On Two Fronts? Does Emery have the squad? Napoli Preview.
Let me cut to the chase. I don’t think he has the squad to do so, EVEN though ALL we are fighting for is a return (promotion?) back to Champions League Football. Under Arsene Wenger, such “ambitions” were ridiculed, but as a good Buddhist (like Wenger, maybe?…) might say, “Be Here, Now.” Unfortunately, according to a recent interview given by the former manager, our new guy, Unai Emery hasn’t even called him. To me, that’s a shame. Wenger, after all, signed a two year contract in 2017, his viewpoints might help inform the new guy or at least help the club through this big season of transition.
But, maybe just as we have to take the games one at a time, Arsenal can only have one manager at a time and Emery has his own ideas–not to mention his own contract! And, he HAS given us not one but TWO shots at promotion back to the top tier of European competition.
Still, I wonder: Could the best outcome (for the new regime, or at least Emery on his own two year contract) be competing deep into the Spring (just as we are…) but just missing out?
A corollary set of questions might be: Are Arsenal ready for Champions League Football? Are we actually a “top” team, able to legitimately compete for the “top” trophies? Or are we (merely) a top half (of the Premier League Table) club, currently only able to compete for the “not a trophy” (qualification for CL football) that somehow lies between the two “league” titles (PL and CL) and the lesser (domestic) cups? Sure, you can name the cups “leagues” but Europa was just a gal who slept with Zeus, and/or the smallest of the moons orbiting Jupiter. (By the same logic, why don’t we call them the Football Association League or the Filipino Energy Drink League?…)
Luckily, football fans live in the moment, meaning that those neat exits (at home vs. two of our traditional rivals) in those (pesky) domestic cups happened way back in the haze of the English winter. Frankly, I think we were fortunate to falter in those matches and Emery did good work rotating his squad enough so that we could have an excuse (or three) as we took the off-ramp out of those competitions. Wise work. Better yet, we avenged those defeats with a win vs. Manchester United and a draw (that maybe felt almost like a win) in the National Stadium vs Totts. And, that was in actual league play, so, it’s reasonable to feel that we’re in the mix with those (other top?) teams in (at least one of) the race(s) for CL positions…
Or are we?
Losing to a scrambled goal from a Delap (Pulis)-esque throw at Everton rather derailed our momentum and maybe better shows where we really stand.
Like the early season games, I found this most recent one just about unwatchable. Needing a goal, I have to ask, does this Arsenal team have a plan for getting them? In my view, we simply are no longer an attacking team. If we cannot lure opponents forward and play on the break I don’t see a plan B. Where is the build-up work? (At best, it’s passing it back to Bernd Leno, who frankly, kept the game tight when Everton should have put us away) and then maybe between the CBs and DMs for a bit before somebody tries a punt forward. At least, compared to games in the early part of the season, there’s a bit more urgency, so a bit less of this meaningless possession.
Call me an Arsen-achronist (if you must..) but I miss trying to push the possession forward (and the opponent back) combined with a bit of movement and creativity. I know (I know…), a misplaced touch while executing such a plan is what leads to trouble the other way. As such, I’ve almost learned to feel excitement when we give the ball back to the opponent, hoping that they will show some of that “good football” but then maybe lose discipline as they stretch themselves into an attacking shape. Then, if they make a mistake (maybe) we can capitalize. A fast counter-attack, after all, if it’s your team doing it, (i.e., not chasing back) is about as good as it gets.
That’s about as positive as I can spin it. More negatively, this Emery-ball feels all too close to what the Moo-dern game has become. If Emery can’t get the job done (and we don’t give Arsene an extension…) maybe the next step is Jose and his special self. The headline jumpers had Mourinho inked in for a 2nd stint at Real Madrid, so why not at our club? (Zidane beat him to it, however, having left on MUCH better terms.) What I think I might really enjoy is having Jose Mooing alongside AW in the commentary booth. If football is ready for video replay, why not? Instead (I’m Sarri to say…), we’re most likely to see him back at Chelsea. (Personally, I’d take twenty Artetas and ten Henrys and even a pair of Ole Gunners at my club before any sort of special one…) Let’s hope not and let’s hope that Arsenal have the “values” that Wenger always talked about. Money-wise, he’s probably too special, anyway. Kinda like Ramsey…or Ozil or Mkhi or some of the younger Gunners (Iwobi, Bellerin) who might seek greener pastures, you know where the teams win and where the creative, attacking football is still prized. CL football is one thing, but so too is the way you play once you’re there, right?
Or maybe that’s for the neutrals (which perhaps I have become). Maybe at this level it’s a results game, so, let’s get one vs Napoli. And let’s have a bit of a preview.
Sorry, I got nothing. I can predict an 11 (Cech, Lichtsteiner, Sokratis, Monreal, AMN, Torriera, Ramsey, Kolasinac, Ozil, Iwobi, Aubameyang) and suggest that we need to play hard (to keep that clean sheet) and worry about certain players and the opposing manager (little Insigne, big Carlo…), but, overall, we know that we don’t have too much in the way of flexibility as we try to compete (with a tiny bit of rotation) on the two fronts. Personnel is limited, and, I fear, so too are our ideas.
The only thing that remains flexible is MY attitude. Back to the CL could be fun but we are in no position, IN MY OPINION, to truly compete for that trophy, nor against the (two) top teams in our league. IF I were a dreamer I’d say, hey, let’s win out and finish third in the PL AND hoist that Europa League trophy…and then let’s replace Ramsey with a former Spur or three (Modric, Bale, Eriksen, Dele… Hell, I’d even take Dier or Dembele or Son, etc., etc…) this summer. Now THAT would be inspiring…
Back here in the real world, however, I guess we should keep trying in both comps until one or the other is gone and then try and ride the same 11 (or maybe 14 or 15) all the way to the barn.
That’s just one Glummer’s, er, Gunner’s, er, fella’s, opinion. What say you, my (more positive) people? Tell me about this match and/or about the bigger picture at our football club.
Go on then…