Unai Emery looking more and more like Arsene Wenger: Richard Buxton
Arsenal manager seems to suffer from the same problems as his predecessor
It turns out that Unai Emery is more like Arsene Wenger than he would care to admit.
Arsenal's two most recent managers never could resist snatching defeat from the jaws of certain victory through tactical stubbornness and poor in-game management.
But Emery may have finally outdone his predecessor after crashing out of the League Cup in a 5-4 penalty shoot-out defeat by Liverpool's young guns yesterday morning (Singapore time).
Surrendering winning positions is becoming a recurring theme of the Spaniard's tenure at the Emirates Stadium.
They have already squandered leads three times this season alone, the latest coming in yesterday's horror show at Anfield, where they surrendered their advantage three times - while they were 3-1, 4-2 and 5-4 up .
The second-half capitulation, in which they allowed Liverpool to draw 5-5 thanks to Divock Origi's injury-time equaliser, was a fresh nadir for the Gunners.
No one can say they were not sufficiently forewarned of Emery's confusing methods.
He even alluded to it personally in an inaugural address after being unveiled as Wenger's replacement in May 2018, by declaring that he would prefer to win games "5-4 than 1-0".
Yet he threw away the chance to claim the spoils of a potential nine-goal thriller by taking the bewildering decision to withdraw Mesut Oezil on 65 minutes, with the game at 4-4.
Few expected the former Germany international to shine beneath the Anfield floodlights, just as the hosts' tender line-up were not fancied to progress against more experienced opponents.
Oezil has often been guilty of going into hiding whenever the chips have been down with the north Londoners, but he rolled back the years on Merseyside by regularly unlocking the Reds' rearguard with a series of intelligent defence-splitting passes.
So Emery decided to pair smarts with stupidity and took him off.
The midfielder's recent first-team exile was supposedly a strategic decision taken by the Arsenal manager and the club's hierarchy.
A pre-match agreement was again the excuse wheeled out in the latest instalment of the soap opera that Oezil's life in the English capital has become.
For a club that pride themselves on remaining true to their historic roots, allowing boardroom intervention over on-field matters is an affront to Herbert Chapman's legacy.
During a period when directors were still dictating team sheets, Chapman pioneered managerial autonomy.
His modern-day successor, meanwhile, appears to be acting as the mouthpiece for "Silent" Stan Kroenke.
Public firefighting on the absentee American owner's behalf will only go so far.
On and off the pitch, Arsenal are increasingly devoid of both direction and leadership.
Now more than ever, they embody the reactionary masses of the YouTube fan channels who have spent years screaming about a looming fall from grace to anyone that will listen.
Granit Xhaka proved it with last weekend's outburst at fans as he left the field against Crystal Palace; so did Emery's backfired attempt at in-game pragmatism for Liverpool yesterday.
Eventually, it will all come to a head; most likely with the break clause that affords Arsenal a chance to part ways with Emery 12 months before his three-year deal expires.
Compensation fees for sacking him now, or at any point before the end of this season, stand at reportedly a third of the potential £45 million (S$78.9m) windfall they stand to lose by failing to secure Champions League qualification for a fourth consecutive campaign.
Once that becomes a genuine prospect, the Emirates' bean counters will finally do the maths.
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