All of a sudden, the constant changes of shape and personnel have been less effective. Some of the players appear confused at times, while the more vocal sections of the fanbase have been angered by certain decisions, including Emery’s tendency to withdraw Alexandre Lacazette from the action.
Such bumps are to be expected as Arsenal take this new road, of course, and no one can claim that Emery has not added a welcome dash of adaptability and unpredictability to their game. “It is enriching for us, to have the capacity to use different systems,” he said. “I think our best performance can come with different systems. It depends on the opposition and also on our players. Little by little, we are finding our way with different ideas.”
The concern is that these qualities can only take Arsenal so far, especially when the shortcomings in the playing squad prove to be so debilitating. In terms of personnel, Arsenal simply do not boast a defence of Champions League quality, while the autumn promise of the midfielders has also faded in recent weeks. Even the combative Lucas Torreira, so important since his arrival in the summer, struggled for form over the festive period. Torreira has been on the bench for the last two league games, but will surely return against Chelsea. “Sometimes he is with a good performance, sometimes he is with a worse performance,” said Emery, hinting that Torreira had been dropped rather than rested.
Emery’s issues with personnel are reflective of a wider problem for a club that is unable – or unwilling – to compete with the biggest sides when it comes to transfer spending. With owner Stan Kroenke not investing his own money any time soon (they can only sign players on loan in this transfer window) Arsenal must be doubly efficient on and off the field.