‘A Seminal Moment at the Crossroads’
Any day now it’s about to happen.
The Arsenal board will arrive at the crossroads. They have to decide. Most certainly a seminal moment in our recent history.
Even though this game was the least important (finally a fun fest for the fans), it once again exposed Emery.
We go up, we go up again, then again, we go into our shell, we lose.
The crossroads looms and it’s truly a huge moment as the board could boost us North and on to CL football and beyond, or completely misjudge the situation and send us spiraling South.
For as much negativity as there is there is a huge opportunity to change the mood in a few vital decisions.
1) Recognize that the bleeding is beyond a cut and a Band-Aid will only lead to us falling further behind, and change the coach now.
The first tangible boost comes with an announcement that Emery has left and Ljungberg is taking temporary charge.
I’d say 95% of the fanbase would have an instant mood change.
Keep the coach and believe in a vision that few see.
Too much is going wrong, too much needs a 180 degree fix and the evidence suggests that Emery might change formation each game but he can’t change the nervous energy that he transmits.
Alternatively, if the board choose Jose Mourinho then they have to be aware that they’ve simply traded problems.
Regardless of yours or my opinion on him I’d say it’s fair to say that it’s undeniable that this decision would be highly controversial and split the fan base.
A huge portion of the fans will be beyond upset and so you maintain the toxic atmosphere when there were so many other options that would have instantly flipped the mood. (See ‘Hopes’)
2) In amongst all the Xhaka mess we have been handed two golden opportunities.
Firstly, give the captaincy to Hector Bellerin.
He’s already done right thing after right thing on an almost daily basis.
This would also give the fans a mood change.
Retain Xhaka as captain. Throw him to the wolves too soon and watch as the fans show you a whole new level of anger that you’ve not seen before.
On a human level, Granit Xhaka needs a break and the fans need a break from Granit Xhaka.
3) Play Torreira at DM.
Playing Xhaka right now would be all kinds of stupid. For him, for the team and for the fans.
If Torreira plays DM on Saturday and we win you get another mood flip in the fan base that most have been screaming for, for over a year.
Become too excited that Torreira scored against Liverpool, play him high to win the ball high (even though he doesn’t do this) therefore exposing our defenders and frustrating the fans further because they assumed that he’d replace Xhaka.
4) Play Martinelli
This one is not so easy because there is an argument for Laca, Auba, Pepe and Saka right now.
Ultimately, football is about goals and the boy has the best goal per game ratio in England.
If he plays, keeps scoring then let’s be honest, there is nothing that turns moods quicker than wins.
Leave your most confident goal scorer frustrated on the bench.
5) Start Ozil
Here is where I hope I’ve learnt something as an Arsenal fan and as a coach.
Generally speaking I’ve been ready for a while for the club to move on from Ozil.
I feel you have to sometimes remove your long term goal if the short term is crumbling.
Again, I say that if he starts on Saturday you have instantly changed the mood in the stadium.
It shouldn’t be this way but Ozil’s inclusion would be more of a reflection of what the team can’t do than what he can. Plus he clearly had a positive influence last night and as a fan, coach or whatever I can’t ignore that, despite my general feeling.
Right now, the mood should dictate.
If it doesn’t then the mood WILL dictate and the club can’t hypnotize the fans into a state of happiness.
Prioritize the need to sell, leave him out and ignore the mood.
I understand the need for him to leave if that’s what they want but the house is on fire and I’m not sure you can wait for the CoastGuard when the fire station is round the corner.
6) Finally, Unai Emery needs to start fast, get ahead and then pause……. remember what’s happened on at least 4 games this season……. and press the accelerator or at least don’t press the break.
If we lose or draw on Saturday and the game was like last night, at least the fans would go home seeing a braver team and some fun!
Repeat what we’ve done all season and hope we go behind as in the warped world we live in, this seems to be the best way for us to win this season.
* Most importantly, I have a list!! I’ve had to look under the sofa for Positives this season!
* Willock’s goal will give him confidence.
Maitland-Niles’ goal and improved performance will give him confidence.
The fact that Torreira was allowed to play DM will give him confidence.
Martinelli’s goals (again) will give him confidence.
Ozil’s hour gives everyone confidence.
Bellerin’s leadership should give Emery confidence.
Saka’s moments should give him further confidence.
* During the first half, a number of players nicked the ball in Liverpool’s half and started counter attacks.
* More on Ozil.
Even though he’s frustrated me to the point where I’m ok if he leaves, I’ve never understood this…..
Why do we expect work rate out of Mesut Ozil?
When you buy him you know you are going to get the rough and the smooth. When you decide to pay him over £300K a week after showing he’s got low work rate, what makes you think he’s motivated to think he needs to change? You’ve told him he’s fantastic!
There has to be a point where you realize what you are and aren’t going to get and stop beating your head against the ‘work rate’ door.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t try to get him to play with intensity off the ball but I figured out years ago that it’s just not happening. So, at that point what do you do? I think you sell him if you can’t get past it or you focus on what you bought him to do.
I judge him on what his gifts are.
I’ve been wanting him to leave because he hasn’t been anywhere near as effective in the final third over the last 18 months.
Much like the current Mourinho situation, I think fans visualize a player/coach who isn’t there anymore.
Having said that, Ozil did dangle the carrot last night and make you wonder if he can reignite the flame.
* Did I see a continuous intense coordinated press?
* I believe I also saw some 1 touch!!
* Bellerin wins more tackles than most of our defenders because he gets closer earlier.
* I’m sure it’s not just me that sees Martinelli as a centre forward rather than a winger
* Bellerin is still a little rusty. Do we let him de-rust in the PL or EL?
* I mentioned this twice last season…. Guendouzi as a ‘10.’
Seems to have an eye for the final pass where Ceballos doesn’t. Great in tight spaces and can win free kicks and penalty kicks with driving runs.
I think there is goals in there too.
* If Torreira and Ozil start on Saturday I will understand why they were subbed. If they don’t, I won’t as neither looked fatigued.
* Let’s discuss Jose.
If you are for him coaching Arsenal and your main reason is that he can win big trophies, is it fair to ask if you are thinking about the version that succeeded prior to his second Chelsea spell?
The Jose that coached his last two clubs didn’t come close to being considered a success.
It seems so similar to the way people saw Wenger. When they thought of him they thought of ’what he used to do’ rather than what he had done recently.
When you see Mourinho as a pundit is it not fair to recognize that any coach should be able to impress you in that forum as the competition is a whole bunch of non-coaches who mostly give zero insight?
This is the Jose that I know…..
I know a coach who has had clear success in organizing teams defensively. We need that.
I know a coach who has a clear style. We need that.
I know a coach that comes with an agent that can still (to his credit) attract top players.
I see a coach that exposes himself to being solely ‘me focused’ when any little thing goes wrong.
I have seen a coach that has almost no interest in young players. Surely, surely this should be enough alone to remove him from consideration?
I know a coach that wants HUGE money. We don’t have that, right?
I have seen players put up with his style when winning but hate it when they aren’t. ‘Recent Mourinho’ hasn’t won and the fans at Utd hated his style. Don’t Arsenal fans want a return to attacking football?
I don’t want a coach that’s going to kill Pepe, Saka, Auba, Martinelli by playing them as dual full backs.
Hasn’t Mourinho proven on multitudes of occasions to be classless? Isn’t that against The Arsenal Way?’
Finally, hasn’t he proven over and over that he does two years and not only flops in the third but leaves the house on fire?
I think that by far the most important point to consider is this….
If it’s a return to winning that entices you to pine for Mourinho there are buckets of coaches that in the recent past has proven that not only can they win, but they can do it without playing turgid football and burning the house down.
If that’s true, then why pick Jose Mourinho?
I can’t get away from the crossroads.
It’s FAR bigger than the games right now.
Part of me trusts the board as I’ve seen much to feel confident in them about.
The other part of me thinks that Jorge Mendes seduces directors and we not only may be seduced, but I fear that a deal has already been partially agreed for Mourinho.
Let’s not solve the coaching problem by instantly creating another one when we don’t have to.
Former Highbury regular. Moved to TN, USA in ’99. Married with 3 kids. Coached in UK and US for 27 years.
Mike McDonald Soccer Academy in Morristown TN, Olympic Development coach, Regional Premier League Champion.