Oh Unai What Was That All About?!


Losing to Crystal Palace was of course disappointing but, at least to me, it did not come as a big surprise. PL games after mid-week European games seldom or never come easy. We also knew that CP have been playing very well away from home, especially against the bigger teams, and still needed points to achieve PL survivor for another season. Roy Hodgson is of course a very competent manager, possibly the best English manager around, and seems to take a special joy in out-cunning his fellow PL top managers whenever possible (I think Wenger once described Roy as ‘uber-competent’).

It did not make sense to me that Emery chose to make so many changes and leave the likes of Torreira and Nacho on the bench. I also did not understand why we had to play with five defenders in a 3-4-3 formation with Sok, Holding and Bellerin not available. The argument of players needing rest/ the squad needing to be rotated goes some way, but we were playing CP at home and really needed those three points; with only one home game left and three away games still to come, we had to do everything to at least get full points from this penultimate home game.

Playing a make-shift back-five of Jenks – Mavro – Kos – Mustafi – Kola and then have them protected by the lacking-in-confidence, Elneny, and defensively frivolous, Geundo, was simply asking for trouble. Why not play 4-2-3-1, with Must-Mavro-Kos-Nacho, protected by Torreira and Elneny/AMN? That would have left Emery to play four up-front. And a combination of a much more solid defensive set-up with a more balanced attack surely would have given us a much better chance to get the much needed three points?

I am yet to be convinced about Emery’s tactical nous and am particularly worried about his ability to get the midfield right, but this is only his first season and Arsenal still having a chance to finish in the Top-4, and even win the UEFA Cup, does mean that he is doing as much as we can expect from him right now.

Furthermore, Emery will have a chance to let some players go and buy a few new ones this summer, which will allow him to really put his stamp on the team. This is both exciting and scary. We could lose the likes of Mkhi, Ozil and Aubemayang this summer and their replacement may become flops. But of course he could also make the right decision and truly strengthen our squad in a few key places.

However, the idea that it is just a matter of giving Emery a big enough budget and it will all become really good, doesn’t wash with me. The Spuds did not buy anybody last summer and Pool have turned the likes of Wijnaldum, Milner and Matip, and  one or two youngsters, into a mean footballing machine. Football intelligence, tactical nous and excellent man-management are the real ingredients of success. A bit of money will help too, of course, but we will likely never be the sort of club with the funds of a RM, Barcelona, PSG, Bayern, MC or MU, who in the past have been able to buy their silverware through spending enormous amounts of cash. And I don’t want us to become such a club either.

I like us to do it the romantic and clever way, and Emery needs to be another Arsene in terms of football vision, tactical ability and finding and developing the sort of players that will make us play great football that now and again also leads to winning fine silverware.

It is too early to say whether Unai is our man, but the way he approached the game on Sunday – and let’s also not forget the recent (tactically) poor games v Everton and Watford – still leaves the jury well and truly out.

Wednesday’s game v Wolves will be another test of his managerial ability, no doubt.

Come On The Arsenal!

By TotalArsenal.


14 thoughts on “Oh Unai What Was That All About?!

  • TA .. nice post. Emotions under control. Emery took his eyes off the ball otherwise this is match we should have won. Good thing our destiny is still in our hands. And Chelsea has just drawn 2-2 Burnley. If we beat Wolves we’d be 2pts ahead of them. On Sunday Chls and United would lock hurns so it is guaranteed that one or two of them would lose pts. We just have to win at Wolves.

  • We have to turn up our goal scoring prowess a notch to be able to go the distance.
    Far fetched? Absolutely not.

  • TA, good post with strong views about the new man and his results so far. It may not be the popular view but had to be said. After the ‘mistake’ at Merseyside against Everton, you would think the manager would have learnt his lesson and (especially after seeing Manure lose badly) come up with a starting 11 that we can all trust. It’s not a very good report if fans start to miss the relative predictability and focus, in team selection, of the last regime (not necessarily the last two seasons). Emery should have gone all out to win that game and take care of the casualties after.

    Having said that, the manager’s job is a tough balancing act, with medical, physical, psychological and disciplinary conditions of the players taken into consideration. Seeing as we returned from Naples on Friday, to play at home on Sunday, with two subsequent Away games on Wednesday (Wolves) and Sunday (Leicester) to come, it may have been too tempting to seek to have some key players fresh for the games. On another day, we may have gotten away with it. Alas! On this occasion, it backfired.

    It’s hard not to look beyond the errors by Mustafi as a key reason we lost that game, but it is a team game. I can go back to the concession of that silly foul by Mavropanos, from which resultant set piece, we conceded the Benteke goal; why he was left unmarked is another subject. Maybe, we win the game but for those bits of silliness.

    The Ref did play a small part, stopping the game at every turn (I suspect he needed the chances for a breather) and ensuring our players had early yellow cards, more than the more physical visitors. Where did that come from? His intention to get us frustrated worked a treat; something else we defo need to be ready for.

  • Yeah a tough balancing act, Eris. His outfield back-7 was bound to leak goals. I’d say Emery loves the idea of a Calvary reinforcement at the thick of battle. Problem is that sometimes the battle would have been in a bad place before the Calvary arrives lìke at Palace. It’s all part of getting to know the premiership better … where teams are expert at closing shop. Always start the battle with the biggest guns available.

  • I agree, re: Emery’s love for the big substitutions. Hopefully, he learns that sometimes, the Cavalry may come too late, with the forward forces already bruised, battered and having lost ground.

  • Eighty percent of the battle is in the mind, and when you look around you, you have to get the belief that we have the men to win. That starting 11 did not inspire each other at all.

    Cheers, Eris, PE and 84 for commenting. 🙂

  • Spurs won with a late goal vs Brighton (the team we play at home early May); just tells you how the games start to have an edge about them during crunch time. Nerves play a role and teams are wary of letting anything slip through at the back, while forwards make hasty decisions.

    Let’s hope we can handle Wolves Away, play with some personality and just get the job done, no matter what. It’s either that or we can kiss top 4 goodbye.

  • Crystal Palace was Arsenal’s 6th game in 21 days, we’ve just lost our most influential midfielder, possibly for the rest of the season although I’m hoping he’ll return for Baku if we make it.

    We have a 33 year old centre back who has returned miraculously from a career ending injury and must be in the red zone. He was dead on his feet against a Palace.

    Torrieira has a groin problem, it’s the kind of injury that players play through but if they’re not careful they also end up on the operating table.

    Xhaka has a hip injury that forced him off in Naples, we have no idea how serious it is but bring him back too soon and he could join Ramsey in the treatment room.

    Our squad was lacking in certain areas before the season began and that’s why the club tried unsuccessfully to sign the Croatian guy, the defender with the pony tail.

    Chambers isn’t good enough and was loaned out probably to be sold this summer.
    So we go with what we have and lose Bellerin and Holding, forcing the likes of Lichtsteiner into centre back and Jenkinson into the team. That was lucky…

    Our squad lacks quality and depth, but somehow we’re into a european semi final and despite the lack of numbers and no business in the January Window, are still in with a chance of top four.

    How many of you out there would have taken that if it had been offered to you in August?

    Emery is not beyond reproach, he’s made mistakes, just as Guardiola and Klopp make mistakes, but the reason we lost to Crystal Palace was because Sokratis was suspended, Mustafi did a Mustafi and the officials missed a clear penalty.

    Emery also is desperately trying to rotate and protect a squad that is probably on its last legs physically, I will be amazed if we don’t lose another player soon to an injury that’ll end his season.

    We now face another 6 games in 18 days, with a depleted squad that is just about getting by, that’s why Jenkinson and Mavropanos have played recently and why the hapless Mustafi will play again, because we need him.

    Emery cannot always pick his strongest side, it’s impossible, he is shuffling his deck and if he pulls it off it’ll be a miracle…

  • all good points, Kev, but I think you are dooming far too much about the fitness levels of our players. As per the post, Emery could have picked a different shape of the team, 4-2-3-1 and play both AMN and Torreira in front of the defence (Must, Mavro, Koz and Nacho). It would have given us shape and protection for each other in the ‘back six’. The home game simply had to be won, whilst this game against Wolves – much harder one to win – could have been treated as a squad rotation game instead. The tactics and team selection were poor, and the football is not good either. I know about the stats of Emery but lets not fool ourselves re our performances too much. We are just lucky that MU and Chavs also have crap seasons in the PL.

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