By 90Min
October 29, 2019

Just like clockwork, Arsenal threw away a promising position against Crystal Palace at the weekend and chaos reigned supreme at the Emirates Stadium.

More worryingly, prior to that disaster, the Gunners went down with a whimper away at Sheffield United.

Few saw anything different happening.

When handed the job 17 months ago, one of the primary objectives that Unai Emery was tasked with was putting a stop to a dangerously growing trend of buckling under the pressure outside the comfort of north London.

If anything, things have got worse.

What we saw at Bramall Lane was the perfect encapsulation of all the issues that remain on the Gunners' dreaded travels. A blatant lack of leadership. A side devoid of ideas. A mental toughness as thin as the sheet of ice Emery now walks on. A team selection that begs belief. And even more worrying, not an ounce of care in the world.

The most passion on display outside of those in red and white was when Freddie Ljungberg - Arsenal's assistant head coach - remonstrated with the fourth official and got himself booked.

This myriad of failings all weave effortlessly together to forge a damning state of affairs that shows no signs of letting up. A club of Arsenal's stature, or at the current rate, previous stature, simply can't be putting in abject performance after abject performance with such blinding frequency.

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Every week all the aforementioned elements come together to form the omnishambles that we bear witness to, so all must be addressed if there is to be any hope of bucking the trend.

Firstly, the leadership issue is one that has been prevalent for a shockingly long period of time, yet shows no signs of easing off.

Opting to use five captains instead of the more regular, binary and commonly appreciated 'correct' method of just one, Emery is attempting to share that role among his squad. It's been mentioned before, so won't be delved into too far, but it demonstrates a blatant lack of faith in his side to lead with authority, in turn sending mixed messages about his players' integrity.

While Arsene Wenger was rightfully criticised for his stubbornness and failure to notice his time was up, one thing he could not be begrudged for was his philosophy and style of play. Towards the latter end of his tenure, Arsenal put in some abysmal performances on the road - but at least there was a distinct way of playing and the attacking football was some of the best in the country.

Fast-forward and a side unquestionably stronger as a whole look like rabbits in the headlights, with no invention or creativity in anything they do. There are no patterns of play in the offensive third, and too much reliance is placed on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to conjure up some magic.

This coincides with the placebo effect that is festering inside the mind of Granit Xhaka, who claimed in the wake of the defeat, "We have to stop about mental [strength] bulls--t like this."

Indicating that a glaring lack of mental strength isn't the reason for their failings away from home is dumbfounded. Everyone outside that dressing room can see it.

When the going gets tough and the team aren't playing well, it requires that extra burst of mental toughness to see you through those spells and continue pushing for a result in the face of adversity. That simply isn't present on away days, no matter how many expletives you spout in defence of your inadequacies.

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As a group of players, whoever you line up against on any given day are those you fight alongside, no matter whether you believe them to be the right man for the job or not. But the indifferent lineups that Arsenal put out for every game don't breed a consistency that is required at the top level, with a flurry of players more worthy of a starting berth than, say, Sead Kolasinac.

Which brings us onto the final point about seemingly not caring. While questioning the desire of the players is the fall-back claim for supporters when their club is failing, when the squad themselves don't have it in them to come over and thank the thousands traveling to Yorkshire on a Monday night, those queries are justified.

Matteo Guendouzi is the only player from the midfield and backline who shows the fighting spirit and endless running that fans had grown accustomed to during the glory days of Patrick Vieira and Gilberto Silva.

However. While the players are not blameless, all these traits circumnavigate back to one core factor.

Emery.

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It was Emery who chose Xhaka as his club captain.


It is Emery who sets the team out to play the tactics he thinks are best suited to away matches.

It is Emery who should be firing his players up for their travels.

It is Emery who repeatedly changes the lineup and baffles supporters with team selections that put players not worthy of a starting berth ahead of the likes of Lucas Torreira, Kieran Tierney and Rob Holding.


It is Emery who should make it known that if someone underperforms, they won't start next week; which in turn would raise the amount of care players put into their performances – knowing their place in the team is on the line.

Something has to change to bring an end to a run that has seen him win fewer games in his first 47 matches in charge than Wenger won during his final 47-game stretch. Not to mention that during that time, he's seen his team score fewer goals, concede more, and record less clean sheets.

He needs to sort out his starting lineup. It's been 17 months and he still doesn't know his best XI.


The defence is an utter shambles, but his insistence on playing the likes of Kolasinac, David Luiz and Sokratis is utterly bizarre when the club's best defender of last year and new £25m signing keeps the bench warm.

The football he has Arsenal playing is far less exciting than it was at the end of Wenger's tenure, and the away form has deteriorated since he took the reins.

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Where is Mesut Ozil? Another thing that begs belief.


All the failings away from home need to start with the manager, who has to get his team selection right and bin the pragmatic, negative approach to away fixtures that is costing the club dearly.


Emery has a lot of questions to answer. Whether he can be the man to return to the club to the upper echelons of the Premier League remains to be seen, but to say he hasn't had a fair crack of the whip is downright untrue, and the tightrope he's walking on will snap soon enough unless progress is made.

Leicester City are next up on the away calendar, and until wholesale changes are made, that too has another 'L' written all over it.


For more from Ross Kennerley, follow him on Twitter!

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