So much to talk about this morning! Unfortunately, very little is positive, so whilst I’m not sure I’ll get through everything in this tube journey on my way to work, I’ll give it my best shot.

The performance

Was turgid. Again. We got ourselves into a commanding position with two goals in the first ten minutes and we looked to be polling the ball around well for the first 20 to 30 minutes. Lacazette had a shot saved from Hennessey, we had one dragged just wide, Arsenal looked to be playing in a 4-4-2 with Laca and Auba up top and I thought it was working. Palace looked to be on the back foot and up until they got their VAR penalty I thought they’d created little.

But Arsenal is the gift that gives to opponents. Calum Chambers Jung out a leg and Zaha will always take that opportunity. It was silly but nothing that we shouldn’t have expected.

What we as fans should have expected is for Arsenal to come out in the second half and put on a display of dominance. But as is the way this season, we sat back and let Palace back into the game, then through a combination of Xhaka’s reluctance to close down a cross, followed by Luiz’s poor defending up against Ayew, we were level and you just knew it wasn’t going to be our day. Even though actually it should have been had VAR not been incorrectly used with the disallowing of the Sokratis goal (more anon).

That second half was another disgrace and going forward we offered very little. This is a team devoid of creativity in the final third and it is painfully obvious right now. Every time in that second half that we went forward, we quickly came back. Players aren’t taking chances, they’re not trying risky things, the result of which is the dross we are being served up right now. We are making average teams look decent. These are some good players we have, yet they are woefully underperforming and, when you think about who could be responsible for that it’s hard not to look beyond…

The Manager

Unai Emery has sucked the creativity out of this Arsenal team. Those players look like they fear trying things and as a result they’re just focusing on the simple passes, the safe passes, the passes backwards and sideways. This type of performance isn’t new either. This isn’t the only data point that we are reflecting on. Games in which Arsenal have performed poorly now include:

  • Crystal Palace
  • Vitoria
  • Sheffield United
  • Bournemouth
  • Aston Villa
  • Watford
  • Liverpool
  • I could probably chuck in Newcastle, the first half an hour against Tottenham, as well as the Frankfurt game too, even though in some of those games we did get a result. But Emery is clearly not able to get his messages across to the players. Or, perhaps more worryingly, he’s getting his message across perfectly, the players are executing his strategies and the result is the dross we are getting served up.
  • Either way, his race is run at Arsenal. His selection decisions have been baffling, his decisions to omit certain players from the team have been wrong, his tactical set up feels overly conservative and the goodwill from last season has almost completely evaporated now. He feels like a man on borrowed time because after defeat to Liverpool on Wednesday this week, unless we beat Wolves, we’re going to lose to Leicester the following week and even the top four will feel out of our reach. We have the players, the club has backed the manager this summer, yet he is delivering little in terms of improvement and on that basis we should just pull the trigger.
  • The Captain

    I think this was another depressing part of the whole experience yesterday. Sitting in that ground hearing fans jeering and booing one of our own. A dark day for the club and the relationship with the supporters. I think it basically snowballed though. The jeers started when his name was called, but his slow trudging off when we need to show urgency, just infuriated those people who were already jeering. Then his theatrics throwing his hands in the air, cupping his hand, followed by telling fans to “f*ck off” feels like a watershed moment in his Arsenal career. The groundswell of support gathering for him to be canned had been growing, but I don’t think it was a majority of people, yet what happened yesterday was a mistake on his part because now that support will only grow. Xhaka will most likely come out and apologise and perhaps he shouldn’t have to, given the abuse he received, but that’s sadly the life of a modern day footballer.

    I don’t think it creates a healthy situation for the manager but his complete insistence on playing players who aren’t in the best of form doesn’t help the overall perception of Emery. This is just another stick with which to beat the manager and right now it feels like they are in plentiful supply.

    The refereeing and VAR

    This is getting ridiculous now. Pepe gets brought down against Bournemouth and nothing is given. I would go as far to say that it was more contact than Zaha’s penalty yesterday. Then we have the Sokratis shirt pull – not even looked at by VAR, because I defy them to have not given that obvious opportunity. Then we have yesterday’s third goal, which if anything was a foul and penalty on Chambers, given against Chambers for absolutely no reason as I can see.

    VAR has now cost us multiple points already. Our performances may not have warranted those points, but a bit of technology that was supposed to minimise the mistakes in football, are now causing more mistakes in football. It was awful yesterday and if this is what the new world looks like then we should scrap it completely.

    It’s not fun at the moment and I can’t see it getting any better this week. We’ll lose to Liverpool in the cup, we’ll lose to Leicester in a few weeks, and if we get anything other than a win against Wolves next weekend, I think we should be handing Emery his P45, because top four will probably already be done so we might as well start the search for a new head coach.

    Catch you all tomorrow.