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Why aren't Arsenal as concerned about being off course as Everton?

Wednesday 18th December 2019
Two clubs in dire straits but only one displays the urgency to stay afloat.
Two clubs in dire straits but only one displays the urgency to stay afloat.

Background image: SweetReilly0

Remember that scene in Titanic when the engineer comes to the bridge, lays out blueprints of the ship and details the catastrophe that will occur as a result of colliding with an iceberg? Some fat cat protests, boasting that the ship cannot be sunk, to which the engineer replies, “She’s made of iron, sir; I assure you she can.” Part of Arsenal’s problem is that the squad, especially in defence, is not made of iron. Even so, one is left wondering why the board doesn’t think their club can sink any further in the Premier League table.

Everton already navigated relegation’s perilous seas but Duncan Ferguson’s instalment as caretaker manager produced an abrupt turnaround with a win against Chelsea and draw with Manchester United. Nevertheless, when they entered into talks this week with Carlo Ancelotti, owner Farhad Moshiri and chairman Bill Kenwright displayed the type of urgency that came too late to the Titanic.

While Big Dunc removed £30 million teenager Moise Kean less than 20 minutes after sending him on, Ancelotti isn’t a desperate ploy to keep the 19-year-old at the club even though his father reportedly wants him to return to Italy. The three-time Champions League winner admittedly speaks the same language as the struggling starlet. He understands the difficulties in adapting to English football after two years at Chelsea. Thanks to his experience and their shared culture, he can suggest effective remedies with clarity but all that can all be filed under ‘in addition’ when listing the primary reason the All-Seeing Eyebrow’s services were solicited.

He’s desired because he offers a strong, steady hand on the tiller. Ferguson has all the passion in the world for Everton but confesses to his own inexperience.

It’s not about me, it’s about Everton. If they want me to assist I definitely will. I will support every single manager. If we bring in one of the best managers in the world, what a fantastic experience it would be for me to work alongside him, but that will be down to him. I am here for as long as Everton want me to be here.

Big Dunc’s loyalty cannot be denied but his humility can be interpreted as self-doubt. Everton not only require a manager who shares the club’s values and beliefs but one who displays unwavering faith in himself. If Ferguson isn’t sure he can do the job, Moshiri and Kenwright need to bring in someone else immediately.

The question posed here is why Arsenal don't view their situation in a similar manner?

The Gunners sacked Unai Emery after their defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League at the Emirates. Alone, it wasn’t a result worthy of dismissal. Both clubs fell to Chelsea in last year’s competition. Even though Adi Hutter lost his entire strike force in the summer, he astutely replaced Sebastien Haller, Luka Jovic and Ante Rebic with Bas Dost, Goncalo Paciencia and Andre Silva. Against Arsenal’s weak defence, the 2-1 scoreline was predictable even in North London. Not a firable offence on its own, the result was the straw that broke the former Paris Saint-Germain and Sevilla tactician's back.

Emery's side differed little from Arsene Wenger’s.  Still dangerous offensively when in the mood, which was seldom, and defensively when not, which was pretty much all the time, the squad weren’t any more consistent under the Spaniard than the Frenchman. He couldn’t inspire Mesut Ozil to contribute more off the ball or Laurent Koscielny to stay. His defensive signings, David Luiz, Sokratis and Stephan Lichsteiner, all seem to view the club as a more convenient retirement destination than the United States, Asia or Australia. He had to go.

Alarmingly, that was evident some time ago. Yet the board failed to line up a replacement despite the presence of several viable candidates without clubs and at least two others who appeared like they could be pried away from theirs with minimal effort. Instead, Ancelotti seems destined for Everton; Jose Mourinho resurrects Tottenham; Mikel Arteta remains at Pep Guardiola’s side, Patrick Vieira with Nice, Rafa Benitez with Dalian Yifang, Mauricio Pochettino and Massimiliano Allegri on the free market.

Admittedly, Arsenal remain [barely] in the table’s top half. They’re taking on far less water than Everton but must deal with flooding compartments nonetheless. Caretaker boss Freddie Ljungberg isn’t evoking the same response from his squad as fellow club legend Ferguson. Nor does he display much self-belief.

When Calum Chambers lost possession while trying to dribble out of his own half with the Gunners already down 3-0 to Manchester City, the Swede’s hands went to his head like two tetrapods trying to prevent his brain from bursting. Bernd Leno charged out to save the day but the interim manager could only turn away from the technical area and slump into his seat in despair. Pep Guardiola shook his hand after the match and the pair covered their mouths for a brief, private exchange. Did Ljungberg beg to come the other way if Arteta eventually takes over at the Emirates?

Several outlets now report Arsenal executives met with the Spaniard immediately after the defeat to City. They were seen leaving his Manchester residence. If Arteta is signed, significant questions remain. Like Big Dunc and Ljungberg, he’s an entirely inexperienced playing legend. His tutelage at Guardiola's feet trumps theirs under Marco Silva and Unai Emery but how much weight will that carry with a squad who ignored two managers with several trophies in their cabinets? Can an untested man command that dressing room?

Only four points above Everton in the table, the two clubs' disparate approaches to appointing a new manager make it easy to imagine them trading places before the holiday fixtures end. Arsenal remains a titanic club but it isn’t unsinkable.  

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Martin Palazzotto

The former editor of World Football Columns, Martin authored the short story collection strange bOUnce. He appeared in several other blogs which no longer exist. Old, he likes to bring out defunct. If outdated sport and pop-cultural references intrude on his meanderings for It's Round and It's White, don't be alarmed. He's harmless.


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