There’s nothing more soul destroying in life than thinking you have turned a corner by overcoming a trying situation only to find that you are once again thrust into the midst of those very same problems that have persistently haunted you.
For Arsenal fans, there is growing anxiety on the terraces of the Emirates because many feel the Gunners are heading down a painful path to a familiar destination that they spent the better part of a decade at.
It was Arsene Wenger who was responsible for taking the Gunners off course and into a state of limbo and now it looks like new boss Unai Emery is unable to immediately navigate the club away from the strife that has consumed Arsenal for far too long.
It’s often hard to find any sort of perspective when you’re in the middle of a situation and it is only when you step back and take in the circumstances from every angle that you’re left with any meaningful clarity. For regular Emirates-goers and Arsenal fans across the world that watch the Gunners week in and week out, falling into that trap is a very real danger and understandably so especially when you pay good money only to see the same fragility within the starting 11 resurface.
Yes, Emery is currently unable to turn things around to the extent Arsenal fans would like but to blame him for that is not only foolish but also unfair on the Spaniard.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 19, 2019
Emery has the building blocks in place
Optimists may be tempted to say that it all began to go unravel after the Southampton board saw fit to fire Mark Hughes on the third of December. The powers that be at St Mary’s appointed Ralph Hasenhuttl just two days later which meant that his first home game would be against Arsenal on the 16th of December. Any Arsenal fan that has been watching the Premier League long enough would have been wary of the bounce a new manager brings to a club.
As sure as night follows day, St Mary’s was rocking and an 85th-minute header from Charlie Austin would condemn Arsenal to their first defeat in 22 games and simultaneously start a mini slide at the club. It’s easy to see why there has been a wave of disappointment and concern since that defeat on the seaside as the Gunners have now lost four out of the following nine games.
The last month has been an unwanted reminder to the Arsenal fans of how long the salvage job at the club will take when it looked at one stage that Unai Emery would be able to perform instant miracles. Rather, it has been more of a patch-up job that the 47-year-old has done and for that, he deserves great credit given how much confidence he has given to a squad that was largely assembled by Wenger. Cleary Emery’s man management is working well but there is only so much good words can do when trying to shore up a defence that has been leaking goals for many a moon.
Sometimes a workman can blame his tools
How many of the Arsenal defenders would make it into any of the clubs in the top four? It’s a bleak situation and Arsenal legend Charlie Nicholas feels Emery needs to get rid of no fewer than six defenders at the club. The 58-year-old spared no punches by saying that these defenders are a million miles away from being good enough. Daming would be the word to describe Nicholas’ summing up of the problem yet it’s hard to disagree with what the former Arsenal player has had to say.
It’s a testament to Emery’s managerial acumen that the Gunners are three points from fourth place at the end of January. Reining Chelsea in over the next few months seems more than doable especially as the Blues may have one eye on the League Cup final against Man City. Chelsea were correctly tipped to progress to the final of the League Cup and that may be to Arsenal’s advantage, but the real concern would be a Manchester United team that is moving up the table at the speed of an unmanned freight train.
Holding off Solskjaer’s rejuvenated United is going to prove challenging and if they carry on this way they may well keep the Gunners out of the top four.
Chiselling away is the only option
Manchester United’s resurgence is also playing its part in the developing despair at the club but how different things could be if like Jose Mourinho, Unai Emery was also given £360m to spend over five transfer windows. That is in all likelihood how long it will take to turn Arsenal into one of Europe’s elite again according to Gary Neville who is becoming, to everyone’s astonishment, the voice of reason English football desperately needs.
Happy 47th birthday to Unai Emery!
The only manager to win the Europa League in three consecutive seasons. pic.twitter.com/VsbZDUlYGS
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) November 3, 2018
All Emery can do in this situation is to keep chiselling away until he is given the power tools he needs to create a masterpiece.
There is a huge amount to play for in the closing parts of the season and with a rampaging Man United likely to gate crash the top four any time now, Emery may be forced to go to the competition where he has enjoyed the most success to ensure Arsenal get back into the Champions League.
Rome certainly wasn’t built in a day and Emery is slowly discovering how big the task at hand is for Arsenal domestically but on the continent, the Spaniard is famous for having broken new ground after he won the Europa League three times in a row between 2014 and 2016 with Sevilla. There’s time still this season for the Spaniard to be the architect of Arsenal’s most memorable success in recent years.