As I sit here in the post Christmas / Boxing Day slumber, I have a few random thoughts to share about the current state of Arsenal.
For a start, we all surely knew before the season started that it would be one of ups and downs. Highs and lows.
Anyone who would have thought that Unai Emery coming in would immediately turn Arsenal from a side who finished 37 points off the top in 2017/18 to title challengers was unrealistic. There is a longer term project in place. Plenty of rebuilding to do.
After 22 years of Arsene Wenger and 10 of Ivan Gazidis, the entire club is having to re-learn. Learn from Unai Emery, who he is and what he is about. The same with Raul Sanllehi and ASven Mislintant.
Look at what happened to Manchester United when Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill left.
Man U finished the 7th in the first non-Fergie season in 27-years. David moyes had the pre-season champions to work with. Emery is working with a side that finished 6th last season.
What we are now seeing is how much of a state the club, the squad, was in during that last 18 months of the Wenger / Gazidis era.
Emery is being hampered by not having enough quality players at his disposal.
By the time you throw in the injury problems we have at the back, alongside not having enough good defenders, we end up in the defensive crisis that saw Arsenal’s unbeaten run come to an end.
The squad really is a state.
We made some good signings last January, and further good signings over the summer. another two transfer windows will probably have seen a 40% squad turnover in 18 months – with plenty more still to go.
This highlights how bad the squad that Arsene Wenger left was.
Emery is also still learning.
He is not training or coaching a single player that he has dealt with before. A World Cup summer robbed him of some key players. It will take a while for him to learn about the players he has, how to play them, how to get them to tick, and how to get the best out of them.
There have been some odd calls from Emery – both in starters and substitutions – but he will learn from them. Change does not happen overnight and it is miles too early for people to be slagging him off.
This January the management trio of Emery, Mislintat and Sanllehi need to be backed by Stan Kroenke. Even if that backing is simply encouraging them to spend the funds that sit within the clubs bank account.
Saying that, we also need to buy the right players. There is no point buying someone for the sake of it and end up with another £35m Lucas Perez.
This is a building season. Over the next two transfer windows we need a central defender, left back and wide forward. We will not get them all in January. Just one would be nice. We need to buy in January, but not panic buy.
what yesterday’s game against Brighton showed is just how much we miss Hector Bellerin. He may have his critics, but he is a superb right back. The threat he poses on that right flank is incredible. He gives us a lot of natural width. We miss him.
We also miss Nacho Monreal of last season.
The Spanish left back is 33-years-old in January and injuries are catching up on him. Is Sead Kolasinac the answer? Possibly not.
Further up the pitch, Unai Emery clearly does not fancy Mesut Ozil.
The Ozil-circus has affected the start of the Unai Emery era. The manager needs to ensure it does not define it.
One of the odd calls by Emery is his attempt to start Pierre-Emeirck Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Mesut Ozil in the same team. It does not work and it feels like he is playing Ozil for the sake of it.
The German’s time at Arsenal is running out. Emery needs to be brave and sell him in the summer. Most fans would back the decision.
Arsenal already have the Ger,man’s replacement within the squad. Aaron Ramsey.
The Welshman has created more goals for Arsenal this season than any other player. He needs to sack his agent, sign a new deal, and get that number 10 shirt.
I am concerned about this weekend and the game against Liverpool. They are rampant at the moment and we could see a repeat of the 2014 5-1 defeat.
It is what it is.
Emery took over a team that finished 6th in the league. That could not win away. That were knocked out of the cup by Nottingham Forest. He has got that team, dragged us up and we are now back in the race for 4th.
The race for 4th is what most fans realistically expected. It is where we are. Best of 4th, worst of 5th.
All that said we are going in the right direction, our best players this season have been the players bought in under Mislintat. Another 2 windows will see 40% turnover in the squad.
Emery is clearly a good coach. He has improved the likes of Bellerin, Alex Iwobi and Granit Xhaka. The likes of Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi have also excelled under him.
There have been plenty to enjoy in the first half of the season.
We destroyed Tottenham in the Premier League and went on a 22 game unbeaten run. We have a great chance of silverware in the Europa League, and the FA Cup is yet to start.
The highlight so far is the youngsters getting bloodied in the cup competitions. Many of which are London boys who have been at the club from kids.
There will be more highs this season, and there will be some lows.
ps: that away kit is horrible. Bring on Adidas