Comparisons are a vital part of sports. We can't set our eyes on a new talent without immediately pointing to who that player reminds us of, like the Leonardo Di Caprio meme from Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. I do it too, so I wish I had an answer for why we can't escape the jaws of a player-comp,...
In Turmoil, Arsenal Should Look No Further Than Liverpool
Arsenal are in a state of turmoil with no clear direction. The previous Captain, Lauren Kolscieny, refused to take part in preseason after demanding a transfer - the New club captain, Granit Xhaka, was booed by the fans upon substitution and proceeded to remove his jersey before storming down the tunnel - World Cup winner Mesut Ozil is at odds with the coaching staff - and fans are demanding the exit of Unai Emery. This seems a long way from the club that celebrated ending a 9 year trophy drought in 2014. Fans thought that ending the trophy drought meant a return to the golden days of Arsenal football but that could not have been more inaccurate. That drought was replaced by a new drought, a drought that has seen the club miss out on three straight Champions League campaigns after previously qualifying for 19 straight seasons.
There seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel but for hope let's go back in time to May 13 of 2012.
The date is May 13th, 2012 and a late goal from Swansea City's Ashley Graham condemns Liverpool to a fourteenth loss for the second straight season. The result was inconsequential, after all, this was the last game of the season and Liverpool are about to finish in 8th place with a record low points total of 52. Craig Bellamy finished as the club's second top scorer with 6 goals . . . and a midfield trio of Stewart Downing, Steven Gerard and Charlie Adams lead the way. Last season was a little better but those 58 points were only good enough for 6th place and the year before that, 7th place was the best Liverpool could muster.
On that same day in 2012, Borussia Dortmund were celebrating a League-Cup double after winning the league comfortably by 8 points and defeating Bayern Munich by a score of 5-2 in the Cup Final the night before. That double was the first in the club's 103-year history.
Meanwhile, Liverpool were in the midst of a 7-year run from 2009-2016 that would see the historic club finish no higher than 6th with the exception of the 2014 season. An aging Steven Gerrard and a Uruguayan enigma by the name of Luis Suarez acted as the duct tape that kept the team from slipping to a finish at the bottom half of the table, and once those two were gone by the 2016 season, the only question was just how low the club would sink. The answer was another 8th placed finish in 2016.
That meant only one Top 4 finish in seven seasons, Liverpool were quickly sinking without a trace and no longer resembled a club that boasted two Champions League trophies.
If you were a Liverpool fan during this period your only source of enjoyment came from rooting against Raheem Sterling, one of the best Liverpool prospects in history, who ultimately chose another club at the age of 21. Outside of that, losses like 4-0 to Tottenham, 3-0 to West Brom, and 6-1 to Stoke City (Yes, Stoke City) were quickly becoming the norm. Your club felt hopeless and each transfer felt like a miss. Andy Carroll, Charlie Adams, Fabio Borini, Mamadou Sakho, Iago Aspas, Mario Balotelli just to name a few. The club was full of players that were not of the sufficient level and the coaching staff was forced to oversee the exodus of the club's best players who sought greater opportunity for trophies year after year.
There seemed to be no clear solution.
Fast forward to 2019, 7 years from that loss to Swansea City, 3 years from the 8th placed finish of 2016, and what you have is a Liverpool team that is defending the Champions League trophy and currently 6 points ahead of second in the title race.
How did that happen?
The man who led Borussia Dortmund to that historic double of 2012 took charge in 2016 and immediately overhauled an underperforming squad. Only 7 of those 37 players are still rostered and that is just a small part of a culture overhaul that brought Liverpool back to greatness.
Understandably, Arsenal tried to make a similar change but it hasn't had quite the same effect.
For one, Unai Emery's coaching resume is a bit inflated. At Sevilla, he won three straight Europa League trophies and while that is impressive, does that not speak of a manager who could do no more than a Europa League title after getting bounced out of the Champions League group stages on multiple occasions? Then he parlayed that job into a glorious opportunity at PSG where he became synonymous with the now infamous collapse that saw his team blow a 5-goal lead.
The truth is Emery is no more than a great manager of mediocre teams, and a mediocre manager of great teams.
Brendan Rodgers fit that same mold and he was a Band-Aid while the team sought a manager fit for a club of that magnitude.
I don't know where fans developed the idea that finding the right manager for a club is an easy task.
Liverpool went through 4 managers before they finally got Klopp, United are currently on their 5th manager since Ferguson retired, Chelsea are on their 9th manager in 10 years and Manchester City burned through multiple regimes before arriving at Guardiola.
Arsenal fans, I understand the club is going through a tumultuous time but turning on the team is not the answer. Booing the club captain and asking for the exodus of the manager is not the way things should be conducted.
Emery's position as a temporary fix should be appreciated, he may not be a long-term answer but is good enough to keep the team relevant. For now, the fan base should enjoy the small victories like the emergence of the youth academy and the greatness of Aubameyang.
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