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Emery & 'the block': Why Arsenal can't risk going down Man Utd road

COMMENT: So does the block still stand? Is it still in play - even after Thursday night? Do they cave, or does Arsenal's board give Unai Emery one more week to turn it around...?

There's no chance of explaining away this one. With the place half-empty, echoing like it was a preseason game. The result - defeat at home to Eintracht Frankfurt - was almost an after-thought. Even if the Gunners had won this Europa League tie, the images, the atmosphere, it would've spoke much louder than any three points. The place is spiraling and Emery is clearly struggling to find a way back.

On Friday morning, the board will meet. Several directors spoke in the aftermath of the evening's 1-2 defeat. With a night's rest. A bit of time to look at the bigger picture. The club's powerbrokers will meet formally to assess where they stand and if they can go forward with this manager.

The good money is on the board sticking with their original plan: the block. It was agreed before the international break that nothing would be considered until after the games against Southampton, Norwich, Brighton and West Ham. A block of four games management would expect to collect 12 points from. That they've already dropped two against Saints (and at home) wasn't the best of starts for Emery. But despite defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt, it's expected the manager will be given the chance to get to December 9 and that derby against West Ham before anything drastic is considered.

For this column, Emery still deserves the opportunity to dig his team out of this mess. And he should be told by the board, no matter what happens, he will get to season's end as Arsenal manager.

But the problem for his allies inside the club, including football chief Raul Sanllehi, is that the rebuild isn't just stalling, but going backwards. The foundations of a future, title-challenging team aren't being put in place. There's no centre-half on the books promising to be a ten-year Gunners player. Matteo Guendouzi apart, the midfield suffers the same in comparison. And in attack, while Gabriel Martinelli is one Sanllehi and Edu can hang their hat on, those whom management expect to be part of this three-year plan are looking elsewhere. With contracts running down, the club faces the prospect of selling both Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the captain no less, as they continue to refuse to buy into a future at Emirates stadium.

Will a new... ahem, different face make a difference? Perhaps. And we say different, because after 27 years of Arsene Wenger, Emery is not 18 months into his time as Arsenal manager. Does the board really want to go down the same road as Manchester United post-Sir Alex? Rip up the blueprint. Start again with a new style? A new approach? And depending on the personality, even a change in transfer policy?

And will they be satisfied? The ex-players in the media. The boo-boys in the stands. The YouTubers seeking clicks. How long before they turn on the new man, just as they've done with Emery.

The Basque must baffled. Results are one thing. And he can understand the frustration of fans in that respect. But the toxicity is something else. Why has it become so personal? Emery isn't Maurizio Sarri, nor Jose Mourinho. Yet, for the ex-Gooners in the media and those fans paid to pull apart their club every week, it really has become a case of 'us versus him'. Why? Only they would know - but week after week, season after season, it's chipping away at the club's reputation.

Again, inside the club, Emery is well liked. Popular. The players respect him. They want to play for him. Even Mesut Ozil, for all their problems, hasn't gone as far as to criticise his manager in public.

Perhaps Julian Draxler, PSG's German attacker, offered Emery something worth heeding. His struggles with English has raised concerns inside the locker room - and it's that communication barrier which also held the Spaniard back in Paris.

As Draxler explained this week: "I consider him a very good coach, but with him the communication was sometimes not that easy.

"When you talk to Thomas (Tuchel) and he clearly tells you in two sentences in German what is good and what is not good, that is certainly an advantage."

A good man. A very good coach. But one who is still struggling to get his ideas over to his players. He won't be able to fix it overnight, but Emery must know his English is a problem that needs to be resolved.

That is, if he's given the chance to do so.

But the board needs to ride this one out. For the moment, as of time of writing, the block still stands. And so it should. Emery deserves these next ten days to find a way to stop this spiral.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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