Where the blame lies for Arsenal’s calamitous capitulation against Watford on Sunday is unclear but, perhaps for the first time in his reign, Unai Emery is under real pressure.
With a 2-0 lead against the league’s bottom side and 45 minutes played, Emery could have been forgiven for thinking his afternoon had gone largely to plan at a subdued Vicarage Road.
Fast forward just 45 minutes, however, and all that had been worked on and planned for was in tatters, and Arsenal were left grateful to emerge with a point from a 2-2 draw in which they were mauled.
There is no expletive-free way to talk about Arsenal’s second-half effort other than to say it was up there with some of the worst performances we have seen from this team in Emery’s time as boss, and perhaps beyond that.
It was shambolic from top to bottom. They couldn’t pass, they couldn’t hold the ball, they couldn’t think straight – everything about their work in the second half smacked of regression.
While we could point the finger at players who Emery inherited last season, the last remnants of an Arsene Wenger-era squad stubbornly refusing to leave or disappear, that defence is fast disappearing.
Many of these players are Unai’s boys and they have been under his tutelage for the last 12-15 months. He has moulded the way they play, they way they behave, the systems they work with and, on Sunday, it all unravelled in lamentable fashion.
Upon his appointment, Emery spoke to length about the need to tighten up defensively as a team but his actions have fallen far short of his intentions in that regard.
If anything, this Arsenal team are more error prone than any Wenger presided over, with errors by Sokratis and David Luiz against Watford adding to the catalogue of gaffes we have already seen just five games into the season.
And while smart recruitment in the summer has made us sharper from an attacking perspective, the huge gamble in not spending the big money on our defence is looking like it might have been unwise.
The returns of Rob Holding, Hector Bellerin, and Kieran Tierney might add something in time, but those players are only as good as the midfield and attack in front of them. If the latter aren’t doing their jobs correctly, the former have little chance of improving on what we are currently seeing.
So the spotlight is on Emery now in a way that it hasn’t been before. With such a healthy advantage at half-time against a side of rejects and journeymen, three points were an absolute minimum. They emerged with just one.
Not only that, the performance in that second half was derisory beyond explanation. To capitulate in such a way against such a low level of opposition bodes very ill for the manager’s long term prospects. If you can’t be safe with a two-goal advantage, you can’t compete for top four, it’s as simple as that.
So, in short, this can’t go on. Emery either needs to happen upon a solution that transforms this group into a solid defensive unit, which functions as one and learns how to manage games, or we continue to stumble from one farce to the next, until the atmosphere around the club starts to toxify again, and that will lead to the investible departure of the manager.
Having thrown away Champions League football last season, there is more pressure than ever on the manager to make the top four this time around. Too many more days like today and the pressure will lead to breaking point.
Either way, something has to change,