The change in Arsenal’s fortunes must begin at board level

Alexandre Lacazette’s late equaliser may have spared Arsenal their fourth Premier League defeat of the season, but the striker’s lack of celebration and the subsequent crescendo of boos from the home fans at full-time only underlined how dysfunctional things at The Emirates have become.

The draw against Southampton – which, by rights should have been a defeat had the visitors converted one of their many chances –  only served to solidify the position the majority of Arsenal fans had taken after the 2-0 defeat to Leicester City earlier this month – the club, under Unai Emery is going backwards.

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For those fans the most dispiriting element of their Premier League defeat to Leicester City wasn’t the manner of it, nor the fact that the outcome was a totally logical conclusion to 90 minutes of competition between the second best team in the league and the sixth best team; but instead, the frustration, which has since peculated into anger, is based on the sense, which has now peculated into conviction, that a change is needed.

And there is no better illustration of this fact than assessing the past 18 months that Unai Emery has presided over the club compared to the nine months that Brendan Rogers has been in charge of Leicester City.

The common charge levied against Arsenal fans is that the collective expectation had become to detached from the reality and the club is in approximate terms where it deserves to be.

And whilst this may have been true, in particular during the ‘civil war’ that broke out at the end of the Wenger era; there can be a certain level of sympathy for Arsenal fans in this latest episode of The Arsenal crisis™.

The Arsenal fans, regardless if they were #WengerOut or not, could have a reasonable expectation of the club hierarchy putting in place a management structure that would improve things. And they key word there is ‘reasonable’.

Only the most deluded amongst them would have expected an instant return to the UEFA Champions League. And yet, in his maiden season Unai Emery brought ‘The Gunners’ within a point of doing so. Certainly a cause for optimism that Arsenal could make progress this season, even if they aren’t amongst the trophy favourites here.

But after the Leicester result the true nature of the club’s direction was laid bare. With just 18 points after 13 games, the club would require a return of 18 wins (i.e. 53 points) from their remaining 27 games to achieve an improvement on last season.

After Saturday no one in their right mind would argue that this team, with this manager, will qualify for the Champions League through a league placing. This leaves an arduous trek through the UEFA Europa League – something which, as last season proved, does not guaranteed glory.

And so, if this indeed is a question of management, it leads us to the club owners.

Having observed just one win in seven in all competitions; a player stripped of the captaincy after arguing with fans and the continued absence of the club’s highest earner, how would one expect the Arsenal board to react?

Hardly with jubilation for sure, but the noises coming out from North London don’t even go as far as to acknowledge a problem.

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On the contrary, according to recent reports in The Athletic, the Arsenal board is apparently “100%” behind the Spaniard and will wait until the summer before reassessing the club’s position. David Ortstein’s piece continues (€), stating that the board:

are adamant their project is sound, well-planned and will bring success, provided the external atmosphere allows it to do so.

In other words, can the fans and former Arsenal players such as Paul Merson and Patrick Vieira please be quiet.

As you can imagine the reports haven’t gone down well, and understandably so, as it smacks of the same lethargy at board level that surrounded the departure of the previous manager.

this lack of action from the board, coupled with the value of payments those same individuals have reportedly deigned to pay themselves in the same period, and it only takes a run of substandard results before the situation soon beings to turn toxic.

Of course, a change in fortunes on the pitch and the outlook for the board looks all the more rosy. What no one could argue is that based on the last two league performances there is very little chance of that turnaround happening.

Emery is a good manager, with a proven track record on the continent, however by any metric that matters Arsenal have regressed in the 18 months he has been in charge.

The run up to Christmas has been cited as critical to Arsenal’s season and a bad run would almost certainly force the Arsenal board to at least think about making a decision.

Football management, much like comedy, is all about timing – sack a manager too early, before you have a clear strategy in place and you’ll be chastised as having made a knee-jerk reaction. However, failing to react at all is a sin of equal weight.

The well run clubs, such as Leicester City, analyse the situation, plan and act. And then they reap the rewards. The Arsenal board must learn to do so quickly, before the decline becomes terminal.

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