Why even the most devoted of Arsenal fans are struggling to find much enthusiasm for the Emery project

Why even the most devoted of Arsenal fans are struggling to find much enthusiasm for the Emery project

February 22, 2019

Instead, after the most comfortable of victories, a little bit of calm.

But all is not well at The Emirates.

The natives might not be revolting. They are still, though, decidedly unconvinced.

Many are still trying to work out what Unai Emery stands for.

The initial surge has dissipated. Now it feels that the club is subsumed in a degree of torpor, drift, inertia.

As some home fans passed the Emirates press box on Thursday, they signalled their doubts.

"Is it behind closed doors?" asked one, pointing to the massed ranks of empty seats (which were filled by the time the game began).

"There would probably be more people here if it was."

Another warned: "If we’re not careful, our stadium will always be like this."

Those were comments about the style of football that Arsenal have served up, not the tea-time kick off.

And despite the 3-0 win over Bate Borisov that took the Gunners into the last 16 of the Europa League, those doubts have not been assuaged.

Even the most devoted of Arsenal fans is struggling to find much enthusiasm for the Emery project. Confusion reigns.

The Spaniard himself projects a lack of concern.

Listening to his post-match news conference on Thursday, he might have been running through his shopping list, for all the excitement he brought to the occasion.

None of which matters, of course, if you are winning, producing a team that is doing the business.

But from the bright buzz of expectation that came in the autumn, so much has changed, so quickly.

The arrival in north London of Sunday’s opponents Southampton is fitting for that switch of moods.

Emery took his side to St Mary’s in December having gone 22 matches unbeaten and on the back of that stirring derby win over Spurs.

All seemed bright and positive. The club appeared to have bought into the new manager, hope was nascent, expectations growing.

But all has changed.

At St Mary’s, unaccountably, Arsenal disintegrated at the back, succumbing 3-2 as Saints won at home for the first time in the league all season.

It was the start of a winter of discontent.

Three days later, Spurs avenged their derby defeat in the Carabao Cup.

That was the start of a run of 15 games in all competitions which have brought as many losses – seven – as wins.

Which have seen an FA Cup exit at the hands of Manchester United.

And also seen Arsenal go from being above Tottenham on goal difference (four goals) after 15 games to 10 points behind their local rivals – and now 13 goals worse off – after 27.

Some fans are pinning the blame on the departed. In Arsene Wenger, viewed by a percentage as having fallen asleep at the wheel, and Ivan Gazidis.

Emery will, surely, be given time to put things right. Arsenal are not a club that likes to panic.

Even if a top four place in not achieved, with Manchester United having the wind in their sails, winning the Europa League would be more than enough to quieten the worries.

But failing to get back among the European elite, for the third year running, would deal the club another huge financial blow, at least £40m.

And, of course, make Arsenal a harder club for Emery to sell to the players he might want to bring in.

The best want to be playing against the best and that means the Champions League.

Arsenal are not broken, by any means. But the club remains unfixed.

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