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It’s on Arsenal, not Unai Emery, to improve

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It’s on Arsenal to be decisive, not Unai Emery to become something he is not.

Arsenal v Olympique Lyonnais - Emirates Cup Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

Unai Emery keeps telling us who he is. After saying that last week’s dismal 1-1 draw at home to Wolves, where Arsenal had their last shot on target in the 32nd minute, and were out shot, at home, twenty-five to ten, by Wolves, a good tactical performance, Emery was at it again today when asked about Arsenal’s recent form, which includes four draws in their last four games, all games that Arsenal led and then gave up the lead.

Overall, Emery probably views the results positively. He pointed out last week that Crystal Palace and Wolves at home were games Arsenal didn’t win last season, the 5-5 draw at Liverpool could be seen as a good performance beause it was at Anfield, and the draw against Vitoria means Arsenal are on the verge of qualifying for the round of 32 in the Europa League. Job done!

Emery keeps telling us who he is. He argues that Wednesday afternoon’s borefest was a good defensive performance, despite losing on xG 1.82 to .97, and 1.31 to .02 in open play. Notably, Arsenal completed one pass into the penalty box on Wednesday, which is actually quite difficult, and art of its own.

This is who Emery is; this is who Emery has always been. Outside of Ligue Un, which is a competitive joke and where Emery managed the team that is financially backed by a literal oil rich country (and where he managed to finish 2nd!) Emery hasn’t finished in 4th place since 2012. He won three Europa Leagues, but then had really bad losses in the Champions League at PSG, where his team collapsed, much like Arsenal collapsed in the final of the Europa League last season. For a defensive manager, his defensive record is actually quite bad: Valencina and Sevilla never managed to concede fewer than 40 goals, Arsenal conceded over 50 last season, and are on pace for that again. He is a midtable manager—Arsenal have 31 points from their last 21 games—and it is patently obvious that things aren’t going to turn around.

Everyone agrees about this, except, seemingly the Arsenal board. And as Paul wrote yesterday, the longer this goes on, the longer there’s collateral damage. We’re seeing Granit Xhaka get run out of town, in a situation that Emery is certainly culpable for, having dithered and delayed with the captaincy until it became A Thing. Lucas Torreira is upset; the strikers won’t sign new contracts. Yet, this is what Emery is. Players at PSG got upset with him; they ignored him, they mocked him, and there was dischord in the dressing room, all of which sounds incredibly familiar. And so, the longer this goes on, the longer that the Kroenkes, Vinai Venketesham, Raul Sanllehi and Edu let this go on, the more they become culpable for Arsenal’s failures this season.

Expecting Unai Emery to not be a midtable manager with a loser mindset is a fool’s errand. Emery is not going to change. It is time for Arsenal’s executive team to act. The spotlight is on them now, for the first time since Arsène Wenger left the club. There is nowhere to hide.