Is Mourinho better than Pochettino? Can pigs fly?
Finally, I thought, here was a head coach who seemed to care about the tactical side of football. Here was someone who could, through his much-vaunted use of video analysis, help to improve the team defensively.
Here was someone who had promised to turn us into ‘protagonists’ once again.
Instead, after more than a year into Emery’s reign at the Emirates Stadium, Arsenal continue to look as headless on the pitch as Ned Stark at the end of Game of Thrones season one.
Who knew that was the kind of ‘protagonist’ Emery was referring to?
Now, I fully acknowledge that it is not easy to come in and replace a legacy manager like Arsene Wenger, who, for all his faults, had overseen a period of great success at the club.
But surely, with more than a season under his belt, and with the club splashing the cash on key players such as Nicolas Pepe and Kieran Tierney, Emery should have Arsenal playing better football than the sort of tripe they have produced so far this season.
The Arsenal that Wenger so painstakingly built over the years, and that many Gooners are familiar with, play with swashbuckling freedom and creativity.
The Arsenal under Emery, however, play a brand of football so dull and unimaginative that it could easily be part of the curriculum of Singapore’s education system.
And I’ve had enough – it’s time for Emery to go.
Trust me, I’m not over-reacting or being overly-dramatic here. In fact, I’ve been very patient with the Spaniard so far.
Because even after our embarrassing capitulation in the English Premier League (EPL) at the tail end of last season which saw us miss out on top-four, and even after our 4-1 thrashing at the hands of Chelsea in the Europa League final, I was willing to give Emery one more season to prove himself.
All I needed was a sign – any sign – that Arsenal were making progress under Emery.
And I thought that was the case in pre-season, when a series of encouraging performances and results in our friendlies even made me secretly harbour hope that we could maybe make a cheeky push for the title this season.
After all, in those games, Emery set his team out to press high and hard; they moved the ball forward quickly and efficiently, and were proactive in trying to keep their opponents on the backfoot at all times.
But now, after one too many dreadful and dreary league performances, I feel cheated by Emery’s pre-season tactics. It’s like the time I went to watch a movie about a man and his dog expecting a heart-warming tale of love and friendship, only for the dog to die within the first few minutes to send the man into a murderous rampage that has since lasted for three movies and counting.
I mean, how was I to know that a movie with such an innocuous name like John Wick would turn out to be so violent?
There is no doubt that Emery is out of his depth at Arsenal. He hasn’t just failed in his remit to improve the team – instead, he’s actually made us regress as a whole.
It also perplexes me no end that despite having an array of exciting attacking talent like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Pepe, Alexandre Lacazette, Dani Ceballos and even Mesut Ozil at his disposal, Emery still chooses to send his team out to play conservative football.
It’s like making the cast of The Expendables – Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone, Terry Crews and Dolph Lundgren – act in a Nicholas Sparks-inspired romantic comedy.
To be honest, I could still close one eye to Arsenal playing defensive football if it actually translates into results. Or at the very least, if it made us more defensively secure.
Just look at Atletico Madrid and the way they make themselves so hard to break down. Even Arsenal, not too long ago, were famous for having an unyielding defence led by Tony Adams.
And when a well-drilled team like Atletico execute their defensive strategy, it can be quite an impressive sight to behold, with players moving seamlessly in tandem to close down space and forcing the opposition to play into a cul-de-sac.
When Emery’s Arsenal try to defend, however, they part in the middle like David Beckham’s hair in 1998 and give opposition players all the time and space in the world to take shots at Bernd Leno.
Emery may as well put a bright-neon sign that reads “Carnival” atop Leno’s goal in future and charge the opposition S$1 for every three shots they take. That way, we can at least increase the club’s coffers so we can eventually buy another top-class playmaker for Emery to omit from the matchday squad.
But the most worrying aspect of Emery’s tenure at Arsenal thus far is that he simply does not seem to have a plan for the team, both in the short and long-term.
There is no clear, discernible system or playing style. The players look unsure as to what to do on the pitch. And some of Emery’s tactical decisions – like choosing to play Lucas Torreira, a defensive midfielder by trade, in an advanced role – are as confusing as some of Tan Kin Lian’s Facebook posts.
Emery’s continued alienation of Ozil – the most naturally creative player at Arsenal at the moment – when the team is desperately crying out for some creativity in midfield also shows how inflexible and stubborn Emery can be. A more cynical man might even call him prideful.
So, the way forward for Arsenal is clear – it’s time to part ways with Emery. And the sooner we sack the ex-Valencia manager, the better. There is no point persisting with a head coach that clearly isn’t right for the club, especially when there’s already a suitable replacement in Freddie Ljungberg waiting in the wings (pun fully intended).
And maybe then, Arsenal can finally turn into a true ‘protagonist’, like Tony Stark’s Iron Man in the Avengers movies. I mean, things ended well for him eventually, didn't it?