Arsenal’s noise, Arsenal’s Moyes

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.

Emery fires up Arsenal in demolition derby

Arsenal 4-2 Spurs

What a shot in the arm. I’ve been to many crackling, memorable matches at the Emirates, but there’s not much that’s got close to how yesterday felt. It was breathlessly exciting: absolutely relentless and exhausting. If this is the stamp of Emery, then quite honestly, it’s been worth waiting for. I’m sold.

Not many players grow up near the club they end up playing for these days, which can lead to the accusation they just don’t ‘get’ what a rivalry like this means for the club and fans. As accusations go, it’s always been nonsense, as yesterday proved. It was clear that Emery had wound his team up into a frenzy for his first north London derby, and throughout, they didn’t let up.

We started like a train, and weren’t derailed when two preventable goals turned the tables on us. It’s funny, because while Aubameyang’s equaliser was an obvious turning point as the game swung back into our favour, I actually think the sense of injustice fuelled by the ‘shhh’ and the penalty was the thing that made this game so fierce. We felt slighted, and with that in our mind, helped by two judicious substitutions, we completely blew them away in the second half.

Au-boom-eyang

Aubameyang’s second was the best technical goal by some distance. A beautiful pass from Bellerin, the gentlest of lay-offs from Ramsey, then a first-time, curving rip-snorter of a strike that left their keeper rooted to his spot. Pandemonium on the terraces. An inch-perfect precision strike. With ten goals, he’s the top scorer in the league, and he doesn’t always play in his best position. Not bad…

Lacazette’s was especially fun for dribbling in, but then came my favourite, as man of the match and all-round pocket dynamo Lucas Torreira turned his man and slotted it home. When a football match gives you this kind of emotional high, it’s genuinely like a drug. Just wonderful. Feed me more.

Talking of Torreira, he’s so obviously the blueprint for what Emery is trying to achieve. Tenacious, energetic and technically excellent, he’s pretty much the first man on the teamsheet now. If you can’t play like he plays, which is how Emery wants his team to play, do you have a future at Arsenal? This is not a coded slight to Ozil or indeed anyone else, because everyone is different, but it’s just reality. Some players suit some systems and can adapt, others can’t. I suspect January and next summer will be very, very busy.

You do run, Aaron

Bring in the conciliation teams. Get everyone together in a room with beer. Invite the unions. Provide cake. There’s got to be a way to keep Aaron Ramsey, because yesterday’s performance showed what he gives, and to me, he’s got the energy and guile for this system. Of course he’s a bit injury-prone, but would you want to see him at City, or United, because it’s not impossible and it seems a bit mad to me.

Smoke and standing

I know there are good health and safety reasons for flares not being allowed, just as there are for not standing in seated areas, but both things added to the atmosphere yesterday, which was the best by some distance for some years. It was everything a football atmosphere should be. Nobody sat down for a second at our end, so for me, the sooner we stop pretending that this isn’t happening, and find a solution to it, the better. Sometimes, people want just to stand.

What a great game. Onto Wednesday, though with no Xhaka. Now I never thought that would bother me, but…

 

All change at Emerick’s Stadium

It’s hard to remember a transfer window like it. Two players in, five out, one superstar signed, one sold, another nailed down to a new contract – leaving us with an attacking line-up that has been comprehensively rejigged in a footballing blink of the eye.

I know the goals have dried up this season, but we’ve essentially sold all our goalscorers from last season, bar Ozil, in the hope that their replacements – Lacazette, Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan – will spark a change in fortune.

Is it risky? Not so much: we’re bog average for the most part, languishing as we are in sixth, and staleness is all around. Something needs to change, and that won’t happen by tweaking round the edges. Whoever’s pulling the levers of power behind the scenes – and it’s hard to argue now that it’s uniquely Wenger – clearly feels that a harsh wind needs to blow through the club.

Given our astonishing inconsistency – veering from the disciplined (cup semis) to the lazy, disinterested and disjointed (Bournemouth, Swansea – take your pick) – something fundamentally wrong permeates this team and has done for too long.

So starting with the attack, it’s being changed. And I do suspect this is the start – with the rest of the work kicking off in the summer, possibly under a new manager. If you look at it that way, it’s more exciting than seeing it as a month of desperate rearguard action to make up for Alexis wanting out.

Where does this leave Wenger? ‘Gone in the summer’ wouldn’t be an extreme position to take, though with this club being this club, and with Wenger being Wenger, you wouldn’t want to dip into your pockets to back up a claim like that.

The biggest moves of the day for us are of course Aubameyang in, Giroud out and – this blindsided me – Ozil on a new deal.

WOTCHA

Aubameyang is our most expensive signing ever at £56m, who joins us with a phenomenal scoring record. Assuming we can feed him chances – a wild assumption right now – he should throw the cat among our attacking pigeons. Good day to you, Sir!

COR BLIMEY

Mesut Ozil – OK, he’s here already but this is exciting and he’s definitely LANS. I didn’t see this one coming at all, but it just goes to show you what blowing your salary ceiling out the water can do – and what signing some other big players can do to perceptions. I’m really pleased by this. Yes, at times in this side he can feel like an icing-on-the-cake player, but when he purrs he does things nobody else in this side can. And let’s all drool, if we will, at the prospect of him feeding our brand new frontline.

SEEYA THOUGH

Olivier Giroud – I was hoping we’d at least get a lap of honour at the end of the season for this goodbye, to be honest, but the gods of transfers decreed him to be the key to unlock the panoply of moves that led to Aubameyang deal. A fine servant, underrated in many respects, with excellent technical ability and a strong line in beards. I wish he hadn’t gone to Chelsea but there you have it. He slowed our game down (even more!) and had clearly fallen out of favour, but he always had a goal in him. Good luck, Oli.

Oh, and Mathieu DebuchyYou still here, blood? Should have left ages ago and had a rotten Arsenal career thanks to circumstances beyond his control. He’s gone to St Etienne, who have gone a bit downhill since Only Love Can Break Your Heart.

We’ve veered from committed to disinterested this season and back again with consistent inconsistency, and we’ve been boring to watch far too often. I’m not sure I really care where this January revolution has come from. All I know is that something needed to change – and changing, it appears to be.

Bring it on.