Europa League or bust for Arsenal??? by Mike
What do you think they’re smoking over there at Emirates? That question asked by Liverpool’s Owner John Henry in 2013 over the Luis Suarez fiasco is still very relevant for the current situation at the Emirates.
With the feeling of doom and gloom after a terrible run of results, it’s easy to forget that just over a month ago there was a feeling of optimism with the new regime and what it could hold for the future, we had a good run of games to end the season compared to our rivals, but as is the general consensus Arsenal bottled it during the business end of the season.
This isn’t a new thing, it’s been the general feeling for a long time that Arsenal have lacked the mental strength to compete during the tougher times. The fans can blame individual players all they want but when you see previous players who were labelled weak at Arsenal winning trophies elsewhere it makes you realise the issue is in the dressing room at the Emirates.
I don’t want to dwell on Arsene Wenger too much because he is a club legend but this attitude shift is mainly his fault, the club for far too long placed a big emphasis on playing great football and it’s impossible to win every game playing it the beautiful way you need grit and determination to carry you through the tough parts in the season, this is more apparent in the modern game which is more demanding and requires a squad that can navigate the rigours of the Premier League which is considered the most physical league. Whilst others were planning and doing things for their future Arsenal were waiting for Financial Fair Play and relying on the beliefs of Arsene Wenger this has made Unai Emery’s job much harder as we are way off others and don’t want to spend money to change this. He has inherited a squad which lacks character and tends to go missing when the going gets tough.
The perfect example of this is our away form, we have missed out on the top 4 due to our inability to compete on the road not just in this bad period but the season as a whole. Away games in the main require a different approach you will typically play more cautiously and we just haven’t displayed the ability to compete on the road. Who are the leaders of this group? Who can we rely on to dig deep in these games?
The future doesn’t look any better with Ramsey, Cech and Welbeck departing it feels as if the club is losing a lot of character which it is already lacking massively. Cech is retiring so there isn’t much that can be done in that case, but Danny Welbeck is a versatile squad player with a good mentality. Why are we letting him go if we have a low transfer budget to work with already. In the case of Aaron Ramsey it just seems that Emery found out far too late his value to this team which is strange as you heard he was one of the players he was meant to be building his team around, Ramsey could’ve easily had the same impact David Silva, Rakitić or Banega had with Emery in the no 10 position, Both Welbeck and Ramsey have had questionable injury records but I think money is the main focus of these decisions which makes no sense because money will need to be spent to replace them.
Unai Emery has to take a lot the blame for this end of season collapse, he has prioritised winning the Europa League over the top 4 which is risky, this was apparent in his selection against Palace where he blatantly underestimated their quality and played Guendouzi and Elneny in the middle which we had already seen against Everton wasn’t up to scratch. He has a tampered with formations in recent weeks and this isn’t the time to be using untested systems. He has been too defensive against counter attacking teams and too open away from home. The squad lacks the necessary quality and without investment we could have anyone managing this team it will be hard to do much better. This could all mean nothing if we win the Europa League but that is a big if. A second leg against Valencia mustn’t be taken lightly, especially with our players looking dejected after the Brighton result, and then the potential of meeting Frankfurt or Chelsea in the final will also be a tricky one off game.
Has Emery put all his eggs in the wrong basket?