Arsenal sunk to a new low against Eintracht Frankfurt when they blew another lead to lose 2-1, extending their run without a win to seven, a sequence not seen since 1992.
The team certainly was an odd one.
As was remarked on Twitter, it’s quite striking how often Emery can seem to pick the wrong players and formation while also risking players like Aubameyang while resting players like Pepe and Ozil. And what’s the craic with Pepe anyway? He hit form and was put straight on the bench. Were all those free-kicks flying in too much for Emery to deal with? Questions for another day, perhaps.
Yet somehow it worked, at first. Perhaps more indicative of how bad Frankfurt were than anything else. David Luiz in midfield was a steadying influence until he went off with a rib/lung injury but Frankfurt offered nothing, even allowing Arsenal to outshoot them at a rate of about five-to-one.
Deservedly, Arsenal went in at the break with the lead through Aubameyang but, in truth, they were unlucky not to be three or four up. It was not what we’ve been used to at all.
We still all knew it changed nothing and in the second half we got to see that clear as crystal.
No efforts on goal after going behind, defensive subs when chasing a lead leaving £120m of attacking talent on the bench. Emery’s goose is long cooked.
I spoke to a fellow Arsenal fan before the game, as Manchester United were losing to Astana. I pondered if Arsenal would sack Emery if we lost tonight. We all know it is ‘when’ and not ‘if’, but I didn’t think it would come if we failed to win against Frankfurt, no matter how we played. In my head before the game against the Germans, the only thing that would stop Emery from getting sacked after the Norwich game was a 6-0 spanking of the Canaries.
After tonight’s performance, the calls for him to be sacked immediately will be not quieter and opinions won’t have changed at all. If anything, they will have hardened. He’s had 18 months to improve, it isn’t going to suddenly change in the next three days because of what happened on Thursday night against this opposition.
Speaking earlier this week, David Ornstein touched on a range of Arsenal topics while also offering his opinion on how the club, and manager, could turn things around. “Two things from my perspective, and it’s only an opinion,” he said. “The first one is obvious, the results have been woeful and winning football matches picks things up.”
We failed at that.
“Also, the communication is a key problem from the perspective of Arsenal supporters,” he continued. “They don’t feel that they’ve got any clarity about what’s going on in terms of decision making around the hierarchy, the contractual situations – Aubameyang and Lacazette specifically, previously Aaron Ramsey’s.
“Communication around decisions on the pitch, selection, the Xhaka situation. They’ve found it hard to understand Unai Emery’s communication in press conferences. There are lots of suggestions that the players don’t completely understand what is being asked of them from a tactical and a structural and a positional and an individual perspective.”
That, if nothing else, was in evidence tonight.
All Thursday’s game really means is that we are another 90-minutes closer to the day Unai Emery is shown the door unless he is able to summon a miracle from one of Arsene Wenger’s old desk drawers.
I admire Ornstein’s optimism, and he certainly has more information than I do. But it seems obvious that there is no turning this ship around with Emery at the helm.
If the board can’t see the mid-table-shaped iceberg fast approaching then questions about their ability to run this club need to be asked more loudly than they have been already.
To alter the late, great David Rocastle’s words, they need to start remembering who they are and who they represent.
Still, at least the Europa League was fun again for a half an ebening.