Arsenal’s defeat at Sheffield United this evening has seen one man in particular unsurprisingly singled out for heavy criticism.
Unai Emery’s men travelled to Bramall Lane a short time ago, for their latest Premier League outing.
The Gunners headed into proceedings amid a fine recent run of form, which had seen the capital giants unbeaten in their last 8 outings across all competitions.
The latest of these came just before the international break, when David Luiz’s first goal in Arsenal’s colours proved enough to put Bournemouth to the sword at the Emirates.
The north Londoners, though, no doubt entered this evening’s matchup aware that their latest opponents would prove no pushovers.
Sheffield United’s last fixture saw the Blades fall to a 1-0 defeat at home to Liverpool. Chris Wilder’s men, though, stood toe-to-toe with the European champions, and counted themselves unfortunate to have come away from the clash with nothing to show for their efforts.
As such, it came as little surprise this evening when the hosts put together a thoroughly-testing 90 minutes for Arsenal at Bramall Lane.
The first-half saw United edge proceedings, to eventually take the lead via Lys Mousset on the half-hour mark.
A lofted corner to the back post was nodded back across goal by Jack O’Connell, with Mousset having been afforded the freedom of the visitors’ 6-yard box to slot home under minimal pressure.
Arsenal came out for the second 45 with renewed vigour, but never really looked like producing that one moment of magic required to drag themselves onto level terms.
And, when all was said and done, this lack of a cutting edge, against an admittedly stout Blades’ backline, proved costly, as the Gunners fell to their first defeat since the end of August.
Highlights: Sheffield United 1-0 Arsenal
Emery at fault
Arsenal, all told, just weren’t firing at Bramall Lane this evening.
The Londoners looked shaky defensively and lacklustre going forward, amid an all-round disjointed display.
And, though a number of the club’s stars are no doubt set to be targeted by fans and the media alike for their sub-par respective showings, it is manager Unai Emery who appears to be taking the brunt of the blame for his side’s struggles.
While Arsenal have managed to grind out positive results for the most-part to this point in the campaign, the Gunners’ performances have actually been largely-unimpressive, with Emery yet to prove whether or not he can be trusted as the long-term successor to Arsene Wenger.
And those who adamantly stand by the claim that the former PSG boss is not the right man to lead Arsenal into a new era will no doubt feel vindicated this evening.
Ozil missed, Ceballos must start
Emery’s team selection at Bramall Lane was once again puzzling to say the least, with the Spaniard having continued to persist with the likes of Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Granit Xhaka and Sead Kolasinac.
Joe Willock was also handed a start, relegating Dani Ceballos to the bench, alongside the likes of Kieran Tierney and Lucas Torreira.
Ceballos’ introduction at half-time quickly changed the flow of the game, with the Real Madrid loanee’s energy and willingness to get on the ball having quickly pushed Arsenal onto the front foot.
Elsewhere, Mesut Ozil was not even afforded a place in the Gunners’ matchday squad, a decision which, in hindsight, proved costly.
Whether Unai Emery is a fan of the German or not, there is no denying the fact that introducing Ozil with 20 minutes to go tonight could have proven decisive in breaking down Sheffield United’s stout backline.
Arsenal lacking identity
This leads onto the next key question for all associated with Arsenal… Just what is the club’s identity? Where are they headed under Unai Emery?
After a debut campaign during which there were at least signs of the type of side that the Spaniard was attempting to build, it now looks altogether unclear.
Tonight, the Gunners just looked as though they didn’t really know who they were.
Far too frequently completely lacking in ideas going forward, there appeared to be no game-plan to break Sheffield United down, with one of the best centre-forwards in world football having been starved of service.
Then, at the other end, with no real leader, either at the back or in midfield, conceding a completely avoidable winner.
📊 Arsenal clean sheets in 24 away PL games under Unai Emery, by opponent:
1⃣ v Newcastle, Watford
0⃣ v the rest pic.twitter.com/GXuQLu1nYn
— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) October 21, 2019
The high-press, all-action stylings which Emery’s Arsenal showcased genuine flashes of last season now look a thing of the past, with the north Londoners’ aimless performances reminiscent of those over the final years of Arsene Wenger’s reign.
Simply out, Unai Emery must figure things out over the coming months, or be moved on.
Large sections of Arsenal’s fanbase, however, have evidently already made their minds up regarding the club’s boss.
As showcased below, the hashtag #EmeryOut has been trending across social media in the aftermath of tonight’s clash:
— Torreira!! (@Xahraddeen_) October 21, 2019
Don’t care anymore. I’d rather lose the next 5 games and have Emery sacked than scrape top 4 and have him stay another year. Will save embarrassment in the CL. We literally cannot go any further with him in charge. #EmeryOut
— Wiz Khalifa (@wizkhalifa2019) October 21, 2019
Hear me when I say this and read this CAREFULLY. This is PAINSTAKINGLY obvious
If you are Emery IN at this point, you are in serious need of a mental health evaluation.
— Sack Emery ASAP (@AFC_Carys) October 21, 2019
Games like this are why we won’t get top 4, Unai needs to go before it gets worse #emeryout
— Josh Curtis (@joshcurtis10_) October 21, 2019