Sacking Emery at this point will be a huge mistake [Opinion]

Dear Arsenal, sacking Emery will be a mistake at this point. Give his project some more time.

Unai Emery motivates his team from the sidelines (AFP)

In the final years of Arsene Wenger’s 22-year reign as Arsenal manager, pundits, opposing fans and Arsenal fans alike tore into his team for over-elaborating, playing beautiful football and for ending up with nothing resembling silverware at season’s end. Pundits couldn't wait to laugh at Arsenal for winning the 'possession silverware' and for playing football with no end product.

Wenger and his team were ridiculed for being a team of “beautiful nonsense”, the football equivalent of the Harlem Globetrotters with no steel within them. Everyone pointed and laughed at Wenger and his team just for clout and for acceptance in society.

As an Arsenal fan, I was often scoffed and laughed at in viewing centers, pubs, offices and on the streets for supporting a team that entertained the world but which couldn’t win trophies. I was a blogger when Arsenal won its first trophy after 12 years. “I2 years a slave,” rang boos from twitter that evening. It was the headline my editor forced me to run with as I curated the tweets from Twittersphere; as Aaron Ramsey shot us to FA cup glory.

And then soon after, winning the FA cup became a "useless achievement."

I also remember telling a couple of Arsenal fans when Unai Emery was hired that it would be foolhardy to expect him to win trophies in his first years on the job. For Chrissake, the Spaniard was inheriting a team embarrassingly low on morale, one that had become accustomed to mediocrity in Wenger’s final years and one that played without any steel, purpose or spine whatsoever.

Emery was inheriting a team that had been made to accept that they couldn’t win on the road and one that had become accustomed to being bullied by teams like Stoke, Bolton and Burnley. 

The man is gradually getting rid of Wenger’s deadwood, he’s getting the team to play with some aggressiveness and passion (well, sometimes this happens) and he’s ushering in the players who can at least work some magic in the attacking third.

To get Arsenal back to reckoning again was always going to take a bit of time, whoever was hired. And I can live with the fact that I may be the only Arsenal fan on the planet who still thinks it’s still too early to judge Emery and to clamour for his sack. Getting your ideas across to a bunch of over-pampered and overpaid players does take some time.

Interestingly, the same people who criticized Wenger for building teams with 'soft centers' and for entertaining without end results are today chastising Emery for playing ugly football. “He does not have a pattern,” they say. “Oh, we can’t keep a two-goal lead no more?” “This is not my team...at least we played beautiful football in the past”, "he isn't dominating games", they moan. 

The problem with ‘fandom’ these days is that everyone has become a pundit, thanks to social media and cheap data. I watch the same Emery side and I see a discernible pattern--one that is trying to build possession from the back, one that attacks with pace and power in the final third and one that can score goals if it becomes a little braver. Some fans and journalists do not see the pattern because they just do not want to see any from Emery. And that's fine. But that doesn't change the fact that the pattern is there and that with a bit more tweaking in certain areas, it will become visible to the blind.

Perhaps the criticisms you can lay at the feet of Emery’s Arsenal at this point are that the passes that open up defenses from midfield have been lacking, the defence is still all over the place and Emery is yet to find his perfect midfield combination. But these things take time--these things were always going to take time. It's a process. It was always going to be a process. It takes a while for new teammates to understand themselves and to begin to play those crisp and reverse passes among themselves.

I prefer to look at Emery’s Arsenal as a side in transition. One that will become just as fluid and crisp once its confidence returns and the negativity around the grounds and on social media morphs into a bit of belief and positivity. To fire the man now will be to roll back the stability he's trying to usher into the side and return the team to ground zero.

To call for Emery’s sack just a couple of months into his reign would be silly, hare-brained, knee-jerk and insane. And it just won’t be the Arsenal I grew up loving. It would be classless. Hiring and firing managers at the snap of a finger isn’t who we are. And hiring Jose Mourinho to oversee affairs at London Colney as some in the media have been paid to write, will be a monumental mistake.

Emery has been mocked for his poor grasp of the English language and his hair texture. Everything to beat the man with these days appears to be fair game. It can be disgusting to read and watch. Fans even wanted him to play Ozil when the play-maker wasn’t fit and when he was yet to recover from the knife attack!!

The same fans who say Emery’s team can’t score goals, ascribe the many scored in Europa and Carabao competitions to Freddie Ljunberg, his assistant. Hysteria has replaced emotional intelligence and sound reasoning among the Arsenal faithful and everyone just gets on social media to spew hate and vile for the fun of it.

This piece should in no way be seen as a defense of Emery and his sometimes shambolic, pragmatic tactics. If he doesn’t perform after a while, he should of course be fired. But for the moment, the man is still trying to settle in and find his team, and yes, when you are an Arsenal that has been a picture of shambles and the butt of jokes for years, finding that team is going to take a couple more months and a couple more transfer windows. 

No coach was ever going to take over from Wenger and his disastrous, eye-candy teams, wave a magic wand this way and that and fix the decay in the team in 18 months. This was always going to be a painstaking, heartbreaking process and Arsenal fans who are comparing themselves to Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea at this point are deluded at best. 

My final point would be this: If you are a Gunner, now is the time to get behind the team and roar your support on match days, no matter the results. The players feed off the energy and support of the fanbase. We are a team in transition and booing, heckling and cursing out players will only make matters a whole lot worse.

Enough said.

COYG!!!

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