Unai Emery: Victory Through Analysis



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.

Arsene and Emery

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.  


23 thoughts on “Unai Emery: Victory Through Analysis

  • TA, ……more of analysis from materials available: investigation, diagnosis, prescription and cure.

  • That’s a really nice vision you’ve painted there PE, probably not far from the truth.

    In this era of social media, these days of instant opinion, we’ve seen our first managerial appointment and I think that the general feeling is good’ish to positive, with most sensible fans promoting a theme of ‘give him some time’ – that really is the only way imo.

    With Mourinho beginning to implode at Man Utd and Tottenham cash strapped there has to be a window of opportunity for Arsenal to pip both of those for a top four finish. The crowds should return, the sponsors will becalmed and Kroenke can relax as the money rolls in.

    Now Ivan Gazides did state, during the immediacy of Wenger’s announcement that he was leaving, that Arsenal were going to ‘flex their muscles’ in the transfer market.
    Ok Ivan, you can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk?

    The business we do this summer should tell us a lot about the true ambition of this club under the ownership of KSE, because, Stanley Enos, the focus isn’t on Arsene anymore buddy, it’s going to be directed right at you pal…

  • Re-read your piece again PE.
    Conjoining with Kev’s overarching view of the state of the UniTots?
    This squad could surely make top-4 next season.

    There are a line of dominoes that– given 2 quality additions to the club– could tumble one after the other. My thoughts about this roster of players hasn’t been that it lacks quality, but lacks depth. Adding quality would make the team deeper, solidifying the existing foundation.

    Adding the ‘right’ DM.
    Ok. Just reading that phrase probably draws sighs– and rolled-eyes– in response.
    If I had to ‘pick one’? Steven Nzonzi of Sevilla. (Alright. I just Googled Nzonzi for some background– and found that the rest of the Goonersphere agrees!) Honestly, he’s been on my mind since Sevilla/United in the CL. Nzonzi bossed the MF and protected his back line.

    Ok– so now that we’re past my non-revelation of both a DM– and it being Nzonzi? The ‘why’ of it. First, and sorry Granit– but you’re now a squadder. You and Elneny. But you will be teaming together for domestics, and some PL starts. We need the Nzonzi prototype to support whomever we team him with in MF. Likely, Ramsey. (Stop it. I know I was on the sell-Aaron-bandwagon just days back– but that was with Arteta riding in on horseback– and needing funds from sales. I think Emery is going to get a lot more than a £50M base– and then there will be one major sale: Mustafi. So– now back to the plot.) When it’s not Ramsey with Nzonzi, it may be Mkhi. Sometimes Jack. Having choices are a ‘necessary luxury’. This allows Emery to work his 4231 with several variations when you have Abub/Laca/Mkhi/Ozil/Iwobi– and (why not?) assume Reiss Nelson has a chance to be this year’s Leroy Sane. To have a set of 4-5 attackers that can change position in-game with fluidity (a la City)– reduces the ability to game-plan for Arsenal’s coming freewheeling attack.

    Adding the ‘right’ CB.
    And this assumes Mustafi is sold.
    Can’t fathom Emery (and Sven) not wanting a lower-risk CB leading our younger trio. To have all of the above dominoes in place– and take a risk on brainwashing Mustafi into changing his style?
    As Einstein was quoted– ‘would be insanity’. I’d go for a guy like James Tarkowski any day over Mustafi. We’ve got Monreal. We can play AMN at RB.

    But please Lord?
    Find us a taker for Shkodran Mustafi.
    Not greedy. £20-25M will do.

    I’d like for us to look for Cech’s replacement. But in lieu, I’d keep Petr on-board for another year if it meant signing Steven Nzonzi– and replacing Shkodran Mustafi.

    Besides Lord?
    You owe me one for the Arteta thing.
    (Relax. My Maker has a great sense of humor. 😉 )

    With those dominoes falling– as Kev expresses, we could, usurp the usurpers.


  • **Auba
    **AMN at LB

    Sorry, not enough stimulants earlier! Late night last night. My Rockets evened the best-of-7 series with the HT’s NBA champion Warriors at 2 games apiece (winning 95-92)– after losing Game 3 by (not a typo) 41-points. Last night’s game was like watching a heavyweight fight. Knockdown after knockdown by both sides. Exhausted today– but thrilled.


  • Can’t wait for preseason to start. We will see the fruits of Emery’s labour evolving from the first preseason game to the first game of the league season.

    For now, i remain hopeful that he is the person to lead the team further.

  • PE, fair musings there. We have to accept Wenger is a hard act to follow (even if most will wish to disagree based on the last few seasons); but for me, it won’t be just about the change in mentality, structure and consistent trophies, in the long run. Arsene was a class act and all of that will weigh down on the new manager for a few games/seasons(?) before he finds his feet and stamps his own ideals on the club. It’s all about time allowed.

    Already, I am seeing some of the professed (now failed) ITK (in the know) bloggers and columnists writing articles, setting the standards for Emery, just so they can score him in future columns, based on their own standards. It will be good to see how Emery copes with all the pressure they are bound to exert on him as soon as the season starts and we concede the odd goal from defensive errors.

    My point is we must not make out like it is going to be a cake-walk for the new man. It is not going to be.

  • This is the dawn of a new era. I am glad Arsenal made a good, safe choice and finally made it official today. Now we can all get behind Unai and the team and wish them success next season. I am super excited for pre-season to start so we can check out Unai’s tactics and setup. I am really looking forward to the start of the new season. Now let’s just get a few players in and extend Ramsey’s contract and we are good to go. Oh yeah, Jack, please “sign da thing”, pronto!!!

    Can’t wait!

    Anyone’s got a great song for Unai Emery yet?

    Exciting times ahead..😄

  • TA,
    We’ve touched on this several times these past few days while awaiting the appointment of Wenger’s successor, but Arsenal have now made it clear that Unai Emery is a “Head Coach”. That is the new post-Wenger model now at Arsenal.

    Interesting, but doesn’t bother me at all. Less headache and work for Emery, I guess. Good luck to him.

  • Though Gino?
    With Emery’s reputation as an obsessive video watcher? The degree of video-analysis and performance scoring that Arsenal’s in-house StatDNA group can provide? On any player (not just Arsenal’s) the head coach desires data for?

    Emery’s apparent penchant for detail is likely to keep him as busy as ever.


  • Gino

    Whatever the job title – Manager, Head Coach, COO, etc – Emery is clearly the most important person after the CEO, Gazidis. The others are there to support him and he will need to work in cooperation with them, which I am sure he will be fine with. Emery will sit in front of the press, supporters and is in charge of the players and that role has all the gravitas. He will want to focus on the performances of the team short and long term.

    Long wait till the first friendlies but that will give Emery a chance to get to know the players on an individual basis (and sign a couple in the next few weeks or so).

    All good. 🙂

  • Emery gave a clue to the character of the team he wants with these two words “protagonist and press” … to dominate with possession and to press when out of possession. The latter is the something new.

  • Yeah TA, Head Coach, Manager, “Guy in an expensive well-tailored suit on the sidelines”, “Good looking guy with the greasy brushed back black hair”, whatever his title is, he will work with all the other recent new recruits and with Gazidis. And jw1, you are probably right. Unai will be so busy with this squad and performances that no one will notice any difference between Manager and Head Coach. Same difference anyway 😁

    PE, I would love the part about pressing. It’s about time we work hard to win the ball back as quickly as possible and very high up the pitch. If Emery can make our players concentrate and play intense football like that for 90+ minutes, I will be over the moon. We need to be able to match Man City and Liverpool in that intensity department next season if we dare to dream about dethroning Man City (unlikely but possible). Extreme conditioning and hardwork are required this pre-season.

    I imagine that competition for top 4 will be fiercer than ever. Let’s bring it!

  • I’d like to see a traditional winger.. a south American precisely.. that’d make counter attacking easier against teams like stoke (RIP).. can’t wait to see spuds eat shit cake made by unai!! BRING IT!

  • Hi all.. Hi PE.. nice post..
    And interesting title too.. victory through analysis.. Really a new Era.. hehehe..

    Yes, I still a bit dissapointed for Arteta.. but I will surely support our new Manager..
    PE.. I don’t understand what you mean by this : “Like Wenger, Emery will work very hard. Unlike Wenger, he will not leave the players to work it out themselves..”
    I hope not getting a wrong message here.. and it isn’t about responsibility.. It’s all about creativity..

    Let’s see what will happened in this couple week.. Who will come and go..??
    I hope all will go smooth and easy.. Cause Emery play almost the same way Wenger did..

  • Chan, … it’s well reported that Wenger doesnt belive in micro managing bis team. He leaves the players to work out the solutions for themslves. Emery’s reputation is the very opposite. He goes all the way down to the smallest detsils.

    I read sometime ago that Wenger started his coaching nearly that meticulous. But the reality is that most players are resistant to being micro managed and because of his (Wenger) sensitive nature he must have been forced to evolved a different approach.

  • So PE.. Will now they players not give their resistance to mikro details anymore..

    What did you explained about Wenger approach.. what I called “bring harmony”.. The very fundamental basic of our philosophy.. VCC.. Victory Comes From Harmony..

    Will it change..?? Let’s wait and see..

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