential Director of Football, Monchi at Sevilla, Emery also had the capacity to get the most out of the conveyor belt of talent flowing into the Ramon Pizjuan Stadium. The likes of Steven Nzonzi, Kevin Gameiro and Ever Banega all blossomed under Emery’s obsessive and refined techniques, as the club won thee consecutive Europa Leagues and became a head-turning continental success story.
Emery is no stranger then to huge rebuilds and deflated spending power. As well he should be; the task facing Arsenal is huge. There are real problems and issues to address, but even with the brevity of his time so far in North London, you can see that progress is being made.
While some may point to the the stats and points per game argument to dismiss Emery’s work thus far, only the most stubborn would argue that there has not been a discernible shift in style and mentality at the club this season. In his sides victory over Spurs and hard fought points against Manchester United and Liverpool, there were real glimpses of a new, denser Arsenal, pressing hard and catching their opponents out with real tempo and hunger.
Yes, some of this good work was undone by glaring defensive woes at Anfield and recently away at West Ham, but it is still very much a work in progress. The fans may have no choice but to bare this in mind as Emery makes the initial smalls steps now, that should lead to huge strides in the future. The are some real positives despite the old frustrations. The likes of Alex Iwobi and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have really come on, while at £26.4 million, Lucas Torreira looks a real bargain and well suited to the Premier League.
They are still competing on two fronts for trophies, and they are nowhere near out of the running for a top four spot. The reality check has been brutal for Emery and Arsenal, and there will be more to come, but they are headed down a good path, with a good manager, some patience will be critical if they are to see it through.