Unai Emery has made a plea to Arsenal fans to give him and his players time to get things right this season. Emery's Gunners have been struggling on all fronts recently, but the Spaniard wants supporters to withold criticism.
The former Sevilla and Paris Saint-Germain boss acknowledged he's aware Arsenal's followers want more from the squad, per Metro: "I think, for the supporters, they have seen that their team needs more to improve to achieve the best results. I can and I want to say to them: they must have patience."
Emery also made reference to how criticism from the stands hasn't helped his group: "In some circumstances, they did not help us, but we are trying to achieve the best emotional balance with the players."
Focusing on the impact of negative fan reactions is a risky ploy from Emery amid what has been an alarming slump in form. The Gunners have won just once in their last six matches in all competitions and have drawn their last three, including home games against Wolverhampton Wanderers and Crystal Palace in the Premier League.
Dropped points in those fixtures have damaged Arsenal's hopes of finishing in the top four and returning to the UEFA Champions League. Emery's men are six points adrift of the Champions League places and face impressive Leicester City at the King Power Stadium on Saturday.
Pressure has increased on Emery against the backdrop of these struggles. However, the 48-year-old described the difficulty of certain circumstances surrounding key players: "The [Mesut] Ozil circumstance with [Sead] Kolasinac, the [Laurent] Koscielny circumstance. Remember that if he was here the captain would be Laurent Koscielny and that would give us no problem. Then also, [Granit] Xhaka’s circumstance. But the team, inside, they are strong."
The reference to Xhaka touches on the testy relationship between many Arsenal fans and some members of the playing staff. Xhaka reacted angrily to being booed off when substituted against Palace, an incident that led to Emery stripping the playmaker of the captaincy.
Mark Mann-Bryans @MarkyMBryans
Xhaka's exclusion tomorrow now common knowledge but after the cameras stopped rolling, Unai Emery added more info. Admitted he didn't know if Xhaka would ever play for the club again and revealed conversations have taken place as to whether he should be sold in January. #AFC
There may be doubts about how long Xhaka will remain an Arsenal player, but the bigger questions concern Emery's future. He is contracted until the end of the season, when the Gunners will have the option to extend for another year.
However, rumours of alternatives continue to build. Jose Mourinho has been linked repeatedly, with Emery recently moved to deny those suggestions, per MailOnline's Jordan Seward.
Emery has also told Nick Wright of Sky Sports the club's board is not giving him an indication his time is up: "When I speak to the club, they always transmit calm to me, which I try to transmit to the players and to the fans, knowing that we have an important objective this season."
Emery's position appears under threat because of an alarming trend of Arsenal being outshot in matches. A team traditionally known for a proactive brand of play under predecessor Arsene Wenger has become worryingly passive, both domestically and in Europe, since Emery took the reins in 2018:
Confusion in defensive areas hasn't helped, with Emery continuing to tweak formations to try to finally settle on a winning formula:
Charles Watts @charles_watts
Emery on the possibility of playing a back 3 today: “Last year, we played with three and made some very good performances. “We used it on Wednesday and made defensively a good performance and [at Leicester] we have that possibility, but also during the match we can use two." https://t.co/Dj6xgF0NDk
Emery needs to establish some continuity, with both structure and personnel, to help steady performances, improve results and quiet the dissenters among the crowds. It would help to involve the club's highest-earner Mesut Ozil more often.
He started two matches in a row before missing Wednesday's 1-1 draw with Vitoria in the UEFA Europa League following a prolonged period out of the team. Ozil's elegance and ingenuity can help Arsenal keep the ball away from opponents getting used to peppering goalkeeper Bernd Leno with attempts.
There are obvious problems at both ends of the pitch, and Emery will need all of the patience he is asking for to have a chance of solving them. If he can't, the calls for him to be replaced during the season will only grow louder.