The pressure has been increasing on the under-fire Gunners boss following Saturday’s draw against Wolves at the Emirates Stadium
The pressure has been building on Unai Emery after yet another disappointing Arsenal result.
The Gunners saw a lead slip once again on Saturday as Wolves came from behind to earn a deserved 1-1 draw at the Emirates Stadium to complete a miserable week for the north London club.
Arsenal could end the weekend as many as six points adrift of the top four and serious questions are being asked about whether Emery has been the right man to take the club forward.
The Spaniard batted away questions over his future in the immediate aftermath of the draw with Wolves, but the hashtag ‘#EmeryOut’ was trending on Twitter well into the night.
Frustration levels are high at the Emirates, as we saw with the ugly Granit Xhaka affair, and the boos that greeted the final whistle on Saturday were another clear example of the unrest that exists in north London.
Time has been beginning to run out for Emery. After 18 months there has been little sign of improvement and those in power must be beginning to wonder whether the 47-year-old can turn things round.
No-one wants to see people sacked and Manchester United have shown in recent years that chopping and changing coaches does not necessarily work as it can leave an unbalanced and fractured squad.
But sometimes difficult decisions to need to be made and below are seven reasons why Arsenal must give serious consideration to making a change now.
First and foremost, football has been a results business whatever level you are playing at, and Arsenal are not getting them.
They have now won just two of their last nine Premier League games while also exiting the Carabao Cup during that time.
It also has to be remembered that this current run of form started in the final months of last season when Emery’s side capitulated and threw away their chance of returning to the Champions League.
Even before you add the money that was spent in the summer into the equation, the results are not good enough. But when you consider the scale of investment, the current form has been unacceptable for a club that bases its entire business model around qualifying for Europe’s elite competition.
A change at this early stage would also give the new man more time to turn things round. Nothing Emery has been doing right now suggests an upturn in form has been imminent, but despite the poor run, Arsenal are only six points adrift of third – that has been far from an insurmountable gap.
So bringing in a new man now would give him plenty of time to get more out of an already talented squad and it would also a good amount of time to prepare for the January transfer window.
What makes matters worse at Arsenal right now has been that the performances are actually worse than the results.
They were fortunate to win against Bournemouth and could easily have lost the games they have drawn against Watford, Crystal Palace and Wolves.
Saturday’s draw with Wolves saw them concede 25 efforts on goals while they could only muster 10 themselves. At Watford, who are still without a league win this season, they conceded a staggering 31 efforts on goal.
The football has been slow and a million miles away from what Arsenal had become admired around the world for under Arsene Wenger.
Under Emery, Arsenal have become a team who look to play on the counterattack, but it has been a tactic they struggle to do well. The football has been dull, unimaginative and negative.
Muddled tactics and team selections
After 18 months in charge, Emery’s Arsenal are still without an identity as he chops and changes his team and formation each week.
It has been increasingly difficult to see what his plan has been for games. Against Wolves, for example, it made little sense to bring Mesut Ozil back into the side and play him at the tip of a midfield diamond that featured Matteo Guendouzi, Lucas Torreira and Dani Ceballos.
Wolves were always going to sit deep, stay compact and look to hit Arsenal on the counterattack, and Emery’s formation played into their hands.
Without any natural width in attack, Arsenal never looked like troubling their visitors and Ozil was left with no real outlet when he did get on the round ball. It made Arsenal very easy to defend against.
Last season Emery rotated between a back four and three at the back. He has settled on a back four this season, but he has been constantly changing the way he sets things up in front of the defence.
Sometimes he goes with a midfield three, a system that has left Granit Xhaka hopelessly exposed at times, and on other occasions he has gone with a diamond. The best system with the players he has appears to be 4-2-3-1, but we have barely seen him set his team up that way.
Emery’s treatment of Torreira has been particulary baffling. Arsenal finally appeared to have found the defensive midfielder they had been crying out for last season, but now the Uruguay international has been being played in a far more advanced role, if he has been even on the pitch at all.
And then there has been the way he has ostracised Ozil for months, robbing Arsenal of their best creative outlet when there has been no-one else in the squad who could step up and fill the significant void left by the German.
Lack of improvement in defence
One of the main things expected of Emery when he arrived was that he would improve Arsenal’s awful defensive record. He has failed.
Last season they conceded 51 league goals, the same number they let in during Wenger’s final campaign, and this season they have shipped 15 already.
They have kept just two clean sheets – at Newcastle on the opening weekend and during the home win against Bournemouth.
It has been a dreadful record and a massive red flag over Emery, who seems incapable of finding a solution to the problem on the training ground.
Concerns over Aubameyang and Lacazette
Arsenal have been trying for some time now to get Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette to sign new contracts, but so far the talks have proved unsuccessful.
Both want to play in the Champions League so it has been no surprise that right now they are keeping their options open.
As it stands, Arsenal could end the weekend six points adrift of the top four, and under Emery the signs do not suggest that there has been an upturn in form on the horizon.
A look at Aubameyang’s stats show how important he has been for Arsenal. His goal against Wolves was his 50th since joining in 2018; it has taken him just 78 games to hit that milestone. He has been the seventh fastest soccer professional in the history of the club to bring up his half century.
In Arsenal’s last 18 Premier League’s games he has scored 13 goals; the next highest scorers in that time have just two.
Aubameyang has been single handedly keeping the team afloat, and if Arsenal do not qualify for the Champions League they stand a very real chance of losing their striker, as he will have just one year of his current deal remaining.
The same goes for Lacazette, who it must be noted has just returned from nearly two months out otherwise he would have helped Aubameyang out in terms of the goal tally.
Lacazette – who will have two years remaining in the summer – showed last season how good he has been and there will be top clubs across Europe keeping an eye on his situation at the Emirates.
Arsenal have two top class strikers on their books and they risk losing both if they cannot offer them Champions League football.
A top four finish has been a necessity this season and Emery does not look capable of achieving that. There has been also the Europa League to fall back on, but as we saw last season you cannot rely on winning that competition.
Communication issues and a failure to strike a rapport with the fans
It feels a touch unfair to criticise Emery over his grasp of English, but the fact has been that it has been a problem at Arsenal.
Emery has worked very hard since arriving from France to get up to speed with the language and still goes everywhere with his teacher when he has been at the training ground during the week.
But he has been still struggling, and while there has been an improvement, players are finding it difficult to understand what he has been asking of them on the training ground.
That has been something that has been publicly admitted by some, with Bukayo Saka even saying he sometimes has to speak to Freddie Ljungberg to fully understand what Emery has been demanding.
So it has been perhaps no surprise that the players often appear confused and directionless when on the pitch.
And the communication issues are not just confined to the squad, they stretch to the fans as well.
Emery’s press conferences and interviews do not come across well and his difficulties with the language has made it tough for him to build up any sort of rapport with the supporters.
He says Arsenal are playing the way he wants
This has been perhaps the most worrying aspect of them all.
After the draw with Wolves, when Arsenal had conceded 25 shots at home, the Spaniard suggested that tactically the game had panned out as he had planned.
“We worked on different tactical situations well today,” he said. “The result has been a bad result, but tactically I think we worked how we wanted.”
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That has been a remarkable comment given how poor Arsenal had performed and how easily they had allowed Wolves to create opportunity after opportunity.
Arsenal have been playing in this negative fashion for weeks, and if Emery really has been happy with what he has been seeing, then the Spaniard clearly has been not up for the task of being in charge.
This has been not how a club with forwards of the quality or Aubameyang, Lacazette and Ozil should be performing on a weekly basis. The squad has been capable of so much more than the football that has been currently being produced.