“How can anyone be Emery Out after just one season?”


Arsenal spent £73m on transfer this season; buying Leno, Guendouzi, Sokratis, and Torreira to give Unai Emery a completely new “spine” to his team. Arsenal sold only two players; Lucas Perez and Chuba Akpom. Perez was sold for just £4m, a total loss on the books for that one player of £14m. After sales, net spend was “just” £67m – the third highest net spend in the history of the club. The two previous highs were £82m in 2014/15 and £93m in 2016/17.

One fact that may have slipped by unnoticed is that Wenger’s final season at Arsenal saw massive turnover of players both in and out of the club. The board sold Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott, Olivier Giroud, Francis Coquelin, Wojciech Szczesny, Gabriel Paulista, and Kieran Gibbs while also doing a straight swap of Alexis Sanchez and Henrikh Mkhitaryan (which transfermarkt puts down as £30.6m each direction). Transfermarkt puts Arsenal’s total sales down as £141m in 2017/18 – the largest transfer out in the history of the club. As much as supporters have complained about not getting more for Alexis (rightly) this represents a huge clear out of Wenger’s old squad.

That money was used to fund the purchases of Aubameyang, Lacazette, Mkhitaryan, and Mavropanos.

This was the single largest gross spend and sales in the history of Arsenal football club.

(all figures from transfermarkt.co.uk)

Calamity defending

Arsenal’s defense, like all clubs, has been error-prone off and on. In 2015/16 Wenger seemed to have struck on a magical combination in midfield and at the back – installing “The Policeman” Francis Coquelin in midfield and adding “twelve points a season” Petr Cech in goal – which, along with Ozil keeping possession up top and Alexis creating chaos, resulted in an almost magical defense and offence.

We will get more into the defending below but for now let’s focus on the errors committed:

In 2015/16 Wenger’s Arsenal only conceded 1 penalty, allowed 3 own goals, and only committed 5 individual errors for goals. This brought the total “calamity goals” to 9 for the season.

In 2016/17 Arsenal bought Xhaka and Mustafi for a combined £77m. That season Arsenal conceded 15 calamity goals. And in each of the next two seasons Arsenal conceded 20 goals from penalties, own goals, and individual errors. Side note: Cech made 6 errors for goals in 2016/17 and Leno made 5 errors for goals in 2018/19.

It’s no surprise that the more error-prone the Arsenal defense has become, the more goals Arsenal have allowed per season:

But what did surprise me was that Arsenal now concede almost 40% of their goals from errors. In 2015/16 Arsenal conceded just 25% of their goals from errors.

Errors and sloppy defense lead to more big chances allowed

Big Chances are counted when an attacking player has a 1-on-1 with the keeper, gets a shot from very close range, shoots on an open goal, or gets some other type shot where the chance to score is very high. Since 2015/16 I have been keeping big chances stats allowed/created and in each of the last four seasons that number has looked worse for Arsenal:

Big chances created have stayed relatively the same over the last four years (though there has been a dip this season from last) but the Arsenal defense has progressively gotten worse each year and this season Arsenal have reached a zenith/nadir and conceded 84 big chances, that’s just two fewer than they created.

Arsenal also concede a lot of shots

Arsenal’s goals allowed is at a peak, Arsenal’s big chances allowed is at a peak, and perhaps not coincidentally Arsenal allowed more shots by the opposition than at any time since the year 2000.

According to my research, between 2000/01 and 2010/11 Arsenal conceded, on average 312 shots per season: 8.2 shots conceded per game. Last season, Arsenal conceded 498 shots, 13.1 – 10th in the League. This was an increase of 80 shots over last season’s 418 shots allowed.

Not all shots are created equal and that’s where we can use an “advanced metric” like expected goals (xG). Expected goals takes the average of all players scoring from certain shot types and then aggregates them into a number. The metric is a bit confusing because it doesn’t always match 1-for-1 with goals conceded or scored but it’s not really meant to do that. What it measures is the aggregate of shot quality allowed/created. So, for example, if team A takes 20 shots and 17 of them are outside the box (0.025 xG per shot) and 3 relatively mediocre shots (0.1 xG each) they would have an xG of  0.725 for that game. If their opponent took just 5 shots but 3 of them were big chances (0.6 xG each) and 2 were outside the box (0.025 xG), they would have an xG of 1.85 for that game. Team B might even score 3 goals in that game and of course so could the opponent.

It is possible to outperform expected goals – especially over short periods – but as a general rule, higher xG created and lower xG allowed over a season is considered better defending and correlates very well with goals scored and goals conceded.

It’s not just bulk shots allowed that account for the high xGa: Arsenal “only” allowed 51 more shots (total) this season than they did in 2015/16 and yet, they have a +19 expected goals allowed between those two seasons.

Simply put this occurred because Arsenal are conceding much higher quality shots now. Counting all shots, penalties, calamitous defending, and all other moments Arsenal allowed a whopping 84 big chances this season.

This is not all competitions, 84 big chances allowed just the Premier League – 2.2 per game. This is a huge reason for the end of season collapse as well: in the last 8 games of the season Arsenal allowed 27 big chances. A team simply cannot survive that type of onslaught.

Further evidence that this season has seen a (negative) spike in shot quality is that big chances allowed as a percentage of overall shots has increased even over last year. This season, 17% of all Arsenal shots were big chances. Last season 16.5%, the season prior 14%, and in 2015/16 – 7.4%.

Ok, the defense was worse. But maybe the attack got better? We won more points!

Emery recently said that what he tried to do this season was sacrifice attack for defense: “The balance is to reduce — but not lose — our capacity to attack, while getting better in defence.”

Emery didn’t improve the Arsenal defence but in one sense he succeeded in his cunning plan: he reduced Arsenal’s attack.

In terms of just overall shots created, Arsenal are at an all-time low:

And since Arsenal are taking fewer shots it’s not surprising Arsenal’s xG are down from last season:

But since we won more matches, surely Arsenal created better chances? Nope:

Ok, so what accounts for the massive drop in shots, basically the same shot quality as before, and yet relatively similar number of goals scored? Simple: scoring goals from outside the box at a much higher percentage. Here’s the overall finishing %:

That 14% finishing rate is buoyed by a few Lucky Strikes from outside the 18 yard box:

League average scoring rate outside the 18 yard box is around 3%. Arsenal scored at double that rate. Shooting from outside the box is excitiing and often wins goal of the season but if Arsenal took all of their shots this season (492) from outside the 18 yard box and scored 7.1% of them, they would have scored just 35 goals.

But Emery gained points and won games against other top six teams!

Arsenal finished 5th in 2018/19 with 70 points and finished 6th in 2017/18 with 63 points. That fact is indisputable. And we won’t even use this space to speculate on whether the players downed tools last season after they went to the press to reveal that they had had a meeting to plead with Wenger for help with the defense.

Folks point to the points total as proof of improvement at the club and there’s a truth to that approach. My only caveat is to point to where the improvement came from.

Arsenal lost two points in home matches, winning 45 points this season and 47 at home last season. So, what happened in the points total was that Arsenal gained 9 points in away matches over last season.

But those nine points came from a win over Cardiff (Arsenal lost to Stoke away last season), a win over Newcastle (same, a loss away last season), and a win over Fulham (they lost last season away to Swansea). Is that an improvement in points? Yes. Is that an improvement in the team? Yes, Arsenal won 9 points from relegation teams that they didn’t win last season. And all three of those wins came before November, during Arsenal’s run of 22 unbeaten in which many statisticians worried that Arsenal were vastly overperforming the metrics. So, given everything else that happened this season, is this really an improvement?


-2017/18 was a massive clearout of Wenger/Gazidis’s players. That project continued this season by rescinding the contract offer for Ramsey and letting Welbeck go on a free. Cech also retired. Emery also benched both Özil and Ramsey for large parts of the season.

-Arsenal spent the third highest amount ever on transfers, bringing in an entirely new spine of the team: new keeper, new center back, two new defensive midfielders, and a backup right back this season and two high scoring strikers last season. Plus there was a major swap of a dressing-room cancer.

-Goals conceded stayed the same as last season, the most goals conceded by Arsenal in a season since 1983/84 (when they played 42 games)

-Total shots allowed are up to an all-time PL high

-Errors for goals have remained the same since last year’s high

-Nearly 40% of Arsenal’s goals conceded were errors last season and this

-Big chances conceded are at an all-time high (since I started collecting) and look like a mid-table team

-Expected goals allowed are at an all-time high (since the metric was created) and look like a mid-table team

-Emery said that he would reduce attack and he did

-Arsenal relied more than ever on scoring from low percentage chances

-Unai Emery took the worst Arsenal defense in Premier League history, the club added £73m worth of new defenders, DMs, and a keeper, and somehow made it worse in terms of total shots and quality allowed, made it the same in terms of errors, and did nothing to the overall goals allowed. In attack, Philippe Auclair said “the notion of pleasure has been taken away from football basically. It’s been extracted surgically by Unai Emery and his players.” Arsenal had two 20-goal a season strikers and one of the top playmakers in Europe and somehow took fewer shots than in 18 years and relied on speculative pops from distance to win games against relegation bound teams.  

-If I was the owner of Arsenal FC I would be very wary of investing in players under a manager with this performance record and would strongly consider a replacement.



  1. Brilliantly laid out analysis. The remit at the beginning of the season was clearly to improve the defence which simply hasn’t happened. Who would replace Emery if there’s appetite to let him go?

  2. The man who claims stats don’t tell the whole story uses stats to tell the whole story!

    I saw us match or stay competitive against our top six rivals this season in a way I haven’t seen in years (even if we didn’t win every game). Emery needs to work up a similar consistency against the lower half of the table, and we’ll be in the top four. In fact, we were only a single point off the top four this season! In 2018 we were 12 points off the top four! But stats don’t tell the whole story, so I won’t call that a sign Emery made us more competitive in the race for top four. Which is incredible given that the picture Tim paints above is one of a manager who must have single-handedly dragged his team into 10th place or worse!

    Most problematical, though, is that this post ignores a myriad of mitigating factors, or in fact any mitigating factors whatsoever! Doing so might make its claims more credible or at least give the semblance of being fair/balanced. I’ve listed many of these in the previous thread, but I can only guess that you simply choose to ignore them because you’ve got a single-narrative mind about all this.

    Basically you did a lot of work here to preach to the converted (i.e., the many Gooners who simply won’t countenance a first-year transition year, among many, many other mitigating factors that you, again, refuse to list and explicate for the sake of true reflection), a labor admirable (for the sake of labor alone, I’d add) when you consider that you and I and every other person on this planet knows Emery’s going nowhere this summer.

    It’s also a handy thing to claim you wouldn’t advise the Kroenke’s to give the management team any money this summer, because that’s exactly what they had already planned to do! I’m sure you can find a way to imagine that the puny £40m ‘warchest’ shows KSE’s lack of faith in Emery instead of their lack of ambition or lack of desire to invest any more of their own money! Is that why KSE refused to support Emery in the January window when it was plain to everyone the squad was suffering? I can guess your response.

    I’ll offer my own suggestion: No matter who is in charge this summer, there will be no substantial rebuilding funds available. Btw, I don’t think Emery handed out all those substantial and crippling contracts to our aging and underperforming squad, did he? Can you blame him for that, too?

    My expectations were met this season. 5th. If he has a disastrous start to next season, he’ll be gone in December, if not sooner. If we finish 5th or lower come May, he’s gone.

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Criticism of Emery is warranted and expected given some of our performances this season, and especially the way our season resolved. But when that criticism comes without any sense of context whatsoever, I’m totally unconvinced.

    1. “without any sense of context whatsoever” – I laid out plenty of context, just not the context you wanted, so this criticism is completely unwarranted.

      What are all of these mitigating factors that you insist I spend my valuable time responding to? I must have missed them in one of the responses that I didn’t read. But I will address them, just for you.

      Also, I don’t know if this character – Mr. Satirical – suits you. When I read “I CAN GUESS YOUR RESPONSE” I just see you winking, twiddling your handlebar mustache, and raising your martini to the crowd.

      I can do a Mr. Satirical voice too, here let me try: (dons monocle) guffaw good sir! Your quips and japes are top Dogberry. Really! As to the lightning bug to lightning I say they are a much of a muchness. But remember when you hailed Lichtsteiner as a brilliant signing and wrote several thousand delicately phrased words reprimanding me for my Over30FC post? (twiddles mustache, raises glass of prune juice to the baying crowd) DO YOU REMEMBER IT, SIR? How did your position treat you this year? I presume to already know your answer! (HUZZAH!)

      1. Actually, better plan: feel free to write your counter-point and email it to me. I will post it here without comment. You’ve published here before, you’re a great writer, and I shouldn’t make your points for you.

        This post was (since many of you seem to have missed this point) my opinion. Is it god’s word? No. Arsene Wenger couldn’t be reached for comment. Opposition opinions are always welcome.

  3. All stats in this article are reasonable but the real reason we have get rid of Emery is that we have become completely unwatchable. This season I was more than happy to read the score of our games and not watch the game.
    We would have to be winning all kinds of trophies to balance this completely rubbish football that we see from Emery.

    1. That, I think, is the most damning indictment of Unai Emery. The team has become increasingly unwatchable. And, I’m surprised that does not bother the commercial side of the house. I can’t imagine the Goonerverse has expanded much since Emery became manager. Fewer eyeballs, less commercial revenue, etc., etc.

    2. I don’t agree with Emery out quite yet, however, I do find that our brand of football now is painful to watch most of the time. As a long time former player, I was converted to Goonerism by the two sided nature of Arsenal football, the beauty and the agony of the various projects – much like life itself. I will never understand fans of any sport that follow solely for winning, that is not life. Mou era Chelsea and ManU fans watched garbage for years (Ballack era anyone?) and winning things, but I guess their tribe thrives only off winning…..sad, hopefully things will improve – I still miss Arsene, it was time for him to go, but he understood the duality of life and how it could be reflected “footballistically”. Love this blog btw – “long time fan, first time caller”

  4. I remember posting after the 1-0 loss to Stoke in Aug ’17 that we look like a team that can give up a goal on every opposition attack and a couple of people got all worked up. Nearly two years later the data is confirming what I was seeing with my own eyes.

    That’s when I knew I had to re-adjust my expectations and accept the fact that we are a Europa level team now (5th-7th).

    I also posted before the start of the season that Emery isn’t the manager to improve us as I was never impressed by the football his teams play(I get all La Liga games and watch a fair amount). I predicted a 6th placed finish and only United imploding worse than us got us 5th.
    Next season we are going to potentially duke it out with Wolves/Leicester/Everton to see who finishes 5/6/7th.

  5. I remember posting after the 1-0 loss to Stoke in Aug ’17 that we look like a team that can give up a goal on every opposition attack and a couple of people got all worked up. Nearly two years later the data is confirming what I was seeing with my own eyes.

    That’s when I knew I had to re-adjust my expectations and accept the fact that we are a Europa level team now (5th-7th).

    I also posted before the start of the season that Emery isn’t the manager to improve us as I was never impressed by the football his teams play(I get all La Liga games and watch a fair amount). I predicted a 6th placed finish and only United imploding worse than us got us 5th.
    I can’t figure out who thought it was a good idea to get a manager who went a whole season without an away victory when we have an issue playing away from home and also blew the biggest lead in CL history.

    I’m afraid next season we are going to potentially duke it out with Wolves/Leicester/Everton to see who finishes 5/6/7th.

  6. What does a transition year mean? That the team doesn’t have all of the tools it will need to emerge as the finished product. Whether that be squad changes, coaching adjustments, and just simply, time.

    Believing that one season is not enough to have the finished product is reasonable. The problem is, what the finished product is going to be.

    When Emery joined, it was laid down that there will be 5 things he’d do.
    1. Play an attacking game (protagonista, pressing, playing it out from the back for which Leno was bought apparently)
    2. Not need to rely on the transfer market too much
    3. Develop and give chances to the youth
    4. Represent Arsenal values
    5. Unstated, but an understanding that getting back to the CL was the target. (This could take two years)

    Everything I’ve seen suggests that targets 1-4, ie the process has been completely violated by Emery and purposely erased from memory. Now he talks about being hired for his competitiveness. So the process we are now told to trust is that we’ll run around a bit.

    I have no problem with the results. They could be worse and I’d back the manager. But the only way you can justify putting results over all else is if you actually get great results. Which these are not.

    He’s displayed none of the vision he got the job on the basis on. The opposite in fact. No one can tell me Arsenal would have handed the team over to a dude who figures Kolasinac over Ozil as creative force is the way to go. What a way to destroy asset value. Not just of the team, but because we’re so unwatchable, and increasingly, unlikeable, of the club itself. That last part goes beyond Emery, but starting with losing him would be a good thing.

  7. I’m sure there are Arsenal fans out there that will support UE for another year. Well its a free country (well sorta mostly these days) but the football is terrible to watch. With the players we have, we should at least be able to keep my interest. I’ve never watched as few games a season as I have the last one because as entertainment goes, our football is pretty dire

  8. Forget all the stats… For anyone who saw the line up messes he made on every important game this year will be worried about his psychological readiness. Do we know around whom this team is being built or have we seen consistency in line ups? Do you feel like he is trying to make the best out of the players he got or is he trying to teach new tricks to elderly players? All this should worry us..

  9. It’s strange that you never question the departure of Gazidis – why did he leave?

    It’s possible to conjecture the departure of Mislintat, as a clique of self protective men has taken over at the club in the form of Vinai V and Sanllehi. They won’t allow dissent.

    Emery must be seen as part of this issue. Some people didn’t want Emery in the first place – he’s not an Arsenal type of coach but have Arsenal become his type? The club has declined to such a degree that no elite coach will agree to join this club.

    It’s perfectly natural that Emery will continue at Arsenal for several years now as the club slides into barbarity and further anonymity. He looks out of place, out of depth and has no charisma – he mirrors the club, the team, the set-up and the regime and the fans can do nothing about this.

  10. Spend most of the 40million on a left back, shore up elsewhere as you can, play a 4-2-3-1, and look like The Arsenal! Personally, I think that puts Özil back in play, but not necessarily, Rotate the hell out of positions, play youth, and find out what works!

  11. But what did surprise me was that Arsenal now concede almost 40% of their goals from errors. In 2015/16 Arsenal conceded just 25% of their goals from errors.

    In response to this, you don’t change the coach, you change the players responsible and you immediately eliminate that 40%.

    For perspective and not just to argue, 2 young and promising defenders were lost to injury, this automatically renders our squad weaker and the £73 million talent acquired becomes overstretched.

    Also, we lacked true wide players and still scored a number of goals though our shots reduced, what happens when we buy necessary players, then we perform better than last year.

    I am sorry to say this but your conclusions are wrong about Emery. He has his flaws, but from the data I quoted, a change in playing personnel automatically improves our outlook potentially.

      1. That’s fair.

        The table showing shots from outside the box increased from 2.5% in 15/16 season to 7.1% in the 18/19 season. This added significantly to our goal tally.

        This is a direct departure from Wenger’s instructions to limit shots from outside the box. The success rate must mean something, no one is saying anything about it, ascribing this to luck.

        Frank Lampard had those kind of shots as part of his game, Stevie Gerrard also did. Calling them lucky shots is one way of looking at it, taking chances and scoring is what football is about. For each error or slip Mustafi made, it was a lucky opportunity gifted to an opponent and we suffered for it.

        John C Maxwell defined luck as “preparation meeting opportunity.” So, if we were lucky to score long distance shots, maybe we were prepared to take them, just as our opponents took the opportunity to benefit from our mistakes.

        1. The problem is that finishing from distance isn’t sustainable. No team regularly hits 7% of their shots from outside the box.

        2. Lari03

          The footie is boring. Enuff said.

          Protagonist in making the game boring.

          No results and no entertainment. I find more joy in posting on forums than watching matches.

  12. Psg lost the league 1 title for the first time in 4 years when they hired Emery. The man failed to win a single away la liga match in his last season with Sevilla. Lost 6-1 in a record breaking collapse in the Champions league against Barcelona. Plays terrible football. its hard to invest confidence in such a man

  13. Wow, Tim, that’s a pretty convincing forensic analysis for prosecution side of the proceedings if you will, but like Bun has already pointed out ,somewhat lacking in balance.
    Right from the top then – “ the completely new spine” Emery got this season for the £73m total cost wouldn’t get a sniff at any PL title contender and it is outright bang average even for a run of the mill mid table PL club.
    For any reference, PL title contenders paid tha much for a single player who was deemed a difference maker and in case of Chelsea , even for an unremarkable keeper.
    Second, don’t underestimate the cost cutting mantra and what it did to the squad morale along with benching certain players in effort to perhaps push them out.
    None of that came from Emery but rather was forced upon him from above.

    There are many other mitigating factors as well but I’m not here to defend Emery.
    In fact , I haven’t been impressed by his style of coaching at all.
    Mainly, Arsenal aren’t the type of a club to replace all their players for the sake of someone of Emery’s stature.
    Pep or Klopp maybe, but definitely not Emery.
    Mustafi and a few other are hopeless cases but most players can be coached to improve and they haven’t.
    Also , when most players look confused on the pitch most of the time then clearly the system isn’t working.
    Arsenal matched my predictions made before the season’s start to a tee , league position and points-wise that is.
    I also didn’t think they were gonna win the EL despite Emery’s record in the competition so maybe that’s why I’m a bit meh about this whole thing.

    I guess what I’m saying in the meandering way is that I appreciate your analysis but don’t care one way or another.
    Arsenal are doomed to mediocrity from owner on down and I’m at peace with it.

  14. Interesting analysis. I completely agree with your final conclusion that our defense did not improve this season and that has to raise a red flag about Emery. However, something does not fit when those same advanced metrics tell you that we had a “ magical season” from a statistical standpoint in 15/16 and yet we only collected 71 points in a season when the rest of the top 6 had an unprecedented historically poor season. I would argue that 15/16 was in reality one of the most disappointing seasons. That was the year every big team in the league imploded and in theory we should have had the best chance since the 03/04 season to win the league but we did not have the mental strength to take advantage and we only collected 71 points. The fact that your statistical analysis tells us that 15/16 was a great season despite what actually happened calls into question the true importance of those advanced metrics.

    1. No, we just missed some chances. That’s what happened. We scored 10% of our NP shots. That stat is there above.

      And not included above are the folks who lost Arsenal the title that season with their profligate misses: Ozil, Theo, and Aaron Ramsey.

      You have to admit that we played significantly better football that season than this.

      Also, interesting that you bring up the big 6 implosion. I would say that four of the big six tried their damndest to implode this season and Arsenal couldn’t take advantage. My position is that we failed to take advantage because Emery’s tactics are poor. I think others disagree.

  15. I’m somewhat less concerned about the Emery and the defense. We didn’t start at a great point, with Kos and Monreal getting old, Kolasinac and Mustafi not great defenders. Torriera started well, then dropped off, and Guend was never going to really be a solution. Nor was Xhaka. He’s not DM, and should never have been thought of as the solution there. Then we lost the two defenders that were looking the best, Bellerin and Holding.
    So I’m willing to give Emery a pass there. If we bring back Chambers and Bielek(both of whom could be decent DMs), get Bellerin and Holding back to where they were, and get a decent left back, we might be in better shape next year.
    The bigger problem IMO is the offense. I think many teams have figured out that if they sit deep and central, we are unlikely to score. We don’t have great crossers or good aerial players, and Laca, Auba and Ozil haven’t consistently shown that they can break down a packed central defense. Unless we can fix that, the problem is just going to get worse, as more teams park the bus and counter,

  16. I was going to write a comment the other day about what my priorities would be as CEO but I’m finding it difficult to maintain passion for Arsenal.

    It’s been said before and Shard’s comment summed up Emery’s failings. Our challenge is that the manager does not add to the sum of our parts and is quite frankly a b$llsh1tter.

    The second problem child is the leadership team or should that be leadership vacuum. If the statistics state that by any reasonable measure the coach has had a negative impact. Plus the end of season trend is truly downward, how on earth has he not been dismissed already?

  17. Tim

    Good football is to some extent in the eye of the beholder. I thought we played very well in the first 1/2 of the 15/16 season and we were in prime position to compete for winning the league in December. However, we fell into our ball possession without penetration and getting hit on the counter attack habits in the second half of that season. To my eye the sterile ball possession we played for most of the second half of 15/16 is not good football nor is it effective in getting results.

    I am in complete agreement with your conclusion that Emery has to take a lot of blame for the lack of defensive improvement especially when he brought in 5 new defensive players last summer. If we don’t see significant improvement in our defensive solidarity next season then we need a new manager. However, you can’t absolve the players for their role in the mess.

    In regard to our attack I don’t think you can blame Emery’s tactics because outside of the 2 strikers he didn’t have the players he needed to be effective with a more “attractive style”. When Ramsey was not playing well or injured we had almost no attacking impetus or creativity from our central midfield. Mkhitaryan was not very good and Ozil’s ability to influence the game has been steadily declining for 3 years. His goals plus assists for the last 4 years has been 25, 17, 12, 7. Ozil’s ability to create and execute the final pass was fading long before Emery arrived. I doubt Emery wanted to play a back 3 but I suspect he went to that system because our central midfield was not effective and the wing backs were the only way we were getting the ball into dangerous positions in the penalty box.

  18. Hiya Bill.
    I agree with your comments about the strikers and formation. I did mention on ACLF after the West Ham game that sticking with this system was not right.

    The problem is no one (in my opinion) was there to ask Unai why he refused to supplement the team with younger players? (though I know you don’t rate them) so, we could play a 4-2-3-1.

    I feel we missed the opportunity to develop some young players ahead of next season, integrating them with the mature players gradually.

    Emery was told to qualify for the Champions League. He decided to abandon his natural inclination, he wanted to use the squad depth and he failed. So, we have missed the Champions League and the opportunity to blood the youth players.

    My fear is Emery has a bias and is myopic squad-wise. Some person mentioned why he thought Guendouzi would make a difference in the final and honestly, he seemed to do this at P. S. G. too. Which is why I think we need a technical director asap.

    Arsenal seems to be an odd challenge for Emery, he managed mid-table Spanish sides and was a cup winner. He was at the biggest French club and he had issues with the players. Right now Arsenal is a big club, out of the big league and gunning to get back to doing big things. In essence we are struggling to get back to our place of prominence, hence Emery should embrace the challenge, because it is different from all other projects he managed previously.

    I am ready to see a 4-2-3-1 in August, but if we miss top 4 or results go awry by May next year, then that’s the end of Emery’s adventure.

  19. I noticed your last sentence. And I will recall it by the end of next saison.

  20. Lari03

    Emery knew the clubs objective was a return to the CL and he would be judged based on whether or not he could somehow do that and he also knew we were never going to be favorites. He had to outperform his team’s talent level.. Under those circumstances, you can’t “blood youth” and stick with a specific attacking style of football if those choices potentially hurt your ability to get the results you need.

  21. Have we improved against the bigger teams? Results were actually broadly similar to the 2017-18 season. We picked up some additional points at United, Spurs and at home to Chelsea, but this is probably a result of playing teams at the right moment.

  22. Lari03

    Guendouzi, Iwobe and Maitland-Niles played more then 5000 league minutes. I would bet that’s quite a bit more “blooding youth” then the other top 6 English teams. I don’t think you can expect a manager under pressure to get results to do more then that.

    1. Two players who have been in and around the first team squad for a couple of years, and a youngster bought for the first team. Not quite sure that’s what developing the youth means.

      Especially when there was opportunity to do so. No wingers in the squad you say? Play ESR/Saka/Nketiah/Amaechi instead of bringing in Denis Suarez. Nketiah got no game time despite Welbeck’s injury. Mavropanos has hardly featured even when fit. Willock ought to have featured more when Ramsey was out. Even in the domestic cups and EL group stages we could have played more youngsters.

      That’s the thing with Emery. He’s always playing it safe. He’s not a developmental coach.

      1. Shard

        We were in a dog fight to climb into 4th place against the odds and we needed to give our selves the best chance to take as many points as possible. Like it or not using first team minutes to develop youth and collecting points are competing goals and Emery already used more first team minutes for youth players then any other big team manager would have. He would have deserved to be sacked if he had run out untested u21 players in critical games when we still had a chance to finish 3rd or 4th. Not even Arsene would have done that.

        1. You take over a team saying you have detailed files on how they’d fit in. You proceed to play in a totally different style. You knew funds were not going to be readily available. Your options are a) keep playing this style with ill suited players, b) play a different style more suited to them, or c)Use the youth that might fit that style.

          Emery chose option d) Complain about a lack of transfer funds, bring in Denis Suarez, and then don’t play him.

          1. Shard

            I suspect Emery discovered (probably to his dismay) that the detailed files of what players could or would do was overly optimistic and his preferred style of play was probably not going to work the way he had hoped. I would suggest that he then proceeded to your option b which is exactly what you would hope any manager would do.

            I doubt his first choice was to play 3 at the back but we were not getting any significant creativity or attacking impetus from the central midfield and the wingbacks getting behind was the best option for getting the ball into dangerous positions in the penalty box.

          2. A team built to attack through the middle including the best creator in Europe could find no creativity under Emery’s system, whose reading of the team was so bad that he had to ditch his plans and turn them around entirely?

            I don’t know why you see that as an argument for him. He’s just bad at coaching.

  23. the reasons you’ve given in your conclusion are the reasons why one can say “emery out” after a single season. there’s no statistical evidence that suggests that he’s made arsenal better.

    who can say that emery has made arsenal more sound defensively? how about arsenal being a dominant force in midfield? how about being deadly lethal going forward? it certainly doesn’t pass the eye test to say that he’s made arsenal better. in fact, one could make a legitimate argument that emery’s arsenal are worse in all three phases of play and it’s dumb luck that they got more points this year than last.

    mind you, we’re not comparing emery to wenger at his best or even wenger in an average campaign. we’re comparing emery to wenger’s worst season in 20+ years.

    with £76 million spent and a full pre-season, emery has failed to improve arsenal. to compare these two managers in their first season, wenger came in after the start of the campaign, spending only a £2 million for vieira and half a million for anelka and clearly made the players already at the club better.

    1. you could see the direction wenger was going. who can see the direction arsenal are going under emery? he hit the lottery landing this job but it’s arsenal that are going to pay the price, likely for many years, if they don’t unseat this guy quickly.

  24. I’m late to comment but I have a general observation about Arsenal that I also feels would apply to Spurs, Chelsea, Liverpool and United…

    Technical quality of players is way way way down. City have a virtual monopoly on players who are both athletic and have superb technique. Liverpool overcome an average technical ability with a style of play that emphasizes superb athleticism. But all of the Rest (the top teams minus City) have trouble piecing passes together.

    Our technical quality has been dropping steadily for years and that’s reflected not just in results but in offensive output… and in possession stats. And if you can’t keep the ball away from the other team I don’t care if you have Giorgio Chiellini and Thiago Silva as your CB pairing with Gigi Buffon in his prime in net, you will just be p*ssing into the tide. Case in point is Aubameyang – great player, great poacher, but has a sh*t touch on the ball. He is useless for ball retention.

    Then we have a guy like Xhaka who has nice skill but zero athleticism.

    It makes for an a) ugly brand of football; b) a very blunt weapon in attack and c) an exhausted defense.

    And we’re not the only ones. Everyone praises the Premier League for its excitement and competitiveness but the quality of football is getting worse, not better.

    I don’t know what the solution is. But I would wager if you did a similar analysis of xG and shots conceded et al, United would probably be in the same boat, possibly Spurs, definitely Chelsea.

    1. Right. Watching the CL semi finals made me feel terrified at the gulf in technical ability. I honestly would spend all my budget on a player who could exercise control in centre mid. Fill the rest out with kids and loans.

      1. I remember reading about Bergkamp insisting in practice that the most simple passes be done precisely, and not just by other but he would demand it of himself. And when did Dennis Bergkamp make a bad first touch? When did he pass the ball behind a player on the move (something I see Guendouzi do constantly)? Never.

        Is it impossible for a manager to focus on fitness, tactics AND technical quality? Is that too much to ask of professional players?

        1. I should add – the one player on our team who does marry technical excellence with good athleticism – Mesut Ozil – seems to not give two sh*ts about imposing himself on any game of consequence.

  25. Shard

    For whatever he used to be we don’t have anything close to the best creator in the world anymore. Look at the numbers. Ozil’s goals plus assists in the last 4 years are 25, 17, 12, 7. Father Time started to take its toll in the last 2 seasons under Arsene and the downward drift in his effectiveness seemed to accelerate when he signed the new contract. He has been playing with Aubu and Lacazette and he has a grand total of 3 assists in PL games since he signed the big contract 1 1/2 seasons ago and half season of that was playing for arsene. Mkhitaryan also not nearly as dynamic or creative as anyone could have hoped.

    I am not trying to suggest that Emery had a brilliant season because I think he did a terrible job with the defense. However, I don’t think his system was the reason our midfield struggled to create on the attacking end and there is logic to some of the tactical decisions he made.

    1. So the cutback and cross routine is only borne of necessity, because Ozil is now so bad that he can’t create any chances? Or is that Emery’s preferred plan?

      Hmmm.. I know what I think. That Arsenal have been playing this way because that’s exactly how Emery wants to play. We were using Bellerin and Kolasinac more regularly even before the whole Ozil and Ramsey drama.

      He plays 3 CMs to sit back against the likes of Huddersfield. I think he’s just terrified of being caught in transition, and attacking from wide is more of a defensive ploy to use the sideline as the extra defender if the move breaks down early. Despite playing 3 defenders, or keeping at least 2 Mids sitting back, our defense has been worse. I don’t get how, but it is.

      I’m sure there’s logic to all he does, but I’m sorry, he’s just out of his depth at a club like Arsenal, like he was at PSG. His only claim to fame is his success with Seville, and that was probably his peak. He’s failed to adapt to any challenge well enough after that.

  26. No way to know for sure. Perhaps the concern about defensive stability was another reason to go with 3 at the back but I also suspect we needed a way to get the ball into dangerous positions in the penalty box and our central midfield was not doing that. However, I seriously doubt he went into this season with the intention of playing 3 at the back but any manager has to be willing to adapt and go to Plan B if plan A is not working. Even Arsene did that when he switched to a back 3 in the last part of 16/17 season.

    In the end, you may be completely correct about Emery being out of his depth in the PL and the defensive disaster that was this season certainly argues in favor of that conclusion. I don’t think anyone would have guessed that we could concede as many goals as we did in 17/18. Only time will tell how it all plays out with Emery and if things don’t improve next season I will be right on the bandwagon with you calling for a new manager.

  27. Tim – Emery out is very easy to say. The question is – Emery instead of whom? If you fire him, you better have a replacement in mind, and we clearly don’t. From a practical standpoint, Emery out is a terrible choice.

    I don’t love Emery, his style of play (or lack thereof), nor his tinkering and conservative lineups. But with an absentee owner, no TD, a management team that’s laughable, and a terribly imbalanced squad riddled with injuries, Emery put up a decent fight.
    This roster needs a massive overhaul. We don’t have the money to do it, and we lack direction from the top. Not many managers thrive in that situation.
    He was always a caretaker manager – a bridge to the next coach who will oversee the radical reshaping of the team that’s needed. His job has been to make lemonade out of lemons and he nearly did it. I don’t know what decent coach wants this job, and I think it makes more sense to give him another year to try than to start over with another coach who will have no say in our transer biz over the summer, and inherit the same roster. It will likely be a stinky season, but I’d just as soon let Emery fail than put another coach into that impossible situation. For me, he’s out next year regardless (unless he wins the league 🙂 ) and the true rebuild will start with a TD who’s had a full year to plan, and a new coach who’s hungry and excited by the prospect of starting from square one.

    1. Probably the best we can hope for at this point, but I disagree that this was always the plan. It quite clearly wasn’t. Sven was building the side to maximise the window of opportunity with Ozil, Auba, Laca, Ramsey and Miki.

      Which may not have been the full scale rebuild some folks wanted, but then we were also told all the squad needs is some better coaching.

      I’m not sure a full scale rebuild really works in football anyway, especially in England. We tried in the Cesc years. It will be even tougher now.

  28. We obviously have many issues…..At a footballing level, I think one of our biggest problems is our main central midfielder: Granit Xhaka.

    He is a show pony most of the time, slow, sideways, rash, and anyone that tells me different and supports their argument by showing me sprayed passes, long-range shots etc….can, in turn, look at the defensive errors and acts of stupidity he shows far too regularly.

    Basically, If he is there as a main-stay next season, I can’t see much improvement in our defense or league position, no matter who we sign.

    Also happy to get rid of Ozil and Mustafi…please

  29. jack, i can really appreciate your take on mesut pairing the technical skill and athleticism but lacking the impetus to try and dominate a game. in fairness, it’s not who he has ever been; he may not know how. some aren’t suited to be captains.

    i also appreciate you mentioning bergkamp and his determination to demand players around him play at the highest possible level. speaking of dennis’ commitment to excellence, when the arsenal management job became available, i didn’t care for emery or arteta. i mentioned patrick vieira with dennis bergkamp as his #1. these are the only two players who were there for each of wenger’s championships. vieira did okay this year while bergkamp help do an outstanding job at ajax.

    1. Bergkamp is no longer at Ajax. Overmars and he had a disagreement about the direction of the team. Apparently the changes Overmars made didn’t always sit well with some of the people at the club. The coach (and his tactics) and breaking the wage structure to bring back Blind were cited in the article I read.

  30. Liverpool completed a full scale rebuilding job over the course of about 3-4 years since Klopp arrived.. Compare the current roster with the Brendan Rodgers rosters. The difference is they had several highly valuable assets with Sterling, Suarez and Cutinho they could sell for big money and reinvest. Our squad does not have those sort of highly valuable sellable assets other then Aubu and Lacazette. Bellerin might have been worth a lot more before his injury. After that our talent pool is really quite weak.

    Chelsea also did a complete rebuild when they had Drogba, Lampard, Terry, Essien, Anelka and whole squad full aging superstars well past their prime and going downhill quickly. They rebuilt and won the league in 2-3 years so its certainly possible.

    1. Rebuilds over 3-4 years count as ‘soft’ rebuilds to me. I think that’s what Sven had in mind. That works. In fact that is essential. I don’t think that is quite what the people in charge of Arsenal have in mind. Maybe the appointment of Edu (?) will help though.

  31. Squad building and management decisions during the latter part of the Wenger Gazidis years are highly suspect and left us with a pretty weak squad. $100M for Mustafi, Xhaka, Elneny and Lucas Perez and trading for Mkhitaryan instead of taking cash and giving Ozil that last giant contract were all decisions that are hard to understand.

  32. I am a huge fan of Aaron Ramsey and I hope he does really well in Italy. However, I understand the reluctance to give him a big money long term contract especially after getting burned so badly with the Ozil and Mkhitaryan contracts both of which are going to very difficult to off load. Ramsey is a wonderful player but his constant struggles with muscle injuries are a huge problem. His muscle injuries are almost certainly not going to decrease in number as he moves closer and then passes his 30th birthday.

    1. Not sure why all contracts have to be judged by their ability to be offloaded. Isn’t the purpose of a contract to keep a player?

      It’s penny wise pound foolish in Ramsey’s case. Arsenal made an offer because they have the money. They’ve always had the money. It’s just that with the new Ceo, the priority changed from the end of austerity, to the reimposition of it. (Probably how he got the job tbh)

      Rationalisation of the wage bill is fine. But if you’re blowing up the core of the team to do it, while losing your best players on a discount or free(!), that is NOT smart contract management. At least, not if your aim is to put the best team you can (afford to) on the field.

    2. it’s not just about arsenal not paying ramsey, it’s about throwing away a £40 million resource. can arsenal really afford to do that? it’s the decision management has made as best moving forward.

      i watched the interview with the new guys about the ramsey contract situation and all he did was deflect how it was bad that ramsey entered the final year of his contract. sorry, that had nothing to do with the club’s decision to withdraw his contract offer. i wish ramsey all the best in the future.

  33. Any idea how many goals from outside the box came in the first half of the season during that unbeaten run? I seem to recall most of them from that period.

  34. Shard.

    Its not just about sell on value of a contract but you have watched the same games as I and you have seen the same stats. We are paying Ozil and Mkhitaryan somewhere between $25-30M per season in wages for 2 players who have relatively similar skill set and who are clearly on the downside of their career arcs and neither has provided anything close to consistent creativity or positive influence on the pitch. For a club whose financial firepower is relatively limited those contract were very poor decisions.

  35. We have some good decisions in the last couple years such as selling Ox, Walcott, Gibbs and using the money to buy Lacazette and Auba. I hope Torriera and perhaps Guendouzi turn out to be good buys. However, the list of poor decisions seems a lot longer. In the last few years we have spent over $100M in transfer fees for Xhaka, Mustafi, Elneny and Lucas Perez. We gave Ozil a gigantic wage increase when his production was clearly on the decline. We traded for and gave Mkhitaryan a big contract instead of taking a fee for Sanchez. We gave Kolasinac a big contract. We lost Wilshere, Welbeck and Ramsey for free and sold Wojo and Gnabry for almost nothing. I understand that hindsight is always 20/20 but there have been a lot of questionable decisions in last few years of Wenger/Gazidis and the early part of our new front office brain trust. Poor squad and resource management strategy and decisions are certainly a significant part of why the quality and value of the squad are not where they should be.

    1. We criticised them for selling players, and we criticise them for retaining players. It’s another issue that we’re not getting the most out of Ozil. Is that just down to him? I don’t believe so. Not at all. People criticise him for what he’s not, which… I guess is fair. But if we embrace what he is, he can be special. Sven was building the side around him, Emery’s presentation would have said the same. Arsenal weren’t going to waste the investment they’d made on Ozil and Ramsey for a coach like Emery.

      His wage is also a function of his fame. Image rights. He’s the only global star we have. He might even have helped get a few million extra from Adidas. It would be entirely in keeping with this new Arsenal’s character to cynically try and get rid of him once that deal was signed.

  36. Shard

    Ozil has had an awesome career built mainly on his ability to visualize create and execute those brilliant final passes in the attacking 1/3. The numbers make an indisputable case those abilities started fading 3 years ago and for whatever reason the downward trend seemed to accelerate about the time of the new contract . Father Time always wins and all players hit the downward part of their career arc at some point and that trend was not going to reverse no matter who is the manager.

    1. What numbers? Goals and assists? His key pass numbers have fallen off a cliff this season, but were stable until last season. I wonder why that is? Ozil is Ozil. Emery’s just using him like he’s not.

      Key Passes (PL only):
      13-14: 2.9
      14-15: 3.1
      15-16: 4.2
      16-17: 3.0
      17-18: 3.2
      18-19: 1.9

  37. Shard

    As I said hindsight is 20/20 and its not always fair to criticize decisions in retrospect but there has certainly been a pattern of questionable resource management and squad building decisions in the latter part of this decade.

  38. Shard

    True regarding Emery’s coaching. If it does not improve next season it will be time for him to go.

    Ozil is Ozil and I think the evidence clearly indicates a player whose ability to influence the game have declined with age. It happens to everyone and once that starts it inevitably progresses. The stats only confirm what our eyes have been seeing and I am not sure how there can be much doubt about it after watching the last 1 1/2 seasons.

    1. Lol, the stats DON’T confirm it, and my eyes saw the Leicester game early in the season as what this team should play like with Ozil vs the rest of the season and what Emery wants us to play like, with or without Ozil.

      The time to get rid of Emery was just after the EL final. Not next year. But here we are.

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