Missing our Englishman in Defence | Why’s Emery so Keen on Guendouzi? Post-Brighton observations


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Against Brighton we had 68% of the possession. That domination is a farce. We had only 7 attempts on goal the whole of the 90 minutes. Brighton with 32% had 12 attempts.

We had 68% of possession yet in terms of territory only 25% of the action was in the opponents final third while 26% of the action was in our defensive third. Are we scared or incapable of transitioning the ball to the forward areas or is it part of our game plan?

Our deepest 4 outfield players(back line) of Lichsteiner, Sokratis, Koscielny/M-Niles, and Kolasinac had a total of 335 touches of the ball. Our 4 most forward players of Auba, Laca/Ramsey, Ozil/Iwobi and Torreira had 256 touches. That tells us where the dominating possession comes from.

If it is in accordance with our game plan then we are a disguised counter attacking team. As TA always says the whole idea might be to draw opposing players out to create spaces in their rear for our quick vertical thrusts. Nice idea but I wonder if the lack of a creative defensive base is a chink in the armor. Holding is being missed. He was by far our best creative passer from the back.

Such a game plan easily explains why Emery seems so eager to play Xhaka in the defence. He sees more of the defender when with the ball than when without it. That must be the reason too why Emery appears so keen on Guendouzi who actually plays as our deepest midfielder. He has penetrating forward passes. Unfortunately Douzi like Xhaka doesn’t know the first thing about defending.

Meanwhile I wonder why we bothered to bring in Lichsteiner even on the free: am yet to see the wise head. Chambers would have deputized better for Bellerin. Mainland-Niles who is so talented is too laid back and am beginning to doubt that he can rise to the top. He lacks that proactive quality that is propelling Guendouzi forward and that is visible in players like ESR, Nelson and Saka. I was so appalled when after he lost the ball in Brighton’s box, he chose to nonchalantly walk back as Brighton broke and this was in injury time. Yet his biggest weapon is his speed. Please don’t plead that I should forgive him. I confess that I never new that Bellerin is so cute.

Ozil can be enthralling and frustrating in equal measure but the most defining thing is that there is nobody around good enough to take his place. Iwobi replaced him at the interval and contibuted nothing. As for Kolasinac, he is the best today the worst the next day. Emery’s revolution would only have begun if the club exercises the will to make his signings this winter window. Luckily, we are still on the tail of the top four.
By PE.

17 thoughts on “Missing our Englishman in Defence | Why’s Emery so Keen on Guendouzi? Post-Brighton observations

  • Cheers PE, some heartfelt observations there, and I agree with a lot.
    Don’t agree re AMN, who is just back from injury and will need time to get back to form.

    For me it was clear that we could not deal with the walls of five and four of Brighton for the last 60 minutes or so. We needed to get between those lines and dared to pass the ball to those players but we were too slow, risk-averse and poor with our passes. Agree with you that we are missing a defender who can pass forward quickly, something Mustafi is good at too. But with Xhaka, Torreira and Guendouzi we have midfielders who can do this. The problem is that they also need to be between the lines of five and four in order to have enough numbers there. Guendouzi played too deep for that formation and just mainly looks at playing long balls…. that is Xhaka’s job and he is excellent at it. So for me Guendouzi should have been played in the hole or not at all (my preference).
    The best players to play in between the lines, where space comes at a premium, are of course Mesut, Laca, and Iwobi. Emery took the former two off early on in the second half and we imploded totally. I was very unimpressed with Unai’s ‘tactical’ changes and subs, and I think he stubborn belief in Guendouzi, at the cost of the likes of Ozil and Ramsey, is costing us now.

    My biggest worry is that Emery is getting rid of our best players because they don’t fit his system and it then not working out, resulting in a weakened squad, a new manager and an even bigger challenge to make it to the top anytime soon. By all means, let’s give him money and a chance to see through his philosophy, but consider me worried. I aint liking what I am seeing in terms of defensive frailties, lack of dominance in midfield and over-dependence on Auba’s goal-threat. Unai not being able to get the best out of Ozil, Laca, Xhaka (and Rambo for the time he is with us) – all top quality players – is not good, no matter who he will buy next.

  • TA ….. that’s the crux of the matter; not getting the best out of our top players. Am praying it isn’t the Mo-complex.

  • Arsenal are becoming so so boring to watch. So much passing backwards and sideways even when there is room to play forward into. The early signs of improvement we noticed seem to be dissolving fast. Emery’ famed pressing game is nowhere to be seen. Things have to change fast before the banners are back!

  • Im a huge Ozil fan but watching Liverpool,Chelsea or Tottenham im struggling to find where he would fit in the managers at those clubscwould also all demand more from him as well. In the games he does well we can all see his genius but yesterday for me he was too anonymous and the same can be said for certain games under Wenger as well.

    The Laca thing is worrying lately but overall he has been playing well during our unbeaten run so I dont quite agree that he hasnt been utilised well. In fact im seeing emery continue to look to combine him with Auba to better effect but its a work in progress. As for Ramsey I concur he has disappeared to an extent but this a player who has split opinion for a long time and Wenger was never able to consistently get the best out of him. At times Wales seemed to be a much better fit for him.

  • Demanding more of Ozil is like asking an architect to come and help with the bricklaying. The man lives and breathes football and he knows all about creating and finding space; nobody does it better. As Arsenal manager you build the team around him, that is how good he is. Don’t judge his body language, judge his ability to find and create space and produce attacking passes. Leave Mesut Be.

  • There are some tiny details that bother me. For example I’d say that Ozil is our best corner kick and dead-balls-into-the-box taker but when he is on the field he hardly is the one that takes such kicks now. What makes it even more baffling is that it is clear that Ozil is otherwise unable to contribute in such dead ball situations. I would have thought there should be an understanding and instruction that such balls are Ozil’s to take. Ozil looks like one who needs a lot of protection otherwise he can be squeezed out. The only way he knows to fight back is through sulking.

    Tiny observation but can help give a deeper insight to things.

  • “The only way he knows to fight back is through sulking.” Pony, you have got an example to go with your statement?

  • Yes Alex … it’s very well publicized that he needs love and recognition to bring out his best. I think I do perceive it too. By the way I don’t mean it as a put down. I see him as a very sensitive person.

  • Im a big ozil fan and I don’t buy into reading his body language too much but I look at his application and in one game he was the match winner where he assisted to iwobi and the pre assist to kolasinac without having the team tailored to him then yesterday just not getting involved. I can see how a real madrid can accommodate him with the overall quality surrounding him.

    Im hopeful that emery and ozil can meet in the middle and somehow work it out to the benefit and success of the team as I would like him to stay. Overall I think emery is doing well with all the injuries and now dealing with the congested and crazy fixture list. Looking at how long it has taken klopp to finally get Liverpool challenging and the significant investment and time it takes gives me hope that if emery is backed similarly we can expect big things but time will tell.

  • Going back to the start of December– and a link I’d posted then? On the total number of points each club would tally during the month/festive run of matches– through New Years? Even with the club’s unbeaten run– and long before the injuries started to mount? Arsenal was allotted 14pts by the writer of the piece.

    I was skeptical of that total, and felt we might get more. We got some that were unexpected (Tottenham)– and dropped some (Soton, BHA) we should not have. But, if Emery & The Boys somehow find a way to redeem the trip to Anfield (with one or 3(!))– and do the job as expected vs Fulham on New Years Day?

    At eleven points thus far? We could top that 14pt number.

    Like to temper the grumbling about what Emery should or should not be doing strategically. Providing this list in advance of the match at Anfield:

    Shkodran Mustafi (thigh)
    Nacho Monreal (thigh)

    Hector Bellerin (calf)
    Emile Smith Rowe (groin)

    Out long-term:
    Rob Holding (knee)
    Henrikh Mkhitaryan (metatarsal)
    Danny Welbeck (ankle)
    Konstantinos Mavropanos (groin)

    Eight players, 4 regulars down. Nearly the starting back-4. Instead of decrying what isn’t being done– we ought to chip in for some extra duct tape, and sticky-back velcro. Then laud Unai Emery for somehow bandaging a starting XI together– and keeping the team within shouting distance of top-4. Also seems forgotten– this is Emery’s first time through the ‘festive’ minefield.


  • Nothing wrong with our position in the table and the stats, JW, and I am glad you are taking inspiration from them. I hope you are right but just don’t feel it is going to work out with Emery. Early days, though, and I love to be wrong.

  • Thanks for the reply TA–
    I get an email each morning that Yogi at ACLF publishes a post. I’ve tended lately to wait a day (or later in the day) to read them. As I have had a tendency to have similar ideas as his– for some time now. Waiting now, so as not to confirm biases before reading what others might have to say.

    As it happens, he’s seeing some things similarly to Emery’s (6-month) body of work to date. Mostly, that things will take time. Worth a read:



  • I agree that things will take time, JW. Don’t need to read the article as I make up my own mind on what I see and sense, and football is really a quite simple game to analyse. It is always good to see the glass half empty or half full, and we will then find the ‘evidence’ to go with it. I am worried about the things I wrote about above and I am still hoping that they are not structural. Regardless of the outcome tomorrow, I will write a half-season summary on Emery and how we are likely to perform during the second part of the season, in the next few days. It may not be to your liking but I am sure you can take it! 🙂

  • ‘Take it’ TA? I relish other’s views sir.
    Very much looking forward to milling grist– be it fine or coarse! 😉


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