Today You are Unai Emery: Ten Questions for You

If you were Unai Emery with over two months to go till the start of the new season, how would you go about to make Arsenal successful again? There is pretty much a clean sheet for you and you can spend at least £50m on players – a budget that can be enlarged through selling one or more players this summer. I actually believe the budget is higher than £50m but the BoD are rightly not going to advertise this publicly: negotiations benefit from claiming your budget is tight.

We all have our views on how Arsenal will get better, and I reckon I know most of the regular bloggers-on-BK’s views, but it would be good to see them expressed through answering a number of questions. Non-regular BKers and new bloggers are also very welcome to give us their views, of course. There are no right or wrong answers here, because it is about your football philosophy, views on players and how you believe you will get the best out of them. And it is all a bit of fun of course – we all know that we are not football managers! 🙂

So here are my ten questions to you:

  1. What style of football would you want us to play NEXT season and why? Strong focus on attacking football (goalfests ala Liverpool); strong focus on defence, winning many games with tide margins (the old Arsenal/Mourinho’s/Atletico Madrid approach); a strong balance between defending and attacking (the initial Wenger Arsenal teams, MU under Ferguson in the mid to late stages of his management career); or a form of total football (ala Barca, Wengerball, Man City under Guardiola)?
  2. Which formation would you like us to play in?
  3. Which two positions would you strengthen as a priority?
  4. Any other positions you would like to strengthen?
  5. Who would you sell?
  6. And who would you buy?
  7. Who would you appoint as Emery’s assistant?
  8. And who would become captain?
  9. Which two youngsters would you promote into the ‘Top-18’ squad this summer?
  10. Which two or three other things would you change, on or off the pitch, to make us more successful?

I will give you my answers a bit later today.

By TotalArsenal.

Posted in Uncategorized | 91 Comments

Olivier Giroud: Bring Him Home!

Not Lacazette, not Ben Yedder, not Martial but Olivier Giroud has made it to the WC in Russia this summer. Didier Deschamps, the manager of the French national team, knows what Ollie brings to a football team: “He may not have all the qualities of the other attackers, but the way he plays makes the team stronger. And at the same time he remains effective.” It is so good to hear this from a different manager than Wenger who has always believed in this added value (and developed it further) of the man from the French Alps.

Verguisde spits Giroud evenaart Zidane en bewijst gelijk Deschamps

Giroud will turn 32 after the summer, so it is quite a feat to keep such good French attackers out of the WC squad. Over the years, we had many posts and discussions about what Giroud brought to the team. I liked to call him a Holding Attacker who plays with his back to the goal a lot and allows others to join the attack. He was an important part of our spine and allowed our midfielders to both release the ball to him and get themselves into dangerous positions. Ollie created space in congested defences and added unpredictability to our attacks. His aerial prowess was second to none and his sweet left-foot has both feeling and menace, and with his head, foot and back-heel he produced some fine assists and pre-assists for us, and many goals in the process too (105 goals/253 games).

I am delighted with the purchase of Aubameyang and I reckon he will be great for us next season. But we paid a price for his arrival as the deal was only done curtesy of Le Handsome moving to the Chavs and, at least for me, that was a bitter pill to swallow. We also weakened our chances to win the UEFA cup significantly last season, as Auba was ineligible for the competition and Ollie was wearing the all blue of Conte and Co from January onwards.

Giroud signed an (insulting) 18 months contract, so he only has a year left at Chelsea. I want him back at the Home of Football. For me, his technical, tactical and personal contributions are still of high value to the team. Conte needed to boost his CF options and Ollie was a safe bet, but given his short-term contract, his age and the likelihood that the Italian will leave this summer, it is unlikely that he has a real future there. Ollie should finish his career at Arsenal and we really need a quality super-sub who offers something different and comes on with real passion and impact.


Furthermore, we need a CF for the cup competitions so the league attackers can get a rest and Ollie is just the man for this. It is a no-brainer for me: bring him home and let him finish his career at the club where he belongs. I want to sing that song again.

By TotalArsenal.

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Addition by Subtraction: How Many Points is Wenger-Out Worth?

The final Premier League table does not make for happy reading for most Gooners.  Sixth place on 63 points, with a goal difference of only 23 (51 goals shipped!!) was more than enough league futility to make most happy to (finally) see Wenger’s backside.  Now we’ve got a new man, Unai Emery, spearheading a new form of management.

As the summer transfer season gets underway and the various press outlets start up with their, er, interpretations of Emery’s halting English and the dribs and drabs of transfer tittle and other spittle–or bits of names (“Links! Give us the links!!” ) that might drop from the mouths of football people in the know–Gooners’ hopes for the season ahead start to run riot.  “We’ll finally have the defense (or defence–“da-fence?”–or a wall of defenders) who’ll stifle ’em all.”  “Sokaratis interecepts, passes to Mikhitaryan who moves it onto Aubamayang (or Osmane Dembele) and Dortmund, er, Arsenal, score again (and again, and again, and again)…”  Sven-Jolly times are here!!!!

Indeed, as the Sun (and the Mail and the Express, etc., etc., etc.) reaches for its highest spot in the Northern skies, so too do the dreams of Gooners.  Icarus, get your wings on, we’re gonna fly…

Back here on earth, however, it’s all a good deal more real and there’s a reason that Arsene Wenger was at the helm for 22 years, keeping Arsenal competitive while building a modern (read: moneymaking) stadium that allowed our club to compete within its means.  Or maybe it should be said, deliver profits to its shareholders (led by one Stan Kroenke) while not slipping that much in the table.

Frankly, I thought it–the Wenger reign–would end at 21 years (at the end of his previous contract) but, I guess, CEO Ivan Gazidis hadn’t quite mustered up his management team (or his cajones?) to pull the plug.  Instead, Wenger got an extra (half) contract and Arsenal merely a(nother) trophy for the cabinet, his third FA cup in four seasons.

At what price, however?  2017-18, we hope, represents a nadir.  No trophies (though a cup final going after the most minnow-y of the prizes, the league cup, and a run to the semis of the 2nd tier of Euro-comps) and that 6th place finish with the woeful GD.

That’s all history.  What does the future hold?

Even without improvements, I believe, Arsenal will benefit–in terms of results next season–simply because the great divide has been bridged.  Wenger IS out.  No more banners need be flown, no more placards held, no more seats need be empty in protest, no more vitriol must be spewed on the internet wishing the great professor of economics (and football management) dead.  And, in my mind at least, this is a good thing, though, of course, he will always be a hero to me.

It’s a wait and see situation, but my belief is that the fan-base cannot help but feel more unified and be more willing to give what they can to get behind the new manager–or management structure–and the players and the team.  Emery will be the welcomed figurehead but it could just as easily have been Mikel Arteta or any other managerial candidate.  New players in will likely get the biggest welcomes while the shortest ropes might go to those guys most associated with the former object of vitriol.  Oops, I meant “manager.”

So, onto my question.  How much is it worth?

I think plenty.  My bet is somewhere between 12 to 20 points in the table, thrusting Arsenal–without any other moves beyond Wenger out–right back into the top 4 hunt, maybe even a hair higher.  What do you think?

On the other hand, it could be argued that Wenger was so good that he might be missed–at least in certain areas.  The area, I think, where a few players will miss him–and miss him sorely–is his faith in them, and protecting his boys from criticism.  When they could not believe in themselves (and, in some cases, when the fans had turned against them) Wenger could prop them up.  This feeds into the myth that Wenger was in charge of everything at Arsenal.  He picked the players he wanted, and, if he got them in without the usual dithering, he (oftentimes) got the best out of their (limited?) talents.  Maybe?

As such, since SIR Kroenke (Sven, Ivan, Raul and the moneyman, Stan–or maybe his son Josh) can’t replace the entire squad, there could be some Wenger holdovers who are lost without their mentor, their protector, their father-figure.  Who might those guys be?  Who will suffer under Unai Emery?  (And, who will be gone before a ball is kicked in anger?)  I’ve got some ideas but I don’t want to poison the well(beck) or show any signs of bad will(shere).  Who do you think might not quite make it in the new scheme?

So, there’s your assignment.  Name some names (if that’s your thing) or keep it to the numbers (points over or under our paltry 63; add in your goals for, goals against for extra credit).

Many folks believe in the new manager effect.  Do you?  Is it about players needing to give more for the new guy or simply about more of the forces (especially the support) all pulling in the same direction?   Or does it really not matter and it’s all about the (actual) management decisions that get made?

Getting back to the math(s)… Will the subtraction (of Wenger) lead to addition?  Have we bridged the divide?  (Or merely multiplied our managers and thus our troubles?)  So many folks wanted Wenger Out.  What’s it worth to you?  Don’t be shy, tell us…

Go on then…

by 17highburyterrace

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Sokratis to Join: A Greek-Egyptian CB Partnership for Arsenal?

“He is a man of courage who does not run away, but remains at his post and fights against the enemy” Socrates

Arsenal are being heavily linked with Sokratis Papastathopoulos, a central defender who will turn 30 in a few weeks time and currently plays for B Dortmund. BBC’s Ornstein is reporting Arsenal are in talks with the German team (who finished fourth last season), and that often means that we are close in getting the player.

Who is Sokratis Papastathopoulos?

He played 50 games in all competitions last season for BD, and he played almost 200 (198) games in 5 years – an average of 40 games per season – for Dortmund since joining them in 2013. In total Sokratis played just under 400 games, and his career as a regular player only really started when he joined Werder Bremen in 2011 after spells at Genoa and Milan.

See the source image

The Greek is 186cm tall and has some fine, albeit not top of the German league, defensive stats: 86.9% pass success percentage in the Bundesliga (94.2% in CL), and 2.8 aerials won, 2.2 tackles, 63.4 passes and 3.5 clearances per game. The video below gives us an idea of how he plays:

He appears to have a healthy aggression and a mean and well-timed tackle. It looks like he plays on the right hand side – Mustafi’s position – of the centre of defence. At an estimated £16m – only one year of his contract left – Sokratis offers experience at top level and he would allow the likes of Chambers, fellow countryman Mavropanos, Mustafi and Holding to develop further, and possibly take over from him gradually.

If it were to go through, the question remains whether we will buy another CB this summer. Doubt remain re Mustafi’s abilities to claim a first team position next season and Koz is out till the end 2018 (or there about). Who of the above mentioned players would be the ideal partner for Sokratis as long as Koz is unfit? Or will Elneny, who surprisingly got the nr.4 shirt for next season, be slotted next to the Sokratis? You have heard it here first! 🙂

By TotalArsenal


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Discussion: Why did Arsenal Do so Well at Home and sooo Badly Away from Home?

How was it possible that Arsenal did so well at home and sooo bad in away games last season? Let’s discuss!


Thanks Voetbal International for picture

The stats are absolutely amazing:

At home we only dropped 10 points from 19 games (47/57); away we dropped a whopping 41 points (16/57).

At home we finished 2nd and away we finished only 11th in the league.

We lost 11 of our away games and won just four, whereas at home we won 15 times, losing just two games.

Our good home record was achieved with still conceding a goal per game on average (20 in total). Luckily, we were prolific at home scoring 2.5 goals per game (54 goals in total) which was second best to MC (61). Arsenal scored nine more goals than Liverpool at home and 16 more than MU.

Yet, away we managed a paltry single goal per game on average (20 in total), whilst conceding an eye-watering 1.6 goals per game on average (31 in total). MC conceded just 13 and MU, Spuds and Chavs conceded around the 20-mark.

So what caused this polarisation in results home and away?

  1. Did we have a bunch of softees who buckled under the hostile away atmosphere?
  2. Or did we just not turn up in away games?
  3. Were the away tactics our weakness?
  4. Or was there another reason we did so badly away from home?

Let’s discuss!

By TotalArsenal.

Posted in Uncategorized | 54 Comments

Emery Needs His Own ‘Arteta’: Cesc Fabregas

Great news that Emery has officially joined us and what a passion, professionalism and persona did he bring to his first press conference! He said all the right things for which he will have been briefed by the club, no doubt; but you cannot help thinking that this is a man in the middle of his football management career who is overjoyed to have arrived at our club.

After the departure of our long-serving leader we have lived in a management vacuum, so it is great that the search for a new maestro is over. I reckon with Emery we got the right man in all aspects. He comes with a fine CV with experience at the right level, offers youthfulness and passion for the game and the club, AND will be able to build further on Arsene’s legacy.

Some may believe that he does not represent enough change from the Weng-Era. But why totally change what has been good for us and has become our identity, our reputation and our values? Emery will build on this but with his own approach which will be quite different from how Arsene went about. All approaches have plusses and minuses but Unai has the advantage of starting anew and exactly at the same age as when Wenger joined the club in 1996. On another blog, ArsenalArsenal, the excellent blogger Shard put it best: ” Emery not different enough, I totally get that! And yet, I think he might be different in just the right ways!” 

Unai has been through two interesting years at PSG, where one or two players were force-fed into team by the owners for many, many millions of Euros, thus making them more important than the manager by default. It is reported that Emery struggled to get his players to play his system of football as he was being undermined by those self-adoring ‘purchases’. I guess if you go to the PSG BoD and say the players are not listening and I want to side-line one or two obnoxious individuals for a while to re-stamp my authority on the team, you will be told to look after their assets – meaning they should play every week. No doubt this was a nightmare scenario for a driven and visionary manager who relies on togetherness, hard work, discipline and tactics as his guiding principles. Welcome to Arsenal is all I can say.


It is clear that Unai’s command of English needs working on and it was the same for Guardiola when he joined MC. He made a clever move for his fellow countryman, Arteta, who is pretty fluent in English. I reckon Emery will need to do the something similar as language is key, both for press conferences and team management.

So who could be Emery’s Arteta? It could be Arteta himself of course, but I guess he will stay put at MC now. Cazorla has left and his English was not great either, so that is a pass as well. Of course Nacho and Bellerin, and Ospina if he stays on, can help in the dressing room and during training, but ideally he will get himself an assistant-manager who speaks both languages well.

Xabi Alonso was mentioned in conjunction with Arteta, and maybe he is the answer. I am not sure how good his English is, and he probably has a Scouse accent which is to be avoided at all cost. 🙂

The one player-manager who would fit the bill perfectly is the prodigal son, Cesc Fabregas. I know he is still under contract at the Chavs but surely they would let him go for a small price?  Would he do it?! In a heart beat.

Any suggestions?

By TotalArsenal.


Posted in Uncategorized | 119 Comments

Unai Emery: Victory Through Analysis



Unai Emery has been announced officially as the new manager of Arsenal football team.

They say Unai is studious. He pores through the videos endlessly, most days working far into the night. Often, he has the sounds for the video turned off so that the noise from the stands wouldn’t sway him, neither the commentators. He wants his information first hand. As he watches the actions on the screen, he comes to conclusions but knows from experience that the conclusions are merely tentative. They undergo a thousand revisions. Unai Emery is forensic in his quest for the perfect.

He would see Ramsey’s brilliant runs into the box. He would also see the spaces he leaves behind. He would see Ozil’s masterly use of space. He would also see his reluctance to get involved when the opposition has the ball. He would see Mustafi feistily winning balls as well as his naivety in handling spaces. He will see everything. Unai, they say, leaves no stones upturned.

Arsene and Emery

Not long from today, at the middle of watching yet another video, Emery will switch it off. Yes we can imagine. He would get up from his seat, pace around the room for a while rather satisfied with himself. He has seen enough to make a diagnosis. He has inherited a team with great technical savvy when with the ball but shocking when without it. He is stupefied by such a grave imbalance but excited by the thought of the team that would emerge when he has fixed it.

He recognizes that fixing it is made a lot easier by the fact the structure Wenger has inculcated to the team is a close fit to his model: the 4:2:3:1 formation with full backs positioned higher up the pitch, that is how he played it in Spain with Sevilla; the inverted wingers that Wenger favours is how he used Neymar and di Maria at PSG; the domination of possession and territory which is central to Arsenal’s philosophy, that has always been his baby.

He, however, has not failed to notice that the Arsenal he was seeing in the videos do not use a holding midfielder as conservatively as he would for shielding the back line. He is a bit taken aback at the lackadaisical response from the players when the team turns over the ball, as if they’ve been instructed that winning the ball back is the job of the back line. He is again shocked to notice the same lack of urgency from the players when the opposition, while attacking, turns the ball over to them. He cant fathom why the players don’t seem to recognize that turnover moments either way are critical moments, for the press, for the counter, for focus and energy.

He concludes he has a basic job to do and he knows that the heart of that job is in re-educating the players. There has to be a change in attitude. A change that should infuse more strategic energy into the team’s play. Emery is not just a hard worker, he is a deep thinker too. He knows that change in energy is already a change in tactics. How he would go about doing it are his cards to play, but expect that he would want to inject two or three new faces into the team to help catalyze the change and expect too that there would be no sacred cows only a sacred team.

Work of recreating the team starts with re-education. That’s what his blueprint says. Alongside it, however, Unai Emery has gone back to the videos. This time he is taking notes, employing his imagination, visualizing different combinations, drawing blanks in some and being hopeful in others and coming to conclusions here and there all preliminary work, the squad still on summer brake.

Like Wenger, Emery will work very hard. Unlike Wenger, he will not leave the players to work it out themselves. Sermons, repetitions (drills if you like), will be the new order. The missing link would have been found and Arsenal lost in the wild would be able to make its way back to its inheritance. The glory days might not be far away.  


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