Arsenal’s "truly pathetic" recruitment policy left sacked Unai Emery with a number of "uncoachable" players, says Sky Sports’ Gary Neville.
Absent fans always spells trouble
It’s always sad when a coach loses his job, and irrespective of the result it’s always a massive problem when the fans don’t turn up, for a manager. I remember a few years ago, I went to a Manchester United game on a Tuesday night, and there must have been about 55,000 inside Old Trafford.
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I thought at that moment, that was probably the time Louis van Gaal lost his job because if fans don’t turn up, the board will act on that. The performances and results haven’t been great, it’s always a reflection on the board and sporting directors, the succession planning for Arsene Wenger hasn’t succeeded. We’ve seen it at other clubs and in some ways it’s unsurprising, it was always difficult for someone to come in after such a long time.
He’s been disrespected at times in the last few weeks, his accent and manner have been ridiculed, that was quite unsavoury, the reality is he’s a top coach who couldn’t find his way in this particular job. My feeling is sadness obviously, as a man’s just lost his coaching role today.
It’s been messy. The goal last week that we highlighted on Monday Night Football, that one where David Luiz was stepping up against Southampton, we’ve seen [Shkodran] Mustafi, we’ve seen Sokratis [Papastathopoulos] too let’s be clear – these defenders are uncoachable, some of them.
Recruitment a deeper issue than Emery
I don’t know who’s been responsible for recruitment over the last two or three years, they’ve chopped and changed, there have been new people brought in. But if I was in the boardroom at Arsenal I’d be giving them a right rocket. There’s no way Emery is telling David Luiz to step up two or three times, there’s hideous things you see from the other defenders and midfielders.
You think of [Granit] Xhaka the other week, Emery is a man of honour and you see that behaviour, this is much deeper than the coach. Emery might be sailing his way back over the Channel this afternoon and be very happy to leave behind what is, quite simply a very average bunch of players.
There’s no way Unai Emery was telling the players to do those things. Some of the things we were seeing on the pitch were fantasy football really.
Without a shadow of a doubt the players have let him down. The manager will take the hit, it’s his responsibility to place them into an organised shape, but some of those players – I’ve been critical of my own club over the last few years for their recruitment policy and their strategy, but Arsenal’s is truly pathetic.
You couldn’t find a more erratic bunch of players in terms of defending to watch. If you said to find three or four most erratic defenders in Europe, it’s almost like that’s the brief for recruitment. The players have let him down but some of them aren’t up to it.
Freddie Ljungberg now takes over that defence, can he make the team into a defence that doesn’t concede goals and doesn’t concede shots? It’ll be short-lived, those players will let you down, 100 per cent.
He has to take responsibility, he has done. He was out there every single week on the touchline, getting the abuse at the end. He’s been a great coach, for many years, having a lot of success, and this job has found him out. He’s not been able to impact the players.
No connection with head coach and club
Sometimes in football we can look too deeply into it, there’s just not that connection between the club, the manager and the players. Essentially things fall over, and it looks awful. The team on the pitch are a reflection of him, and the coaching sessions he’s been doing and the work that he’s been doing during the week.
He hasn’t just become a bad coach overnight, something hasn’t connected. Maybe it doesn’t look like he knows what he’s doing, because he’s changed his mind. But when you see some of the things on the pitch in terms of decision making from Arsenal, I would imagine every single week he goes into his coaching room, looks at his players’ names and has a game of sort of pin the tail on the donkey, which one do I pick.
We often see the opposite of what’s been in previously, they look for something completely different. When something doesn’t work, they say it’s something like this that we need instead.
Who next for Arsenal?
Mikel Arteta was linked last time round, someone who has experience of Arsenal, he’s a lot younger, whether they go down that route, I don’t know what their boardroom are thinking and ultimately until they communicate that to us we won’t. Some of the names on that list are fantastic coaches, some are younger and different without a track record, but every manager needs to build a track record.
Frank Lampard’s doing that at Chelsea, he’s only had a few months in the job, you have to get a first job somewhere. The first thing the board should do is reflect on what they’ve done, how they’ve gone about things. What do we need to do to make sure that we’re not in this position in the future, so the Arsenal fans are happy.
Arsenal is a great football club, I loved going there even when I was playing. We’re talking about a club that will come through this period, it will live long not just beyond Emery but the next manager as well. But they’ve always been quite responsible in their decision making.
They’ve been loyal, but they’ve generally been run well, it’s a steady ship, and it’ll be interesting to see now with the reign of Arsene Wenger whether they get caught on the roundabout and spinning for the next few years. That’ll be something they’ll be working hard to try and resist.
The main thing they need to do is make sure they’re not sacking another manager in 12 to 18 months. It just will not work, it’ll cost them more money, sacking the managers in their respective teams but also in the recruitment ideas of the players who are brought in, I would imagine whatever manager comes in now will want to wipe out half that dressing room and that costs money. The reality is, they’ll want to bring their own players in, and that costs as well.
The recruitment hasn’t been right for a few years in a number of areas, they need to get that right and second get someone in place who can live through these difficult times and transition a team from what is a difficult moment to a good moment.
Look at the job Mauricio Pochettino did at Tottenham, it wasn’t the best squad when he took over but he was able to manipulate it into something very good. Essentially, Arsenal need that same type of person who’s capable of doing that.
Carra: It was worse than end of Wenger era
Also speaking on Sky Sports News, Jamie Carragher said Arsenal’s performances were actually worse than towards the end of Arsene Wenger’s tenure at the club, and wonders which direction the Gunners will go next.
The feeling was this man was going to come in and change things, but it’s actually worse, and less organised than it was towards the end of Arsene Wenger’s reign. There’s no doubt that Arsenal, with the squad they have, are underachieving.
I do think they’ve got really poor defenders, I’ve got no time for some of the players they have at the back, they are really poor.
The next man they bring in, of course it will be a big job, they’re a long way from Liverpool and Man City, but it will be interesting to see if they go back to Mikel Arteta, or look at the job Brendan Rodgers is doing, or a top-level Champions League manager in Max Allegri. Or do they wait for someone in the summer?
What’s next on the pitch for Arsenal?
Arsenal travel to Norwich on Sunday at 2pm in the Premier League, live on Sky Sports, while their last Europa League group-stage clash is at Standard Liege on December 12 at 5.55pm.