They call it 'noise'?

So, as anticipated, Arsenal slumped to defeat at Leicester City over the weekend. There's plenty to analyse, and lots of fallout since then.


The 'new'/old formation of playing three at the back, tested in Portugal (with different personnel) the previous Wednesday, got a run-out, and whilst one could see the logic in it, it does very much depend on the personnel and to me it simply looks like Arsenal do not possess sufficient quality at centre-back, irrespective of the formation. Chambers did okay - notwithstanding that he lost Jamie Vardy for the crucial first goal - and David Luiz would be the natural choice for the middle of the three - but Rob Holding was poor, unfortunately (isn't it funny that a player is always remembered as being better than he really is when he's out injured for a while?).

Hector Bellerin needs games in order to get back to his best - he's much better going forward than defending in any case - and Unai Emery's decision to play Kieran Tierney on Wednesday and Sead Kolasinac at the weekend was frankly baffling.

In midfield, the enforced absence of Granit Xhaka and the injury to Dani Ceballos left Matteo Guendouzi and Lucas Torreira as the default starters, and further up the field Mesut Ozil got the start he deserved just behind  Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette.

I've got no gripes with that team selection, to be honest. It was worth a go. However, the passive way in which the team was asked to play meant that it frankly didn't matter what the formation was. From the very first minute it was clear that there was to be no 'press' - and this was something that we all thought that Emery's teams were reknowned for - as the forwards and midfield took up their positions but did not approach the ball. And it didn't take long for Leicester to realise that they had a lot of time available to do their thing as they slowly but surely pushed Arsenal back.

This tactic of inviting teams on is something that I simply cannot get to grips with. Even in my extremely low standard Tuesday evening game players do what comes naturally and close down the man in possession. Yet up against players of the quality you find in the Premier League Emery just lets the opposition get on with it. And this has to have a lot to do with the fact that Arsenal are constantly out-shot by their opposition; and it makes no sense whatsoever to me.

However, Lacazette missed two gilt-edged opportunities midway through the first half, and it felt like one of those days that at least one of those chances had to be taken. And it also felt like it would only be a matter of time before the pressure told on the Arsenal rearguard, as Leicester's confident midfield wore away at what was in front of them.

When the first goal went in, I think that all Arsenal fans knew that the team's number was up. With the second, it was absolutely all over, and there was simply no response whatsoever from Arsenal. One shot on target all match, and that a feeble, scuffed effort in the 20th minute, sums it up as another ultimately disappointing performance.

So to then hear from the manager - and then later from the Board (as briefed to the normally reliable @David_Ornstein) that they felt that Arsenal had been in control until Vardy's goal... well, I don't know what game they were watching, as I was getting more and more nervous on my sofa the more the game went on.

And there was more disappointment to follow. We'd all got ourselves up to believe that with the slump in results, with personnel issues throughout the squad and the dressing room splitting into cliques, with the statistics worsening with every game and with every passing week indicating that this manager is not up to the job, that the Leicester game might be the watershed that forced the Board's hand. Not that any proper Arsenal fan would want the team to lose, I must add; simply that the gap to top four is widening, and that it is plain that action needs to be taken before it's too late.

Yet the brief that Ornstein was given was that the Board continue to believe in Emery - contrary, I would say, to ALL the evidence - and are prepared to give him until the end of the season. At which point it will almost certainly be far, far too late and Arsenal's slide from great team a mere dozen years ago to mid-table mediocrity will simply gather pace. In which case they are following the pattern of the previous set of decision-makers; that of sitting on their hands and hoping for the best. They will be culpable, of that let there be no doubt.

To make things worse, Ornstein then wrote that the Board feel that their 'project is sound, well-planned and will bring success, provided the external atmosphere allows it to do so', and that they 'accept that the absence of domestic matches will increase the "noise" around Emery and they are determined not to let it influence their thoughts or actions.' In other words, they appear to be blaming the fans - and thus disappear all the brownie points they had gained over the summer and in the early weeks of the season. Cue angry protests and thousands of empty red seats, I would imagine. Clearly, it's the fans who pick the team, coach them and send them out twice a week playing with no defensive shape, little ability to shield the defence and with a paucity of creativity as the cherry on top. I hadn't realised!

I can't put it better than @arseblog when he wrote this morning that 'perhaps the Arsenal board should take note of the fact that Brendan Rodgers was only appointed in February 2019, and in that time has done more to improve the team than Emery has in 18 months at Arsenal. In fact, he's a very good example of how changing a coach can bring improvement. He couldn't use the transfer market when he took over, he just coached his players better than Claude Puel and connected with them in a way that the Frenchman could not.' It's also worth chucking in here that Rodgers lost his star centre-back in the summer and was not permitted to replace him; but he just got on with it, with the players at his disposal.

One can only hope that it turns out that the statement from the Board is the dreaded Vote of Confidence... the one that precedes a change of coach, that is. But it doesn't look that way.

To compound the sinking feeling that Arsenal fans are going through on a match-by-match basis, what a terrific match Liverpool and Manchester City served up! There's not as much between the sides as the 3-1 scoreline would suggest, but that's where Arsenal were a dozen or so years ago - fighting it out at the very top of the table with their main rivals, and putting on a show of high energy, tempo and skill of the very highest level. How I long for those days!

And think about this; just over four years ago, when Jurgen Klopp left Dortmund, Arsenal had the opportunity to bring him in to replace Arsene Wenger - just as they had with Pep Guardiola two years before then. They sat on their hands - as they are doing now - and look at the result.

There's another dreaded Interlull this week. See you after the real football restarts - unless there's good news, that is...

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