A nostalgic look back, no wait – back to our away-winning ways with Unai Emery
Once upon a time, any action that could be likened to “taking coal to Newcastle” was the sign of a needlessly pointless activity.
That Arsenal scored two goals and, for the first time in a year, earned maximum points from two consecutive away games, can be considered anything but pointless.
That our current go-to whipping boys found themselves richly rewarded at the goal-face could really have only been bettered had the these-days-permanently-errant Hector Bellerin found himself also on the scoresheet. It never fails to amuse me when this happens, not least because it happens a lot. ‘Useless Xhaka’ and ‘Lazy Ozil’ both inconveniently on target to ruin the naysayers’ current targets of choice. Almost worth a point in itself in my mischievous book.
And of this game of two halves itself?
Well a flattish first half was quickly superseded by a super-charged second which had most observers nodding sagely on the evident efficacy of Gunner Emery’s Half-Time Talk.
That such a talk was considered necessary was perhaps the only disappointment against a poor team trying to sell itself to the highest – or indeed any – bidder. The pre-match Geordie protest, said to have centred on the club shop, brings back the less than fondly remembered recent ‘protests’ of our own but whilst our Kroenke worries (if indeed such ‘worries’ are a ‘thing’) are unlikely to get relegated any time soon, the Emery honeymoon period continues with some gusto as we hurtle towards October.
At the start of the season I suggested, with profound wisdom, that it would be 10 games before we could make any half-stab of a judgement on Unai. And, still safely stroking my chin, I stand by that, five games in, with three wins, two defeats and zero draws under his belt. Drawing any kind of conclusion, let alone matches, feels a little beyond the likes of most of us this early into the season, though I know it won’t stop some from sticking their reckless necks out.
Personally I’ve not learned all that much from the new boss’s post or pre-match ‘pressers’ but that possibly says more about me than him. I frankly don’t expect to hear that much from a man so recently appointed to a role where the previous incumbent’s mastery of the media was so evident for so long. Wisely, UE is doing his talking on the pitch, largely. Or at least in the half-time dressing room. This semi-silent approach has certain positives and negatives – the most notable being that in the absence of an actual story – or even a real sound-bite snippet – the usual media culprits won’t shy away from quite literally making stuff up that is immediately repeated as fact, throughout the online world.
I can not recall a single season since before Wenger (BW) when I have paid less attention to so called ‘news’ about Arsenal. Like taking coals to Newcastle, I can hardly think of anything more pointless than to read the half-witted ramblings of a headline desperate Daily Mirror, for example.
I note we still have many wonderful players for the new manager to call upon and Ramsey is still at the club (for now). But along with Wenger, sentiment largely left the club last Spring. Aside from the bloodbath amongst the back room staff (at least some of it hard to fathom), the heavy influx of new players and the steady stream of player exits suggests a work very much in progress. The significance of Match Day 10 will give us an idea of how long Emery is likely to continue this revolution. On current form, he may well end up on 6 wins and 4 defeats which would be enough to put us far off the pace of the league leaders, yet high enough up the league to allow further progress to be attempted, with the next transfer window becoming the next moment of truth for the post-Wenger set-up.
At the very least, as insurance, Emery needs to deliver us the Laughing At Spurs Trophy and to do that he may need to be blessed with the great good fortune of their continued collapse, as our homeless, hapless neighbours look anything but ‘grounded’ this season (feeble pun intended). In some ways, sadly, failing on this point may have been Wenger’s greatest crime in the eyes of the ‘average’ AFC fan, whoever he/she is.
Personally I suspect a fifth or sixth-place season finish is on the cards as it’s hard to imagine our Kroenke-reined-in budget (boo, hiss) will allow for much more given the expansive budgets of most of our nearest rivals (no I’m not looking at Watford, before you ask).
But a win:lose ratio of 3:2 by season’s end is unlikely to see a parting of the ways for young Emery. On the other hand, those recently joined fans who became ‘Arsenal’ on the back of Le Prof’s success and who, in the sporting world’s most richly ironic moment, became his fiercest critics, may just get bored and clear off. To leave those of us who could appreciate a good ‘1-0 to the Arsenal’ scoreline from the BW days which was as aspirational as it was factual.
As yesterday’s scoreline suggested, getting the ‘nil’ back into the AFC scoreline could prove Unai’s greatest challenge and, ironically, his ability to dig up the next Adams, Winterburn, Dixon etc, could be the key to his own longevity at the club.
And who’s going to queue up to appear on the ever-lamentable AFTV, with those kind of results? Consistent, albeit unspectacular victories are hardly going to generate the online hits of old.
Oh dear, online world, what have you done?!