Into the international break we stumble, with plenty to ponder.
When a football club’s a happy ship the dressing room leaks dry up and ambiguous words matter less. But Arsenal’s not an especially happy ship: it looks seaworthy from the outside but it’s not running at full steam and the captain’s up in the crow’s nest frantically scanning the horizon.
We’ve had the board cack-handedly standing behind their man, then we subsequently had an acknowledgement that things need to improve. We’ve got unhappy players and the fans are increasingly apathetic.
Some of this could have been avoided with better management, but most of it, I suspect, would have ended up being water under a bridge had results and performances been going our way. They’re the thing that keeps a club happy, and we’ve not got either right now. Everything is magnified.
If we work on the assumption that Emery is – for now at least – going nowhere, the next thing is to wonder how to get a song out of the choir (yes, I got bored of the nautical analogy and now I’ve gone to church).
Confidence is down and nothing Emery’s tried in the league has made his side anything other than timid and plodding. When was the last benchmark performance in the league – Utd at home in March? This malaise has been going too long for it to be a blip or a dose of dented confidence.
For me, I’d rather this side went down all guns blazing than gazing at its shoes trying to ‘hold their own’. Emery doesn’t set his sides up to attack enough – he seems at his heart to be too cautious. He seems – fairly or not – out of his depth and it’s hard to escape the feeling that he’s the post-legacy-manager fall guy.
We know we can’t defend: Emery’s tried all the combinations known to man short of dusting off Dixon, Winterburn, Keown and Adams and injecting them with the elixir of youth. He hasn’t improved that side of our game and we can only assume that, by now, he isn’t able to. But look at what we have up front. We have two of Europe’s best strikers in Aubameyang and Lacazette, we have a £72m Pepe who’s improving and creating (when not being dropped), and we’ve got a somewhat reinvigorated Ozil returning to the fold. We have two attacking full-backs now available. If there’s one area of our game we should be able to improve, it’s the attacking third.
Emery needs to be more bold. He needs to play to our strengths and throw caution to the wind. Despite the words of the board, he must know his job is precarious, so now’s the time to rip up the Emery manual and go for it.
We have the perfect opportunity to do this with our next features – Southampton at home followed by Norwich away. I can see us winning both narrowly, but why not use them as a springboard to try something more adventurous? To play at a higher tempo, and more directly? It’s not as if top four is particularly realistic anymore, so what’s holding him back?
Narrow wins are wins, of course, and god knows we need some of those. But scraping a 2-1 won’t tell us anything we don’t already know or make some of the ‘noise’ go away. Going at it with both barrels – even if it goes a bit wrong – would indicate a change of tack and it could just drag us out of our lethargy.
Just… go for it.