#EmeryOut quickly began trending on Twitter after Arsenal slumped to a dismal 1-0 defeat at Bramall Lane on Monday night.
It was exactly the sort of performance the fans dread, full of sloppy defending, a lack of creativity and a great deal of possession that amounted to precisely nothing. Much of their anger was directed at the manager, who left supporters frustrated with his negative tactics and his bizarre team selection.
It was a dismal return to action after a 15-day break for the Gunners and it left them fifth in the table, having been overhauled by Leicester and a rampant Chelsea. The best online sports betting sites reacted by significantly lengthening the odds on Arsenal securing a top four place this season. Chelsea are now just 8/15 to seize a Champions League berth, while Arsenal have been pushed out to 11/10.
They are fortunate that Tottenham and Man Utd are struggling so badly, priced at 17/10 and 9/2 respectively, but Leicester’s odds are shortening all the time, and Arsenal will surely finish outside the top four if they keep delivering such abject performances. They have only managed 13 goals in nine games so far this season, and they have conceded 12, which does little to spark encouragement among the fans.
Once again Arsenal’s best chance of securing Champions League qualification next season might lie in winning the Europa League. Emery won the competition three times in a row during his time at Sevilla, so he should have the ability to lead Arsenal to glory. They fell at the semi-final stage in 2017/18, ultimately undone by the pincer movement of Laurent Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi simultaneously falling over at the worst time imaginable, before reaching the final last term. The less said about that the better.
Yet Arsenal really should win the competition. They are the favourites, ahead of Man Utd, who have been shambolic this season. Next in the betting are Sevilla and Roma, hardly heavyweights of the European game. There is always the risk of a big team finishing third in their Champions League group and dropping down into the Europa League, as was the case with Atletico Madrid in 2017/18.
Inter Milan look as though they could end up in the Europa League, and they are solid and ambitious under Antonio Conte. But Arsenal should not fear a team like that, not with the depth of quality at this manager’s disposal. They really should secure a top four finish and win the Europa League, but fears now abound that Emery is not the man to lead them back into the Champions League.
His decision to omit Mesut Ozil from the squad is looking more baffling all the time. Arsenal were crying out for a creative midfielder to unlock a stubborn Sheff Utd defence on Monday night, and the German World Cup winner was not even on the bench. Instead he went for a midfield trio of Granit Xhaka – inexplicably named club captain this season – Matteo Guendouzi and Joe Willock. It lacked penetration, bite and invention. Towards the end of the game, the underwhelming Bukayo Saka was playing at number 10, to very little effect.
Emery also decided Kieran Tierney, Hector Bellerin and Rob Holding should not start, despite all three flourishing against Standard Liege before the international break. Instead Sead Kolasinac, Calum Chambers and Sokratis all gave poor performances. Sheff Utd looked comfortable, and they are a newly promoted side with a tiny transfer budget. Arsenal cannot hope to finish above their key domestic rivals or win the Europa League if Emery is not bolder with his tactics and his team selections.
He needs to encourage his players to be more direct and incisive on the ball. The football has been plodding and it requires a greater degree of urgency. He needs to reinstate Ozil in the team, and bring in Bellerin, Tierney, Holding, Alexandre Lacazette and perhaps Lucas Torreira to freshen things up. Right now the manager looks clueless and it is transmitting to his players. Some commenters on social media were keen to point out that the only thing Emery has improved since taking over at Arsenal is his teeth. If he cannot turn the situation around in the weeks ahead, it might be time for the club to dispense with him and install Freddie Ljungberg as caretaker manager.