Emery’s Had Over a Year and Spent Handsomely, but Who Are We and Where Are We Going?

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Before the Watford game Quique Sanchez Flores warned that he was going to surprise Emery. That turned out to be an understatement. Emery must have been stunned. Watford made 31 attempts on our goal, 23 of them in the 2nd half alone. That 2nd half onslaught is possibly a Premier League record and a shame. Watford is the bottom team on the table.

What makes it so ridiculous is that Emery, going by his reputation, must have spent all of the interlull’s two weeks digging out videos of Watford and Sanchez Florez and analysing them to the minutest detail and getting his players to do the same. They go through this routine for every damn team.  I suspect our players are all able to tell the colour of boots every premier league player wears, confusing themselves with too many details.

These analyses, it’s easy to imagine, end with Emery believing the clear picture he has of the team he will face. It has to be so otherwise he won’t be burning all those midnight candles for nothing. Eventually when the Watford game started, Sanchez Flores pulled the rug completely from under his feet. Instead of sitting deep and waiting for counters as Emery must have gleamed from all his work, Flores swarmed all over his team and dominated him on all departments of the game: possession, territory, aerial contests, dribbles, attempt on goals, attempts on targets, corner kicks etc.


In setting up his team to react to the opposing team’s identified playing style, it becomes easy for opposing managers to second guess his game plan. Not only does he by this inadvertently expose his plan but it also deprives his team of playing the game the way they know best. It inhibits their ability to express themselves. That is what technical players thrive on.

Meanwhile the poor chaps might even be dominated by the sheer intricacies and volume of the theory and the sweat Emery pours on them thereby believing that it is their failure. I doubt, though, that someone as perceptive as Ozil would be impressed.

Every week the players are investing their sweat on some new reactive exercise, the very opposite of Wenger’s philosophy. In hindsight most of us would have started realizing that we were unnecessarily critical of Wenger’s method that was rightly focused on dominating the opposition given our size. Emery wants to be a protagonist and at the same time he is so reactive to teams however big or small. That’s a contradiction.

Can Emery modify his philosophy? Or is he too addicted to his pet game of video analysis and a thousand and one instructions? Over coaching is never good. Players stop hearing, get bored and run out of popcorns. A good coach must meet his players half way by understanding them and creating a system that would bring the best out of them.

We cannot seek alibi in the fact that it is still early days (5 games). What is happening is a continuation of our poor form at the end of last season. Over our last 15 PL games (10 from last season) we have only amassed 22 pts. That’s mid table. Emery must take stock and find a way to reinvent himself.

We have great talents in the squad. They’d be formidable enough if they can be made to work hard on the simpler things like winning the second balls, passing more quickly, putting more energy into the game, not losing concentration etc and thereafter be given a framework with spaces for self expression.

I think the clock has stated ticking for Emery. I hope to be proved wrong.

Please give your comments. BK expects opinions to be constructive and in temperate language.

By PE.

14 thoughts on “Emery’s Had Over a Year and Spent Handsomely, but Who Are We and Where Are We Going?

  • Excellent stuff, PE. The clock is definitely ticking and in two weeks time we go to Old Toilet… That may become Emery’s most important match of his young Arsenal career. Make or Break?

  • Emery will lead us nowhere. He won’t achieve top 4.Its just a joke. We are better of looking for another manager.

  • Great stuff PE. Thank you for being brave enough to put it together. I think I have already said enough on previous threads regarding our head coach. He seems like a good man and I think he does work really hard and wants to do well with Arsenal but something is amiss right now. I just hope that he figures it out and sorts it out as quickly as possible before the entire Arsenal world collapses on him. I don’t wish that for him, but I can just feel the moanings and rumblings of supporters already and that is not a good sign. He definitely must be feeling the pressure right about now…

    About a month ago, I wrote a post about a potential gathering storm and I implored Emery to heed all the warning signs and to change things. So far he really hasn’t. I am still hopeful for him though.

    Anyway, for those of you who enjoy reading statistics, here some ugly, ridiculous, mind-numbing, embarrassing stats (since last season when Unai Emery took over at Arsenal) for you to seriously ponder and opine on:

    • Arsenal have made the highest number of errors (14) that have led to opposition goals in the Premier League since the start of last season. That is three more than Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool combined.

    • The Gunners also hold the record for the highest number of errors leading to shots. Their total of 33 is almost double that of Newcastle (17).

    • No side has conceded more goals from penalties since the start of last season. The Gunners and Brighton have both let in 10 from spot-kicks.

    • Arsenal have conceded a penalty in each of their last three Premier League matches.

    • Arsenal allowed Watford – the only Premier League team yet to win a match this season – 31 shots on Sunday, which is the most they have faced since Opta starting gathering such data in 2003-04.

    • In the second half alone, Watford equalled their record for shots on goal in a single game since they returned to the Premier League in 2015, with 23 of their 31 shots coming after the break. Their previous record for 90 minutes was 23 attempted in games against West Ham, Sunderland and Hull.

    • Arsenal have now allowed opponents 96 shots on their goal this season – the highest number of any Premier League team.

    • Arsenal have allowed the same number of shots on their goal (96) this season as Chelsea and Manchester United combined (48 each).

    • The Gunners faced as many shots on their goal on Sunday at Watford as Manchester City have all season.

    • Arsenal allowed Watford 48 touches in their box on Sunday, the fourth-highest amount any team has managed in the Premier League this season, and only one touch fewer than Liverpool had against the Gunners last month.

    • Arsenal have managed the fewest number of shots of any side in the Big Six this season.

    • No player for any of the Big Six sides has been dribbled past more often than Matteo Guendouzi (10).

    • Only two Premier League teams – Norwich (10.4) and Tottenham (12.4) – have won fewer aerial duels per game this season than Arsenal (12.8).

    • Only two teams – Tottenham (21.2) and Bournemouth (22.4) – have attempted fewer tackles per game than Arsenal (24.2).

    • Only Tottenham (7.4) have made fewer interceptions per game than Arsenal (8.4).

    • Only Hugo Lloris (5) and Tim Krul (4.6) have had to make more saves per game than Bernd Leno (4.4) this season.

    • Leno made eight saves against Watford – the highest number any keeper has had to make in a Premier League game this season.

    • Only Aston Villa (38%) and Norwich (37%) have taken a greater percentage of their overall touches in their own defensive third this season than Arsenal (35%).

    • Having netted five of Arsenal’s eight goals, the Gabon striker accounts for 62% of Arsenal’s total goals this season. That figure was 30% through the whole of last season.
    Given how reliant they are on his goals, Arsenal need to hope that Aubameyang continues his improved form. And that seems unlikely: his shot conversion rate is 50%, up from 30% last season.

    What is happening at Arsenal FC? Is this a progress? Is this a status quo? Or is this a regression? Is Unai Emery still the right man for this very talented Arsenal squad?
    You be the judge and jury…

  • Gino92, you brought facts to the table. It’s a dire picture. Emery must be fake, pulling the wool over our eyes with all those video analysis, the touch line theatricals and the red tie.

    Number1. —— It was silly of us to have let Monreal go before Tierney’s availability. We should have sacrificed the £250,000 and made a deal for him to leave in the Jan window seeing that Kola is not a defender. Kola is up there hugging the touch line as 31 shots are rained on us.

    Do you notice that each time an opponent breezes past Kola high up on the pitch he executes, first of all a hop, before he starts jogging back. Jogging! He offers nothing with the build up play, except to pass the ball backwards. Butt for that traditional touch line runs and crossings I could as well be the man there. Yet we sold Nacho for £250,000. The 6 or so games that we would have played with Kola before Tierney is back would have caused us a CL place.

    I’ve never been convinced that our central defenders are so poor. Check this list: Metersacker, Koscielny, Mustafi, Sockratis, Holding, Chambers, Luiz. No combination of these players have worked even when they set out as a back-3. Even Laporte and VVD would struggle if the midfield allows the opposition to run at them. 96 shots allowed already this season (by the way the worst of all teams in the 5 major European Leagues) indicates a midfield that does not exist when the opposition has the ball. Non of our central midfielders can defend.

    Torreira knows how to tackle but he is too featherweight and lacks the pace for tracking back. Xhaka can’t tackle. He can’t help it because he naturally has a very slow reaction time. When he attempts his leg arrives late and it is a foul. He turns like a bus and therefore totally ineffective in tracking back. Guendz is full of endeavour when he is with the ball or when he is facing the opposition. As soon as the opposition gets past him, he goes impotent. He is also powerfully attracted to the ball leaving him unaware of spaces and that’s terrible in the defensive phase of the game. Despite the featherweight status of Torreira he is our best bet at the base of the midfield because he is aware of spaces and has that 1st 4yds bust of speed. Otherwise any of Chambers, Luiz and Holding would do a better job in the holding role. They are good at passing and are much much better at defending than any of our midfielders. Xhaka and Guendz are too similar (strengths and weaknesses) and should not be played together. That should be a rule of the thumb.

    A good coach, first of all, must be perceptive. He has to see first. That equips him to begin to build his team. The big question is how much does Emery see. Does he see only the products of his imagination? Time is running out for him.

  • Morning PE,

    As I said in the previous post, tackling is no way to measure defence success. A) Man City and Liverpool have no players in the top ten for tackling yet their defences are solid and B) Xhaka makes 2.3 tackles a game, second highest at Arsenal…. He is neither too slow or not technical enough to do it…. but it is no longer the modern way of defending, which has to come from team positioning and denying space to pass..

  • I have to join the club not being satisfied with neither the quality of the game, nor the results…
    Still I have to give credit to Emery (or maybe Raul?) that the squad – talent and experience alike – is the best I have seen in a long time. For the last several year we felt – and often expressed – that there were players that are simply not good enough for this team. I assume nobody doubted their commitment and good intention, but they were either not consistent or simply not good enough to help Arsenal reach the Champions League. And the vast majority of those players have left; some before Emery (Giroud, Ox, Gibbs, Walcott), some on loan (Elneny, Iliev, Mkhi), but most of the deadwood recently (Campbell, Ospina, Asano, Wilshere; Welbeck, Lichtsteiner, Jenko, Iwobi).
    And the replacements are top tier! God, how I missed a DM like Torreira, Leno could solve our ongoing goalkeeper-need for almost a decade, Guendouzi is a success story of his own (of which I am far less enthusiastic than most, but no doubt that he is a great talent for the future), Sokratis was our top defender for a year and a half, and even he has his limitations it’s nice to have a no-nonsense defender in the team, Tierney and Pepe are among the top 10 players in the world of their position, Saliba and Martinelli are promising prospects for the future, and Ceballos has his moments as well: he can very well be a star in the making. And the academy starlets are being merged into the team – for my taste a bit too fast (I would introduce them to cup games first), but I am not a manager, so my approach is might not be the best.
    And of those who have left Arsenal in recent years Alexis Sanchez was huge blow (which turned out to be an unmitigated disaster for Manchester United), and Ramsey, who was similarly too greedy, and while he was a great player he was far from being Arsenal’s savior… I miss Monreal as well, but he had a good half a year in his legs at the PL level.

    Probably Mustafi the only player in the current squad that is below par – and even he is a world class defender when not making mistakes (in 2017/18 he was our best player according to WhoScored), but I have to admit he “delivers” his signature errors more frequently than tolerable. Some of the fans believe, that Xhaka is a constant liability who should be sold or released, but they are simply wrong.

    So squad-wise I am as excited as it gets. We have world class players in all positions – or prospects with the potential of becoming world class. However as we are “poor” compared to PSG, Juve and the Manchester twins, we cannot afford to have 2 world class players for every position, so the long-term injuries of our defenders are indeed limiting the squad from reaching the operating temperature. Therefore I’m a bit schizophrenic, as I hope that with Bellerin, Holding and Tierney we will kick some serious ass from October on, but my enthusiastic is limited because we could beat Newcastle and Burnley with a single margin, and (on paper) we should have obliterated them with our much superior squad. And something similar applies to the Watford game: while I think it is misleading treating Watford and Wolves as the 2 worst teams in the PL solely based on their position, I don’t like feeling happy and lucky for a draw, even in an away game, but I had to.

  • Agree with you TA. City and Liv have low tackling stats because they defend by keeping possession. But the few times they have to tackle they do it well.

    Not trying to put Xhaka or the rest down but saying they are not made for the specialised role of protecting the CD. We need a Rodri or a Fabinho there.

  • Pbarany, that’s sunshine through the window. 👍
    Any redeeming feature on the man who brings the players together on the pitch?

  • A good manager uses his charges well.

    The current disconnect between attack and defense is worse than Wenger’s last season. Much much worse. If selling fringe players and bringing in the players that are doing well for their clubs but gets failed by Emery in their tactical positioning it does not make sense for Emery to be managing them at all.

    We have a good squad, but now the points are showing that we are anything but one.

  • Thank you for your post PE.

    I’ve had to sit back and really review my own thinking about and reaction to our miserable

    I was an unabashed supporter of Arsene Wenger as he brought to Arsenal and England some of the most incredible, watchable and exhilarating football that it has been my pleasure to watch.

    We are now in a position where all we can do is “wish and hope” for a result – even against lowly Watford. The football is now slow laborious and DULL, we watch in the knowledge that our ever unreliable defense will eventually offer a gift to our opponent.

    It’s the first time in 70 odd years that I do not enjoy watching Arsenal. I watched from the Clock End throughout the ‘wilderness years” when under the management of Jack Crayston then George Swindin and Billy Wright we won absolutely nothing. They were the “no hope” years when at the start of the season we (kinda) knew that we were nothing more than a mid table team who may do well in the FA Cup. The major difference between then and now is that we accepted that our team was not the best on the block and all we could expect was that they gave their all. Regardless of the quality of our squad I never missed a game and never felt cheated or disappointed – like I do today.

    I wonder what wonders Arsene would be able to create with our current squad? Not much with the defense, I fear – but oh what a joy his offense would be………………………………..

    Gino92 – your stats at 03:37 say it all – very illuminating!

  • Brilliant, well considered post, PE; Emery has to do something drastic or different in order to get his charges back on track or it’s goodbye Emery. I quite like the idea of trying Chambers in a DM role because he is likely going to make it his own. The thing is whether Emery will se things that way and have the guts and patience to make that call.

    Gino’s stats sure paint a sombre picture for our club and choice of Emery as wenger’s replacement.

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