Where are we going? What should happen this summer?
The last post on BK covered where I think we are as a club under Emery:
Today’s post will cover the two questions at the top.
Where are we going (under Emery)?
Many fellow Gooners believe that Unai should be given time and that a club like Arsenal should not sack managers willy-nilly, and especially not after one season. So let’s assume Emery will stay and ask ourselves the questions where we are going under him the coming season.
Will it be more of the same or something totally different?
I am going to hope for the latter, so let’s go with that. But it all depends on whether the BoD will give Emery actually the time to build something up and do not just require him to finish in the top four next season. If they tell him to do the latter then I am afraid we will see more of what we saw last season but with the hope that we will make it this time round. The short term obsession/business necessity(?) with finishing in the top four is probably one of the biggest threats to our club: it may keep us back from (re)building the team around a vision and our values and therefore erode what Wenger had tried to build up during his tenure.
But maybe the club realise that they need to take a strategic view and ask Emery to tell them what he needs to make us structurally competitive, so we can win the title in say 2-4 years. I have my doubt about Emery having such a vision and being able to bring it to fruition at Arsenal, but I could be wrong of course (and would love to be wrong… of course).
What should happen this summer?
I would like Arsenal/Emery to make a decision on what our style of play/formation will be next season. There are two main options if you ask me:
- Play compact at the back and aim for quick turnarounds and counter-attacks.
- Push opponents back into their own half and pass and press them into submission.
Last season we did a bit of both; more of option one at the start of the season and more of option two in latter part. But we never played it with conviction and Emery kept changing things, even within games. It made our players look crap at times and we seldom looked like a focussed, energetic team that rose above itself.
For option one we need Bellerin and Holding to come back strong at the start of the season. We also need to allow Xhaka and Torreira (and AMN/Elneny) to stay deep and in a horizontal line as much as possible. To make it really work we need better options on the wing, both in defence and attack. We need to buy a quality, ready to rock LB and a quality winger on the right (or left). Another CB would complete my wish list for option one.
Option two is what I believe Emery would really like to do. For this option he needs a beast of an all-round DM: dynamic, fast, strong and big. AMN has potential to become such a player but he is too young right now. We would need to buy such a player whilst AMN gets better over the seasons. Emery can then play two attacking midfielders in front of that DM beast, which could be two out of Ozil, Iwobi, Mkhi, Torreira, Guendouzi and Smith-Rowe. He would also need very dynamic CBs of which we do not have many. He would also need to buy quality mid-winger(s) as to give the AMs better opportunities to make things happen.
I reckon option two suits Arsenal better LONG TERM but will take a few seasons to get really right. It would also mean that Xhaka would need to leave as this system does not suit him (he needs to play deep, supported by Torreira or AMN). It also means buying quite a few players and working hard with our young talents to come good.
Option one should be much easier to implement given the squad we have in terms of style and qualities of key players, but it is un-Arsenal and un-Emery like and that’s why we struggled so much last season imo.
Of course these options can be nuanced and there will be variants, but I reckon the main decision the club have to make is whether we absorb and pounce or push forward and pass and press our opponents into submission. Whatever it is I will support, as long as a clear choice will be made and structural player investments will be made to make it a success, especially long-term.