Emery has left no one in doubt that he wants his team to be the protagonist, to play with energy and intensity. He is a disciple of gegen-pressing, of winning back the ball early and of playing out of the back. It is a worthwhile vision for the Arsenal football team. However, we cannot escape from the fact that such a transformation would require a near complete overhaul of the squad that Wenger left behind. Realistically that would require a minimum of three years of rebuilding work that would demand plenty of money.
We have played two tough matches this season. The big issue is not that we lost the two matches. The probability of any other team losing to City and Chelsea are quite sizable. The big issue is that players like Ozil, Aubamayang, Mhitaryan and Xhaka where shadows of themselves. Yes, Mkhitaryan in the Chelsea match too because apart from his excellent goal and his well executed cut back-assist, he was not in the game.
It is a big issue as these four players represent the heart of the offensive side of our play which was an area where we have never been poor statistically. Their very poor outing in these two matches ought to set the alarm bells ringing. Accepting that there might be a football philosophy that is theoretically the best, in practical terms the best philosophy is the one that gets the best out of a group of players.
As a matter of fact Emery faced such a challenge when at PSG where he had to abandon his high intensity demand for a quieter tempo that was constructed on possession so as to suit the players he had. There was need for him to adjust to the personnel at his disposal as much as they had to adjust to him.
Here he has found himself in exactly the same situation and he might have to also adjust for the sake of keeping pace with our rivals in all competitions. As opportunity presents itself (transfer windows), he can begin to reconstitute his squad in the direction of his ideal philosophy.
Ozil for example is the creative genius that he is because by his psychological make up, relatively speaking, he detaches from the events around him and in that state is able to see what others can’t see. That detachment is what makes him. Wenger tried to get him to add goals to his game and his creative output dropped drastically. Emery now wants him to join the team in winning back the ball quickly and he’s become a complete shadow of himself. Another example is Xhaka, who processes things tidily but very slowly. That’s his DNA. Asking him to increase his intensity is asking him for the impossible.
This does not mean that Emery cannot bring changes to this group of players. He is a coach who is good at details so he can help players grow in their respective little domains. He can make the team better in what they used to do for example in playing out from the back. He can create structural changes that can for example make us concede less. He might also be able to change the team’s mentality and their vision of the game. These might actually be his immediate goals, and his overload method is merely his means of achieving them.
There are no two ways about it, Emery has to work with the materials at his disposal and those include the above cited players. Our last summer recruitments look more like stop gap signings made to await the arrival of the new man. I believe that real rebuilding would start this January window with Emery at the heart of it.
Meanwhile Emery has displayed guts and doggedness even in his use of English. He is getting everybody to sit up. Add the tweaks to the team and I am convinced we will stay competitive.