What’s Emery’s Secret? Who has Improved Most this Season? Which Partnership Makes All the Difference?

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WWWWWWWWW: Fulham v Arsenal 1-5 – our ninth win in a row.

Well that was some second half of football at Craven Cottage. Our boys worked their socks off and then in the end they got very generously rewarded: five top-draw goals to the good guys.

Eight observations from an uplifting – We Have Our Arsenal Back! – game:

  1. Nine wins in a row is a surprise to me. We rode our luck at times but every team needs a dollop of luck in almost every game to win it. I don’t think we are there yet and are very likely to have some bad results coming up sooner or later, but there are some structural elements to give us hope for a more sustained run of victories. Some of these will be discussed below. What I really like is how Emery seems to focus on the latter part of the game; if you think about it makes sense. Every game takes 90 minutes at least, and if you’d involve your strongest weapons in the last thirty minutes or so, you are more likely to get the goals to win the match. Why start with the strongest team if you can finish with your strongest team when the opponent’s defensive legs are heavy and holes appear everywhere?
  2. Yes why not start with your hardest workers and  runners to weaken the walls of the castle and knacker your opponents out, for then to bring on the heavy weapons – the Aubas, Ozils, Rambos, Mkhis – to benefit from all that hard work done by the likes of Welbeck, Iwobi, Laca, Bellerin and Nachos? It is too early to call this a trend but I reckon Emery could well be doing this on purpose and a vast majority of our goals have been scored in the second half this season… at the business end. Soon it will be seen as an honour to start on the bench and come on in the second half to finish opponents off.
  3. The other thing that Emery is doing definitely on purpose is to open us up and make us seemingly vulnerable. He is saying to the opponent: look we are playing it out from the back, don’t you want come and get the ball of us? The start of Arsenal games are not for the blood-pressure sufferers, that’s for sure. We play the sort of football Manure used to play under RedNose: absorb pressure and pounce on the counter or rebound. Rather than controlling the game in the opponents’ half, suffocating them by passing the ball round seemingly forever and until a crack is found in the wall, we invite pressure in our own half and with that create space in the opponents’ half. Every opponent until now has fallen for it, and although we still need to play the ball out of the back with more conviction – Bellerin, Mustafi, Holding and Nacho all had some Halloween passes on Sunday – it is working a treat for us. Every game we are doing the rebounds and counterattacks better and better and Fulham will not be the last team to get five past them this season, I reckon.
  4. Absolutely key is the magic partnership between Torreira and Xhaka. They formed a wall in front of the defence and hardly anything got through them. And for the last few season we haven’t had such protection for our CBs. But these guys also can turn defence into attack in no time: Xhaka with his crisp passing and Torreira with his bursts forward and he is a good passer of the ball too. What they both have in common is tidiness and organisational skills. They anticipate danger and deal with it. They also like defending and yet they love to be starters of attacks too. Xhaka had to work hard against Fulham and his attacking contributions were relatively limited, but Torreira was everywhere and truly knackered at the end. We need a like for like replacement on the bench and hopefully Maitland-Niles will be back soon.
  5. Lacazette, what can I say? Love that guy. How many times did he break up an attack of the opponent in our own half? Yes the goals had venom and precision but even more to like were his work rate, all over the pitch involvement and passing ability. Credit should also go to hard runner, Welbeck. He had the assist for Laca’s second and never stopped giving the Cottagers’ defenders something to worry about and act on. He is nowhere near as clinical as Laca and Auba but still an important squad player, and he is staying fit at the moment which is a real bonus for him and us.
  6. Holding and Mustafi, with Sokratis eagerly waiting on the bench, fought for their starting places on Sunday. Mustafi was calmer, less of a chancer, and as a result made less mistakes. Holding is by nature calm and more composed and together they were well matched v Fulham. I worried about this combination at the back but they did very well in the end. The full backs were also effective on Sunday: Bells and Nacho both had an assist and these were mirror-images of each other. They played the ball into the available attacker with speed, Auba and Laca, then they controlled the ball, turned around their axis and banged it in the right-bottom corner of the keeper. Is this straight from the training ground? Four goals were scored in that corner which makes me also wonder whether Emery and his team of coaches had identified that area as a weakness of the Fulham goalie…
  7. How important is Iwobi at the moment? He had a rusty first ten minutes but after that he did not stop with his penetrating runs and crisp forward passing. He is so effective now: the most improved player under Emery?!
  8. The final observation goes to THAT team goal, wonderfully finished off with a Bergkampesque heel-pullback by Aaron. Seventeenho was right when he said the best moment of quality was Mkhi’s razor-sharp pre-assist pass to Auba. But Rambo’s drive to connect with defence and then be the link in that attack all over the pitch deserves the highest praise: he started it, continued it and finished it off in style.

By TotalArsenal.

42 thoughts on “What’s Emery’s Secret? Who has Improved Most this Season? Which Partnership Makes All the Difference?

    Not bad for a transitional season. 😉
    Think we’re seeing a lot less square-players-in-round-positions– than we did just several weeks ago. How did THAT happen?

    All due respect to Petr? I think it’s Bernd’s job now.
    The rising fluidity to our playing from the back is directly due the comfort of Leno at the axis. The wisp of additional time afforded from accuracy and fewer touches– to swing the ball across-pitch seems imperceptible. Seems small– but looms large when the CFs have that extra instant in front of goal. All the difference, really.

    (Personally, I can always complain about Mustafi. 🙄 But I’m not. There’s an entire interlull ahead if I feel the need.)

    Nice review TA. 😉


  • That is a shout you and many another have been trying to make for a while, JWer. Leno has impressed me too. I love his suppleness for a relatively large person. He moves well, seems always focussed and yes he is good with the ball. But Cech was a big part of the WWWWWWWWW and so I remain loyal to him. 🙂

  • That’s telling them, TA, re Cech or Leno (he was called up to the German team Tuesday as replacement for Kevin Trapp who is reported injured). Look, I won’t take Cech’s contributions this season for granted and will prefer that we remain loyal to him when he comes back and is deemed fit. Leno has many more years to be Arsenal No.1 ahead of him. Cech deserves some respect.

  • Oh? Why don’t you go mind my own business Eris! 😉

    No lack of respect Eris. Honest. I admire Cech on several levels.
    But where, 8 weeks ago, I was tempering expectations for this season (and may yet)? There are– ‘visible sparks’ of progress. Did not expect to see any– until after January’s TW at the earliest, or probably next Summer’s TW.

    IMO? There’s not much difference between Cardiff and Fulham– by way of respective quality in those teams. But in how we played each so differently? Is a good measure of how far the team have come in just 5 weeks.

    Also IMHO? And not just for ‘sake of change’?
    Leno represents ascendancy on an arc of progress.


  • Hard to imagine being negative about Cech after some of the saves he made during the first part of the season, but he also put us under immense pressure when playing from the back. The extra few seconds given to Mustafi due to Leno’s ball playing ability, helps his composure when distributing. It also may be that he’s getting more used to playing this style. When adding Leno and Torreira into the mix, it’s provided some extra time needed to play more composed. I’m actually looking forward to seeing how we play some of the other top sides at this point, with S@#!s on the horizon. I’m also enjoying theTorreira and Xhaka combo, although I’d be curious to see Torreira and Guendouzi together as I think he can do the Xhaka job. Probably too much youth in that combo. Also wouldn’t mind seeing a Sokratis and Holding CB pairing the way Holding is playing right now.

  • Welcome LeesburgG and that is a fine comment. 🙂

    Agreed to not only put Leno but also Torreira in the mix when it comes to explaining our improved composure. Since Torreira is starting games, we have looked more composed when playing out of the back whether we played with Cech or Leno.

    I am not a fan (as yet) of playing Guendouzi in a deeper midfield role and Xhaka/Torreira it is for me, but you are not the only one to want him played next to Tor11. Just don’t think he has enough defensive ability.

  • I know, I know, jw1😉.

    As to expectations this season, after the change of gaffer, I always had some hope just based on the quality of players we have. It was depressing to watch them under-perform last season and the need for change became inevitable, as the elixir to hopefully, re- energize the team. Initially, you could see the players, not just the keeper, struggling to adapt; they appeared to be walking on egg shells with every act … like seeking approval of the new man with every move. That has its problems so it was a good thing we had those 5 fixtures to help us build trust and confidence (I thought 13 points at least, from those, but we’ve gone on to get all 15 plus an additional 3 from Fulham) and we took advantage brilliantly.

    Curiously, unlike how Cech fastidiously tried to play out from the back, with some near comedic results, Leno has gone long when uncertain about the recipients. When the Fulham forwards pressed us at the kick out stage, he has kicked long to Welbeck (maybe, that’s the difference too as Cech didn’t have a player like Welbeck to aim for). The question is did he get a different instruction? Whatever the case, I agree with it. When in doubt, play safe and go long.

  • Yep, Totally with you on Lacazette, he made the difference at Cardiff and we’ve gone from there, improving in small incremental steps, Torrieira/Xhaka settled in midfield, Holding/Iwobi/Leno, none of those three and LT11 started the season but are now key ingredients to the team.

    Let’s see where we are after Klopp and his attacking panzers roll into town, that could be a seminal game.

    At the moment the knockers in the media are labelling us as flat track bullies (lazy, stupid comment) but that may have to change after November 3rd…?!

  • TA, fine observations too and may be the reason direct comments are few (other than the fact it came late, after the euphoria) and far between. You’ve touched broadly on most of the sentiments we all share regarding that game.
    Lacazette is starting to come into his own and if there is a more hard working, yet clinical striker in the league now, I’ll find it hard to name them. The combo with Auba and the “love” they seem to have for one another is intriguing to behold, for two men who should be in competition…. it is amazing to see (last seen with Andy Cole -Dwight Yorke). Long may it continue. Iwobi is also one who is getting better and more assured. If he adds goals to his routine, he will become a more complete player.
    Lastly, that goal! All Ramsey’s from start to finish and you wonder if he hadn’t crafted that from his time on the bench. It’s reported he had 5 touches in that move to culminate in the back-heel/flick to goal. Beautiful to watch and got the fans singing “we’ve got our Arsenal back”. Then, there was the new EPL record set by both Auba and Ramsey: 2 subs contributing to 4 goals upon coming on (in assists and goals) same game.

  • “That is a shout you and many another…”
    Though TA? That shout from the anothers had mainly risen from the £19M outlay. Mine? From observations of Bernd’s play between the sticks (Sunday’s deflected shot, hand-saved, prone in mid-dive– one example), and both the accuracy and distance of his long-balls.

    TBH? I don’t really rate Ederson for City very highly as a shot-stopper. But he does get their attack in gear quicker than Bravo or Caballero ever could.

    Granted. It’s a perspective based on nuance. But one I may share with Emery.


  • JW, I would argue that Leno made a mistake to come out for the goal we conceded. It left him in no mans land and easy to be chipped. Cech often saves those chances because of his reputation and icy-hockey beastly outfit/look. Only saying… and I am not sure whether you are sharing with Emery as it was him who preferred Cech until he got injured..

  • On more dominant 2nd half performances:-

    1). It could be part of Emery’s game plan to go for the jugular in the 2nd halves, even though it’s difficult for me to see it as such as I haven’t got it in me not to start games with my “strongest” eleven. It takes plenty of courage to do that.

    2). Again it could be good tactical briefings at half time followed by good substitutions after reading the game in the 1st half.

    E). The one I find most plausible is that Emery has his team fitter and hungrier than many other teams. The starts on sprints and total distance ran comfirm this. Many teams simple succumb as the match progresses.

    4). Of course it could be from a combination of any two or all of the above.

  • PE, we are on the same page with regards to those observations; you’ve gone one further to opine possible explanations which are spot on. There’s no manager who won’t prefer to score as many goals as possible and dominate another side as early in the game (and for as long) as possible; or wish to lure opponents to attack us by opening us up and making us “seemingly vulnerable”. Too risky and we’ve said it enough times that if some of the attackers we came against had been more clinical, or even lucky, we could be a few goals down before we even get started.

    I agree with your submissions. We are fitter, hungrier (new manager bump, as everyone has a chance to impress anew) and adapting well to the half time team talk. Half time tweaks usually seem to work with new management, as the players are all ears and willing to implement new ideas.

    TA is right though on the attitude of those on the bench. Coming off the bench will increasingly become a thing of honour, to play a crucial part, depending on the stage we are in the game(s). I think our players are enjoying their run and Liverpool will find out they will be up against a much more stoic Arsenal side.

  • Great comments from my fellow Nigerian bloggers 🙂 I don’t agree though. Maybe the confusion is in my using of the words strongest team. In order to weaken the walls and knacker out the opponents, the likes of Welbeck, Torreira, Iwobi and Laca are part of the strongest options/team. And in terms of finishing opponents off, the likes of Auba, Mesut and Rambo make the team stronger. Let me say it like this: it appears that we play stronger when we start with Iwobi, Welbeck etc than when we finish the game with them and same goes the other way round for Auba at least.

  • Makes a small difference now you put it that way. Whatever the case is though, it will be pushing your luck to plan to start with anything other than the side you believe can win you a game; the bench will then serve the purpose of making tactical switches/tweaks, depending on who’s on yellow cards, the state/stage of the game, scoreline, injuries, etc.

    In the Live blog thread (I think), I had applauded Emery’s thinking in starting with our most physical forwards, ostensibly because Fulham do have some physical players who like to push opponents around (same tactics they used against Spurs); you may have seen the Mitrovic’s rather nasty tackle on Lacazette. Laca got up and got on with it, instead of taking the easy way out. I don’t think Emery will start with that same combination too many times, so the question is can we refer to such a (randomly applied, opponent-specific) team selection ideal as a pattern, deliberately orchestrated by the manager to make us vulnerable at the start of games?

    PS: I do hope I have articulated that well enough. I was fighting heavy eyelids in between intervals, typing that…. Good night.

  • thanks for responding with heavy eyelids, Erismus 🙂 Let’s just say we keep an eye on Emery’s tactics over the next few months and we can see whether I am on to something or not! 😉

    When I have a bit of time, I will give an overview of the sort of subs we have seen brought on since Emery took over and I reckon it will be obvious that we finish with an on paper stronger team than the one we started with. But I say it again, the first 60 minutes team do the demolishing and the last 60 minutes team the finishing off. That is the Emery secret.

  • Sorry to have taken so long to respond to your interesting (as always) post, TA. Additionally, in a minute, you’ll have mail… 🙂

    Rereading the post, several of your observations feel like they mirror my own from the in-match commentary. Luring the opponent forward, Laca working so hard, the mirror image book-end goals (and the assists from the FBs), Mkhi with the least improvised (and thus maybe the greatest) contribution for the goal (of the season). I’d have gone a bit bigger on the contribution he (Mkhitaryan) had throughout the match (and I’m maybe just a bit less impressed by the play of the DMs) but I think you hit just about all of the most important points.

    I’m less sure about your *secret* and I think you might be fitting the evidence (with a lot of weight on the most recent game) to the main idea. That said, starting Guendouzi in the early matches (and benching Lacazette–the opposite of his final sub at Fulham) suggests Emery isn’t compelled to playing (most estimates of) his absolute strongest first 11 from the start. But maybe he was after bigger ideas. Since then the fixtures have worked to our advantage nicely and the players are working the system well (i.e. playing as a team) while simultaneously seeming to have bought into an extremely healthy competition for places. Players clearly are giving their all–whether it’s from the start or from the bench AND supporting each other, making the extra pass, etc., etc. while still being selfish to fulfill the “strike quickly and don’t fear mistakes” mantra the coach is preaching. All good, IMO…

    (Now, if only the support could get fully on board–you know, fewer tweets about how great it was that Ozil joined Cech in the physio-room and the like–then we might really be onto something…)

    I still feel the need to temper my expectations, though it’s hard not to get caught up in the creeping optimism. I think Fulham was a bit of a one-off, esp. in the 2nd half… Our finishing was exceptional, and Fulham weren’t an opponent that was going to be able to come back over and over. Once that dream was dead, we brushed on (quite a bit of) the gloss…

    The first half, however, is likely the more instructive. The connection between back and front is nearly non-existent (our goal, was as route 1 as they can come without the keeper actually kicking the long ball–it was Holding, with Mhki first to the Fulham player’s knock down). Fulham matched us for possession and certainly had more in our half (I’m guessing, but it sure felt that way). My bet is that the better teams will punish us with goals, but maybe not. Like you said, nervous types might prefer to tune in at half-time hoping the score is close… If we get too far behind–or behind at all–our only come from behind win was vs West Ham after their main goal threat (Arnautovic) went down to injury–I have worries. If an opponent scores first and then chooses to sit back, how can we “lure them forward?” As the season moves on and the lesser teams lower their ambitions, they (too) may start sitting back a good deal more from the kick off. I think this is less of an issue with Ozil in the 11 but even with him I feel there’s a big disconnect between fore and aft–that we’re as likely to surmount with long (and wide) balls as our opponents might be in taking them from us (see Nacho’s throw in and Fulham’s quick goal). Emery’s approach is the opposite of “walking it into the net.” Still, with the ball, we need to be able to create “rebound” moments (or rapid attack of teams after WE have caused them to lose their defensive shape); we cannot always hope to pounce on the break–or (worse) rely on making something out of (semi) route one play…

    In my opinion… and, as always, what (TF) do I know?…

    And, as long as the results keep flowing, who cares?…

    Happy Thursday!!

  • Cheers Seventeenho. a great comment and you have a point that my evidence is based around a few recent games (but I will do a bit of homework on the quality of the subs nevertheless at some point). I have no doubt that we can also deal with park the bus teams. That is where Ozil, Laca, Iwobi and the full backs come in handy: they all know how to make space for themselves and others and break the walls down. Let’s see how Emery will start and finish games in terms of his 11 players on the pitch going forward. 🙂

  • Reading that Thierry Henry has been named Monaco coach. Big shoes, indeed. He’s promptly poached Kwame Ampadu, Arsenal U-18 coach as ne of his backroom staff. Good luck, legend.

  • Solid observations, TA. Hard not to agree with all of them. I find the idea of setting ourselves up in a way that leaves us intentionally vulnerable particularly interesting. Controlled chaos.

    JDub– Curious to know the topic of your post (if thats whats waiting in 17’s inbox)? Working on a small piece myself– surely inspired by the void of the international break– and don’t want to overlap/rehash too much.

  • Hey, given the dead air around here (did TA pick his holiday after looking at the fixture list?…) BOTH of you guys should write a post and send it in… I don’t (think that I) have access to the (website) e-mail but surely TA will be checking and could forward stuff my way for (light) editing and publication…

    I may have a post up my sleeve but probably not until the new week is upon us… And, my week starts later than many folks’…

  • Ha.. the Germans made Ozil the scapegoat but their loss to the Oranje showed their impotence in attack. They just cannot finish. It is not that Oranje keeper is good, they just cannot make a clean shot on goal.

    So, that’s your karma on getting Ozil be the person to be pushed into the quarry

  • I’ll be honest and say I haven’t been looking at this season with a really critical eye. Partly because I’ve been busy. Partly because I’ve been content to just see how it goes and give Emery time, and especially so because I enjoy THAT more than arguing over what the manager did right or wrong.

    So, take my opinions as impressions rather than a firmly held belief.

    So what’s different? We’re more conservative in our approach to the game. We don’t really press as much as I’d thought we would, but we’re more compact. Oddly enough, this hasn’t made us much more defensively secure. However, having a player like Guendouzi or Torreira in midfield makes a difference, because we have some more measure of control there with them. This latter part is a big change for me.

    The partnership between Laca and Auba has had time to prosper and Laca especially has come into his own, as I always believed he would. Likewise, Iwobi is now playing with greater confidence and living up to his talent.

    In terms of attacking play, we finally are getting it together. For a while it seemed like instead of the best of both worlds, we were getting the worst. Less offensive fluency, without extra defensive security.

    But how can you argue with all the Ws? As long as we keep winning, not only will these issues matter less, the players will also get room to grow into their roles and perform better. I hope we can keep winning the games we’re supposed to. That should get us top 4. As for the big games, that’s where ‘tacticians’ make their money, and we’ll see what Emery is made of. But for now, I’m still going to remain patient even if we get some bad results.

  • Hey Shard, always nice to have you contribute here…and I’m with you on a couple of counts at least. I too am trying to take a not-so-critical, watch-and (try-to) learn (what Emery’s after) approach. I also agree, who can argue with the results (once we had put the first couple in the rear-view)?…

    That said, I don’t quite understand some of your observations. “Compact,” to me, means smaller spaces between players, esp. when we’ve got the ball. I see the opposite, with our CBs and DMs seeking to spread the pitch as we try and play the ball out of the back, with even bigger spaces (or longer passes, bypassing nearer players) hoping for quick moves forward (or wide) then on, boom, boom, towards the opponent’s goal. But maybe you mean (“compact”) when we don’t have the ball. Does that mean we’re giving the opponent the outer lanes and packing more (of our defending) bodies in the center of the pitch?… And, if so, isn’t that quite a dangerous game, esp. against the lesser lights of the league who often feel that wide play is THE way to beat the more technical sides?…

    (Which begs the question–is Arsenal still a technical side?…Or are we now playing with a small-club mentality? I was thinking about turning that into a post, but my energy is evaporating quickly…)

    I also don’t know about Auba-Laca partnerships. Certainly, at Fulham at least, the former really came into his own once the latter departed the pitch. They do seem to like each other and the technical quality of the finishing (forgetting some misses at Chelsea…) is pretty strong. I’d argue that both look better when they’re playing up front as a proper #9…and not playing the other one (Auba, out wide) allows Iwobi (who seems to deserve it) a starting spot. More quietly, Mkhitaryan, I think, is staking a similar claim. That all leads to Ozil (No, Ramsey!!) arguments, which, I note, you (quite neatly) sidestepped.

    No worries there, but–beyond the results–which maybe are down to the extra quality we’ve got relative to these opponents we (hope to? expect to?) beat…(and maybe a small to heaping dose of luck…) I’m not quite sure we can say that “we are finally getting it together.” But you (too…) are looking forward and cautioning patience. And there… We really are on the same page…

    Happy Monday…

  • Yo 17inho!

    Are Arsenal still a technical side? No, not really. Which is why I think the addition of Guendouzi has helped establish some control. He’s able to receive the ball in midfield and play it out of trouble. But unless we can find Santi Cazorla Dos, I think we won’t be able to play the same technical game that we hope to. Which is ok. As long as we turn it on further up the pitch with Ozil and Ramsey along with the two strikers, and/or Iwobi and Miki, we’ll be fine. Our attack is the key here because we are as good as anyone there (especially if Welbz also performs) and because they are in their peak years. This 2 year window has to mean something and I hope we can get more ‘compact’ and defensively secure to help the attack along.

    So what I meant by compact is just that. Off the ball. I’m not sure whether it is dangerous to guide players to the wide areas. It shouldn’t be if we can deal with the crosses, or indeed if the FBs can just block the ball coming in. I much prefer that to allowing teams to pay through the centre of midfield in any case. Which is what was happening with alarming regularity last year. Also, the change is that we no longer go for interceptions in midfield, but are happy to stay back and close off spaces. (With mixed success so far)

    Not a bad problem to have with the strikers. I do think them getting along with each other also helps us. I suppose the correct term would be one-two punch of Laca and Auba rather than partnership. But Auba will find his form and he will terrify some poor FB when he’s running at him, even if he’s better in the centre (Laca is the better finisher and at hold up play though)

    Not so sure about Miki, but I haven’t been watching him closely. He should score more though. The reason I don’t go in for Ozil v Ramsey type arguments is that I think it’s silly. Both are great in different ways. Both offer something that we will need through the course of the season. And both can play with each other. Again, it’s a good problem to have. Not a good problem to have is that Ramsey is going to leave on a free. Not sure why the club decided to withdraw his contract offer, but it is a huge call. Both for what he brings to us on the field, and the message it sends off it. (Treating long serving players as just another mercenary, breaking our word is not something I associate with Arsenal. Provided that’s what happened of course.) I can only presume that Raul Sanhelli feels that he can get us a comparable, younger player for cheaper.

  • Hey Shard… (Big) cheers for the response… And, in particular, feeling free to beat me on the word count… 😉 I think we’re basically agreeing about what we’re seeing with only subtle (but always interesting) differences in how we talk about it.

    If we assume that Arsenal will never lose (nor draw) a match…our new style of play–that of a smaller club (maybe?), trying to play out of the back (or at least kick it around some)…maybe to lure teams forward to try and get the ball off us?…then hit quickly with long (and/or pitch-switching wide ones and quick balls back into the box) seems FANTASTIC… Just gotta keep making those outstanding goals that Laca (mostly) Auba (some) and others (lots of others…) have been putting in. Meanwhile, if Leno, like Cech before he hurt himself, keeps making the saves and teams keep missing the (open parts of the) target… Well, what’s not to like?…

    On the other hand, if results go south even in a subtle manner–like a team successfully parking the bus on us, and Gooners having to sit through an ineffectual 90 or 180 or 270 minutes, i.e., a few turgid draws or worse… The next interlull might not be so quiet (or full of thanks-giving, at the US holiday of the same name…)

    To conclude (for now), I believe we’re improving at playing an energy based (as opposed to technique based) style of play AND getting wonderful results (no.points.dropped.at.all.WOW.) because we have superior technique (esp. at the business ends of the pitch…) and have been lucky enough that it’s paid off. Thus far…

    Also, I do think this style of play does improve our chances against the teams with even better technical players. Would that be all five of the teams who finished above us, plus a couple we might run into late in the Europa League? Maybe, it’s hard to say, exactly, I think.. I would caution, however, that an energy-based approach is easier to maintain if results continue strong. I sense strong buy-in from the players, excellent competition for places, etc., etc. and even the support (but for the outspoken members of the “commenting classes”…and their followers) seem OK for the moment. If this “team-i-ness” (for want of a better term) falters… Uh oh…

    Other topics:

    I wonder about Ramsey and I think that the story has a LONG way to run. Given his (big energy, including for eating pitch-space…) style of play, he’s the sort of player teams would build around. But what teams? (If not Emery’s Arsenal?) Frankly, I just don’t see too many (or any?…) clubs where his desired salary wouldn’t be doubling (or more) the current top earner’s. I guess with TV money that means all the PL teams could take him…somewhat akin to how MLS clubs are allowed “designated” players… (So, maybe the States beckon?…) One scenario seems plausible. If Pogba or Mourinho (or both) must leave ManUnited, Ramsey’s salary could seem a bargain up there… Imagine both Ramsey AND Alexis at ManU. At Arsenal, the pitch wasn’t big enough for the both of them. Up there, the bench might not be…

    Playing compact (without the ball)… Forcing play wide seems good esp. if you have strong play-making CBs and keepers who can command their area. Koscielny, check (but still not back from injury and then how long until he’s 100%?) Mustafi, I say check but others say he (desperately) needs a trip to Oz to have his empty head filled with a (working) brain. I’m less convinced by Holding (our tallest CB?) and Sok but both have done well recently. I have to say I was looking forward to seeing more of the guy who made Chambers loan-able (Mavropanos). Then there’s Leno. He’s looked strong thus far, but bigger (much bigger…) tests are coming…

    Monday morning nearly frittered (completely) away… Cheers again, Shard…

  • Cheers Seven to the ten to the max

    You’re right on all counts in your analysis there I reckon. It’s just a matter of nuance as you say. I agree about the team buying in and how bad results might change that. I have always been very concerned about how we’ll do in the winter, maybe around Jan-Feb. It’s when the fixtures pile up, and possibly the injuries hit. The lack of winter break is new to Emery and how will he manage players’ playing times. If he can do that well (and this is why Ramsey and Ozil, and Miki and Iwobi, and maybe even Nketiah will all be useful) then we have a good chance of getting back into the CL spots through the league route. (Not daring to dream of more at this stage)

    As for Ramsey. Man, if he played on any other team and had the energy, and the goal + assist contribution from midfield that he does for us, we’d be saying signing him on a free for 200k a week is a steal! I could see him going to ManU, but especially Chelsea. Can you imagine a midfield 3 of Jorginho, Kante and Ramsey? They would rule the midfield in most matches and Ramsey would add a goal threat in the box, behind Giroud. He’s still what, 27? Alternatively, I think he could very well go abroad to one of the big clubs in Spain or in Italy. And I don’t think money is a primary motivation for him, but it’s his last big contract and he deserves to be paid. The only way I can justify the Ramsey no-deal for Arsenal is if they have someone great lined up as a replacement, or get someone great in another position because they believe so heavily in eg. AMN.

  • Hey 17.. where should I send this puppy? Could probably use another set of eyes before TA’s ready to publish

  • Just a question, does being a highly technical team equate to goals and consequently success?
    I’m not sure that it does.

    For example was the the 1997-98 team as technical as say the 2007-08 team because I’m not sure that it was, the 97-98 team was effective and efficient, still with a high technical level, but it got the job done and won the double whilst the 07-08 probably looked good on the eye, better than the 97-98 team, but ultimately won nothing.

  • Aah the age old debate kev. Does looking pretty mean winning? Probably not. Does winning have to be ugly? I think definitely not. I think being technically excellent means you have a much better chance of winning.

    That 2007-08 team over performed in relation to expectations, and were stopped near the finishing line by a combination of league endorsed brutality, unfavourable ref decisions, and an unfortunate injury to Rosicky. It was also easily the best we’ve played, and the closest we got to winning the league since the Invincibles.

    But technical ability isn’t necessarily about being attacking. Chelsea could park the bus successfully because they had technical players who could punish the opposition on the break. Technical ability allows you to control the game to play the way you want. I think if you are technically superior, it just makes sense to attack more because you are more likely to win that way (Mourinho is just cowardly in his philosophy) I think we lack control in midfield without Cazorla there, who was/is simply amazing. Guendouzi has helped but he’s nowhere near Santi’s level (yet)

  • Getting back to it a day on…

    First off, Frozen, you should have mail…giving you an address for sending in your post…

    To try and be a little clearer, Kev, I absolutely don’t think that being a “technical team” enhances chances for good results…

    For me, what I’m talking about is the idea that a team might try and use its technical superiority to win battles in the middle of the pitch in order to keep the ball (i.e., via possession) and advance it towards their opponent’s goal…and maybe keep winning such battles to create chances and goals…Quick passing, 3 v 2s, etc., etc. I probably should have said “technical quality on the ball starting in MF as the basis of the attack…” or something…

    That’s because (of course) there’s also “technical quality” required to boot long balls or crosses from the touchlines…as well as to leap high and get a head to them… As such, it becomes pretty much a meaningless term… (And, like Shard suggests, there are defensive or off-the-ball technical qualities too!) Apologies for my part in slipping towards meaninglessness…

    All I’m trying to say is that–relative to the previous manager’s approach–Emery, I think, doesn’t really value possession for possession sake and that it’s much more about what happens immediately after the ball is recovered (transition…) or right after we’re able to move the ball a long way very quickly (forward, via route one or wide then back to the middle). If nothing happens and the defense is able to regroup, i.e., the advantage is not capitalized upon…we might as well not have the ball…is maybe what the coach is thinking…maybe?…

    A corollary is that many times, in this early part of Emery’s tenure, when we have had the ball, it’s seemed to me that there’s very little connection between our front and back, which I sometimes express as “playing without a midfield.”

    Bottom line: it’s a very different experience watching Arsenal (try to) play this way and we (Gooners) will need to adjust, I think. Given that the very best teams in the league are playing closer to this style (than our previous one) probably suggests that it’s not such a bad idea…just different from what we (Gooners) are used to. Also, I wonder how effective this style might be if we encounter effective “park the bus” teams and/or fail to score first…

  • Good points Shard, also technical ability without a resolute mentality and a defensive stability/discipline leaves you playing like Barcelona one week and the Dog & Duck the next week.

    What I really like about the present set up is the uncertainty, the fact that the manager is changing the system for almost every game, presumably in order to counter the problems that that particular opposition offer at that given time and that our players – or the majority – are showing a flexibility and versatility to be able to adapt game by game to this new way of doing things.
    It’s very early days but I’m quite encouraged by the gradual evolution of the team.

  • My ‘question’ wasn’t aimed at anyone in particular 17tino, so don’t think that I was picking on you mio amigo, in particular, because I was really picking on everyone. 🙂

    Interesting that some post tournament research done on the World Cup revealed that the two teams with the highest amount of possession in the last World Cup were Germany and Spain, who both left the competition early and ignominiously, so maybe a rethink on the possession theory perhaps?

    I saw brief highlights – very brief – of the Spain vs England game and was struck by how England were technically inferior in so many depts except where it counted most, putting the ball in the net.
    England were efficient and in Harry Kane had probably the most effective player on the pitch.
    Spain funnily enough for all their tiki taka scored two goals with crosses into the box!

  • I’m not too sure we’re playing differently to adjust to the opposition. It’s more likely just that we haven’t yet established the philosophy completely, so it tends to be a bit hit and miss as to the execution. To his credit, Emery has reacted well and made good changes for the most part. But I think it’s too early to draw conclusions about our philosophy. We’ll need some more time, and maybe one or two transfer windows before we can really see what Emery’s vision is.

    By the way, I don’t think Wenger ever valued possession for possession’s sake and despite his reticence to criticise his team in the media, he often bemoaned ‘sterile domination’, or the ‘handbrake’.

  • Hey Kev… Nothing taken personally…Just trying to clarify about what I’m seeing out there…which is (mostly) that we (Gooners) had better get used to not having the ball so much. I don’t want to argue (too much…) with Shard (or anybody, really…) but I think the days of Wenger-ian offense is the best defense (a reason or “sake,” suggesting that possession, even when you’re not creating chances, isn’t such a bad thing…) are over. Emery–like almost all managers these days–I think, envisions his team as just as dangerous (if not more so, perhaps) when we DON’T have the ball. It could be true (and time will tell)… To me it begs the question, what do we do when the other team gives it to us?…(Parks the bus, sits on a lead, etc., etc…)

    And, mostly, I’m just trying to adjust my expectations…

    …while also weighing up some ideas about how I’d prefer to see Arsenal play. I probably don’t know enough about football to understand all the (philosophical?…) differences between things like “Protagonismo” (even w/o the ball), P&P (press–from the front–and play–from the back) to “just cowardly” ideas (Shard’s take on Mourinho)… Or any (and all) variants of trying to play on the counter… Please help…

    All of it seems quite different to what I saw Wenger’s teams trying (and not often succeeding) at…(including the uninterrupted string of Ws…)

    In general, I’m starting to think that changes in the way the game is officiated (VAR is coming, for better or worse…meaning that possession in the box = a chance to dive might be going away…) has a lot to do with it…

    This morning, however, I’m mostly trying to get a post from Frozen out. Wish me luck…

  • Well…

    I still lack a few tricks…or at least I don’t quite get some of the vagaries of the tools at my disposal…

    Nonetheless, we have a NEW POST by Frozen… (Sorry if it’s not exactly as you sent it to me, but big, big thanks for writing it…)

    So, go have a look at the…

    NEW POST!!

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