New Straits Times : 2019-11-11

SPORT : 51 : 51

SPORT

. NewStraits­Times MONDAY, NOVEMBER 11, 2019 | SPORT 51 of Arsenal fans, the Spaniard is failing to get the best out of them. Instead, Emery has adopted a negative approach in the Premier League, one which has effectivel­y piled the pressure on his defence — the weakest part of his squad. Emery knows Champions League football is a must for the squad after missing out on it last season, as well as in the final two years’ of Arsene Wenger’s reign. But if the Gunners continue to play the way they are, then a fourth consecutiv­e campaign in the Europa League awaits. And Emery has to shoulder the blame at present after instilling an underdog mindset and dispelling the club’s attacking identity. Arsenal’s win percentage had dropped to 33 per cent. That is the lowest in the Premier League behind only the 1994-95 campaign under George Graham (29 per cent). Arsenal finished 12th that season. Against Wolves at the Emirates, Arsenal faced an astonishin­g 25 shots at goal compared to just 10 up the other end. But it wasn’t a one-off, all season they have adapted a defensive approach. Remarkably, Arsenal have faced the third most amount of shots (197) in the Premier League this season after just 12 games. Only newly-promoted Aston Villa (213) and Norwich (208) have faced more. They have also faced the third most shots on target (67), with only Norwich (76), their struggling rivals Tottenham (72) and West Ham (71), allowing more chances on goal. The Gunners have produced the third most blocks (56) in the LONDON A RSENAL manager Unai Emery is on very borrowed time at the moment and not just because of an awful run of results of late. The Gunners sunk deeper into their slump on Saturday as highflying Leicester brushed Emery’s men aside with a 2-0 win at the King Power Stadium. Arsenal supporters watched on as Jamie Vardy finished a classy passing move of the kind they were once so used to seeing from their side. Instead, the inevitabil­ity of the result and lack of inspiratio­n they saw left even the most patient of fans losing faith in the Spanish coach. Emery’s men are already languishin­g eight points behind their top four rivals in the race for a Champions League spot, but arguably that hasn’t been the fans’ biggest worry of the season. While football is a results business — especially at a club the size of Arsenal — the attacking intent to inspire fans needs to be there as well but under Emery, Arsenal seem to have gone backwards. Emery has plenty of attacking threat at his disposal, including the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Nicolas Pepe. However, much to the dismay English top-flight while goalkeeper Bernd Leno has made the third most saves (49). And as a result of the pragmatic tactics, holding on to leads is proving very hard to come by. In their last four consecutiv­e matches in all competitio­ns prior to Leicester, they let advantages slip to teams they should be outplaying and beating, including Crystal Palace, Wolves and Vitoria. In the Premier League, they have dropped six points from winning positions, with only four more sides conceding more. Arsenal are meant to be desperatel­y fighting for a Champions League spot, but the way they are playing at present suggests otherwise and the manager bears the brunt of responsibi­lity. Emery said his side had shown better defensive organisati­on but said he accepted that people will question his work at the club. “I am speaking with the club to stay strong and recover. We also have young players who are growing up with us,” he said. “I know we are receiving criticism, but I have done before and I have recovered. I accept all the criticism. It is normal. Today we did one step ahead being better defensivel­y,” added the Spaniard. “We need to recover our confidence. We need to be patient with some circumstan­ces, and we are going to do that.” Premier League top scorer Vardy’s 11th goal of the season left his manager Brendan Rodgers’ purring. “He is up there with the very, very top strikers in European football with what he brings to a team, his pressing. We’ve allowed him to do essentiall­y what he wants to do,” he said. Agencies Solskjaer ‘welcomes’ Wan-Bissaka’s omission from England squad LONDON: Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s exclusion from Gareth Southgate’s England squad could be a blessing in disguise for the young defender, according to his Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Wan-Bissaka, 21, is yet to make his internatio­nal debut having pulled out of his first squad last month through injury. On Thursday, Southgate selected Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kieran Trippier and Joe Gomez as his options at right-back. “I think Aaron is going to get his time in the national team soon enough. I don’t worry about him not being picked,” said Solskjaer. “He is coping really well with the move he made from Crystal Palace in the summer. It wasn’t that long ago he was in the Palace reserves, now he is taking this club by storm because we all rate him highly as a person and as a player. “I remember not being picked by Norway for the first time when there were lots of rumours I might be in. It was, “Thanks” (relief) because I was just getting used to the Norwegian league.” Wan-Bissaka became the most expensive full-back in United’s history last summer and has been one of the most impressive players in a mixed season at Old Trafford. Solskjaer can see the advantage in Wan-Bissaka not joining up with his country for Euro 2020 qualifiers afterwards. “He’s not a flash guy. He likes to get on with things (at United) and I am sure he will be get his chance with England later on. He has been fantastic.” Meanwhile, Wolves winger Adama Traore was called up to the Spain squad on Saturday, despite reports suggesting the 23year-old had decided to declare for Mali. Traore’s surprise selection for the Spanish national team was confirmed by the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) in a statement, which read: “Adama Traore, the Wolves player, will be the replacemen­t for Rodrigo Moreno of Valencia in the national team’s squad for the matches against Malta and Romania.” Rodrigo pulled out after suffering an injury during Valencia’s 20 win over Granada earlier on Saturday. Few expected him to be replaced by Traore, who had reportedly closed the door on Spain to play for Mali, despite representi­ng the Spanish under-21 side earlier this year. Traore has played 10 times for Wolves in the Premier League this season after coming through Barcelona’s ‘La Masia’ youth system and going on to play for the club’s B team. The call-up means he could make his Spain debut in either of the team’s final two Euro 2020 qualifiers against Malta on Nov 15 and Romania on Nov 18. Agencies