What’s Unai’s plan for AMN and Who is Going to Lose Out up-front?


Arsenal are looking up to Klopp’s Liverpool as a model to follow. It took Klopp three years to get Liverpool challenging (or so many think) for the league title. However the Arsenal world seem not fully cognizant of the fact that qualifying for the Champions League this season is a crucial step towards that objective. Arsenal have been out of the competition for two seasons running. Another season out would put them in a difficult place.

Last season Liverpool reached the Champions league final and netted about £72m. It is nearly equivalent to UEFA handing Virgil Van Dijk (who cost £75m) to Liverpool for free. For each year Arsenal find themselves out of the Champions league, the top-4 rivals are each getting a world class player “free of charge”. That’s a seasonal start on Arsenal which if allowed to build up any further would push them too far down the ladder to compete favourably. By the way, the true story of Liverpool in the championship is that they’ve been in the wilderness for 28 years under countless coaches.

Many see the Europa league as the best route to the Champions league but the hard facts are that cup games are always dicey and should be recognized as such. By the start of this winter transfer window, Emery would have been with the team for six months. He would have known the team well enough to know exactly what is needed to take the team one notch up. That could be crucial for Arsenal’s top-4 aspirations if the club is able, for example, to sign one or two quality players that would help fit the team better to the Emery ideas.

Meanwhile, before the January window arrives there must be things to do to get more from the talented squad they have. With nearly one third of the season gone there is this feeling that the team is yet to find its range. The results of matches so far have largely flattered their performances. Lady Luck has played a huge part in offsetting the teething problems of a team under a new coach. This international break possibly defines the end of this period of the gods smiling on them. Hope it also defines the beginning of the team snarling and baring its teeth.

With nearly five months of work, Emery’s ideas must be taking roots in the players’ muscle reflexes, the same way fingers with time begin to go smartly over the key board without the hindering conscious thought. I sense such a breakthrough for the team must be pretty close. It was seen against Liverpool and in some of their 2nd half performances. But theirs is just one half of the story. On Emery’s side, after these months of working with the team, his knowledge of the players would have moved away from the theoretical. It is reasonable to believe that by now he has a good knowledge of the players and their best positions and best combinations. He would also have learnt a lot about the premiership. On all sides therefore the soil has been ploughed, the seeds planted and germinating. Better first half performances would be good signals that the new growth is taking roots.

The club cannot afford to miss out on the Champions league for the third year running. Emery’s 1st phase of learning by trial and error must be nearly over. The next phase should be about getting the best out of what he has. The top-4 race holds little or no space for a late charge.

Close to five active months into his tenure, Emery surely must have decided on his 1st choice keeper. He knows his full backs. Decision on his central defenders isn’t much of a headache to him. At the moment it’s simply any two of a three. He knows his central midfield pairing, definitely.

The front four is the problem area because it has an unbalanced personnel. It is full of talents who unfortunately are jostling for essentially two positions only. Aubameyang, Lacazette, Welbeck (injured) as strikers, Ozil, Mkhitaryan, Ramsey as #10s. Only Iwobi stands apart, his best position being the attacking wide left. Even at that, in order to accommodate Aubameyang, he is often displaced to the bench or played on the right where he is like a shadow of what he is on the left.

This international break is a good pause for Emery to re-strategize and that’s hardly anything beyond seeing to it that the players are used in there best positions.

If Lacazette plays, he plays as a striker with Aubameyang on the bench and vice versa. If they are played together then a 2-striker formation of sorts should be employed. If Iwobi plays it should be in the wide left position and Ozil or Mkhitaryan at #10. Ramsey’s case is slightly different. He is less of a creator and more of a deeper lying finisher. A role as the most attacking member of a 3-man midfield, in a formation with one striker, is tailor made for him: a deep lying 2nd striker kind of.

There is a vacancy in the wide right forward position. That place cries out for reinforcement. Are we going to see one in the winter transfer window? Meanwhile Emery seems to be working on Maitland-Niles for that role. I believe he’d prove a big success there with his pace and ball playing ability but if the need persists, Mkhitaryan becomes the only one playing not in his best position. That alone wont be much of an issue.


As the season enters its 2nd trimester, Emery’s game plan should be to maximize the yield from the platform he has created by getting the best from the players available. It should be all about the top-4 dash. Any 3-year plan belongs to the cabinet, at the moment. OGAAT in its numerous forms rules the waves.

By PE.

16 thoughts on “What’s Unai’s plan for AMN and Who is Going to Lose Out up-front?

  • Hi all.. Great post PE..

    First, I agree that we can’t lost our third CL.. And for that we must narrow the gap and start winning again..
    And this week is a good chance for that.. our two nearest contender, Spurs and Chelsea, will fight for each other.. What ever the result, if we win against Bournemouth.. that will be a good signal.. For it won’t be easy.. They’re stronger than last year and the just right one step below us..

    But I doubt your view about Emery knowledge about his squad yet.. our 3 draw games are the reason for my doubt.. all in our own Emirates stadium.. and it started before that, our draw against Palace had show us that’s some problem in our balanced.
    I think Guendouzi is one of Emery’s man.. I don’t think he is ready enough for the big games.. but this youngest man playing a lot games more than our mature players.
    The problem is Xhaka also did some mistake that make us suffered.
    And playing Xhaka out of his position such as Left Back was bad decision.
    Elneny was left behind.. I don’t think he is worst than Guendouzi and Xhaka.. I think he just need more games.. Rumours said that he will be sold this January..
    And I don’t think Aubameyang – Lacazette partner is better than last half season before..

    So, there are still some work to do.. And I hope it done soon.. Cause we will face Spurs (twice) and MU sooner than we expected..

  • Henry … good you also see the importance of qualifying for the CL not so much for our entertainment but as necessary for our becoming one of the best again. To this end it’s important to remember that attracting top players while outside the CL is extra difficult, such teams having to pay over the odds to get their targets.

    As for Emery playing Xhaka at LB etc it was inevitable that experimentation had to be part of his 1st phase. He is better armed now so we’d expect less of such.

  • A brilliant post on the issues that have sign-posted the Emery era: get the club back into the top 4 places for CL footie, right after the last two years of Arsene Wenger saw us fall below that threshold and playing in the less fancied Europa league last season and this; find a stable 1st 11 or 14 who can implement whatever ideas he has for the team; then there is the right combination for the front four which, frankly, can prove to be very crucial in the type of games the EPL has to offer.

    Hard to fault your take on how it is plausible that Emery will know his best 11 to do a job, by now and he has shown that on most occasions. What still has to be fine-tuned is the best combinations for various phases of the play. The back 5 seems settled as is the midfield 2; as for the front 4, I still feel that for balance (when playing the good/better sides), we cannot have both Laca and Auba starting. I feel Emery must see this too but seems to have persisted with starting both in the last two games because of Auba’s (and Ozil’s, as it concerns him) tantrums on the occasions when he’s subbed him off. I can imagine Auba will be knocking at Emery’s door to remind him he is the league’s top scorer and needs to be given starting chances to compete effectively for the accolade. For me, Lacazette and Ozil start most games with Mkhi and Iwobi on the (right and left, respectively) flanks. There will be games (where we need to be solid and work hard in midfield) where Ozil will have to play from the right to make way for Ramsey as No. 10. There will be some where Mkhi will be the better option to Ozil, from the right. However, our strongest front four seems to be Ozil, Iwobi, Mkhi and Laca. Auba seems to do better coming on, when defenders start to tire and he can vent his frustration on the net. Honestly, I wish there was a way to accommodate both he and Laca, just for the fear factor, but it’s a luxury we can ill afford. Of course, Auba can start some of the games with Laca on the bench (as it’s happened in the cup games).

    AM-N and Nketiah should get chances too. I have seen AM-N play from the right wing and he can be a handful. We should see most of the young lads in the next Europa league game and as the FA cup kicks in. The likes of Cech, Kolasinac, Mavropanos, Lichtsteiner, Jenkinson, Guendouzi and Koscielny, amongst others will all get games too.

    It is important that we play CL football next season. I wager it was part of the understanding with Emery before he was hired. That’s why he appears to be in a hurry to make substitutions that usually change things in the second half for us. Hopefully, we begin to see equally great performances from the first half(s) That, and better fluidity in the passing by the frontmen, will be a major change I shall look forward to seeing.

  • …and by the way, where Auba and Laca start as a front 2, Ozil’s place should be the one at risk. With two upfront in a 4-4-2, we would need a hard working 2 on the wings, outside the midfield 2. Ozil moves around and puts in a shift but falls short on the “physical battles” front. He won’t leap to contest headers, won’t put his foot where it hurts and won’t immediately track back when dispossessed, except on the rare occasion.

  • Eris …. sound analysis all you put down. Still I can’t begin to image Auba being a super sub. Just too much of a genius and too big for that. His history puts him in the top 5 strikers in Europe. Emery got to solve the riddle.

    The 4:2:2:2 might suit Emery better than the 4:4:2 because the flying full backs are fundamental to his style.

  • Indeed, it must be. Nothing brings out the “baying” faithful than a few poor results, I guess and we may have surprised ourselves so much, the gunpowder ran dry. Still, it is the interlull so, who knows?

    PE, I wasn’t thinking super sub for every game, though; also agree Emery has to solve that conundrum because it won’t be long before one of the players starts to sulk. The pressure may even be responsible for his recent big misses in front of goal.

  • Eris … agree with the missed goals. Further, Auba is a specialist which entails being fully focused on his specialty but when he has to do so many other thing that killer focus is diluted.

    He has not really delivered as a winger, most of the goals he has scored being still the poacher’s goal. If he doesn’t deliver as a left winger, maybe it’ll be better to play him wide right where he’d flourish as a winger cum poacher.

  • Fully agreed, PE, Unai needs to restrategize to get the best out of his team after the interlull. We started to look leggy and were riding our luck a bit too much. Having said that, he did extremely well to remain unbeaten for 14 games and get confidence and passion back into the team (which was lost under Wenger during his last months at the club).

    I reckon, we need to get more from Mkhi, Auba and Rambo (for what is left of his time at Arsenal). Maybe somebody else needs to be introduced to reignite our attacking efforts – something is needed. And in January he can make one or two purchases to get us through the remainder of the season. This weekend v Bournemouth is a big big game for us. Win that one and we can start another run of wins. But it will be hard.

    Cheers my friend! 🙂

  • That is a fine Post. PE, and one I completely agree with. Thank you.

    My concern with Arsenal, both pre Emery and now, is that we are continuing to discount the potential stars emerging from our youth system.

    Leaving aside the players (and there were a few of them) that showed their beaks in various “unimportant’ cup matches during Arsene’s reign, there are more now emerging with talented oozing from their pores, who somehow find themselves banging on a closed door, and start looking for positions abroad or disappear into the lower leagues never to be seen again.

    To be fair, Iwobi has been persevered with and is making great strides on the left wing, and we have also seen the potential in AMN, but it really made me cringe to see the culling of Hugo Keto, Marc Bola, Yassin Fortune, and Vlad Dragomir, as well as the cream of the youth Marcus McGuane going to Barca, and ……. well you get my gist ……. the latter names were all released or chose to leave because of insufficient playing time.

    Others are taking a similar route with Nelson going to Dortmund on loan (will he return) and Nketiah a terrific talent not being given the chance to shine at the top level, even as a substitute in Premiership games.

    Buying quality players like Guedozi is fine, but ……. we have a lot of our own fine young players…….. I was hoping Emery would recognise that and encourage them more.

    Sadly, football is a tough world, and bigger clubs do not want to take risks — more’s the pity.

  • RA … good comment. Apart from the sentimental part of it, strategically for the club it should mean a lot of money saved if more players emerge from our youth system. Money that can be used for more quality signings. But I do understand that these days there is too much presure on teams for instant success which forces them to adopt, at their different levels, the ‘Galatico philosophy’. Even Barca numbers from the academy has reduced dramatically.

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