I don’t think too many people would’ve predicted Mauricio Pochettino to be survived by the likes of Solskjaer and Emery, nor did I think he would be immediately replaced by Jose Mourinho at 7AM this morning. As woeful as the trio have been in the past year, it’s Poch who is perhaps least deserving of the boot and yet here we are. Emery and Poch’s respective records since the start of last season are as bad as each other, and yet one remains.
I normally couldn’t give a toss what happens at that tinpot club we call our rivals. Actually, rivals is a tad too strong because it implies competition but I have to give them some credit. They might’ve made some ground up in recent times but as this era (yes, people have actually used “era” to describe Pochettino’s tenure at the club) comes to a close, their silverware to show for it is non-existent and that’s what it all boils down to in the history books. Instead, my purview in this case really relates to the timing and nature of Pochettino’s departure.
It’s particularly poignant given our own managerial predicament and if there was any slither of doubt as to the gravity of the task at hand for Emery, the writing is absolutely on the wall now. It’s also bound to raise questions in the upper echelons of Arsenal HQ as Raul and Edu hurriedly make sense of the wheelings and dealings going on at the toilet bowl. Chief among them is the knock-on effect on our own hysterical fanbase; as if support for Unai wasn’t already at an all-time low, there is little room for patience from even the most devout believers in his ability. Poch’s dismissal will only serve to fan our own flames of discontent as our collective refusal to settle for mediocrity deepens.
Call me hyperbolic but a clear message has been sent. It’s a sign of intent from Daniel Levy and it also raises questions about our own ambitions. If Spurs are prepared to sack their golden boy, 5 months after leading them to an unprecedented Champions League final (which they bottled), amidst a sodding Amazon documentary, after he’s built a team with a defined playstyle and really put them on the map, what does it say about us? Yes, their form has been woeful. Even worse than ours (somehow) and there seems to be real discourse amongst several players whom Spurs depend on. That being said, their 14th place League standing is considerably more embarrassing from a red and white perspective because 3 points separates 6th and 14th.
Saving his clear penchant for infusing general shithousery/thuggery and diving into the Spurs repertoire, there have been plenty of commendable contributions made by the Argentinian. The relentless press, intensity and fluid counter-attacking football garnered plenty of praise and points on the board and it’s no coincidence their free-fall form table has coincided with the dissaption of this tenet. Ultimately, Poch failed in never being able to shake the club’s unwavering problems with mentality.
I don’t know how much damage Leicester’s title-winning season did (coming third in a two-horse race… couldn’t resist), or how much the disappointment missing out on the Champions League has caused this season’s demise, but they felt the need for change and took action. Our fateful night in Paris in 2006 is still my lowest moment as a fan but they won’t get any sympathy from me.
At the very least, seeing that man, at that club has absolutely galvanised my hatred and with any luck, Mourinho will carry on where he left off with United. Ironically, his points per game ratio at United (1.89) was exactly the same as Poch’s. In some ways, I’m a bit sad because I can’t fully enjoy this pantomime timeline we find ourselves in because we’re waist-deep in shit ourselves.
At this point, I struggle to even play Devil’s advocate in defence of Emery. I don’t really buy that we’re still in a transitionary period, as we’ve seen the likes of Leicester have clear improvements in a shorter space of time. I don’t buy that players underperforming is the cause of our malaise (which can perhaps be said of Poch’s downfall), though the form of some players hasn’t helped matters. I don’t think we’ve been particularly unlucky or hard done by, whether that be injuries or down to officiating/VAR. Looking further afield, Emery’s strongest case for his appointment was his Europa League track record and we all know how that played out. You can argue it’s a lot to expect in his first season to win a minor European trophy but that was one avenue the board saw a “quick fix” for getting back into the Champions League, and the gamble didn’t pay off.
The panic against Watford. The disappointment at Sheffield was damning. It got worse against Palace and Wolves. The predictability of the loss to Leicester. The pathetic and spineless performance against Vitória. The warning signs are there and I felt any number of these and more could have been the death knell but in some ways, Spurs have perhaps done us a favour because there’s nowhere to hide for anyone at Arsenal now.