The Graham Cummins column: Rafa Benitez is type of boss Arsenal need

The Graham Cummins column: Rafa Benitez is type of boss Arsenal need
Former Newcastle United manager Rafael Benitez. Picture: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

FORGET Mauricio Pochettino or any other names linked with the job, Rafa Benitez should be the man the Arsenal board chase to becoming the club’s new manager after Unai Emery.

With only four league wins this season, Arsenal were going backwards under Emery. The Gunners were too slow to pull the trigger on former manager Arsene Wenger and understandable after what the Frenchman had achieved at the club. However, the Arsenal board didn’t make the same mistake twice. They owe no loyalty to Emery and rightfully dismissed the Spaniard who was clearly out of his depth.

For a moment — after an impressive 22-match unbeaten run with the club — it seemed that Emery and Arsenal were a match made in heaven but a terrible end to last season coinciding with a disappointing beginning to this campaign, showed the former Sevilla manager was not improving the Gunners.

Emery was lost and didn’t know what to do. This was replicated by the team’s performances on the pitch. The players look like a group of individuals who turn up to a match having never played together before and had no idea of their game plan.

The former Arsenal manager showed that he was a weak character and had no man-management skill. His handling of Mesut Ozil was laughable. I admired Emery’s stance over Ozil and that he didn’t feel that the former German international did not do enough for the team.

He probably did treat Ozil harshly but Emery believed that the midfielder had no future at the club and was trying to figure out a way to get 31-year-old out the door without the club having to take a massive financial hit.

Managers sometimes have to be cruel for the greater good of the team but once Emery decided that the team were better off without Ozil, he should have stuck to his decision instead of giving into the Arsenal supporters — the same fickle fans who demanded Ozil be dropped from the team in the first place — to reintroduce the World Cup winner.

Bringing Ozil back into the starting 11 was the last throw of the dice by Emery and it’s a gamble that didn’t pay off. The Gunners didn’t win a league game after his return and although Ozil showed glimpses of effort at the start, his performance against Southampton shows that a leopard never changes its spots. 

Mesut Ozil. Picture: David Ramos/Getty Images
Mesut Ozil. Picture: David Ramos/Getty Images

He reverted back to the lazy player that Emery believed him to be but from Ozil’s perspective, how is he meant to fight for a manager who clearly didn’t believe in him but has no other options but to play the midfielder hoping that he could save the former Paris St Germain manager’s job.

Even a player like Lucas Torreira — who owed Emery a lot for taking a chance on him — had run out of patience with his manager. Emery had insisted on the Uruguayan playing in a more advanced role this season and the defensive midfielder was not pleased about it. 

Last season, Torreira was a player who gave everything for the team and his manager. However, the build-up up to the penalty Arsenal conceded against the Saints last weekend sums up the decline in his performances and relationship with Emery.

The Arsenal players know they had to fight tooth and nail on the pitch to keep their manager in the job but when Matteo Guendouzi was disposed in the lead up to the penalty, rather than sprint back — like he would have last season — Torreira jogged and that suggests to me he had had enough of the manager.

Arsenal are crying out for someone to come in and organise them and make them a difficult team to play against.

The Gunners have been a fantastic side to watch down through the years with the style of football they have played but ultimately, they have been a soft side that fell short.

Arsenal are going to have to sacrifice their philosophy of always trying to play attractive football because they will never be successful with the group of players they have. Benitez will give the side a defensive organisation they have been lacking for far too long. Yes, the Arsenal defence is poor but they have been left so exposed by those players playing in front of them. Benitez would put a stop to this.

The problem with Arsenal is they think they are better than what they are. The Gunners are an average side, who need to realise that they have to work just as hard, if not harder than the opposition, to get results.

Benitez’s teams are never easy on the eye but they always look like they know what their game plan is and always give a hundred percent, which unfortunately cannot be said about Arsenal’s performances for a number of years.

Arsenal’s board aren’t going to invest in the transfer market like some of the other big clubs and Benitez has proven he can perform miracles — like during his time at Newcastle United — on a shoestring budget. Benitez is a manager who is going to organise the team, get the best out of the players and if that means playing tactical football then so be it because that’s exactly the type of manager Arsenal need right now.

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