UNAI EMERY CREATES A BLUEPRINT:- THE GLORY DAYS MIGHT NOT BE FAR AWAY.
Unai Emery has been announced officially as the new manager of Arsenal football team.
They say Unai is studious. He pores through the videos endlessly, most days working far into the night. Often, he has the sounds for the video turned off so that the noise from the stands wouldn’t sway him, neither the commentators. He wants his information first hand. As he watches the actions on the screen, he comes to conclusions but knows from experience that the conclusions are merely tentative. They undergo a thousand revisions. Unai Emery is forensic in his quest for the perfect.
He would see Ramsey’s brilliant runs into the box. He would also see the spaces he leaves behind. He would see Ozil’s masterly use of space. He would also see his reluctance to get involved when the opposition has the ball. He would see Mustafi feistily winning balls as well as his naivety in handling spaces. He will see everything. Unai, they say, leaves no stones upturned.
Not long from today, at the middle of watching yet another video, Emery will switch it off. Yes we can imagine. He would get up from his seat, pace around the room for a while rather satisfied with himself. He has seen enough to make a diagnosis. He has inherited a team with great technical savvy when with the ball but shocking when without it. He is stupefied by such a grave imbalance but excited by the thought of the team that would emerge when he has fixed it.
He recognizes that fixing it is made a lot easier by the fact the structure Wenger has inculcated to the team is a close fit to his model: the 4:2:3:1 formation with full backs positioned higher up the pitch, that is how he played it in Spain with Sevilla; the inverted wingers that Wenger favours is how he used Neymar and di Maria at PSG; the domination of possession and territory which is central to Arsenal’s philosophy, that has always been his baby.
He, however, has not failed to notice that the Arsenal he was seeing in the videos do not use a holding midfielder as conservatively as he would for shielding the back line. He is a bit taken aback at the lackadaisical response from the players when the team turns over the ball, as if they’ve been instructed that winning the ball back is the job of the back line. He is again shocked to notice the same lack of urgency from the players when the opposition, while attacking, turns the ball over to them. He cant fathom why the players don’t seem to recognize that turnover moments either way are critical moments, for the press, for the counter, for focus and energy.
He concludes he has a basic job to do and he knows that the heart of that job is in re-educating the players. There has to be a change in attitude. A change that should infuse more strategic energy into the team’s play. Emery is not just a hard worker, he is a deep thinker too. He knows that change in energy is already a change in tactics. How he would go about doing it are his cards to play, but expect that he would want to inject two or three new faces into the team to help catalyze the change and expect too that there would be no sacred cows only a sacred team.
Work of recreating the team starts with re-education. That’s what his blueprint says. Alongside it, however, Unai Emery has gone back to the videos. This time he is taking notes, employing his imagination, visualizing different combinations, drawing blanks in some and being hopeful in others and coming to conclusions here and there all preliminary work, the squad still on summer brake.
Like Wenger, Emery will work very hard. Unlike Wenger, he will not leave the players to work it out themselves. Sermons, repetitions (drills if you like), will be the new order. The missing link would have been found and Arsenal lost in the wild would be able to make its way back to its inheritance. The glory days might not be far away.