Soccer / unai emery
Arsenal's Defeat At Goodison Park Raises Doubts About Their Top-4 Survival
Sometimes, as a passionate football fan, I try to put myself in the shoes of these coaches just to see if I can feel what they feel during games, In the end, I can only imagine it. The tensions, the pressure and even the criticisms that comes with being a manager when stuffs gets tough, is unsettling. In some other top leagues across Europe, one can to a greater extent predict teams that are most likely to finish top four at this point. Image Source However, in the English Premier league, the battle for a spot in next season's Champions league is still earnestly contested and most teams know it's far from over until it's over. For Unai Emery and Arsenal who have been trying to remain within that circumference, their journey to secure a sit in Europe hit a rock on Sunday, as they succumbed to a rather disappointing 1-0 defeat to Everton at Goodison Park. I could smell the fragrance of uncertainty in the atmosphere. Sullen countenance from Emirate fans after the blast of the final whistle showed the fear they all share in common. And what's the fear? That a further slip in points could see them toppled from their seemingly provisional Fourth position in the league table. Yesterday's match against Everton was for me an opportunity for Unai Emery and Arsenal to show the stock they are made of and their readiness to intensify their European pursuit. It's tight up there, and instilling fear or exerting pressure on fellow contenders could be a good psychological tool. Nothing unsettles another team like always giving them a little mountain to climb. It makes them play under the pressure to catch up with you, and in the process, the coach might even be forced to take some knee-jerk decisions, especially by rotating or changing his formations. That's what Arsenal should have done at Goodison park, beat Everton and put Chelsea, Manchester United or Tottenham under pressure. Well, it wasn't one of those awesome nights for the Gunners, as they left Goodison park to London with lots of question marks, as to the possibility of them finishing top four ahead of Sarri's Chelsea and Ole's high flying Manchester United. This season, the Gunners have not been performing badly at home, in fact, they have emerged victorious in their past ten home games in the premier league. Quite a commendable feat if you ask me, a little accolade for them as regards protecting the sanctity of the Emirate Stadium. Despite having an impressive home outings so far, Unai Emery has not been able to inculcate same team drive or winning consciousness in his team in relation to away games, and the defeat at Goodison park by Everton lends credence to that. In all, something was obvious even to the blind, and that was what Everton took advantage of. Guess what? Xhaka was absent in the line up due to injury, and Arsenal couldn't cope with the Swizz absence in the midfield. Under Unai Emery, the Switzerland international has become a force in Arsenal team and has been the skeletal frame of the team, especially in the midfield. You can always tell when he is not around, because the team is a bit different in output without him. With the crack his unavailability created in the midfield, Everton had no much difficulty in brushing their visitors aside with just a goal, knowing they will have no much drive to push themselves back. Xhaka is currently not fit to play due to a thigh injury, and with Torreira still under suspension, Unai opted for Mohammed Elneny and Matteo Guendouzi. I was expecting Aaron Ramsey to be used, but to my utmost surprise, he was on the bench. I can't tell why Emery took that decision, but I personally think it was the wrong one. Despite trying to salvage the decision after half time by bringing in Ramsey and Aubameyang, Everton were not ready to allow that victory slip through their fingers, so they held on tight and made sure Arsenal left with nothing. With Napoli waiting to take the Gunners on Thursday in the Europa league, the prayers for Xhaka's return is the most important. However, for now, their top four spot is under threat and the World is waiting to see if Unai can navigate Arsenal through this flame unscathed.