Unai Emery may be unbeaten at Old Trafford as Arsenal head coach, but he’s walking a very thin line with the Gunner’s faithful.
It was all so predictable.
Rumours that a creative midfielder stole Unai Emery’s first girlfriend when he was just 14 have yet to been substantiated, but it would explain a lot. Even though Unai Emery has only been at the club 5 minutes, Arsenal fans knew he would bench his creative players and field three defensive midfielders in front of a back four leaving Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang isolated up top against Manchester United.
It was no coincidence that Arsenal improved massively when Dani Ceballos was brought on to link the midfield and front line.
A draw at Old Trafford isn’t the worst result in the world and, had Arsenal been a bit more composed in front of goal, they could have had three or four with Bakayo Saka and Nicolas Pepe missing wildly when they should have hit the target.
That’s how bad United are.
Emery’s decision to leave Mesut Ozil in London did not go down well. I polled Arsenal fans before the news was announced on Monday, and two-thirds said they would rather keep the German than the Spaniard. That number increased as the day went on. But, for whatever reason, it seems like Mesut Ozil will be the hill Unai Emery lives or dies on and I wouldn’t bet against the midfielder being at the club when Emery is finally shown the door.
Since Arsenal last won at Old Trafford in the league Manchester City have won there seven times, Spurs and West Brom three times, Liverpool, Chelsea and Southampton twice while Everton, West Ham, Newcastle, Sunderland, Villa, Palace, Swansea, Cardiff and Norwich have all tasted victory at the Theatre of Dreams. Not Arsenal, though.
Even though United are currently enduring their worst start to a season in 30 years, Arsenal could not take advantage. Emery set them up like a mid-table side to play mid-table football away from home. It’s what he does. He got a draw and to talk about ‘spirit’ because we came from a goal down. Personally, I prefer the type of spirit that doesn’t lead to you going behind yet again, but I’m weird like that.
There was no courage, no sense that Emery believed United were there for the taking – and they were. That we still managed to get a draw despite our coward of a coach tells you just how bad United really are. Have I mentioned that?
With the wealth of creative talent at Arsenal’s disposal, they had every chance of finally – finally – being the side to inflict humiliation on United rather than the other way around as it has been for so long.
But given the chance to prove to Arsenal fans that what he said about passion and pressing when he first arrived wasn’t just some sort of ruse to get him through the door, Emery recoiled from the chance to put on an attacking masterclass once again and tried to set Arsenal up to counter like they were Sunderland or some other shit.
If I put a gun to your head and demanded you tell me what Emery has changed for the better since he arrived at Arsenal last summer you’d probably only be able to say ‘Arsene Wenger’s reputation’. We concede more, score fewer, and play worse football.
After 18 months there should be some sort of tangible improvement. That there isn’t, tells you all you need to know.