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!