As the mocking chants rang around
Filbert Street the Walkers Bowl the King Power Stadium during Arsenal’s rain-soaked 2-0 defeat to Leicester on Saturday, I confess to feeling a sense of certainty that the home fans had it right.
After a miserable run of results and turgid, listless performances, defeat to a top four rival seemed like it would be the final straw for Raul Sanllehi and Edu as they watched on miserably from the stands.
Like many, I thought Emery would be sacked come the morning.
Imagine my utter dejection then, when David Ornstein, who has excellent links behind the scenes at Arsenal, reported that the board was “100 per cent” behind the Spaniard and had confidence everything was on track.
If eight points behind fourth place and the club’s worst start to a season since 1982/83 is the hierarchy’s idea of being on course, you have to wonder what it would take for them to consider this project to be off track.
Anybody in possession of eyes and ears can see and hear how poisonous the atmosphere is among fans at the moment, and those very same organs can see and hear how badly the team is performing and how out of his depth the manager is.
The team has been without any discernable shape, style, or identity for months, cannot defend and is sluggish in attack at best.
In 18 months, Unai Emery has torn the heart and soul out of the club and what it means to play football at Arsenal. He has taken almost 25 years of craftsmanship and bludgeoned it into a shapeless mass.
We don’t dominate possession, we don’t create chances, we don’t play passing football, we don’t have any style, and we can’t prevent any opponent from scoring for love no money.
Even a spreadsheet manager like Emery could not put his body of work before the board and come up with a positive spin.
Emery has rolled and rolled and rolled his last sets of dice over the last month and yet, he continues to be handed a fresh set every time his gambles fail. His latest, reverting to three at the back against Leicester, showed some signs of being more orderly than the messes we have seen since, in all honesty, March, but it feels like the man is grasping at anything he can to try and happen upon his best team and formation. After 18 months in the job, how can that be right?
The two-week international break now upon us looked to be the perfect time to hit the reset button and bring someone in – temporarily or otherwise – in order to salvage the season. Not so. Emery is going to be allowed to stagger on in the hope that he can turn this around – something he has already demonstrated to be beyond his talents.
At this stage, the focus will start to shift away from the manager and towards the board, whose inaction in this matter will draw the ire of fans and pundits alike. They promised a great deal during the summer and were afforded some slack in order to deliver it.
Three months on, however, and that slack is all but taken up. Every misstep from here is going to make matters worse, divide fans further, and bring about the sort of toxicity that plagued the final few years of the Arsene Wenger years.
In order to navigate a course through this particular storm, Emery is going to have to do what no manager under a similar amount of pressure has ever done – win his way out.