ARSENAL V WATFORD:- EMERY’S JOB IS HALVED AS HIM AND WENGER MEET.
That’s six straight wins on the bounce in all competitions, yet we have not started singing Hallulujah. Agreed that the ability to win ugly is the stuff of champions, our song would start only when such wins are not the norm (as they have been) but mere punctuations in a script of commanding wins. Such a script could jolly well be as close as commencing this game week 7 against 4th placed Watford at the Emirate. With Cech back to his best, and the return of our indomitable Greek philosopher, with our diminutive dynamo now manning the command centre and worldies like Auba, Laca and Mesut in the Emery mix, expectations cannot be anything but high. We are the Arsenal and we expect to always win, and win with a swagger.
But first, we need to educate those expectations. Emery is working with basically Wenger’s team. A team that scored 74 goals last season (3rd joint highest in the league), evidence that whatever problem we had has nothing to do with us with the ball.
This fact was well understood by Gazidis and co. who did a brilliant job with their choice of Emery to replace Wenger. They needed a man with the strength of Wenger but without his ‘weakness’. Wenger is a 4:2:3:1 man. So is Emery. Wenger pushes his full backs up the pitch. So does Emery. Both play the defensive high line. Both love to dominate possession and territory. Both are committed to out-scoring their opponents. But without the ball, the two head in opposite directions. Emery wants to win the ball back quickly and therefore begins his defending from the front. That is why he calls for more energy and intensity from the team. Wenger prefers to put his men behind the ball employing the passive defensive strategy instead. Only his central defenders defend on the front foot.
When the team is with the ball, Emeryball is very much like a Wengerball and that is supposed to be a compliment to the new boss. To see Unai’s stamp requires a look at the team when without the ball. Already, his sweat on the team is plain to see. There is now more energy in our play when the opposition is in possession, but it is yet to match the organization and intensity of Klopp’s Liverpool or Pep’s City… and maybe never will until after two or three transfer windows.
Meanwhile Emery has to continue pushing his men to higher levels of energy and intensity and finding the best ‘process’ to get them playing the Emeryball, the Wengerball if you like. For the latter, he has a task in his hands; how and where to fit in his very talented forward men. If he gets it right all these recurring tales of winning ugly ceases. Our DNA is ‘pretty with the ball’ and Emery’s task is to add sweat and thunder when we don’t have it.
One of his conundrum is his attraction to Ozil on the ball and Ramsey off the ball. But it hasn’t worked playing them together. Instead of giving a balance their combo brings disequilibrium. It’s time to stop playing both together. Another for him to sort out is how to play our two world class strikers (Auba and Laca) at the same time without underutilizing one of them. This might require that he thinks outside his box.
Bench:- Leno, Holding, Kolasinac, Guendouzi, Ramsey, Mkhitaryan, Welbeck
A resounding 3-0 to the good guys.