Hey folks, welcome to the last Interlull of 2019. I don’t know if it’s well timed or not. From a footballing perspective, having played four and won none of our Premier League games since the last one, you might suggest it’s a good thing that we have time to take stock, step back a little, and assess our performance levels. Sometimes it’s handy to have that break because you can refocus minds when you get back.
On the other hand, we have a two week void which will continue to be filled by debate and discussion about how poor our form is, the manager’s performance and future, and where the season goes from here.
What’s clear is that right now the club don’t seem in any way minded to make a change. That was apparent in the back channel briefing discussed in yesterday’s blog, the tone of which was so badly misjudged that yesterday afternoon there was a brief statement released addressing that – as well as the team’s troubles right now.
The club had a staff get together yesterday, pre-planned by the way and not as a reaction to our latest bad result, and from that we got this:
“We are as disappointed as everyone else with both our results and performances at this stage of the season. We share the frustration with our fans, Unai, players and all our staff as they are not at the level we want or expect.
“Things need to improve to meet our objectives for the season, and we firmly believe Unai is the right man for the job, together with the backroom team we have in place. We are all working intensively behind the scenes to turn things around and are confident we will.
“We never take our fantastic support for granted. We hope we can all stick together and get behind the team in this challenging period, as together we are stronger.”
That there’s acknowledgement of how poor things are on the pitch is a step forward at least, and while initially the backing of Emery disappointed me, the reality is there’s little else they can say in a statement like this.
“We’ve told Unai, improve or else!” isn’t exactly something they can come out with, and the more I dwelt on it, the more and more it sounds like the ‘dreaded vote of confidence’ that comes before a manager’s departure.
For record, and I guess I shouldn’t have to say this, but I take no pleasure whatsoever in the fact that we’re in this position, or that our head coach is under-performing this way. His failure is Arsenal’s failure, and I want my team to succeed and be successful. I also think that lost in the mire of all this hand-wringing over Emery is the genuine goodwill that was present when he took over. People wanted it to work, they wanted him to fix the things that needed to be fixed, and to make improvements elsewhere.
Yet as I said on the Arsecast Extra yesterday, fans and supporters are not cheerleaders. It’s not incumbent on us to ignore things which aren’t good, to wave our pom-poms and jump around regardless of what’s happening. This idea that there should be unconditional acceptance to whatever we’re served up on the pitch or off the pitch by the club is completely wrong in my opinion.
I think Tim from @7amkickoff put it really well in a piece he wrote yesterday. While recognising the sporting elements which bring us together as fans and friends, there’s another side to all this:
Arsenal are also a multinational company owned for the private profit of a billionaire. I can’t turn a blind eye to everything they do or don’t do and endlessly support them. That doesn’t make me a fan, that makes me a lackey.
It’s not inherently wrong to question things a football club does, or says, or leaks via back channels. Right now, Arsenal are going through a very difficult time on the pitch, and they’re not helping themselves off it either. I don’t think the communication in recent days has been clever at all, the disdain that came across in that David Ornstein piece sparked a backlash which required a response from them. Hence the talk of ‘our fantastic support’ in that statement which was rushed out yesterday.
I also can’t think of a club which has had so many issues with individual players as we have over the last 18 months or so. Within weeks of last season starting Emery and Ozil had fallen out; Ramsey was left out of the team for ages for no good reason then the club withdrew their contract offer to him; Ozil and Ramsey were brought back in because we were better with them in the team; we have to wonder why a senior player like Laurent Koscielny was so keen to leave this summer, and felt he could act the way he did; Ozil being left out again this season with Emery vehement it was a club strategy only to cast that aside when he needed him; the Xhaka situation which was, as I’ve written before, in no small part created by the head coach’s delay in dealing with the captaincy situation; and the fallout from that has been poor from all sides, the club talking about mental health issues which were absolutely not a factor and which annoyed the player, and Xhaka himself addressing it more than once without ever really talking about his reaction which made the situation worse.
Now Aubameyang is unhappy because of another leaked article which basically said he’s not allowed to be friends with whoever he wants to be friends with, leading to a sad/angry Instagram post, and within a week of appointing him captain we’ve managed to piss him off as well. That’s impressive work chaps, well done. We are a bit of a soap opera really, and it’s kind of depressing.
When you look at where we are now, and compare it to the start of the season when – after what we felt was a solid, verging on impressive summer of recruitment – there was a genuine groundswell of hope and optimism, the difference is incredible. This is not a happy ship right now, and I don’t think it’s wrong to express concern over that because all any of us want is for it to be better and for Arsenal to be better.
I haven’t even delved into the on-pitch stuff in any great detail, but given it’s an Interlull, we’ve got plenty of time this week to do that. ‘What joy!’, I hear you say, but it is what it is, and we might as well get into it. That can wait until tomorrow though.
For now, I’ll leave you with the brand new Arsecast Extra, and I’d just like to thank everyone for their feedback on the episode. We’re hugely grateful to you for listening and your comments are always welcome. We’ll have news throughout the day on Arseblog News, and all the links for the podcast are below. Happy listening!